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YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME (Photo from His Garden of Grace at Fontana Community Church) It is no coincidence that this very first commandment, written in stone by God Himself, was immediately broken physically and spiritually by His chosen people.

"Make us gods who will go before us." Exodus 32:1. So begins the sad accounting of a mighty nation who pledged their allegiance to the Almighty, but then began celebrating a god of their own making.

June 30 on our 2018 Gregorian calendar is the anniversary date on God’s calendar when the ancient nation of Israel flaunted their Golden Calf in His face. https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/1759633360783512

The next day, the 17th of Tammuz, July 1 on our calendar, was the date Moses angrily shattered the Ten Commandments handwritten by God Himself. It is no coincidence that the very first commandment is “You shall have no other God’s before Me.” Exodus 20:3.

It is also no coincidence that Tammuz 17 has also been reserved for millennia as a day of fasting to remember the eventual fall of Israel, beginning with the great capital city of Jerusalem. The "fast of the fourth month," observed during the month of Tammuz, commemorates the first breach in the walls of Jerusalem, before the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonian army. It is also the historic day when the twice daily sacrifices at the Temple, which had been offered to God for hundreds of years, could no longer be accomplished. Jewish tradition also holds that Tammuz 17 is the same date that King Manasseh, one of the worst of Judah’s kings, placed an idol in the Holy Sanctuary of the Temple. (2 Kings 21:7)

After the exiles were allowed to return to Jerusalem, the Temple was rebuilt. Incredibly, on the 17th day of Tammuz, in 70 AD, the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem. It continued for 3 weeks to the 9th day of Av, when they burned the Holy Temple to the ground.

Today, as has been for millennia, a 21-day period of national mourning in Israel, known as “Three Weeks of Sorrow”, will begin on the 17th day of Tammuz and end on the 9th day of Av, also known as Tishah B’Av. This specific 3 week time period serves as a national reminder of the need to repent and ask for forgiveness for the collective sins of their nation. During this time Israel will mourn these tragedies that happened because of their national idolatry.

We would be wise to follow their example. When America declared her independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776, the very date itself had been etched into the history of Israel for nearly 3300 years. This celebration date for the beginning of America was also the 17th day of Tammuz on God's calendar for mankind. Every year this date for the sin transgression of celebrating the Golden Calf, falls within days of our American celebration of 4th of July. Just a few years ago on July 4, 2015, it fell on the exact date, and will continue to do so many times over the coming years, just as it did in 1776.

We have much more in common with ancient Israel than just our choice of fateful celebration dates. Our founding ancestors believed they were chosen to build a new nation in the Covenant given by the Almighty at Mt. Sinai during the Exodus. In fact, the very words “United States” translated in Hebrew mean "the lands of the covenant”. The Puritans referred to their Plymouth Colony as “Little Israel” and adopted laws based almost entirely on Mosaic Law. They took the Old Testament as their model for government and shaped their own “Magna Charta” on it. In fact, when Harvard University was founded in 1636, Hebrew and Latin were taught as the two languages. Hebrew was even proposed as the official language for the colony of Massachusetts.

The 1630 Puritan preacher and future governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, addressed a boatload of pilgrims with this uncanny prophecy of the future America. "For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken... we shall be made a story and a by-word throughout the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God... We shall shame the faces of many of God's worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us til we be consumed out of the good land whither we are a-going."

The 17th day of Tammuz has historically always been the first step down an inevitable road of sin and sorrow. Although the new beginning was always chosen for what seemed like all the right reasons and with good intentions, the only saving grace came through the judgment of the Almighty, which led to repentance, forgiveness and restoration to God.

We can see this clearly in the lesson of ancient Israel, God's chosen people, and we should be able to recognize the very same situation here in America. From the very beginning, our common belief in God Almighty united us in our quest for a new beginning. The Pilgrims and then the Puritans, both came here seeking religious freedom. However they differed dramatically in just exactly how that pursuit would be accomplished.

The Pilgrims believed in the concept of democracy where leaders and members were equal and there was separation of church and state. They wanted to separate from the Church of England and achieve a new political and spiritual identity.

The Puritans believed the exact opposite. They practiced a form of theocracy where leaders had the divine right and authority to rule. They also believed that church and state should overlap each other, and that reforms should come from within the church. They believed that Christianity was a covenant relationship with the Almighty, to be pursued above all costs.

"Back then, Massachusettes...stretched clear across New England. 1620, the Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock. Nine years later the Puritans arrive at Salem. The two groups merge and spread across New England. But its not long before they start bickering. Their faith fractures. And the cracks are what carved today's state lines... One rebel, Roger Williams, leads his followers to form an even purer settlement of Puritans... He came up with this conclusion that people should be able to practice whatever religion. This new group settles on an island...Rhode Island. So this is where true religious freedom in America was first established." History of Massachusettes http://www.history.com/…/how-th…/videos/puritans-vs-pilgrims

So, we can see clearly that the future house of America was already deeply divided 100 years before the Declaration of Independence. And the door has already been opened to every possible religion being given autonomy and authority in the future.

In the ensuing years, many graven images were chosen to represent the fledgling United States of America. The most prominent and visual are the American Flag, the Great Seal of the United States and US currency. Yet, most of us Christians today know very little about them or what they represent.

For instance, our American flag has absolutely no reference or allegiance to the Almighty instilled in its image. "Today the flag consists of thirteen horizontal stripes, seven red alternating with 6 white. The stripes represent the original 13 colonies, the stars represent the 50 states of the Union. The colors of the flag are symbolic as well: Red symbolizes Hardiness and Valor, White symbolizes Purity and Innocence and Blue represents Vigilance, Perseverance and Justice." USA Flag Site.

The Great Seal of the United States, which represents the people, is designed to reflect their energy and power. There is absolutely no credit or adulation accorded Almighty God. The stripes on the shield represent the states, joined together and supporting Congress. The shield is carried on the American Eagle which denotes the fact that the US relies on its own virtue to carry power. The motto "E Pluribus Unum", which means "out of many, one" alludes to this union. The olive branch and arrows are symbols of peace and war, vested in Congress. Stars signify states and their ranking over sovereign powers. The pyramid is a symbol of strength and duration. The Eye represents "providence" in favor of the American cause. "...The more we know about its design process and meaning of its symbols and mottoes, the better we can understand why this emblem is as important today as ever before. It was and still is America's Vision Statement." http://greatseal.com/

Sadly this has never been more accurate than in 21st century America. "E Pluribus Unum" was our national motto for almost 200 years. It was not until 1956 that that honor was bestowed on the phrase "In God We Trust", which was a popular 17th Century Puritan battlefield “warrior praise” mounted on banners and sung by the Puritans during the English Civil Wars of the 1600’s. Though it has appeared on every single printed paper currency since 1957, it's visual image is limited to small letters stamped around a much larger image of a venerated American leader. And consider that is imprinted on paper currency, reported to carry more germs than the household toilet.

Where does this all end? Could the answer be that it is not where it ends but when? We know from today's lesson that the 17th of Tammuz has always begun an appointed length of time, ending in the judgment of the Almighty. It might take hundreds of years, but the end of the nation does arrive.

Perhaps instead of beating our breast in anguish, and pleading with God to save a nation that clearly has NOT pledged allegiance to Him alone, and is crumbling because of it, we should be praying to the Almighty as His Son, Jesus, taught us to pray. "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be YOUR name, YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done, on EARTH as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:9-10.

YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME …

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THE LITTLE CHURCH IN THE WILDWOOD

Fontana Community Church
 20 Fontana Church Road, P.O. Box 93
Fontana Dam, NC 28733

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Email: mail@fontanacommunitychurch.org