God uses unorthodox ways to demonstrate His nature and purposes. So it was with Hosea the prophet. His name means "Jehovah (The Eternal One) is Salvation or Deliverer," and he lived among God's chosen people during a period when their leadership encouraged a materialistic, immoral, and unjust lifestyle. God watched as His people, chosen to live a godly lifestyle as an example to the entire world, and to be God's bridge of redemption to the pagans, were totally unfaithful to Him. They prostituted themselves to the very ones they were called to bring to the Redeemer.
Imagine how you would feel if God said to you, "Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord." (Hosea 1:2) Hosea's adulterous wife, Gomer (meaning completion), bore him two sons and one daughter who were named by God: Jezreel (God plants or sows), Lo-Ruhamah (not loved), and Lo-Ammi (not my people). Hosea's life was to represent the heart of God in loving the unfaithful.
God found Himself in a position of having to punish the children of Israel for chasing after other gods and abandoning their commitment to Him. Verse 12 of Chapter 4 says, "A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God." In his book, Hosea describes some of the detestable behaviors engaged in by the people of God during his day. "They practice deceit, thieves break into houses, bandits rob in the streets." (Hosea 7:1) "They speak about me falsely. They do not cry out to me from their hearts." (Hosea 7:13-14) "Israel has rejected what is good...They set up kings without my consent..." (Hosea 8:3-4) "Israel has forgotten their Maker..." (Hosea 8:14) "But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors, the roar of battle will rise against your people…” (Hosea 10:13-14)
Does Hosea's description of his times sound familiar? They do to me! We are living in a day that is characterized by our vile behaviors and affections to other gods. The spirit of prostitution appears to be alive and well. From His people Israel, God was looking for a repentant lifestyle. God said, "...Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears...For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:4, 6) While God had some harsh words for Israel, He also had some words of compassion. He remembered the time when they were faithful to Him: “When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree..." (Hosea 9:10) Early fruit on a fig tree was considered especially delicious. When God found Israel in the desert He was overtaken by her appearance and taste. He confessed, "How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel...My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused." (Hosea 11:8)
Mitch Glaser, Ph.D., wrote a book titled God's Plan and Purposes for the Jewish People. He makes some interesting points that are worth repeating: "The Scriptures never suggest that Israel's disobedience would outlast God's grace...Instead, when God wants the nation to repent and again receive His blessings, the Lord would do what was necessary to turn the people back to Him. The book of Hosea proclaimed the message to Israel that God was not going to reject them, but would wait for, or even initiate, their repentance." (Page 23)
God's compassions toward Israel have never failed. I believe He has those same compassions toward the United States of America. He is the One who helped establish our country through guiding Christopher Columbus to our shores. He brought the pilgrims to our lands so that they could establish a country with righteous foundations and freedom to worship the One True God. The Lord said of Israel, "I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon, he will send down his roots…” (Hosea 14:4-5) God is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) Let us call out to Him for healing, restoration, and revival that our nation will return to Him and be like the early fruit on a fig tree.
We can read the prescribed way that the leaders of Israel were to take a census in Exodus 30:11-12. "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them.'" Here is the bottom line: God wanted His people to trust Him in all things. The small ransom required (a half shekel) was to support the service of the Tent of Meeting and became part of the Israelite worship of God. When King David made plans to take a census of the fighting men in his ranks without collecting the half shekel, Joab, the commander of the army, asked him, "Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?" (1 Chronicles 21:3) Joab was overruled and spent nine months and 20 days counting the troops. After receiving the report, David was conscience-stricken. "And he said to the Lord, 'I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.’" (2 Samuel 24:10) However, the Lord's anger rose, and He instructed David's seer, Gad to tell him the ramifications of his action.
It is interesting to note that God gave David the opportunity to select the punishment for Israel. His choices were three years of famine in the land, or three months of fleeing from Israel's enemies, or three days of plague. David told Gad, "Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men." (2 Samuel 24:14) The plague in Israel took 70,000 lives. When the angel of the Lord was about to ravage Jerusalem, the Lord became so distressed that he said, "Enough! Withdraw your hand." (1 Chronicles 21:15)
We must remember that Jerusalem was at the heart of God's plans for HIs people. The angel of death was stopped at the very site where God wanted the temple to be built—the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. David told him that he would like to purchase the threshing floor so that he could build an altar of sacrifice to the Lord to stop the plague. Araunah generously offered to give David the oxen for the burnt offering, the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. Here is David's reply: "No, I insist on paying full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing." (1 Chronicles 21:24) David paid for the site and sacrificed burnt and fellowship offerings to God. As he called on Him, "The Lord answered him with fire from heaven."
(1 Chronicles 21:26)
It is the place of costly sacrifice where the fire of God falls and destruction ends. It is the place where God's mercy is poured out, and we position ourselves for the future. There is much significance to the site God chose for David’s costly sacrifice. It is Mt. Moriah, whose name means "seen by Jehovah."
Our heavenly Father sees us through the lens of our destiny. If we look back to Abraham, we see that God selected David’s altar for another costly sacrifice. Abraham was instructed to take his only son, Isaac, to Mt. Moriah where he would lay him on the altar as a sacrifice. His willingness to trust God to make good on His promise gave Abraham the faith he needed to bind Isaac to the altar. Both Abraham and David saw God's judgment and mercy meet on Mt. Moriah, the site God had chosen for the temple to be built before time began. Indeed, shortly after David had his encounter with the Lord, he began to make preparations for the building of the Temple on this holy land. He said, "The house of the Lord God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel." (1 Chronicles 22:1)
Does what happened to David and the people of Israel have any significance for us today? Here are the results of my contemplations: (1) I believe that The United States of America has been ordained by God as a godly nation whose purpose is to worship Him, to show other nations the generosity of God through blessing them with costly sacrifices, and to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. (2) I believe that God is grieved by the way we have pulled away from our godly roots, established by our forefathers. Our habit of counting our resources instead of trusting in the Lord must be put to an end. (3) I believe we could experience the mercy of God being poured out upon us if we laid costly sacrifices before Him. Would our investments in Kingdom ministries and fervent prayers for revival catch His attention? I think so! Oh God, "Will you not revive us again that your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your mercy, Lord, and grant us Your salvation." (Psalm 85:6-7 - NKJV)
On September 26, 400 years ago, the pilgrims set sail for America in their ship, the Mayflower. They came seeking freedom to restart their lives and to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Many on the ship lost their lives; those who did not persevered. With faith and fortitude, they pressed on toward the goal to win the prize for which God had called them. (Philippians 3:14) Those who landed on the shores of America were the seed of our nation. Before disembarking and putting down their roots in the new land, they signed a document that has become known as the Mayflower Compact. It was a covenant made with God and with each other that expressed the idea of self-government with "just and equal laws...for the general good of the Colony." The Compact expressed deep faith and belief in God and would serve as a foundation for the Constitution of the United States.
I believe that the Christian community will agree that our nation has fallen far from the original intentions of the pilgrims who signed the Mayflower Compact. Early in the year, two of our leaders in the faith came to the same conclusion separately and selected September 26 as a day for people of faith to gather in a solemn assembly on the National Mall to pray. Franklin Graham called his event "The Washington Prayer March" while Jonathan Cahn called the event "The Return." The date God led these men to choose also happens to be 40 days before the presidential election. Franklin Graham says, "The only hope for America is God. Prayer is our most important weapon. It allows us to go directly to the King of kings, directly to stand before the throne of grace and make our petitions known before God."
In the Bible we see that there is great significance to both the number 40 and 400. The flood, Moses and God's meetings, Christ's temptation in the wilderness, and His post resurrection ministry all took place in a 40-day period of time. Of course, the Israelites were in the desert for 40 years. Hence, the number 40 represents a time in the wilderness and preparation through trials and testing. In Genesis 15:13 we see that God foretold of the bondage of the Israelites for 400 years. He delivered them from bondage after 400 years. It seems that whenever God wanted to prepare a nation for His purposes it took 400 years. Could it be that the convergence of two major events in the life of our country is a sign that God is about to change our nation?
I believe that The Return and The Washington Prayer March were strategically planned by God to occur exactly when they did. They fell in the middle of the 10 Days of Awe—the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur where repentance for sins occurs. In addition, these events landed on a day called "Shuvah" on the Jewish calendar, a day annually set aside to return to God through repentance. In fact, the meaning of the word "Shuvah" is "Return." When Jonathan selected September 26 for "The Return" he had no idea that it would fall on Shuvah. Another interesting "coincidence" is that the preset Scripture to be read in synagogues on this day is Joel 2:15. "Blow the shofar in Zion! Proclaim a holy fast. Call for a solemn assembly." (The Complete Jewish Bible) And blow the shofars they did!! Jonathan led an entire army of people in blowing their shofars. The sound penetrated my soul. There were so many convergences at this gathering that we must conclude that it was God inspired.
Before the event, Jonathan Cahn told an interviewer, "God doesn't want to judge. He doesn't! He's long-suffering. Look at all we've done and what we do in His face. Look at the millions that have been killed, the unborn children who've been killed. God doesn't want to, but He has to deal with evil. But his heart is for salvation. His heart is that none should perish. God is calling to America: 'America, return to me, and I will return to you.' I believe that's the heart of God. The movement and chance we have before us now may never come again. If we don't return now, we may pass the point of no return."
There are those who seek to destroy our Judeo-Christian foundations. It is up to Christians to take a stand and return to our Biblical roots. We have this one moment in history that could turn the course of our nation and impact our descendants for generations to come. All the signs point to the fact that God is up to something. We must come into agreement with His plans to transform and reshape our nation. Let us take God up on His promise in 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."
For 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus spent time teaching His disciples truths from the Kingdom of God. Before He ascended into heaven, "Jesus instructed them, "Don't leave Jerusalem, but wait here until you receive the gift I told you about, the gift the Father has promised. For John baptized you in water, but in a few days from now you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4-5) Two words stand out to me in this passage: wait and baptized. Acts 1:4-5 is saying, "If you wait (remain or tarry), then you will be baptized (immersed or drenched) in the Holy Spirit." The instructions require an action on the part of the hearer. The disciples were required to wait for 10 days after Jesus left them, and before the promise hit. Today we call the time when the Holy Spirit poured out in power Pentecost because it was 50 days from the day of the resurrection of Jesus. Those who waited had no idea how long they would be in the same place. God blessed those who persevered.
Waiting is an action word as explained in Proverbs 8:34-35. "Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord." The disciples were waiting in an upper room in Jerusalem for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. They had to listen to and obey what Jesus told them. They were also watching for the appearing of His Spirit. This is what waiting looks like.
Jesus wants His disciples to make themselves available to Him. While we wait the Lord awakens our senses and prepares us for what is to come. The more we wait, the more we cultivate a deeper understanding of Him, the Source of Life. This enable the Lord to enlarge our spiritual capacity. He wants to take us from the natural realm to the supernatural realm. Psalm 27:14 gives us great encouragement. "...Don't give up; don't be impatient; be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, keep on waiting--for He will never disappoint you!" (TPT)
Because they waited and obeyed what Jesus told them, the reward for the disciples was their baptism in the Holy Spirit. If you have ever been to a baptism service, you will recall that the person being baptized is completely immersed into the water. Every part of their body is saturated with water. The symbolism of the ceremony is rich. Going under the water is symbolic of dying to the old life and coming up in newness of life in the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost everyone who had waited in the upper room was transformed. In Acts 2:4 it says, "They were filled and equipped with the Holy Spirit and were inspired to speak in tongues—empowered by the Spirit to speak in languages they had never learned." (TPT) The wind of the Spirit overtook those who waited so that they became more like Jesus—God's intended outcome for this encounter. The writer of Acts describes the new community of Believers: "...Their hearts were mutually linked to one another, sharing communion, and coming together regularly for prayer. A deep sense of holy awe swept over everyone, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. All the Believers were in fellowship as one body, and they shared with one another whatever they had. Out of generosity, they even sold their assets to distribute the proceeds to those who were in need among them." (Acts 2:42-45 - TPT)
The prophetic community of our day has been declaring that this year we will have a Pentecost like none we have experienced before. We have anticipated that God is doing something new. We are being called to arise and awaken. It is time to move from fear to faith. Since today is Pentecost Sunday, the day celebrated by the Church, let's open our hearts to the new thing God wants to do in us. We are beginning to move out from our places of quarantine into the world around us. We must be aware of the opportunities God is giving us to share His Kingdom with others. It will take boldness and courage to move out into new territories. Perhaps we will see the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in power.
A partnership was forged with God and man/woman at God's behest. It seems that when the Lord wants something to happen, He looks for agreement with His plan from someone on earth. Consequently, prayer was birthed. Knowing that the people of the world would sin and that His holiness demands that sin be punished, He set up a channel through which His mercy could be poured out in place of judgment. What pushes the flow of God's mercy is intercession that agrees with and prevails upon His heart of love.
It is my contention that the Lord desires to bring transformation and revival to the United States of America. The revivals that have already manifest throughout the world were birthed by prayer movements. In recognition of the power of prayer for our nation, President Harry Truman signed legislation on April 17, 1952, establishing the National Day of Prayer into the law of the United States. Each year, on the first Thursday of May, we are encouraged "to turn to God in prayer and meditation." Our country is in desperate need of prayer right now. Our National Day of Prayer occurred this past Thursday and gave us the opportunity to join with others to stop and listen to the heart of God for our nation so that we could pray in agreement with Him.
As I consider what part I can play in joining the prayer movement and in crying out for God to revive our nation, I remember some of the powerful prayer warriors that I know and respect. My most admired and loved warrior is my mother. We have a saying in our family when someone needs powerful prayer: "Call Grandmom!" My mother has been a faithful intercessor for as long as I can remember. She has seen many of her prayers answered by the Living God. I believe this is because she hears His heartbeat and prays in harmony with it. At the age of 97, she still prays without ceasing. (1 Thess. 5:17)
Several of my friends tell me that their mothers are or were also prayer warriors. Francis Frangipane shares an interesting insight about the Charismatic movement. The Lord told him that this was birthed from the "cries of a million praying mothers--women who refused to surrender their children to drugs and the devil." Mothers have been at the forefront of the battle for their children and for our nation. Their persistent prayers have birthed blessings for all of us.
In the Bible we see a powerful example of how life was birthed through the prayers of Esther. She led her people in three days of prayer and fasting so that she could go before the king to plead for mercy. In so doing, an edict calling for the annihilation of the Jews was changed and life prevailed. Eve was made by God as a helpmate for Adam. Her name means "mother of all the living." (Genesis 3:20) Women were made to bring forth life--life in many forms. A woman with the heart of a mother, who dedicates herself to prayer, can release God's life into the world. New beginnings for families, the church, and our nation can be brought about through intercessors with a oneness with Christ.
Women have a special place in God's heart. He delights in partnering with them as they intercede in agreement with the mercy and love He carries in His heart. Their persistence in prayer prevails upon God's love and births His plans to release blessings and revival on the earth. If you are a prayer warrior sitting at the feet of Jesus, I bless you. I also encourage everyone to join in the intercession to birth new life and revival.
Look outside and observe the beautiful display that nature is showing us! It emerges from its winter rest with strength and vitality to produce flowers, leaves and fruit. This is a season that can produce hope for the future if we allow God to speak to us through creation. It is His desire for us to walk in blessings because of His love for us. He also wants us to demonstrate His Kingdom to others. To accomplish the pouring out of these benefits, the Lord set up cycles of blessings and rest that are meant to lead us to our destinies. True rest, brought about through trusting in the Lord, will propel us into our futures like an arrow released from a bow. It is interesting that the prophet Isaiah compares the children of Israel to an arrow. "...He made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in His quiver.’ He said to me, ‘You are my servant Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.'" (Isaiah 49:2-3)
God's Word explains His cycles of blessing. The weekly cycle is patterned after the seven days of creation. The seventh day of the week is for rest where we celebrate Him, meditate on His blessings, and become strengthened physically and spiritually. (Genesis 2:2-3) The monthly cycle, Rosh Chodesh or the New Moon Festival, is a "firstfruits celebration." It falls on the first day of each month on the Hebrew calendar and is a time of joyful celebration when God's people gather together to gain revelation for the month ahead. It is also a time to present the Lord with a firstfruits gift to honor Him by giving Him the first and best of all He has given to us. (Numbers 28:11-15) As we participate in this festival, we honor God with the first of our time and receive a day of rest somewhat like the Sabbath. The third cycle of blessing is yearly and includes three key appointed times to set aside our routines and meet Him. (Exodus 23:14-17) The three feasts are Passover (Pesach), Pentecost (Shavuot) and Tabernacles (Sukkot). God chose them as a time to reveal Himself to us and to demonstrate His greatest works. These feasts align our lives with God's timing. Passover is a time to remember God's redemption, Pentecost His physical provision and power through the outpouring of His Spirit, and Tabernacles to receive joy by dwelling in God's presence and celebrating His glory.
Since rest is an integral part of all God's blessings, let's look at what it includes and why it is critical for a healthy life. Moses said to the Lord, "'If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you...' The Lord replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'" That promise of rest was key to receiving God's blessings and is meant for all of God's children. Under the leadership of Joshua, the promise to Moses was fulfilled. "The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as He had sworn to their ancestors..." (Joshua 21:44) The writer of Psalm 91 explains how important it is to dwell in the presence of the Lord. "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty."
The core of rest is trust in the Lord! The writer of Hebrews explains this in Chapter 4. Those with unbelieving hearts have not entered faith's rest. "For those of us who believe, faith activates the promise, and we experience the realm of confident rest!" (Hebrews 4:3 - TPT) The whole world is in a season of rest now. As all of us are quarantined to protect us from the virus, we are in a season of waiting, and we have more time to reflect on our lives. We are being prepared for the season of breakout. If the truth be admitted, our lives before the virus were too busy, and seasons of rest were ignored. This gift of time has allowed us to refocus on what is important. Rest and relaxation lead to refreshing, rejuvenation and renewal.
Have you ever wondered why an archer unstrings his bow? Before the archer shoots, he tightens the strings, creating tension. When the shot is released some of this tension is released but not all of it. The tension on the limbs of the bow weakens them over time and produces what is called fatigue. Unstringing the bow releases the tension, prolongs the bows longevity, and gives it power to propel an arrow to hit its target.
We must use this season of rest to unstring our bows. We are in a time of preparation for the next season. Rest comes by trusting the Lord to accomplish all that He intends for us. As we wait on Him and allow Him to transform us, we become more like Him and will break forth in beauty and power. Read the word of the Psalmist and let it inspire you: "I cried out to the Lord. 'God, come and save me!'...He answered me and came to my rescue! Now I can say to myself and to all, 'Relax and rest, be confident and serene, for the Lord rewards those who simply trust in Him.'" (Psalm 116:4, 6-7 - TPT)
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?
In his books and devotionals, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn enlightens us about the times and seasons and patterns of life in ancient Israel. He studies these patterns because they are a harbinger for the United States. We, like Israel, were established as a godly nation, and God judges both of us in a certain way.
The Lord's desire is for us to have relationship with Him and to live lives that reflect His nature. He chose one man to form a nation to represent Him. "For I have chosen him (Abraham), so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just…” (Genesis 18:19) As the children of Israel were being led to the Promised Land, God told them, "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples of the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession. The Lord did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other people, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath, He swore to your forefathers that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands.” (Deuteronomy 7:6-9)
Reading through Scripture, we learn that the children of Israel frequently broke covenant with God and strayed from His commands. He always warned them of the consequences of their disobedience. Then He gave them a time period of grace in which He held back the full force of His judgment and wrath. If the nation did not return to a godly way of living during the grace period, God's judgment fell. Rabbi Jonathan's January 2020 devotional tells the story of Israel's northern kingdom and how God warned them to return to Him and follow His ways. The nation did not take the warning seriously and used up their grace period without changing. God lifted His hand of protection from over them and allowed the Assyrians to destroy them.
After looking at different times in the Bible when God extended grace to the children of Israel, Jonathan has discerned that God's period of grace for America may be ending in the year 2020. Our spiritual and moral decline is noticeable and flies in the face of the nation's Judeo-Christian foundation. Jonathan points out that the year 2020 is the 400th year since the Mayflower journeyed to the shores of America and the pilgrims made a covenant with God. 400 is a number of significance in the Bible where situations for Israel changed.
Jonathan also points out the significance of the number 19 in the Bible. In the year 605 B.C. the Babylonian army invaded the kingdom of Judah to make their first strike—a limited one—against them. Nineteen years later (586 B.C.) when nothing changed, the Babylonians returned in full force and destroyed Judah. (Jeremiah 52:12) On September 11, 2020, it will be 19 years since the terrorist attack on the twin towers.
Could this be the year when our nation will see calamity and destruction? Or, could this be a year when revival will hit? As we begin the year 2020, I believe it is our obligation to pray for a national turning to our Godly roots. Let us pray that God will revive each of us and that we will be part of a company of Christians leading the people of America back to our Judeo-Christian foundation.
How does one live an abundant, joy-filled life? Do we understand that each of us was created uniquely to impact the world around us? Have we discovered what brings us satisfaction and freedom? Life is a journey that is meant to help us discover the treasure God has placed within us to bring joy to our lives and the lives of others. As I contemplated these questions I was reminded of a story or allegory written by Richard Bach called "Jonathan Livingston Seagull." Jonathan, the gull, found himself caught in a dilemma. His flock spent their days searching and fighting for food, a lifestyle he found completely unsatisfying. However, he discovered, more than anything else, he loved to fly. His passion for flying grew as he perfected his techniques and became an expert at it. Jonathan was so thrilled with flying that he told his friends he discovered "there's a reason to life." This alienated him from his friends, so they cast him out of the flock.
Since Jonathan could not continue in the meaningless gull lifestyle of conformity and limitations, he returned to his new-found love of flying, practicing until he reached the pinnacle of his abilities. Just as he thought he could go no higher, he met two gulls who took him to a "higher plane of existence." Here a society of gulls spent time perfecting their flying skills. He was told, "You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way." Jonathan fine-tuned his own flight skills, learning much from his primary teacher. As his expertise increased, so did his desire to return to earth and share what he had learned with other gulls. His teacher explained that there is a key to success: "Keep working on love." Jonathan could not be free without the ability to forgive and shed any hurt feelings. Before he could help others, he had to be released from the bondage of unforgiveness. A new Jonathan Livingstone Seagull returned to earth and found other gulls who desired to know the freedom he was experiencing. He became a coach and mentor as he taught the fine skills of flying and helped others have a sense of their own freedom.
How does this story speak to the family of faith in God? Jonathan understood that there was something different inside of him that he needed to pursue. It became his passion. We too have unique qualities in our lives that are meant to help us live the abundant life, full of joy and freedom. Jesus spoke to his followers about this lifestyle. I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect—life in its fullness until you overflow!" (John 10:10 -TPT) Only as we live out our purpose will we be able to soar. "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31 - KJ)
As Jonathan lived the way he was intended to live, he punctured the ceiling that held him down and lived in a place with like-minded gulls. The apostle Paul reminds us of our true home. "So, you are not foreigners or guests, but rather you are children of the city of the holy ones, with all the rights as family members of the household of God." (Ephesians 2:19 - TPT) We live as aliens in this world; our home is in heaven. It is up to us to live accordingly.
Joshua Silverberg, musician and producer, once said, "God has created us uniquely to touch His heart.
We have a unique worship to give Him." I would like to suggest that one of the ways we touch Him is when we use what He has placed within us to help others grow in their freedom and identity. This was the outcome of Jonathan's journey to live the way he was created to live, soaring in the heavenlies. May I encourage you to ask yourself, "What makes my heart sing?" In discovering this, you will find the pathway to follow that will bring you joy and freedom.
Cheshvan is the eighth month on the Hebrew calendar, eight being the number of new beginnings and revelation. It is associated with the Hebrew letter NUN, symbolizing Messiah. Since there are no holidays during this month, the Jews say it is reserved for the time of Messiah. Messiah, Yeshua hamashiach, came to bring heaven to earth and demonstrate a new way to live that is counter to the ways of the world. Love begins with God. He was so grieved by the way that sin separates us from Him that He sent is Son to breach the gap. "For this is how much God loved the world—He gave His one and only Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes Him will never perish but experience everlasting life." (John 3:16 - TPT)
Our Messiah, Jesus, demonstrated the way of love during the three years of His ministry whether it was by touching a leper to heal him, raising someone from the dead, feeding the hungry or teaching about the way of His Father. He always pointed others to the love of Father God. Here is what Jesus said: "You heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven...If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" (Matthew 5:43-47) "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6:27-28)
The October issue of "Charisma" Magazine features a story about some people who take the message of the love of God seriously. They travel to some of the most dangerous areas of the world to reach out to those who have followed radical Islam. Sean Feucht, a Bethel worship artist and founder of "Light a Candle" Ministry, uses his music to break into dark territory and shift the spiritual atmosphere. He has taken his songs into the war-torn regions of Iraq where refugees huddle in fear and terror. He brings songs of hope and redemption. In love, he prays for them so that they see the manifestations of the love of Jesus.
A gentleman who had his own life transformed by the love of Jesus went from being "a hardened Marine into a devoted missionary." Victor Marx says that the love of Jesus transformed his heart and "his hatred for the Arab people turned into passionate love." He goes undercover into the heart of ISIS territory and meets high-ranking Muslim leaders and their families. He goes into camps in Syria that house the wives and children of ISIS members. He quotes a staggering figure of 64,000 wives and children in one camp.
Marx believes in the strategy of Jesus to win many people to the Lord: "Love your enemies." Here is how Marx sees it: "Politically, we're limited. Militarily, we can't kill an ideology...But what will work is love." As Christians operate from a place of love, hearts are changed. Victor Marx shows himself as a safe and loving individual so that when Muslims he has befriended begin to ask him questions, he will have credibility with them.
Believers must be set apart as those who demonstrate unconditional love. "Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:8) We must carry the love of Christ wherever we go and commit to praying for those who boldly go into enemy territory to bring God's transforming love to the world. For those who ask, "How can I love my enemies and those who persecute me?"—Paul has some advice. "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Joan E. Mathias