The Radiance of God's Name
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.
"Mohar" - How Many Kings?
It is through Rabbi Jonathan Cahn that I learned about the Hebrew word "mohar." For an ancient Hebrew wedding to take place, the groom had to pay the bride's family a dowry, a precious gift or large sum of money to show his love for his bride. Without the mohar there would be no wedding. No covenant could be made. There is Biblical precedence for this practice in several places in the Bible. Here are a few of them:
Genesis 24:53 - Eliezer, acting in the place of the groom's father, Abraham, gave precious gifts to Rebekah's family as a dowry so that she would come with him to be Isaac's wife.
1 Samuel 18:25 - Saul tells his servant to say to David, "The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies." David took Saul seriously and brought back 200 Philistine foreskins for Michal's hand in marriage.
Hosea 3:2 - At God's instructions, Hosea purchased Gomer the prostitute as his wife for "fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley."
Christmas is here, a time when we contemplate the precious gift that God sent from heaven to purchase a bride for His son Jesus. We must see this gift through to its conclusion. The love of Christ is demonstrated not only by His birth, but also by His death. The life and death of Jesus on earth was God’s mohar so that His bride, the Church, can live with Him for eternity. Rabbi Cahn asks a pertinent question about other religions who ask for extreme devotion from their adherents. When we look at Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and Orthodox Judaism, "Where is the mohar?" A gift was not given to make covenant in these religions. It only happened for those who believe Jesus is the Son of God. The mohar could not be more valuable!
This season I have been touched by the words of a song sang by the group "Down Here," called "How Many Kings?" I encourage you to listen to it. Below you will find some of the words to the song. Please pay particular attention to the questions in the chorus. In essence, the questions can be summed up by asking, "Where is the mohar?"
Verse 1 - "Follow the star to a place unexpected. Would you believe after all we've projected, a child in a manger? Lowly and small, the weakest of all, unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother's shawl, just a child. Is this who we've waited for?" Chorus.
Verse 2 - "Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior, all that we have, whether costly or meek, because we believe. Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure, and myrrh for the cross He will suffer. Do you believe? Is this who we've waited for?"
Chorus: "How many kings step down from their thrones? How many lords have abandoned their homes? How many greats have become the least for me? And how many gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that is torn all apart? How many fathers gave up their sons for me? Only one did that for me."
Let us join in the worship of our God for being willing to be our Mohar.
Redeeming Unbelief in Av
As part of an inner healing team at my church, I see many ways in which the devil and his demons try to trick people into coming into agreement with the kingdom of darkness. I am reminded of a line in Martin Luther's hymn, "A Mighty Fortress." The first verse declares that God is our mighty fortress who helps us against the enemy. However, our enemy never stops trying to trick us. "For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe—His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal."
One of the devil's primary weapons is that he plants seeds of doubt in our minds. We can go all the way back to the Garden of Eden to see the first time he used this trick to destroy the lives of Adam and Eve. The Bible describes his aptitude for deception: "Now the snake (serpent) was the most cunning of all living beings that Yahweh-God had made. He deviously asked the woman, 'Did God really tell you, 'You must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden?'' But the woman interrupted: 'We may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden, except the tree in the center of the garden. God told us, 'Don't eat its fruit, or even touch it, or you'll die.'' But the snake said to hear, 'You certainly won't die.'" (Genesis 3:1-4 - TPT)
We all know the result of Eve's doubt—She ate the forbidden fruit along with her husband. Why? It was because of doubt and unbelief. Scriptures are filled with stories of individuals who discounted God's promises and doubted the veracity of His word. The Israelites made the month of Av, our current month, the lowest point on the Hebrew calendar through their unbelief. God's intent was that this would be the month to celebrate His goodness. The Israelites stood at the border of the Promised Land, the place where God wanted them to live and demonstrated to the rest of the world His loving kindness and faithfulness. Spies sent into Canaan brought back the amazing fruit of the land. Grapes were so huge that they were carried back to the tribes on a pole between two men. Yet, there were two voices amongst the twelve men who spied out the land. Caleb and Joshua declared the voice of faith while the other ten men declared a voice of unbelief. God's promise to the tribes of Israel was undeniable. "The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still." (Exodus 14:14) The Israelites had a choice to make. Would they partner with God or with doubt and unbelief? The fear they took on made them embrace unbelief. On the 9th of Av, they made a wrong decision and a negative confession that placed them under a curse. As they partnered with doubt and unbelief, the promises of God were delayed. The manifestation of the curse went on year after year and continues today. The cycle of destruction can be seen in the events that have occurred on the 9th of Av. Here is a short list: Babylon destroyed the first temple, Rome destroyed the second temple, Hitler began deporting Jews to death camps, Jews were expelled from England, Spain, Portugal, and Gaza, all in different years.
You may ask why this cycle of destruction has continued. Hebrews 4:1-3 explains what happened. "Now God has offered to us the same promises of entering into His realm of resting in confident faith. So, we must be extremely careful to ensure that we all embrace the fullness of that promise and not fail to experience it. For we have heard the good news of deliverance just as they did, yet they didn't join their faith with the Word. Instead, what they heard didn't affect them deeply, for they doubted. For those of us who believe, faith activates the promise, and we experience the realm of confident rest..."(TPT) The children of Israel never repented for their sin of unbelief which allows the enemy to continue on his path of destruction. The sin was repeated when Jesus, the Messiah, came to earth. He told the Jews He is the Son of God, demonstrated His Kingdom through miracles, and gave them words of life. The promises Jesus brought were not received, and they embraced unbelief.
We must be the generation that redeems the sin of unbelief. It might seem like an impossible task, but the Lord has shown us how to do it. The steps follow: Confess the sin of believing a lie; Forgive those who contributed to the way we formed the ungodly belief; Ask for and receive God's forgiveness; Renounce and break any agreement with the powers of darkness; Choose to accept, believe, and receive God's truth. Verse 3 of "A Mighty Fortress" says it all: "And tho this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us. We will not fear, for God hath willed, His truth to triumph thru us. The prince of darkness grim—we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure; for lo his doom is sure—One little word shall fell him." Let's choose to believe God's promises and enter His blessing!
Graves into Gardens
Romans 15:4 says, "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope." One of the distinct qualities of God's people is that they have hope. God sent His Word to plant that in us. The Bible is more than a book, as it tells us in John 1:1-5. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
You may ask, "What is the purpose of the Bible?" I believe that one of the main purposes is to give us revelation of God's nature and character and His desire for relationship with us. His desire for intimacy with us is so great that He used the beginning of the Book to show us our sinful condition and His plans for redemption. Our need for a Savior is why He sent His perfect Son to redeem us. He assures us of His ability to enact His plan of salvation through the stories in the Bible that tell of His loving care and power to overcome the schemes of the enemy, and to set us on the right path for eternal life.
A song written by Elevation Worship has inspired me and affirmed my hope in the Lord. It tells us how the world will never satisfy us but that His love overcomes our weaknesses and failures. While it is true that HIs love gives us hope, it is also true that His power is supernatural and changes our surroundings to give us access to God's Kingdom. Let's look at the words to the song, "Graves into Gardens."
"I searched the world, but it couldn't fill me. Man's empty praise and treasures that fade are never enough. Then You came along and put me back together, and every desire is now satisfied, here in Your love.
Chorus: Oh, there's nothing better than You. There's nothing better than You. Lord there's nothing, nothing is better than You.
I'm not afraid to show You my weakness. My failures and flaws, Lord You've seen them all, and You still call me friend. 'Cause the God of the mountain is the God of the valley. There's not a place Your mercy and grace won't find me again.
Bridge 1: You turn mourning to dancing. You give beauty for ashes.
You turn shame into glory. You're the only one who can.
Bridge 2: You turn graves into gardens. You turn bones into armies.
You turn seas into highways. You're the only one who can. You're the only one who can.”
God's love for us and its accompanying power operate together to transform our lives. Declaring HIs power and love will change our atmosphere and bring about hope for the present and the future.
Yirah - Fear of the Lord
I was undone this week as I listened to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir so beautifully sing "The Song of Moses." The words come from Revelation 15:3-4. "Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You. For Your judgments have been manifested." (NKJV) The key question here is, "Who shall not fear You?" The word "fear" as used in the Bible has several meanings. Fear of the Lord contains a mixed feeling of dread and reverence, awe and wonder. The Hebrew word is "Yirah." It is directly connected to trembling. It happens when we encounter something beyond our understanding and should lead us into worship.
A warning is issued to the leaders of nations in Psalm 2. I like the way it is expressed in The Passion Translation. "How dare the nations plan a rebellion. Their foolish plots are futile! Look at how the power brokers of the world rise up to hold their summit as the rulers scheme and confer together against Yahweh and His Anointed King...Listen to me, all you rebel-kings and all you upstart judges of the earth. Learn your lesson while there is still time. Serve and worship the awe-inspiring God. Recognize His greatness and bow before Him, trembling with reverence in His presence." (Verses 1-2, 10-11)
By not putting God first in their lives, the rulers of nations, the leaders of churches, and the masses are forfeiting amazing blessings from the Lord. At the forefront is wisdom. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10) Job comprehended the ramifications of the fear of the Lord for his life. "The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding." (Job 28:28) Scripture is filled with verses describing the benefits of the fear of the Lord. "He whose walk is upright fears the Lord, but he whose ways are devious despises Him." (Proverbs 14:2) It seems that fearing the Lord brings great benefits to families. "He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge." (Proverbs 14:26) Here is one we should remember: "Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil." (Proverbs 16:6)
Verses 8 through 11 in Psalm 33 make clear the power of the Lord. "Let the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere Him. For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm. The Lord foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, and the purposes of His heart through all generations." When David wrote Psalm 86, he knew the importance of having an undivided heart. "Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may praise You, O Lord my God. With all my heart, I will glorify Your name forever." (Verses 11-12) God gives us undivided hearts when we give Him permission to search us and know our hearts. (Psalm 139) With the fear of the Lord comes a generational promise as written in Psalm 103:17. "But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children's children." Psalm 147:11 tells us, "The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love."
Let's look at what the prophet Isaiah says about fear of the Lord. I believe Isaiah 33:5-6 is one Scripture that encourages and directs us for such a time as this. "The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high; He will fill Zion with justice and righteousness. He will be a sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure." Isaiah 11 describes the Spirit gifts that Jesus carried: "And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him--The Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power (might), the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD." These verses should be encouraging to us as we are made in the image of God. We must pursue and embrace the fear of the Lord and pray that our leaders will do the same. Why don't you listen to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sing "The Song of Moses"? As you do, ask the Lord how to renew your fear of the Lord and contemplate these words as written by Jeremiah the prophet: "'Should you not fear me?' declares the Lord. 'Should you not tremble in my presence...'" (Jeremiah 5:22)
Preparing Room for Jesus
"O come to my heart, Lord Jesus—there is room in my heart for Thee!" This refrain from the song "Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne" (written by Emily Elliott for her father's church, St. Mark's Anglican Church of Brighton, England) gives one the opportunity to personalize their commitment to Jesus. The verses tell the story of the birth, life, death, and victorious return of our Savior. The first four verses use the word "but" to contrast the differences between heaven's actions and earth's response. The final verse rejoices at Christ's return to bring us to His side. He makes room for us at His side as we make room for Him in our hearts.
Below are the words to the song. As you read them, pay attention to what comes after the "but."
"Though didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown when Thou camest to earth for me; but in Bethlehem's home was there found no room for Thy holy nativity.*
Heaven's arches rang when the angels sang, proclaiming Thy royal degree; but of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth, and in great humility.*
The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest in the shade of the forest tree; but Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God, in the deserts of Galilee.*
Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word that should set Thy people free; but with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn they bore Thee to Calvary.*
When the heav'ns shall ring and the angels sing at Thy coming to victory, let Thy voice call me home, saying, 'Yet there is room—there is room at My side for thee,' My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus, when thou comest and callest for me!"*
* "O come to my heart, Lord Jesus—there is room in my heart for Thee!"
The world found no room for the Christ child who came in great humility even though He is a king and a priest. He was crucified wearing a crown of thorns, but death could not keep Him down. All of heaven proclaims that one day our Lord will return in victory.
Here is what we must consider: Do we have room for our Savior in our hearts? Last year prophet Shawn Bolz put a beautiful new year prayer on Instagram. The first few sentences are the best, in my opinion. "God, I give you my most precious commodity you have given me this side of eternity. I give you space to create more of Yourself in me. I commit to daily time with you to develop our deep connection. I open my heart to you and listen with hungry ears. I will look for you in my days."
As we welcome in the New Year, let's make it our goal to invite the Holy Spirit of Jesus to take more space in our hearts so that we become more like Him. Paul explains how Jesus emptied Himself of His glory in obedience to Father God. "He existed in the form of God, yet He gave no thought to seizing equality with God as His supreme prize. Instead, He emptied Himself of His outward glory by reducing Himself to the form of a lowly servant. He became human." (Philippians 2:6-7 - TPT) Consider what Jesus told the Jews who were questioning Him about His testimony. "Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for My Word." (John 8:35-37)
The Word is filled with truth, wisdom, and power. The Word is our Lord. What better way to make room in our hearts for Jesus than through spending time in the Word. Jesus is ready to create more of Himself in us when we give Him room to do so. May 2022 be the year when we make more room in our hearts for the Lord!
The Lamb of God
A question is posed at the beginning of the song "Wonderful, Merciful Savior." "Who would have thought that a Lamb could rescue the souls of men?" But that is what was done by the Lamb of God! We see foreshadows of the Lamb of God throughout the Old Testament beginning in Genesis when Adam and Eve sinned. By eating the forbidden fruit their eyes were opened and "they realized that they were naked." (Genesis 3:7) Another way to say this is that they experienced shame, so much so that they tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaves. But man could not cover his own sin. God had to provide them with "garments of skin." (Genesis 3:21)
Specific instructions were given to the Israelites in Egypt when God was going to deliver them from bondage and death. "...On the 10th day of the month each man is to take a lamb for his family...The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect...Take care of them until the 14th day of the month when all the members of 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 doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs." (Genesis 12:3, 5-7) The blood of the lamb was the covering that was needed to protect the children of Israel from the plague of death.
It was on Mt. Moriah that Abraham took his son, his only son, whom he loved, and offered him as a burnt offering at the request of God. (Genesis 22:2) At the moment he was about to slay him, God provided a ram for the sacrifice. The binding of Isaac is called "the Akedah" in Hebrew and the story is retold in synagogues across the world on Rosh Hashanah.
In Isaiah 53 we read the foretelling of the substitutionary atoning sacrifice of the Messiah. Verse 7 compares him to the sacrificial lamb: "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth."
When asked by the priests and Levites who he was, John the Baptist told them, "I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" (John 1:23) John was the one who prepared the way for Jesus and identified Him so that all the world would know the call of God on His life. "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) Those who practiced animal sacrifice so that those who violated the Mosaic law could approach God must have been shocked by the statement of John the Baptist. How could John compare Jesus to the sacrificial lambs?
The Passover season is upon us. The Jewish people will be remembering how each Israelite household in Egypt brought a perfect lamb into their homes from Nisan 10 to 14. Imagine how each family must have become attached to their lamb as they lived with him, only to turn around and kill him as a sacrifice to protect them. Christians are remembering the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem this weekend. To fulfill what was spoken by the prophets, He entered riding on a colt of a donkey. Crowds followed Jesus shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" (Matthew 21:9) Afterward, Jesus entered the temple where He would be questioned and scrutinized. For four days, "The Lamb of God" was examined. He was then chosen as the Sacrificial Lamb.
It is the love of God that nailed Jesus to the Cross. He was the sacrifice that purchased our souls. He is our Redemption. The Lamb of God is described in Revelation 5:6, 9-10. "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders...And they sang a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." We are those that Jesus purchased for Father God. We are part of God's Kingdom and priests to serve Him. It is ordained that we shall reign in victory. How can we not praise Him?
This is My Father's World
At the sound of a familiar song, we can be transported to a special time and place. That happened to me this week as I listened to Marty Goetz play and sing "This is My Father's World." In my mind I was a 12-year-old girl at summer camp. Camp Sunnybrook was in a beautiful spot in the PA Poconos. Part of the camp program included vespers that would take place on a White Pine tree-covered peninsula that extended out into a small man-made lake. The floor of the peninsula was covered in a bed of aromatic pine needles. When the late afternoon sun was shining on the needles the smell was out of this world.
A group of campers would gather on the peninsula at the end of the day to listen to a devotional and sing songs of praise and worship. As I sat in the heavenly atmosphere, we sang "This is My Father's World.” After vespers were completed and everyone left, I stayed behind, because I was not ready to walk away from a holy moment. With deep gratitude and renewed commitment, I continued to sing the song, knowing the truth that our world was created and sustained and ruled by our Heavenly Father.
Scripture is filled with verses that confirm that God is our Creator, Maker, and Sustainer. He is all that and more! Psalm 8:3-4 asks a question: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" Indeed, how blessed we are that the One who is ruling the world stops to care for us. Let's look at 1 Chronicles 29:10-13 where David praised the Lord in front of the whole assembly of Israel. "Praise be to You, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, Lord, is the Kingdom; You are exalted as head of all. Wealth and honor come from You; You are the ruler of all things. In Your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name." Amen!
I want to share the words from "This is My Father's World" (Verses 1 and 3) with you, because they are comforting to me, especially when I consider the state of our world today. It is my hope that they also comfort you.
"The Earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for He founded it on the seas and established it on the water. Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. They will receive blessings from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face, God of Jacob.
Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty--He is the King of glory."
Let the truth of this Psalm strengthen us and bring us peace. Remember that this is our Father's world!
God Will Hold Me Fast
“Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken."
(Psalm 55:22) What a promise for today! Shaking is going on all around us, but those who are rooted and established in the Lord's love will not be shaken and will grow strong and produce fruit. This truth is so appropriate for the Hebrew month we have just entered--Sh'vat--the 11th month on the spiritual calendar. Sh'vat's theme is "His Righteousness is My Foundation." The 15th of Sh'vat is called the "New Year for Trees" or Tu B'Sh’vat. Rabbis use this date to determine the beginning of the agricultural cycle for Biblical tithes of fruit. Those who grow fruit trees know the most important part of their job is ensuring that the trees have strong, healthy root systems. Farmers go to great lengths to prepare their land. They improve the soil texture and structure by loosening it and adding organic matter for nutrients. When a seedling is planted the soil around the roots is tamped and watered to eliminate air pockets and secure the plant. The seedlings may be staked to keep them firmly in the soil until their roots are established.
Imagine that you are a fruit tree and could select the place where you will be planted. Wouldn't we all look for a place that is near water and that has rich, well-textured soil? We would look for a place where our roots could grow strong to anchor and keep us stable. Two Scriptures talk about this very thing:
"Blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." (Psalm 1:1-3) "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)
Here is a question we must answer. How we answer it will reveal the strength of our spiritual roots: What are we meditating on, taking in, and following? The above Scriptures make it very clear that we must be consuming God's Word of Truth and trusting in it and His never-ending faithfulness. Though the world around us is shaking, we can be assured that the Lord will hold us fast. A worship team named Selah sings a song titled, "He Will Hold Me Fast." Please Google this and listen to the powerful music, and let the words encourage and lift you up. In the meantime, meditate on the truth of these words that you can read below:
"When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast; When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast.
I could never keep my hold through life's fearful path; For my love is often cold; He must hold me fast.
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast; For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.
Those He saves are His delight, Christ will hold me fast; Precious in His holy sight, He will hold me fast.
He'll not let my soul be lost; His promises shall last; Bought by Him at such a cost, He will hold me fast.
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast; For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.
For my life He bled and died, Christ will hold me fast; Justice has been satisfied; He will
hold me fast.
Raised with Him to endless life, He will hold me fast, 'Till our faith is turned to sight, when
He comes at last!
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast; For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.”
May we take in everything that God has for us so that His love and care keep us stable and secure, producing much fruit.
The Rope of Hope
When the Apostle Paul writes to the Colossians, he expresses his gratitude for them because of their faith in Christ Jesus and their love for all of God's people. He writes, The faith and love that springs from the hope stored up for you in heaven..." (Colossians 1:5) Isn't it great to be reminded that we have hope stored up for us in heaven? How we need hope right now!
I feel compelled to share a wonderful testimony from Paul Wilbur, Messianic worship leader. He shared his epiphany of hope at Glory of Zion's Shabbat Service at the beginning of the year. During a difficult season in his life, he was inspired by a Scripture that has been one of my "war Scriptures." In Zechariah, Chapter 9, Verses 11 and 12, the Lord encourages Israel: "As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you." What an exciting promise!
Let us look at how this Zechariah Scripture undergirded Paul Wilbur. He and his pastor led 72 pastors to Auschwitz during Purim at the end of February 2020. The group sang and declared God's truth to reverse the curse in that part of Poland and in the crematorium where over a million were killed. They returned to the United States just before the borders were closed because of the Covid breakout. When Paul got home, he discovered that he had lost his voice. The doctors told him that his vocal cords were burned and blistered. The burning was so severe that he could barely talk. March was the first of several months that Paul could not speak, and discouragement and doubt set in.
Paul Wilbur was inspired to research the words of Zechariah 9:11-12, especially the word hope. We must look at all the phrases in these verses, starting with "because of the blood covenant with you." The first time we see God make a blood covenant is in Genesis 15. He instructs Abram to bring him a heifer, goat, ram, dove, and pigeon. All were cut in half and arranged by halves opposite each other. The Lord passed through those animals and told Abram what to expect in an unbreakable blood covenant. He and his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan. Through his blood, Jesus made a better covenant with us, one where we receive His promised eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:15)
Because of the blood covenant, God promises to release us from the "waterless pit." During Bible times, dry cisterns or pits were used as places of bondage or imprisonment. Remember how Joseph was placed in one of these cisterns? (Genesis 37:22) I imagine it would be easy to lose hope in one of these dry, hot places unless you trusted the Word of the Lord from Zechariah: "Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope." The song "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" tells us He is a "bulwark never failing." Here is how the Psalmist sees it: "He alone is my rock, and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken." (Psalm 62:2)
If we follow God's lead, we will be rescued, and what was stolen from us will be returned two-fold. As we trust in the Word of the Lord, His blood covenant and His faithfulness, our belief in God's promises will be rewarded. Paul Wilbur was encouraged by the story of Rahab when the spies from Israel paid her a visit. The spies promised to save her and her family from the pit on two conditions: (1) They could not leave the building. (2) A scarlet rope had to be tied to the window. Paul was reminded of a Scripture that comes from Ecclesiastes 4:12 that says, "A chord of three strands is not quickly broken." Perhaps Rahab's rope had three strands. Paul asked the Lord the significance of each strand. Here is what he senses: Strand 1 represents the Promise or blood covenant. Strand 2 represents the patience that we must have while we wait for the promise. Strand 3 represents the appointed time. We must trust in the promise and remember that patience must have her appointed time. Paul says, "Do not let the rope slip out of your hands!"
Wilbur's voice did return. While he waited in his waterless pit, he wrote new songs as he played his guitar. One that really touched my heart was inspired by 2 Chronicles 20 when it looked like all hope for the Israelites was gone. But the Lord prevailed when the praisers went out ahead of the army. Here are a few lines from the song: "I will dance in the midst of the fire. I will sing in the eye of the storm. I will shout you are faithful forever. The victory is mine 'cause the battle is yours." Remember that we have hope stored up for us in heaven. Make it yours, and do not let go!
Joan E. Mathias