Wednesday, July 29 2020
THE TIME HAS COME...God Almighty literally holds the future of the world in His hands. In His perfect timing, every event on this Earth is destined to reveal His Son, Jesus Christ, The Word Incarnate, to the entire planet. Make no mistake, we WILL need to know Him in the coming days.
A 3-week period of fasting, known biblically as the Fasts of the 4th and 5th Months, and historically as “Three Weeks of Sorrow”, began on the 17th day of God’s 4th month, July 9 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar and continued through the 9th day of the 5th month of Av, Tishah B’Av, July 30 on our calendar.
On the day of worship immediately preceding the 9th day of Av, this timeless scripture has been read for thousands of years: “Hear, O heavens and give ear, O earth, For the Lord has spoken; Though I brought up and raised My children, they have rebelled against me.” Isaiah 1:2.
To this day, Israel mourns tragedies that happened during this period because of their national idolatry. The anniversary date of the beginning of Israel’s sorrow began around 3500 years ago on Tammuz 17 when the Ten Commandments were destroyed by Moses. Millions of Israelites had grown tired of waiting on God’s timing and took matters into their own hands. In a vain attempt to control their national destiny, they added their own Golden Calf into the worship of God Almighty. https://www.facebook.com/394745103939018/posts/3112749932138508/
Two years later on the 9th day of Av, twelve Israelite spies returned after 40 days of checking out the Promised Land. Most of them doubted the Lord could or would deliver what He promised. God’s response to their lack of faith was to make them wander an additional year for every day they spent doubting Him. At that time, that amounted to another 38 years wandering in the Wilderness. An entire generation would not enter the Promised Land. (Numbers 13-14, Deuteronomy 2)
The 9th day of Av also marks the anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple 2600 years ago. The great and mighty physical place of God’s presence on this earth, where He had chosen to “put His Name”, went up in smoke. More than 100,000 people were killed and millions of His chosen people were led away into Babylonian exile. (2 Kings 25:8-9; Jeremiah 52:12-13)
After the exiles were allowed to return to Jerusalem, the Temple was rebuilt. Incredibly, in 70 AD, the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem for a second time on exactly the same day as the walls were originally breached 3000 years before.
Jews are taught to this day that Jerusalem fell because of “sinat hinam”, or “baseless hatred”, which caused the once united people to attack each other, making them weak and vulnerable to their enemy. On the 17th day of Tammuz, the assault began and continued for 3 weeks to the 9th day of Av.
Two million Jews died, and another million were exiled. IsraelAM made this impassioned statement in 2018 as the 9th day of Av approached: “The Talmud attributes the reason for the destruction of the Second Temple to baseless hatred. The political and social situation in Israel at the time of the destruction was rife was infighting and strife. Instead of focusing on fighting the Romans, the various Jewish factions fought and killed each other before finally uniting to face the Romans, when it was already much too late. Had the Jews been united, perhaps the destruction, even the war itself, could have been avoided. The destruction of the Second Temple marked the start of a close to 2,000 year period of statelessness and exile, filled with persecution and massacres, and culminating in the ultimate horror of the Holocaust. Now we have returned to our homeland, reestablished our sovereignty over it (more or less, despite the efforts of most of the world to keep us vulnerable) and made it thrive. We have a second chance to correct the mistakes we made the first time around. If we can unite and exist in (relative) harmony, we can remain invincible in our land forever. That is the message, and challenge, of Tisha B’av, and why we continue to commemorate the day of our greatest defeat (what other nation commemorates defeat?)."
What was the cost to a nation called forth under God’s name who mired itself knee-deep in the pit of “baseless hatred”? The next year on the 9th of Av anniversary, the Roman army literally plowed Jerusalem with salt to make the ground sterile and fallow, in order to eventually build a pagan Roman city. This act directly fulfilled the prophecy in Micah 3:12. “Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field; Jerusalem will become a heap of rub, and the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.”
In the centuries since the Israelite pilgrimage to the Promised Land, Israel has recorded many other national disasters on the same anniversary date. On the 9th day of Av In 135 AD, over 500,000 Jews civilians were killed by the Romans in the Bar Kochba Jewish revolt. The Temple area was plowed under again and Jerusalem was then rebuilt as a pagan city, and Jews were denied entrance.
Almost a thousand years later, The First "Christian" Crusade killed 1.2 million Jews. It began on the 9th day of Av. As a result of the Crusade, King Edward I ordered that all Jews be expelled from England on July 18, 1290, the 9th day of Av. No Jewish people lived there again until 1657.
During the Spanish Inquisition, all Jews were ordered out of Spain by the end of July, 1492. July 31 of that year would have been the 9th day of Av. 800,000 Jews left. Spain’s fortunes began to decrease, even though Christopher Columbus discovered America that year. This definitely fulfills God’s statement in Genesis 12:3. “I will bless them that bless you, and curse those who curse you.”
World War I was declared on 9th day of Av, 1914, when Germany declared war on Russia. The war set the stage for the coming Holocaust of the nation of Israel and the global struggle involving all major nations in the entire world. Incredibly, Adolph Hitler’s 1938 “Final Solution” to rid the world of the Jews by gassing and burning them, was also approved on the 9th day of Av. Six million Jews were exterminated. As part of that killing, on the 10th of July 1942, the Germans began a systematic liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, deporting Jews to extermination camps at the rate of six to ten thousand per day. Deportation started on the 9th day of Av.
We have just reviewed 12 national calamities that have fallen on the nation of Israel on the 9th day of Av. Remember, there are 365 days in a year, so the chance that just a second tragedy would strike on the same anniversary day are 1 in 365. The chances for a third event would rise to 1 times 365 times 365 which is 1 in 133,225. The odds on these twelve events happening to the same people, on the same day is 1 chance in 15.318 billion times a billion times or 1 chance in 15 with 27 zeroes after it which is called an octillion, 1 in 15,318,685,820,000,000,000,000,000,000 (15 Octillion, 318 septillion, 685 sextillion, 820 quintillion).
It is no accident that God continues to teach mankind through the lamentations of His ancient Chosen People. Israel takes this time period so seriously that, by law, restaurants and places of entertainment are closed on the eve of Tisha B'Av and the following day. They realize that God’s Word is “the same, yesterday, today, and forever”. At this very moment, Israeli intelligence estimates thousands are organizing and carrying out military strikes against Israel.
The United States has been brought into this 9th Day of Av arena with the beginning of World War I on that same date. Add the fact that the historic date chosen for the very beginning of America, July 4, 1776, was the 17th of Tammuz on God’s calendar, and it’s impossible not to recognize the USA’s interweaving in Tishah B’Av.
How does God react to any nation that relies on their own might for survival, while claiming to call on His name? Perhaps we should carefully consider this Parable written for the 9th of Av: Once a great artist desired to paint his greatest masterpiece, and journeyed with his companion to the top of a high mountain to find the perfect view. After several days, the painting was complete, though the artist began to view his work at different angles to see what improvements might be made. He started walking backward, admiring his work. He continued to pace backward, focusing only on his painting, when he approached the edge of a cliff. When his friend realized the danger, he called out for him to stop, but the artist took no heed to his words. At the last moment, when he (the artist) was about to plunge to his certain death, however, his friend picked up a knife, ran to the picture, and began slashing it to pieces, destroying the masterpiece before the artist’s eyes. “What are you doing!” the artist cried out, having finally come to his senses. “Look behind you and you’ll see why I did it” replied the friend.
We Christians in the USA are a lot like the painter in this parable. Unknowingly, could we be inching backwards toward the abyss of spiritual pride and arrogance? Will our own national “baseless hatred” be the bottomless pit our nation will not survive?
Consider this convicting word from God Almighty in Zechariah 7:4-6. “I received this message from the Lord All-Powerful. ‘Tell all the priests and the other people in this country this: ‘For seventy years you fasted and showed your sadness in the fifth month and the seventh month. But was that fasting really for me? And when you ate and drank, was that for me? No, it was for your own good.’”
Tishah B’Av has a powerful, timely message for deeply divided, troubled Christians here in America. "The time has come," Jesus said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.."
Sunday, July 19 2020
THE EXODUS: HOLD FIRMLY TO THE VERY END…There can be no doubt that Jesus, the Son of God Almighty, has literally been parting the waters of our fallen world for millennia, providing the only way for God's chosen people to cross over to His Promised Land. He's still doing it right this very moment, perfectly in sync with God’s timetable for mankind.
3500 years ago when He delivered His chosen people from bondage, God laid the perfect foundation for His Word to resonate eternally by gifting His creation with a divinely appointed calendar. God’s 5th month will begin at sunset, July 21 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar. And this is the appointment God wants us to remember: “At the LORD’s command Aaron the priest went up Mount Hor, where he died on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. Aaron was a hundred and twenty-three years old when he died on Mount Hor.” Numbers 33:38-39
This is the year that marked the completion of the Israelite nation’s desert sojourn. A summary of that journey is recorded in the first two verses at the beginning of this chapter. “Here are the stages in the journey of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt by divisions under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. At the Lord’s command Moses recorded the stages in their journey. This is their journey by stages:”
As we read further, we observe there are quite a few stops along the way to the Promised Land, most with a lot of strange names. Why should we even pay attention to where the Israelites wandered during their 40 years? Because the Lord God Almighty led them through each and every one. He has a perfect plan for ALL His people.
4000 years ago, Abraham’s words to Isaac perfectly and succinctly spoke of God's plan through His Only Begotten Son. “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” 500 years later, as appointed by the Almighty, the sacrifice of the innocent and perfect Lamb of God was required so that the death angel would “pass over” the sins of God’s chosen people, and they would not suffer the death they deserved.
We should be able to see ourselves clearly alongside God’s chosen people who journeyed through the wilderness of their sin. Right at the very beginning, we are told how God deals with our fickle human nature. “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.” Exodus 13:17-18
“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” Verses 21-22
God IS faithful and leads His people ALL the time. Paul tells us this in Romans 8:14-15. “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’
And, just to keep us focused, God throws us a few curveballs along the way. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this.” Exodus 14:1-4
Though God’s choice of campsites for His chosen people sometimes doesn’t make much sense to us humans, it’s always part of a brilliantly executed plan to accomplish two very important goals: to make us face our fears and overcome them; and to bring glory to the Almighty through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We should be able to see that this year more clearly than ever before as we face uncertain times during this global pandemic. Exodus 14:13-14 delivers words of eternal hope right this minute. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
It is the “still” part that seems to frustrate us 2020 Christians, just as it did the Israelites. We need God’s Word in 1 Corinthians 10:1-12 as it summarizes Exodus and tells us exactly what NOT to do in times like these. “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.”
“Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.”
“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
We stop here and reflect on our wilderness journey with this appeal from God’s Word in Hebrews 3:1-14. “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.”
“So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, if it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.”
THE EXODUS: HOLD FIRMLY TO THE VERY END