The eleventh month on the Hebrew calendar, Shevat, started one week ago. Tzadik is the letter in the Hebrew alphabet for this month and symbolizes "The Righteous One." Jeremiah prophesied the coming of the Righteous One in chapter 23 of his book. The chapter is titled "The Righteous Branch." "'I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,' declares the Lord. 'The days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which He will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.'" (Jeremiah 23:3-6)
This description of our Savior as the Branch is quite interesting to me since on the fifteenth of Shevat the Jews celebrate what they call, "The New Year of the Trees" or "Tu B-Sh'vat." Rabbis used this date to determine the beginning of the agricultural cycle for Biblical tithes of fruit. The most important part of a tree's structure is its root system. The roots feed the branches that produce leaves and fruit. Their job, in addition to anchoring the tree, is to take in water and nutrients that help the branches grow healthy and strong and produce good fruit. That is why the location for a tree is critical. Farmers prepare their soil by adding organic matter to it. They may also look for a planting location near the water so that their trees can be well irrigated.
Did you know that in the prophetic realm large, leafy trees represent powerful and prosperous kingdoms? (The Prophets Dictionary, by Paula A. Price, PhD) Chuck Pierce's book, When God Speaks, says that trees also represent people. Kingdoms are made up of people, each one making a contribution to their kingdom. As children of the Kingdom of Light, we must be rooted in fertile soil. Colossians 2:6-7 gives us directions on where to root. "So then, just as you receive Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." If we are rooted in Christ then we take in His love and righteousness and are destined to produce good fruit, "...fruit that will last." (John 15:16)
We, as children of the Most High God, (El Elyon) are made in the image of the Lord, Our Righteous Savior. Why is righteousness so important? It means we are in right standing with God and conformed to His image. Our righteousness in God comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Our goal is to become like Him. It is available to us as it says in Romans 3:21-22. "But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through Jesus Christ to all who believe."
There is a promise in Mathew 5:6 for those of us who desire to be like our Savior. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." Are we firmly anchored in Him? Do we take in all the good He has for us? How productive are we? In this month of Shevat, let us be especially mindful of where we are planted, what we take in, and how we use what our Righteous Lord provides so that we can produce good fruit for the Kingdom of Light. God bless you.
Have you noticed how nature is preparing for winter? The change in light and temperature during the fall season gives signals to plants and animals. Deciduous trees and shrubs drop their leaves and go dormant. Some of the animals are shedding their summer coats and growing heavier or toned-down coats that will keep them warm in the cold and blend them into the winter landscape. Many are maximizing their food consumption to increase their body masses. Hibernating animals are preparing their dens. And squirrels, mice, and beavers are stocking up on supplies such as nuts, berries, and tree bark so that they will have snacks when food becomes scarce.
What about Christians? Are we preparing for the day when we will no longer have the freedom to "eat" the Word of God. The people in China, the Middle East, North Korea, and multiple African countries could tell us about the persecution that takes place when one makes a commitment to the Lord. They know when they are introduced to Christ that they and their families could be persecuted and imprisoned for their faith. Thus, they must feed themselves while they are able to get prepared for the "winter season."
Here in the United States, we have been permitted to practice our faith without interference. However, change is in the wind. A liberal society is offended by the truths expressed in the Bible. Increasingly, individuals are more concerned about their selfish desires than truth and righteousness. Because of this, they plot the destruction of the Christian community. Parents are being arrested for raising their children in the knowledge of the truth. Some educators are exploiting young people by teaching them lies that deny their gender. Pastors are being put into jail for daring to assemble with their congregations during government shutdowns.
The importance of preparation for a coming season of hardship cannot be overemphasized! The children of Israel were instructed to prepare for one day of the week when manna would not fall from heaven. They needed to collect twice as much of the "bread of heaven" on the day before the Sabbath. (Exodus 16:5) It is said of the prophet Ezra that the gracious hand of God was upon him when he traveled from Babylon to Jerusalem. "For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel. (Ezra 7:10 - NKJ) The disciples prepared for the Passover on the day before it was celebrated. (Matthew 26:10, Mark 14:16) Believers in Jesus, during the time of the disciples, prepared themselves for the Sabbath. That day was even called "Preparation Day." (Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, John 19:31)
A modern-day pastor from Romania named Richard Wurmbrand knew the importance of preparation for the young Believers in his charge. Right before the Communist takeover, he took his students to the lions' den at the zoo. He reminded them that persecution was coming and that now was the time to decide as to how they would respond when faced with torture and death. Christians in Biblical days were thrown into the lions' den when they would not recount their faith. They were prepared for whatever would happen to them and determine to be faithful to the Lord.
How is our preparation for the winter day of persecution? Are we consuming the Word of God so that we know the truth? Have we decided what faithfulness looks like and how we can walk it out when "winter" arrives? Preparation is the key!
Between 5:16 a.m. and 6:41 a.m. EST on November 8, Election Day, a total lunar eclipse is scheduled to occur. When the earth is positioned exactly between the moon and the sun, its shadow falls on the surface of the moon, dimming it and sometimes turning the lunar surface red according to NASA. What makes this significant is that it is the first time in the history of the United States (246 years) that Election Day will fall on the same day as a blood moon. We are told by scientists that it will not happen again in the United States on Election Day for another 372 years, November 8, 2394. So, this is a lifetime event!
Joan E. Mathias