He was a godly man of faith who wanted to see his people freed from oppression. He quoted Scripture in his speeches. He encouraged peaceful protests and was resolute in his mission. Martin Luther King Jr. was eventually killed for his leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. But, his dream did not die. He left us his "I Have a Dream" speech as a picture of the goal and an inspiration for the future.
Peppered throughout the "Dream" speech are words that come from Scripture: "We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." (Amos 5:24) We should remember that the foundations of God's throne are righteousness and justice. (Psalm 89:14) "I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope." This portion of the speech was taken from Isaiah 40:4-5.
Could it be that King recognized the mission of Jesus Christ to set captives free and so quoted the prophets that told of the coming of this King who would fight for the weary and oppressed and bring hope to the hopeless? As the apostle Paul writes to the Galatians, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." (Galatians 5:1) Jesus Christ Himself made His mission known when He stepped into the synagogue in Nazareth and read from the scroll of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)
Freedom in every realm of our lives is a God-given right since we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and his life, death and resurrection. However, many of us are not walking in complete freedom. The battle for our freedom is a spiritual one. God gives us direction on how to obtain freedom. Here are the words of Jesus: "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free...So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:32,36)
Do you see the beginning of a new year and new decade as an opportunity to examine the call on your life and the assets you possess? I do. Let us remember that each of us is unique in the gifts and callings placed within us by God. Our time on earth has been establish by God. "From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands." (Acts 17:26) "Man's days are determined; You have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed." (Job 14:5) The Psalmist recognized the blessing he had been given by God. "Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance." (Psalm 16:5-6)
How do we take possession of our inheritance and produce a harvest that blesses God, those around us and the generations to come? First, we must recognize that we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, one of expansion and increase. Bill Johnson, Senior Pastor of Bethel Church in California says, "Our very purpose in life is intertwined with the in-breaking of God's Kingdom and the unveiling of God's glory." Second, we must live our lives according to God's commandments. This means putting God first (Matthew 6:33) and allowing Him to lead us. Paul the Apostle had the right perspective. "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now, as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or death." (Philippians 1:20) We must live according to an eternal perspective, honoring Christ in every decision we make and action we take. In addition, we must become students of the Lord's plans and purposes for our lives. We must evaluate our gifts and the territory that God has called us to possess. We must set goals for our lives through intimacy with the Lord that brings revelation of our part in bringing His Kingdom to earth.
We have been assigned a territory on earth where we will have the greatest impact for the Kingdom of God. The gifts He has given to us are seeds to be planted in our territories. Unfortunately, the kingdom of darkness is scheming to destroy the good seed we plant in our land. Remember that Satan's plan is to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10) After Moses died, Joshua was called to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land and to take possession of it. Here is what God said to Joshua: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9) This is a word for us! There will be battles as we possess the land and plant seed in the territory we have been ordained to take. We must courageously battle the enemy. Jesus has encouraged us with these words: "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
We have a vital role to play in the establishing of God's Kingdom on the earth. If every person took responsibility for their territory and planted their seeds so that they take root and produce fruit, we would see an explosion of the Lord's glory throughout the earth. Our world is in desperate need for the "sons of God to be revealed." (Romans 8:19) Let's make 2020 and the decade to come the season for the earth to be "filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." (Habakkuk 2:14)
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.
Yearly, on Christmas Day in Washington Crossing, PA, the story of George Washington and his troops crossing the Delaware River to march to Trenton is re-enacted. The Continental Army attacked the Hessian garrison on Christmas in 1776. They overcame freezing rain, snow, ferocious winds, an ice-choked river and a long, cold march to Trenton to win the battle against the Hessians. The victory helped to bolster the sagging morale of the army so that they continued to fight the British and their allies.
One year later, the troops were in Valley Forge from December 1777 to June 1778. When they arrived, the cold and hungry troops built log huts to live in during the months to come. There is a legend that one of the soldiers at the Valley Forge encampment was a Jew who encouraged George Washington. Author Stephen Krensky was so inspired by this story that he wrote a book called Hanukkah at Valley Forge. Interestingly, in the year 1777, the first night of Hanukkah fell on Christmas Eve. The story is told that the lone Jewish soldier waited until the other soldiers were sleeping before he set up his Menorah. He lit the first candle and wept. As he was walking around the huts, George Washington saw the soldier and stopped to ask him why he was crying.
The Jewish soldier explained that he was crying out to God for the success of the troops. He had experienced persecution in his hometown in Europe and came to American to escape from it. He assured Washington that he would be victorious in his campaign because God is on the side of the righteous, just as He was with the small band of men led by the Maccabees who overtook the large Greek army. It was God who granted them a miraculous victory because of their faith in Him. This story served as an inspiration for Washington to move forward against the British. Doesn't this sound like the fulfillment of Isaiah 49:6? "I will make you a light for the Gentiles that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth."
The legend continues that the same Jewish soldier was at home in the Bronx in New York a year later. On the first night of Hanukkah, the veteran placed a Menorah in his windowsill with one candle lit. After hearing a knock at the door, he opened it to find George Washington on his front step. Washington said to him, "There is that fabulous light, the Hanukkah light! That flame and your remarkable words kindled a light in my heart on that dark and bitter night. We were in a tight situation then, and your words encouraged me so! They spurred me on with new hope. You will soon be awarded a Medal of Honor from the United States of America for your bravery in Valley Forge, but tonight you will receive a personal memento from me." The General then placed a gold medal on the table. Engraved on it was a Menorah with one candle burning. These words were inscribed on it: "As a sign of thanks for the light of your candle. George Washington."
Here we have the Jewish vet reminding Washington of the faithfulness of God. The size of the army coming against these small bands of soldiers was not important. What was and is important is the abilities of our God and His delight in helping us. Scripture talks about quite a few battles where the armies of the Israelites were so much smaller than the armies of their enemies. One example is when the Assyrian army came against King Hezekiah and his people. Here is what he told them: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him. There is greater power with us than with him." (2 Chronicles 32:7)
Tonight, Jews all over the world will be lighting the final candle on their Menorah and will remember the faithfulness of God and His miraculous power to help them re-take the temple in Jerusalem. There will always be forces of evil who attempt to defeat and discourage the people of God. But here is the truth from John 1:5. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." Our Lord still fights for us when evil attacks. Be confident in the Lord's faithfulness and His miraculous power on our behalf.
God never intended for His people to be too secure in one place. He knows that it is through the journeys of life we will grow in our trust and understanding of Him and closeness to Him. The forefathers of Christianity written about in the Bible were always moving. The first journey we read about is one that was inspired by God. "The Lord had said to Abram, '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; 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 earth will be blessed through you.'" (Genesis 12:1-3) Abram was faithful and went to the land of Canaan, as the Lord led. Here, Abram’s life of trusting in God grew.
And God proved Himself trustworthy by miraculously allowing Abram (now called Abraham) to impregnate his wife Sarah in her old age. Sarah bore a son who they named Isaac. When Isaac matured and was ready to start his own family, Abraham sent his senior servant on a journey to find Isaac a wife. Abraham told his servant that God would send His angel before him to help in finding the proper wife. (Genesis 24:7) Isaac's son Jacob also went on a journey to find a wife. He set up a pillar at a place where he rested in the city of Luz and called it Bethel—"The House of God." He promised to serve God and return to Him a tenth of everything that God gave him. (Genesis 28:18-22)
Joseph, the favorite of Jacob's 12 sons, took an unexpected journey to Egypt because his jealous brothers sold him into slavery. God was faithful to Joseph, pouring His favor upon him so that he was placed in a position of leadership and influence just under Pharaoh. During a time of great famine, Joseph's brothers came to him to purchase grain. This journey led to the restoration of their relationship with one another and to a new homestead for the family of Jacob (Israel). The family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob grew, producing fear in the Egyptians, so that they took them as slaves
After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God set into motion a plan whereby Moses would lead his people out of Egypt on a journey to the Promised Land where they established homes but forgot their God who had led them to freedom. God's plan for another journey formed long ago when the sin of Adam and Eve paved the way for all mankind to be separated from God. His chosen people were still sinning when God ordained that the ultimate journey would take place! The Son of God was to leave His heavenly throne to come to earth and live among His people. His life on earth would end with His death on a cross to satisfy the wrath and holiness of Father God. Jesus was the spotless Lamb of God who came to become a sacrifice for our lives so that we could have eternal life with Him.
We think of another significant journey that took place as we remember the Christmas story. Wise men from the east—probably Persia or present-day Iraq—may have been reading Daniel's writings that identified the time of the coming of the Christ child. As they studied the stars, they found the Lord's star and took a journey to Bethlehem to worship this King.
It is God's desire that we become people who search and move in His direction. Psalm 84 is a great encouragement for us in this regard: "Blessed are those who strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage." (Verse 5) We see how those who followed the Lord and journeyed with Him received amazing blessings. I believe that during this season we too should be setting our hearts on pilgrimage so that we come closer to the King that we worship.
A sentiment on a Hallmark Christmas card has touched my heart, and I would like to share it with you:
Christmas reminds us we're all on a journey...toward meaning, toward hope, toward love and lasting peace.
As we journey through this season, I am asking God to give us those things that touch our hearts, renew our spirits, and bring blessings to our world!
May our celebration of the birth of Christ take us to new places of revelation of His great love for us!
Like last year, this year our celebration of the birth of Christ occurs in the middle of Chanukah. When events on the Jewish calendar converge with events on the Church's calendar, I like to look at the similarities between them. Both these events land in the month of Kislev, the ninth month on the Jewish calendar. Since Kislev is associated with the Hebrew letter SAMEKH, which pictures trust and support, it is time for us to do just that in our relationship with the Lord.
The constellation Sagittarius, the archer, appearing in Kislev, reminds us that this is the month to develop our warfare strategies for the season ahead. We must "fight against empires and cultures,” as Chuck Pierce says in his book, A Time to Advance. And, it is important that we trust God to guide us and give us mercy. Psalm 23:5-6 says, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
During the time when the Temple was overtaken by the Syrian-Greek army the flame of the candelabra had been extinguished and the altar defiled. There was little hope for the future; times were dark. Likewise, at the time when Christ was to be born the darkness of oppression covered the people. But God had a plan. With His help, warfare strategies were developed to overcome the enemy.
A group of Jewish patriots called the Maccabees had hope and developed a battle plan to retake the Temple. They bravely fought and defeated the Greek army to free their people from tyranny and re-establish worship in the Temple. As they set about to cleanse it, they realized there was only enough purified oil for the lampstand to burn for one night. Miraculously, it burned for eight. God arranged for the light to continue burning and followed them with goodness and mercy.
God's plan to overcome darkness and bring freedom for the oppressed was to ultimately be done through Christ Jesus. He came to shine His light in the darkness and to defeat Satan and the kingdom of darkness. His battle strategy includes us, His Church. Victory is promised through the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony and not loving our lives as much as to shrink from death. (Revelation 12:11)
As we look back in history, we see that God has always been faithful to His people. He is trustworthy and sent Jesus as the Lord of Hosts, Light of the World, Prince of Peace and Redeemer to help us develop battle strategies and lead us in triumphant procession (2 Corinthians 2:14) and who "made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God..." (2 Corinthians 4:6) It is time for us to develop our strategies for the New Year and to look to the One who leads us in victory and follows us with goodness mercy.
Have you feasted your eyes on all the beautiful Christmas plants in the stores? One particularly interesting one is the Christmas cactus. Its unique form consists of hanging branches made up of flat, green segments. The flowers appear on the tips of the branches and have tiers of petals in a multitude of colors: red, white, pink, purple, yellow or a combination of these colors. Unlike most cactus that grow in dry desert climates, this plant is native to the Brazilian coast where the atmosphere around the plant is humid.
Another interesting feature of the Christmas cactus is that it is an epiphyte or air plant. Like orchids, they grow primarily on branches or trunks of trees. They are called air plants because "they have no firm grip in the earth." The web site "Gardeningknowhow.com" tells us this: "One of the amazing adaptions of epiphytes is their ability to attach to vertical surfaces and capture their water and much of their nutrient needs from sources other than soil." The name epiphyte comes from the Greek word "epi," meaning "upon," and "phyton," meaning "plant."
It is common to find aerial roots growing from the branches of the Christmas cactus. These roots serve several purposes in helping the cactus grow in its native Brazil. They help the plant attach to the tree branches. Tree bark and the crotches of branches collect organic debris that is rich in nutrients for the plants' roots. In addition, the entire plant, including the roots, also gathers the moisture it needs from the air.
Let's take the information we have on the epiphytes to see how it corresponds to our life in the Spirit. Go back to the fact that these plants have "no firm grip in the earth." Jesus told Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world...But now my kingdom is from another place." (John 18:36) Like Jesus, our inheritance is in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 25:34) Hebrews, Chapter 11, describes our fathers of the faith. "They admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth." (Verse 13) And, Peter writes, "I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul." (1 Peter 2:11) We must not sink our roots into the soil of the world for we belong to the Kingdom of God. Our tenure here is temporary. Like the epiphytes, we must gather our water and nutrients from our source of life--The Spirit of God. "So then, just as you receive Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." (Colossians 2:6-7)
Living water and the bread of life come from Jesus. He came to earth to demonstrate how to drink and eat from Him and His Kingdom. A song called "Breathe," written by Marie Barnett, comes to my mind. She wrote it to describe the life-giving presence of our Lord:
"This is the air I breathe; This is the air I breathe--Your holy presence, living in me.
This is my daily bread; This is my daily bread--Your very Word spoken to me.
And I'm desperate for You. And I'm lost without You."
That is it, dear ones. We must spread out our roots and attach them to the Tree of Life. Like the epiphytes, be fed and watered from the true Source of Life.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning." (John 1:1-2) It was the Word released in the breath of God that created the universe.
To the Jews, God's involvement in the world is the meaning of the "Word." We see in this verse that God planted Jesus on the earth to be His personal presence. It was through the parable of the sower (Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8) that Jesus explained how the Word ("Good Seed") would produce a large crop when it is planted in good soil. Seed receives life and nourishment from the ground in which it is planted. Likewise, the Word planted in us comes to life, grows and multiples when we give it room. The enemy of our lives wants to sow bad seed into us. Just as seed uses up what is in the soil, so the enemy's "seed" depletes us if we allow it to root. How do we give enemy seed room to grow? This happens if we allow unforgiveness, bitterness, judgments, fear or lust, etc. to dwell in us.
Let's think about this in relation to the season that is upon us. The next four weeks are called "Advent"—a time for us to prepare for the celebration of the coming of the Christ child. In fact, one of the Christmas carols we sing reminds us to do this: "Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing." We must remember that the birth of Jesus is the season for the coming of the Good Seed—God's Word—being planted into every heart that will receive it.
In preparing for the planting of the Word, first we should recognize our need to do so. Earthly passions must be set aside so that we focus on our Savior. The Shunammite woman written about in 2 Kings 4:8-17 demonstrates how to prepare room for a carrier of the Spirit of God. She recognized that God's Spirit lived in the prophet Elisha. Desiring more, she spoke to her husband: "I know this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. Let's make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us." (Verse 10)
See how the woman prepared for every need that Elisha might have by providing a place for him to rest, eat and study? Elisha, of course, stayed with the Shunammite on several occasions and was so touched by her generosity that he wanted to give something back to her. She had few physical needs because she was "well-to-do." However, she had no son. Elisha called to her and said, "About this time next year you will hold a son in your arms." "The next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her." (Verse 16, 17)
Elisha demonstrated the heart of the Lord in his gift to the woman. When we prepare for the Word and give place for it, the Lord gives back to us in ways that are "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." (Ephesians 3:20) Now is the time to prepare the soil of our hearts to receive the Word, the Living Christ. We cannot allow the distractions of season to interfere with our preparations. We want the Word to be deeply rooted within us. I believe that as we do this the Lord will reward us with treasures from heaven far beyond what we can imagine.
Rabbi Jonathan Cahn reminds us that the Bible calls us to be people of thanksgiving. When we realize how much God has given to us, it is easy to do that. The major festivals in Israel were to give thanks to God. Cahn also tells us that "Thanksgiving in America is based on Sukkot, the Hebrew feast of tabernacles." This festival lasts for seven days and nights. The people are to dwell in booths to remember how God provided for them for their entire journey in the wilderness. And they are to give thanks to Him for His faithfulness.
As Believers, we can continue to give thanks and praise to God for His goodness and faithfulness.
However, His most precious gift, the one that stands above all others and is a game changer for our lives, is the gift of salvation and eternal life. Even though it is undeserved, this gift was given to us freely. There isn't any work we can do or price we can pay for it. This priceless gift cost God everything! It is God's desire that every one of us accept what He did in sacrificing His Son, Jesus, so that all of us will have eternal life. A recognition of the magnitude of this gift should compel us to live lives dedicated to Him.
The Bible is full of writings that show us how to give thanks to the Lord. Let's look at some of these Scriptures:
King David made sure that thanksgiving to God was part of the lifestyle of his people. He wrote many prayers and psalms that the priests were to use as they sang and declared God's goodness. "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. Cry out, 'Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to Your holy name, and glory in your praise.' Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting." (1 Chronicles 16:34-36)
"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 over 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." (1 Chronicles 29:10-13)
Notice that these prayers of thanks have a prophetic flavor to them. They were written before the days of Jesus, The Savior, but clearly point to Him. Jesus demonstrated giving thanks to God whenever He shared a meal with someone. Consider this: He even gave thanks for the sacrifice He was going to make for us in the communion meal He had with His disciples. "While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, 'Take and eat; this is My body.' Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'" (Matthew 26:26-28)
We are meant to be people of praise and thanksgiving. Let us use this season to remember all the blessings we have received from the Lord and give Him all the honor and glory for the abundance He has poured out upon us.
If you were to look on the internet about celebrating a 70th birthday, you would find that this landmark year is significant for being the entry point of the "golden years." Thus, gold is the color to wear on this birth date. In Jewish tradition, the number 70 represents the "fullness of years." One rabbi says that "There is an obligation to rise in the presence of a person 70 years or older because anyone who has lived so many years and endured so many life experiences is considered wise and deserving of respect."
The Bible shows us that the number 70 is significant to Israel. There are two differing definitions for this number. 70 means perfect spiritual order. It is composed of the number 7 (the number of perfection and rest that we see when reading the creation story) and the number 10 (the number of completeness and God's law as we see when God gave His people the 10 Commandments). 70 also represents a period of judgment. Israel was in captivity in Babylon for 70 years. Daniel's prayer to God for his people was birthed after he realized that the "desolation of Jerusalem would last 70 years." (Daniel 9:2) Here is the promise that God gave to all of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah: "...When 70 years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:10-11)
I think it is significant that God told Moses to bring 70 elders of Israel with him when he went to the base of Mt. Sinai to worship Him. All of them "saw the God of Israel." (Exodus 24:10) The 70 elders also stood around the tent of meeting while Moses spoke to the Lord. Numbers 11:25 tells us this: "He took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the 70 elders." Deuteronomy 10:22 says that when the Israelites joined Joseph in Egypt there were only 70 of them. However, during their stay in this land, they became "as numerous as the stars in the sky." So, 70 can represent a starting point, a time that begins new growth.
As I approached my 70th birthday, I found myself looking back at my life and contemplating what has happened. One thought is deeply rooted in my heart and mind--The faithfulness of God! He has demonstrated this through supernatural acts of kindness and favor and through touches from dear friends and family members. I have had seasons on the mountain tops and ones in the valley; seasons in the green meadows along the water courses and ones in the wilderness. These seasons have brought fullness and joy along with difficulties and sorrow. Through them all, the Lord has been present, faithfully guiding me and protecting me so that I receive the inheritance He has for me. My heart swells as I remember the goodness of God, and I am ready for the next season He has for me.
The journey of the children of Israel demonstrates that God's plans for them included bringing them out of bondage and directing them into the inheritance of His promises. I feel encouraged that God has so much more for me, as He does for all of us. When the Israelites came out of bondage, God guided them to Elim "where there were 12 springs and 70 palm trees, and they camped there near the water." (Exodus 15:27) One of the promises God has given to me, and all of us, comes from Psalm 92:12-15. "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree; they will grow like the cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord. They will flourish in the courts of our God. They will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, 'The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.'"
My desire for us is that we will continue to flourish--to produce the fruits of the Spirit and to carry the fragrance of the Lord wherever we go. We want to bring the Presence of God and His Kingdom with us. This will require a willingness to sacrifice for Him and a willingness to give Him permission to transform us into His image. May I share with you the words of a song that Julie Meyer wrote for Heidi Baker, missionary to Mozambique, when she turned 50? This is the cry of my heart, and I hope it is yours also:
"Pick me up like a paintbrush, God; dip it in the colors of my life. Paint Your picture, Father, and fashion a heart that is wholly Yours. Take Your fingers, God, Master Potter; come mold the clay. Tell Your story, as You mold me. Fashion a heart that is wholly Yours. And write Your name, write Your name in the clay. And sign Your name, sign Your name on the picture. Take all I am; take all I have. I am Yours forever, forever. Take all I am; take all I have. I am Yours forever, forever.
Joan E. Mathias