I am without words to describe last week's despicable violence and acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on innocent Israeli citizens. The depravity of this group whose goal is to destroy Israel is beyond comprehension. Hamas leaders and the leaders of nations that align with them are praising their savagery and gleefully exhibiting the horrors of their behaviors. We have no moral equivalence to their acts of brutality.
How do we process the emotions that rise within us? I was drawn to read the Scriptures that talk about Gaza. Let us begin with the definition of Gaza-"Stronghold." This is the oldest city of the Philistines. The Old Testament is filled with stories of how the Israelites had to battle this ungodly people group. We are all familiar with the story of David as he fought the Philistine champion named Goliath. But, why did David have to fight the Philistine?
When God gave the Israelites the Promised Land, He instructed them to drive out every inhabitant of the land. Then He gave them this warning: "If you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live, and then I will do to you what I plan to do to them." (Numbers 33:55-56) We see in Joshua 11:22 what transpired when Israel fought their battles. "No Anakites were left in Israelite territory; only in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod did any survive." God's warning was not heeded, and the disobedience of the Israelites has come back to haunt the people of Israel.
Let us also look at what has been happening in the spiritual realm. At one time, Satan was the chief praiser of God. It was his position, along with legions of angels, to worship the Lord. However, his pride got in the way and he, along with one-third of the angels, was expelled from heaven. War between Satan and God has been taking place ever since. Whatever God blesses, Satan curses. When God chose the Israelites to be His treasured possession, Satan began a rampage to destroy them. When God gave the Promised Land to His people, Satan started a campaign to eliminate the Israelites from this land. Remember that it was the tribe of Judah that received Gaza as their inheritance. This is the very tribe of Jesus, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Jesus already defeated Satan in His death and resurrection, but the battle to destroy the Apple of God's eye continues.
A combination of the above factors has kept the Jews in a constant battle with the forces of evil. There was a time when the Philistines, who occupied Gaza, captured the ark of God. God sent plagues and tumors to those people for seven months until they returned the ark. God is aware of the evil that is trying to consume His people—Christians and Jews. The prophet Amos has somethings interesting to say about Gaza. "For three sins of Gaza, even four, I will not relent. Because she took captive whole communities and sold them to Edom, I will send fires on the walls of Gaza that will consume her fortresses." (Amos 1:6, 7) Do you think we may be seeing this prophecy being played out?
Our modern-day Philistines, Hamas, have great hatred for our Prince of Peace. Their brutality extends to the Palestinians who are living under their thumb. Hamas terrorists hide behind civilians and shoot their rockets into Israel from schools, hospitals, and private homes. Unfortunately, many in the younger generation have bought into the lies that Hamas has spread around the world. Their false ideologies and anti-Israel rhetoric have seeped into our institutions of higher learning, the halls of governments, and the United Nations. We must educate our children and grandchildren on the truth of Scripture and the history of Israel. We must teach them that they will find their refuge in God alone.
How do we battle? "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world, on the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. (Gaza) We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) Put on the armor of God described in Ephesians 6. Use the sword of the Spirit (The Word of God) and pray.
Below you will find some prayer suggestions:
The last of the fall feasts, The Feast of Tabernacles, is the culmination of all of the biblical holy days. It is also called "The Feast of Ingathering" because it is a time of harvest. This feast is a picture of the Kingdom of God to come. But before this joyous time of celebration there is the repentance of Yom Kippur. Repentance is what leads us to joy and peace. Messiah Yeshua experienced the Cross before the resurrection. He took up this Cross for us so that we could live in His glory.
In remembering God's faithfulness to them in the wilderness, the children of Israel built temporary shelters called Sukkahs. Seven days they dwelt in their shelters to remind them that God wants us to dwell under the tabernacle of HIs peace. Though the sukkah represents the wilderness season, the branches of fruit placed on it represent the bounty of the Promised Land. This is a season of joining together heaven and earth. The wilderness is our life on earth and our journey to the Promised Land, while the Promised Land itself is the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Sukkah also represents a place to tabernacle with God. Here is an interesting fact to consider: The Sukkah, or temporary dwelling, was originally made from broken branches. The Apostle Paul writes about the Jewish people being broken branches from the Olive tree. These "branches" were broken off of the Olive tree (a symbol for the Jews) because of their unbelief. And here is the benefit to the rest of world: "Because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” (Romans 11:11) It is God's desire that all nations come to Him. Isn't it interesting that the "broken branches" are integral in the salvation of the nations? They make room for all nations to come to the Lord and then those nations draw the "broken branches" back to Him.
The prophet Zechariah gives us a glimpse of the future when the Lord will gather all the nations in Jerusalem. "On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem...The Lord will be king of the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and His name the only name...Then the survivors from all nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles." (Zechariah 14:8, 9,16)
God desires to tabernacle with everyone from every tribe, and tongue, and nation. Through the disciple John He paints a beautiful picture of life in the New Jerusalem that is so connected to the Feast of Tabernacles. "Look, God's tabernacle is with human beings. And from now on He will tabernacle with them as their God. Now God Himself will have His home with them--'God-with-them' will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and eliminate death entirely. No one will mourn or weep any longer. The pain of wounds will no longer exist, for the old order has ceased." (Revelation 21:3, 4 - TPT)
Friday at sunset began the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. It will be celebrated for seven days. Should we not join in this celebration of joy and peace in remembering that Jesus/Yeshua will reign with us for eternity and that the earth will become the tabernacle of God?
Sundown tonight begins what is called holiest day on the Hebrew Calendar—Yom Kippur or The Day of Atonement. It is the final day of what the Jews call "The Ten Days of Awe." These ten days are meant for a time of reflection and returning to the Lord. The Day of Atonement is set aside as one to fast and confess sins to God. Psalm 139:23-24, written by King David, seems like the perfect prayer for this season. "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting."
In David's time and under the Old Covenant, the high priest would have confessed the sins of Israel as he placed his hands on the head of two goats. This act was meant to transfer the burden of sin to the animals. Next, the priest would sacrifice one of the goats and a bull as an offering to the Lord. God explains what needed to happen in Leviticus 17:11. "For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life." The blood of the sacrificial goat and bull would be brought into the Most Holy Place in the Temple. The blood placed on the altar was the atonement that cleansed the high priest, the people, and the sanctuary. It brought forgiveness and "covered" the sins of the people for a year, until Yom Kippur the following year. The Hebrew word "Kippur" means covering.
The second goat is referred to as the "scapegoat." After the priest confessed the sins of the nation, transferring them to the goat, a trusted man would lead the scapegoat into a rocky place deep in the wilderness to ensure the death of the goat so that he would not make his way back into the Israelite camp. I think of Psalm 103:12 in reference to this act. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
You may ask about what happens today. God took care of this very issue. Since the shedding of blood is required for the atonement of sin, a new covenant was established. Believers in Yeshua, Jesus, have a better covenant through the blood of God's own Son. "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21) The prophet Isaiah described Jesus as "The Suffering Servant" in Isaiah 52 and 53. Verse 12 of Isaiah 53 says that He will be given "a portion among the great...because He poured out His life unto death and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors." Our high priest, Jesus, permanently took away our sins.
The Jews who do not know their Messiah are left with a dilemma. How do they find redemption without a blood sacrifice? It is my understanding that the rabbis have temporarily "suspended" the command for a blood sacrifice after the Temple was destroyed. Repentance is emphasized instead of sacrifice. Acts of charity are done in place of the commandment. We must pray that our Jewish brothers and sisters will have their blinders removed and that they will see that God has already sent a perfect sacrifice for the sins of all humanity. May they see the truth prophesied in Isaiah 53 as God's forever sacrifice for their redemption.
Psalm 62:1 - "Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress. I will never be shaken." Soul rest is a deep rest where we follow the example that God gave us after creating the universe. "...On the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done." (Genesis 2: 2-3) Our bodies and souls were designed to need rest. In fact, every creature that God placed on earth needs rest. God called the day of rest the Sabbath because we are to stop our normal routines and direct our thoughts and actions toward Him. The fourth of the Ten Commandments says, "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." (Exodus 20:8)
The Greek word for rest is "anapauo" and its definition includes several possibilities such as refresh, rejuvenate, reinvigorate, and revitalize. Notice the "re" at the beginning of each word which means "anew." These words can apply not only to mankind and the creatures of the world but also to the land. God's instructions to the children of Israel concerning the land are explicit: "When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather your crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest." (Leviticus 25:2-5) The Jews call this year the Shemitah year.
In His instructions, the Lord makes provision for all people. He is aware that the poor and needy are in a position of not being able to provide for themselves or their families. Their daily existence is a struggle that makes it difficult for them to rest. In Leviticus 25:35 we see where God makes provision for them. "If any fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you." How would a farmer who is ready to harvest his fields help the poor and the stranger so that they could rest from their worries? Leviticus 19:9 gives instructions on this: "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over the vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God."
Jonathan Cahn of Hope of the World Ministries teaches that the Hebrew word for harvest is "Katzeer." He tells us that God's children need to learn the law of the Katzeer which says that we should not reap the ends or corners of our land but leave them for the poor and the stranger so that they may be fed. Since most of us are not farmers, how does this law apply to us? It has to do with our mindset. It requires us to have faith in God that there will always be more than enough. What does this look like? It means making a choice to give away portions of our possessions like time, energy, money, and love. These are the corners of our fields. When we give to others in this way God fills our cups to overflowing and makes our harvests spectacular.
On the Jewish calendar, the first month of the civil year and the seventh month of the religious year coincide. The seventh month is called Tishrei, meaning beginning. Seven is the number of completion or perfection, so it is significant that the three fall feasts occur in this month. The New Year occurs on the first day of this month. The celebration, also known as Rosh Hashanah or The Feast of Trumpets, occurs at sundown on September 15 on our calendars. The shofar, an instrument made of a ram's horn, will be blown to call the Jews together so they can consider the past year and look at the year ahead. The sound is meant to awaken the souls of those who hear it so that they are prompted to return to God. The horn brings to remembrance the ram that Abraham offered to God as a sacrifice in place of his son, Isaac. It is also a reminder for God's people to remain humble in the face of a holy God.
Another name for the Jewish New Year is "The Day of Judgment." It begins the fall feasts. These feasts are meant to lead those celebrating into right standing with God. Joel 2:1 commands, "Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill." The shofar is sounded 100 times at Rosh Hashanah. Not only does it call for a gathering of God's people, but it also reminds them to go to war against anything that is contrary to God's truth. We should be encouraged by the words of Joel 2:12-15. "'Even now,' declares the Lord, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.' Rend your heart and not your garments, return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and He relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing...Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, and call a sacred assembly."
God is focused on our redemption. The New Year is to be a time for a reset for all of humanity after a time of self-reflection and repentance. The number of the year is one that speaks to us about the Lord's intentions. In order to follow what many of the prophets are saying about the year to come, we must understand that every letter in the Hebrew alphabet is a picture that conveys a message and has a numerical value. 5784 is the number of the New Year. The fourth Hebrew letter is "Dalet" and has a pictographic meaning of a door or portal. God created the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day, and their light separates us from darkness. These celestial bodies indicate our times on the calendar. Thus, our Creator regulates our times and seasons, and Tishrei is meant to demonstrate the linking of time and authority.
Let us look at all the numbers of this year: Five is the number of grace. Seven is the number of perfection. Eight is the number of new beginnings. And four is the number of a door. We are four years into the decade of the 80s. This number 80 is the seventeenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet and is the picture of a mouth. It is called "Pey" and is associated with speech and other functions of the mouth like blowing. What does this say to us as we consider the year 5784? Remember that God created the world with His spoken word. Since we are made in His image, our sounds have power as did His. We have been given the power to bless or curse. Proverbs 18:21 tells us, "The tongue has the power of life and death..." Then we have Psalm 81:10 that promises, "...Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." God is the one who fills us with good things!
The ten days between Rosh Hashanah (The New Year) and Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) are called The Days of Awe because the Jews believe their actions during these ten days can alter the decree God writes about them in His heavenly book. I believe we have a great opportunity to walk through new doors in the year to come. Perhaps this is time for us to experience growth in a new dimension—the fourth or spiritual dimension. Believers have legal access to the spirit realm. Ephesians 2:6 confirms this: "God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." Could the declaration of our faith move us into a season of creation that we have not seen before? We must embrace the promises of God by declaring them so that the door of blessing and opportunity is open for us. Let it be!
"A Haven in Time"—that is what the month of Elul is called. We entered into this sixth month on the Hebrew calendar on Thursday evening. Why is Elul called a haven? It is because our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, appointed this time as one where His mercy and forgiveness are extended to us in a personal way. If we look back at the history of the children of Israel, we see that the prior two months (Tammuz and Av) are known for the sins committed against the Lord. Because of their sins of lust and unbelief, the Israelites built the golden calf and refused to enter the Promised Land. Elul is meant as a time for repentance and redemption.
Today, God reaches out to us even in the midst of our sin. His overwhelming desire for intimacy with us overrides any anger over our disobedience. During Elul, He extends the opportunity for us to prepare for the high holy days of the next month through repentance now. The Lord extends mercy in a very personal way by making Himself more accessible to us. The Jewish people say of Elul: "The King is in the field." God's desire for intimacy with us is so great that He leaves His heavenly dwelling to come to earth and make Himself accessible in the field of our lives. We have an entire month when the Lord is here to remind us of His loving kindness and love.
For me, it is particularly significant that God picked the month of Elul to send the angel Gabriel to tell Mary about God's plan to use her to birth His son. "In the sixth month, God send the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary...the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.'" (Luke 1:26-27, 30-31) "...So, the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35) During the month of Elul, God took His first step to put into motion His plan for His Son to come to earth to live in a tent of flesh for 33 years. John 1:14 describes what happened: "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us." The Passion Translation gives us a good visual of John 1:14. "And so the Living Expression became a man and lived among us! And we gazed upon the splendor of His glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father overflowing with tender mercy and truth."
God's desire has always been to dwell with us. Look back to Exodus 25. In this part of Scripture, the Lord instructs Moses to build Him a tabernacle. Verse 2 says, "...You are to receive the offering for Me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give." The purpose for the tabernacle is described in Verse 8. "Then have them make a sanctuary for Me, and I will dwell among them."
It is hard to imagine such a loving God. The Lord made the ultimate sacrifice for us so that we could live with Him for eternity. "This is love: He loved us long before we loved Him. It was His love, not ours. He proved it by sending His Son to be the pleasing sacrificial offering to take away our sins." (1 John 4:10 - TPT)
During Elul, God gives us an invitation to experience deeper measures of HIs love. It is so fitting that the name Elul is a Hebrew acronym, "Ani L'dodi V'dodi Li" which means "I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine." (Song of Solomon 6:3) Should we not respond positively to God's loving invitation for intimacy? Let us be sure that our hearts are clean, open, and prepared to experience Him in this haven in time.
A significant event occurred during the fourth month on the Hebrew calendar that should be a warning for all of us. The event broke the first commandment given by God to the Israelites. "You shall have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:3) While Moses was on the top of Mount Sinai receiving God's commandments, God's people neglected to remember and review the miraculous events of the past 2-1/2 months. They closed their eyes to the truth and said to Aaron, the priest, "...Make us a god who shall go before us..." (Exodus 32:1 – The Hebrew Bible, 1945) They collected their gold earrings to use in the making of an idol cast into the shape of a calf. Then they told themselves a lie: "This is thy god, O Israel, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt." (Exodus 32:4 - The Hebrew Bible, 1945)
Does this behavior seem familiar? In my opinion, the Church has allowed our country's leadership to rewrite history. We have forgotten that our nation was founded upon a Judeo-Christian foundation. We now worship the idols of money, sex, self-indulgence, laziness, and materialism, to name a few. Our golden calves, so to speak, have taken over our lives, and we worship at our human-made altars.
We can learn much during this fourth month called Tammuz. The religious Jews of today are particularly mindful of the sins of their past and the repercussions that have ensued. They have designated the three weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av (the fifth month) as a time to fast as they recall the tragedies that beset the Jews because of idolatry. These three weeks of sorrow are called "bein ha-Metzarim" or "between the straights." On the web site, "Hebrew4christians.com" there is an explanation of why the fourth month is called Tammuz. Apparently, this is the name of an idol that was worshiped in the Ancient Near East. They write, "Sages tell us it was deliberately chosen (the name Tammuz) to remind the Jews of the judgment that comes from idolatry. It eventually led to the destruction of the Temple."
Idolatry led to the destruction of the first and second temples on the same day (the ninth of Av) in different years. Here is a lesson for all of us. As we worship idols, we destroy our temples. "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for God's temple is sacred, and you together are that temple." (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
We should use this month of Tammuz to recall the goodness of God throughout the years. The antidote to idol worship is the worship of our One True God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us step away from the idols that ensnare us and join together in a chorus of blessing to honor our Lord.
The mention of fire in the Bible brings to mind images of light, cleansing, and power, and frequently represents God. In Deuteronomy 4:23-24 we read about how Moses warned the children of Israel. "Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that He made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God." If we look back to the days when God called Abram to the land of Israel, we see that He made a covenant with him and came as fire in the process. "When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. (of the animals for sacrifice) On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram..." (Genesis 15:17-18) In Abram's day it was a custom to light a torch when a covenant was being made. God was making a promise to Abram to give him the land of Israel as an inheritance. The fire moving through the pieces of the sacrifice represented God.
The glory of God was manifest through fire during all of Moses' visits to Mount Sinai. Exodus 19:18 tells us, "Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire." During one of his visits to The Mountain of the Lord, God gave Moses instructions for Aaron and his sons regarding the tabernacle altar. "The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out." (Leviticus 6:13) It was the fire that consumed the sacrifice. The prophet Elijah demonstrated the power of the One True God to the prophets of Baal and all the people of Israel. A bull was placed on the altar of the prophets of Baal and one on the altar of Elijah. Elijah declared, "The god who answers by fire—he is God." (1 Kings 18:24) A pillar of fire guided the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land. This pillar of fire also gave protection to the Israelites when the Egyptian army pursued them. "Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them." (Exodus 14:19)
The familiar image of fire from the Old Testament is repeated in the New Testament. Before Jesus left the earth and returned to His Father, He instructed His disciples not to leave Jerusalem. He had a gift for them. "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8) Jesus knew that many people would be coming to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot. His followers had been counting the weeks from Passover to the celebration of the wheat harvest and the giving of Torah. Another aspect was about to be added to this festival.
As the disciples waited in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, "Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit..." (Acts 2:2-4) Fire came again, as it did throughout the history of the children of Israel, to deliver them from fear and to empower them to move into God's mission to build His church with both Jew and Gentile.
Today is that day when the Church celebrates Pentecost or Shavuot. We have also been given the gift of power through the Holy Spirit so that we can carry God's Spirit to the world. Let us keep the flames of the Spirit burning through our humility and worship of the One True God. Pray, "Lord, set our hearts on fire so that we become blazing torches to bring the nations to You."
In 1948, Iyar 5 on the Hebrew calendar, and May 14 on our western calendar, the nation of Israel was born. David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, stood in a Tel Aviv art gallery to read the nation's Declaration of Independence and declare that the Jewish State would be called "Israel." Long ago, God chose the Jewish people to demonstrate His promise-keeping character to the world.
If we look back to the time when the Israelites crossed into the Promised Land and drove out the unrighteous nations, we see that they forgot the way God provided for, empowered, and protected them. They quickly rebelled and angered the Lord to such a degree that He declared, "I will scatter you among the nations..." (Leviticus 26:33) Indeed, this is what happened several times. AD 70 was known for a huge dispersion when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and scattered the Jews around the world.
The Jewish people are tenacious and clung to the promises of God through their years of exile. Amos 9:14-15 was one of these promises. "I will bring my people Israel back from exile. They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them..." For centuries, the Jews made aliyah (immigration to Israel). When Germany initiated World War II, aliyah came to a holt and six million Jews were killed before the war ended. The importance of having a homeland for the Jews became obvious. So it was, in 1948, that the Jewish dream of having their homeland restored became a reality.
The young nation would immediately face a battle as five surrounding Arab nations with well-trained soldiers and abundant equipment came against them. It was only through a miracle of God that Israel prevailed. The question asked in Isaiah 66:8 was answered with a resounding "Yes!" "Can a country be born in a day, or a nation be brought forth in a moment?" Since 1948, Israel has been challenged by enemy forces on several occasions. With God's help they have prevailed and built Israel into one of the most prosperous nations in the world.
Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, said it well: "In Israel, in order to be a realist, one must believe in miracles!" And the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is just that--He has been their consistent help and deliverer. He has guided them and helped as Israel transformed a once inhospitable region into a garden. According to the book Israel, 75 Years of Miracles, this small nation has "become a world leader in science and technology and in health and medicine."
We should celebrate this 75-year anniversary with the people of Israel as this nation is God's demonstration of His faithfulness and love for a people He calls His own. God continues to gather His people back from the lands where they were scattered. The covenant He made with Abraham has been kept, and the land and people will continue to thrive beyond this Diamond Jubilee.
The one who created the heavens and the earth existed before there was creation. Genesis 1:1 used the Hebrew word Elohim which translates God, Mighty Creator, Omnipotent Power. With His breath He made everything from nothing, spoke order into chaos, and light into darkness. Elohim is the plural form of El that gives recognition to the truth that He is a Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. On the sixth day "God created man in His own image..." (Genesis 1:27) His desire was and is to fill our lives with blessings. Psalm 102:27 tells us about the infinity of God. "But you remain the same, and your years will never end."
After destroying life on earth because of its wickedness, God started again with Noah and his family and demonstrated that He is the God who keeps covenant with His people. Nations were birthed from Noah's sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. From Shem's family came Abram and another covenant with God. God said, "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on the earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:2-3) Abram was blessed with abundant provision through God. To broaden Abram's understanding of Elohim, God said to him, "Do not be afraid Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward." (Genesis 15:1) The covenant God made with Abram (who He renamed Abraham, meaning "Father of a multitude") was sealed with a sign. Every male was to be a sign of the covenant through circumcision. In the generations to come, all male children would be circumcised on the eighth day. (Genesis 17:12) Eight is the number of new beginnings.
The story of Abraham and his relationship with God was verbally shared through the generations. However, when the children of Israel were detained as slaves in Egypt, much of what had been handed down from generation to generation was forgotten. After 430 years of oppression and slavery, God appointed Moses to lead them to the Promised Land and used the events of their journey as a way to reintroduce His character. This took place during the second month on the Hebrew calendar. This month has two names: Iyar and Ziv, which means radiance. We are in the first week of this month and can learn from the Israelite journey. Since this month is linked with light it is time for us to ask God for revelation and to radiate God's glory as we learn more about Him.
As we look back at the events of this month, we can see that God's desire is for greater intimacy with His children. One of ways that we can accomplish this is through getting to know His names. With multiple names, we have multiple ways to relate to Him. Worship leader Paul Wilbur wrote a song called "The Diamond Turns." He asks the question: "Who is like You Oh Lord among gods? Who can worship as You shine? Who could even know in just a single gaze all the glory of Your face?" God is like a diamond with multiple facets. He is radiant; His light is blinding! Every facet of the Lord is unique and meant to help us in our journey on earth.
Again, let's look back at the children of Israel and see how they were developing a new level of relationship with God as they traveled. They saw that God would fight for them as He opened the Red Sea. In the Song of Moses they sang, "The Lord is a warrior." (Exodus 15:3) Then they learned that God is Jehovah Rapha (The God who Heals) when he purified the bitter waters of Marah. God led them as a shepherd so that they became familiar with His name Yahweh Rohi. As they grumbled about the lack of food, God provided manna for sustenance and called Himself Jehovah Jaira (The Lord Will Provide). When they went to battle against the Amalekites, the Lord fought with Joshua and the troops and helped Moses hold up his hands in victory through the battle. Moses built an altar to His name, Jehovah Nissi. (The Lord is My Banner)
With God everything is personal. May I suggest that we investigate some of the names of God during this month of radiance. As we get to know Him more intimately, we will radiate HIs light and glory.
Joan E. Mathias