Having grown accustomed to new household duties since my retirement, I was rather aggrieved by the sight of dirty footprints all over the kitchen floor. And it was only when my wife returned home after a day’s teaching that I was able to confirm whodunnit. I was at least glad some stray animal hadn’t wandered in seeking winter warmth.
Linda explained that, before leaving for work, she had taken several trips into our wet and muddy back garden to avail herself of some foliage with which to teach her class about the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), celebrating God’s protection, provision and presence during Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness. For the past 20 years she has been employed by a number of churches in the town to help local primary schools fulfill their curriculum as far as learning about Christianity and Judaism is concerned.
The children especially like learning about the Jewish feasts because it always seems to involve food. Linda regularly teaches about Passover and Shabbat, and you’d think the kids hadn’t eaten at home by the way they tuck into her lovingly-baked challah (traditional Jewish bread). Typically among young children, they weren’t quite so eager to accept an orange apiece (substituting an etrog) as yesterday’s food offering.
On the very day these 11-year-olds were contemplating the meaning of these symbols, I received an email from an Australian friend all about Sukkot. I know what you’re thinking: the feast is in the autumn, so why are we discussing it now? Well, my wife’s focus was dictated to by the school’s agenda, and my friend Martin was trying to interest people in a tour of Israel this coming September by saying that Sukkot 2015 is going to be especially significant because it would be ushered in by a ‘blood moon’ (total lunar eclipse) on September 27. And not just any blood moon, but a ‘super’ blood moon – one that is closer to the earth than at any other time of the year.
Particularly significant is that it will be centered over Israel, appearing 14 percent larger than a regular full moon there. Martin tells me there has never been a ‘super blood moon’ on Sukkot following a Shemitah (Sabbath) year. As most readers may know, the Shemitah is the biblical year of economic rest, and the current one started in October 2014 and ends on September 13 2015.
Apparently the Talmud regards a blood moon with alarm – a portent of judgment or war, not just for Israel but for the world as a whole. In Genesis 1:14 we read that God created the sun, moon and stars not only to give us day and night but also to serve as prophetic signs. During the period from April 2014 to September 2015, there will have been a ‘tetrad’ (four) of these blood moons, each falling on the full moon festivals of Pesach or Sukkot. But only the last one will be visible from the Land of Israel, and astronomical signs are apparently not considered by the prophets to be significant unless they are.
A doom-laden scenario, then! In a sense, yes, but there’s hope too… It’s certainly a wake-up call for Jewish people to rise up and return to the God of their fathers and the word of the prophets, to seek His ways and commands as never before. The initiative launched by the Israeli government aimed at getting all its citizens to read the Bible needs to be taken up with relish. Therein lies hope for the future.
The people I pity most are not the victims of persecution, but those who refuse to obey God’s commands and who curse Israel as a result. They have no future. Take the Tesco chain in Britain, for example. Founded by Jewish businessman Jack Cohen, it rose to become a grocery giant until political correctness got the better of its managers. Charitable giving was switched from cancer research to the promotion of homosexuality, and at least one store did little to prevent BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaigners from placing yellow stickers on Israeli products. Now they are in a financial mess, closing stores all over the country with the loss of hundreds of jobs.
We need to get back to the Bible and remember that “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord”. Through the Bible, we can hear the voice of God for ourselves. Remember how He spoke personally to the young Samuel, calling him three times before his master realized it must be God. Samuel did not at first recognize that it was the Lord, for that comes by persevering prayer and meditation on the Word until it becomes like breathing. Through the Bible, we converse with our Lord until it becomes second nature and our worldview is shaped entirely by this conversation with the fount of all wisdom who knows the end from the beginning. But we must get away from the call of cell-phones and the social media frenzy that demands our constant attention. Switch off the things of this world, and switch on to God. The Lord will keep us on track if we listen out for his voice, judging all we see, hear and read in the light of Scripture.
Listening to God, and doing what He says, is probably the surest way, not only to maintain your peace in the midst of storms, but also to fulfill God’s best plans for you, and all those you will undoubtedly influence.
As the Word of God brought creation into being, so will it bring to birth a renewal of our relationship with Elohim. After all, we are here today and gone tomorrow. Isaiah writes: “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” (Isaiah 40.6-8)