The number 40 is significant to God. The first time we see it in the Bible is in Genesis 7:4 when God tells Noah, "Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for 40 days and 40 nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made." After escaping from Egypt, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Exodus 16:35 says, "The Israelites ate manna 40 years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they left the border of Canaan." When Moses was talking with God, "he stayed on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights." (Exodus 24:18, 34:28) After Gideon and his tribe subdued the Midianites, "the land enjoyed peace 40 years." (Judges 8:28) When the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord they were delivered "into the hands of the Philistines for 40 years." (Judges 13:1) David reigned as king of Israel for 40 years. (2 Samuel 5:4) Likewise, his son, Solomon, reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel 40 years. (1 Kings 11:42)
Joash reigned as king of Israel for 40 years and used this time to repair the temple. (2 Kings 12:1) Through Jonah, God told the Ninevites that they had to repent within 40 days or Nineveh would be destroyed. (Jonah 3:4) Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days and nights. (Matthew 4:2) Satan tempted Him during that 40-day period. (Luke 4:2) After His death and resurrection, "Jesus appeared to His disciples over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God." (Acts 1:3) As we can see from the Scriptures above, 40 is the number of probation and testing that ends in victory or defeat.
The Jewish people have established a 40-day period between Elul 1 and Tishrei 10 (Yom Kippur) as a time for repentance. It is a time to turn from evil and turn towards good. It takes its name from the Hebrew root word "shoov" which means return. These days are called The Teshuvah--the days of turning, fasting, and repentance. The 40 days are meant as a time of preparation for the upcoming new year that begins at sundown on September 18. It is in this season of turning from sin that one moves toward the Lord. The key word here is return. Throughout the Scriptures, prophets and apostles called to God's people to repent and return. Let's look at some of them:
"'Return (Teshuvah) backsliding Israel,' says Adonai. 'I will no longer frown on you, for I am merciful,' says Adonai...'Return (Teshuvah), O backsliding children,' declares Adonai..." (Jeremiah 3:12, 14)
"Yet even now, turn (Teshuvah) to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping and lamenting. Rend your heart, not your garments, and turn (Teshuvah) to Adonai, your God..." (Joel 2:12-13)
"Come, let us return (Teshuvah) to Adonai. He has torn, but He will heal us. He has smitten, but He will bind us up." (Hosea 6:1)
"Return to Me (Teshuvah) and I will return to you." (God's Teshuvah) (Zechariah 1:3)
Turn away (Teshuvah) from your sins, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 3:2)
"Repent (Teshuvah), therefore, and return (Teshuvah)--so your sins might be blotted out." (Acts 3:19) ("Teshuvah" Scriptures taken from the Messianic Jewish Bible—Tree of Life Version)
This is the season when we should be inviting the Holy Spirit to show us what needs to change in our lives. We need to be mindful of the decisions we make and the actions we take. I find it fitting that two giants in the faith, Franklin Graham and Jonathan Cahn, have selected September 26 as a day of national repentance (Teshuvah) in Washington, D. C. The event is called "The Return" and is meant to be a National and Global Day of Prayer and Repentance. It falls the day before Yom Kippur. Jonathan Cahn explains that America is in a pivotal moment in time. We have turned away from our foundations and call good evil and evil good. The Biblical template shows us that after a nation is warned by God, it has a window of time to repent. September 26 has been designated as a day of prayer, fasting, and repentance for ourselves and the nation. It happens to be the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower on the shores of America and 40 days before the presidential election. Let us join Christians in our nation in humbly coming before the Lord and crying out for His mercy.
The sixth month of the Spiritual year on the Hebrew calendar is also the 12th month of the physical or civil year. Six is represented by the Hebrew letter Vav which is a tent peg or nail used to connect or make something secure. The Hebrew letters Yod or Bet are for 12 and represent leadership and government. I find the conjunction of these two letters interesting, especially when we consider the times and seasons we are in. We truly need our government and leadership to be secured or pegged to the King of kings.
We have just entered the month of Elul when it is said, "The King is in the field." God is especially accessible to us during this time before the high holy days of the seventh month of Tishrei. Elul is when He offers us special access so we can meet Him face to face. How we need an encounter with the Lord! Elul could be called "a haven in time." It is when we should look back to assess what has happened and prepare for the holy days ahead. During Elul, it is said that the holy visitation of God comes in the mist of our daily lives.
Picture yourself working in a field. How would you feel if the King of your nation came into your field? Wouldn't you feel a change in the atmosphere around you? At the same time, we would be honored that the King came into our environment on our terms, so to speak. Let this remind us that every effort we make should be directed toward bringing God's presence into what we do. Every realm of our existence should have a goal of transforming each aspect of life, so it becomes a dwelling place for our king. Ordinary life is meant to be intertwined with godliness so that it brings honor to the King.
Elul should remind us that our world is God's dwelling place. As the King's kids, this is our season to refine our relationship with Him. Daily repentance would accelerate this process. The prophet Isaiah encourages us this way: "Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near." (Isaiah 55:6) The month of Elul is when one is to assess the year gone by and prepare for the high holy days of Tishrei. (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succot) It is said that God relates to us in a more tangible way during Elul. Therefore, we should evaluate our past, repent for our sins, and prepare for the future. Take advantage of the fact that we can approach the King in our own fields, because He comes to encourage us. It is said that here "the holy meets the mundane." I believe it is meant to be a season when the King spurs us on to do good works and to get to know Him more intimately through prayer and Bible study.
The story of the King in the field should remind Christians of how Jesus left the comforts of heaven and came to earth to demonstrate His love and die for our sins. The shepherd boy David was a prototype of this. He went from his father's house into the field to tend the sheep. He became a worshiper of God, playing his harp and singing songs to the Lord as he tended the sheep. It would be from his line, the tribe of Judah, that our Messiah would come. Jesus was indeed a King who left his throne to become the Passover Lamb and "The King of the Jews." (Matthew 27:37)
King Jesus, Yeshua, is our Messiah. He came so that those who seek Him would find Him. (Matthew 7:8) He came into our field for 33 years, taught us the lessons of heaven, and gave us a picture of life in heaven with Him and Father God. Before dying for our sins, He let us know that there is a table prepared for us in heaven, and that we can have life everlasting with the King of kings and Lord of lords. This King invites us to come into His presence as He draws very close to us. Jesus presents us with this haven in time as we get ready for the high holy days of Tishrei. God wants to meet us in the everyday affairs of our lives. He wants intimacy with us. The letters of Elul actually form an acronym for the words of Song of Solomon 6:3. "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine." Look for the King in your lives during this month, and rejoice that He delights in being with us.
The time frame between the 17th of Tammuz (the 4th month on the Hebrew calendar) and the 9th of Av (the 5th month) is called Bein Hametzarim or "Between the Straits." The term for this three-week period originated in Lamentations 1:3 as written in Hebrew. "Judah has gone into exile because of suffering and harsh toil. She dwelled among the nations but found no rest; all her pursuers overtook her in the narrow straits." It is also called the time of dire straits. On Tuesday night we entered the month of Av—one where we need to be vigilant and agree with the promises of God.
A cycle of destruction during the dire straits that has been harmful to the Jewish people began when the children of Israel decided to believe a negative report about their ability to take the Promised Land. Fear overtook them so that they did not believe God's promises. During a period of 40 years, every person over the age of 19 died in the wilderness, except for Joshua and Caleb, who did go into the Promised Land and settle there. It is lack of repentance by the Israelites that opened the door for the enemy to attack them repeatedly during The Three Weeks. The walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans in 69 AD at the beginning of this period. Both temples were destroyed on the 9th of Av. A Torah scroll was burned by a Roman military leader prior to the Bar Kokhba Revolt of 132 AD. Crusades against the Jews led to the killing of thousands of them and has continued throughout the years.
The Jews know that they must be vigilant during the Dire Straits. However, many in the church have not understood their spiritual roots and the Biblical calendar that would give them warning about the dire straits. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4:6) The enemy is still on the prowl against the Jews and Christians. He rears his ugly head during this season to destroy our spiritual temples. He seeks to devour us. We must be "self-controlled and alert."(1 Peter 5:8) We must be awakened to the demonic cycles of destruction so that we can be ready for battle and take a preemptive strike against the enemy in the power and authority given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are definitely in a period of distress right now! A full-on attack has been launched against our health and economic well-being. Battles that pit black against white are taking place in our streets. Our elected officials are placing politics above leading wisely. Godly values are crumbling, and the family unit is being dismantled. Both spiritual and natural warfare are intensifying.
What are we to do? First, I want to bring to your attention Richard Wurmbrand, a Messianic Jew who was imprisoned and tortured by the Communist in Romania for 15 years. He became an expert at dealing with times of distress and developed a "recipe" for a type of "tea" that had seven ingredients or "herbs," as he called it. (1) Contentedness - Be satisfied with what you have. I may shiver in my rags as I gnaw on a crust, but how much worse off I should be if they had thrown me naked into a dungeon with nothing at all to eat! (2) Common sense - Whether I rejoice or worry, I shall still be in prison, so why repine? (3) Remembrance of past sin - Count them, and on the supposition that every sin deserves a day in prison, reckon how many lives you would spend behind bars. You have been let off lightly! (4) The thought of the Cross - If the only man on earth who could choose his fate chose to become sin, what great value He must have seen in it! Suffering redeems. (5) Suffering has been given to us by God as from a father, not to harm us, but to cleanse and sanctify us. - The suffering through which we pass has the purpose of purifying us and preparing us for heaven. (6) No suffering can harm a Believer's life - ...Prison cannot stop me from loving; iron bars cannot exclude faith... (7) Hope - The wheel of life may put the emperor's physician in prison, but it goes on turning. It may put me back into the palace, and even on the throne. Wurmbrand declared upon his release from prison, "I have drunk barrels of this tea, and I can recommend it to you all. It has proved good." He went on to establish an organization that supports Christian who are persecuted called Voice of the Martyrs.
Second, we should be alert to the schemes of the enemy against us. We must stand our ground, being watchful. Let us realign our hearts with the Lord by repenting for our sins so that the enemy has no legal ground or open doors to enter. We must be faithful in prayer for Israel, for the Church, and ourselves. We must be those who worship the Lord in every circumstance because worship chases away the enemy and establishes us in God's camp.
Disturbing reports of chaos and destruction are prevalent in the news media. It seems that mob rule is taking over as those charged with keeping the peace back away and allow the angry mobs to have their way. What is behind this anarchy? The events that occurred during the fourth month of the Hebrew calendar (Tammuz—our current month), give us revelation about the spirit of our day.
When the children of Israel left Egypt there was not one feeble among them and they left laden with silver and gold. (Psalm 105:37) In addition, they were being led by God who took the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Their ultimate destination was the Promised Land--"a land flowing with milk and honey." On the way, God led them to Mt. Sinai where they were reminded of how He brought them out of Egypt and provided for them throughout their journey. Moses went to the top of the mountain to receive the Lord's commandments. A blood covenant was made between God and the people. (Exodus 24:8) Then, "Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the 70 elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel...They saw God, and they ate and drank." (Exodus 24:9-11) "Then Moses entered the cloud as he went up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights." (Exodus 24:18) Before he left, Moses put Aaron and Hur in charge.
No sooner had Aaron returned to the camp then the people schemed to make other gods. How could they? First, they took their eyes off God's promises. Second, they did not remember all the signs and wonders they saw. Third, they wanted immediate comfort and security and were willing to give up their inheritance for it. How tragic!! Aaron joined the mob in building a golden calf from the gold taken out of Egypt. In front of the calf Aaron built an altar and all of Israel sacrificed burnt offerings, ate and drank, and indulged in revelry. (Exodus 32:6) Immediate gratification was the call for the day. The anger of the Lord was so great that He wanted to kill all of them. The Lord relented only after Moses interceded.
Reuben was the first-born son of Jacob and Leah and is associated with this month of Tammuz. As the first-born son, he stood to receive a double portion of his father's inheritance and should have been a leader of the other brothers and their tribes, and a priest of his family. However, he esteemed his birthright lightly and lost it all from lack of self-control and patience. His sin was great against God and his father, Jacob. "Reuben went in and slept with his father's concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it." (Genesis 35:22) Reuben's sin resulted in shame and loss for the rest of his life. His behavior had ramifications for generations to come. When it came time to enter the Promised Land, Reuben settled for land east of the Jordan and rejected his portion of the inheritance.
There are lessons for us to learn on how to live during this month of Tammuz and in the future. All of us have received promises from God that should guide us toward our destinies. We must stay focused on those promises and wait with patience for God's perfect timing. As He tells us in Isaiah 55:8, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways." Destructive behaviors lead to losses in the future. A desire for immediate gratification that results in rash decisions and activities brings an inferior inheritance. We must not settle for less than God's best, and we must agree with His methods and timing to see the manifestation of His promises. We cannot join the angry mobs in building "golden calves"—idols that only give a moment of satisfaction.
This is the time when we should be reviewing the signs that God has given us and focusing on His promises. We cannot be seduced into producing idols that feel good now. Paul gives us excellent advice in Philippians 3:14. "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." How should we move forward to our Promised Lands? We must keep our eyes focused on God's promises and persevere with patience. If we are tempted with thoughts of discouragement or desires for building an idol, replace them with extravagant worship to our Lord and King who will guide us to our destinies. He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6)
Look outside and observe the beautiful display that nature is showing us! It emerges from its winter rest with strength and vitality to produce flowers, leaves and fruit. This is a season that can produce hope for the future if we allow God to speak to us through creation. It is His desire for us to walk in blessings because of His love for us. He also wants us to demonstrate His Kingdom to others. To accomplish the pouring out of these benefits, the Lord set up cycles of blessings and rest that are meant to lead us to our destinies. True rest, brought about through trusting in the Lord, will propel us into our futures like an arrow released from a bow. It is interesting that the prophet Isaiah compares the children of Israel to an arrow. "...He made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in His quiver.’ He said to me, ‘You are my servant Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.'" (Isaiah 49:2-3)
God's Word explains His cycles of blessing. The weekly cycle is patterned after the seven days of creation. The seventh day of the week is for rest where we celebrate Him, meditate on His blessings, and become strengthened physically and spiritually. (Genesis 2:2-3) The monthly cycle, Rosh Chodesh or the New Moon Festival, is a "firstfruits celebration." It falls on the first day of each month on the Hebrew calendar and is a time of joyful celebration when God's people gather together to gain revelation for the month ahead. It is also a time to present the Lord with a firstfruits gift to honor Him by giving Him the first and best of all He has given to us. (Numbers 28:11-15) As we participate in this festival, we honor God with the first of our time and receive a day of rest somewhat like the Sabbath. The third cycle of blessing is yearly and includes three key appointed times to set aside our routines and meet Him. (Exodus 23:14-17) The three feasts are Passover (Pesach), Pentecost (Shavuot) and Tabernacles (Sukkot). God chose them as a time to reveal Himself to us and to demonstrate His greatest works. These feasts align our lives with God's timing. Passover is a time to remember God's redemption, Pentecost His physical provision and power through the outpouring of His Spirit, and Tabernacles to receive joy by dwelling in God's presence and celebrating His glory.
Since rest is an integral part of all God's blessings, let's look at what it includes and why it is critical for a healthy life. Moses said to the Lord, "'If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you...' The Lord replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'" That promise of rest was key to receiving God's blessings and is meant for all of God's children. Under the leadership of Joshua, the promise to Moses was fulfilled. "The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as He had sworn to their ancestors..." (Joshua 21:44) The writer of Psalm 91 explains how important it is to dwell in the presence of the Lord. "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."
The core of rest is trust in the Lord! The writer of Hebrews explains this in Chapter 4. Those with unbelieving hearts have not entered faith's rest. "For those of us who believe, faith activates the promise, and we experience the realm of confident rest!" (Hebrews 4:3 - TPT) The whole world is in a season of rest now. As all of us are quarantined to protect us from the virus, we are in a season of waiting, and we have more time to reflect on our lives. We are being prepared for the season of breakout. If the truth be admitted, our lives before the virus were too busy, and seasons of rest were ignored. This gift of time has allowed us to refocus on what is important. Rest and relaxation lead to refreshing, rejuvenation and renewal.
Have you ever wondered why an archer unstrings his bow? Before the archer shoots, he tightens the strings, creating tension. When the shot is released some of this tension is released but not all of it. The tension on the limbs of the bow weakens them over time and produces what is called fatigue. Unstringing the bow releases the tension, prolongs the bows longevity, and gives it power to propel an arrow to hit its target.
We must use this season of rest to unstring our bows. We are in a time of preparation for the next season. Rest comes by trusting the Lord to accomplish all that He intends for us. As we wait on Him and allow Him to transform us, we become more like Him and will break forth in beauty and power. Read the word of the Psalmist and let it inspire you: "I cried out to the Lord. 'God, come and save me!'...He answered me and came to my rescue! Now I can say to myself and to all, 'Relax and rest, be confident and serene, for the Lord rewards those who simply trust in Him.'" (Psalm 116:4, 6-7 - TPT)
It was in the desert that God gave the children of Israel revelation of who He is. The revelation was meant to bring more intimacy with Him. Thus, the second month on the Hebrew calendar, which we entered on Friday, is linked with light. It is called Iyar or Ziv, which means radiance. The Israelites were transitioning from slavery to daughter and sonship. Their knowledge of God was only from a few stories handed down from Abraham through the generations to them. The Lord's plan was to give them several powerful demonstrations of His nature. These would reveal the secrets of His covenant with them.
God has multiple names that describe His nature. I find it significant that the first name He introduced to the Israelites was Yahweh Rapha. The introduction would take care of a current problem and unveil a plan for the future. From the Red Sea, all of Israel traveled into the Desert of Shur. They found no water until they reached Marah. But the water was undrinkable because it was bitter. When Moses cried out to the Lord, he was shown a piece of wood/tree and instructed to throw it into the water to make the water drinkable. Then the Lord explained His covenant: "If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all His decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you." (Exodus 15:26)
The Lord brought the children of Israel out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Exodus 12:37 records this: "There were about 600,000 men on foot besides women and children." Psalm 105:37 tells us, "There was not one feeble person among their tribes." (KJV) When the Israelites looked at their healthy ranks, do you think they understood that it was God who healed and strengthened them for their journey? Perhaps not, otherwise why would God need to show them that He is Yahweh Rapha, Hebrew for “The Lord Who Heals”? Rapha encompasses body, mind and soul. The word is also used to mean healing of water, land and nations. The bitter waters of Marah were completely healed after Moses threw the wood into it. In the King James Bible, the word tree is used in place of wood. The sign of the tree/wood has significance. We see that God was demonstrating His healing plan for the present and future. The Son of God would come to earth to be nailed to a tree. He would enter the waters of death, overcome them, and rise to become Living Water for us. He was "pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
We do not have to look far to see the hand of the enemy at work. When sin entered the world the kingdom of darkness began to manifest. Diseases spread in the bodies of humankind and in the surrounding world. Romans 8:20 says, "For the creation was subjected to frustration…” Scripture explains that "creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed" because when freedom and the glory of God come to them, all creation will be liberated from its bondage to decay.
There is such a need for all humankind to have a re-introduction to Yahweh Rapha. Power for healing was demonstrated to the Israelites. It was followed by the spoken Word--"I am the Lord, who heals you!" Bitter waters were made sweet by the Lord who is the one who dispenses living water. He told the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well, "Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14) After His encounter with the Samaritan woman, on the third day, Jesus went to Cana in Galilee where He had turned the water into wine. He met a royal official whose son was sick in Capernaum. This man begged Jesus to heal his son. Jesus said, "Go, your son will live. The man took Jesus at his word…” (John 4:50) Sure enough, the boy was healed at the exact moment that Jesus made the declaration of healing!
Are we taking Jesus at His word? Do we believe in our hearts the words He has spoken? God loves His creation—all aspects of it! Jesus was sent to earth to heal us. He knew what we would need in this season of quarantine, sickness and chaos. He promises to "work for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purposes." (Romans 8:28) Let us use this time to reacquaint ourselves with the Lord who heals. I believe He desires to demonstrate His healing power just as He did at Marah, especially during this month of the anniversary of the introduction of His name. Let us also be like our father, Abraham, who "did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God..." (Romans 4:20) "After he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise." (Hebrew 6:20)
After leaving Egypt, the children of Israel walked by the desert road to the Red Sea. "By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light..." (Exodus 13:21) In the meantime, the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart so that he decided to pursue the Israelites. There was great fear in the Israelite camp when the Egyptian armies arrived. But the angel of the Lord, along with the pillar of cloud, stood between the Egyptians and the Israelites. During the night "Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left." (Exodus 14:21-22)
According to Chuck Pierce of Glory of Zion Ministries, the Israelites crossed the Red Sea on the eighth day after Passover. Fascinating! Prophetically, the number eight stands for death and resurrection/ new beginnings and sanctification. Remember how God required that every male baby boy be circumcised on the eighth day as part of His covenant? There was a cutting open of the foreskin as a sign of covenant. Doesn't opening the sea and separating it remind you that God was confirming the covenant that He made with Abraham over 400 years before? When that covenant was made, Abraham brought the Lord a heifer, goat and ram and cut them in two so that the halves could be arranged opposite each other as a sign of "cutting a covenant." (Genesis 15:10-15)
God was always faithful to His covenant with His people. As they walked through the Red Sea, it was as though they were dying a death to be resurrected on the other side. They were headed toward the Promised Land and a new life where the Lord would provide everything they needed in the way of food, clothes, shelter, protection, and victory in battle. However, they would learn that God provided for them in His way—one day at a time. Every morning there was manna for the day. The Israelites needed to learn how to trust the Lord. We need to do the same thing. Fear and uncertainty have arisen as we are in the middle of a pandemic. Restrictions on the way we live are in place. Yet, we must not let the news of the Coronavirus stop us from praising the Lord for His unfailing love and compassion. Two Scriptures come to mind: Proverbs 3:26 in The Passion Translation declares, "God is your confidence in times of crisis, keeping your heart at rest in every situation." My "go to" verse in times of difficulty comes from Lamentations 3:22-23. "Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail, they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."
Hymn writer Thomas Chisholm understood about the faithfulness of God. He saw it in the day in and day out circumstances of his life. He knew that God's presence was the premier sign of His faithfulness. He is Emmanuel—God with us. God showed Himself to the Israelites in different manifestations just as He does today. The greatest manifestation of His faithfulness, however, was shown when the Son of God, Jesus, came to live on earth. Thomas Chisholm was inspired to write a classic hymn that has been consistently sung from the time it was written. Shortly before his death he explained the inspiration for his song, Great Is Thy Faithfulness: "I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care which have filled me with astonishing gratefulness.”
During this season, let us remember that we have a faithful, covenant-keeping God. Singing the words of Chisholm's inspired hymn will help us walk through the Red Sea of our lives to get through to the other side:
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father! There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not; Thy compassions, they fail not: As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest, sun, moon, and stars in their courses above, join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow—blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.
Chorus: Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.
Bible preacher, Derek Prince once said that the most important faith declaration for deliverance is this: "When we keep the Feast of Passover, we are making this faith declaration that we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb." The power of Yeshua is in His blood! This is why Satan hates our declaration: He is helpless when we are under the cover of Yeshua's blood.
The enemy has been waging a battle against the celebration of Passover for centuries. We can read how Passover was lost even in Biblical days. When the children of Israel and Judah were unfaithful to the Lord, they stopped celebrating the Passover. When a king who did "what was right in the eyes of the Lord" came to power he would oversee the purification of the temple, re-establish sacrifices and worship and begin the celebration of Passover anew. Such was the case during the reign of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 30:2-5) and Josiah. (2 Kings 23:21-23) The restoration of Passover celebrations brought the power of the blood back to the people and restored their relationship with God and blessings from Him.
Sadly, the church also gave up the celebration of Passover. Look back to the 4th century and see how Emperor Constantine made it illegal to celebrate Passover and changed the date for the celebration of the Lord's resurrection to the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. The Roman church was pressured by the government to discontinue celebrating Passover, and they followed the mandate. I believe that is why many churches have lost their power in the world today. God delivered His people from bondage in Egypt and said to them: "The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you...This is a day you are to commemorate; for generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance." (Exodus 12:13-14)
It was the blood of the Passover lamb that protected the children of Israel from the destroyer. Each family selected a spotless lamb on the 10th of Nisan. Only lambs from Bethlehem could serve as Passover lambs. After obtaining their lamb, a family would come down the Mount of Olives and enter Jerusalem through the Sheep Gate. How appropriate it is that on the 10th of Nisan Jesus, born in Bethlehem, came down the Mount of Olives and entered Jerusalem through the Sheep Gate! Today we call this Palm Sunday and remember how the crowds of people shouted "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the King of Israel." (John 12:13) Just as the lambs for Passover had to be inspected for any imperfections, Jesus was examined by the Pharisees and Sadducees at the temple. They could find no fault with Him as they attempted to trap Him with their questions.
When Jesus arrived at the Temple, He cast out the money changers to cleanse His Father's house. Today, part of the Passover preparation includes removing all leaven (representing sin) from the home. A candle is used to search for any impurities. On the 14th of Nisan the lambs were taken to the altar for public display and then bound to it at 9:00 am. As the lambs were being bound, Jesus, our Passover Lamb, was nailed to the Cross at Calvary. At 3:00 pm the high priest cut the throat of the sacrificial lamb and declared, "It is finished!" Both the sacrificial lambs and our Passover Lamb poured out their blood at the same time. And Jesus also declared at 3:00 pm, "It is finished!" The Greek meaning for this is, "The debt has been paid in full."
At the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, when He approached John the Baptist, John said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) The blood shed by our Passover Lamb was placed across the doorposts of our hearts to stop judgment and death and provide redemption. As it says in Leviticus 17:11, "Without the shedding of blood, there is no atonement." We should meditate on the truth that the blood of the lamb that protected the Israelites from the destroyer was a precursor to the blood of our Passover Lamb, Yeshua, that continuously protects us from the destroyer of our souls. (1 John 1:7) Let us declare, “I am redeemed by the blood of the Lamb out of the hand of the enemy."
When a new year is about to take place, do you look to the past to see what has happened and then to the future to determine what you could accomplish? I think the practice of setting informed goals helps us in being able to chart the course for our lives. Perhaps this is what God was thinking when He established a yearly cycle for His people beginning with Nisan. This first month was planned for the deliverance of the children of Israel from slavery to the Egyptians and victory in taking the Promised Land where freedom would be theirs.
Presently, we are at the beginning of the month of Nisan. If we look at the book of Exodus during this time period, we see how God was showing the Israelites His power by sending plagues and natural disasters upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians. We can relate to some of those plagues. East Africa and South Asia are battling billions of locusts that are destroying their crops and livelihoods. And, of course, thousands have died around the world from Coronavirus. The disease is taking its toll on our physical bodies, our economies and our way of living life.
When God was about to send the plague of the death of the firstborn throughout Egypt, He told His people to begin a new cycle of life. Nisan was to be the first month of the year for them. He told Moses the following: "Tell the whole community of Israel that on the 10th day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household...The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the 14th day of the month, when all the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs… This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord's Passover." (Exodus 12:3, 5-7, 11)
After the Isralites selected their lamb, slaughtered it on the 14th of Nisan and spread the blood on the door frames, they were to stay in their homes until morning. They would be protected by the blood of the lamb. The destroyer would pass over the doorways covered by the blood; the Lord would protect them. After 430 years of bondage in Egypt, the children of Israel were set free to begin their journey to the Promised Land. A Passover meal has been celebrated ever since this first one. Jesus celebrated it with His disciples before His crucifixion. Today Christians call this meal communion.
I would like to suggest that the quarantine that we are now experiencing may have the unexpected outcome of bringing us freedom from the bondages of our age. God's people are meant to be different from the rest of the world. This time alone is a time of rest where we can repent of our worldly lives, remember the Lord's deeds for all humankind, and look to Him, our Redeemer, to lead us on paths of righteousness and to a life filled with purpose. When we accepted Jesus as our Lord, the blood of the Passover Lamb (Jesus) was placed over our hearts. And Jesus demonstrated and admonished us to practice taking the meal called communion so that we remember Him.
My husband and I have come to understand how important our daily practice of taking communion is to our relationship with the Lord and for our protection and healing. Daily we remember the Lord's benefits by declaring the beginning of Psalm 103. "Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." Then we remember that Jesus is our Passover Lamb and that "He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) The Lord wants to set us free from the bondage of this world and lead us into our promised lands. Let's use this time of seclusion to draw closer to Him and watch as He leads us triumphantly out of bondage and into a life of victory and Kingdom authority.
Humility is the key that opens the door to favor. This is so vibrantly demonstrated in the story of Queen Esther. Her entire life was laid down to honor God. As an orphan she was raised by her cousin Mordecai. Together, they were carried into exile from Jerusalem to the citadel of Susa, located in the Persian empire. Today this territory is in southwestern Iran. Esther's true Hebrew name was Hadassah, meaning myrtle. This low-growing tree can be found in high places. Like the meaning of her true name, Hadassah was moved from her lowly surroundings to the high place of the king's palace where she was groomed, along with other beautiful women from the kingdom, as a possible queen for King Xerxes. She took on the Persian name of Esther (meaning star) to conceal her Jewish identity.
Hadassah submitted herself to Hegai, the head of the king's harem. For one year she was refined with beauty treatments of perfumes, cosmetics and the oil of myrrh (an oil used to prepare bodies and representing purification and dying to self). At the completion of her time with the harem, Hadassah would be taken to the king's palace to spend one night with him. Afterward she would take up residence with the king's concubines and would not see him again unless summoned by name. Can you imagine how Hadassah must have felt with all that she faced? And yet, she was cooperative and loving so that she won the favor of those who cared for her. Hadassah was a perfect picture of her Hebrew name and blossomed while preparing for one night with the King. It is interesting to note that the flowers on the myrtle tree are white (representing purity) with purple borders (representing royalty) and are extremely fragrant. This humble woman of God was crushed to produce a sweet fragrance. She was destined to win the king's favor and became Queen Esther, the star! She rose to a high place in the kingdom of King Xerxes through her beautiful humility.
In the outskirts of the palace, at the king's gate, Esther's loyal caregiver, Mordecai, kept vigil. She was in regular contact with Mordecai and continued to follow his instructions. During her tenure as queen, King Xerxes appointed a man named Haman to a position higher than all the other nobles in the kingdom. He was an Agagite, a descendant of Agag who was an enemy of Saul and the nation of Israel. Isn't it fascinating that Mordecai was from the tribe of Benjamin like Saul? The ancient battle between the Jews and Agagites was renewed. Mordecai refused to kneel down to Haman. In a fit of anger, Haman decided to kill Mordecai and all the Jews in the kingdom on a set date. They "cast the pur" (lot) to select the 12th month (Adar) and the 13th day on the Hebrew calendar, and a decree explaining this edict was sent to all the provinces.
Can you see how God positioned Esther for "such a time as this?" She proved her faithfulness to Him. Once again, she would need to take up a position of humility and die to self in order to save her people. She was asked to petition the king and plead for mercy for the Jews. Esther would be risking her very life by revealing her heritage as a Jew and by approaching the king without being summoned. She agreed to approach the king in the inner court and gave Mordecai the following instructions: "Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16)
Esther prepared for her assignment by humbling herself before God. She needed His favor more than anything else. I wonder if she knew that her Persian name was a prophetic sign for her life. This wise and brave woman would "shine like the brightness of the heavens" (Daniel 12:3) as she laid down her life to become a light in the darkness to save the Jews. The day set aside to annihilate the Jews became a day of celebration called Purim. King Xerxes extended his gold scepter to Esther. Haman's evil plot was exposed, and he was put to death. The days meant for slaughter became days of victory for the Jews. A decree was written: "...And these days of Purim should never cease to be celebrated by the Jews, nor should the memory of them die out among their descendants." (Esther 9:28) We have much to learn from Hadassah/Esther. Humility brings the favor of the King of kings and leads us to a shining victory!
Joan E. Mathias