Just as the blazing sun of the summer will give way to the colors and fruits of the fall season, so Israel’s rhythm of feasts throughout the year reminds us that seasons change. The pomegranates are ripening, and it won’t be long before the rains will start to come.
And 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, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. (Genesis 1:14-15)
There’s a season for everything. The seasons have been ordained by God. He gave us the sun, moon and stars as markers for the passing of time, bringing brand new days, months, and years. Interestingly, there is no celestial marker for weeks! That is delineated by another part of God’s creation: the Shabbat. There is no other reason that we as human beings measure time in seven day intervals other than the God-given day of rest. As a rabbi once joked with us, “Dogs don’t know it’s Thursday! But they do know the difference between day and night, winter and summer”. Creation responds to the changing seasons, but humanity is set apart in God’s image, with our own timetable marked by Him.
What’s on the horizon?
In Leviticus 23 we find a handy list of all God’s set aside holy days and ordinances. It starts with Shabbat, and then goes on to list the feasts of the Lord, and how to celebrate them. As we are just about to come into a new holiday (holy day) season, it’s a great chance to reflect on where we have been in the last season, and what we are coming into with the new. We have gone through a global pandemic and we are now feeling the economic consequences of all those lockdowns. Many are bracing themselves for a much harder winter than usual. Every season has its benefits and its downsides, and it’s good to recall the extraordinary uptick in spiritual interest we saw during the pandemic. In the same way, we are expecting many to be seeking God in the hard times on the horizon. It’s when life as usual is interrupted that we suddenly start to look up.
We seem to be entering a season of spiritual harvest, but with that comes the separation of the wheat and the tares. We have seen a lot of exposure in these times of shaking, and God is sifting His people. God is revealing those who are His, and those who are really only for themselves.
“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).
A new season for Israel
As we look through the story of Israel, we see many seasons come and go in the nation’s history. There have been times of great joy and jubilation and others of severe punishment and devastation. Yet as Isaiah encourages the people at the end of chapter 28, the threshing does not last forever. Each season comes and gives way to the next. Suffering often seems permanent, but it is not. It might even be necessary for God’s overall purposes and plans. Things might feel out of control, but God is still on the throne.
Two thousand years ago, when the Jewish people as a nation turned their back to the Messiah (and thus the One who sent Him) a time began where God hid His face from His people. God told Moses that this would happen after his death in Deuteronomy 31:16-18. It happened once during the Babylonian exile and it happened again after Yeshua was rejected as Messiah, as He also foretold the disciples:
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near… For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:20, 23-24).
Notice that there is a very important word in the verse above and it is a key word that has been missed by many. The word is “until”.
The captivity of the Jewish people and the trampling of Jerusalem by the nations would only be until a certain time. God spoke through the prophet Isaiah to the Jewish people saying:
“For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord, your Redeemer. “This is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:7-10)
The Lord’s anger would not burn forever against His people, and although He said the He would punish His people for their deeds, He promised not to make a complete end of the seed of Jacob as long as the sun, moon, and stars are in their fixed order, something He that was not promised to any other nation on the earth. Some believe that in 1948 the tides changed, and the times of Gentiles began to come to an end. Others may consider the restoration of Jerusalem to Jewish hands in 1967 as the defining moment, and others still may argue that the times of the Gentiles have not yet come to an end. Whatever your position, it is clear that the times are rapidly changing and prophetic history is unfolding before our eyes.
Hope for the future
When we look at the miracle birth and at the amazing achievements of the small nation of Israel, not only for its own benefit but for the entire world, we can see that this is not something of man’s doing. It has been ordained and orchestrated by the Holy One of Israel, and at the time He appointed. He can, and will, do all He has promised, according to His timetable.
Now we are back in the land, and able to celebrate the high holidays here again after two thousand years of exile. The fig tree is blossoming and giving fruit, big juicy pomegranates and grapes can be found up and down the country. The seven species that God promised they would find in the Land are all here in abundance at this time of year. For most of the last two millennia, no-one could have imagined that Israel would become a nation again! Yet here we are. God has regathered His people, just as He promised. Take this as an encouragement that God is faithful to His word. There are cycles, there are seasons, and there is the steady march onwards towards God’s appointed plans which cannot be thwarted.
“But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, You are my God. My times are in Your hand” (Psalm 31:14-15).
Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash