The idea of taking a Sabbath day off to rest is not a new one. Up until recent times, it was unthinkable to find stores open on Sundays or employers demanding that workers put in a 7-day workweek. But materialism and secular humanism have changed our culture dramatically, and what used to be unreasonable is now the norm.
What we sow, we reap, and a recent New York Times bestseller, The Mystery of the Shemitah, has paired this truth with an urgent warning. Author Jonathan Cahn skillfully links many of the nation's ills with our failure to honor God. He shows historically that God is not mocked. He also warns that according to the Bible's seven-year timetable called "Shemitah," we will reap judgment again, just as we have many times before.
What is Shemitah? It is, to put it in simplistic terms, an extension of the law of the Sabbath. Just as Israel was commanded to rest every seventh day (a pattern modeled and initiated by God in Genesis, during creation); so the land must be given a rest every seven years to enjoy her Sabbaths. (See Leviticus 25). It requires Israel to rekindle her trust in God as Provider by taking an extended "vacation," of sorts, from sowing and reaping.
For an agricultural economy, this principle is understandable. Fields lie fallow, and what grows on its own is shared and eaten by everyone. Debts are forgiven. Even today's sophisticated studies of farming confirm the benefits of rotating crops or allowing the ground to lie fallow for a period of time, to restore the soil's nutrients. It makes economic sense.
It makes spiritual sense, too. Any farmer will tell you how refreshing a year of rest from hard labor is for himself! The extra time the Israelites gain when they cease sowing and harvesting is intended to be time spent with God. It is almost like a fast: an implicit acknowledgement that Israel relies wholly upon Him.
What doesn't make sense, perhaps, is how to practice this in modern times. In an economy that is no longer agriculturally-based, how does one stop working? Today's industries demand nonstop investment. One cannot simply abandon his job and hope that somehow there will be enough food to go around - can he? Is this really what God wants?
Under Old Testament law, it would seem so. The biblical penalty for failing to keep these seven-year cycles of Sabbaths was exile to Babylon. For seventy years, the land of Israel enjoyed the full number of Sabbaths she had missed. (See Leviticus 26:34 & Jeremiah 29). Her economy was devastated and her enemies defeated her.
The Mystery of the Shemitah advocates that we as a nation must return to God, lest we incur His judgment. Jeremiah 29:11, a favorite "blessing promise" verse, was conditional: it would come to pass only after the Sabbaths had been fulfilled. (See Jeremiah 29:10-14 for the context). 2 Chronicles 7:14, another favorite verse for the healing of the land, is also conditional. Our very lives depend on our seeking God. (See also Amos 5:4, Matthew 6:33).
What Does This Mean for Us?
God is serious about His people returning regularly to a place of wholehearted trust in Him. Believers know that Christ is the fulfillment of every law. Now living in the doctrine of grace, we can honor God's heart for the Shemitah just as we honor the Sabbath. Not with a legalistic adherence to a year of rest, but with an attitude that demonstrates trust and a desire to seek Him more fervently. How do we do that?
Proverbs 3:4-5 reads,
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (NKJV)
Here's an illustration the Lord gave me in prayer: normally, our everyday lives involve applying ourselves steadily to our work, as if we are pushing on a wall, hoping for breakthrough. We are told this work will pay off, and so we try to force our way through the barriers. Our reward for applying this constant pressure comes in the form of a paycheck, a promotion, or (if we are farming!) a harvest.
The Shemitah principle reminds us that there are times when we would do better to turn around and apply pressure on the opposite side, where there is a door: heaven's door! It seems counter-intuitive, at first, to turn away from what we think is the location of our natural provision, but turning renews our focus on God, our true Source. Heaven's door yields more easily and our breakthroughs reveal hidden treasures, both natural and spiritual, which we could not otherwise access.
In other words, we don't stop sowing, but we do start sowing to the Spirit instead of to the flesh. I like the way this translation puts it:
If you plant in [the soil of] your corrupt nature, you will harvest destruction.
But if you plant in [the soil of] your spiritual nature,
you will harvest everlasting life.
-God's Word Translation
Sabbaths and Shemitahs remind us time after time that God is still trustworthy. The inscription on our money reads: In God We Trust. This Shemitah year, I pray that every time we handle money, we'll be reminded that it is God who gives us the power to get wealth, as a sign of His loving covenant with us.* I pray that in seeking Him, we'll find that our time is never wasted and our harvests are multiplied.
*Deuteronomy 8:18. For a Jewish testimony about God's provision during a Shemitah year, click here.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2015
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Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others to connect with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at His Inscriptions.com. Follow her on Twitter@DeborahSPerkins or Facebook at HisInscriptions. To subscribe to her blog, click here.
Early one morning the Lord woke me, saying: "Treat obstacles not as occasions for worry but as opportunities in the Spirit." It was an encouraging word He wanted me to share with a friend who was about to experience several days of new obstacles. I shared the word, thinking it was a catchy little phrase! Not long after that, though, He showed me a picture of the rapids.
The image of a river is powerful in Scripture; Psalm 46:4 speaks of a river "whose streams make glad the city of God," and Ezekiel prophesies about a river in God's temple whose waters will increase until they become too deep to cross. It is a picture of the Holy Spirit. Not surprisingly, a popular expression in the Charismatic renewal of the 1990's was: "Jump in the river!" (Meaning, jump into the flow of the Spirit!).
But rivers, especially the rapids, contain obstacles. Some are small and easily floated over. Some are so deep they are virtually unseen. It is the larger ones that tend to cause us difficulties in our faith-walk. The ones that seem to block our way or hold us back from going to where we want to be. The ones that are too big for us to move.
We are not meant to get stuck behind obstacles, but to continue flowing in the river of the Spirit as we journey along. In order to do this, we must know what kind of obstacle we are bumping into. It is here that the wisdom of God is indispensable.
Two Types of Obstacles
Here's what I felt the Lord was saying. Obstacles along the side of a river - usually rocks, soil, or branches - comprise the boundaries of the river. They are there as protection, as an obvious division for us between the Spirit and the flesh. If we are bumping into these it often means we have drifted to the edges of the movement of God in our lives. Staying here can mean stagnancy, like being caught in the circular undulations of an eddy. We haven't abandoned God or gotten out of the river to walk on our own, but we may not be making any progress. Fear of the rapids may have caused us to return to safer ground. We may be fascinated with those outside of the river, who seem to skip along so cheerfully in the greener grass. Perhaps we are snagged on a painful outcropping that just won't seem to let us go.
Whatever the reason, we recognize that our pace has slowed, but with a little effort, we can return to the flow of the river. God has not abandoned us, and our momentary collision with the banks of the river only teaches us to run more consistently down the central channels of His grace.
Rocks or boulders inside the river, however, pose a different challenge. In most cases, these obstacles are meant to redirect us as we flow in the Spirit. These are obstacles whose roots are so deep or whose surface so great that we cannot float over them. They must be recognized for what they are and confronted with God's strategy so that we can move beyond them. What is that strategy?
Water flows over and around the rocks in a river. Rarely are rocks are dislodged to make water's passage easier! God might choose sometimes to supernaturally remove a boulder that is blocking us, but more often than not, God expects His river to flow around and beyond the things that would try to block the water's flow. We are not meant to hold on to these obstacles or become stuck when they arise.
In short, too often, our prayers focus on asking God to remove things that are meant to redirect us. We are never called to grow stagnant in the Spirit, whining and complaining about the impassable boulders we face. Life in the Holy Spirit is a life of constant movement and change, just like the life of a river. A better prayer might be, "Lord, help me to see this obstacle for what it is and to navigate around it so that it doesn't stop me from going on with You."
Returning to my time with the Lord early that morning, I realized: the key to navigating obstacles of any kind was right there in the word He gave me initially: obstacles are nothing more than opportunities for us to stay in the Spirit.
Let the Source of the river set your direction. Let the flow of the river keep you within His boundaries. And let the strength of His current propel you over and around every obstacle you might encounter.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2015
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others connect with God.
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What is happening right now in Boston is amazingly prophetic. Just two days ago, I was writing about revival after visiting John Adams' rare books collection at the Boston Public Library. (To see that post, entitled "Step Into Your New World", click here). What I did not know was that the same day I was publishing my article, archivist Pam Hatchfield was prying open a 220-year-old time capsule at the MFA, one that had been embedded in the State House's cornerstone by Sam Adams and Paul Revere in 1795. On July 4, 1795, fifteen white horses - one for each state of our union - had pulled this cornerstone and time capsule through the streets of Boston for the dedication ceremony.
Inside the box (which took nearly 7 hours to open), were artifacts from the dedication of the Massachusetts State House on the 20th anniversary of our independence. A silver plate, probably crafted by Paul Revere, displays an inscription for the building's dedication and names Sam Adams, Paul Revere, and Revolutionary War Colonel William Scollay. (See photo above). 23 coins, including one in a half-penny denomination, and a medal of George Washington are also part of the capsule.
This would be amazing in itself, of course. (I didn't even mention the significance of the public unveiling of the capsule on the 7th day of the first month of 2015!) But on this same day (the 7th), I also happened to be given an old Harvard University book from the 1950's, entitled: John Adams and the Prophets of Progress.* It is a collection of the books and articles John Adams annotated most frequently as he read and formulated his political philosophies for the founding of our new nation. The title, I knew, was no coincidence.
The significance of all this, lest we miss it, is that God is sounding a LOUD prophetic alert with signs confirming! I must write again, it is time to wake up to what the Spirit is saying! Prophets and intercessors, the watchmen on our walls, have heard the sound of revival coming. I am not alone in proclaiming that we are very near a spiritual progression of epic proportions. We must look to the foundations of our nation's birth to discover keys for the coming times.
Just last year, another time capsule was discovered, this one ironically located in the head of a lion on top of the old Massachusetts State House. This one, dated to 1901, contained original nails from Old South Church and the Old State House. Again, lest we miss the significance, Sam Adams was a member of the original Old South Church and met with the "Sons of Liberty" in 1773 at the Old South Meeting House. As an infant, Benjamin Franklin (another founder of our nation) was baptized into the congregation of Old South Church in 1706. The church now houses Paul Revere's bell.
The inscription above the portico of Old South Church reads: "Behold, I have set before thee an open door." (Revelation 3:8). We sons and daughters of true liberty must arise, step through heaven's open door, and awaken to what the Lion of the Tribe of Judah is saying for such a time as this! We are seeing amazing confirmations of His Words just in this New England area alone. Many believe revival will even start here, in the Northeast, and sweep across our nation.
I couldn't let this go unnoticed, and I hope you will forgive my enthusiasm in sharing this with you, my readers. If nothing else, I pray that the things we are seeing will convince us once and for all that the Lion is jealously roaring over His people, calling some into position as His mighty warriors and others into the foundations of relationship with Him. HE IS the Chief Cornerstone, the One who holds all things together and the One who is coming back - on a white horse, no less! - for His Bride.
May you know beyond any doubt the things He is calling you to do each day, and sense His Presence with you as you move from glory to glory. Like the Adams, Ben Franklin, and Paul Revere, your obedience to Him in even the little things plays a major part in His end-time revival plans.
To read the initial article on John Adams, scroll down to the next post or click here.
*John Adams and the Prophets of Progress ; Zoltan Haraszti, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1952.
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others to connect with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at His Inscriptions.com. You can also follow her on Google+ or Twitter@DeborahSPerkins, & Facebook at HisInscriptions.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2015
During winter vacation, my oldest son and I had the opportunity to visit the Boston Public Library. 3.7 million people visit this library every year to enjoy roughly 23 million items. But it's not just about the books. The BPL is a historic landmark with stunning Renaissance architecture, a marble staircase guarded by two stone lion sculptures, and gorgeous paintings by Sargent, Chavannes, and Abbey covering walls and ceilings throughout. I wanted my son to appreciate this Boston landmark, but I also had a secondary mission: to locate the John Adams collection.
John Adams, the second US President and a founding father of our nation, was a Massachusetts-born, Harvard-educated lawyer who called himself a collector of books. In 1894, a portion of his collection - over 3500 volumes in 8 languages - was donated to the Boston Public Library. Thousands more are housed at Peacefield, the family's Quincy estate. His collection is said to be one of the largest personal libraries held in America during his lifetime (1735-1826).*
My son and I ascended to the top floor of the library, bypassing the common rooms full of tourists and students. When we stepped into the Rare Books room, it was like entering another world.
The room is dimly lit, small and very hushed. These historic tomes are kept behind glass, illuminated by soft spotlights. As we looked around, a sense of reverence enveloped us. Here were volumes of wisdom from every aspect of life: literature, law, religion, economics, politics, and education. Select a book from the shelf and you are likely to find Adams' own handwritten, dated notes in the margin, revealing his intense desires both to interact with history and to formulate plans for our newly-birthed nation.
What a treasure! What a privilege to be able to see, through the eyes of a father and statesman, the birth of America!
A New World Order
It is unlikely that John Adams or any of the founding fathers knew exactly what our nation would become. They knew only that the old way of life could no longer continue, and that a new order must arise. "People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity," Adams said. It is hard to miss the comparison to the Christian life.
I believe, as do others, that at this moment in time, God is interested in doing something so new, so unimaginably good, that we simply have no framework or constitution for it yet. We are living in times of great adversity. Our nation's present course is unsustainable. But God is not finished with us yet!
As believers, we know from searching the Bible that things DO go from bad to worse for the world. (See Matthew 24 or the prophecies in Revelation for confirmation.) Many believers stop there, adopting a doomsday perspective and failing to see the opportunity that presents itself. For just as the first Constitutional Congress drew upon all the wisdom available to them at the time, stepping into their new destiny and creating a revolutionary national framework, so we in Christ are being presented with the opportunity to step into a new spiritual world.
It is time to dig deeper into God's extensive library. It is time to look back at the spiritual revolutionaries of our history - the Finneys, the Wigglesworths, the Montgomeries - and allow God to give shape to new spiritual concepts not yet unveiled.
When we look at history, we see both men and women being used to initiate healing revivals. We see renewals that came into every sphere of civilization, including politics. We see the ancient paths of prayer, fasting, and worship as being paved by these pioneers and ready again for our use. Those who have gone before us are quite literally God's volumes, His very own "rare manuscripts," which are still readable today and contain vast resources for us in the Spirit. Look at how Paul describes them:
You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry,
written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God,
not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
2 Corintians 3:3, NIV
Like Adams, this generation is called by the Holy Spirit to be the founder of God's new order in the earth. We must press in to find out what the Spirit is saying to the churches today - and not just the charismatic churches, either! Revival is all-encompassing, all-inclusive. It touches believer and unbeliever alike. It restores balance, builds relationships, and offers hope.
We have heard for many years now that revival is coming. Will you be the ones who prayerfully step through God's open door and find out how to bring the newness of heaven to earth? Will you ask Him to show you how to write the new, spiritual constitution for this time?
Let's find out together what this looks like! Let's study the Bible, the source of all wisdom, with pen in hand and ears open to the voice of God. Let's be bold enough to step into the new world that God has given us in the Spirit, so that generations after us can enjoy all of its benefits. Let's allow the finger of God to write His impressions upon the tablets of our hearts, so that we, too, become rare and living manuscripts, testimonies to His glory and treasures upon His shelves.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others connect with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at His Inscriptions.com. You can also follow Deborah on Twitter@DeborahSPerkins.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.