James 5:1 (KJV) Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving, by Arno Froese - Part 2

Thanksgiving of the Future. Acknowledging that God is the Creator and Sustainer of life is a fundamental principle.

Thanksgiving2“And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field” (Exodus 23:16).

Three times we read in 1 Samuel 17 why David fought and won against Goliath.  “…Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” “Seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God….” And directly addressed to Goliath, “I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied” (verses 26, 36, 45).

Goliath Defied God
goliath2Another great example of faith is revealed when David challenged Goliath the Philistine: “Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied” (1 Samuel 17:45). The issue was not the nation of Israel and their potential defeat. Goliath defied the God of Israel. That was the reason for his defeat. Three times we read in that chapter why David fought and won against Goliath. “…Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” “Seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God….” And directly addressed to Goliath, “I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied” (verses 26, 36, 45).

There are many other examples in Scripture, clearly documenting that the people in ancient times totally, absolutely, and unconditionally believed in the divine, albeit idols. These few examples should suffice to show that faith in the supernatural was as common as drinking water and eating bread.

In biblical times, the result of faith was often visibly demonstrated, particularly for the people of Israel. Think of the ten plagues in Egypt; the parting of the waters to escape from Pharaoh’s army; seeing water come out of the rock in the desert; manna from heaven; and many other important events throughout Israel’s history. They believed God, but they never broke through to a living faith. They saw the work of God but did not recognize His plan. Psalm 103:7 reveals the difference between Moses and Israel: “He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.”

Decrease of Faith
What about today? Faith in God is definitely decreasing, and faith in man’s ability to solve all his problems is increasing. This is not surprising for Bible believers, for Jesus Himself stated, “…when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

What is faith? Hebrews 11:1 reads, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” That is one important reason why faith is decreasing—because our faith is “the evidence of things not seen.” Modern science, however, exhibits its products and inventions to the entire world. Seeing is believing, they proudly exclaim.

Biblical Thanksgiving
Contrary to the Christian world, where one or two days are set aside to give thanks for a bountiful harvest, the original Thanksgiving was quite different.

The word Thanksgiving appears 20 times in the Old Testament and 8 times in the New Testament. Of particular interest is the fact that a ministry was created within the Temple service for the very purpose of Thanksgiving. Thus, we read in Nehemiah 12:8, “Moreover the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, which was over the thanksgiving, he and his brethren.” Based on our understanding, these Levites’ task was to speak and sing thanksgiving songs in honor to God for His everlasting and eternal grace to His people Israel.

Giving thanks in all circumstances is a clear mark of the born-again person. Colossians 2:7 reads, “Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.”

Thanksgiving is realizing one’s dependence on the God of Heaven, the Creator and Sustainer of all things. In doing so, our reliance on Him grows day-by-day, of whom we read in Revelation 7:12, “Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.” In the midst of this seven-fold glorification of God, we find the word thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, therefore, is not a day set apart, but Thanksgiving means being thankful 365 days a year. That is what real Thanksgiving is all about.

mitzbah2The Three Feasts
We already read at the beginning of this article the original instruction in the book of Exodus. We note in chapter 23:17, “Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord God.” It speaks of three special feasts. The first is the Feast of Passover, the second the Feast of Pentecost, and the third, the Feast of Tabernacles. These three important feasts are aimed at the God of Israel. He is the reason for Thanksgiving.

1. Feast of Passover
We should all be familiar with the Feast of Passover, giving thanks to God for the redemption of Israel from the slavery of Egypt.

To get a better picture of Thanksgiving, let us read the instruction God gave to the people of Israel after they came out of Egypt, “In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein” (Leviticus 23:5-8).

We immediately recognize the stark difference between our Thanksgiving and the Passover Thanksgiving. No work was to be done. In modern language, all shopping centers would be closed. Objectively speaking, this was not good for the economy. But here we are dealing with God’s instruction. It shows with clarity that the center of all celebrations, of all holidays should be the Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth. Israel was ordered to totally concentrate on God, the Redeemer who brought them out of slavery in Egypt.

The Passover was not without blood. That was the very substance by which Israel was saved from the angel of judgment, which destroyed all firstborn males throughout the land of Egypt; the only exception were those who had the blood of the Lamb applied on the doorpost and lintels.

What a tremendous prophetic picture of our Lord. It is the blood of the Lamb of God who finalized this prophetic event, as we can read in Revelation 5:9, “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”

2. Feast of Pentecost
The Feast of Pentecost is an agricultural feast, known in Hebrew as Shavu’ot or the Festival of Weeks. Let us read from Leviticus 23:10, 15, and 17, “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest…And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete…Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD.”

This order was given before Israel entered the Promised Land.

Such feasts or celebrations would again be out of the question in our modern age; it would be called economically unfeasible. This seems like a contradiction, because today we have our modern machinery and time-saving devices. We should have plenty of time to dedicate ourselves to the things of God, but in actual fact, we don’t. That again shows our own technology is creating a manmade god. Ultimately, all mankind will worship it, according to Revelation 17:13.

Furthermore, Pentecost is actually the Church’s birthday. We read of it in Acts 2:1-4, “And when the day of Pentecost was 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 all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

This sign of the “cloven tongues like as of fire” is a one-time event, not to be repeated; it’s part of the foundation of the Church. Pentecost illustrates the new birth, the change from the old to the new, from dying of self to the rebirth.

Here we must mention that the rebirth does not include our flesh and blood birth; it’s the spirit that is new. The flesh and blood remains sinful and is condemned to die. However, this flesh and blood serves as the temple of the Holy Spirit and should be sanctified by the believer.   

3. Feast of Tabernacles
Let us read about this festival from Jewish perspectives:

sukkot2“Sukkot (Feast of Booths, Feast of Tabernacles) is a biblical Jewish holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei (varies from late September to late October). It is one of the three biblically mandated festivals (shalosh regalim) on which Hebrews were commanded to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.

“The holiday lasts seven days (eight in the diaspora). The first day (and second in the diaspora) is a sabbath-like yom tov (holiday) when work is forbidden, followed by the intermediate Chol Hamoed and Shemini Atzeret. The Hebrew word sukkot is the plural of sukkah, ‘booth or tabernacle,’ which is a walled structure covered with s’chach (plant material such as leafy tree overgrowth or palm leaves).”

It is a feast of joy and gladness to God for causing the Israelites to harvest bountifully, so their food supply would be assured, as well as that of their livestock.

When we read the Scripture, we immediately notice that Thanksgiving is to be throughout the year. It’s not a one-day event. Thanksgiving, as already mentioned, is part of being a Christian. Literally, we are eternally thankful.

The Law of the Feast of Tabernacles
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the LORD.  On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.  Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein. On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein” (Leviticus 23:33-36).

When reading these instructions given by God, one notices that work is not to be our most important occupation, as it is in our days. Taking time to recognize the Life-giver was a priority for the people of Israel.

Remaining Thankful
When we analyze this both objectively and subjectively, we immediately realize that the worship of God, concentrating on Him and His blessings, should be priority number one. Everything else is secondary.

Here we are reminded of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 6:33, “…seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  That is what Thanksgiving is all about.

The children of Israel were commanded to observe these feast days to celebrate and always remember that liberty comes from God. That is Thanksgiving.   

Unfortunately, most of the world’s “Thanksgiving” has little to no relationship to Biblical truth. Often, it is just gimmick or tradition, powered by commercialism. Some of this applies to America’s Pilgrim Thanksgiving, which has been ordered as a national holiday. But in reality, it has no relationship to biblically-based Thanksgiving.

Our modern Thanksgiving, no matter where it is celebrated and in what country, is centered on self—on our amazing technology that is able to supply food in abundance to the majority of the 7 billion people on planet Earth.

Thanksgiving of the Future
Acknowledging that God is the Creator and Sustainer of life is a fundamental principle. For that reason, we read in Zechariah 14:16-17 that the nations will be required to keep the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, “And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.”

This almost sounds too simple, too primitive. Yet with all the technology and our proud slogan, “The sky is the limit,” the real limit is “shall be no rain.”

During the last few decades, much is being spoken about the environment, global warming, depletion of fresh water and endangered species, but in reality, all depends on whether the Creator gives rain.

Also, there is political, economic, and financial turmoil, plus various local wars, trouble, confusion, and danger the world over. Yet all that is secondary. When rain fails, life fails; the end has come. The Creator has the last word. It will not be global warming or anything else but “upon them shall be no rain.” Such a simple statement would cause shortage of food, hunger, starvation, the end of life.

For the world, there is no hope outside the God of Creation. In light of that fact, politically active Christians should realize that all of their work is in vain. The world in which we live will not be saved, nor will America return to God, as some urge us to fight for. The world, all of it, is destined for destruction, for judgment, because sin requires judgment. Again, Scripture says, “He that sins is of the devil”; and since all have sinned, there is no hope.

Yet—and this is extremely important— there is one escape and that is the sin-bearer, the sin-forgiver, the Lamb of God who poured out His life in His blood on Calvary’s Cross. Faith in the eternally accomplished work of redemption by Jesus Christ our Lord guarantees eternal blessings, even spiritual blessings here and now on earth. Let us follow the instruction given in Holy Scripture, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:24-26).

Midnight Call - 11/2014

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