Sunday, October 11 2020
"STAND UP AND PRAISE THE LORD YOUR GOD…YOU WERE RIGHT AND WE WERE WRONG..." Around 2500 years ago, a nation stood united in praise to the Lord with the sole intent of honoring Him through national repentance of their sins. The longest prayer of the entire Bible was offered as a worship unto God on the 24th day of God's 7th month, October 12 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar. This timeless prayer is right on target for us today as Christians in America.
“You were right, and we were wrong” is part of a national prayer offering to God shortly after the nation of Judah celebrated His Festival of Tabernacles, which we learned about in last week's lesson. https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/3363301583750007
Following the biggest celebration of the year, God's people spent 1/4 day reading His Word. They spent another 1/4 day confessing their sin and worshiping the Lord. Then they asked for mercy for their nation.
Israel's sins were numerous and seriously offensive to the Almighty. Led by God’s appointed judges for 350 years, the nation began its decline by placing their faith in the mindset of the world for leadership. "Make us a king to judge us like all the nations." 1 Samuel 8:5.
When the Lord gave them what they wanted, He also told them what would happen. "... you will cry out in that day because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 1 Samuel 8:18.
We would do well to read that ENTIRE chapter. Many of the phrases are all too familiar. "He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots...He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage.... He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants."
Because God's people cried out to Him and refused to back down from their worldly choice of leadership, He gave them exactly who they asked for.
It would seem on the surface that the people were doing the right thing by asking God specifically for new leadership. After all, God Himself responded by appointing King Saul as their new leader. Indeed, at first, the king they had asked for seemed to be exactly the deliverer they needed.
However, God tells us what was really going on in 1 Samuel 10:17-19. “I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you. But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your disasters and calamities. And you have said, ‘No, appoint a king over us.’ So now present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and clans.”
God gave the nation what it had been praying for. It wasn't long before their new king began doing things which revealed his true bent and swagger. Saul became jealous of David and sought to take his life. He attempted to secure his throne by executing the High Priest and later ordering the Witch of Endor to conjure up the dead spirit of Samuel. In the end, King Saul took his own life following a battlefield defeat.
Long story short, just 2 kings later, the once mighty nation under God was split into two kingdoms. The northern kingdom of Israel, composed of 10 tribes, with its capital of Samaria, lasted around 200 years before being conquered and scattered around the world by the Assyrians. The surviving 2 tribes, called Judah, were ruled from Jerusalem for 350 years by kings from the Davidic line. But it all ended when Jerusalem was ransacked and burned. It's populace was led away to 70 years of exile in the enemy kingdom of Babylon.
At the time of today's lesson, the conquered southern kingdom of Judah, now under Persian rule, had been allowed to return and rebuild the Walls of Jerusalem and resettle the Holy City and its surrounding lands. Still under Persian rule, the nation had come together to celebrate the completion of the city walls, and to celebrate The Festival of Tabernacles.
Humbled after years of rule by their enemies, they had begun God's 7th month as a restored nation by hearing Ezra read from the Book of the Law of Moses as God commanded. As they listened attentively day after day, God's people were reminded of His goodness and mercy. The Word of the Lord was made clear and given new meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. Spiritual revival fell upon the land. The longest prayer in the Bible, Nehemiah 9, is voiced by a broken nation, pledging their allegiance to the Almighty, alone.
"Stand up and praise the Lord your God! God has always lived and will live forever. People should praise your glorious name. May your name be lifted above all blessing and praise. You are God. Lord, only you are God. You made the sky and the highest heavens and everything in them. You made the earth and everything on it. You made the seas and everything in them. You give life to everything. All the heavenly angels bow down and worship you."
“...You saw our ancestors suffering in Egypt and heard them call for help by the Red Sea. You showed the miracles to Pharaoh. You did amazing things to his officials and his people. You knew that the Egyptians thought they were better than our ancestors. But you proved how great you are, and they remember that even today.”
“You split the Red Sea in front of them, and they walked through on dry land. The Egyptian soldiers were chasing them, but you threw that enemy into the sea. And they sank like a rock into the sea. With the tall cloud, you led them by day, and at night you used the column of fire. That is the way you lit their path and showed them where to go.”
“Then you came down to Mount Sinai. You spoke to them from heaven. You gave them good laws… You told them about your special day of rest—the Sabbath…They were hungry, so you gave them food from heaven. They were thirsty, so you gave them water from a rock. You told them, ‘Come, take this land.’ You used your power, and took the land for them.”
“But our ancestors became proud and stubborn. They refused to obey your commands. They refused to listen. They forgot the amazing things you did with them. They became stubborn. They decided to return to Egypt and become slaves again.”
“But you are a forgiving God! You are kind and full of mercy. You are patient and full of love. So you didn’t leave them! You didn’t leave them even when they made golden calves and said, ‘These are the gods that led us out of Egypt.’ You are very kind, so you didn’t leave them in the desert. You didn’t take the tall cloud away from them by day. You continued to lead them. You didn’t take the column of fire away from them at night. You continued to light their path and to show them which way to go.”
“You gave them your good Spirit to make them wise. You gave them manna for food. You gave them water for their thirst. You took care of them for 40 years. They had all they needed in the desert. Their clothes didn’t wear out, and their feet didn’t swell and hurt. You gave them kingdoms and nations, and you gave them faraway places where few people live... You made their descendants as many as the stars in the sky. You brought them to the land you promised to give their ancestors…You let them defeat those people.”
“...And then they turned against you. They threw away your teachings... So you let their enemies have them. The enemy caused them much trouble. When trouble came, our ancestors called to you for help. And in heaven, you heard them. You are very kind, so you sent people to save them. And they rescued them from their enemies."
"Then as soon as our ancestors were rested, they started doing terrible things again! So you let the enemy defeat them and punish them. They called to you for help, and in heaven you heard them and helped them. You are so kind. That happened so many times.”
“You warned them. You told them to come back, but they were too proud. They refused to listen to your commands. If people obey your laws, they will live. But our ancestors broke your laws. They were stubborn. They turned their backs on you. They refused to listen.”
“You were very patient with our ancestors. You let them mistreat you for many years. You warned them with your Spirit. You sent the prophets to warn them. But our ancestors didn’t listen. So you gave them to people in other countries. But you are so kind! You didn’t completely destroy them. You didn’t leave them. You are such a kind and merciful God!"
"Our God, you are the great God, the awesome, powerful soldier! You are kind and loyal. You keep your agreement. We have had many troubles, and our troubles are important to you. Bad things happened to all our people, and to our kings and leaders, and to our priests and prophets.”
“But God, you were right about everything that happened to us. You were right, and we were wrong. Our kings, leaders, priests, and fathers did not obey your law. They didn’t listen to your commands. They ignored your warnings. Our ancestors didn’t serve you even when they were living in their own kingdom. They didn’t stop doing evil. They enjoyed all the wonderful things you gave them. They enjoyed the rich land and had plenty of room, but they didn’t stop their evil ways.”
“And now, we are slaves. We are slaves in this land, the land you gave our ancestors so they could enjoy its fruit and all the good things that grow here. The harvest is big in this land. But we sinned, so that harvest goes to the kings you put over us. They control us and our cattle. They do anything they want. We are in a lot of trouble.”
Once called by God “the apple of His eye”, Israel had been ripped apart by their enemies. The remaining remnant was now totally dependent on the Lord God for their national survival. Finally, they admitted they had been wrong to place their trust in a government of their own choosing.
This very day, we 21st century Americans are receiving a merciful warning straight from the Almighty. God's Word tells us clearly what happens when His people become arrogant and petulant, vowing in hardened hearts that we can and should control our own destiny by depending on leadership of our own choosing. Faith in the monarchy of the Lord Jesus Christ as King then becomes secondary to the appointment of a "king" and savior and his leadership.
"STAND UP AND PRAISE THE LORD YOUR GOD…YOU WERE RIGHT AND WE WERE WRONG..."
Friday, October 02 2020
A FESTIVAL FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD... In times like these, it’s extremely important to stay grounded in God’s Word and be reminded that He does have a plan in motion. God has appointed this coming week as one of His special times for the revelation and ministry of Jesus Christ. Known as “feasts” or “festivals”, they were connected to harvest times. A true harvest festival appointed by God Almighty Himself, begins this evening, October 2, at sunset under a full harvest moon, and continues through October 10 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar.
This festival has always been known as the Holy Day that commemorates God dwelling with His people. It is the seventh festival appointed 3500 years ago by God in His Word. “Celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress. Be joyful at your Feast…You shall hold a festival for the LORD your God seven days, in the place that the LORD will choose; 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.” Deuteronomy 16:13-15.
Leviticus 23 tells us more about this special week that God appointed just after the fall harvest. The Festival of Tabernacles, also called "Sukkot" in Hebrew, got its name from the fact that all Israel was required to live in temporary structures to remind them of how God led them during their 40 years of "camping out" in the wilderness. Palm branches were also prominently used for temporary thatched roofs and waved during joyful worship. An 8th day was also to be celebrated as a Holy Convocation unto the Lord, a time to look forward to the future culmination of all God's Holy Festivals.
The Festival of Tabernacles was a unique opportunity for God's people to come together during 7 joyous nights and thank Him for His many incredible blessings. His Shekinah Glory literally dwelt in the Ark of the Covenant, guiding, and directing the Israelites during their long Exodus journey. By the time of Jesus, three 75-foot menorahs were lit in the Temple, which reminded the people of God's Shekinah Glory leading them through the desert.
Not only did God fed them daily for 40 years with manna from heaven, He also provided enough water from a single rock to satiate millions of people. We do not have to look far in the New Testament to see who was actually being introduced to mankind through this symbolism. In John 30, 32-35, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world… I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.”
These appointed Festival Days also paint a picture of the Lord’s completion and rest given in Genesis 2:2. “And by the seventh day God completed His work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” For 3500 years, it has been celebrated with a full week of dancing, singing, and feasting. It is also entirely possible that the first American Thanksgiving was based on this very festival, since the early Puritans were students of the Bible and observed God’s ancient, appointed Festival Days.
Many phenomenal physical appointments have taken place during the Festival of Tabernacles. When Solomon first brought the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle furnishings into the Temple at Jerusalem, it was on God's appointed Day of Tabernacles, placed on His calendar 500 years before. At that time, the grand Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem became the literal, living Tabernacle, or dwelling place of God Almighty when the Shekinah Glory of the Lord descended from heaven, lit the fire on the altar, and literally filled the Holy of Holies. 2 Chronicles 7:1-3.
In fact, there are growing numbers of Christians who are convinced that Jesus was actually born and came to "tabernacle" with mankind as a babe laid in a tabernacle structure during the annual Tabernacles Festival itself! Rome always took advantage of the customs of their occupied territories to take a census of the people. Heads of Jewish families were required to go to Jerusalem 3 times a years to celebrate God's major holy festival days: Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Tabernacles is the only one that occurs in the fall. Add that to the imagery of John 1:14: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” It is no coincidence that the phrase “made His dwelling” or “skenoo”, is derived from the word “tabernacle”, and could also be interpreted as “to have one’s tabernacle”.
Jesus celebrated the Festival of Tabernacles a few short months before his death. On the last day, after the priest filled a water pitcher from the Pool of Siloam and carried it back to the Temple and poured the water at the altar, symbolizing the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in the days of Messiah, Jesus stood and said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” John 6:37-39.
Later, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey just before His crucifixion, the people were greatly influenced by 1500 years of celebrating Tabernacles. The Jews waved palm branches, and shouted "Hosanna" from the same Messianic Psalm quoted every year during the Festival of Tabernacles: Psalm 118:25. And the picture of Tabernacles worship will be repeated when the redeemed saints gather together around the throne of God Almighty, palm branches in hand, singing “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
The future physical fulfillment of the Festival of Tabernacles will culminate when ALL nations on Planet Earth will come together in peace to worship Jesus Christ as Lord! "The Lord will be King over the whole earth. On that day, there will be one Lord and His name the only name…Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles." Zechariah 14:9,16.
Finally, in Revelation 21:3, John the Revelator adds the crowning touch to this glorious festival appointed by God Almighty for all humanity. “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.’”
YOU SHALL HOLD A FESTIVAL FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD…
Sunday, September 27 2020
S A L V A T I O N… Many petitions are now being lifted to the Almighty, praying for the salvation of this nation. But during this appointed season of the last 3 of God’s Holy Days anointed to be fulfilled by Jesus Himself, are these the prayers God is looking for? Or could this be the ultimate insult of waving another god in our Father’s face during the very season the deity and coming Kingdom of His Only Begotten Son should be celebrated and desired above ALL else…
The evening of September 27 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar begins the 10th day of God’s 7th month, the anniversary of the very date the Almighty appropriated a blood sacrifice to cover the sins of His people: The Day of Atonement. God revealed the foundation for His plan of salvation in Leviticus 23:27, 32 when He said, “The Day of Atonement will be on the tenth day of the seventh month…This special day of rest continues from that evening until the next evening.” Leviticus 23:27, 32.
Appointed by God during the wilderness Exodus of the Israelites, this special day is called Yom Kippur. (“Yom” rhymes with home, “Kippur" pronounced “key poor”, accent on poor) “Yom” means day, from sunset to sunset, as marked by God in Leviticus 23:32. “Kippur” is from the Hebrew word “kaphar” (kah-farrrr') meaning “to cover”. The concept of our English equivalent, “atonement” is “covering”. Put the two words together: Day of Covering or Day of Atonement.
The covering or atonement was first appointed by God as the blood sacrifice of an innocent animal. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement (covering) for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” Leviticus 17:11.
Hebrews 9:1-28 binds the “Old” together with the “New”, pointing us straight to Jesus as the Perfect Blood Sacrifice! He did away with the need for atonement for our sins. His precious blood blotted them out entirely!
(1-5) “That first plan contained directions for worship, and a specially designed place of worship. A large outer tent was set up. The lampstand, the table, and "the bread of presence" were placed in it. This was called "the Holy Place." Then a curtain was stretched, and behind it a smaller, inside tent set up. This was called "the Holy of Holies." In it were placed the gold incense altar and the gold-covered Ark of the Covenant containing the gold urn of manna, Aaron's rod that budded, the covenant tablets, and the angel-wing-shadowed mercy seat. But we don't have time to comment on these now."
(6-10) "After this was set up, the priests went about their duties in the large tent. Only the high priest entered the smaller, inside tent, and then only once a year, offering a blood sacrifice for his own sins and the people's accumulated sins. This was the Holy Spirit's way of showing with a visible parable that as long as the large tent stands, people can't just walk in on God. Under this system, the gifts and sacrifices can't really get to the heart of the matter, can't assuage the conscience of the people, but are limited to matters of ritual and behavior. It's essentially a temporary arrangement until a complete overhaul could be made."
(11-15) "But when the Messiah arrived, high priest of the superior things of this new covenant, he bypassed the old tent and its trappings in this created world and went straight into heaven's "tent"—the true Holy Place—once and for all. He also bypassed the sacrifices consisting of goat and calf blood, instead using his own blood as the price to set us free once and for all. If that animal blood and the other rituals of purification were effective in cleaning up certain matters of our religion and behavior, think how much more the blood of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out. Through the Spirit, Christ offered himself as an unblemished sacrifice, freeing us from all those dead-end efforts to make ourselves respectable, so that we can live all out for God."
(16-17) "Like a will that takes effect when someone dies, the new covenant was put into action at Jesus' death. His death marked the transition from the old plan to the new one, canceling the old obligations and accompanying sins, and summoning the heirs to receive the eternal inheritance that was promised them. He brought together God and his people in this new way.
(18-22) "Even the first plan required a death to set it in motion. After Moses had read out all the terms of the plan of the law—God's "will"—he took the blood of sacrificed animals and, in a solemn ritual, sprinkled the document and the people who were its beneficiaries. And then he attested its validity with the words, "This is the blood of the covenant commanded by God." He did the same thing with the place of worship and its furniture. Moses said to the people, "This is the blood of the covenant God has established with you." Practically everything in a will hinges on a death. That's why blood, the evidence of death, is used so much in our tradition, especially regarding forgiveness of sins."
(23-26) "That accounts for the prominence of blood and death in all these secondary practices that point to the realities of heaven. It also accounts for why, when the real thing takes place, these animal sacrifices aren't needed anymore, having served their purpose. For Christ didn't enter the earthly version of the Holy Place; he entered the Place Itself, and offered himself to God as the sacrifice for our sins. He doesn't do this every year as the high priests did under the old plan with blood that was not their own; if that had been the case, he would have to sacrifice himself repeatedly throughout the course of history. But instead he sacrificed himself once and for all, summing up all the other sacrifices in this sacrifice of himself, the final solution of sin.
(27) "Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences. Christ's death was also a one-time event, but it was a sacrifice that took care of sins forever.
(28) “And so, when he next appears, the outcome for those eager to greet him is, precisely, salvation.”
We can see how God’s salvation plan comes together PERFECTLY if we look through the lens of God’s appointments on His calendar for ALL of mankind, not just our nation, and not just our timeline. Jesus fulfilled God's Holy Days appointed in the Spring with His death on Passover (Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. l Corinthians 5:7); his burial during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.” John 6; 51); and His resurrection on the holy day of Firstfruits. (“But now Christ is risen from the dead and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:20); Fifty days ( seven weeks plus one day) after Jesus’ resurrection on the Feast of Firstfruits, when His promised Holy Spirit fell upon a gathering of the Disciples and others celebrating God’s appointed holy day of Pentecost, the church as we know it today was born. (Acts 2)
The Holy Days occurring on God’s fall calendar have yet to be entirely fulfilled by Jesus. The first fall holy day, appointed on the 1st day of God’s 7th month, occurred the evening of September 18th on our 2020 calendar. Known as the Day of Trumpets, or Day of Blowing, it is the day that Jesus refers to with the word “Watch”. This ancient day announces King Jesus’ imminent return with the heralding of 100 trumpets. https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/3317709304975902
The evening of September 27 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar begins the 10th day of God’s 7th month, the anniversary of the very date the Almighty appropriated a blood sacrifice to cover the sins of His people: The Day of Atonement.
The last holy day to be fulfilled by Jesus is appointed to begin on the 15th day of the same month on God’s calendar, which begins the evening of October 2 on our 2020 calendar. That evening marks the beginning of God’s 7-day Feast of Tabernacles, culminating in the 8th Last Great Day. ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.’” Revelation 21:3.
“And so, when he next appears, the outcome for those eager to greet him is, precisely…”
S A L V A T I O N…
Thursday, September 17 2020
WATCH! The Living Word of God is exploding with depth and new meaning for Christians in 2020. This picture reflects not only the astounding artistry of the Almighty’s handiwork in the evening sky, it also prophetically appoints the coming day God’s trumpet will announce the eminent return of Jesus Christ!
The biblical epic appointment known as the Day of Trumpets is anticipated to begin at sunset September 18 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, ushering in the beginning the 1st day of God’s appointed 7th month.
God's trumpet has sounded only one time on this earth. He voiced His presence with the sounding trumpet on Mt Sinai in Exodus 19:19 before speaking the Ten Commandments. It is significant that the “voice” of the trumpet did not come from man, but from God.
The last reference in the Old Testament to trumpets, Zechariah 9:14, again refers to God sounding or “voicing” the trumpet, and points toward the New Testament fulfillment of this prophecy. “And the LORD shall be seen over them, and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning: and the LORD God shall blow the trumpet, and shall go with whirlwinds of the south.”
Soon after, still on Mt Sinai, God said to Moses in Leviticus 23:23-24: "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a Sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.”
The Hebrew word for month, "hodesh" aka "chodesh" which means "new moon", is a derivative of the Hebrew root word “hadash” which means “renew, repair or restore”. From darkness, His created light emerges every month to renew and guide us to the fullness of His light. His holy convocations, with the exception of one, occur in the middle of the month, during the time of fulness of His light, exemplified in His full moon.
The Hebrew words for “holy convocation”, "mikra kodesh", mean "holy convocation and rehearsal” The Holy Day of Trumpets, the only convocation occurring at the very first light of the new month, has been “rehearsed” by mankind every year for over 3 millennia! Its ancient Hebraic themes have always been repentance, a king's coronation, and a marriage feast--all pointing straight to the coming return of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God!
Jesus told us very plainly we should be watching at God's appointed times every single year until He comes again. “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back —whether in the evening or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If He comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: WATCH!” Mark 13:32-37.
The Day of Trumpets, appointed by the Almighty Himself, has been known for thousands of years by the Hebrew idiomatic expression “no man knows the day or the hour”. That's because it is the ONLY appointed Holy Day of the Lord that begins just as the first sliver as the new moon arises and only God knows for sure when that will occur. We can further understand the rest of the passage to say that while we don’t know the specific day, or time of the day, we do know the appointed season as the Day of Trumpets as He decreed in Leviticus 23.
Every Christian at the time of Jesus knew that the times and the seasons were “the appointed times of the Lord, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times.” Leviticus 23:4. In fact, "holiday" is literally the contraction of “holy” and “day”. And God gave the month and the day for each "holiday". He just didn’t give the year. For over 3500 years, God's people have celebrated the future coronation of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
“But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11
Jesus fulfilled God's Holy Convocation Days appointed in the Spring, with His death on Passover (Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. l Corinthians 5:7); his burial during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.” John 6; 51); and His resurrection on the holy day of Firstfruits. (“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:20)
GOD'S APPOINTED FALL HOLY DAYS HAVE YET TO BE FULFILLED BY JESUS! We can look forward to at least 3 more divine appointments of holy convocations on God’s calendar. Jesus' return will be heralded on the Day of Trumpets. Jesus will be anointed as the perfect sacrifice for our sins on the Day of Atonement. And finally, Jesus will return to this earth to rule and reign over His Kingdom during the season of Tabernacles.
Yes, when Jesus returns to this earth, it will be by Divine Appointment to fulfill the remaining Holy convocation days scheduled on God's calendar. The first of those, the anointed Day of Trumpets, is signified by the rising of the new moon beginning God's seventh month, appointed in Leviticus 23. In ages past, as soon as the sliver of the new moon was observed by two witnesses, they blew the trumpet 100 times: 11 series of nine brief blasts followed by one long powerful blast, known as "the last trumpet.”
Could this be "the last trumpet” that Paul spoke about in 1 Corinthians 15: 51-54? “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’”.
Revelation 11:15 repeats this truth. "And the seventh angel sounded (a trumpet); and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever."
According to God’s Word in Genesis 1:5, His day begins at sunset. The young crescent moon will appear very low in the bright twilight of the western sky shortly after the sun sets. Sunset is predicted here in western North Carolina at 7:37 pm EDT. Jerusalem is 7 hours ahead of us, with sunset occurring at 6:43 pm IDT, Israel Daylight Time. That means the new moon may be sighted in Israel on September 18 shortly after 11:43 am EDT Eastern Daylight Time, with sightings spreading westward. First reports are anticipated from Fiji, followed by Israel.
God has hit the “renew” button. And He's done it in the midst of a pandemic virus named "corona", Latin for "crown". As Israel enters its second lockdown, and the USA bickers over coming elections, God Almighty is using man's mutant "crown" virus to convict us of our sinful bent of "crowning" other gods before Him and making them a priority on our manmade calendars and worldly agendas.
This is God's world. This is God's calendar. This is God's new moon This is God's sign that Jesus is coming soon to renew and reign over His kingdom on this earth!
Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert...If He comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone:”
Listen to the shofar trumpet sounds: https://hebrew4christians.com/.../Bles.../01shofarblasts.mp3
Thursday, September 10 2020
I CONFESS THE SINS... 2500 years ago, the Jewish patriot Nehemiah took on the task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. At the time, he wasn’t even a citizen of the Persian kingdom where he lived. He was a second-generation Jewish refugee, born into forced exile in a foreign land. He could have pointed his finger at a multitude of other people and nations and played the blame-game. Instead, Nehemiah prayed to God Almighty and confessed His sin, his father’s sin and the sins of his entire nation.
“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses." Nehemiah 1:4-6.
Nehemiah understood why Israel had been decimated as a nation, split in two with the surviving remnant of Judah forced into Babylonian exile, then ruled by the conquering Persian Empire for 150 years. He helped document it all. According to the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, after the sixth-century capture of Jerusalem, there were thousands of skilled craftsmen, warriors, citizens of middle class and above exiled to Babylon, with more deportations in the ensuing decades.
Also, according to the books of Ezra–Nehemiah, around 538 BC, the Jews in Babylon began their return to the Land of Israel, by decree of King Cyrus, who also ordered the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple, dedicated in 515 BC. The return of the exiles to Judah during the next 110 years is known as the “return to Zion”, a synonym for the return to Jerusalem as well as to the biblical Land of Israel. The word “aliyah”, the act of “going up” came from the ancient event of “going up to Jerusalem” and has now become the term used for Jews returning to Israel. Right after the decree, around 50,000 Jews made “aliyah” as described in Ezra, but most remained in Babylon.
Nehemiah was born in Babylon during the exile of Judah. The book of Nehemiah begins when he lived in the capital city of Susa in Persia. While serving as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah was given the unenviable task of guarding the King's cup and tasting it to insure it was not poisoned. On the positive side, the position required that one be regarded as totally trustworthy, which usually carried the reward of a high position in the kingdom. Indeed, Nehemiah was appointed as master of ceremonies in the palace of King Artaxerxes, who ruled Persia from 465-423 B.C.
Historical records also suggest that the position of cupbearer was as influential a position as the Queen was to the King. Ironically, through the influence of the great Queen Esther in the court of King Xerxes in the very same palace, the people of Israel had been saved from annihilation several decades earlier. Some historians even speculate that King Artaxerxes was the stepson of Queen Esther, and son of King Xerxes.
The rest of Nehemiah's prayer is just as powerful as the beginning when he confessed his sins, his father’s sins, and the sins of his entire nation. “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”
His prayer petition ends with the curious statement about granting him favor in the presence of a man. Then Nehemiah identifies himself as "cupbearer to the King." This is clarified in the following chapter when Nehemiah asked God to grant him success when he humbly asks the King's help for the people of Judah who were attempting to rebuild. Further in chapter 2, Nehemiah privately gave God all the credit for the plan to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. “I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem.” Nehemiah 2:12
Not only did Nehemiah receive the King's help, but because Nehemiah was a close confidant of the King, he was also allowed to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, which could have threatened the Persian kingdom itself. He returned to Jerusalem as its appointed governor for 2 separate terms.
"So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God." Nehemiah 6:15-16.
Nehemiah led the remnant of Judah who had made “aliyah” to Jerusalem, to come together and work toward a common goal. Indeed, it was never about rebuilding a physical wall. God’s plan was for their nation to be spiritually rebuilt under His watch-care and the authority of His Word. United, they moved forward accomplishing social reforms for the poor, forgiving debts, and bonding together in praise of the Almighty for His mercy and long-suffering love for them, spiritually influencing the world around them.
God continued to work through Nehemiah's governorship in Jerusalem to bring about a spiritual awakening to the people of Judah. Not only did they confess their sins as a nation, but also the sins of their fathers. "...The Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the Lord their God." Nehemiah 9:1-3
Wonder what would happen here in America if we Christians followed ancient Judah's example. Instead of playing the blame-game and pointing fingers at everyone else for their problems, Nehemiah led in a national confession of sin, and freed them to praise God in an awesome and magnificent way with these immortal words: "Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you."
No time like the present for each and every one of us in America to change our focus and stop blaming others for all our national problems. The 25th of Elul on God’s calendar, the date of Nehemiah’s completion of the wall, is the 13th of September on our 2020 Gregorian calendar. Despite resistance from surrounding nations and national turmoil, even their enemies could clearly see that God was behind it all.
This is not just a bible story. It DID happen. Biblical Archaeology Review 35:2, March/April 2009 confirms that Nehemiah rebuilt portions of the walls of Jerusalem around 445 BC.
And it all began with the humble words uttered by just one man in repentant prayer on behalf of himself, his ancestors, and his nation.
I CONFESS THE SINS…
Friday, September 04 2020
GIVE CAREFUL THOUGHT TO YOUR WAYS...The Hebrew figure of speech for this phrase is literally “put your heart on your roads.” God has designated the sixth month of Elul, August 20-September 18 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, as the month for "soul searching" and turning back to Him. Indeed, the Hebrew word for this month, "Elul" means to search out deeply, as in the heart.
In God’s perfect timing, His specially anointed Day of Trumpets is appointed to occur on the first day of the following 7th month, just weeks away. We Christians should recognize immediately that trumpets herald the possible second return of Jesus, the Son of God!
There have been thousands of Eluls on God’s calendar, adding up to thousands of chances for humanity to get it right. 2600 years ago, on the first day of God's 6th month, He sent Haggai to people just like us who were really good at saying God should be first, but poor in actually making Him a true priority in their daily lives.
Haggai 1: 1-11: “In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,(shih AL tih el) governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jozadak, (JAHZ uh dak) the high priest: This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’”
We should already have a handle on the very first problem we religious folks have run into for thousands of years. Notice that God's chosen people of Judah didn’t say they weren’t going to rebuild the temple; they just seem to be saying “Not yet.” We want to serve God in ways that suit our lifestyle and timing and are under our control. We usually pull the infamous procrastination “I’m praying about it” to justify our inability to commit ourselves totally to the calendar and timing of the Almighty.
As we continue on in this chapter, we read, “Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
We should carefully consider that scripture. Life is always in God's timing, like it or not. He appoints it impeccably and knows exactly what needs to happen and when. He has His priorities straight. We, on the other hand, need a hard lesson with putting Him first, and ourselves last.
"Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” Haggai 1: 5-6
We can do a whole lot of work as Christians, but never accomplish one single eternal thing. And we can consume a lot of knowledge along our well-traveled roads of seminars, sermons, and causes. But the truth is Christian works and ministries, as well as nationalistic pride, can become a bottomless pit of excuses to serve and glorifiy ourselves. Enough is never enough. We not only drive ourselves crazy, but in the end, those around us suffer as well. The bottom-line is we were never called to be LIKE other Christian leaders. We are called to be LIKE CHRIST.
"This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”
"Give careful thought to your ways." That scripture resonates. Taking time to examine why we are doing what we are doing is absolutely vital. We ALL need to focus on our true blessing found IN the joy of the Almighty, not in trying to manipulate His blessing to "fall" into our lives. We need to quit trying to build our own glorified version of His church, justifying it by calling it His House.
Head up His mountain road. Do it His way. Otherwise, don't be surprised if things don’t turn out the way you expect. In fact, the Lord may curse the very “labor of your hands” as He did in Haggai, even as you call it “Godly”.
That brings us to the mindset of the road we literally stand upon as we celebrate our national holiday. The "labor of our hands" is only fruitful when we seek to glorify the Lord, and never our grand ministries and Christian agenda. Indeed, this is what Jesus said about labor in Luke 10:2. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
Notice, just like His mountain road, the harvest is His, not ours. Indeed, here is what the Bible says about laboring toward the harvest of the Almighty: Our labor for the Lord is: a labor which will be rewarded (I Corinthians 3:8); a labor which is to be done together (I Corinthians 3:9); a labor not in vain (I Corinthians 15:58); a labor for eternal things (Colossians 1:28-29); a labor God does not forget (Hebrews 6:10); a labor of love (I Thessalonians 1:3); a labor recognized by Christ, Himself.. (Revelation 2:2).
“…The Lord made them and the rest of the people excited about working on the Temple of their God, the Lord All-Powerful. So they began this work on the 24th day of the sixth month in the second year Darius was the king.” Haggai 1:14-15.
It’s amazing to realize that Tuesday, September 12th on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, is the 24th day of God’s appointed 6th month. By placing ourselves on God’s calendar and in His timing, we can receive His eternal Word for this exact time of the year. And it is especially exhilarating that God's lesson on building His temple has crossed the chasm of time to become our spiritual focus for this Labor Day week of 2020.
May our focus be to glorify the Almighty on the road to His Kingdom as those laborers who were praised in 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3. ”…Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
GIVE CAREFUL THOUGHT TO YOUR WAYS (PUT YOUR HEART ON YOUR ROADS)
Sunday, August 23 2020
https://youtu.be/vrOje2phrv4 BE STRONG AND TAKE HEART AND WAIT FOR THE LORD…For over 3000 years, Psalm 27 has been read during this time of the year and the month that follows. That’s because God has designated this time as the sixth month of Elul on His calendar. The word “Elul” means to search out deeply, as in the heart. This is the month of “soul searching”, and turning back to God.
Yes, in God’s timing, for thousands and thousands of years, this has been the month with special emphasis on getting our hearts aligned with His before our Lord comes. August 24 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar is the 5th day of Elul, the 6th month on God’s calendar. Right on target, through the power of His Holy Spirit, on His timetable, God is calling us to search out those things that are stumbling blocks in our relationship with Him.
On the 5th day of Elul, the ancient prophet Ezekiel experienced the hand of the Sovereign Lord upon Him. “In the sixth year, in the sixth month on the fifth day, while I was sitting in my house and the elders of Judah were sitting before me, the hand of the Sovereign LORD came on me there.” Ezekiel 8:1. “The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem, to the entrance to the north gate of the inner court, where the idol that provokes to jealousy stood. And there before me was the glory of the God of Israel…” Ezekiel 8:3-4
This north gate opened into the great court where the notorious image of Ba'al had once been erected by Manasseh, King of Judah. It would probably have been a favored spot to place idols by subsequent kings and rulers. Set at the very entrance of the inner sanctum of the Almighty, this would have been a blatant affront to God, who considered Himself “married” to Israel. This was also the gate the sacrifices were brought through to God’s very presence. What a sickening insult to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would fulfill all sacrifices as the Perfect Lamb of God!
The Almighty continues by exposing 70 elder leaders who are defiling His house by worshiping other things in secret, thinking God somehow doesn’t notice details anymore because of the turmoil in their nation. He then points toward the practice of women stretching worship in His House to include sympathy and support of worldly ideas and traditions. He also reveals 25 men standing in the inner court of His intimate sanctuary, literally turning their back on God because they are focused in another direction instead of on Him. The Almighty uses the strong word “detestable” 5 times in this chapter to describe this utter disarray and spiritual adultery in His house.
What does all this mean for us Christians today? Plenty! Spiritual idolatry always begins in the heart, the seat of the love relationship with the Almighty. Colossians 3:1-6 speaks directly about this. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.”
We should also be humbled by this stern admonition from the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11. “I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me! I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough…such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve."
In Ezekiel 8:12, the Lord says “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of Israel are doing in the darkness, each at the shrine of his own idol? They say, ‘The LORD does not see us…”
In the 9th chapter, Ezekiel is taken deeper to see from God’s spiritual perspective. “Then I heard him call out in a loud voice, ‘Bring near those who are appointed to execute judgment on the city, each with a weapon in his hand.’ And I saw six men coming from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with a deadly weapon in his hand. With them was a man clothed in linen who had a writing kit at his side. They came in and stood beside the bronze altar.”
“Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side 4 and said to him, ‘Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.’”
Obviously, from a spiritual viewpoint, we should get it that someone upstairs is keeping track of EVERYTHING that goes on down here. And, He is looking for those whose hearts align with His.
“The sin of the people of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of injustice. They say, ‘The LORD has forsaken the land; the LORD does not see.’ So I will not look on them with pity or spare them, but I will bring down on their own heads what they have done.” Judgment arrived to the House of God. The Babylonian army brought down Jerusalem and burned the Temple of the Lord less than 100 years after Ezekiel’s vision.
In Ezekiel 10, the glory of the LORD rose from above the cherubim and moves to the threshold of the temple, and the court is full of His radiance. The sound of the wings of the cherubim could be heard as far away as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when he speaks. Ezekiel sees a man clothed in linen, taking fire from among the “wheel within a wheel” of the Cherubim. Then the glory of the LORD moves from over the threshold of the temple and stops above the cherubim. As Ezekiel watches, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, taking their “wheel in a wheel” with them. They stop at the entrance of the east gate of the LORD’s house. And the glory of the God of Israel leaves the temple and is now above the cherubim, at the very gate recognized for thousands of years as the gate through which the coming Messiah would enter Jerusalem.
In Ezekiel 11, the Lord says this to the great “nation under God”. “8. You fear the sword, and the sword is what I will bring against you, declares the Sovereign LORD. 9. I will drive you out of the city and deliver you into the hands of foreigners and inflict punishment on you. 10. You will fall by the sword, and I will execute judgment on you at the borders of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD.” 16 “Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.’ 17 “Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.’ 18 “They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. 19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.”
The name of this month Elul, spelled with the Hebraic characters Alef-Lamed-Vav-Lamed is said to be an acronym of "Ani l'dodi v'dodi li," "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine." It is believed this period of time is set aside for the loved ones of God to search their hearts and return to their first love, as this letter to the church of Ephesus instructs in Revelation 2:2-6: “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
We close today’s lesson with Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.”
“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.”
“Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations.”
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord;”
“BE STRONG AND TAKE HEART AND WAIT FOR THE LORD.”
Saturday, August 08 2020
I WILL NOT LISTEN TO YOU... It’s certainly no coincidence that this statement of the Almighty, appointed on the 10th day of the fifth month on His calendar, the 31st day of July on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, is His eternal Word for His people. “… On the tenth day of the fifth month of the seventh year… ‘This is what the Lord God says: Have you come to ask me what you should do? I, the Lord God, tell you that, as surely as I live, I will not listen to you.’ ” Ezekiel 20:1-3.
Notice that God does NOT say He doesn't hear the prayers of His people, illustrated here by the ancient Wailing Wall of Jerusalem. He says that He chooses NOT to listen.
About 2600 years ago,10,000 of God's Chosen people, exiled in Babylon and longing for home, quickly added up to a lot of self-centered prayers and needy people. The Prophet Ezekiel understood what it was like to be in the middle of all that. One of his often used phrases was “in the midst of". He used it 116 times.
So when the prideful Jewish leaders of Judah came to Ezekiel seeking God’s wisdom for their nation, Ezekiel wasn’t surprised by what happened next. God replied to their prayer petitions with an invaluable history lesson. He reminded them of their rebellion in Egypt, again in the wilderness, once again in the Promised Land, and in their present-day Babylon. Each and every time they doubted God and decided to wave other gods in His face, He convicted them of their sin by simply removing His protective hand of covering and allowing their enemies to teach them a lesson they would never forget.
Perhaps we need a history lesson, too. There are many striking similarities between America and Israel that are brought out in Ezekiel 20. Just like our country, God delivered Israel from another land where they were in bondage and led them to a new world, full of promise. “It was the most beautiful of all countries…I gave them my laws and told them my rules… They did not keep my commands—even though people who obey my laws live because of them. They treated my special days of rest as though they were not important.”
It is no coincidence that in Hebrew, the phrase “United States” means “lands of the covenant”. Indeed, the Puritans referred to their Plymouth Colony as “Little Israel”. We would do well to remember God’s response to ancient Israel who called on His name, built their government on His covenant, but then attempted to control their national destiny by placing their faith in other avenues for deliverance. “I promised to scatter them among the nations, to send them to many different countries…I also gave them over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by." Ezekiel 20: 21, 23, 25.
God has plenty more to say in Ezekiel 20:30-31. “Since Israel did those things, speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Lord God says: You people have made yourselves filthy by doing the things your ancestors did. You have acted like a prostitute…Do you really think that I should let you come to me and ask me for advice? I am the Lord God. By my life, I swear that I will not answer your questions or give you advice.’”
So, God expresses Himself very simply here. Listening to Him means He will listen to you. Not listening to Him means He may choose not to listen to you.
And He may decide to bring judgment on a nation to call attention to the fact that He is God. "'…I scattered you among many nations, but I will gather you together and make you my special people again. And all the nations will see it. Then you will know that I am the Lord...Family of Israel, you did many evil things, and you should be destroyed because of them. But to protect my good name, I will not give you the punishment you really deserve. Then you will know that I am the Lord.' This is what the Lord God said." Ezekiel 20: 41, 44.
Contrary to popular Christian thought, God's Word teaches many times that God may not listen to our unrepentant, self-centered prayers. “If I had known of any sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened to me.” Psalm 66:18. “We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.” John 9:31. In Mark 11:25, Jesus says, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven my forgive your transgressions.” 1 Peter 3:7 even tells us that lack of respect for a wife by her husband will hinder his prayers.
1 Timothy 2:5 tells us there is only one way to a relationship with God. “There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” And God DOES listen to the prayers of Jesus. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Hebrews 5:7.
We close today's lesson with a prayer voiced by Jesus himself on our behalf. We Christians desperately need Jesus interceding for us in a way that pleases the Almighty. Notice that Jesus does not ask His Father to save His city or His nation and the innocent, righteous people in it. He asks for the unity of ALL those who believe in Him, through the glory and love that His Father has given Him, and He now gives us.
“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their (the disciples) message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." John 17:20-26
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
Wednesday, July 08 2020
WHOEVER IS FOR THE LORD, COME TO ME...“It’s a golden calf from the Bible, a false idol, the Bull of Wall Street...The piece hints at the Capital system as an idol that we have worshiped for decades and is, unfortunately, proving to be false," said the artist Errazuriz at the unveiling of his Golden Calf piñata in New York City in 2014. Filled with $1000 in single bills, the glittering, 15ft high, 24ft long beast was whacked with "Communist red" sticks until dollar bills rained down on participants.
Not far away is the 700-pound Charging Bull of Wall Street, the chosen symbol of the “power of the American people". Standing 11 feet high, 18 feet long, with his head down and nostrils flared, he does indeed look in control of the very street that doles out the fortunes of the entire world.
Whether it's the Golden Calf piñata or the Wall Street Bull, human history does have a way of repeating its fallen, prideful nature, challenging the omniscience of the Almighty through mankind's manipulation and design. For Christians, a huge red flag should be clearly visible, but we should be able to discern that it’s not the matador who’s waving it.
Prophetically, the red flag of God's Word is calling our attention to the anniversary of ancient Israel's creation of the very first Golden Calf. July 8 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, the 16th day of the 4th month on God's timeline for mankind, marks the date of ancient Israel's feeble attempt to control their national destiny through the inspiration of an image made entirely from the symbol of wealth.
Exodus 32 relates the sad account. "Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, 'Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' Aaron said to them, 'Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.' Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, 'This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.' Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, 'Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.' So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings, and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play."
"Then the Lord spoke to Moses, 'Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, 'This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’ The Lord said to Moses, 'I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.'”
At this point, it was painfully obvious that someone had to intervene. While he was on the Holy Mountain with the Lord, Moses entreated the Lord, saying, "“Why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth?' Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’ Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened."
So, Moses came down the mountain with the Ten Commandments that God had given Israel. But what he saw stopped him dead in his tracks. "When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it."
Sadly, this week marks not only the Israelite sin of worshipping the Golden Calf but the next day, July 9 on our 2020 calendar, also commemorates the destruction of the Ten Commandments tablet by Moses.
"Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, 'Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.’ And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves to him. "
Yes, when it comes to turning away from the Golden Calf, it IS that simple. We can’t serve two Gods. We will always love one more than the other. Whether we are placing our confidence in the Bull of Wall Street futures or whacking frantically on the Golden piñata of government and politics, we are definitely not moving toward the Lord.
There is always a price for waving another God in the face of the Almighty. Moses told the Levites, who chose to stand with him, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’ The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. Then Moses said, 'You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.'”
“...So Moses went back to the Lord and said, 'Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.'”
We are called to make tough decisions as Christians, which will set us apart from any others. Right this very moment, God’s Word resonates with the same authority and power as it did when Moses uttered those succinct, commanding words that separated the living from those who were destined to die in their sins...
"WHOEVER IS FOR THE LORD, COME TO ME."
Wednesday, July 01 2020
BLESSED IS THE ONE WHO TRUSTS IN THE LORD… God’s Word continues to teach us invaluable lessons and reveal His character. In the 4th month of Tammuz, June 23-July 21 on our 2020 calendar, His judgment fell upon a nation that began under His authority. This should also be a somber month for our nation, who takes pride in the phrase "One nation under God."
The watching eye illustrating this post and its timing is no coincidence. The name for the month came from a Babylonian idol made from iron with empty eye sockets filled with lead. The lead was ignited, resembling fireworks like tears falling. The nation celebrated these fabricated tears during this month just inside the gate of God's Holy Temple, essentially flaunting their national god in the Almighty's face.
It is no coincidence that the nation God once called the apple of His eye, now had their eye on another God. How quickly they had forgotten His very first commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." It probably began innocently enough, in a situation where they were exposed daily to a mindset that did not put God first and keep His commandments. Slowly, they began to revere the ways of the world around them, drawing strength through the character of the world and its mechanisms for power and unity, while professing that they were still in a covenant relationship with God Almighty.
“This is what the LORD says: 'Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-8.
Jeremiah steadfastly prophesied the Word of God through the reign of five different kings. Even though they had witnessed their nation split into a northern and southern kingdom over the choice of a king, the people chose to listen to the political rhetoric of their national leader. Instead of repenting of their sins and complicity in disobeying the Almighty as a nation, they pointed fingers at everyone else, including Jeremiah. He was attacked by his own brothers, put into stocks by a so-called fellow prophet, sent to prison by the King, and thrown into a well by the religious leaders of Judah.
But God’s statement of blessing upon Jeremiah was all it took. “Attack you they will, overcome you they can’t, for I am with you and will save you,” says the Lord in Jeremiah 1:19.
Later this was made abundantly clear to all of Judah when King Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem and ordered Jeremiah freed from prison and treated with the respect of the Babylonian nation.
“So in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s rule, on the tenth day of the tenth month, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. The army of Babylon set up their camp outside of Jerusalem. Then they built ramps all around the city walls so that they could get over the walls. The city of Jerusalem was surrounded by the army of Babylon until the eleventh year that Zedekiah was king. By the ninth day of the fourth month of that year, the hunger in the city was very bad. There was no food left for the people in the city to eat. On that day the army of Babylon broke into Jerusalem. The soldiers of Jerusalem ran away. They left the city at night…ran away toward the desert.” Jeremiah 52:4-9.
By Tammuz 9, July 1 on our 2020 calendar, Jerusalem had been under siege for two years. The people were starving, and their protectors had abandoned them. King Zedekiah of Judah was captured and forced to watch his young sons executed right in front of him. Then his eyes were torn from their sockets. He lived the rest of his life in chains in a Babylon prison. All the other royal officials of Judah were also executed. 4600 people were taken captive in Judah and Jerusalem.
Six times in the book of Jeremiah the same question is asked: "Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?" (5:19; 9:12; 13:22; 14:19; 16:10; 22:8) “And the answer will always be the same: “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and have worshiped and served other gods." Jeremiah 22:9
God’s judgment was swift and sure. He simply withdrew His hand of protection and let their enemies overtake them.
“1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you. 3 The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their ancestors to possess,’ says the LORD.”…11 I am with you and will save you,’ declares the LORD. ‘Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only in due measure; I will not let you go entirely unpunished...24 The fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come you will understand this.” Jeremiah 30
God’s plans are made crystal clear in the New Testament in Hebrews 10:15-17, which repeats Jeremiah 31:33-34 “The Holy Spirit also tells us about this. First he says, ‘This is the agreement I will make with my people in the future, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts. I will write my laws in their minds.’ Then he says, ‘I will forget their sins and never again remember the evil they have done.’”
Building on Jeremiah’s prophesy, Hebrew 10 continues in verse 18-39 “And after everything is forgiven, there is no more need for a sacrifice to pay for sins. And so, brothers and sisters, we are completely free to enter the Most Holy Place. We can do this without fear because of the blood sacrifice of Jesus. We enter through a new way that Jesus opened for us. It is a living way that leads through the curtain—Christ’s body. And we have a great priest who rules the house of God. Sprinkled with the blood of Christ, our hearts have been made free from a guilty conscience, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. So come near to God with a sincere heart, full of confidence because of our faith in Christ. We must hold on to the hope we have, never hesitating to tell people about it. We can trust God to do what he promised. ”
“…If we decide to continue sinning after we have learned the truth, then there is no other sacrifice that will take away sins. If we continue sinning, all that is left for us is a fearful time of waiting for the judgment and the angry fire that will destroy those who live against God. Whoever refused to obey the Law of Moses was found guilty from the testimony given by two or three witnesses. Such people were not forgiven. They were killed. So think how much more punishment people deserve who show their hate for the Son of God—people who show they have no respect for the blood sacrifice that began the new agreement and once made them holy or who insult the Spirit of God’s grace. We know that God said, “I will punish people for the wrongs they do; I will repay them.” And he also said, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a terrible thing to face punishment from the living God.”
“…So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, He is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if He shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not those who turn back and are lost. No, we are the people who have faith and are saved.”
BLESSED IS THE ONE WHO TRUSTS IN THE LORD, WHOSE CONFIDENCE IS IN HIM...
Saturday, June 27 2020
BE ASHAMED AND CONFOUNDED…2600 years ago, God's people petitioned Him to intervene in their national woes. They reasoned they deserved His benevolence because He had chosen them and blessed them in the past.
God did not agree. "Not for your sake do I do this,” says the Lord God, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!” Ezekiel 36:32
The prophet Ezekiel had been appointed by God to speak to Israel about their national sins of pride and self-sufficiency, which effectively brought in other allegiances and idolatrous worship, leading to their exile in Babylon. "In my thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.” Ezekiel 1:1
Yes, this lesson is right on target to shame and confound us today. June 27 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar is the fifth day of God's appointed fourth month. Add to that the fact that the Kebar River is located in today's Iraq, and is identified as the ancient Pishon River, a headwater of the river watering the Garden of Eden, and mouths should be hanging open about now...
We are hopefully on our way to being thoroughly confounded and ashamed by our own national pride and aggrandizement as we are confronted by the ancient biblical list of folks who lived in the country we know as Iraq. It reads like a Who's Who of the Bible. In fact, without the physical foundation of Iraq, there would have been no Ezekiel, no Abraham, no Isaac, no Rebekah, no Rachel, no Jonah, no Daniel, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego, and no Esther and Mordecai...and more.
The mighty warrior, Nimrod, ruled Babylon from there and probably helped build the Tower of Babel nearby. It is there that Genesis 11:9 records the first biblical usage of "confound". "Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth."
It's really confounding to realize that without God's Omniscient Confounding in the first place, there would have been no need for the Pentecost Holy Spirit tongues of fire, uniting and equipping all language to manifest God's Glory and omnipotence to the whole world.
Don't close your mouth yet, because Iraq was also one of the countries gathered at Pentecost and equipped specifically for that task. Acts 2 identifies" those dwelling in Mesopotamia... declaring the wonders of God” in one tongue Mesopotamia is a Greek word referring to the region lying between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris. It points biblically to Babylon and the descendants of the Jews who stayed there after they were freed from captivity. Known today as Iraq, the disciple Thomas ministered there in the 1st century following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Today, Christians in Iraq are considered one of the oldest continuous Christian communities in the entire world.
The biblical city of Nineveh, also built by Nimrod, was the destination of Jonah's whale adventure and God's appointed revival, also recounted in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Its nearly eight miles of ancient city walls enclosed an area of 1,700 acres and took Jonah three days just to cross it. Today, the ancient ruins are in Mosul, Iraq.
Abraham's home was originally in Ur, which is also in modern-day Iraq. In neighboring Nahor, Abraham's servant found a wife, Rebekah, for his son, Isaac. Later, Isaac and Rebekah's twin son Jacob, renamed Israel by God, spent 20 years working for his chosen wife, Rachel, in Paddan, Aram, located in today's Iraq. And then he ended up with two wives. And they were sisters! Confounding, isn't it?
Daniel and his famous friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were exiled in current-day Iraq, known then as Babylon. Esther and Mordecai, along with Ezekiel, lived in exile in the area.
"Confound" is also repeated by the prophet Jeremiah 19 times in connection with God's coming judgment. One of the most thought-provoking verses, Jeremiah 51:17 says "Every man is brutish by his knowledge; every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them."
"Every founder is confounded by the graven image..." Even though God’s chosen people of Israel had followed His “Shekinah” glory cloud for 40 years and had seen the Lord’s Glory hover over the Ark of the Covenant, His presence in the temple or in the cloud became less important than the graven image of the temple or the cloud itself and their worship practices and rituals that went along with it. They began to think of the temple building and its adornments and priests as sources of holiness and glory. Since they obviously had been "confounded by the graven image", God allowed their enemies to breach the walls of Jerusalem and send them into exile.
Today, it should confound and shame us all that God's people called by His Son's Name are still looking for His glory in their country's idolatrous images like flags, government proclamations and laws, national leaders, church buildings, religious effigies, and Christian leaders and programs. Is it possible we are looking for our own glory and not the Almighty's, and in the country of our choosing?
It really should come as no surprise that the words "confound" and "confounded" are repeated 55 times to God's people in translations of His Word. "But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty." 1 Corinthians 1:27
We see the word in action, too. When we compare Ezekiel 1:26-27 “...high above on a throne was a figure like that of a man… glowing… as if full of fire… and brilliant light surrounded him” with Revelation 1:13-17, as John writes, "…I turned and saw… someone like a son of man… his eyes were like blazing fire… his face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.”
In Ezekiel 1:28, the prophet describes the brilliant light surrounding the man "like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him." In Revelation 4: 2, 4 we are confounded again with these words. “…There before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it… A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne."
In the very first chapter of Ezekiel, he sees four living creatures below the throne of one who had "a figure like that of a man" with “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord." In Revelation 4, John describes the figures of four living creatures around the throne, who never stop saying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." The twenty-four elders join the living creatures, singing "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being."
Combine all this with the startling illumination of John 1:1-3, 14: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made...The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
Can there be any doubt that this figure of a man Ezekiel saw, and the one on the throne in Revelation are one and the same? Yes, Ezekiel was literally standing downstream of Eden on the Kebar River, exiled by the world, but right where he needed to be to see the glory of Jesus Himself and hear Him speak.
Listen as He speaks to us, too, right this very minute in Ezekiel 2: "He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”
"Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe." Yes, we must experience lament and mourning and woe to be ashamed and confounded by God's Word. But that's only the beginning...
"You also, as living stones, are built up into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Therefore also it is contained in the scripture, 'Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious: and he that believes on him shall not be confounded." 1 Peter 2:6 repeating Isaiah 28:16.
BE ASHAMED AND CONFOUNDED to be able to SEE Jesus in all His glory.
BE ASHAMED AND CONFOUNDED NO LONGER when you STAND in His glory and bear His witness, as Ezekiel did...
Sunday, June 14 2020
FOR SUCH A TME AS THIS…It all began with a government official who had an intense personal prejudice and hatred for a group of people who had become part of his nation. He used his position of governance to schedule their total annihilation. God intervened, prompting an unlikely savior of the people through these timeless words: "And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
The edict had gone out from the Persian Prime Minister Haman for the death of every single exiled person from the tribe of Judah who remained in Persia. “…The command was to kill all the Jews on a single day. The day was to be the 13th day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar. And the command was to take everything that belonged to the Jews.” Esther 3:13
In response, the beautiful young Jewish woman, Esther, chosen to marry the Persian King, Xerxes, was encouraged by her Cousin Mordecai to go to the King and intervene on behalf of her people. Mordecai sent her a letter penned with the legendary question which called her forth to save her people. "And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Born with the Hebrew name Hadassah, which represents righteousness, Esther certainly lived up to her name when she went to King Xerxes without being summoned, an offense punishable by death. “So I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!" ( Esther 4:16)
Esther spent 3 days fasting and in prayer before stepping forward and interceding for the Jewish people, also setting a trap for the wicked Haman who had issued the edict. As it is with all evil, haughty schemers, Haman overlooked one crucial detail. Esther trusted God with her life and depended on Him alone for her deliverance.
Fearlessly, she revealed her hidden Jewish heritage, and begged for mercy for herself and her people. She successfully interceded with King Xerxes and secured the lives of the remnant Jewish nation "What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you—up to half my kingdom!" (Esther 5:3)
Esther didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to profit for herself. For her, there was only one course of action, and that was to submit to the will of God Almighty, whatever that might be. She began her fight to save her people by being willing to sacrifice her life. Does anyone see Jesus here?!?
A little over 2 months later, on the 23rd day of God’s 3rd month, the 15th day of June on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, an edict by King Xerxes that had previously doomed the remaining Jewish people to death, was reversed, and the very same King gave the Jews the royal right to defend themselves and to pay their enemies back.
“…on the 23rd day of the third month, the month of Sivan. They wrote out all of Mordecai’s commands to the Jews, and to the satraps, the governors, and officials of the 127 provinces…The king’s commands in the letters said this: The Jews in every city have the right to gather together to protect themselves. They have the right to ruin, kill, and completely destroy any army from any group who might attack them and their women and children. And the Jews have the right to take and destroy the property of their enemies. The day set for the Jews to do this was the 13th day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar. They were permitted to do this in all King Xerxes’ provinces. A copy of the letter with the king’s command was to be sent out. It became a law in every province. They announced it to all the people of every nation living in the kingdom. They did this so that the Jews would be ready for that special day. They would be allowed to pay their enemies back. The messengers hurried out, riding on the king’s horses. The king commanded them to hurry…” (Esther 8:9-14)
Less than 9 months following the King's announcement of the scheduled assault, the Jewish people routed their enemy when they attacked. Chapter 9 of Esther tells the story and this one sentence stands out. "...No one could stand against them, because the people of all other nationalities were afraid of them."
God intervened in the affairs of mankind, bringing his chosen servant, Esther, to the place where she would exalt Him by trusting Him with her life. As a result, the people of Israel defeated their enemies in 2 days. Esther became Queen of Persia, the largest empire on the earth during her lifetime. Mordecai became preeminent among the Jews, second in ruling rank to King Xerxes himself.
The most unlikely of saviors stepped forward and in just a few short months, delivered their nation from certain destruction. And the devilish Hamen was executed on the very gallows he had built for the public execution of Mordecai.
FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS…
The song “Gallows” by Jess Ray closes today’s lesson perfectly.
"Someone’s on the prowl, trying to take us down
But we ain’t giving up now.
A liar and a thief, coming after you and me
But we ain’t giving up now,
The harder the wind will blow,
The deeper our roots will go.
And the devil is gonna hang,
Oh the devil is gonna hang,
The devil is gonna hang from his own gallows.
Though the waters try to drown,
And the flames they surround
Oh We ain’t giving up now.
Even though we may tread through the valley of death
Oh We ain’t giving up now.
The harder the wind will blow,
The deeper our roots will go.
And the devil is gonna hang,
Oh the devil is gonna hang,
The devil is gonna hang from his own gallows.
If you’re stumbling in the dark,
Run your hands against the walls
Find every window, and every door,
Throw them open, throw them open.
In will flood a blinding light,
And it will chase away the night
Even if you shield your eyes.
Let it pour in, let it pour in, LET IT POUR IN
The harder the wind blows,
The deeper our roots will go.
And the devil is gonna hang,
Oh the devil is gonna hang,
The devil is gonna hang from his own gallows.
THE DEVIL IS GONNA HANG FROM HIS OWN GALLOWS."
Saturday, May 30 2020
BRING TWO LOAVES OF BREAD…There are two loaves of bread, side by side, on the offering table to the Lord today. This unusual offering was appointed at this time of the year, around the 6th to 9th day of God's 3rd month, May 29 to 31 on our Gregorian calendar. Since both loaves are leavened, they appear to be spiritually significant as sinful types of mankind. But this is a heavenly offering...
We are all at the feet of Jesus on this one, as our “Rabboni” instructs us on “heavenly” leaven through one of His shortest parables. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” The Parable of the Leaven, repeated in Luke13:20–21, immediately follows the Parable of the Mustard Seed. Both share the spiritual theme of the Kingdom of God growing from small, even microscopic beginnings to incredible spiritual size and dimension in its fulfillment.
Why two loaves of leavened bread? 3500 years ago, on Mount Sinai, God’s Spirit descended on Israel in fire and thunder or “kolot”, which means voices or languages, when the nation covenanted with Him by accepting the Ten Commandments. At the same time of the year 2000 years ago, on Mount Zion, fiery tongues of the Holy Spirit enabled individual Jews and Gentiles who covenanted with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, to speak and understand other languages.
“On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on that very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai.” Exodus 19:1 tells us the Israelites arrived approximately 44-45 days after the Exodus, which occurred on the fifteenth day of the first month (Numbers 33:3). Further timing in the chapter points to additional days before God thunderously spoke His covenant to His chosen people, putting us approximately 49-50 days from the beginning of their Exodus.
God’s Holy Days had not yet been appointed, but for millennia, Jews have celebrated this timing, calling it “Shavuot” which means “weeks”, and counting it to occur at the end of the 7-week +1 day counting period appointed by God. It represents a seven-week harvest period, the early harvest, and is sometimes also referred to as the Feast of Weeks.
The beginning counting of Weeks in the New Testament was initiated by Jesus when He was raised from the dead, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20) The gifting of the Holy Spirit to Christians 50 days later, known as Pentecost, empowered His followers to not only keep God’s Commandments, but to understand them in different languages, enabling them to teach them to ALL nations, greatly increasing their numbers and influence.
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”—Acts 2:1-4
The Almighty expressed Himself succinctly in His instructions on the offering He desired on this ancient appointed and anointed date. “‘From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord. From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the Lord. Present with this bread seven male lambs, each a year old and without defect, one young bull and two rams. They will be a burnt offering to the Lord, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings—a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. Then sacrifice one male goat for a sin offering and two lambs, each a year old, for a fellowship offering. The priest is to wave the two lambs before the Lord as a wave offering, together with the bread of the firstfruits. They are a sacred offering to the Lord for the priest. On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.” Leviticus 23:15-22
Viewed through different eyes, and known by different names, this appointed time, birthed in the spoken and written Word of the Almighty on Mount Sinai, was exponentially enlarged and equipped through His Word Incarnate on Mount Zion, destined to reach the ends of the earth as Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24:14. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He replied, as He stood on Mount Zion, “The most important one…is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 2:29-31
Indeed, if one consolidates the Ten Commandments given in Deuteronomy 5, with the first 4 being about our relationship with God, and the last 6 being about our relationship with our neighbor, we have exactly the Words of Jesus.
Listen now to the identical words of the Almighty shortly after Israel was reminded of Him speaking the Ten Commandments in thunder to them on Mount Sinai: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.” Deuteronomy 6:4-6
Jesus was the plan all along. And He has been spiritually right beside us all this time, even during the Exodus. “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers 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.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-2
We close today's lesson with these powerful words about Jesus. “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity." Ephesians 2:14-16
BRING TWO LOAVES OF BREAD…
Wednesday, May 20 2020
WHY DO YOU STAND HERE LOOKING INTO THE SKY? We Christians spend most of our lives consumed with the world around us. How can it be that even the phenomenal events during the 40 days after Jesus’s resurrection seem to be lost in the shuffle of our pandemic woes? If the disciples were here today, they would surely excitedly tell us these were the most precious days of their entire lives!
We NEED this timely lesson from the Almighty to remind us that just as the disciples treasured these divinely appointed days, so should we. Counting forward 40 days from His resurrection on the 16th day of God's 1st month, April 10 on our 2020 calendar, would pinpoint around May 19-20 as the anniversary of Jesus' ascension into heaven.
God's Word records the Resurrected Son of God sharing, worshipping, and performing miracles to as many as 500 of His disciples in Jerusalem and the Galilee during 11 separate occasions.
His more intimate encounters include the description of "Doubting Thomas" as he put his finger into the nail hole on Jesus hand. Still incredulous, he put his entire hand into the wound in the side of His Lord. "Then He (Jesus) said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put in into my side. Stop doubling and believe.'" John 20:27.
Jesus even tucked in a special message to us 21st century believers when He said to Thomas, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. John 20:29
Who can forget the poignant pictures in John 21 of the miraculous catch Jesus gave several of the disciples after they had fished all night and netted nothing. Jesus even stayed around to make breakfast for the all of them from their catch. Afterwards, He gave Peter, the disciple who had denied Him three times, the opportunity to say that He loved Jesus, not once, but three times…
The "disciple whom Jesus loved", closed the book of John with this astute observation of Jesus' incredible 40 days: "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." John 21:25
Yes, this second month on God's calendar is the divinely appointed time for Jesus to appear to His disciples after His Resurrection. It is also the month just before the Pentecost fulfillment of His incredible promise that He would not leave us alone as orphans, but would send us “…another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17.
The book of Acts records the last words of Jesus, spoken from the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives at Bethany. "’...you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’” Acts 1:8-10.
Indeed, why do we stand here looking into the vast expanse of this world, seeing only our current woes! Can we not see exactly what has happened, as it was appointed 3500 years ago in Leviticus 23? The Jewish babe born in Bethlehem as foretold by the prophets, was condemned to die on the Holy day of Passover by the same religious folk who claimed to serve the Almighty God of the Universe. The appointed and anointed Lamb of God conquered death, rose from the grave, and became the Holy and acceptable Firstfruit offering for the entire timeline of mankind, guaranteeing our future resurrection. And this same Jesus ascended to heaven as a physical man bearing the bodily scars of His death as proof of His resurrection!
John 14:26 also says He has gifted us with the powerful presence of an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom He promised “…will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
And that is exactly what is happening at this very moment. The Holy Spirit is reminding us that just as the disciples witnessed Jesus returning to heaven, so shall the people of God soon witness the Son of Man returning to rule and reign over this earth, His Kingdom, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords! It makes everything else going on in this world pale in comparison!
WHY DO YOU STAND HERE LOOKING INTO THE SKY?
Thursday, May 14 2020
THEY BURIED THE PEOPLE THAT HAD A CRAVING…3500 years ago, during May 14-17 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, God sent a plague upon a nation who claimed to worship Him but were never satisfied with His direction and provision. God's Word records many of them complained to death, literally. “Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving...They buried the people who had the craving.” Numbers 11:4,34.
The Hebrew phrase “strong craving” is translated “lusted a lust”. Of course, we Christians will protest that we don’t lust. But that isn't true, and we all know it. Even if we don’t get mired knee-deep in sexual desires, we salivate over a mouth-watering steak or make the statement that a favored object is “to die for”. Nowadays, we also lust for our lost lives and freedoms, and want them back, without considering that it may cost us more than we dream possible.
Without realizing it, restoring our former lifestyle and worship can quickly become our main focus, and effectively, our idols. We need to proceed cautiously. We need God's Word to remind us that the Israelites' craving could have seemed as innocent and justified, too. But in the end many of God’s chosen people were severely chastised to the point of death and buried in unmarked graves in the Wilderness. They never made it to the Promised Land.
The Almighty has appointed this specific scripture for our review during the next few days. In fact, everything that has ever happened and will happen is designated on His calendar for the world He created. According to His appointment, May 14 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar is the 20th day of the second month on God's calendar. It marked the beginning of the Israelites journey to Paran, where many died because of their cravings and complaints about what they had to give up to follow God's direction..
“On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle of the covenant law. Then the Israelites set out from the Desert of Sinai and traveled from place to place until the cloud came to rest in the Desert of Paran..." Numbers 10:11-13
The Hebrew word “Numbers” actually means “in the Wilderness”. Even as God led them by the movement of His mighty presence in the Cloud of Glory, His people grumbled and doubted Him. Just one year earlier, God had provided manna and water to sustain and nourish their physical lives. https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/2957177574362412
Not long after, He set up the Tabernacle of Testimony, the very picture of the death of His Own Son as sacrifice for their sins, to meet their spiritual needs. But their hunger for the ways of the world was seldom satiated by God’s provision.
Remember that the Israelites set out on the 20th day of the second month, May 14 on our 2020 calendar. They traveled 3 days following the Ark of the Covenant and the Cloud of the Lord, probably arriving in Paran on the 22nd or 23rd day of the second month on God’s calendar, May 16 or 17.
It wasn’t long before God’s chosen people started murmuring and complaining, even though He had delivered them from bondage to a corrupt government, just as they had asked. "Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when He heard them, His anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp." Numbers 11:1.
The murmuring didn’t stop. Read these excerpts from the rest of the chapter: "And the people of Israel also wept again and said, 'Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.' "
"Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. The people went about and gathered it and ground it in handmills or beat it in mortars and boiled it in pots and made cakes of it. And the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it."
"Moses heard the people weeping throughout their clans, everyone at the door of his tent. And the anger of the Lord blazed hotly, and Moses was displeased. Moses said to the Lord...'Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, “Give us meat, that we may eat…”
"…Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘…say to the people, “Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat...You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before him, saying, ‘Why did we come out of Egypt?’ ”
"But Moses said, ‘The people among whom I am number six hundred thousand on foot, and you have said, “I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month!” Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, and be enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, and be enough for them?’ ”
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Is the Lord's hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.’ ”
"...Then a wind from the Lord sprang up, and it brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day's journey on this side and a day's journey on the other side, around the camp, and about two cubits above the ground. And the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail…While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck down the people with a very great plague. Therefore the name of that place was called Kibroth-Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had the craving."
Be careful what you ask for, and what you think you absolutely must have. God may give it to you by the bucketloads to the point where you will literally gag to death from what you prayed for.
If we have joined the majority of "God's chosen" still fixated on what WE want, instead of what GOD wants for us, even in simple basics like food and lifestyle, we are part of what His Word identifies as “the rabble”. The Hebrew transliteration used here is “asaphsuph" and it is the only place it is used in the entire Bible. It's a a word specifically used to identify the unfaithful “rift-raft” whose cravings for the things of this world spread like wildfire through the congregation of God’s chosen people.
Cravings come in all shapes and sizes, but they always reflect our deceitful hearts. Nowadays, it seems our inner craving is to pursue the freedoms that we deem are rightfully due us as citizens of this country. Many are justifying this by asserting that our worship of the Almighty is hampered and lacking because these perceived freedoms have been taken away. If that is true, perhaps it’s time we see our buildings, programs, and worship grandeur as idols that God is revealing right now through the power of His Word.
Indeed, we Christians today stand squarely in an idolatry issue, just as God's chosen people of Israel did. They had prayed for God’s deliverance but were fearful and unwilling to have their lifestyle and destiny rearranged by God’s direction, just as we are. Perhaps during this time during our own COVID19 pandemic, God is using this memorial on His calendar to warn us that we need to bury our cravings before they bury us, just like they did many Israelites.
The harsh reality is we all deserve the same penalty the rabble of Israel received. But The Almighty has always had a plan in place. He loved us so much He sent His Only Begotten Son "..so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
So now, we won’t end up like the Israelites in the wilderness of Kibroth-Hattaavah, which literally means "Graves of Craving".
Or will we? The choice is ours.
“Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving...They buried the people who had the craving”
Saturday, May 09 2020
IN THE MORNING YOU WILL SEE THE GLORY OF THE LORD…Lately we Christians have been reduced to just plain-old grumbling about our current circumstances. It is no coincidence that God Almighty has appointed this lesson for us at exactly this time. Like the ancient Israelites, we have been crying out to God for deliverance, and our patience is fading fast. Listen now as the Lord speaks: “… In the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him…” Exodus 16:6
3500 years ago on the 15th day of God's second month, May 9, on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, a million or so Israelites arrived in the Desert of Sin after a traumatic introduction to a plague that took the lives of many Egyptians.
Though the plague itself was meant to deliver them from toiling their lives away under an oppressive government, which was exactly what they had prayed to be delivered from, they quickly decided that all the changes they were faced with were just too much to handle. Even though it was obvious there were under the protection and direction of the Almighty Himself, they were being asked to leave their old life behind and follow Him out into totally uncharted territory. After only a month of following God Himself and witnessing the miracles He was providing for their deliverance, they were reduced to second guessing His leadership, and grumbling, demanding their old lives back.
“The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.’” Exodus 16:1-3.
After crying out to God for deliverance, they began their exodus from Egypt just hours after the Death Angel miraculously “passed over” their firstborn. The Red Sea literally parted so they could escape the pursuing Egyptians, and then thundered back over, drowning their enemy. Then God led them to the Desert of Shur, where He not only provided water for them, but sweetened it when they complained that it was too bitter. The Almighty then provided an oasis of rest in Elim, right in the middle of a vast desert, complete with 70 palm trees and 12 springs of water.
They certainly had ample time to reflect on how blessed they were to be following the Almighty and be on the receiving end of all those miracles! Instead, after leaving their oasis and arriving in the Desert of Sin, their grumbling only intensified. “Sin”, pronounced “Seen”, is a Hebrew transliteration of the word “thorn”. Indeed, God’s provision was quickly viewed as a thorn in their religious side. Can we hear God’s eternal Word as it crosses the chasm of time to convict us of our own 2020 religious “thorn”?
‘In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?... You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.’… While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.” Exodus 16:6, 8,10.
How incredible would it be to have a Christian leader say to us, “In the morning you will see the glory of the Lord…” 3500 years later, Exodus 16 is still about the glory of the Lord, and our response.
Exodus 16:4, 22-23 explains that the Lord sent manna and commanded the Sabbath. “Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days... Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. He said to them, “This is what the Lord commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord.' ”
Yes, it is during the Exodus that the very first Sabbath day of rest is biblically appointed for mankind. From this point forward in our lesson, you will need to follow this timing very closely to receive the full blessing of God’s provision.
A week of time was appointed, and during that week the ONLY day of rest from collecting manna was the 7th day counted forward from the 15th day of the second month, noted in Exodus 16:1. That would put the first Sabbath observed by God’s chosen people as the 22nd day of the 2nd month.
The weeklong Feast of Unleavened Bread, like the Passover, was revealed to the Israelites at the time of the Exodus (Exodus 12-13) The Israelites were delivered from Egypt on the 15th day, but in the first month on God’s calendar as recorded in Exodus 12 and Numbers 33. That 15th day of the first month was also appointed by The Almighty as the first day of Unleavened Bread and designated a Sabbath in Leviticus 23:6-7.
That means that Sabbath days were reckoned back then by the lunar cycle of each month, and not by the count of 7 days. Each month is 29-30 days long, which makes it impossible for the Sabbath to fall on the 15th day in both of two consecutive months, counting by 7's. Each month counted in that same manner every single month means the Sabbath days were appointed on the 8th, 15th, 22, and 29th. The 1st day of the month was called New Moon Day in 1 Samuel 20:5,18, 24, 2 Chronicles 2:4, 31:3, Ezekiel 46:1-3, and considered a consecrated, holy day with worship and sacrifices. Isaiah 66:23 states the New Moon Day and the Sabbath Day will remain appointments in the New Kingdom of Jesus.
Let’s pause here and receive a true blessing from the precision appointments of the Almighty. Remember we learned that the Israelites left Egypt on the 15th day of the first month, the first day of God’s appointed Holy Week called the Feast of Unleavened Bread, beginning and ending on a Sabbath. We also learned that Moses said on the evening of the 15th, a Sabbath, “In the morning you will see the glory of the Lord”. The next morning would have been the 16th day of the 2nd month.
God’s commandment in Leviticus 23:10-14 for the same time period during the 1st month is to bring the first grain harvested, also known as Firstfruits, wave it on the day AFTER the Sabbath so God would accept it as a pleasing sacrifice on behalf of the people’s sins. Also offered was a year old lamb without defect as a sacrifice, together with flour mixed with olive oil, and a cup of wine. “This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.”
Here we clearly see the sacrificial Lamb of God together with the unleavened bread, which Jesus refers to as “my body” and the cup of wine as "the new covenant in my blood".
On the 16th day of the first month, Jesus, the Unleavened Bread, rose from the dead, from the earth itself, just as the unleavened bread did for the Israelites on the morning of the 16th day of the 2nd month. “I will rain down bread from heaven for you…At twilight you will eat meat. In the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord Your God…In the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost appeared on the desert floor.” Exodus 16:4,13-14
Yes, in the midst of all our grumbling and fear of the unknown, we can clearly see Jesus, having come down from heaven, seeded in the ground as man, rising from the earth, able to sustain and nourish us all the way to the Promised Land. In fact, Jesus Himself is saying to us right now, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever.” John 6:51
What more do we need?
IN THE MORNING YOU WILL SEE THE GLORY OF THE LORD…
Sunday, April 26 2020
ON THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD IT WILL BE PROVIDED…Easily the most hotly contested and desired real estate on planet Earth, Mount Moriah’s 4000 year history is literally, out of this world. When Abraham faithfully obeyed God’s call to sacrifice his son on the mount, a ram was provided, and Isaac was spared. After hearing the words of the Lord on the mountain and the gift of the ram, Abraham made this statement in Genesis 22:14: “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided”.
2000 years later when Jesus, the Firstborn Son of God Almighty, was NOT spared, He became God’s appointed sacrifice for the sins of the entire human race on the very same “mountain of the LORD”.
Today, Mount Moriah is not actually a single mountain top, but an elongated ridge that rises on the southern end of current day Jerusalem and continues past the Muslim Temple Mount. It stretches northeast past the present Damascus Gate of the Old City. Historically, the location and name of Mount Zion was used interchangeably with Mount Moriah to refer to the area of the Temple Mount where the Dome of the Rock Shrine currently sits.
About 1000 years after Abraham climbed Mount Moriah, 2 Samuel 24 records that King David purchased the very same site. After he built an altar to the Lord as instructed by an angel, King David gathered together a fortune in materials to build an elaborate temple to the Lord to worship Him there.
David wrote this to his son, Solomon, who would later complete the temple: “…I have taken great pains to provide for the temple of the Lord a hundred thousand talents of gold, a million talents of silver, quantities of bronze and iron too great to be weighed, and wood and stone. And you may add to them. You have many workers: stonecutters, masons and carpenters, as well as those skilled in every kind of work in gold and silver, bronze and iron—craftsmen beyond number. Now begin the work, and the Lord be with you…” 2Chronicles 22:13-16.
100,000 talents of gold, at 75 pounds a talent, adds up to a whopping 7,500,000 pounds of gold alone. Today, gold is trading at $1,750 an ounce, which would make 100,000 talents of gold worth $210,000,000,000.00 That’s 210 billion dollars! At the current trading price of $15.17 per ounce for silver, 1,000,000 talents of silver or 75,000,000 lbs, that’s another staggering $18,204,000,000.00 dollars’ worth of silver. That’s 18 billion, 204 million dollars! That’s a total of 228,204,000,000 in gold and silver alone, by current prices. And that’s not even counting the bronze and iron in amounts too great to be weighed!
“Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David. He began building on the second day of the second month in the fourth year of his reign.” 2Chronicles 3:1-2.
This is certainly timely scripture for us today. If we move past the confines of this world, and follow God’s calendar, using the first month as He appointed in Exodus 12:1, April 26 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar was the second day of His second month, the 3000th or so anniversary for the beginning construction of Solomon’s historic temple.
According to 1 Kings 6:38, it was built on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem and it took 7 years to complete. King Solomon prayed these words at the dedication ceremonies of the temple in 1 Kings 8:27-28. “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.”
Solomon was right. His Temple couldn’t contain the Almighty. The grand and glorious site was destroyed and rebuilt again, with work also beginning again in God’s appointed 2nd month. Solomon’s question “Will God really dwell on earth?” would be answered over 900 years later with the dedication of the infant Jesus in the rebuilt Second Temple. Later, during a Passover, teaching in the same Temple, He would amaze religious sages at the age of 12 with his teachings. “I must be about my Father’s business…” in Luke 2:49.
At the beginning of His three-year ministry many years later, Jesus again got the attention of the Jews near another Passover feast when He drove the money changers with their sacrifices from the Temple, in John 2:13-17. He announced to one and all, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up again in three days.”
Jesus also expressed His great love and grief for His people, and predicted the demise of the very Temple and city they stood in. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’" Matthew 23:37-39.
Fulfilling the words of Jesus, the Romans once again destroyed the Temple in 70AD. Nothing physically remains now except the Western Wall, which was built as a retaining wall on the mountain for the large stone structures that were built on the top. Known as the “Wailing Wall”, it has been a place for prayer for the Jews for many centuries.
Indeed, The Almighty has never really stopped building temples, the dwelling place of God on earth. Jesus said of Himself in Luke 11:31: “Now one greater than Solomon is here…” And He’s paid the ultimate price for His Temple, more precious than $228,204,000,000 in gold and silver!
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.
Heaven on earth?!? Yes, the veil of the Temple has been rent, and mankind has been invited in to testify that Jesus is the Son of God! “When Jesus died, the curtain in the Temple was torn into two pieces. The tear started at the top and tore all the way to the bottom. The army officer who was standing there in front of the cross saw what happened when Jesus died. The officer said, ‘This man really was the Son of God!’” Mark 15:38-39.
It’s interesting to note that the officer could see the outer curtain of the temple as it ripped in two. There is only one place where this would have been physically possible: from the top of Golgotha, on Mount Moriah. Located only 1000 or so feet from the northern ancient Sheep Gate where the lamb sacrifices entered, it fits with God’s pattern for the location of His perfect sacrifice. “And he shall kill it (the sacrifice) on the side of the altar northward before the LORD.” Leviticus 1, 11.
Still, there is absolutely no way to know exactly where Jesus was crucified and buried. And quite honestly, if there were, religious folks would have enshrined the location by now, just like they have done to countless other Biblical sites. But isn’t it just like the Father to remove from our midst any possible physical worship that would detract from true worship “in spirit and truth”!
There have also been questions posed as to exactly how much of Jerusalem the Mount of Mariah actually encompasses, and whether Jesus was technically crucified within its boundaries. But for those of us who have learned how mindful God is of the smallest of details, we already know the answers. And we don't need physical proof to back it up. Because the ultimate sacrifice for all the sins of every single human who has ever walked planet Earth was provided on God’s chosen mount, once and for all, just like Genesis 22:14 pronounced.
Heaven on earth!
ON THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD IT WILL BE PROVIDED.
Saturday, April 25 2020
EVERY MAN BY NAME...The Lord said to Abraham in Genesis 15:5: “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them…so shall your offspring be.” Today, astronomers estimate there are ten thousand billion trillion stars. That’s a 1 followed by 25 zeros and lots of exclamation points. 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000!!!
We soar even higher into the heavens as we read Psalm 147:4 “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” This teaches us something very important about the Almighty. He alone creates and decides how it will all come together. And absolutely no detail is overlooked. His creations are so precious that He calls them individually by name, even the stars.
Indeed, every single human on planet Earth is so important to Him that right at this very moment, He knows the exact number of hairs on their head! “And even the very hairs on your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid, you are worth more…” Matthew 10:30-31.
Yes, God is all about order and details. And love. And mercy. The evening of April 24th on our 2020 Gregorian calendar began the 1st day of God’s second month. This month is all about counting and numbers. Noah’s Ark also completed its 40-day journey near the end of this month. We count forward 40 days from Christ’s resurrection in the first month to His ascension into heaven during the 2nd month. We also count forward 50 days from Jesus' resurrection to the date of the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, in the 3rd month.
Also on the very first day of God's appointed 2nd month, God ordered Moses to begin a census of the Israelites in the desert. The Almighty is so detail oriented that He began to record this very census in the 1st verse of the 1st chapter of the Old Testament book called “Numbers”.
“The Lord spoke to Moses in the tent of meeting in the Desert of Sinai on the first day of the second month of the second year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. He said: Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one. You and Aaron are to count according to their divisions all the men in Israel who are twenty years old or more and able to serve in the army.” Numbers 1:1-3.
There is a lot to be learned in these opening verses. A chosen group of people, named Israel by God Himself, was called into the presence of their Maker and recognized for their individual worth. The Almighty had specific plans in mind for them and an appointed destiny. And that destiny would include waging a fierce battle against their enemy.
We Christians can look back at this Exodus and literally see the face of Jesus Christ over and over again. We see Him as the very reason Israel was freed from Egypt in the first place. He is the Passover Lamb whose blood that was applied to the doorposts of their homes so that the death angel would “pass over” them. He is the sacrificial lamb that was eaten that evening to sustain them during their coming wilderness journey. He is the manna from heaven that sprang forth from the earth to nourish them during their entire 40-year journey. And He is the living water that flowed from the desert rock to quench their insatiable thirst. In fact, God's word tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 that we all partake of the same heavenly nourishment the Israelites did over 3500 years ago!
"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.”
Thanks to God's powerful Word as it has traversed the history of mankind, we’re beginning to see where our weaknesses as Christians REALLY lie, and who the enemy really is. And it isn’t COVID19. “Do not be idolaters… We should not test Christ… And do not grumble… These… are warnings for us… So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.”
The journey continues. And so do the struggles. The Exodus of the Old Testament is pointing us toward the final Exodus of the New Testament. And in between there are what? TEMPTATIONS? And no one is immune? And just when you’re tempted to be tempted, He provides a way out?!?
Sadly, because they resisted the Lord and fell victim to their temptations, very few of the men listed in the original census of the Israelites made it to the Promised Land. Numbers 14:30-34 recounts God's judgment for the rebellion of the Israelites.
"Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. But you--your bodies will fall in this desert. Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert. For forty years--one year for each of the forty days you explored the land--you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.'
We close today's lesson with this final truth. One day there will be a final census to end all censuses. And if your name is not included in that census book…
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:11-15
“Take a census…listing every man by name…one by one.”
Saturday, April 18 2020
ON THE 24TH DAY OF THE FIRST MONTH, April 18, 2020…This calendar date appointed in God’s Word, April 18 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, was significant enough to be recorded in the book of the Bible announcing apocalyptic events connected with the second coming of King Jesus.
It is no coincidence that God’s Word is crossing the chasm of time itself, with a vitally important message. We need to be counting the days, but we need to count focused upon God’s timeline, not our own. That conscious move on our part will cancel out COVID19 and deliver us to the truth of JESUS20. View God’s calendar for this month: https://fontanacommunitychurch.org/abib_2020
“On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris…” Daniel 10:4.
The Tigris River is identified in Genesis 2:14 as the third of the four headwaters coming from the river flowing straight out of the Garden of Eden itself. It still flows today not far from the ancient city of Babylon near Bagdad, Iraq.
Imagine the aging prophet Daniel standing on the banks of a river that literally once flowed from Eden, eagerly waiting God Almighty's direction. An elderly man in his 80's, he had been taken prisoner when the remnant nation of Judah was conquered by Babylon. Forced to live in exile in a foreign nation since his teens, his trust in God had always remained unshakable, even when he faced certain death at the hands of his captors.
For 60 some years, his testimony of faith and righteous wisdom had influenced ruling kings as well as fellow prisoners in exile. Still today, the book of Daniel is an awesome example on how to live as a Christian witness in a pagan society.
Because of this witness, the current king had just given him and his fellow exiles permission to return to their homeland. You’d think 'ole Daniel would have already been on his way back to Jerusalem. But he wasn’t. He was standing on the banks of the historic Tigris River, near his exile home, deeply troubled by a prior vision of a coming great and terrible war.
“I, Daniel was exhausted and lay ill for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding…The end will come like a flood. War will continue until the end and desolations have been decreed….he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” Daniel 8:27; 9:26-27.
The timing of this lesson is so right on target for us right now it should make our hair stand on end. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we are all deeply disturbed by the instability of the world we live in. Every single day, some unsettling global event is reported by the news media. Right now, we really need to be reminded that God's timing is perfect, We won't despair, and like Daniel, we will stand firm in our humility and our faith. And when we least expect it….
“I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like crysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and leg like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.” Daniel 10:5-6.
The Hebrew word for crysolite is "tarshish". Mineralogy and Botany of the Bible describes it. "Tarshish, the chrysolite, is a crystal-like precious stone of the quartz kind, of a glassy fracture. The prevailing color is yellowish-green, and pistachio-green of every variety and degree of shade, but always with a yellow and gold luster. It is completely diaphanous (sheer, translucent) and has a strong double refraction."
Ezekiel uses the same word "crysolite" to describe his vision of the "wheel within a wheel" attached to the living creatures as the glory of the Lord is revealed to him. He also was standing along a Babylonian river, the Kebar, in the opening chapter of his prophetic book. "... High above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him." Ezekiel 1:26-28.
John also described a heavenly being just like this in his vision in Revelation 1:12-16. “And when I turned I saw… someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.”
Indeed, there are undeniable similarities that point to the fact that this heavenly being that spoke to Daniel in chapter 10 was Jesus Himself! Over 500 years later, Jesus even recounted Daniel's earlier troubling vision to his disciples on the Mount of Olives. “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation’, spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…” Matthew 24:15.
This same disturbing vision of Daniel that Jesus recounted also came with a startling prediction of the very timeline that Jesus was standing in when He repeated it. “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’"
The phrase translated here as "Anointed One" is the Hebrew noun "Mashah", which is our word "Messiah". Yes, with uncanny accuracy, the "seven sevens and sixty-two sevens" prophecy of Daniel 9:25 pointed straight to the first coming of Jesus in the restored Jerusalem as "Messiah", some 490 years later! It was also around the same date, the 24th day of the first month, that Jesus appeared to His disciples in John 20:26.
There's more, as the rest of the passage seems to give clues to the timing of the second coming of the Anointed One, Jesus the Messiah, who will rule and reign over the Earth!
Daniel continues in 10:10-14: “ So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling. Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”
Don’t you think Daniel had been longing for years to hear those words! “…your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.”
But don’t forget the reason Daniel’s words were heard. “Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God…”
Yes, before we even think about looking for apocalyptic wisdom in the prophecy of times to come, we desperately need to learn how to shut down the influence of the enemy so that we can clearly see God's perfect appointments when they are revealed. “Apocalypse” means revealing. God’s Kingdom will be revealed “on earth as it is in heaven” When Jesus refers to Himself as “son of man”, it goes back to the words of the prophet Daniel.
Daniel is given to us in God's Word today as the perfect example to follow. He lived his life, daily, on God's calendar, even though he was in exile in a foreign land and who revered their own national calendar and events. Also he didn't aspire to be a “mega-Christian", running around doing all the things he possibly could to cement his Christian status and celebrity. He just quietly and unceremoniously waited for God to reveal Himself and direct Him.
As He waited, what did He do? He remained steadfast in His faith in the face of his enemy. He fasted, he prayed and he was humble before his Lord. He looked to God for strength and inner peace. He went about his duties faithfully. Even when he was given permission to go home to Jerusalem, he didn’t run off with all the other Christians to reclaim something they thought was always rightfully theirs. He purposefully distanced himself from that people and mindset, and literally just stood around in contemplation, waiting and praying for the Almighty to speak.
“Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, “I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.”
"Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.”
"When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.” So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth…” Daniel 10:15-21.
Yes, Daniel had a vision of a man, but not just any man. In the previous chapter, Daniel identified the angel Gabriel as the heavenly spokesperson appearing before him. But in chapter 10, it is obvious as he drops to his hands and his knees, that this encounter with another divine being is unlike anything he had ever experienced before. Could God Almighty have appointed this month and this day, for Daniel to see Jesus, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Son of God, coming in glory, already fighting for his beloved, chosen people?
On the 24th day of the first month, God’s anointed lesson on His appointed date has crossed the chasm of time and space, straight to us right now in the 21st century. In the middle of mounting worldwide tension, death and escalating Christian persecution, we desperately need to see Jesus, and hear His calming words. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.”
It is also no coincidence that on the same date, over 500 years later, the resurrected Jesus came to His disciples, stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” in John 20: 26-30, with the closing words, These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
The only possible reply for anyone on this earth who has a relationship with the Almighty should be exactly the same as the humble, penitent, Daniel. “Speak, my Lord, since you have given me strength.”
The simple reply of Jesus' loving promise echoes across thousands of years of religious turmoil and struggles, calming our very souls for all eternity.
"I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth”.
ON THE TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF THE FIRST MONTH...
Saturday, April 11 2020
PEACE BE WITH YOU! Following the morning Resurrection of Jesus, this incredible account is recorded in John 20:19-20: “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”
For many of us, this important time is often skipped over because it isn’t viewed as one of the pivotal appointments of the Almighty for His Son. Nothing could be further from the truth. For it is at that specific point in time that Jesus the Christ speaks TO the body of Christ, AS the Body of Christ.
No, that’s not a tongue-twister, but it IS a mind-bender. Of all the words He could have spoken, “Peace be with you!” takes on a whole new meaning following the Death, Burial and Resurrection of the Only Begotten Son of God!
Then, Jesus displayed His own body as physical proof of His bodily resurrection. We humans need that. PROOF. As much as we want to believe, and “confess” to believe, where is that Proof! Indeed, many of us “Christians” today who WANT TO BELIEVE and PROFESS TO BELIEVE just can’t quite make it there.
“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” verses 21-22.
How is Jesus sending His disciples forth into the world? By literally breathing life from His own body into His chosen! What an incredible physical/spiritual picture we have been gifted with in this awesome narrative. The Holy Spirit coming from the Father and the Son, flowing through us, is the ONLY way we can ever accomplish the will of the Father in this world.
Jesus went on to clarify what had happened and why. “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
As they ministered the Good News of Jesus the Christ, they were fully creditable, having received the forgiving power of the Holy Spirit emanating from Jesus Himself directly on them on that day. They would not be speaking about what they didn’t know to be truth. The Holy Spirit, the “Ruach Adonai”, the very Breath of God who breathed life into man at creation, now breathed life into their mortal bodies and souls as they were freed from their sins!
Now they finally understood the truth that if sins were NOT forgiven, they would remain FOREVER…lifeless! Jesus had said earlier in John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”
While the manifestation of the Power of the Holy Spirit was given in Acts 2 at Pentecost, this scripture describing the Holy Spirit imparting forgiveness to the disciples is the fulfillment of John 7:38-39. "Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
The Aramaic translation paints a clearer picture: “For the Spirit had not yet been issued since Jesus had not poured out his sacrificial, glorifying blood.
Jesus continued to appear to His disciples, convicting and convincing them of His Deity. As we follow further in John 20, we witness the doubt of the disciple Thomas in verse 25. “…Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
A week later, Thomas was with the disciples when Jesus appeared to them again. Incredibly, the Son of Almighty God invited Doubting Thomas to touch His nail wounds, to verify His death on the Cross! No small wonder that ‘ole Thomas immediately believed, shouting “My Lord and my God!”.
“Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
Jesus continues to appear before us in the presence of His Living Word. The physical proof of His Resurrection, presented by Jesus Himself, has yielded to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit He has gifted us. And it is in this power that you and I stand today: we have not seen, yet we believe.
We must pause and be humbled and encouraged by the salutation that Jesus repeated twice to His disciples and is repeating to us right this very minute today.
“PEACE BE WITH YOU.”
Resurrection lesson: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2887300784683425&id=394745103939018
Thursday, April 09 2020
WHO IS IT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR? This is the question Jesus asked Mary on that magnificent Resurrection Morn. 2000 years later, this question still pierces us to the core. It should, because our answer can literally mean the difference between life and death.
John 20:1-18 records that unforgettable day. “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!'”
“So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.”
“Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, 'Woman, why are you crying?'”
“'They have taken my Lord away,' she said, 'and I don’t know where they have put him.' At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus."
"He asked her, 'Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?'”
"Thinking he was the gardener, she said, 'Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.'”
"Jesus said to her, 'Mary.'"
"She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic,'“Rabboni!" (hrab-bon-ee' which means “Teacher”.)
"Jesus said, 'Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
“Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: 'I have seen the Lord!' And she told them that he had said these things to her.”
God Incarnate had just risen from the grave! But even though Jesus had preached to thousands and thousands, telling them He would save them from the penalty of their sins through His death and resurrection, they still didn't get it. The religious folks of the day believed that God’s word taught the resurrection of ALL Jews at the end time. The raising of Jesus from the dead just didn’t fit the timing they had come to believe and observe.
Like the religious folks of Jesus day, God’s timing just doesn’t fit our schedule, either. If we follow the precise appointment given by the Almighty in Exodus 12 and Leviticus 23 for the death and resurrection of Jesus, we absolutely cannot miss the fact that God appointed twilight on the 14th day of His first month as the anointed time when the Passover Lamb would mark the entrance to the homes of His Chosen People, protecting them from certain death. Using the observation method to determine the new month by watching for the new moon, that would place the death of Jesus between 3-5 pm, April 7 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar. https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/2883249525088551
When Jesus was raised from the dead, exactly 3 days and 3 nights later, He was brought forth as the first of the fruit of mankind to be raised from the dead, and never die again. Called "Firstfruits", this holy day festival, appointed by God on His calendar 1500 years before in Leviticus 23, was to begin on the morning of the 2nd day following Passover, the day after Sabbath. It was an offering of the first and best of the Earth's harvest. If the Almighty accepted this perfect offering, it would guarantee His blessing on His people. “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:20.
The 1st century Jewish historian, Josephus, pins down the date emphatically. "But on the second day of unleavened bread, which is the sixteenth day of the month, they first partake of the fruits of the earth, for before that day they do not touch them." Antiquities of the Jews 3.10.5.
Jesus is further revealed as the Firstfruits offering when we examine the last part of Josephus' statement "for before that day they do not touch them." Remember Jesus's statement to Mary in the tomb? "Do not hold onto me, ("do not touch me" in some translations) for I have not yet ascended to the Father..." John 20:17
The 16th of Abib, April 10 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, determined by watching for the new moon and counting forward 16 days, is the anniversary date appointed in God’s Word for the resurrection of the Son of God. If you celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter, you already use the lunar/solar dating that God established, but not as He appointed it. In 325AD, it was decreed by the Roman Council of Nicaea that Easter, a memorial of Christ’s resurrection, was to be celebrated on the Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox. That timeline is still used today, though Easter wasn’t celebrated in America until the 1870’s. In fact, in the beginning of our country, our Puritan fathers rejected this European custom, and continued to observe the Passover celebration every year after their arrival.
Today, we should ask ourselves some tough questions. Could it be that God Almighty has reckoned a true Passover on the world in 2020 through a plague of our own making to give us the opportunity to see that we have been in bondage to many gods in this world for far too long, and desperately need His deliverance in ways we had never even considered? https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/2874677592612411
Are we looking for Jesus this Resurrection Morn, or a version of Him we have created for ourselves...
"WHO IS IT THAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR?"
Tuesday, April 07 2020
LET MY PEOPLE GO…God has been speaking this for a long time. Those of us living today are witnessing what our ancestors could have only hoped for. Though no one is voicing it, we know it’s happening. Right this very minute, the entire world is being rearranged and quieted in preparation for the return of Jesus Christ!
Look around. Capitalism is sleeping. Governments are weeping. Religion as we have known it has been rearranged. Our calendar and days of the week no longer have authority. Wall Street holds no sway over our future.
Even the ancient nation of Israel has been leveled. The iconic, religious Wailing Wall has been disinfected by workers wearing hazmat suits and gas masks. But not before every single prayer note in every single cranny HAD BEEN REMOVED from what many people revere as one of the holiest physical places on the entire planet! And it’s all happening during one of the most Holy times on God’s calendar called “Passover”.
Signs that God is definitely in charge of this day are everywhere. For the first time since Israel has been regathered, there will be no public memorial of Passover in Jerusalem. People will be celebrating in their individual homes, quarantined, just as ancient Israel was the night of the first Passover in Egypt, when they were freed to worship Him in a way they had never done before.
All this is openly referred to by religious, and non-religious, as “an act of God"! Indeed, it's no coincidence that this Holy Day of Passover is a memorial to the action of The Almighty when He delivered His people out of bondage and servitude to the authority of the world which keeps us from worshipping Him as He desires.
“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says, ‘Let my people go so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.’ Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.’ ...The Lord said, ‘I will bring one more plague on Pharoah and Egypt. After that he will let you go.'"
"...About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die...This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household...Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast...Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover."
"On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast...Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come." Exodus 5:1-2;11:1,4-5;12:1-3,6-8,11-15,17
These are the timeless words of Almighty God to His people 3500 years ago on the 14th day of His first calendar month, which began this evening, April 7th on our Gregorian calendar. They are just as applicable today as ever, possibly even more so. God gave detailed instructions for all those who trusted Him. Following His instructions would bring life. Ignoring them would guarantee death.
Fast forward 1500 years from the deliverance out of Egypt to Jerusalem. It is the 13th day of Abib, Preparation Day, and the unblemished lambs have been selected and are being sacrificed. The innocent, blameless Lamb of God hangs on the cross, dying publically for all to see. “…For Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.” 1 Corinthians 5:7.
“…On the night when the Lord Jesus was handed over to be killed, he took bread and gave thanks for it. Then he divided the bread and said, “This is my body; it is for you. Eat this to remember me.” In the same way, after they ate, Jesus took the cup of wine. He said, “This cup represents the new agreement from God, which begins with my blood sacrifice. When you drink this, do it to remember me. This means that every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are telling others about the Lord’s death until he comes again.” 1 Corinthians 11:24-26. More on this timeline https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/2877237032356467
The meal of the Passover Lamb is Jesus, Himself. The Lamb is slaughtered for the bitter sin of the world, His blood the perfect atonement. But the pure, sinless, Unleavened Bread was resurrected on the 3rd day! All this done in haste, as time stands still for no one, and is carefully and perfectly marked by the Almighty.
Fast forward another 2000 years to the evening of April 7, 2020 also known as 14th day of Abib on God's calendar, the physical anniversary of the Passover Lamb’s midnight blood covering. God is giving detailed instructions through His Word for all those who trust Him. “The wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23. ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’
John 1:29. “God gave Jesus as a way to forgive people’s sins through their faith in him. God can forgive them because the blood sacrifice of Jesus pays for their sins.” Romans 3:25. “But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:5). ”Repent, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.” (Acts 3:19) “He does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).
The lesson hasn’t changed any in 3500 years. But time is growing short. Be ready for your sure and swift deliverance. “This is how you will eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste, it is the Lord’s Passover.”
"Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch--as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” 1 Corinthians 5:7
God is still God. He still desires for ALL His people to be freed to worship Him ONLY, the way they never have before. Listen as He continues to challenge and level the authority of this world…
“LET MY PEOPLE GO!"
Sunday, April 05 2020
IT IS FINISHED…We are approaching the most important week in the history of mankind with the anniversary of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And this year, God Almighty has arranged it so He has our attention. There is so much He wants to teach us, and so little time left.
Indeed, some of the most important lessons we have yet to learn have to do with the most basic things in our lives. Ground zero is moving away from the world and our traditions, toward Him. Since God appears to have done-away with our calendar during this quarantine, could it be that He wants us to get in sync with HIS calendar instead?
“This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.” Exodus 12:2. The 2nd book of God’s Word clearly appoints the beginning of God’s year. The entire ministry of Jesus Christ, our namesake, is scheduled there, in God’s timing and perfection. When we try to fit His schedule into our Gregorian calendar, it’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Part of it may fit in, but it never fits the way it should. Neither will function properly in that state.
“The evening and the morning” constituted the day as God created it in Genesis. If we stay on His calendar for the appointment of months and Sabbath days, we begin with the new moon as Day 1, a worship day of sacrifices. (1 Samuel 20:5,18; 2 Kings 4:23; Ezekiel 46:1,6; Amos 8:5) The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia states, “The New Moon is still, and the Sabbath originally was, dependent upon the lunar cycle. Both date back to the nomadic period of Israel.” Counting forward 7 days from the first day, each Sabbath occurs within the created phases of the moon: 8th First Quarter Moon; 15th Full Moon; 22nd Last Quarter Moon; 29th Dark Moon. By viewing the evening sky, God’s people could identify the Sabbath, the day of the month, week, and the season of the year. They had a calendar appointed by their Creator, and it was always with them. So do we. https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/2845514275528743
God’s Sabbath and Festival Days were appointed on the same schedule. With God’s calendar, there is no postponement of His Anointed Days when they coincide with Sabbaths. Passover week is on a permanent schedule, year after year. And Jesus stays “3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth”, just as He said in Matthew 12:20.
We still have to pay attention to historical details. But God’s Word has a way of putting everything in perspective. “And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Exodus 12:26-27 The word “Passover” describing the sacrifice is the Hebrew word “Pesach”, actually refers to both the Lamb (the price paid for protection) BEFORE the day, and the day itself, which gives us valuable information when setting a timeline for Holy Week.
So we are actually looking at 2 days, which could be referenced together as “Passover”. According to the Book of Jubilees written before 150AD, the timeline for Passover, first annotated in Exodus 12:6, included Preparation Day on the 13th beginning between noon and 1pm, until 6pm. The lamb would be slain and prepared for the Passover meal eaten around 7pm on the evening beginning the 14th. After the Temple fell in 70 AD, there was no altar for a sacrifice, the timing of eating the meal changed to sunset-midnight on the 15th day.
The disciple John, who was present at Jesus’ death, writes in John 19:14: “Now it was the Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he [Pilate] said unto the Jews, ‘Behold your king’” John 19:31: “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day…” Also, Luke 23:52-54 reports “This man went unto Pilate and begged the body of Jesus. And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulcher that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.”
Biblically, Passover Day is known as the Fast of the Firstborn. The Jewish tradition of the Galileans and Samaritans was to have a meal together on the beginning evening of the 13th. Known as “Seudah Mafseket”, it is literally translated "Last Supper". (This tradition was moved later to the 3-hour period beginning at midnight on the 14th, when God preserved the firstborn of Israel.) John 13:1-2 refers to the Last Supper as an evening meal that occurred just before the Passover Feast. Also, at a Passover meal, the focus is on the paschal lamb. But Jesus said, “This bread is my body”, which was certainly true enough. But still, there is no mention of the lamb in ANY of the disciples’ accounts of the Last Supper.
Also, in 325AD, it was decreed by the Roman Council of Nicaea that Easter, a memorial of Christ’s resurrection, was to be celebrated on the Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox. That timeline is still used today, though Easter wasn’t celebrated in America until the 1870’s. It can be as much as a month different than God’s perfect timing for the resurrection of His Son, called Firstfruits, which is annotated in God’s Word in Leviticus 23:11 as the day after the Sabbath following the Passover.
So, based on what we just reviewed, we are ready to put together a Passover timeline, remembering that “the evening and the morning” constituted the day as God created it. The Last Supper for Jesus and His disciples occurred in the evening as the 13th began, April 6 evening on our calendar. Jesus went to the cross the next morning, April 7 on our 2020 calendar. During the designated Preparation Day hours on the 13th, he was “prepared” as the Passover Lamb Sacrifice. He died around 3pm (between the two evenings) and was buried during the afternoon hours of the 13th, still April 7 on our calendar.
JESUS was the Passover Lamb in every way when the Passover Meal began shortly after sunset on the beginning of the 14th. He stayed in the tomb 3 days and 3 nights, just as He said He would. He rose from the dead on or by the morning of the 16th, April 10 on our 2020 calendar, the Day of Firstfruits, appointed in Leviticus 23 as the day (16th) following the Sabbath (the 15th). “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:20 God's calendar superimposed on our 2020 Gregorian calendar: https://fontanacommunitychurch.org/abib_2020
In truth, when the Son of God uttered the words, “It is finished” on the cross, He was meeting the directive of our Father God, and fulfilling His appointment for mankind. And that covered much more than we could ever have imagined. EVERYTHING was finished by Jesus, not just our salvation. John tells us He is our Creator and Revelation says He’s coming to rule and reign over this world. So He’s taken care of EVERYTHING!
All that’s left is to slide on over into Eden and meet our King!
IT IS FINISHED…
Saturday, April 04 2020
I WILL BRING ONE MORE PLAGUE… 3500 years ago, under the midnight illumination of a full moon, God brought a final plague upon a proud, haughty nation that would convince them once and for all that He was God. He would bring death to every household. Only the life’s blood of an innocent lamb could save them. But they would have to choose that lamb themselves, care for it in their homes, and together, sacrifice it so that they might live. Appointed death would “pass over” them if the innocent’s blood marked their abode. Exodus 11-12
It all began when God changed Jacob's name to Israel. Being the grandson of the patriarch Abraham, God had promised to bless His family. When Jacob (Israel) took his 66-member family to Egypt to escape a famine, God continued to watch over them. Exodus 12:40 states they lived there 430 years. Exodus 12:37 also records their numbers swelled to 600,000 males besides women and children.
For awhile it seemed like heaven on earth. But their sheer numbers caused friction with the rest of Egypt. Persecution soon followed because they worshiped the God of Israel, and not the Egyptian gods and goddesses.
So, Israel prayed to God, and asked for deliverance. Exodus 7-10 records that God sent 9 plagues to convince Egypt to let Israel go so that they could worship Him in the desert. Egypt ignored them all and refused to let them go.
The 10th plague of death for every firstborn male, including livestock, was right on schedule when the Almighty instructed the Israelites to choose a firstborn male lamb and inspect it carefully to be confident that it was blemish-free. God designated the date for their Passover lamb selection as the 10th day of His first month.
40 years later, on this identical calendar date, the same ancient people who chose the Passover Lamb for their salvation, miraculously crossed the Jordan River on dry ground into the Promised Land and began to set up God’s kingdom on earth. (Joshua 4)
1500 years later, on the same month and day, Mark 10:46-52 records that on His way to Jerusalem, Jesus stopped in Jericho where He healed Blind Bartimaeus. All those folks gathered along the road would have understood God’s perfect appointment of Jesus crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land and setting up His kingdom there, since Jericho was the first to be conquered by the children of Israel in Joshua’s day. Indeed, the next chapter, 11:1-11, records when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a colt that same afternoon, the people chose Him to deliver them when they shouted Hosanna and spread palm branches to welcome Him.
500 years before that, on the 10th day of God's month, the exiled prophet Ezekiel had visions of a new Jerusalem. He noted this Jerusalem had no temple and had streams of living water flowing from it. It is not hard to figure out what…or who…he was actually seeing spiritually when we recall the Words of Jesus. “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up again in 3 days.” And “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said: ‘Streams of living water will flow from within him.’” John 7:38-39.
It’s impossible not to see that God is meticulous about His calendar dates, and very repetitious with the importance of those same dates year after year. Everything is inter-connected, moving like clockwork. That is WHO HE IS.
So we should sit up and take notice when we realize that April 4 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar is the designated 10th day of God's first month. We learned in a previous lesson how to pinpoint the beginning of God's New Year on His calendar. https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/2840563909357113
“For Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.” 1 Corinthians 5:7. 1500 years after God Almighty’s plague, the Only Begotten Son of God chose to lay down His life as the Passover Lamb, once and for all time, so that God’s people, who deserved death for turning against their God and Creator, “would not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
2000 years later, God has cleared our calendars. All that’s left is His.
NOW is the time to choose the Passover Lamb of God, Jesus the Christ, as your Deliverer.
I WILL BRING ONE MORE PLAGUE…
Sunday, March 29 2020
HE SET HIS FACE TO GO TO JERUSALEM…2000 years ago, during this same time of the year, Jesus journeyed from the countryside up to the ancient city of Jerusalem, one last time. As He traveled through town after town, He constantly surprised all who would listen, teaching them in ways they could never have understood under any other circumstances. Indeed, that is what He is doing in our generation through our worldwide virulent infection and forced quarantine.
“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.” Luke 9:51-56.
We can learn a lot from the curious phrase “he set His face” to go to Jerusalem. This is an Aramaic expression used several times in the Old Testament to signify resolution or determination. Jesus was a man on a mission, not only in spirit, but in physical countenance. Imagine the face of the Only Begotten Son of God displaying physical determination to meet the appointment of His Father, Almighty God. One look at His face probably convinced any and all that He was totally focused on getting to Jerusalem to fulfill His appointment on the cross as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”.
A lot needed to be accomplished in a short amount of time. So He had sent messengers ahead of Him, to prepare the way. We can see the perfect synchronicity here of heaven and earth. Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of God, is now working in concert with mankind to accomplish a spiritual purpose that would bind them together for all Eternity!
But predictably, there was dissention in the religious community over what the Words of Jesus actually meant. Indeed, James and John were ready to call down fire from heaven and consume those who believed differently.
The Samaritans were aware of what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well. “Believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” And now Jesus stood in front of them, resolutely intent on His apparent goal of being worshipped in Jerusalem. So those in the Samaritan village “did not receive Him”. In other words, they were questioning what He was doing.
The great irony was, in the coming days the Jewish community would wave palm branches and shout “Hosanana” upon His Jerusalem entrance, but then turn on Him and shout “Crucify Him” when it appeared He was not doing the things they expected, either.
Of course, His disciples figured Jesus was intent on teaching others who didn't know Him like they did. But they quickly learned that Jesus always taught His closest followers the hardest lessons first. Jesus sent shock waves into their midst when He "rebuked" the disciples for their lack of mercy, and not the Samaritans, who wouldn't acknowledge Him.
Let’s stop here to ponder the truth that our Christian community today is a lot like the one Jesus encountered on His way to fulfill God Almighty's Divine Appointments. We receive the Words of Jesus as truth but deny Him the right to expand upon them in our timeline to accomplish His Father’s will. Or we’re like the Jews who followed their scripture prophecy to every “jot and tittle” but weren’t able to even see Messiah in their midst.
They didn’t know what was going to happen back then anymore than we do today. Sure, we have our eschatology and biblical prophecies and expectations. But that doesn’t make them valid or correct. What we need is what both the Samaritans and the Jews needed. to understand the Words of Jesus as He intended, we need to be in the proper sphere of God’s timeline. We need to be humble and willing to reexamine our beliefs in the light of each new day and generation. And don’t forget that Jesus rebuked his disciples for their lack of mercy, but not the Samaritans who wouldn’t acknowledge Him.
Indeed, if we look at this situation through the perspective of time, we see that Jesus was intent on accomplishing a much bigger task than assuming the role of an earthly kingship in Jerusalem. He had an enemy to defeat once and for all before any of that could be accomplished. But it would not be in the manner anyone thought. He would have to lay down His physical life and walk away from His physical throne---for a time.
Yes, today, we have the awesome vantage point of knowing that Jesus not only laid down His life, but He regained it when He was raised from the dead. And we also know that one day soon, He will return to reign on Earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
As we continue reading the next verses in Luke 9:57-62, 10:1-4, we are confounded and humbled by the Words of Jesus. “As they were walking along the road headed toward Jerusalem, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’”
“He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But he replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’”
“Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’”
“As He commissioned 72 other disciples and sent them by 2’s ahead of Him to every town and place He would go, He continued to instruct them, saying, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.”
Most of us Christians should be staggering right now under the weight of Jesus’ description of TRUE discipleship: accept rejection without responding in anger …let the dead bury the dead… no goodbyes to loved ones…lambs among wolves…no clothes or money… don’t let your guard down.
And there’s still so much more that happened in those final weeks. They were jam-packed full of parables and lessons that only the Son of God Himself could teach. The Good Samaritan ends with Jesus posing a question that still divides religious folks today. 'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?' The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.' Jesus told him 'Go and do likewise.'" Luke 10:36-37.
Jesus taught us how to pray by giving us the model "Lord's Prayer". But then He insulted the religious folks of the day when He boldly announced, "Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.”
Jesus continued to shock and dismay the religious establishment when He said, "Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
The gospel of Luke alone records 35-40 parables and teachings from chapter 10-19, with Jesus sending out the 72 disciples, His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, healing 14 people along the way, and all in a matter of days or weeks. It is so VERY obvious that this was one of THE most productive times on this earth in the life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God!
Yes, today we literally follow in the footsteps of Jesus during His final time on this earth. We know this because we learned in last week's lesson how to pinpoint the beginning of God's New Year. https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/2840563909357113
God’s Word tells us in Exodus 12:6 that the sacrifice of the lamb occurred at twilight on the 14th day of the first month. “Twilight” is more accurately translated “between the evenings”. (There is a Hebrew word for twilight, not used here.) “Between the evenings” was understood until 200 BC to designate the hours of 3-5 pm, referred to as the 1st evening with the 2nd evening occurring at sunset.
Deuteronomy 16:1, 6 adds further explanation: "Observe the month of Aviv and celebrate the Passover of the Lord your God, because in the month of Aviv he brought you out of Egypt by night...There you must sacrifice the Passover in the evening, when the sun goes down, on the anniversary of your departure from Egypt."
The death of Jesus between the evenings fulfilled God's appointed deliverance of His chosen people for all time. Paul said it best in Corinthians 5:7: "...For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed." The 14th day God's first month will begin at twilight, April 7 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar.
Jesus set His face to go Jerusalem, and sent messengers ahead to prepare the way. As we are called by God in the same manner to prepare the way of our returning Lord, may we be like God's servant Isaiah who said, "The Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed" Isaiah 50:7
HE SET HIS FACE TO GO TO JERUSALEM…
Sunday, March 22 2020
IN THE BEGINNING GOD…In our lifetime, we are witnessing the whole earth literally coming to a standstill. God Almighty has hit the reset button, physically, and spiritually. The evening of March 25 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar will usher in darkness giving way to "Earthrise", as a new year, and a new era, begin for the entire world at the direction of God Himself.
The timing of man's witnessing "Earthrise" is impeccable. When it happened in 1968, Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders became the first of God's creation to travel beyond low Earth orbit, the first to see Earth as a whole planet, the first to directly see the far side of the Moon, and the first to witness "Earthrise", as pictured by the commemorative stamp illustrating this post. They also became the first to communicate God's Word from the vast expanse of the Universe He created. As they took turns reading the first 10 verses of Genesis 1, a billion people on Earth heard the Word of God being broadcast 240,000 miles above them, and knew beyond a doubt, a new era of time was being ushered in.
"We are now approaching lunar sunrise. For all the people back on earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send to you." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnyNXLXl8iA
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
This profound statement stands alone, defying exegesis or commentary. If we had been with the astronauts that memorable day, we would have understood why they chose to read God’s Word at just such a defining point in human history. Indeed, it wasn't about all the nuances of what happened when, or the swagger of intellectual knowledge and ability of mankind. The Apollo 8 astronauts realized there is all the difference in the world (pun intended) between SEEING God as Creator and SEEKING Him as Creator.
That's exactly where we are today, but even more so. A new era is being ushered into the world in our lifetime. Nothing will ever be the same again. Someone else is in charge of our time, and what we can and can't do. We have all been reduced to humans... which is really what we have been all along.
We've had flashes of God as Creator, and many of us have bowed in His presence, acknowledging Him as Lord and Creator. But soon after, we set about creating our own worlds, effectively SEEING God as Creator but not SEEKING Him as Creator on a daily basis.
Every day as we hurtle through space and time at 66,700 miles per hour, we've sought everything ELSE except our Creator. We have drifted into darkness, physically and spiritually, out of the presence of our Maker and His blessing and healing. We are now subject to increasing global pandemics and human misery and suffering. The whole earth has been quarantined because of our propensity to infect ourselves with our own gods, our own pestilence and death.
We're been reckoning physical and spiritual light and darkness on our own terms. If we refuse to honor God in the physical calendar of His created time and on His appointed Holy days, consider that we have stepped into into spiritual darkness, away from Him, and will never be ever be able to honor Him in a way that glorifies Him. Our appointed Gregorian calendar and days of the week are prime examples of how we have brought other gods into our lives daily. See more: https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/2845514275528743
We need to acknowledge life and it's marked passage as God created it. “And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” Genesis 1:5.
All it takes is 8 minutes for the light of sunrise or sunset to get to Earth, where we can observe it. That's how quickly things can change from darkness to light under God's direction. The day begins in approaching darkness at sunset, and morning begins at sunrise with first light. Together, and in that order, they constitute what God called "day".
"Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also." Genesis 1:14-16
Today, astronomers estimate there are ten thousand billion trillion stars – that’s a 1 followed by 25 zeros! And there are between 100 billion and 1 trillion stars in 1 normal galaxy. Our universe alone may contain 100 billion galaxies! Using elements from the staggering array of His heavenly handiwork, God has appointed a lunar and solar calendar for His creation on Earth. Genesis 1:14. Jeremiah 31:35 and Psalm 136:7-9 state these lights are the sun, moon and stars.
On March 16, 2020, the day and night hours were exactly equal, marked as the Vernal Equilux, providing a good indication that the physical circuit of the sun in the heavens was completed as appointed by the Almighty. After this point the daylight hours begin to outweigh the dark hours, and the sun can truly be said to have begun another renewed cycle, or year.
God has given us an awesome spiritual picture of this in Psalm 19:4-6. “...In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course, It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat." We explored the physical and spiritual imagery of Jesus being crowned King, and leaving the heavens, making His way to His Bride, His church. https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/2833263450087159
God's appointed time periods within the year are based on the cycles of the moon which He created. The Hebrew word for month, “chodesh”, literally means “new moon.” A new month begins with the rising of the new moon at twilight and lasts until the next new moon rises at twilight. The moon’s phases follow one another in clock-like precision, giving mankind the ability to easily follow God's calendar as He has designated it in the heavens.
Our Creator also formed the stars and their specific, named groupings in the constellations. (Genesis 1:14; Job 9:8-9; Job 26:13; Job 38:31-33; Amos 5:8). “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Job 38:31-32.
The Pleiades is a star cluster approximately 400 light-year distance from Earth near the constellations of Orion and Taurus in the night sky. The cluster includes seven bright stars that are easily seen with the naked eye, gravitationally bound together. (One can only imagine how Job knew that.) Every year the star group appears in close proximity to the newly visible crescent moon -- just after sunset, in the Spring, at the beginning of the FIRST biblical month.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.” Exodus 12:1-2. The name of the month is given In Deuteronomy 16:1, where the Israelites are told to keep the Passover in the month of Abib, because they were "passed over" by the 10th death plague of Egypt on that very day by God Almighty.
Numbers 9:5 states that they kept the Passover "on the fourteenth day of the first month at even in the wilderness of Sinai..." Yes, the Israelites observed the first celebration of the Passover on the prescribed month, setting the date in the middle of the desert, with only the heavens as their reference point. And they did so every year for the remainder of their 40 years in the desert!
On the evening of March 25 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, we begin the watch for “chodesh”, or "new moon" for God's New Year to officially begin. Yes, we have to watch. Because contrary to contemporary opinion, God's New Year cannot be appointed by man on his published calendar.
"Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven...for signs," Recognizing God’s 1st month is extremely important, as it literally ushers in God’s appointed dates for the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ! When Jesus came as the Passover Lamb, whose blood was shed for all mankind for forgiveness of sins, that divine appointment had been appointed on God's calendar 1500 years before. When He was raised from the dead as the sinless, Unleavened Bread, He fulfilled the timing of God Almighty made 1500 years prior. When Jesus ascended to the Father after His death and resurrection on Firstfruits, He not only fulfilled the 1500-year appointment of the Almighty but guaranteed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in His name, 50 days from that date, known as Pentecost!
We also can look forward to heavenly signs of at least 3 more divine appointments on God’s calendar. Jesus will return as the anointed Trumpet Call for our righteous ingathering. Jesus will reign as the divine Atonement for our sin. And finally, Jesus will Tabernacle WITH His people when He returns as the King of Glory! Yes, when Jesus returns to this earth, it will be by Divine Appointment only, right on schedule by God's calendar. Check out God's appointment schedule given to His people in Leviticus 23.
God’s calendar is not about celebrating a religious festival or a Sabbath day just to please Him. It’s always been about the revelation of Jesus, the Christ, the Deliverer, the Anointed One, come to set His people free! “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” Colossians 2:16-17
God has hit the reset button. And He's done it through a pandemic virus named "corona", Latin for "crown". God Almighty is using man's mutant "crown" virus of their own making to convict us of our sinful bent of "crowning" other gods before Him and making them a priority on our manmade calendars and thus in our everyday lives.
In the coming year, as we hurtle through space, we will travel nearly 600 million miles. That's certainly more than enough time to be humbled by the Almighty, as He reveals His glory and majesty, just as He planned all along. His plan to redeem us and restore the earth will culminate soon in the corona-tion of His Son, Jesus as King of Kings over the entire earth!
The Apostle Paul said this to the people of Athens, "The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth...made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us...’” (Acts 17:24-28)
"IN THE BEGINNING GOD..."
Monday, March 16 2020
LIKE A BRIDEGROOM COMING OUT OF HIS CHAMBER… The whole world has been yanked from its appointed timetable and put in physical quarantine because of coronavirus. Coronavirus’ name is Latin, and "corona" means "crown". Just around the corner is the anniversary of the death and resurrection of Jesus, mockingly crowned by man as "King of the Jews". Now is the time for us to begin to understand that God has a calendar in place for HIS crowning on this earth of JESUS AS KING OF KINGS. According to Him, this year will begin its official closing on March 16, 2020. In spiritual imagery, what follows looks “like a Bridegroom coming out of His chamber…” on His way to the Bride.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other...” Psalm 19:1-6.
But mere observation and recognition of God’s appointments does not deliver the spiritual understanding for which they were created. To understand the imagery of the Bridegroom coming out of His chamber as Jesus leaving the throneroom, and heading to earth, we must be able to view the heavens in the Spirit, not with the wisdom of the world. “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit… But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:13-14,16.
The ancients had one important thing in their favor which enabled them to easily understand the spiritual lessons in God’s creation: TIME. Back then, plenty of folks lived almost a 1000 years, and without electricity, had eons of time to sit, night after night, month after month, year after year, century after century, and observe the constellations as they progressed across the sky, the sun as it rose and set, the moon as it appeared in its four quarters. And remember, they had not-too-distant ancestors who had come to know God in the Garden of Eden, and after, and passed their wisdom down. Though these folks didn’t have God's written word to guide them, they understood and depended on Him as Creator, and eagerly received and celebrated His Word expressed to them in the vast expanse of the world He had created.
Right this very moment, God is giving us the gift of the ancients. No more excuses that we don’t have time to receive God’s Word by sitting at the feet of our teacher, Jesus. The whole world has been removed from its perceived time schedule and placed under quarantine because it is infected. See this as a spiritual truth, as well as a physical one, and you have received wisdom from the Almighty. And this is occurring for us at the exact time that God’s created world is beginning a brand-new year. This is an extremely important time on God’s calendar, and it should be on ours, too. Under the full moon of the very first month of God’s year, Jesus sacrificed His life so that the world would not perish from the pestilence of sin.
"Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years." Genesis 1:14. Jeremiah 31:35 and Psalm 136:7-9 state these lights are the sun, moon and stars.
God’s Word says the light of the sun is used to mark a year. On March 16, 2020, the day and night hours will be exactly equal, marked as the Vernal Equilux. Here in Fontana Dam, NC the sun rose this morning at 7:44am and will set this evening at 7:44pm. The physical circuit of the sun in the heavens will be completed as appointed by the Almighty. After this point the daylight hours begin to outweigh the dark hours, and the sun can truly be said to have begun another renewed cycle, or year.
Some look to March 19, the astronomical point called the Equinox, at which the center of the sun’s disk crosses an imaginary line in the sky called the celestial equator. The equinox is in a shifting process called "precession of the equinox" due to the wobble of the earth on its axis, causing the equinox to drift backward in time, and can’t be reliable on its own to gauge God's completed circuit of a year in our century. But it can help us to be on the watch for the beginning of the first month of the new year, using the stars for confirmation of the year cycle, as God’s Word states He appointed them for this, also.
Our Creator formed the stars and their specific, named groupings in the constellations. (Genesis 1:14; Job 9:8-9; Job 26:13; Job 38:31-33; Amos 5:8). “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Job 38:31-32
The Pleiades is a star cluster approximately a 400 light-year distance from Earth near the constellations of Orion and Taurus in the night sky. The cluster includes seven bright stars that are easily seen with the naked eye, gravitationally bound together. One can only imagine how Job knew that. Every year the star group appears in close proximity to the newly visible crescent moon -- just after sunset, in the Spring, at the beginning of the FIRST biblical month. "Seek him that made the seven stars and Orion, and turned the shadow of death into the morning, and made the day dark with night: that called for the waters of the sea, and poured them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his name …” Amos 5:8. Go to Beckstrom Observatory for a printable March Evening Starmap. http://www.beckstromobservatory.com/…/March-2020-Basic-Even…
In ancient Israel, the importance of the Vernal Equilux, which is the equivalent of the ancient Vernal Equinox, is that it heralded the appointment of the next new moon as the beginning of a New Year. Every month started with the rising of the new moon, “hodesh” in Hebrew, marked as the first day of the month, and lasted until the next new moon, 29-30 days. It was a simple and effective way to mark time as God ordained it. The years did not have a continuous cycle of weeks but instead the cycle started over with each new moon. New Moon day was a worship day followed by six working days, with the first seventh-day Sabbath on the eighth of the month, then on the fifteenth, and in succession of 7 days, as first recorded in Exodus 16. (Exodus 16:1, 23. Numbers 28:11-15; Psalm 81:3-5; Isaiah 66:23) A reckoning of God's calendar superimposed on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, along with a lost of all bibilical appointments https://fontanacommunitychurch.org/like_a_bridegroom_2020_c…
We have been given the sun and its hours of light to help define the length of our year and the stars to specifically identify the beginning of the first month, in conjunction with the moon's cycle, a simple and effective way to keep up with time as God ordained it. It required diligence and patience from the ancients to observe the heavens often during each month. That explains why the observation-based calendar given by God was gradually replaced in 70-1178 AD by the mathematically calculated one, that did not vary according to the heavens. That is the calendar used today by the Jewish nation. So, on our Gregorian calendar, God’s appointed Days may vary by date depending on which method is used. Also, the way most calculate the Sabbath is based on man’s appointed calendar, counting by 7’s. By doing so, years are marked in advance, instead of waiting and watching for God’s perfect timing through the heavenly appointment of the sun, moon and stars.
The Jewish philosopher Philo, who lived at the time of Jesus, also understood the importance of the language of the heavens.( Remember that our Vernal Equilux is the equivalent of the ancient's Equinox.) “Moses puts down the beginning of the vernal equinox as the first month of the year, attributing the chief honour, not as some persons do to the periodical revolutions of the year in regard of time, but rather to the graces and beauties of nature which it has caused to shine upon men . . . Accordingly, in this month, about the fourteenth day of the month, when the orb of the moon is usually about to become full, the public universal feast of the Passover is celebrated . . ." (Philo, On The Life Of Moses II, Section XLI (41) (222-224).
Eusebius, a Greek historian of the 3rd century AD also wrote, "… it was also known to the Jews anciently, and before [Messiah], and was chiefly observed by them, as we may learn from Philo, Josephus, and Musaeus; and not only from these, but also from those still more ancient, i. e. the two Agathobuli, commonly called the master, and of Aristobulus, that most distinguished scholar, who was one of the seventy that translated the holy scriptures from the Hebrew. These. . . say that all ought to sacrifice the Passover alike after the vernal equinox, in the middle of the first month." Ecclesiastical History Popular Edition. p. 313
So now we should be able to understand more fully, why this physical time of the year is so important. The first month of God’s New Year heralds the coming anniversary of the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the one identified in John 1: 1-3 as Creator alongside Almighty God! “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made…” John 1:1-3. We anticipate that God's New Year will begin on the evening of March 25 2020, with the sighting of the crescent new moon.
In the New Testament, we clearly see that God reveals Himself through creation to give us the chance to come to know Him. "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." Romans 1:20. The heavens signaled the birth of Jesus, leading the wise men straight to Him. When Jesus died, the daylight sky turned dark. Isaiah said in 13:10 that in the coming day of the Lord, “The stars of heaven and their constellation will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.” And for many Christian scholars, the ministry of Jesus can be seen in Revelation through the imagery of heavenly constellations themselves.
Indeed, it is not foolishness to see the Bridegroom, Jesus the Christ, in the refracted rays of sunlight at the appointed time, spiritually stepping forth from His chamber in the heavens, making His way to the Bride, whom the apostle Paul likens to the Church at Corinth. "I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband." 2 Corinthians 11:2.
The whole world now has an opportunity understand this, having been brought to a standstill by a virus which means “crown”. Jesus also said this to the church at Smyrna through John in Revelation 2:8-11: "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer... Be faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life." “Smyrna” is a Greek word used to translate the Hebrew word for myrrh, a resin used as a perfume for the living in Matthew 2:11 and the dead in John 19:39. Myrrh was produced by crushing the plant, causing it to give off an overpowering fragrant aroma. Hence the analogy of the church at Smyrna, who would be crushed by persecution, with the end result of being a fragrant aroma of faithfulness to God. It was Jesus telling the church at Smyrna that it was about to undergo intense persecution and tribulation.
Yes, we have many questions and much to discern. But we do know for sure that the coronation (corona-tion), the spiritual crowning of Jesus Christ, will occur immediately before He returns the second time to rule His kingdom on this earth! Revelation 11:14-18 says this will take place after the “second woe.” Daniel 7:10 records the crowning of Jesus Christ as King of Kings as God's judgment begins.
We close today's lesson with the words of Jesus: “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”
"LIKE A BRIDEGROOM COMING OUT OF HIS CHAMBER"
Monday, March 16 2020
OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN… Our Good Father. Our Perfect Father. Our Loving Father. Be merciful to us for we have sinned. We have sinned against you, and are no longer worthy to be called Your children, bearing Your image.
There isn’t a one of us that hasn’t transgressed mightily against you. We've seen our image in the mirror of godly works and now worship ourselves and our religious identities. We pridefully glorify ourselves and what we've accomplished, using your name as a byline to achieve our earthly and spiritual aspirations.
What an affront to You, Father, to use Your Word as a tool to validate our accomplishments. We’ve spent centuries caught up in biblical doctrines that were espoused to meet the needs and service the contemporary “Christian”. We gave little thought or credence to the actual intent of Your Word as it was given by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit to the saints of old. What one of us is now willing to chuck it all, and start all over, truly learning at the feet of our Rabbi Jesus?
Even now, we gather in Your Name across this land to ask You to deliver us from the hand of pestilence and chaos. Like petulant children, we want what we want, and never give a thought that our Father is looking for children who will simply bow to whatever His will is for His Kingdom on this Earth.
When will we understand that you truly hold the world and everything in it the Palm of Your Hand? We’ve heard it said over and over. “The Lord gives.The Lord takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” But we don’t have a clue. We haven’t an inkling of Your Omnipotence and Your Kingship, nor of the humble, childlike trust you desire.
But that’s changing, right this very minute. As the world comes to a standstill, Your Word has already spoken Your Will. “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
Our Father in Heaven, blessed is Your Name. YOUR Kingdom come. YOUR will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We ask for nothing else on this day except Your Name be glorified through Your Son, Jesus, throughout the entire world!
Monday, March 16 2020
Coronavirus is on every one's mind right now, one way or another. It seems that some are of the opinion that the whole thing is much ado about nothing, and that what is occuring now is the result of panic and widespread fear.
While it's certainly true that some reactions are being prompted by fear, there is much more to consider. The adrenaline response fear can provide is hard-wired into our being from the Almighty. It helps us respond quickly and decisively in life-threatening situations.
Can it get out of hand? Sure. Can we be apathetic and naive? Sure. But this much we do know. A storm is coming, and storm warnings have been issued. Now the warnings are being ramped up, saying this may be the storm of the century, and we need to prepare for it.
Of course, how we respond is up to us. Perhaps we need to consider that God Almighty is warning us right now to seek physical shelter from this predictably insane storm of life, and find our much needed spiritual rest quarantined with Him for awhile...
"BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD."
Sunday, March 08 2020
GOD IS WITH US..."Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; Speak the word, but it will not stand, For God is with us." Isaiah 8:10 has been sung for millennia at this time of the year to celebrate the deliverance of Purim, the salvation of a nation scheduled for total annihilation by their enemy.
This is what the Lord says to me
With His strong hand upon me
Warning me not to follow
The way of this people.
Do not call conspiracy
Everything this people calls a conspiracy;
Do not fear what they fear,
And do not dread it.
The Lord Almighty is the one
You are to regard as holy,
He is the one you are to fear,
He is the one you are to dread.
He will be a holy place;
For both Israel and Judah he will be
A stone that causes people to stumble
And a rock that makes them fall.
And for the people of Jerusalem
He will be a trap and a snare
Many of them will stumble;
They will fall and be broken,
They will be snared and captured.
Bind up this testimony of warning
And seal up God’s instruction
Among my disciples.
I will wait for the Lord,
Who is hiding his face
From the descendants of Jacob.
I will put my trust in him.
Clearly, the Almighty is speaking through the prophet Isaiah to remind ALL God’s chosen people on Planet Earth that our biggest threat during any perceived enemy conspiracy is our own fear and dread. Indeed, it will only serve to detour and distract us from God’s plan for our salvation. The appointed and anointed Rock, Jesus the Christ, becomes nothing more than a stumbling stone, offending us when we pridefully try to step right over Him as "the way, the truth, and the life". The result is inevitable. “They will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.”
Today’s lesson, appointed on God’s Calendar for the 13th, 14th, and 15th of Adar, March 8, 9, and 10 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, is a prime example of another nation threatened by those whose sole intent was to wipe them from the face of the earth. “Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.” Esther 3:13
A lot, "pur", had been cast by the evil, scheming Persian, Haman, to select the date for slaughtering every single Jew living in Persia. The Jewess, Esther, ("Hadassah" in Hebrew), who was chosen to marry the Persian King, heard about Haman's plan. She was encouraged by her cousin, Mordecai, to intervene in the affairs of her betrothed monarch, King Xerxes. Mordecai sent her a letter penned with the immortal words: "And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Esther spent 3 days fasting and praying before she stepped forward and appeared before Xerxes without being summoned, an offense punishable by death. She revealed her hidden Jewish heritage and begged for mercy for herself and her people. She successfully interceded, and not only secured the lives of the remnant Jewish nation, she also set a trap for the evil Haman, and he was executed by the King.
The end result was after only 2 months, an edict authorized by King Xerxes that had previously doomed the Jewish nation to death, was reversed and that very same King gave the Jews the royal right to defend themselves and to pay their enemies back. God intervened in the affairs of mankind, bringing his chosen servant, Esther, to the place where she would glorify Him by trusting Him with her life. As a result, the remnant of Israel defeated their enemies in only 2 days, and Esther became Queen of Persia, the largest empire on the earth during her lifetime.
Mordecai sent letters to all Jews telling them to always remember God’s deliverance in the face of their enemies by celebrating Purim every year on the 14th and 15th days of Adar. “And they were also to celebrate that month as the month when their sadness was turned into joy. It was a month when their crying was changed into a day of celebration…Therefore these days were called Purim, from the word pur.…And these days of Purim should never fail to be celebrated by the Jews—nor should the memory of these days die out among their descendants." Esther 9:22,26, 28
Purim should slay us Christians in America with its double-edged sword of truth. Satanic lots were cast against a nation with the sole intent of annihilating every last soul. What saved them from their enemies was not a physical wall of protection, a calculated political maneuver, or even a show of military might. It was the power of God Almighty triumphing over Satan and his schemes through two people who simply trusted Him for their deliverance and that of their country.
Rightly so, these two people will continue to amaze and confound humanity for all time. The hero of the story is a single woman thrust into the limelight when she was chosen to reign as Queen over the largest empire in the entire world. She should have retreated in fear and dread, but instead she stepped forward in faith and trust in God, willing to put her own life at risk for the sake of her people.
And there’s her mentor, a man whose job as cup-bearer not only required that he serve and guard the King’s cup, but regularly lay down his life by tasting the contents to assure that it was not poisoned before serving it to the King. So trusted was the cup-bearer that only a select few were recorded throughout all of history!
One can only hope that we Christians will begin to understand that the Lord God DOES have a global picture and plan in place, right this very minute. He reminds us of exactly that through this powerful lesson. Esther 1:2 documents that King Xerxes ruled from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa. Both Daniel and Nehemiah also spent time in Susa during the Babylonian captivity. King Cyrus of Persia also ruled from there, becoming an instrument of God’s will to deliver Judah back to Jerusalem. Biblical Susa is known today as Shush, Iran, and is recognized as the birthplace of that very nation. King Cyrus is recognized in the annals of history as the Father of Iran.
Moving forward along God's big timetable of history, we should be prepared to be continually be amazed by God's hand. The Persians of Susa, known then as Parthians and Medes, along with others, like "the Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs", were “declaring the wonders of God” in one tongue during Pentecost over 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. (Acts 2:9-11)
Yes, along with Arabs, Egyptians, Libyans and many other foreigners, folks from Iran received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, just 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. From that time until today, Christianity has been a continuous presence there, even though the Muslims arrived around 600 years later. In fact, the ancient Aramaic language spoken by Jesus is still spoken today by ethnic Assyrian Christians living in Iran. It is also believed by many that two of the disciples of Jesus, Jude and Simon the Zealot, ministered in Iran following Pentecost, and were buried there in a church erected by St. Jude himself in 66AD.
Today, the Jewish presence of Esther and Mordecai continues in the biblical town of Susa, known today as Shush. It is part of a growing spiritual revival in a country that is thought to house the fastest growing Christian church in the entire world. "More Iranians have become Christians in the last 20 years than in the previous 13 centuries put together since Islam came to Iran. In 1979, there were an estimated 500 Christians from a Muslim background in Iran. Today, there are hundreds of thousands—some say more than 1 million. Whatever the exact number, many Iranians are turning to Jesus as Lord and Savior.” https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/1265659453514241
It’s high time we Christians were humbled by God’s global plan for mankind. He is calling to Himself the direct descendants of the anointed Twelve Tribes of Israel, in blood and faith, as well as many other unbelieving Arabs and Middle Eastern people. And He is using the very weapons that are being hurled at these people to convince them that they need to throw themselves at the mercy of Jesus Christ, and believe in Him as the only way to true salvation and life everlasting.
The punchline for this eternal lesson reaches far beyond mere words. Christians all over the world should be totally humiliated by our fear and dread that the conspiracy of Islam could EVER be a threat to Christianity. Clearly we are focused on the wrong thing. “This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people: “Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread…”
Our faith in God Almighty is the only weapon that will EVER bring down our enemies. Now we can truly begin to understand why Isaiah 8:10 has been sung for thousands of years to celebrate the ancient deliverance of Purim.. Indeed, we Christians in America should be shouting this scripture all over the universe about right now.
"Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; Speak the word, but it will not stand…”
FOR GOD IS WITH US.
Wednesday, March 04 2020
INSTEAD HE WITHDREW…“Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.” John 11:54.
After raising Lazarus from the dead, last week's lesson: (https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/2784833521596819) Jesus retreated to the village of Ephraim. That village is believed to be the same one known today as Ephraim-Taybeth. 1400 people still live in this picturesque mountain town. The video “Snow in Taybeth 2/3/2012” by former resident Wizam Khoury is absolutely the perfect setting as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus during the last winter of His life. Our thanks to Mr. Khoury for his permission to post it here. Follow this link to his photo: https://fontanacommunitychurch.org/wizam_khoury
The Arabic Christmas hymn in the audio background, “TALJ, TALJ” (SNOW, SNOW), is sung by the Lebanese singer Fairuz. The English translation of the lyrics is absolutely mesmerizing! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w037ftzOZRg&feature=emb_share&fbclid=IwAR2-LjzhF3Serhz8dACd3OP1RZMkBZ4VX-wWYFIyYUsjUc4h0XeWPNQ0SFw
"Snow, snow is falling on the world, snow
The stars are perplexed
And the flowers along the roads are shivering
Snow, snow is falling on the world, snow
The clouds are weary
And on the hills tents are illuminated
There is a baby awake in the cave
And his sweet eyes are full of love
Snow, snow is falling on the world, snow
Every heart, every meadow has flowered with love like snow
The shepherds are coming from abroad
Tonight is the night we have wished for
Snow, snow has brought prosperity and love
To every heart and every meadow
Friendship, prosperity and love
Are falling like the snow.
The history of the village of Ephraim-Taybeh (pronounced Tie-bay) goes back 5000 years. The site, first settled by the Canaanites, is mentioned in the Bible in Joshua 18:23 as a town of Benjamin, called Ophrah. Later, it was renamed Ephraim. Located just 25 miles driving distance from Jerusalem in the biblical land of Judea and Samaria known as the West Bank of Jordan, it is currently under Israeli occupation. It is believed to be the only all-Christian Palestinian community in the entire Holy Land.
Situated on the eastern side of the highest mountain range in biblical Judea and Samaria, the town has always been known for its panoramic views of the Holy Land. During daylight hours, there are magnificent views of the Dead Sea, the Jordan valley, Jericho, and the mountainous desert of Judea. At night, the lights of Jerusalem sparkle like diamonds in the vast expanse of the southwestern desert, while the lights of Amman, Jordan, can be seen to the north. On a moonlit night you can even see the contour of the edges of the Dead Sea in the southern distance. No small wonder that Ephraim-Taybeh has been known for millennia as the “village of retreat”.
The last phrase of John 11:54 “…where He stayed with His disciples" tells us this was not a quick unplanned visit by Jesus. He took His disciples there to prepare them for His coming death. He went there to sit with them on a mountain top on a crisp winter night and gaze down upon cities who claimed to know The Almighty and serve Him, but refused to even acknowledge the Son of God when He walked among them.
Jesus seemed to favor retreating to the mountainside to gain clarity and peace. These were always followed by extremely productive spiritual times. In fact, He chose the twelve disciples after He spent the night on a mountainside in prayer.
There are many other biblical accounts of Jesus’ withdrawal from crowds. After He was baptized by John in the river Jordan, “... the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” Mark 1:12-13. The Mount of Temptation is only 13 miles from Taybeth-Ephraim. The cave below is traditionally known as the place where Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness fasting.
In Mark 6:45-52, Jesus went to a mountainside to pray. That evening, He saw His disciples out on the Sea of Galilee, struggling against the wind. He went out to them by walking on the water. It was then that the disciples first began to understand that the One who had called them out of the world was the true Son of God.
Jesus also sought solace through retreat after healing a man covered with leprosy in Luke 5:12-14. The account ends with these words in verses 15-16. “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Finally, who can forget the poignant account in Mark 14:32-42 of Jesus and His disciples in Gethsemane the night of His betrayal, when Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” Then He took Peter, James and John further, and shared His sadness with them. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death…Stay here and keep watch.” Then Jesus went alone to say to His Father “Abba, Father…everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Jesus would leave and return to His disciples 3 more times, and every single time He would find them sleeping. Returning the third time, He said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Like the disciples, many of us are busily caught up in following Jesus’ leading as much as we can. But we really haven’t learned how to focus on why we’re doing it in the first place. It should be because we just love Him enough to follow Him and stay awake. But when our priority becomes “saving the world” or “standing for right”, we can get caught up in the politics and physical struggles of this world. Instead of simply following the Master into the Garden for a time of reflection and prayer we wear ourselves out trying to accomplish the impossible. And you know what happens when you’re physically or spiritually depleted. You go to sleep. Jesus is speaking to us, right now repeating His phrase, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough!”
Even if the Words of Jesus are getting through to us right now, the first thing we’re probably going to think about is how to forge ahead up the mountain of our glorious Christianity, against all obstacles, save the world and achieve power for our brand of Christianity. Without realizing it, we have entered the unholy realm of politics, defined as: “the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power”.
We need today’s reminder that retreating from the way of the world is not a choice. Our “Ephraim” is an absolute necessity to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Because when we choose to withdraw from the ways of the world with its ideals and focus, there is room to move closer to Him. We are able to see His Word with more depth and clarity than we ever thought possible. Then and only then, can we see that the only truth that really matters has been right under our nose the whole time! Everyone in this world has a common bond. We all desperately need Jesus!
Even though Jesus was born into the middle of a country full of prejudice and longstanding religious boundaries, His ministry far surpassed man-made national borders, governing politics and religious creeds. And it still does to this very day.
Retreat now and draw closer to Jesus, and YOU will receive His perfect gift, falling on us ALL. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow."
“Friendship, prosperity and love
Are falling like the snow.
Sunday, February 23 2020
I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE… During the last winter of His life, Jesus made an earth-shattering statement that literally brought the future into the present. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26.
“I AM the resurrection and the life.” We need to read this over and over again to let the Words of Jesus permeate our hearts and our very being. Heaven is on earth and speaking to us through the power of His Spirit and The Word, right this very minute.
This is the setting for His words: “Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So, the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’” John 11:1-3
Jesus had just received word that a dear friend was sick. Instead of focusing on the illness, Jesus immediately grasped the incredible opportunity it presented. "When he heard this, Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.'”
In the midst of chaos and grief, what an unbelievable blessing was about to occur! Jesus was so certain of this fact that He waited 2 more days to announce His return to the home of His friend, Lazarus. The response of those around Him was predictable as they questioned His touch with reality. “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
The disciples did what many of us Christians do when faced with a spiritual dilemma. They quickly decided they needed to use their own intellect to plan their course of action. They knew Bethany was just 2 miles from Jerusalem, and they knew the Jewish leaders had tried to stone Jesus a few short months before following His address at the Feast of Dedication. So instead of believing in Jesus...
Verses 9-10 record how Jesus responded to their flawed earthly reasoning. “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
We can learn something very valuable from this allegory. Everything is ordained within its limits, like day and night. So, when it comes to moving forward in our spiritual life, if it’s not in God’s timing, in His light, we’re probably going to stumble around…a lot.
"After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep."
These verses are wisdom straight from the mind of Jesus. He defined Lazarus’s death as sleep. And His plan to end death’s hold on Lazarus was to wake him up! The timing for this revelation of truth is impeccable. In a few short weeks, Jesus would defeat death on the cross, and would Himself awaken from its grasp. “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Revelation 1:18
When Jesus spelled out plainly that Lazarus was dead in verse 14, He followed it up with a statement to the disciples that should shake our very souls. " …Lazarus is dead. And I am glad I was not there. I am happy for you because now you will believe in me. We will go to him now.”
When Jesus and His followers arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had already been dead and in the tomb for four days. Martha ran out to greet him saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you anything you ask.” Jesus’ reply would astound the world. “Your brother will rise and be alive again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus' reply challenges the very depths of our traditional beliefs today, just as He did Martha's. “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
" I AM the resurrection..." In other words, we don't have to wait for the last day. He is here. Right Now. In THIS place, in this time. He is Calling out to us, asking us to believe in Him as Messiah, sent by God to be the Savior of the world.
May we be quick to answer as Martha did. “Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God. You are the one who was coming to the world.”
Then Lazarus’ other sister, Mary, came and bowed at the feet of Jesus and again uttered this statement of belief in verse 32 “...Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Verses 33-34 continue to provide us with invaluable insight. "When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come along with her weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.' Where have you laid him?' He asked. 'Come and see, Lord, they replied.'"
What follows next in verse 35 is the shortest verse in the Bible and without a doubt, the most profound. "Jesus wept." This is the first record in the Bible that Jesus wept. "Then the Jews said, 'Look! He loved Lazarus very much!'” John 11:36.
The people around Jesus reacted just like many folks do. They made assumptions based on their limited understanding of the situation. Though it sounded like a plausible explanation, it wasn’t the truth then, and it isn’t the truth now. How do we know? Because Jesus wept only one more time in His entire life and that was when He entered Jerusalem for the last time. And he wept for the same reason He wept in Bethany at the death of Lazarus.
Luke 19:41 tells us "As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
Now we understand why Jesus say he was glad He was not there when His friend died. If Jesus had been there, as Martha and Mary said, Lazarus would not have died. “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad I was not there. I am happy for you because now you will believe in me.”
Now it becomes clear that Jesus wept both times because it took death for people to believe in Him as the Son of God. Even at the end of this very chapter, the Pharisees and Sanhedrin hatched a plot to kill Jesus because he raised Lazarus from the dead. They knew that a man raising the dead would cause people to do what? Believe in Him!
Most of the time, we connect the shortest verse in the Bible with the love of Jesus for Lazarus. And certainly, He did love Him. But the truth is the great paradox that Jesus wept because it would take Lazarus' death, the death of God's chosen people, His own death, and perhaps the looming prospect of our own deaths, for mankind to finally believe in eternal life through Jesus Christ and His resurrection.
“But the chief priest and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him.” This verse sounds very much like a warrant that the Jewish Talmud asserted had to be publicly voiced or posted in the larger towns in Judea at least 40 days before a trial of a Jewish citizen. Jesus would be crucified on the 14th day of the first month, God’s appointed Holy Day of Passover. That would place the warrant announcement that must occur at least 40 days before, to around the mid-point in the 11th month to the beginning of the 12th month at the latest. Today, February 23 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, is the 29th day of God’s 11th month. The crucial legal wheel in the plot to crucify Jesus had begun to turn.
So, what did Jesus do the last winter before His death? He shattered the boundary between heaven and earth, announcing “I am the resurrection and the life... Whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Sunday, February 16 2020
..BABYLON…COME OUT OF HER MY PEOPLE... We need this timely warning that the infamous biblical Babylon and her expansive walls still exists. We Christians are literally surrounded by her idols, mindset, and government. Given the call of the Almighty to "Come out of her, my people!", will we listen and repent?
Babylon is referenced 280 times from Genesis to Revelation. It was founded by Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, the 3rd generation of descendants from the survivors of the flood. That means the first Babylonians were all from the same family and had first-hand accounts of God's strength and might. No doubt they worshipped and identified with God on an intimacy level we can only imagine. Yet, God's Word in Genesis 11: 4 reveals they were driven by two fundamental human concerns we still have in common with them to this very day: pride, revealed in their human desire to “make a name for ourselves”, and fear that they would end up "scattered over the whole earth".
Over centuries, Babylon became a powerful city/state, and later the capital city and namesake for one of the most powerful nations in history. Babylon is remembered for the self-aggrandizing Tower of Babylon (possibly the biblical location of the Tower of Babel), the opulent Hanging Gardens of Babylon, (one of the Seven Wonders of the World), and its immortalized rulers like Nebuchadnezzar, said to have built an 11-mile defensive wall outside the city, wide enough on top for chariots driven by four horses to pass each other. The civilization was so advanced that more than a thousand years before Galileo, considered the father of modern astronomy, astronomers in Babylon were using pre-calculus to track the movement of the planet Jupiter, which they revered as a god.
It's a God-thing that after Jerusalem fell, God's chosen people were exiled back to the very place their ancestors feared leaving-- Babylon. Could it be that God was going to continue to teach them a much-needed lesson about the pitfalls of their pride and fear? Could it be the very same lesson we need to learn today?
The biblical list of those captured and sent to Babylon, or were later born there while in exile, reads like the “Who’s Who” of the Old Testament. Ezekiel, Haggai, and Zechariah were part of the Babylonian diaspora of Judah. Esther and Mordecai, as well as Nehemiah and Ezra lived there.
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were exiled there as young men. They were given Babylonian identities. "… unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego." Then they were appointed to high offices under the king. Their assimilation into foreign culture was gradual and comfortable for a time. To show their allegiance, the king commanded all his officials to bow down to an idol of himself. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused, they were thrown into a fiery furnace. Miraculously, they were preserved from the flames, and the king saw four men walking in the flames, "the fourth ... like a son of God".
The king’s response in Daniel 3:28-30 says it all. "Then Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.’ Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.”
So we can see here that being in Babylon, with all its idols, was not really a problem but an opportunity to bring glory to God that might never have happened under any other circumstances. In fact, if we look at this closely, we will see that God's point all along was NOT that they thrived in their lives, but that they never veered from their sole allegiance to the Almighty, no matter what government ruled over them and demanded.
Amidst it all, the exiled prophet Zechariah is interrupting mankind's 21st century plans with the same stern warning from the Almighty he delivered to Judah twenty-six centuries ago. He begins by noting the date on the Hebrew calendar. “On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet:” Zechariah 1:7.
The 18th day of February on our 2020 Gregorian calendar is the 24th day of Shebat on God's ancient calendar. It was about that time that Zechariah began to receive eight visions from God concerning the future of His chosen people, and their return to Jerusalem. It’s impossible to read these chapters in Zechariah without seeing them as promises from God for all His people, for all time. We can see that Israel, and Babylon, indeed all nations, fit into the scope of these visions. “These are the four spirits of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world…'Go throughout the earth!'” Zechariah 6:5, 7b.
In our last lesson, we received God's wisdom through Zechariah’s third vision in chapter 2. This is the only vision given to His people which appears to prepare them for the Lord’s final coming. His vision of the surveyor with a measuring line attempting to measure New Jerusalem, gives keen insight into how little we understand the Lord's plans, and how bent with pride we are to accomplish things our way. "Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’" Zechariah 2:4-5 https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/2752672118146293
The vision ends with these commanding prophetic words in 2:7-9 “'Come, Zion! Escape, you who live in the Daughter of Babylon!' For this is what the Lord Almighty says: 'After the Glorious One has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye— I will surely raise my hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me.'"
In Revelation 18, Babylon is identified as an adulteress, making those connected with her whoring ways rich in things of the world. As we take in this sickening scenario, remember that an adulteress always has a bridegroom. Can't she be a Bride to her Bridegroom and still participate in the satisfying agenda of the world? “‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins'...Woe! Woe! O great city. O Babylon, city of power! In one hour, your doom has come.”
Is it possible that the mindset or "offspring", called "daughter" of Babylon in our focal scripture passage, is alive and well today? Remember the Tower of Babel and the 3rd generation of God-worshippers from Noah, driven by pride and fear? “Come, let us build…Let us reach to heaven.”
And how did God address these pride-filled, fearful, Babylonian worshippers? He confounded their unified understanding through their language. Today, there are 41,000 denominations and organizations in the world which claim to be Christian churches, but each one seems to be speaking a different language. Could the confounding of our denominations be God’s way of exposing our idolatrous religious aspirations to reach heaven, above our worship of Him, alone? Do we 21st century Christians have the same sinful bent to “make a name for ourselves”, and fear that we will end up "scattered over the whole earth”?
Centuries later, even though God called His chosen people out of their physical and spiritual temporary place of Babylonian exile, they had become so comfortable, they didn't want to leave, even if it meant returning to Jerusalem itself.
We desperately need this timely warning that the infamous biblical Babylon and her expansive wall still exists today. We Christians are literally surrounded by her idols, mindset, and government, and have been influenced by her self-serving ways to the point that we have become intoxicated with her. We are no longer seeing with spiritual eyesight, and are out of control.
Jeremiah 51:7 gives a description of Babylon with seems to fit our current world situation with amazing accuracy. ‘Babylon was a gold cup in the Lord’s hand; she made the whole earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore they have now gone mad’
BABYLON...COME OUT OF HER MY PEOPLE
Tuesday, February 11 2020
A CITY WITHOUT WALLS...God's Word crosses the chasm of 2700 years with a timeless message for 2020. When a prophet had a vision of “a man with a measuring line in his hand” headed to measure Jerusalem's walls, God dispatched an angel with this chastising message: "Jerusalem will be a city without walls... And I myself will be a wall of fire around it," declares the Lord, "and I will be its glory within."
February 18 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar is the 24th day of God's 11th month, the day the visions of Zechariah began. So when God's Word is delivered with amazing accuracy and timing to point out the same fatal flaw in OUR plans, it is NO coincidence. It is because of His grace that He is allowing us the possibility of learning a lesson through another nation who claimed to call on Him as God, but failed miserably to serve Him instead of themselves.
The Lord continues with this message: “Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north, for I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven…”
God had said in Ezekiel 5 that He would judge them severely. "Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again. Therefore in your midst parents will eat their children, and children will eat their parents."
The Holy City of the Lord fell when the Babylonians encircled it and effectively cut off food supplies for about 18 months.In their weakened and tormented state, their arch enemy broke through their physical facade, burned Jerusalem to the ground, executed their leaders, and exiled the people to the Babylonian lands of the north. Read about it in Jeremiah 52.
Generations passed, and although the people continued to worship the Almighty, the essence of the Babylonian government and mindset became a cancer slowly eating away their very souls, changing even the way they perceived God’s provision. They became convinced they needed Babylonian walls to survive. They even reckoned that they prospered behind them. Without realizing it, they replaced their eternal identity as the chosen people of God with a national identity of the world.
Indeed, when their descendants were given the choice to reclaim the City of God, Jerusalem, many were unwilling to return. They had become comfortable, but unknowingly, complacent, in their adopted home. Even when God made provision for them and urged them to "Come!", they still balked.
Their lack of trust that God could and would accomplish their deliverance was exemplified in Zechariah's vision of the man running toward Jerusalem with a measuring rod to make sure God 's provision was good enough. “Run, tell that young man, ‘Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’” Zechariah 2:4-5.
The truth is, wherever God is, there can be NO measurable walls, because His glory is immeasurable and boundless, and will NEVER be contained!!
Or look at it another way. Without God's presence, there is NO protection, because He identifies HIMSELF as the "wall of fire..."
Hebrews 11:8-16 tells us what God's chosen people should have been doing instead of measuring walls. "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God..."
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for another country. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
2700 years later, these words ring true with agonizing clarity. Though we were taught by Jesus Himself how to pray to our Father in Heaven, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven..." has now been replaced with frantic pleas for God to save OUR kingdom on this earth. Indeed, what we don’t see as 21st century Christians is that whatever kingdom we pray that God will sustain, is the true kingdom of our heart.
Israel had to learn her kingdom lesson the hard way. The 12 Tribes of Israel began as a nation blessed by the Almghty. As the 12 sons of Jacob, whose name was changed to “Israel” by God Himself, they survived 40 years wandering in the desert, and then were ruled for 350 years by God’s appointed judges. But soon, Israel demanded to be like all the other nations, and be ruled by a king.
Following the death of King Solomon, the nation quickly sank into the bottomless political pit of electing a new King, splitting the nation in two. The kingdom of Israel, with its capital of Samaria, lasted around 200 years, until the Assyrians conquered and scattered the people across the northern isles. The kingdom of Judah ruled from Jerusalem for 350 years before being conquered by Babylon.
That brings us to our current lesson timeline. And it all has to do with a measuring line. We Christians seem to be very good at using one. We use it to prove our spiritual “point”; to see if our Christian notion “measures up” to God’s Word; or to measure the spot in our brother’s eye while neglecting to measure the log in our own. So, in a very real sense, we raise our own walls and set our own boundaries with it, even though God’s Word says we’re WAY off base, just like the young man in Zachariah’s vision.
We’ve bred generations of Christians now focused on man-made walls that appear to serve humanity in terms of security and sovereignty--but only for awhile. Indeed, when we use the walls of Jerusalem as a "measuring line" that justifies the building of a national wall, we completely ignore that the Jerusalem Wall was attacked 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, besieged 23 times, and completely destroyed twice. Much of the wall was rebuilt by Muslims who occupied the area for 900 years.
If the national process of building a wall springs from a spiritual dimension of prejudice, fear and hatred, the physical benefit of that worldly structure has fallen under the control of Satan Himself, and is doomed from the very start--and so is the nation.
Receive the Lord's perfect plan for the city and kingdom HE will build: "Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’" Zechariah 2:4-5
A CITY WITHOUT WALLS...
Saturday, February 01 2020
A MAN RIDING A RED HORSE…out 2700 years ago during this month, the ancient prophet Zechariah's night-visions began with a man riding a red horse. These revelations continue to encourage God’s people, reminding us He is interested in the details of our lives, and is working behind the scenes with a perfect plan for rebuilding His heavenly and earthly Temple through His people on this earth.
Yes, the same word that Zechariah proclaimed in the 6th century B.C. is being declared to us 21st century Christians. We still don’t want to hear it any more than the people of ancient Judah did. But thank God, here it is, still just as applicable as ever... still the word of the Lord for His people!
Zechariah began his prophetic ministry a few months before when he delivered God’s message that Judah must repent of their sin or there would be NO future with Him. “’Return to me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty. Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.’ But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the LORD. Where are your ancestors now? And the prophets, do they live forever? But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your ancestors?’ Then they repented and said, ‘The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.’ Zechariah 1:2-7. https://www.facebook.com/394745103939018/posts/2519786238101550/
In today’s climate we Christians don’t want to hear the word “Repent” any more than the religious folks did back then. We’re so busy pointing the finger at each other, we don’t even consider that our personal humiliation through the chastisement of God’s Word and the power of His Holy Spirit, is absolutely essential for the blessing and intervention of the Almighty in any part of our lives, whether it's personal or national.
Zechariah came on the scene at a time when God’s physical and spiritual throne was no longer in Jerusalem. The nation had been judged mightily for their sins, and God’s glory had departed the Jerusalem Temple. In a matter of centuries, the physical Temple was decimated, and Israel was reduced to the exiled remnant of Judah. Several generations had lived in Babylon and surrounding areas and had been slowly assimilated into its mindset, forsaking the God of their ancestors. Though they had been given permission to return to the rubble of what was once their mighty, Holy City, the remnant nation of Judah desperately needed their Lord God to return to them.
In the first vision, when Zechariah saw a man riding a red horse standing in a group of myrtle trees, there can be little doubt that was the Pre-Incarnate Son of God, appearing again as He had to so many others in the Old Testament. In Joshua 5:13-15, He appeared as Commander of the army who brought down the walls of Jericho, telling Joshua, who was standing alongside him, “take off your sandals for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Ezekiel 1-7, Jesus appeared to Ezekiel in glory and radiance, handing him a scroll of his words, instructing him to eat it and speak to the House of Israel. In Daniel 7:13, Jesus appeared “like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven, claiming His kingdom that would never be destroyed. And again in Daniel 10:6, He appeared as a man dressed in linen, “His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.”
This the accounting of Zechariah’s first vision in the 1st chapter:|
7 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo.
8 During the night I had a vision, and there before me was a man mounted on a red horse. He was standing among the myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind him were red, brown and white horses.
9 I asked, “What are these, my lord?”
The angel who was talking with me answered, “I will show you what they are.”
10 Then the man standing among the myrtle trees explained, “They are the ones the Lord has sent to go throughout the earth.”
11 And they reported to the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, “We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace.”
12 Then the angel of the Lord said, “Lord Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?” 13 So the Lord spoke kind and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.
14 Then the angel who was speaking to me said, “Proclaim this word: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, 15 and I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they went too far with the punishment.’
16 “Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,’ declares the Lord Almighty.
17“Proclaim further: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.’”
Through this vision, we can clearly see Jesus interceding on our behalf, despite what is happening around us. Even though He appears to be silent, He is valiantly fighting in the background, unseen by human eyes, aided by warrior angels, focused on our restoration to His kingdom, and the coming judgment on those who would keep that from happening.
While the chosen people of God are struggling, and bereft, the rest of the world is "at rest and in peace" and doesn’t have a care in the world, failing to intercede on behalf of those who need their help and support. This is what the Lord Almighty says in verse 14: “I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, and I am very angry with the nations that feel secure.”
We need to catch hold of this vision in its entirety today. Security and peace in this world are not the goal for us as God’s people. We press forward to the High Calling in Christ Jesus which is restoration into God’s presence and His kingdom. Too many Christians have lost sight of this and have become fixated on worldly goals, like personal and national security at any cost. Their pride in what they have, is hardening their hearts to others in need. Exacting their own brand of godly justice in the process, they were actually setting themselves up for the judgment of the Almighty, Himself.
The people of Judah learned the hard way that mindset was sheer foolishness. They knew the only way they were going to be restored to God was through the presence and power of a heavenly warrior whom they could trust with their very lives. They understood that focusing on achieving physical peace and security above all else was, in fact, idol worship. They finally bowed to God as the one true judge, and trusted that, not only would He right every single wrong, He would give them the kind of peace and security they could never accomplish on their own.
There is much more to be learned through Zechariah's visions. Next week’s lesson will continue with another vision of a young man who attempts to measure God's plan in human terms, leaving us all to grapple with His chastising message: "Jerusalem will be a city without walls... And I myself will be a wall of fire around it," declares the Lord, "and I will be its glory within."
It is no coincidence that these ancient visions are revealing more to us about our 21st century lives than we ever thought possible. The 24th day of the eleventh month of Shabbat, recorded as the date of the beginning of Zechariah's visions, is February 18 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar. Through His grace and perfect timing, the Almighty is reminding us of another nation just like ours, who claimed to call on Him as God, but failed miserably to serve Him instead of themselves.
The Almighty's appointed message for 2020 is the same message delivered about 2700 years ago. God is sending us visions of deliverance and hope that will never change. They began and continue right this very minute through our Intercessor Warrior, The Incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." Revelation 1:6
A MAN RIDING A RED HORSE...
Monday, January 27 2020
YOU HAVE STAYED LONG ENOUGH AT THS MOUNTAIN… Around 1500 BC, God Almighty announced through Moses that the Israelites had to move forward away from their comfort zone in order to follow Him. “In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the LORD had commanded him concerning them…The LORD our God said to us at Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance…” Deuteronomy1:3,6
As we delve deeper into God's Word, not only do we find that the appointed 1st day of His 11th month began January 25th at sunset on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, it is also right on target for us Christians who have put our trust in Jesus to deliver us from bondage and lead us to our Promised Land.
Yet, for many of us, Moses’ opening words in Deuteronomy 1:1-2 will be reckoned as totally irrelevant. “These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness east of the Jordan—that is, in the Arabah —opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab . (It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.)"
If you don’t get anything else from today's lesson, please remember the scripture in parentheses. “It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.” That is a brief summary of the entire 40-year wilderness trek of the Israelites, and according to God’s word, that journey should have been completed in just 11 days!
If the route God planned for His chosen people to the Promised Land could have been accomplished in only 11 days, it staggers the mind to comprehend why it took the Israelites over 40 long years to get to the place He promised them! And it is absolutely heartbreaking to be reminded that not only did they waste decades wandering in an arid and lifeless desert, they had stood in the very place God had appointed for their deliverance just a little over a year after they left Egypt!
And that’s exactly what Moses reminded them of over and over through the entire book of Deuteronomy, except for the final 34th chapter. Sadly, the closing chapter was written by someone else and recounted the death of Moses himself somewhere on the very same plains of Moab where he delivered his final proclamation to God’s chosen people.
Moses began his 33-chapter oration by simply repeating God’s word as given to them less than a year after their deliverance from their bondage of sin. “The LORD our God said to us at Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land that the LORD swore he would give to your fathers--to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob--and to their descendants after them.’” Deuteronomy 1: 6-8.
“You have stayed long enough at this mountain.” Though this is one of the most profound statements in the entire Old Testament, many of us Christians will speed-read right over it. We have “arrived” in our American Christianity and are now content to gather and pontificate about how great God is, gathering all His blessings close, refusing to share with “the least of these”. We ignore God’s Word which in contemporary English plainly says "Whenever you failed to help any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do it for me.” Matthew 25:45. As puffy wisps slowly envelope our revered heights, we identify them as glory-clouds straight from heaven. We are unwilling to consider that they’re probably noxious death-vapors spiraling upward, intent on sucking the very life of God from us all.
Too strong? Maybe it's not strong enough. Moses didn't t mince words when he recounted the disobedience of the Israelites and the dire consequences for their refusal to follow God’s leading.
"Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.' In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go. When the Lord heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: 'No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your ancestors, except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.''" Deuteronomy 1: 29-36
If all this sounds like history might be repeating itself, you’re beginning to understand the scope of today’s lesson. Indeed, if you went back and asked both generations of Israelites what-in-the-world they were doing all that time, their answer would most assuredly be “worshipping and following God.” It is certainly not surprising to hear the same excuse used in this generation for our wanderings in and out of religious dogma and works designed to deliver “mountain-top” worship experiences to each and every “believer”.
Little has changed. It's in our fallen nature to acknowledge our Maker, and then set about developing our own ways of interpreting just exactly what He is saying to us. The problem is that we usually begin with a prejudiced mindset, and rarely even consider that our understanding may be nowhere near what the original Word of God intended. A prime example can be found in the very scripture we are studying today. Deuteronomy is the first book of the Bible to speak of loving God. The beginning verses 4-5 are so important they are given the ancient title “Shema” which means “Listen!”
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." Deuteronomy 6:4-8
If we view the intended meaning through the lens of those who wrote it down, we find that the Hebrew translation of “heart” is technically correct, but the function referred to is not the emotions, but the intellect, where conscious decisions are made and actions are contemplated. The soul or “nephesh”, is the very essence of life itself, as recorded in Genesis when the Holy Spirit breathed life into Adam, making him human and yet also in God’s image. The translation of “strength” does not point to physicality, but to very great effort through conscious thought and determination.
This commandment is so important that Jesus repeats it again to the early Christians in Matthew, Mark and Luke as the first of two commandments upon which all the law and the Prophets hinge upon. “The most important one…is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31
Love is the verb action called for in both these Great Commandments. John 13:34 expands upon the second commandment. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
And how did Jesus love His neighbor? "...with all His heart, with all His soul, and with all His might." He stood in our place and paid the penalty for our sins with His life. We 21st century Christians have wandered so far for so long, that many of us now think the Words of Jesus are negotiable, or worse still, totally inapplicable to us in the world in which we live. The basis of all idolatry is self-centered, rebellious people refusing to worship God as He teaches. So we shouldn’t be surprised when we wake up one morning and realize that overnight, American Christianity has become an unbelievable nightmare instead of the joy-filled day that the Lord has made. He didn’t make this mess. We did, with idols of our own making.
Hebrews 3:7-14 delivers an impassioned plea that sums up today’s lesson perfectly. “So it is just as the Holy Spirit says: “If you hear God’s voice today, don’t be stubborn as you were in the past, when you turned against God. That was the day you tested God in the desert. For 40 years in the desert, your people saw what I did. But they tested me and my patience. So I was angry with them. I said, ‘Their thoughts are always wrong. They have never understood my ways. So I was angry and made a promise: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”
“So, brothers and sisters, be careful that none of you has the evil thoughts that cause so much doubt that you stop following the living God. But encourage each other every day, while you still have something called “today.” Help each other so that none of you will be fooled by sin and become too hard to change. We have the honor of sharing in all that Christ has if we continue until the end to have the sure faith we had in the beginning. That’s why the Spirit said, “If you hear God’s voice today, don’t be stubborn as in the past when you turned against God.”
"YOU HAVE STAYED LONG ENOUGH AT THIS MOUNTAIN. BREAK CAMP AND ADVANCE..."
Monday, January 27 2020
2600 years ago, during this same time of the year, God said to His chosen people, “The people there refuse to obey me...Tell them, This is what the Lord God says: 'PUT THE POT ON THE FIRE' "
Three years earlier, religious folks had been falsely convinced by the prideful, self-serving rhetoric of the "princes of the people", to place their confidence in the capacity of Jerusalem and its leadership to protect them from the world and lead them into national prosperity. Insead of humbly falling on their knees and admitting that God's "pot" of protection was their only refuge, they were now pridefully focused on what the pot could provide them, reckoning that they alone deserved its benefits.
Ezekiel was commanded to speak against such national arrogance in Ezekiel 11:2-4. "The Lord said to me, “Son of man, these are the men who are plotting evil and giving wicked advice in this city. They say, ‘Haven’t our houses been recently rebuilt? This city is a pot, and we are the meat in it.’ Therefore prophesy against them; prophesy, son of man.”
The Almighty’s reply of judgment upon these leaders not only attacked their prideful logic, but promised dire judgment on the people for using the providence of God's protection as an excuse to further the interests of their own nation.
“...O house of Israel, but I know what is going through your mind, You have killed many people in this city and filled its streets with the dead...Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: The bodies you have thrown there are the meat and this city is the pot, but I will drive you out of it. You fear the sword, and the sword is what I will bring against you, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will drive you out of the city and deliver you into the hands of foreigners and inflict punishment on you. You will fall by the sword, and I will execute judgment on you at the borders of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord. This city will not be a pot for you, nor will you be the meat in it; I will execute judgment on you at the borders of Israel. And you will know that I am the Lord, for you have not followed my decrees or kept my laws but have conformed to the standards of the nations around you.” Ezekiel 11:5-12
God let them know in no uncertain terms that the deaths of many would be a result of their own actions, as well as any surrounding judgments that would occur at the borders of their nation.
Ezekiel 8 previously stated their serious idolatry was provoking the Almighty's jealousy. In fact, God specifically pointed out that the idol that provoked His jealousy was STANDING AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE GATE OF THE SACRIFICIAL ALTAR. The leaders of the people who called on God Almighty were essentially identifying HIS house of worship with an entity of their own choosing. As they proudly displayed it for the whole world to see, they were, in effect, linking it to the altar sacrifice of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ Himself.
God's Word continued by exposing leaders in His temple, who were effectively turning their backs on Him by worshipping in ways which served their own desires and needs, and leading the people to do the same. Read about it in the September 5 lesson https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1371057253066193&id=100004857934650&sfnsn=mo
Yes, the people heard the Word of the Lord over and over again. And so did their leadership. But they didn’t repent. Today’s appointed lesson on God's calendar for the tenth day of the tenth month, January 6th on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, began with an announcement from the Almighty of the consequences. “In the ninth year, in the tenth month on the tenth day, the word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, record this date, this very date, because the king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day.’” Ezekiel 24:1-2.
What they thought would never happen had now become their worst nightmare. In judgment, God withheld His hand of protection from their nation, and their enemies were at the gate of their capital city. Not only that, but as the Word of the Lord continued, He showed them that His judgment would include giving them exactly what they wanted more than anything else: to be in His “pot”.
“The people there refuse to obey me. I have a story with a message for them. Tell them, "This is what the Lord God says: 'Put the pot on the fire. Put on the pot and pour in the water. Put in the pieces of meat. Put in every good piece, the thighs and the shoulders. Fill the pot with the best bones…” Ezekiel 24:2-4
Indeed, God filled His pot with the people of the nation who wanted to be there: the haughty, self-righteous folks and their leaders who thought they were the best of all the nations and had pronounced themselves safe in the security of His protective pot, Jerusalem.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. God set the Jerusalem pot upon the fire of His judgment, along with all the people who boasted of being in its safety.
God made the parable clearer in Ezekiel 24:6-7 and 9-14. “’It will be bad for Jerusalem. It will be bad for that city of murderers. Jerusalem is like a pot with rust on it, and those spots of rust cannot be removed! That pot is not clean, and the rust cannot be removed, so the meat must be thrown out and not divided among the priests. Jerusalem is like a pot with rust on it…’
"So this is what the Lord God says: ‘It will be bad for that city of murderers! I will pile up plenty of wood for the fire. Put plenty of wood under the pot. Light the fire. Cook the meat until it is well done. Mix in the spices, and let the bones be burned up. Then let the pot stand empty on the coals. Let it become so hot that its stains begin to glow. Those stains will be melted away. The rust will be destroyed. Jerusalem might work hard to scrub away her stains. But that ‘rust’ will not go away! Only the fire of punishment will remove it."
“‘You sinned against me and became stained with sin. I wanted to wash you and make you clean, but the stains would not come out. I will not try washing you again until my hot anger is finished with you! I am the Lord. I said your punishment would come, and I will make it happen. I will not hold back the punishment or feel sorry for you. I will punish you for the evil things you did.' This is what the Lord God said.”
God continues to convict ALL mankind of sin against Him through heart-wrenching instructions to the prophet, Ezekiel: “Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Son of man, you love your wife very much, but I am going to take her away from you. Your wife will die suddenly, but you must not show your sadness. You must not cry loudly. You will cry and your tears will fall, but you must mourn quietly. Dress as you normally do; wear your turban and sandals; don’t cover your mustache, and don’t eat the food people normally eat when someone dies.”
"The next morning I told the people what God had said. That evening, my wife died. The next morning I did what God commanded. Then the people said to me, “Why are you doing this? What does it mean? Then I said to them, “The word of the Lord came to me. He told me to speak to the family of Israel. The Lord God said, ‘Look, I will destroy my holy place. You are proud of that place and sing songs of praise about it. You love to see it. You really love that place. But I will destroy it, and your children that you left behind will be killed in battle. But you will do the same things that I have done about my dead wife. You will not cover your mustache or eat the food people normally eat when someone dies. You will wear your turbans and your sandals. You will not show your sadness publicly or cry publicly, but you will waste away with guilt and talk to each other quietly about your grief. So Ezekiel is an example for you. You will do all the same things he did. That time of punishment will come, and then you will know that I am the Lord God.’”
"The Lord said, 'Son of man, I will take away the place that makes the people feel safe—Jerusalem, that beautiful city that makes them so happy. They really love that place. They love to look at it. But I will take it away from them, and I will also take their children. On that day one of the survivors will come to you with the bad news about Jerusalem. That same day you will be able to talk to the messenger. You will not be silent anymore. This will be a sign to the people, and they will know that I am the Lord.' ” Ezekiel 24:15-27,
We Christians in the USA would do well to humbly receive this very serious warning from the Almighty through the prophet Ezekiel. We should keep in mind that the Almighty's final judgment on the remnant of Israel occurred less than 3 short years after His announcement to the nation's leaders that they had provoked His jealousy.
If judgment is on the horizon for our nation, it won't be something we can blame on anyone else. Very clearly, it will be because we Christians who claim to call on the name of the Lord have foolishly and arrogantly turned our backs on the God of the Universe, essentially identifying HIS House of Worship with gods of national politics, pride and self-preservation.
“The people there refuse to obey me. I have a story with a message for them. Tell them, 'This is what the Lord God says'
"PUT THE POT ON THE FIRE..”
Wednesday, January 01 2020
THEIR HEARTS ARE GREEDY…"When Christmas is over, when you have had all your presents and food, Jesus is all we have left”. Yes, after we’ve had all the things we thought we needed, what we really needed was a Middle Eastern refugee in a tent, who didn’t have presents and food, to remind us that all we ever really needed, WE ALREADY HAD.
The Almighty certainly nailed it when He gave us this lesson on His calendar to start the first day on our calendar for 2020. It's an ancient lesson about another nation who focused on their needs, and how it ended for them. New Year's Day, 2020 on our Gregorian calendar, is the 5th day of the 10th month on God's calendar, the anniversary of the fall of the mighty city of Jerusalem, capital of the nation God called "the apple of His eye".
“In the twelfth year of our exile, in the tenth month on the fifth day, a man who had escaped from Jerusalem came to me and said, "The city has fallen!" Ezekiel 33:21. This 10th month on God’s calendar is the fateful month that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon marched against Jerusalem. The once great, grand glorious, nation of Judah, the remaining remnant of Israel, fell, and fell hard.
Ezekiel 33:22-26 begins as a Word from the Lord to the prophet Ezekiel about the murmuring people, who felt that God should restore their nation to them because it was rightfully theirs. “...Then the word of the LORD came to me: 'Son of man, the people living in those ruins in the land of Israel are saying, "Abraham was only one man, yet he possessed the land. But we are many; surely the land has been given to us as our possession." 'Therefore say to them, "This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Since you eat meat with the blood still in it and look to your idols and shed blood, should you then possess the land? You rely on your sword, you do detestable things, and each of you defiles his neighbor's wife. Should you then possess the land?"
The entire chapter of 2 Peter 2 in the New Testament talks about "Christian" leaders and teachers who are caught up in this kind of idolatry. Peter even goes so far as to say some are “experts in greed, an accursed brood” and “the blackest darkness is reserved for them”. He ends the chapter with a couple of colorful proverbs that he says define them. "A dog returns to it's vomit" and "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud."
When we pridefully glorify the religious concept of ourselves, instead of the Risen Savior. this is idolatry. Indeed, "pride" is defined as "a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired." God's Word speaks further by saying that God opposes the prideful, but lifts up the humbled, James 4:6.
In Colossians 3:5, Paul even places greed in the same sentence with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires, calling it "idolatry", and admonishing that “it must be put to death”. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Ephesians 5:5, when he also warns that the greedy will not inherit the kingdom of God, he's concluding that those whose lives are characterized by greed are really not true believers after all.
You'd think the people in Jerusalem wouldn't have fallen into that sinful mindset, since they had an awesome house of worship, the magnificent Temple of Solomon. Everyone went to worship on Sabbath, and many other holy days. They even worshiped for whole weeks at a time, and prayed and fasted together as a nation and called upon the Name of the Lord.
But they had also cultivated in their hearts the belief that their nation and place of worship had become their legacy, to do with as they needed. They greedily brought the world into God’s house, and bowed to its traditions, justifying it because they also continued to worship God on His appointed days. The real truth was that their daily lives were full of religious hypocrisy and disrespect for the Almighty’s Word. And now, their expectation, indeed their self-righteous prayer, was that God would look favorably on them and restore their nation?
This is God’s reply in Ezekiel 33:27-29: "Say this to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: As surely as I live, those who are left in the ruins will fall by the sword, those out in the country I will give to the wild animals to be devoured, and those in strongholds and caves will die of a plague. I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will come to an end, and the mountains of Israel will become desolate so that no one will cross them. Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I have made the land a desolate waste because of all the detestable things they have done.'’
Finally, God sums it all up as He speaks these words to in Ezekiel 33:31-33 “My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. When all this comes true--and it surely will--then they will know that a prophet has been among them."
"Their mouths express devotion, but their hearts are greedy...”