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.
In the first chapter of Job we have a description of the kind of man that he was and of the tragedy that beset him. "...This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen and 500 donkeys. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East." (Job 1:1-3) Job was dear to God because of his heart for Him. However, the Lord allowed the hedge that was around Job to be removed to prove to Satan that he would remain faithful.
Initially, all of Job's livestock and servants were taken from him by the Sabeans, the Chaldeans and a fire. Then all his children were killed by a "mighty wind." Job's response indicated the depth of his honor and love for the Lord. "At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.'" (Job 1:20-21)
This Scripture came to mind on Thursday as I processed what is happening in our world and in my own family and circle of close friends. Most of us are following our presidential guidelines for the war on Coronavirus by quarantining ourselves for two weeks. In the United States alone, as of today there are over 30,000 people who have contracted the virus and 400 who have died from it. Communication with family and friends is being done primarily by telephone or social media platforms. Fear and panic has struck many as we can see by empty shelves at the grocery store. Our financial means of support is being stretched. Travel by any means of public transportation has come to a halt. We do not know what the future holds. And yet, amid all of this, life and death go on.
I was contemplating the fragility of life and remembering that we have no guarantees for tomorrow as I received notice that the husband of a dear friend died in his home of an unexpected heart attack. My friend is left shocked and devastated and unable to have a memorial service with friends to comfort her because of the virus that is spreading around the world. The same day that my friend died, we received news of the birth of a great grandson. Samuel Dillon was brought into this world and speaks to us of new life and encouragement. Even the meaning of his name brings joy. Samuel means "heard of God." It reminds me that God hears our cries for help in our time of need. Scripture confirms this. Look at 2 Chronicles 7:14 to see God's prescription for help when the times are dark. "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land."
Especially during seasons like these, we must remember that every day is a gift from God. We cannot count on tomorrow, so we must make the most of today. Job said this very thing: "Man's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed." (Job 14:5) Psalm 90 is described as a prayer of Moses. In Verse 12 he asks God, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." King David repeats this in Psalm 39. "Show me, Lord, my life's end and the number of my days...Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure." (Verses 4-5)
As Christians we need to focus on the eternal and live our lives to bless the Lord. While we are on earth, we have only one opportunity to live for the purpose for which we were made. Let us take every day as a gift from God to love and serve Him and to do the same for those around us. Don't miss an opportunity to say, "I LOVE YOU!" to your family and friends.
Extensive thought has been given to what I am about to write. I have been challenged by a particular Scripture. After much study, I have more questions than I do answers. But I decided to post my dilemma in the hopes that one or more of you may have some revelation. "...In a multitude of counselors there is safety." (Proverbs 24:6 - KJ)
How often have you read or heard 2 Chronicles 7:14? "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." Frequently, I am sure. Yet have you looked at the context of this verse? Solomon had just successfully finished building the Lord's temple. He asked that the Lord come to His resting place at the temple. The Lord appeared to him and said, "I have heard your prayer and chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people..." (2 Chronicles 7:12-13 - NIV) The King James version says, "If I shut up heaven," and NLT says, "At times I might shut up heaven."
Knowing what is going on in our world today (droughts, locusts and plagues) I began to wonder if these things were sent by the Lord. The crucifixion of Jesus on the Cross was a gift from God to cover our sins. I know God as compassionate, loving, merciful and altogether wonderful. Would He send such a destruction and death to the earth? I also know Him as completely pure and holy, worthy of worship. He is a jealous God, wanting our affections and honor. How do we reconcile these characteristics?
We are battling a pandemic in the world called Coronavirus or COVID-19. It is overwhelming the medical community, affecting the economy and changing our lives. Though medical scientists are rushing to find a vaccine to stop the virus it maybe too little too late. I read about a church in France where 15 people came to know the Lord because of their fear of death. Could this virus come from Him in order to bring many to salvation? Is this what we need to humble ourselves and call out to God for mercy?
In the midst of all the chaos, I wonder: Does God still send plagues? Other Old Testament Scriptures sound somewhat like 2 Chronicles 7:13 including 2 Chronicles 6:26-31, Deuteronomy 11:17-18, Ezekiel 14:19-21, Amos 4:7. Wise King Solomon wrote, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." (Proverbs 14:34) The United States is a nation in sin. Chuck Smith calls it a national sickness caused by forgetfulness, neglect and rejection. We are guilty of idolatry, sexual immorality, killing the unborn and neglecting the Lord’s Day. Are we being disciplined by God? Has He reached the end of His patience with us? Is He using instruments of judgment talked about in Jeremiah 14:12 (sword, famine and plague) to redirect our course?
If we look back in the history of our nation we find that in the summer of 1623 there was a severe drought in Plymouth, MA--so severe that the native Indians had never seen anything like it. The settlers called for an assembly of all of the people. They humbled themselves together before the Lord with fasting and prayer according to Edward Winslow's book The Light and the Glory. For one day they stopped all work and gathered to acknowledge God and repent of their sins. Before the day was over the rain clouds blew in and it began to rain. The rains lasted for 14 days.
Sometimes we need to look back in history to chart our course for the future. Past presidents, including George Washington in 1789, John Adams in 1799, and Abraham Lincoln in 1863, called for national days of fasting and prayer to ask for repentance for past transgressions and mercy from God. Here is my conclusion. It does not matter where Coronavirus came from. It does matter how we respond! The future of our nation is at stake. Thankfully, our president has seen the need to call our nation to prayer. He said, "It is my great honor to declare Sunday, March 15, as a National Day of Prayer. We are a Country that, throughout our history, has looked to God for protection and strength in times like these...No matter where you may be, I encourage you to turn towards prayer in an act of faith. Together, we will easily PREVAIL!" The Church must lead the way in this call to prayer. Let us get on our knees and call out to God for mercy and revival. May I also suggest that you read Psalm 91 aloud every day.
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!
In the final chapter of Isaiah, the Lord asks a key question: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?" (Isaiah 66:1-2) The glory of the Lord comes wherever He rests and brings with it revival.
When we look back to 1 Chronicles 21 and 22, we see that King David purchased the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite so that he could build an altar to the Lord and sacrifice burnt and fellowship offerings on it to stop the plague that was killing the people of Israel. As he sacrificed, "The Lord answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering." (1 Chronicles 21:26) After this, David said, "The house of the Lord God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel." (2 Chronicles 22:1) David made extensive preparations for the construction of the temple because his son, Solomon, called a man of peace and rest, was the kind of person God wanted to build His house.
All the officials of Israel were summoned to assemble at Jerusalem where David announced his plans. Solomon was commissioned to build the house of the Lord and to lead God's people in His ways. First Chronicles 28:12 tells us that David "gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind." The temple was built on Mt. Moriah, where the Lord appeared to David. There was great rejoicing and a spirit of unity with the people of God as they gave and gathered all the supplies needed for building the temple. On the day when it was dedicated "fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offerings and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple." (2 Chronicles 7:1-2)
The temple made with hands was eventually destroyed. But God had a plan for a new type of temple. Paul explains it: "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands." (Acts 17:24) He told the Corinthians, "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16) In Chapter 6, Verses 19-20, he gives more details: "...You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body." The Spirit of the Living God took up residence in the spirits of His people. Wherever the Spirit dwells there is glory and potential for revival. For this to happen our souls must bow to our spirits so that the Holy Spirit has priority and we follow His leading.
Around the world there are churches contending for revival and wondering what it will take for God to dwell in their presence. Sid Roth, in his book The Incomplete Church, asks some interesting questions: "What would the church be like today if we started from scratch and just followed the Scriptures? What would happen if we removed all tradition from Judaism and Christianity, and Jews and Christians came together as one? Let me introduce you to the Glorious Congregation--the emergence of the One New Man--Yeshua!"
God is looking for a house where He can come and dwell. He is looking for a people who will dwell in unity. (Psalm 133) "For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of two, thus making peace...In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit." (Ephesians 2:14-15, 21-22) Sid Roth says, "His objective is to 'gather together in one all things in Messiah.' (Ephesians 1:10) When the wall between Jew and Gentile is removed, the spiritual temple, God's dwelling place, will be restored, and this One New Man will release resurrection power to the Church that Paul calls 'life from the dead.'" (Romans 11:15) As we worship together in unity, God's glory will return. How I hunger for such a day! Will you join me in prayer for God to knit us together as One New Man so that His glory can be released in our midst?
God instructed Elijah to go to the top of the "mountain of God," Mt. Horeb, while He passed by. A powerful wind that shattered rocks, an earthquake and then a fire confronted Elijah, but the Lord was not in any of them. Finally, their came "a gentle whisper." This is how the Lord came to Elijah. (1 Kings 19:11-13)
The Lord still speaks in a gentle whisper, desiring us to stop our activities and be still before Him so that we can hear what He has to say. He has much competition through our world that is filled with sounds. Many individuals cannot walk down the street without plugged in ear buds. Computers and TVs offer us a plethora of talk shows where we can listen to people's opinions on numerous subjects. We are talking and texting our friends throughout the day and night. Have we remembered to set aside time to heed the voice of the Lord?
Our relationship with the Lord is dependent on hearing Him, and our well-being is dependent upon hearing and obeying Him. After crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites were introduced to the character of God. They began to see His characteristics manifest before them. The first one was Jehovah Rapha, the God who Heals. As God healed the bitter waters at Marah, He told them, "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 any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord who heals you." (Exodus 15:26) Notice the keys to good health: Listen carefully and Obey (Do what is right).
These directions are repeated in Deuteronomy 28. When Moses told the children of Israel the key to God's blessings, he said this: "If you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all nations on the earth, and all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obeyed the voice of the Lord your God." (Verses 1-2, NKJV) We must hear the voice of the Lord to know how to be obedient. Notice also that these instructions were the first ones that God gave to the Israelites after they came out of Egypt. In His economy, the things He places first have priority.
Jeremiah the prophet had to correct the children of Israel concerning their priorities and activities as written in Chapter 7 of his book. He stood at the gate of the Lord's house and declared, "Hear the word of the Lord...Reform your ways and actions...You are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless...The Lord declared, 'I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer.'" (Verses 2, 3, 8, 13) The Lord spoke through Jeremiah when He said, "For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people.'" (Verses 22-23, NKJV)
Jesus affirmed the instructions in the Old Covenant when He said, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:22) As Believers we are in covenant with God. Our part is to listen for His voice and then obey His instructions. May I suggest that not only does this tell us that we should regularly set aside time just to hear from the Lord but should also be listening for His still small voice as we go throughout our days. We carry the Presence of God wherever we go and have opportunities to demonstrate His love to others as He directs us into situations and tells us how to reflect His glory. Let us tune ourselves to the Lord's frequency so that we can hear Him and obey.
"Don't burn your bridges!" Has anyone given you that advice? It sounds good on the surface but there are situations where burning the path to the past would be a demonstration of commitment to the future. Such was the case with the prophet Elisha.
After a victory over the prophets of Baal, Elijah retreated in fear. God was not finished with him, however, and revealed Himself to Elijah through the sound of a gentle whisper. Then, He gave him instructions, including anointing Elisha as his successor. Elisha was found plowing his field. "He was plowing with 12 yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the 12th pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him." (1 Kings 19:19) In Biblical times, the cloak was one of the most important pieces of clothing a person could own. It served many purposes—being used for protection against weather, bedding, a place to sit, a way to carry belongings, or a pledge for a debt. In this case, it represented the mantle of Elijah's calling from the Lord as a prophet. By transferring it to Elisha, Elijah was passing his responsibility and God's power to him.
Elisha knew full well what was happening to him. "...Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. 'Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,' he said, 'and then I will come with you.' Elijah asked, 'What have I done to you?'" (1 Kings 19:20) Elisha went back and did exactly what we are told not to do. He burned any bridge to the past. "He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to following Elijah and became his servant." (1 Kings 19:21)
It is interesting that there were 12 pair of oxen since 12 is the number of apostolic fullness and divine government. Elisha realized that the call on his life had changed. He proved it by burning the plowing equipment and sacrificing the oxen to feed his family and friends. Think about this scene and the prophetic nature of it. Remember that plowing is the first step toward harvest. Elisha would be plowing, planting and harvesting new ground. He positioned himself for the future by sacrificing everything from the past. There would be no retreating to the old lifestyle. He was all in!
We are in a new year and a new decade. What is God calling you to pursue? What do we need to "burn" so that we do not look back and can be free to press on to the call of God for the future with everything that is in us? We must look to our Messiah and His goal for us. Here is advice from the apostle Paul: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14) Jesus also warned those who would follow Him: "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62) There is always more ground to plow in the place where you are called to plant and harvest. Let us move forward as the Lord leads us.
Fruit trees were very important in the Jewish culture. In fact, on the 15th of Shevat (the 11th month) they celebrate "The New Year for Trees," known as Tu b'Shevat. Tomorrow is that day, sometimes called Rosh Hashanah for Trees. We see in Deuteronomy 20:19 that people are compared to trees. The chapter includes instructions on how to go to war. God's people were not to cut down fruit trees when they laid siege to a city. The question is asked in Verse 19, "Are the trees people, that you should besiege them?" Fruit trees were planted so that their fruit could be eaten.
The main reason this holiday was established was so that God would be correctly honored with the fruit the trees produced. Leviticus 19:23-25 tells us this: "When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden; it must not be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased. I am the Lord your God." The purpose of the new year is for calculating the age of trees for tithing. Each tree is considered to have aged one year as of the 15th of Shevat. If you plant a tree any time before the 15th of Shevat it begins its 2nd year on the 15th. But if you plant a tree two days later, for example, it does not reach its 2nd year until the 15th of Shevat the following year.
What does this mean for us? When Jesus spoke to His disciples, He told stories to make His point. It was common for Him to talk about trees and compare them to humanity. In Matthew 7:15-20 He warned His disciples to watch out for false prophets. How were they to recognize them? They would do so by the fruit they produced. Good trees bear good fruit, but bad trees bear bad fruit. He repeats this theme of judging a tree by its fruit in Matthew 12:33. "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree will be recognized by its fruit."
In Psalm 1 we are compared to fruit trees and told that the Lord blesses those who delight in His law and meditate on it day and night. "That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers." (Psalm 1:3) Verse 6 tells us that "The Lord watches the way of the righteous." The prophet Jeremiah repeats this theme. "But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
What we take in impacts our fruit. We need to be all about producing strong roots through our faith and commitment to the Lord, for strong roots produce good fruit. What we partake of can produce nourishment which strengthens us. Let's be aware of what we are eating and drinking. It is the Word of God and the Living Water that strengthen our roots and help us to grow in righteousness. Righteousness needs to be our foundation.
We must ask ourselves, "What kind of fruit are we producing?" Are we producing a crop that will feed the next generation? What kind of "trees" are planted in our fields? Are they bearing good fruit, or do they need to be cut down? The Lord is our Righteous Savior (Jeremiah 23:6)—Jehovah Tsidkenu—"The Lord our Righteousness." As we partake of Him, our Daily Bread and our Living Water, we will produce a bounty of good fruit.
What adjectives go through your mind when you think of a snake? How about evil, poison, death, craftiness and betrayal? For me, it is all of these. I don't even like to look at snakes and avoid the snake house at the zoo. Interestingly, snakes are also a symbol of fertility, life and healing. But I have been following the most recent news on the virus that started in Wuhan, China. The Coronavirus is so named because it appears like a crown under a microscope. Its "protein codes" are most similar to those carried by bats and snakes. Researchers believe there is a strong possibility that the virus jumped from bats to snakes and from snakes to humans. This is because there were snakes in the fish market where scientists believe the virus started. The Coronavirus is transmitted through the air. Its method of movement is called zoonotic transmission because people acquire the virus directly from an animal.
My research on the Coronavirus was taken from two scientific journals. On January 22, 2020, "Scientific America" and "New Scientists Newsletter" wrote about the virus. Here is something interesting that I found: The snake is the host for the virus however, the virus must go through genetic mutations in order to infect humans. The Taiwanese or Chinese Krait is a highly venomous snake and is what was being sold in the Wuhan market. The medical community is still trying to learn more about the virus since so many people have been infected with it. They are looking for ways that it can adapt to both cold-blooded and warm-blooded hosts.
As I was praying about this dire situation, I remembered that the children of Israel were also impacted by snakes. After they were freed from bondage in Egypt, Moses led them through the wilderness as instructed by God. The Israelites began to grumble and spoke against God and Moses. They said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!" (Numbers 21:5) I am in dismay as I read this. Where is their gratitude? Where is their respect? God did not take kindly to their insolence. "Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, 'We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.'" (Numbers 21:6-7)
God did answer the prayer of Moses, giving him unique instructions. "'Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.' So, Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived." (Numbers 21:8-9) What was God trying to do with this solution? I believe He was pointing us to Jesus. Just as the bronze snake was lifted up on a pole Jesus would be lifted up on a cross. The pole represented the Cross and the bronze snake judgment. God provided a means for deliverance through admission of sin and faith in His way to redeem His people from death.
The children of Israel were condemned to death because of their sin. The serpent was a symbol of their sin and death. All who looked on the representation of sin with eyes of faith were healed. We too have been condemned to death by God because of our sin. Jesus came to save us by becoming sin on the Cross. God ordained that all who look at Jesus in faith will be redeemed from death. "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."
(1 Corinthians 5:21) Let us take time to thank and worship the Lord for His amazing sacrifice. Even before the time of Moses, God had a plan to redeem us. "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life."
He was a godly man of faith who wanted to see his people freed from oppression. He quoted Scripture in his speeches. He encouraged peaceful protests and was resolute in his mission. Martin Luther King Jr. was eventually killed for his leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. But, his dream did not die. He left us his "I Have a Dream" speech as a picture of the goal and an inspiration for the future.
Peppered throughout the "Dream" speech are words that come from Scripture: "We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." (Amos 5:24) We should remember that the foundations of God's throne are righteousness and justice. (Psalm 89:14) "I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope." This portion of the speech was taken from Isaiah 40:4-5.
Could it be that King recognized the mission of Jesus Christ to set captives free and so quoted the prophets that told of the coming of this King who would fight for the weary and oppressed and bring hope to the hopeless? As the apostle Paul writes to the Galatians, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." (Galatians 5:1) Jesus Christ Himself made His mission known when He stepped into the synagogue in Nazareth and read from the scroll of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)
Freedom in every realm of our lives is a God-given right since we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and his life, death and resurrection. However, many of us are not walking in complete freedom. The battle for our freedom is a spiritual one. God gives us direction on how to obtain freedom. Here are the words of Jesus: "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free...So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:32,36)
Joan E. Mathias