What is left when a pandemic takes down our world?
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’
When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.
-Luke 2:8-19 (NASB)
God choses well the people whom He calls. Mary and Joseph were not perfect people. Nor were they successful by worldly standards. Their decision to follow the calling of God gained them nothing of material value in this life. They endured humiliation, poverty, and gossip. Christ’s birth came in a time of isolation and rejection. Joseph evidently died an early death. Mary watched her beloved son – the one born so full of promise; upon whom she had lavished her reputation, her trust, and her sacred honor – executed as a common criminal.
His life challenged her expectations. His death crushed her.
His resurrection made it all worthwhile.
This year is not like any our generation has known. We who have grown up in middle American Christendom have attached certain expectations to our faith, to our lives, to our dreams. We do not expect pain, isolation, or sickness. Suffering is not compatible with our interpretations of the Scriptural promise of abundant life.
This Christmas, the usual traditions we observe have been disrupted. In the place of a full table, we may be suffering financial distress. In the place of a full house, we may be existing in a place of extreme loneliness. But like Mary and Joseph, the strength of our calling is not dependent upon circumstance. As the trials around us pare down our expectations and traditions, what is left is the pure sound of angels singing glory to God in the highest.
Mary wisely treasured everything she experienced with the Christ and pondered Christ His life in her heart. Instead of questioning the veracity of God’s Word and the faithfulness of our Creator, let’s take this time of hardship to contemplate all He has told us and what our part in His great work of deliverance should be. Even more in a pandemic, people need a Savior. His promises shine all the brighter in the darkness.
Joy to the world! The Lord has come! What else matters?
Be all the more diligent to make certain
about His calling and choosing you;
for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.
2 Peter 1:10
Is the Last Trumpet About to Sound?
“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
-1 Corinthians 15:51-52
The Hebrew term Rosh HaShanah means “the head of the year,” and Jewish tradition teaches that God created the heavens and the earth on this day. In Judaism there are two calendars that the Jewish people recognize: the religious new year that occurs in the spring in the month of Nisan, and a civil new year that begins in the fall in the month of Tishrei. Rosh Hashanah begins the civil new year in Israel.
God instituted seven feasts for Israel in the Old Testament that have their fulfillment in Christ Jesus. The spring feasts are:
Passover (Pesach) -God instituted the shedding of the blood of the lamb which kept the angel of death from their homes. This feast found its ultimate fulfillment in the Lamb that was slain that those who believe in Him might pass out of death into life. (Exodus 12; Leviticus 23:5; 1 Corinthians 5:7)
Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMotzi) -The feast in which the striped and pierced matzo bread was broken. This feast was fulfilled in the crucifixion of Christ for the sins of the world. (Leviticus 23:6; Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24; Zechariah 12:10)
First Fruits (Reshit Katzir) -The presentation of the first fruits of the harvest. This feast symbolizes the resurrection of Christ, who is called the firstfruits.
Pentecost (Shavu’ot) -The commemoration of the giving of the law. On this day, the Holy Spirit came with power upon believers.
The three fall feasts are:
Trumpets (Yom Teru’ah or Rosh HaShanah) -At the Feast of Trumpets, a trumpet, or shofar, was blown to call God’s people out of the harvest fields to come worship at the Temple. This feast has a future fulfillment in the Rapture of the Church.
Atonement (Yom Kippur) -This feast follows ten days of reflection called the Days of Awe. Jewish tradition says that it will be a day when the destiny of the righteous and the wicked are written in the Book of Life and the Book of Death. For the Christian, Jesus Christ has already become the atonement for our sins, granting us eternal life. (Leviticus 23:27; Hebrews 5:6; 6:20; 9:15)
Tabernacles (Sukkot) -This feast represents God and man together again in Jerusalem.
(Leviticus 23:34; Ezekiel 37:26; Zechariah 14:16-17
Jesus literally fulfilled the spring feasts with His first coming. The fall feasts have yet to be fulfilled. The next feast is Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets. Like all the feasts, the Feast of Trumpets is filled with parallels to prophetic events unveiled in the New Testament.
The first blast is a call to those laboring in the harvest to drop everything and return to Jerusalem. During this feast 100 trumpets are blown. These trumpet blasts are named and categorized:
Tekiah– a single blast (as at a king’s coronation)
Shevarim– a series of wail-like blasts (signifying the mourning of repentance)
Teru’ah– staccato blasts (sent as an alarm or warning to awaken the soul)
Tekiah ha’Gadol– one long blast
These first three are blown back and forth over the course of the feast until there have been 99 blasts. Then on the last day the Tekiah ha’Gadol, literally the “great tekiah,” or last blast, is sounded. The trumpeter blows the shofar once and holds it for as long as possible. The time of this last trump is never known.
Many theologians and Bible scholars believe that Christ’s appearing for His Church, called harpazo (to snatch or take to oneself) in Scripture and known as the Rapture, is the next prophetic event to occur. And some believe that it will be fulfilled on Rosh Hashanah, as was the prophetic events linked to the spring feasts.
Whether or not the Rapture happens to coincide exactly with the Jewish feast, we have been given a prophetic itinerary of the events of the last days in God’s Word. The Feast of Trumpets is our promise that one day that final blast of the trumpet will announce Christ’s return for His Church and our resurrection to meet Him in the air.
Today we await the call. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
“Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come.” Mark 13:29-33
There’s a reason for the daily battles
“The Philistine also said to David, ‘Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field.’ Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.’”
-1 Samuel 17:44-45
They come in waves, day after day, night after night: constant attacks on our jobs, relationships, finances, health, and souls. The battles against the people of God are constant, wearying, discouraging. Behind each one a mocking voice assails us, declaring our certain destruction. This year has been a hard one for many of us, and it’s easy to be discouraged right now. But the trials that threaten to be take us down can teach us vital lessons in spiritual warfare. The constant smaller battles are the training for the larger one, the fight for our people and our faith.
A shepherd in Israel once learned war by caring for sheep. The lessons he learned in the lesser daily struggles taught him how to fight to win the important battles and what weapons were effective against those who prey on the innocent.
David was a young Israeli man who watched over his father’s flocks. Goliath was a Philistine giant who hated Israel. The first book of Samuel relates the account of the aggression of the Philistines who came up against Israel. The Israeli army assembled to resist them, but their fear kept them from engaging their enemy. They stayed encamped day by day between their enemies and their families but could neither advance nor retreat, existing instead in the no-man’s land between victory and defeat.
Every day, the Philistines sent out their champion Goliath, who taunted the army of Israel with his threats as they cowered in their tents. One day David took provisions to his brothers in the camp and was astounded by their inaction. Battle-hardened by his years of single-handedly fighting off the vicious predators of his father’s sheep, David was irked by Goliath’s insults against God. He accepted Goliath’s challenge to fight him.
David rejected any weapons except the one that was battle-tested: his slingshot. From the river he chose five smooth stones. They needed to be smooth to cut down on friction, thereby sailing faster through the air when released from the slingshot.
Much has been written about the number of stones David chose from the river. Some tie it to grace, since the number five represents grace in the Bible. But David did not give grace to the giant. He killed him. Others say the number five represents the five-fold ministry given to the saints. But David only used one stone. Since it appears that Goliath had four brothers, a more reasonable explanation might be that he armed himself with a stone for each of them, in case he wound up facing all five of them.
Although other applications and symbolism may be attached to the account, the most likely reason David chose five stones was that he was an experienced shepherd. He knew that when he faced an enemy of any sort, whether it was a lion, bear, or giant, he needed to be well-prepared. David ensured that he had enough ammunition to finish the job of dispatching the enemy of his people.
But David only needed one good shot, and he took it.
The Hebrew word for “stone” is אבן, transliterated into the English word Eben. The Hebrew word is a contraction of two words, “Father” and “Son.” All David needed was to exercise the authority of the Father and the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit to gain victory over his enemy.
If you awaken each day to a Goliath that stalks your valley to torment and threaten you, take charge. You may or may not be able to change the situation, but you can silence the voice of intimidation and fear, live in peace, and see deliverance. God rescues His people.
The Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s….”
-1 Samuel 17:47
It’s Okay to Cry
Oh that my head were waters
And my eyes a fountain of tears,
That I might weep day and night
For the slain of the daughter of my people!
-Jeremiah 9:1 (NASB)
He is known as the weeping prophet.
Jeremiah was born in Anathoth, the son of a Hebrew priest. He lived approximately 650 to 570 B.C., and his ministry spanned the reigns of five kings of Judah: Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah.
He was called from his youth to warn Israel of God’s anger at their idolatry and the impending judgment upon them if they didn’t repent. He suffered much for his obedience to God’s Word, persecuted by his own people. For decades his preaching fell on deaf ears.
Then, as Jeremiah had prophesied, Jerusalem fell captive to a foreign king.
Some are born to see and understand things beyond the natural realm of humanity’s senses. They feel pain deeper, sorrow harder over injustice, and hear the groaning of creation in a way most don’t.
Those who don’t know what to do with the pain live in depression. Those who understand the source, hear the Word of God, and receive the work of the Comforter live in great power. These are the intercessors, the advocates, the men and women who follow after the heart of God. They see His tears. They hear His grief over a dying world.
They weep with Him.
They have the courage to see what the Father sees, to feel what He feels, to be His hands and feet and voice to a world spinning out of control. When others run from danger, they run toward it to warn and rescue the perishing.
Their pain inspires them to positive action. Their suffering inspires them to love deeper, to speak the truth in gentleness.
If you look out over your world today and feel like crying, it’s okay. In fact, it’s good. Some people, like Jeremiah, were born to weep. Let your tears wash away the self-centeredness that is common to us all and inspire you to prayer more, love deeper, and speak the Word in truth.
Our planet is dying. Billions of people will die with it without ever knowing the Savior.
It’s okay to cry.
Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.
-Ecclesiates 1:18 (NASB)