The Lord's appointed festivals are first described in the book of Leviticus, Chapter 23. The Feast of Tabernacles is particularly unique because it last for seven days and God's people are instructed to live in temporary shelters for seven days as their ancestors did when they were brought out of Egypt. Leviticus 23:40 tells us, “On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees--from palms, willows and other leafy trees--and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days." Here is how Deuteronomy 16:15 describes this joyful festival: "For seven days celebrate the festival...for the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete." Reading through the Old Testament, one can see how faithful the Israelites were to follow the law when it came to celebrating the feasts. The exiles who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple settled in and "began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it..." (Ezra 3:2) In the seventh month they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. (Verse 4)
In my opinion, the most interesting reading concerning the Festival of Tabernacles occurs in Nehemiah 8:14-16. "They found written in the Law...that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month...'Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees to make temporary shelters'--as it is written." The unique part of the festival celebration with Nehemiah is that they cut branches from the olive tree and the wild olive tree. What a picture of the apostle Paul's dissertation on grafted in branches!
Israel is frequently referred to as an olive tree. The people of Israel are the branches. Paul recognized that many of his people did not receive the good news of Jesus as Lord. (Romans 10:16) Because of it, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear..." (Romans 11:8) "Because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” (Romans 11:11) Paul uses an analogy, describing the Jews as olive branches and the Gentiles as wild olive branches. "If some of the branches have been broken off, (Jews) and you, though a wild olive shoot, (Gentiles) have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourselves to be superior to those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you." (Romans 11:17-18)
One day the olive tree will flourish with the natural branches and the wild branches both grafted in. We read in Ephesians 2:15 that God's "purpose was to create in Himself one new man..." Jew and Gentile will live together in peace, both reconciled to God. As the Jews in Nehemiah's day laid the branches of the olive tree and wild olive tree on the top of their temporary shelters they would have been looking up at a picture of the future. One day Jew and Gentile together will worship the King of kings during this festival. (Zechariah 14:16-19) When and how this will come to pass is unclear. What is clear is that we will be worshiping The Lamb together in joyful celebration. What a day this will be!
Although God intended the fifth month of Av to be a time of yearly celebration of His goodness, the sin of unbelief by the Israelites caused a complete change in what would happen. According to the Hebrew calendar, on the 9th of Av the children of Israel chose to believe a negative report instead of the promise of God. The voice of faith spoken by Caleb and Joshua was ignored and the voice of unbelief was embraced. Caleb said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it." (Numbers `3:30) The ten spies reported: "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." (Numbers 13:31) This is a vow that led to a curse that is still in place today.
We are now at the beginning of Av. A yearly cycle of cursing occurs because repentance of past sins never took place. Unbelief was repeated when Jesus walked the earth. Though the Jews heard God's words of truth through Him and saw the miracles He performed, they did not receive their Messiah. They crucified the Promise.
Jesus came as a Redeemer with the intent of rebuilding everything that Satan has destroyed. He requires us to repent and make a choice to walk in freedom. We must be extremely careful who we agree with. Any time we agree with Satan a bad root develops and gives him permission to operate in our lives and those of our descendants. When we are overwhelmed with what we see we must listen to the voice of truth. Truth trumps what we see. The promises that God placed in the Bible are for us to stand on. "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ. And so, through Him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God." (2 Corinthians 1:20)
In Deuteronomy 11 God's instructions to the children of Israel were written down. He was letting them know the importance of His words. He said, "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your foreheads. Teach them to your children...Write them down on the door frames of your house and on your gates so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your forefathers...If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow—to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to hold fast to Him—then the Lord will drive out these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you. Every place where you set your foot will be yours...No man will be able to stand against you. The Lord your God, as He promised you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever you go." (Verses 18-28)
We have a choice today to agree with the blessing or the curse. As God said in Deuteronomy, curses come to rest on our lives when we agree with the wrong kingdom; blessings come when we obey the Lord. We are warned in Hebrews 3:12: "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God." If we discover that we have made an agreement with the kingdom of darkness, we can repent, rebuke it and declare the truth. We must declare that our alliance is with the Lord. He is the one who will restore what has been stolen and help us rebuild what has been destroyed.
In his book, An Appeal to Heaven, Dutch Sheets writes about synergy and calls it "multiplication of power through combined effort." Synergy operates in both the physical and spiritual realms. By following God's decrees and obeying His commands, the Israelites could experience this multiplication. Here is what the Lord told them: “Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you." (Leviticus 26:8) God desires for the generations to connect with one another (Psalm 78:4-6 and 145:4) and promises to bless unity (Psalm 133). Dutch encourages us to put ourselves "into the story line God is writing" because this "allows us to tap into the strength and life of what He did years ago." It is critical for us to connect with our past to find our future.
As we can read in Scripture, God partnered with the children of Israel to help them establish a godly nation that honored Him. He told Moses, “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you." (Exodus 34:10) I believe that God partnered with our founding fathers as He did with Israel. The intent of the pilgrims was to establish a country "for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith." (Mayflower Compact, 1620) It was His delight to bless those who first came to American with a godly vision.
On July 4 we will celebrate Independence Day--a day that came about because of the courage of our forefathers to take on the British to battle for freedom. General George Washington, commander of the troops during the American Revolution, spoke about our dependence on the Lord for success in the fight for independence.
The battle for our nation still rages, but it now comes from within. As Dutch says, "The dream of our forefathers "to partner with God to release the light of His Word to all nations" has been perverted by our cravings for "money, possessions and pleasure...We are no longer feeding on the dream; the dream is feeding on us...Giants in our land--abortion, violence, racism, numerous addictions and sexual perversions--all are strongholds ruling and destroying America...Many of our leaders now deny America's true history and oppose her Creator."
You may ask, "Is there hope for our nation?" I believe that there is if the Christians of this nation would band together in unity, agreeing in prayer and connecting and building on the foundation of previous generations. In his book, Dutch asks us to join in an appeal to heaven and to take our place in the synergy of the ages. He encourages us with these words: "If we return to a faith that God and His redeeming power are bigger than our weaknesses and failures, we will defeat the over-fed giants of our day. If we can believe that through the blood of Jesus, God's mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13), and that He who began a good work in us can finish it (Philippians 1:6), we'll prevail...If we return to covenant with the God of our fathers, embracing the destiny He planned for us, Olam (Everlasting God) will deliver us from the spiritual giants robbing us of our calling and inheritance."
Dutch admonishes us: "Never discount the power of God's redeeming love." The transformation of our nation will come as we obey God's Word 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 will I hear them from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
Sivan, meaning bright, is a significant month on the Jewish calendar primarily because the second major feast of the Lord occurs on the 8th and 9th day of it. Seven weeks the Israelites traveled from Egypt to Mt. Sinai, the place where God would define His covenant with them and give them the Ten Commandments. The feast of Sivan is called Shavuot which means weeks. (The Greek word for this feast is Pentecost for 50 days.) "In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on the very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai." (Exodus 19:1)
At Mt. Sinai, God swore an eternal oath to the children of Israel, consequently, Shavuot also means oath. Jewish sages compare what took place to a wedding between God and His people. When the Israelites accepted God's commandments, they became His chosen people. Moses was instructed to give them a message from God: "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation..." (Exodus 19:4-6) From these verses, we can discern how important this covenant was to God. The children of Israel agreed to keep covenant with God, so Moses was given the Ten Commandments. This is known as Matan Torah—"The Giving of the Torah."
Look how God took His people from the barley harvest of Passover to the wheat harvest of Shavuot. See how His people went from slavery to liberation so that they could know and celebrate being chosen by the God of their fathers. As they committed and dedicated themselves to God, they were to show the world the goodness of God. The Lord had set into place a way for the entire world to be won to His love and mercy. His plan was for the nation of Israel to shine forth His glory for everyone to see.
A day would come when God would enact a new dimension of His plan by sending His Son, Jesus, to earth so that everyone could come to know Him personally, and He would redeem us from the curse of destruction and death and give us eternal life with Him. Through the disciple Peter, we see in the New Testament words that are like the ones God declared over His people when He met them at Mt. Sinai. "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are a people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1 Peter 2:9-10)
The God of Israel not only made an unbreakable covenant with the Israelites but made a way for us to be a part of that covenant. We enter the month of Sivan tomorrow evening at sundown. Use this month to worship the Lord and give thanks for how He made a way for us to be part of His royal priesthood and holy nation. Let us give thanks for the giving of Torah and for the harvests in our lives and declare the praises of the One who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light!
It has been written that Susanna Wesley is "the mother of Methodism" even though it was her sons John and Charles Wesley who started it. Methodism was an offshoot of a club that the brothers oversaw called "The Holy Club." The men in this club adopted rules for right living. In a book titled Wesley Gold. Pure. Refined, Ray Comfort compiled information about the Wesleys and the way they lived. He says this about the people who belonged to The Holy Club. "They divided their time into exact hours for study and for religious duties. They allotted as little time as possible to sleeping and eating, and as much as possible to holy devotions. They fasted until 3 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays, received Holy Communion once each week, studied and discussed the Greek New Testament and the Classics each evening in a member's room, and methodically brought all their lives under strict examination by each other. Because of this, it wasn’t long before they were being called The Holy Club by other students to mock their emphasis on devotion and righteous living. The precision with which they regulated their lives caused one young man to say, 'A new set of Methodists have sprung up.'...John Wesley, in his English Dictionary, defines a Methodist as 'one that lives according to the method laid down in the Bible.'"
When we investigate the details of the way of life established for the men of The Holy Club, we can trace their beginnings to the way Susanna Wesley raised her children. She was definitely a woman of influence where her boys were concerned. As a woman with strong devotion to her faith and family, and with a passionate love of the Lord, she taught her children disciplines that would stay with them for their entire lives.
It was at his mother's funeral in 1742 that John shared her advice on how to raise children. Here is some of what he shared:
I thought it fitting that we give tribute to this godly woman on Mother's Day. She was known as a woman of prayer whose petitions to the Lord had their intended result and a woman of uncompromising devotion to the Lord. Her strong faith and the impact it had on her children and others should be an inspiration. Susanna's life is a perfect example of a Proverbs 31 woman. "A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." (Proverbs 31:30) One day all of us will appear before the Lord. We cannot stand before Him empty-handed. Let her life be like a pattern for all of us to follow.
Before taking the children of Israel to the Promised Land, God wanted them to come to His holy mountain, Mt. Sinai. When Moses met God, He told him this: "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain." (Exodus 3:12) God determined that this would be the first destination for the children of Israel after leaving a life of slavery. He had much to teach them about Himself.
Exodus 16:1 tells us, "The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai on the 15th day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt." God's greatest desire is to have intimacy with His children. During the days from Passover to their arrival at Mt. Sinai He would concentrate on introducing Himself to the Israelites. On their trip, God began to show them who He is through several miracles. The bitter, undrinkable waters of Marah were healed when a stick/tree was placed in them and they became sweet. The Lord announced, "...I am the Lord who heals you--Yahweh Rapha" (Exodus 15:26) Food called manna, quail and water from a rock were provided by Yahweh Jaira--The God who Provides. "...Then you will know that I am the Lord your God." (Exodus 16:12) Victory was given to the children of Israel in a battle against the Amalekites. They learned that victory comes through praise, as Moses held up his hands. "Moses built an alter and called it The Lord is my Banner or Yahweh Nissi. He said, 'For hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord...'" (Exodus 17:15-16)
The Israelites started to have a more personal relationship with God through getting to know him during the second month of the year, Iyar--sometimes called Ziv--meaning radiance. The second month of the year is linked with light or increasing revelation. During this month of transition from slavery to identity as a child of God, they were coming into a new level of intimacy with Him. It was during this month that God revealed the details of His covenant with His chosen people. The letter from the Hebrew alphabet that is linked to it is VAV which means connection. As they came to understand the goodness of God, they drew closer to Him. This is the month when we should do likewise! I see the Lord as a many-faceted diamond where there is always another facet of Him to know. This is a time to press into a deeper relationship with the Lord. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things (things to eat, drink and wear talked about in Verse 31) will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33) "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you..." (Matthew 13:11) As we become more intimate with the Lord, we shall see more of the manifestation of His Kingdom.
The tribe of Issachar is associated with the month of Iyar and is known for their understanding of the times and seasons. They are linked with prosperity, intercession and blessing and show us how important it is to seek the Lord for deeper manifestations of His personality. We should make it our quest for the next 29 days to seek a greater manifestation of the three characteristics of God that He introduced during this time frame. God wanted His "kids" to know these characteristics before He gave them Torah in the third month. I believe there is a greater grace for healing, provision and victory as we celebrate the anniversary of what God demonstrated. (Iyar begins at sundown tonight.)
We have been grafted into the family of God (Romans 11:17-24) and are part of the covenant He made with the Israelites. It is time for us to pursue a deeper understanding of the God who loves to pour out His gifts, those introduced on the journey to Sinai and others such as mercy, faithfulness, righteousness, unconditional love and peace. Perhaps we will discover another facet of Him that we have not experienced before.
"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6) Scripture is clear that we must have faith in God in all circumstances. Faith is the currency of heaven. It helps us to have hope where a situation may seem hopeless. God's promises are what empower our faith, and real faith unlocks the anointing for us to carry out our God-given assignments.
Let's look at Jacob's son, Joseph, who is written about in the book of Genesis. Here is a man that was sustained by faith and successfully completed his assignment to provide for his family and speak to them about their future. Joseph's assignment came about in a painful and unexpected way. At the age of 17, he was having dreams that gave him clues to his future and also put him in the position of being hated by his brothers. They hated Joseph so much that they sold him into slavery. He landed in Egypt and prospered until the wife of the captain of the guard of Pharaoh had him unfairly thrown into prison where he remained until he was 30 years old.
The dreams that Joseph had may have been what sustained him all the years he was in prison. We read that God's favor was with Joseph in every season of his life. His release from prison came when he was able to interpret Pharaoh's dream and develop a plan to keep the people of Egypt fed while Pharaoh prospered. During seven years of abundance, Joseph collected and stored grain so that during the seven years of famine the Egyptians would have food. In addition, Egypt supplied grain to the surrounding nations.
Imagine Joseph's feelings when he saw his brothers, who sold him into slavery, come to purchase grain! Joseph revealed himself to his family, and they all came to live in Egypt. Though this foreign land became a haven for some time, Joseph knew that Egypt was not to be the permanent home of the children of Israel. He remembered the promise that God gave to his ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and knew that God had a promised land for him and his descendants. He recognized that God had ordained for him to be in Egypt during the famine so that he could save his family. (Genesis 50:20-21) His faith in the promises of God actually took him beyond his life on earth. At the age of 110 he prepared to die. Here is what he told his family: "'I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land He promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.' And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, 'God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.'" (Genesis 50:24-25)
Unless God told him, Joseph had no way of knowing that his descendants would be in Egypt for 430 years under the cruel task master of slavery. All he knew for sure was that God made a promise and that He kept His promises. His faith was empowered by his belief in God's Word. As the children of Israel were preparing to leave Egypt, they made good on their promise to Joseph. "Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath. He had said, 'God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.'" (Genesis 13:19)
We must do as Joseph did—meditate on God's promises. As the Word says, All the promises of God are "Yes" and "Amen" in Christ Jesus. (2 Corinthians 1:20) We must feed our faith by renewing our minds with the truth of God so that it roots in our hearts. It is faith that brings provision from the heavenly realm. It is time for us to march out of the bondages of Egypt into our promised lands. If we do so by faith, we will see the fulfillment of the promises of God.
The lives of the generations who came before us have an impact on us today. Likewise, our lives will have an impact on the generations to come. Our ancestries usually come from a variety of countries and traditions. My mom's family is of German, Irish and English descent. My dad comes from Swedish and German stock. My ancestors' personalities and practices, abilities and talents have a direct effect on who I am now. Their attributes have been passed on to me.
Since I am a Christian, my ancestral influence also comes from the family I am grafted into—Abraham's family. One of my favorite Scriptures concerning our heritage as Christians comes from Romans 4. Verse 13 explains the promise God gave to Abraham. "It is not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith." Verse 16 and 17 explain further. "The promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring--not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: 'I have made you a father of many nations.' He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were."
Let's look at Galatians 3:29. "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." We are heirs to the promises of God and our heritage is one of righteousness and faith. "Consider Abraham: 'He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.' Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: 'All nations will be blessed through you.' So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.'" (Galatians 3:6-9)
God told Abraham, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you..." (Genesis 12:1-2) The definition of Abraham's name is "father of many nations" or "father of multitudes." He is called a Hebrew for the first time in Genesis 14:13. Hebrew means "one who crosses over from the other side." This is exactly what Abraham did as he left all that he was familiar with and traveled to a land he did not know. In this act, he demonstrated the faith he had in God's promises.
All the characteristics that Abraham and his descendants demonstrated were handed down to Believers. Other attributes for Believers are written about in the Psalms and in Isaiah. "For you have heard my vows, O God; you have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name." (Psalm 61:5) "Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart." (Psalm 119:111) “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me..." (Isaiah 54:17)
God has planted both unique and similar qualities within each of us so that we can live out our destinies. All that has been given to us through Abraham's line is what makes us carriers of the Lord's presence. We have a rich inheritance from Him. Within us are seeds of righteousness, faith, fear of the Lord, respect for God's Word and power to overcome every obstacle. Let us use these qualities to the glory of the Lord!
When the Israelites arrived in the Desert of Sin (meaning clay or mire) they grumbled against Moses and Aaron because they did not have the food they were used to in Egypt. "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people will go out each day and gather enough for that day.'" (Exodus 16:4) Each morning, the bread appeared exactly the way God described. "...In the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, 'What is it?' (or "Man hu") For they did not know what it was." (Exodus 16:13-15)
What the children of Israel called manna was to be remembered for generations to come. The Lord commanded, "Take an omer of manna and keep it for generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt." (Exodus 16:32) The Israelites were supplied with manna for 40 years, the amount of time they were in the wilderness. Once they reached the Promised Land, the daily manna stopped.
Jesus would talk about the manna after he multiplied bread to feed the five thousand. Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (John 6:48-51)
Father God confirmed what He was doing in bring us Living Bread from heaven. Every Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, meaning "Jehovah (eternal one) is salvation." Do not think it is a coincident that Jesus came from heaven and was born in Bethlehem, meaning "house of bread." After His birth, Jesus was placed in a manger, a box or crib to hold fodder. Even the shepherds were told by the angels, "This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:12)
There are two kinds of bread that come from heaven. One (manna) is meant to sustain physical bodies for a day on earth. It had to be collected daily. The other bread (Jesus) has life in it that comes to nourish us for eternity. The concept that Jesus introduced, that His flesh is the Living Bread, was not easy for the disciples to understand. It is not easy for us to understand! However, we must receive this truth. By placing our finite understandings on the God of the Universe we miss out on the power of His truths.
This is the season of miracles—ones that are beyond our comprehension—where anything can happen. Two women conceived: One beyond childbearing years and the other a virgin. A priest was struck dumb and could not speak until his son was named. Angels appeared to shepherds in a field and directed them to the place where the Son of God lay in a manger. Wise men took a very long journey to Bethlehem, being led by a star, so that they could worship the Christ child. This Christ child is our "daily Bread" that promises us eternal life if we believe in Him. Instead of filing ourselves with the world's bread, we must fill ourselves with the Living Bread--His life, His Word and His promises.
Israel should not forget that it was the Lord that released them from the bondage of Egypt and led them through the wilderness for 40 years until they were ready to enter the Promised Land. In their journey through the wilderness Israel encountered different terrain, each of which had its own challenges. There are certain aspects of the Feast of Tabernacles (to take place for seven days, beginning on the 15th day of the 7th month - Leviticus 23:34) that are meant to be remembered through symbols. The people were to build booths with roofs that remained open at the top so that they could see the sky and commemorate the time when they dwelt in tents and wandered through the wilderness. As the Israelites looked up from their temporary booths, or Sukkahs, they were able to look up at the stars and remember God's promise to Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars.
Leviticus 23:40 and Nehemiah 8:15 instruct us to gather the fruits of the harvest and cut specific types of branches to use as a wave offering to the Lord and coverings on the roof of the Sukkah. In his Book of Mysteries, Jonathan Cahn defines the Hebrew word lulav as a cluster of branches used to worship God during the Feast of Tabernacles. The lulav consists of three different species of plants, each one reminding us of a specific place in the journey through the wilderness. As the palm tree grows in the valleys, its fronds remind God's people of their walk through the valley. The journey through the mountains would be represented by the myrtle branch. The willow, that grows near the water, would be a reminder that God gives water in the desert places.
Jonathan tells us, "The wilderness is the world; the journey is this life. And to the child of God, this is the message of the lulav: The palm tells you that no matter what valley you go through in your life, no matter how dark and deep, you will never be alone. He will be with you. And the myrtle tells you that when you go through the rockiest of times, He will go through it with you and will keep you from falling. And the willow tells you that in the dry and empty places of your life, He will never leave you, but will stay close, and will even give you rivers in the desert."
The roof of the Sukkah is not only covered by the branches of the lulav, but also the fruit of our harvest. Of course, fruit speaks of the Promised Land. We are all on a journey to our land of promise. It is God's will that we "bear much fruit" so that we show ourselves to be His disciples. (John 15:8) As we journey through life, we will encounter valleys, mountains and dry places. We should remember the lessons of the lulav: "God goes with us; He will never leave or forsake us." (Deuteronomy 31:6) His desire is that we make it through every landscape that we encounter and that we produce fruit in every circumstance.
Here is what the prophet Isaiah said to the Israelites: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..." (Isaiah 43:1-3) The shepherd king, David, knew the truth of this and wrote about God's faithfulness as a shepherd in Psalm 23. "...He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters; He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake...I will fear no evil, for you are with me...Surely goodness and love/mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
Let us remember the faithfulness of God and how He cared for the Israelites as they traveled through the wilderness. One of the lessons of the Feast of Tabernacles is the affirmation of His faithfulness and the truth that one day we will tabernacle with Him at His table. The branches of the lulav and fruit of the harvest symbolize God's care over us today. Let us remember the message of these elements--a message from the Old Testament that has meaning for us today. By faith, grab hold of the truth and let it comfort and encourage you throughout the journey of life.
Joan E. Mathias