The Cries Have Reached Heaven

As of late, I have been praying for God to burden me with His will.  To reveal to me His heart.  To burden my spirit with what He wants me to pray, to direct me as to how to intercede in prayer.  And what has kept ringing in my mind over the last several days is, “The cries against this land have reached heaven.”  So, I began to search scripture and I found several things the Bible speaks of that cry out to heaven.

1.  The Sin of Willful Murder: “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ The Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.'” (Gen 4:9,10)

Willful murder encompasses abortion, and it is a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance.  The Didache states, “Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not practice pederasty; do not fornicate; do not steal; do not deal in magic; do not practice sorcery; do not kill a fetus by abortion, or commit infanticide (Didache 2:2).  From 1970 to 2013 the number of abortions in the US that have been reported to the CDC is almost 52 million.  That’s 52,000,000 babies that have been willfully murdered in this land in the last 40 years.  The blood of 52,000,000 babies cries out to God from the ground of the US.

2.  The Sin of Oppression, Extortion, Greed and Exploitation:  “Now listen you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one who was not opposing you.”(James 5:1-6)

American enterprise is built on exploited labor.  Migrant farm workers are the backbone of America’s agricultural powerhouse.  Migrant labor forms the bedrock under our indulgence.  And we condemn these men and women who pour out their lives in cheap labor so we can keep prices within our means to gluttonously consume.  We are a haughty bunch, who expect to be paid top dollar for our own labor, but we don’t want the price of living to go up.  So we hire those who will take less for their labor, then condemn them for being here.  And then passionately defend our case for condemning them.  This may not seem like a big deal to many, but scripture says that the cries of the exploited reach His ears.  And that’s a big deal.

3.  The Sin of Sodom: “Then the Lord said, ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached Me. If not, I will know.'”(Gen 18:20,21).

The sin of Sodom was immorality, sexual perversion, rejection of heavenly authority, blasphemy, arrogance, gluttony, apathy which comes through the ease of prosperity, neglect of the poor and needy, abominable behavior, haughtiness and pride (Jude 7,8; Ezekiel 16:49,50).  That pretty much sums up our prideful nation that idolizes comfort, pleasure, sex and food and focuses more on self than others.

A woman flushed her baby down the toilet the other day in a McDonald’s bathroom.  Some Florida teenagers watched a handicapped person drown as he cried out for them to save him.  All they did was watch and laugh.  We have gay pride parades that celebrate that which God has declared unholy.  We not only openly celebrate it in our streets, but we take our children to observe these celebrations.  We fornicate with absolutely no shame, encouraging safe and responsible sex outside of marriage, like this is some sort of commendable effort.  A magazine published an article for teenagers, explaining how to “properly” engage in anal sex. We are the number one exporter of pornography.  A movie is coming out called “Mother” which horrendously blasphemes the holy Triune God of Creation.  It is a movie which is Antichrist through and through, a monstrous and gruesome affront towards, and rejection of, heavenly authority.

We are creatures of instinct, we carouse and indulge in evil pleasures in broad daylight, we have hearts trained in greed, we have eyes full of adultery, we tempt the weak and our desire for sin is never satisfied, we have left the straight way and wandered off, chasing the wages of wickedness (2 Peter 2:12-15).

We are lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful and selfish, unholy, without love of Godly things, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, duplicitous and deceitful, impulsive, conceited lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Tim 3:1-4).

Now is the time of repentance for America, but despite God’s attempt at getting our attention “none of them repent of their wickedness, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle. Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed season, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration. But my people do not know the requirements of the Lord.” (Jer 8:6,7)

I don’t know what the days ahead hold for our country, but I do know that it is not good.  Even if we repent, God must cleanse this land because it has been thoroughly defiled with sin.  I am well aware that many will scoff at what I write here and turn a blind eye.  I am well aware that many will not even take the time to read it, and I grieve.  After seeking God in heartfelt, humble prayer– seeking His presence, seeking His guidance, seeking His leading– this is the word He has burdened upon me by His Spirit:

“Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.
Rend your heart and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for He is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and He relents from sending calamity.
Who knows? He may turn and relent
and leave behind a blessing–
grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord you God.
Blow the trumpet in Zion,
declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly.
Gather the people,
consecrate the assembly,
bring together the elders,
gather the children,
those nursing at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber.
Let the priests, who minister before the Lord,
weep between the portico and the altar.
Let them say, ‘Spare your people, Lord.
Do not make Your inheritance an object of scorn,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples, “Where is their God?”‘” (Joel 2:12-17)

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Eclipsing Repentance

Genesis 1:14 says, “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years.'”  The phrase translated as “and let them be for signs” is the Hebrew “LE’OTOT”, which is a form of the Hebrew word “OTH”, which can mean banner, omen, sign or witness.  Depending on the context, this word can mean a sign such as the changing seasons and times, or it can mean a sign or omen promised by prophets as pledges of certain predicted events, such as God moving the shadow of the sun on Ahaz’s stairway at Isaiah 38:7,8.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, I’m sure you are aware of the total solar eclipse that will be traversing across the entire United States, from sea to shining sea, on August 21st of this year.  Jewish tradition held that lunar eclipses were a bad sign for Israel and that solar eclipses were a bad sign for the Gentile nations.  This tradition is related to the fact that Gentile nations held to a solar calendar and Jews reckoned their calendar by the moon.  The Jewish Talmud* states:  “When the sun is in eclipse, it is a bad omen for the whole world. This may be illustrated by a parable. To what can this be compared? To a human being who made a banquet for his servants and put up for them a lamp. When he became wroth with them he said to his servant, ‘Take away the lamp from them, and let them sit in the dark’… When the sun is in eclipse it is a bad omen for idolaters; when the moon is in eclipse, it is a bad omen for Israel, since Israel reckons by the moon and idolaters by the sun” (Succah 29a).

It goes on to say that the Rabbis taught that there are four reasons for a solar eclipse over a nation.  One of those four reasons is as a sign that homosexuality/sodomy has invaded a culture (Succah 29a).  Not only do I find that worthy of note, but I also find it worthy to note that the total solar eclipse across the contiguous U.S. on August 21st, 2017, is also the first day of the Jewish month of Elul.  In the Jewish tradition, the month of Elul is a time of repentance in preparation for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah (also known as Yom Teruah or Feast of Trumpets) and Yom Kippur.  Yom Kippur is also known as the Day of Atonement, or Judgment Day.  According to Jewish tradition, an entire month was spent in heartfelt repentance to prepare oneself for judgment and atonement.  And it just so happens that the first total solar eclipse across the entire contiguous U.S. in almost 100 years falls simultaneously on the day that begins the Jewish month of repentance that precedes Judgment Day.  I find this remarkable.

During the month of Elul, every effort is made to repent and “return” to God in every area of a person’s life.  It is a time of thorough self-examination, a time of coming before God in total submission, without worldly distraction, seeking Him to reveal anything in our lives that does not line up with the standard of His Word and the lives we are called to live as those who call Him Lord.  The month of Elul is, quite literally, the season in which we ensure our lamps are full and our wicks are trimmed in preparation for the arrival of the Bridegroom for the wedding feast (Matt 25:1-13).  Which is why I find it additionally remarkable and worthy to note, that the rabbis used a parable about taking the lamp away from unworthy servants to illustrate the significance of a total solar eclipse:  “Take away the lamp from them, and let them sit in the dark” (Succah 29a).

I wrote a post last year around this time about America as Daughter Babylon who sits in the dust…in the dark:  Cold Love of Daughter Babylon

I wrote a series on the Parable of the Ten Virgins and the Jewish month of Elul, that goes into greater detail and explanation:  The Picture on the Puzzle Box

I also wrote another post last year around this time, in which God impressed upon my spirit the gross need for repentance:  Balm of Gilead

“Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon;
sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans!
For you shall no more be called tender and delicate…
Your nakedness shall be uncovered, and your disgrace shall be seen.
I will take vengeance, and I will spare no one.
Our Redeemer—the LORD of hosts is his name— is the Holy One of Israel.
Sit silently, and go into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans,
For you will no longer be called The queen of kingdoms.
Yet you said, ‘I will be a queen forever.’
These things you did not consider Nor remember the outcome of them.
Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures, who sit securely,
who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me;
I shall not sit as a widow or know the loss of children’:
These two things shall come to you in a moment, in one day;
the loss of children and widowhood shall come upon you in full measure,
in spite of your many sorceries and the great power of your enchantments.
You felt secure in your wickedness, you said, ‘No one sees me’;
your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray,
and you said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’
Disaster will come upon you, and you will not know how to conjure it away.
A calamity will fall upon you that you cannot ward off with a ransom;
a catastrophe you cannot foresee will suddenly come upon you.” (Isaiah 47:1-11)

After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast. All the nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her immorality. The kings of the earth were immoral with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown wealthy through the extravagance of her luxury.”
Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “‘Come out of her, my people,’ so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; For her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Give back to her as she has done to others; pay her back double for what she has done; mix her a double portion in her own cup.
To the degree that she has glorified herself and lived in luxury, inflict on her that much torment and misery. In her heart she says, ‘I sit as queen; I am not a widow and will never see mourning.’ Therefore her plagues will come in one day, death and misery and famine; and she will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her”… Then a mighty angel picked up a stone the size of a great millstone and cast it into the sea, saying: “With such violence the great city of Babylon will be cast down, never to be seen again… The light of a lamp will never shine in you again, and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more. For your merchants were the great ones of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery.” 
(Rev 18:1-23)

*Disclaimer:  I do not consider the Jewish Talmud to be inspired literature.  I am very well aware that the Talmud discredits Jesus and His teachings.  However, the Talmud is a rich source of Jewish oral and historical tradition, and for that reason only have I included it as reference in this post.

Part 7 of 7: The Picture On The Puzzle Box

The seventh and final feast appointed to Israel by God to be literally fulfilled by Jesus Christ is the Feast of Tabernacles (Feast of Booths or Sukkot). It is first mentioned in the scriptures as the Feast of Ingathering, “Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.” (Exodus 23:14-16). It was to be celebrated after they entered the Promised Land and it was to be celebrated in conjunction with the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:33-44). For seven days they were to live in hastily constructed “booths” (the Hebrew word for booth is “sukkot”) to commemorate their time in the wilderness and God’s tabernacle that dwelled in the middle of the desert tents of the nation of Israel. The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) is not only a time of remembrance but also a time of great celebration, celebrating the bountiful harvest and the joy of community (Deut 16:14,15).

Because this feast follows a time of great repentance and judgment, the symbolic representation of this Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) is deliverance from bondage and restored fellowship with God among His people and the bountiful harvest of souls that will dwell with Him. God dwelled among His people in the Tabernacle in the desert and He will once again dwell among His people here on earth, when Christ returns to dwell among us and rule the earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

We must always be ready for the appearance of Jesus our Lord. We are commanded by Jesus to watch expectantly for his return. Each year, the month of Elul prepares us for the Feast of Trumpets on the 1st of Tishri. This year, the Jewish month of Elul begins at sunset on Saturday, September 3rd and it ends on the Feast of Trumpets on the 1st of Tishri, which begins at sunset on October 2nd. This time period before the Feast of Trumpets is spent in honest, rigorous self-examination and repentance. It is an annual purging and realigning, purging ourselves of any spiritual baggage and realigning ourselves with the lives that God calls us to live as those saved and washed by the precious blood of Christ. Repentance is not a one-time thing we do when we come to the cross for salvation, but rather it is a lifestyle of perpetual self-evaluation and surrender that Christ calls us to live.

“For you are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night… But you, brothers, are not in the darkness so that this day should overtake you like a thief.” (1 Thess 5:2,4)

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Part 6 of 7: The Picture On The Puzzle Box

Every year the “Season of Repentance” runs forty days from the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul to the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). It is during this time that we are reminded that we are a people under a covenant with God, bought by the blood of Christ, called to live lives that glorify Him and to examine our lives to ensure that we are living them for His glory, according to His word. During the first thirty days of this season, we make every effort to repent, or “turn toward God.” During this time we are to “awake” from the spiritual sleep induced by sin and ensure that our wicks are trimmed and our lamps are full. It is a time of deep personal reflection, a time of surrender and a time to make absolutely certain we are allowing God to conform us to His purpose and His will, through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. These first thirty days are a time of preparation for the trumpet call of God, the shout from heaven to assemble ourselves together to join the Bridegroom on the Feast of Trumpets, the Feast that no man knows the day or the hour.

–“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” (2 Peter 3:14).

–“Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36).

The last ten days of this season, before the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), are known as “The Ten Days of Awe”. The Ten Days of Awe are time of additional repentance before the Day of Atonement, or Judgment Day, “Although God overlooked the ignorance of earlier times, He now commands all men everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30,31).

Symbolically, the Day of Atonement is when Christ physically returns to the earth to deliver “those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 12:17) and to judge the nations, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Matt 25:31,32) and rule the earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings–and with Him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” (Rev 17:14).

In Jewish tradition, the annual period of God’s judgment of the world takes place during the Ten Days of Awe, which begin on Rosh Hashanah (Feast of Trumpets/Yom Teruah) and ends ten days later on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The world enters judgment on the Feast of Trumpets, and ten days later judgment is set and the fate of the righteous and wicked are sealed for all eternity on the Day of Atonement. According to Jewish tradition, everyone on earth is given these ten additional days to repent and get right with God before their fate is sealed and judgment is eternally set.

However from a Christian/Messianic Jewish perspective, it is understood that these ten days are symbolic of the Great Tribulation and it is understood that all those whose names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life since the foundation of the world who remain on the earth during this time will be purified through the fires of tribulation.

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will suffer tribulation for ten days. Be faithful even unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev 2:10)
And all who dwell on the earth will worship the beast-all whose names have not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” (Rev 13:8)
“Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.'” (Rev 13:14)

Ideally, we are to have gotten our spiritual house in order by repenting of all known sin and making any relationship reconciliation with others by the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah). This is the purpose of the month of spiritual preparation beforehand. However, when we examine the overall picture of God’s plan through the symbolism of His appointed feasts, it appears that those who have outstanding issues with God and man when the last trumpet sounds for the Feast of Trumpets, will find themselves subjected to further purification before they will be “able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36).

This is almost a heretical concept to a church that worships a Jesus that doesn’t require anything from them. Western Christianity focuses only on God’s grace and give little to no significance to God’s very real seriousness about living sanctified lives. As a culture, we are so far removed from what it truly means to be Christian that we have created our own religion. Of this particular Laodicean age of Christianity, Jesus said we are blind and completely ignorant of our own spiritual nakedness. He tells us we are in desperate need of sanctification by the Holy Spirit, but are too blind and lukewarm to care. (Rev 3:15-18). His instructions to us at Revelation 3, verse 19, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent”, lend even more seriousness to the annual season of repentance before the Feast of Trumpets. Of the seven churches Jesus speaks to in Revelation, five of them are specifically instructed to “repent.” (Rev 2:5; 2:16; 2:22; 3:3; 3:19).

Throughout time and history, one thing and one thing only has ever served to quickly awaken those in spiritual slumber, and that thing is tribulation. Unfortunately, hardship and suffering are the only things that arouse the lukewarm from their stupor and turn them back to radical devotion and total surrender to Christ.

We’ve covered two of the last three appointed feasts to be literally fulfilled by Christ:

1. The Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah), which symbolizes the calling together of those under Christ’s covenant, who have their wicks trimmed and their lamps full, described as “The virgins who were ready..” (Matt 25:10) and are “able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36). The month of Elul is the season of repentance, which gives all believers a window of time to set their lives in order and to thoroughly repent of any ungodliness in their lives so as to be found worthy to escape the coming judgment. If Jesus should tarry another year before He returns, then the believer has been spiritually rejuvenated and refreshed to bear fruit for God’s kingdom and shine their light for God’s glory throughout the ensuing year.

2.  The Day of Atonement and the preceding Ten Days of Awe, which symbolizes the Great Tribulation and the physical return of Christ on the Day of Judgment. Those who are not spiritually ready when the last trumpet sounds for the Feast of Trumpets, who remain to be purified, will go through the purging of the tribulation period, so that they will be ready for the Day of Atonement, which is the final separation of the sheep from the goats. These ten additional days of repentance are given for mankind to repent and get right with God before judgment is eternally set.

The last appointed feast that will be literally fulfilled by Christ is the Feast of Tabernacles, also known as the Feast of Booths or Sukkot. We’ll talk more about that in my next post.

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Part 5 of 7: The Picture On The Puzzle Box

A simple reading of the Parable of the Ten Virgins implies that there will be some virgins with lamps who are not taken by the Bridegroom. This is something that has haunted me for a very long time. Who exactly are these virgins? Who precisely do they represent? One thing I know without a doubt, is that God is calling His church to repentance….all of us. Another thing I know without a doubt is that there will be some virgins with lamps who are expecting the Bridegroom who will be spiritually unprepared for the call to the wedding feast: “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom… But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.'” (Matt 25:1,10-12).

Another statement by Jesus that haunts me is His rebuke to the Church of Laodicea at Revelation Chapter 3, verse 16, “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (For a more thorough examination of the Church of Laodicea, read THIS).

We need to keep in mind that all of Jesus’ admonishments to the seven churches in Revelation Chapters 2 and 3 are to those IN THE CHURCH. Of all seven churches, only the church of Philadelphia is promised to be kept from “the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” (Rev 3:10). All of the other churches were rebuked. At Matthew Chapter 25, only the five wise virgins go with the Bridegroom. Of the seven churches in Revelation, only the Church of Philadelphia is kept from the hour of trial. Whatever Jesus is telling us in these two passages, one thing is clear, He is speaking of an exclusive group of people.

I have read many a heated debate between those who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture versus those who believe the church will go through the Great Tribulation (post-tribulation rapture). One side uses scripture to prove their rock-solid case, the other side uses scripture to prove their rock-solid case and the stand-off continues. Who is right? Perhaps they both are. Why the heated debate? Perhaps because they are not looking at the picture on the cover of the puzzle box to see the overall design. Five virgins go, five virgins stay. We’ll talk about what happens to the five that stay in my next post.

Continue to Part 6 of 7: The Picture On The Puzzle Box
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Part 4 of 7: The Picture On The Puzzle Box

As Christians, we are called to keep “short accounts” with God on a daily basis. Each day we should confess our sins and humbly ask for God’s abundant forgiveness. However, the “season of repentance” during the Jewish month of Elul is a sanctified reminder to be spiritually prepared for the appearance of Jesus our Lord, “But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’” (Matt 25:6).

During the month of Elul, we are to prepare for the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) by getting our spiritual house in order. During this time, we make every effort to repent and “return” to God in every area of our lives. It is a time of thorough self-examination, a time of coming before God in total submission, without worldly distraction, seeking Him to reveal anything in our lives that does not line up with the standard of His Word and the lives we are called to live as those who call Jesus Lord. The month of Elul is, quite literally, the season in which we ensure our lamps are full and our wicks are trimmed in preparation for the arrival of the Bridegroom for the wedding feast.

In Matthew Chapter 25, Jesus tells the parable of the 10 Virgins who are awaiting the Bridegroom. The alarm is sounded for the Bridegrooms’ return and the wise virgins are those who trim away their burnt wicks (sins) and restore full light to their lamps with the extra oil (fullness of God’s word and His Spirit). When the spiritual call of the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) comes, there will be no time for preparation. It must be done beforehand: “And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, ‘No, since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matt 25:8-13).

We can observe this “season of repentance” and prepare for the appearing of the Bridegroom in three ways, through three types of “turning”:

1) We turn back to God and make every effort to turn away from sin
—We allow God to thoroughly examine our heart and our life and submit to whatever He asks us to turn away from. If there is anything in your life that you know you shouldn’t be indulging in or doing, then stop. All those things that you say to yourself, “I know I need to stop….” or “I know I shouldn’t be doing…..”, then stop. Stop doing it because you don’t want to be doing it when the Bridegroom shows up. In the same way, all those things that you say to yourself, “I know I really should start doing….”, then start doing it. Whether it’s Bible study, daily prayer, going to church, or anything that encourages you to spend more time in God’s kingdom, rather than your own.
—Whatever you have been putting off, whether good or bad, this is the season to make those changes.

2) We turn to others we’ve harmed or offended
—We honestly evaluate and examine ourselves and make amends for any damaged relationship. We embrace God’s command to forgive each other and to ask for each other’s forgiveness. If there is any bitterness, resentment, ill-will, anger or hurt between you and another person, then prostrate yourself before the Lord and ask Him to make you clean. Ask Him to help you forgive or to ask for forgiveness….and mean it.
—Whatever you have been harboring against someone or whatever you have done to hurt someone, this is the season to get rid of that baggage.

3) We turn to those in need
—We turn away from our own endeavors, our own pursuits and consider the needs and welfare of others, over our own. We pour ourselves out in obedience to Paul’s instructions to, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Phil 2:3,4), and “No one should seek his own good, but the good of others.” (1 Cor 10:24). Do random acts of kindness simply because you genuinely love God, “..let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:16).
—When you see a need that needs to be met in the life of another, and you are capable of meeting it, then this season is an active reminder to do it.  Even (or especially) if it is inconvenient and requires personal sacrifice on your part.

The month of Elul and the preparation for the Feast of Trumpets remind us to be spiritually ready for the appearance of Jesus our Lord. Over and over we are commanded by Jesus Himself to “watch”:

–“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day on which your Lord will come.” (Matt 24:42)
–“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matt 25:13) —“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know when the master of the house will return
–whether in the evening, at midnight, when the rooster crows, or in the morning.”
(Mark 13:35) –“And what I say to you, I say to everyone: Keep watch!” (Mark 13:37)
“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds on watch when he returns.” (Luke 12:37) —“If therefore you shall not watch, I will come like a thief, and you shall not know at what hour I will come upon you.” (Rev 3:3) —“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one watching and keeping his garments, so that he should not walk naked and they might see his shame.” (Rev 16:5)

–“But watch yourselves, or your hearts will be weighed down by dissipation, drunkenness, and the worries of life—and that day will spring upon you suddenly like a snare. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. So keep watch at all times, and pray that you may have the strength to escape all that is about to happen and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)

So what happens to those who aren’t watching by ensuring that they are spiritually ready for the Bridegroom’s appearance? “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’” (Matt 25:12). We’ll talk more about that in my next post.

Continue to Part 5 of 7: The Picture On The Puzzle Box
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Part 3 of 7: The Picture On The Puzzle Box

When God gave Moses the seven appointed feasts to be observed by Israel, He told Moses that the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) was to be a Sabbath day observed by the blowing of trumpets as a memorial to remind Israel that they were a people under a covenant– a nation who had accepted the responsibilities of being God’s people (Num 29:1; Lev 23:24). God Himself blew a heavenly trumpet (shofar) at Mt Sinai to call the people to attention and to announce His Presence for the inauguration of His covenant with them. Therefore, the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) is a time of calling God’s people to attention, to sound a warning, to give an alarm, jolting us from our sleep, calling us to remember our Lord as King. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.” (Matt 25:6,7).

In ancient Israel, when the trumpet (shofar) would sound at the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah), the field workers would stop their labor and come into the Temple. The high priest blew the trumpet so that the faithful would stop harvesting and come to worship. It was, in essence, a call to attention to assemble themselves to be gathered unto the Lord: But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. …For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (Matt 24)

When the trumpets are blown on the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah), there is a set pattern of different sounds that are repeated, with one single, final blast referred to as the “Last Trump”: “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 Cor 15:51,52).

The Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) is unique because it is the only appointed feast that begins on a new moon. Jews reckon their days as beginning and ending at sunset, rather than at midnight. Therefore, in ancient Israel, the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) was also known as the “Feast that no man knows the day or the hour”, because it could not be determined whether the new moon would appear before the sun set or after the sun set, only God knew the exact hour when the moon would appear. In ancient Israel, two witnesses would stand on the walls of Jerusalem and watch for the first sliver (crescent) of the new moon. When God decided to allow the new moon to appear in the sky, then these two witnesses would sound the shofar (trumpet) and all the people in the city would immediately drop what they were doing, and go to the temple. “But as for that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32)

The days leading up to the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah) are known as the “season of repentance” and they take place during the 6th month on the Jewish calendar which is called Elul. We prepare for the Feast of Trumpets during the month of Elul by getting our spiritual house in order, And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.” (Matt 25:10). We’ll take a closer look at what it means to be “ready” in my next post.

Continue to Part 4 of 7: The Picture On The Puzzle Box
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