The Clarion, Jan. 2023
January, another year, another new beginning, but let’s look at January another way. January, the dead of winter. For many of us, winter only means cold and snow and shorter days. But God thinks otherwise. As we get old, we enter into the winter of our lives. We move slower, our hair turns gray, and we can begin to see our lives growing shorter and shorter. But this is what God says in Isaiah 46:4,
“I will be your God through all your lifetime, yes, even when your hair is white with age. I made you and I will care for you. I will carry you along and be your Savior.”
Psalm 92:12-15 says, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.””
Look what Abraham and Sarah, and even Moses, Joshua and Caleb, did when they entered into the winter of their lives, and they were just getting started.
Let this New Year be the beginning of great things for you.
The Wilderness, a Place of Death, a Place of Life.
We want to take a look at the wilderness, the place where Israel lived for forty years. The question is, how did they survive in a place that was so hostile to life?
A wilderness by definition is a wild and natural area in which few people live.
When Israel left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea, we see them celebrating their freedom. This is most understandable, but quickly this all changed.
Exodus 15:22-24 tells us, “Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, because they were bitter; for that reason it was named Marah. So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”
It did not take long for the people to realize that they were now in the wilderness.
So why did God bring the people into the wilderness? Couldn’t He have taken another route? The clue may be in Hosea 2:14-15, “Therefore, behold, I am going to persuade her, bring her into the wilderness, and speak kindly to her. Then I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will respond there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she went up from the land of Egypt.”
It seems that God likes to bring Israel into the wilderness. Hosea writes that God lures us, or brings us into a wilderness experience just to speak with us. We see in Matthew 4:1 that even Yeshua was led into the wilderness by God. “Then Yeshua was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”
Why the wilderness? Have you ever gone through a dry place in your life, a time when no matter what, things just don’t work out for you, or you just can’t seem to get that feeling you once had? Life has become a wilderness, not suitable to live in. When we get so low, that is when God begins to do a work in us. Life is all about dying. Yes, dying to self. Yeshua’s whole message is about dying. It starts with denying oneself. Matthew 16:24 “Then Yeshua said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.’”
This begins the wilderness experience. John 12:24, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
Galatians 5:24 goes on to say, “Now those who belong to Messiah Yeshua crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Galatians 2:20 takes us further. “I have been crucified with Messiah; and it is no longer I who live, but Messiah lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
Romans 6:5-7 says, “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for the one who has died is freed from sin.”
Yes, the wilderness can bring death, but it can also bring life. Once we die to ourselves then we can be born again. There was a man named Nicodemus who came to Yeshua at night, most likely because he did not want anyone to know that he was interested with the Words of Truth. Still Yeshua received him just the same. John 3:2-3 tells us what he wanted to know, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Yeshua responded and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless someone is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
How can one be born again unless he dies to himself. John 12:24 says, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
When a person dies then he enters into eternal life, so we too, if we die to the flesh, (ourselves) to have life, then we have life in Yeshua.When you turn your life over to God the Father, He becomes your Shepherd.
Psalm 121 tells us just how Israel lived in the wilderness for forty years.
“I will raise my eyes to the mountains; from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who watches over you will not slumber. Behold, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your protector; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not beat down on you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time and forever.”
You see God brought Israel into the wilderness so that He could teach them to trust Him for all things. Day and night God was watching over them. No wild beast attacked them, no enemy overtook them. The heat of the sun did not burn them, nor did the cold of the night cause them any harm. God provided food and water and their clothes or shoes never wore out as Deuteronomy 29:5 tells us, “And I have led you in the wilderness for forty years; your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandal has not worn out on your foot.”
And yet the people still did not believe nor did they die to themselves. God was a Father to them, and He was a husband to them, and He was faithful to them, but they would rather have been slaves in Eygpt than to being free. This is how we are . Yeshua set us free from the bondage of slavery, (John 8:34-38) and yet, we too, will not die to ourselves, but we would rather be slaves to this world ways. God brings everyone into the wilderness, so that He can speak to us, and show us that there is life, in death. Without dying we can not be born again. If we are not born again we will not see the kingdom of God. It is not in saying a prayer. It is in dying that we will find life.
In the last line of the Prayer of St. Francis, he writes, “And it is in dying to ourselves that we are born to eternal life.”
Francis knew, because he too, was called into the wilderness. And he too, died there, only to be born again into a new life as a new creation.
Matthew 16:24-27 tells us, “Then Yeshua said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what good will it do a person if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul? Or what will a person give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every person according to his deeds.”
Isaiah 35:1-10 says it well, “The wilderness and the desert will rejoice,
and the desert will shout for joy and blossom; like the crocus it will blossom profusely and rejoice with joy and jubilation. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the exhausted, and make the feeble strong. Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; the retribution of God will come, but He will save you.” Then the eyes of those who are blind will be opened,and the ears of those who are deaf will be unstopped. Then those who limp will leap like a deer, and the tongue of those who cannot speak will shout for joy. For waters will burst forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert. The scorched land will become a pool and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, its resting place, grass becomes reeds and rushes. A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for the one who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it. No lion will be there, nor will any vicious animal go up on it; they will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk there, and the redeemed of the Lord will return and come to Zion with joyful shouting, and everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
Is God calling you into the wilderness? Go, and I tell you, die to yourself, and you too will see that you will be rejoicing in the victory, like Israel, when they came into the wilderness singing and dancing and praising the Lord.
Recipe Corner: Turkey and Broccoli Pastry Braids
By Taste of Home
Here is a simple meal you may enjoy
- 1 cup finely chopped cooked turkey (about 5 ounces)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh broccoli
- 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet red pepper
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup Miracle Whip
- 1/4 teaspoon dill weed
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
- Preheat oven to 400°. For filling, mix first 6 ingredients.
- Unfold pastry onto a lightly floured surface; roll into a 15×10-in. rectangle. Transfer to a baking sheet. Spoon filling down center third of rectangle. On each long side, cut 8 strips about 3 in. into the center. Starting at an end, fold alternating strips over filling, pinching ends to join.
- Bake until golden brown and filling is heated through, 20-25 minutes.
- Makes 4 servings
Now I Live:
Lord, I was dead, but now I live. Sin kept me away from You, but now You have forgiven me and You have given me life. I am a new creation and my soul rejoices. Your everlasting love touches the depths of my inner being. I give glory and praise to You for now I live.
Sandigram/The Path of My Life/Copyright 2010
Hebrew Corner: The Month of Tevet
Tevet is the 10 month on the Jewish calendar when counting from Passover. It is a winter month and it has 29 days to it. It corresponds to December-January. The name, like so many of the names for the Jewish months, came about while the people were exiled in Babylon. It was during this month on the eighth day, that the translation of the Septuagint, (LXX) was finished. This is the oldest translation of the Torah. It is taken from the Greek Targums (translations). It is believed in the third century BC that King Ptolemy of Egypt gathered 72 elders, and placed them in separate rooms, and went to each one of them and asked them to translate the Torah into Greek. It was considered a miracle that all 72 elders translated the Torah in Greek exactly the same, all using the same Greek constructions. Because of the many layers of the meanings in the Torah that these men could have translated it several ways to bring out the truth of God’s Word. In the month of Tivet began a series of events that led to the destruction of the first temple. 2 Kings 25:1-2 says, “ Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. And in the ninth year of his reign, on the 10th day of the 10th month Nebuchadnezzar moved against Jerusalem with his whole army. He besieged it; and they built towers against it all around. The city continued in a state of siege until the 11th year of King Zedekiah.” God told Ezekiel to record this as we find in Ezekiel 24:2 “O mortal, record this date, this exact day; for this very day the king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem” It was during the month of Tevet that Esther was taken to the palace, and it is believed that the apostle Peter died on the 9th of Tivet. So many months hold tragedy for the Jewish people, but some months more than others. Yeshua warned the people that there would be trials and tribulations and persecutions. In Mark 10:29-30, Yeshua said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” In Acts 14:21-22 Paul tells us, “And after they had preached the gospel to that city and had made a good number of disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “It is through many tribulations that we must enter the kingdom of God.” Let us always remember that God is with us in all of our trials. This is the 10th month, the month of Tevet.