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Now let’s march towards the Pentecost!

Letter of April 9, 2018 – Form Donald L. Ward – Chairman della UCGIA

Dear fellow elders and brethren,

            I trust that each one of you experienced an inspiring Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. And I pray that we are individually and collectively equipped to triumph over sin. The Feast of Unleavened Bread should have prepared each one of us for total victory in the days that lie ahead. We examined ourselves through God’s Word before taking the Passover and repented of our sins. We washed one another’s feet, symbolizing our willingness to lay our lives down for the brethren just as Jesus gave His life for us. We have left spiritual Egypt with clean hands and hearts. We have feasted on the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Our spiritual temples should be prepared for the Feast of Pentecost.

            On the Sunday after the weekly Sabbath within the feast of Unleavened Bread, the wave offering was presented to the Lord. This ceremony marked the beginning of the 50-day journey toward the Feast of Pentecost. The 50-day period between the wave offering and the Feast of Pentecost is one of the most interesting times, and often trying times, that is recorded in the Bible. Historically it is a period of contrast in which some gained the victory, while on the other hand some stumbled and failed.

            Ancient Israel left Egypt with a high hand after witnessing the mighty miracles that God performed to set them free. Their first great test on their journey came on the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread as they were hemmed in on four sides with Pharaoh’s army closing in on them. They murmured and complained to Moses, and so Moses cried out to God. And God said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to go forward.” So God parted the Red Sea, and Israel walked through on dry land. Then the sea swallowed the hosts of Pharaoh, and they were drowned in the sea (Exodus 14:10-31).

            According to the apostle Paul, the crossing of the Red Sea was their baptism—signifying their final demarcation from Egypt, which is symbolic of sin and death. They were now to live by faith and always look to God for their deliverance. In like manner, we have been baptized and raised to newness of life to live the resurrected life of faith and trust in God. We must crucify the old man in the watery grave of baptism and mortify the flesh.

            After Israel crossed the Red Sea they sang the victory song of Moses: “The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him” (Exodus 15:2, King James Version throughout). Note carefully the phrase, “I will prepare him an habitation.” It was God’s great desire from the beginning to dwell with humankind and be their God. His dwelling place is holy and undefiled by sin.

            Even though they sang the words of building God an habitation, they went three days journey into the wilderness and found no water, and the people murmured against Moses and Aaron. By the time they reached Sinai on their 50-day journey to Pentecost, the children of Israel had murmured against Moses and Aaron several times. According to Jewish tradition, God spoke the Ten Commandments to Israel on the day of Pentecost—50 days after the wave offering was to be offered. God had to practically drag Israel to Sinai. But despite their murmuring and complaining, God gave them His perfect, immutable spiritual law. And even as God spoke the words of the law they cried out asking Moses to speak to them because they were terrified by the voice of God.

            Shortly after receiving the law, Israel entered into the terms of the Old Covenant. God then told Moses to build Him a sanctuary patterned after the heavenly sanctuary so He might dwell among them. When the tabernacle was raised up, God’s Spirit filled the tabernacle. God’s Spirit was with them—but not in them. As a nation they rebelled against Him and quenched His Spirit numerous times. By the time the 10 spies were sent to survey the promised land they had tempted God 10 times. So as a result of their continued lack of faith, they were sentenced to 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

            Jesus was crucified on Passover and resurrected during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. He appeared to his disciples after His resurrection and commissioned them to “make disciples of all nations, and teach them to observe all things” (Matthew 28:19-20). During a 40-day period he appeared to them on at least three occasions. Yet, just as Israel had to be dragged to Sinai during the period of time from the Feast of Unleavened Bread to Pentecost, Christ had to do the same thing with the apostles (John 21:1-6; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-11).

            So what about our habitation? Will we be ready for the day of Pentecost? Often times after the Feast of Unleavened Bread things may seem to get worse—even though we have examined ourselves, repented of our sins and exercised faith in the sacrifice of Christ. You need to be aware of the fact that we are entering a historical period of trial and testing.

            As the apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:31-39, God through Christ has made it possible to overcome every obstacle that Satan can put before us. The apostle John writes, “And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4, New King James version). Faith encompasses all areas of Christian living. In simplest terms, faith can be defined as believing God and doing what He says. So many people want to isolate faith and reduce it to small areas of life in which the outcome is uncertain. For example: Will God heal me? Will I get a job? Will I be able to make the mortgage payment? Will I . . . ad-infinitum. They do not view faith as a total way of life.

            We must not be like ancient Israel or the Pharisees who measured faith and righteousness by outward appearance. The Pharisees were careful to fast twice a week; observe the Sabbath in such a way that they made it into a grievous burden; pay tithes of mint, anise and cumin—yet they neglected the weightier matters of the law: judgment, mercy and faith. They were justified in their own mind. After all, they did everything righteously because they did everything according to their traditions, but while ignoring the Word of God. They were obsessed with traditions that focused on outward appearance.

            All of this they confused with godly judgment, mercy, faith, righteousness and character. Faith to them revolved around self-will. They could will themselves to keep the Sabbath very strictly, fast often and pay tithes. But these things can be done by any strong-willed person. But the things of the Spirit cannot be accomplished by self-will alone. The inner man must feast on the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth every day of his life. Jesus states in John 6:63, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” And the apostle Paul writes: “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). We will faint spiritually if we fail to renew the inward man daily!

            Just as Jesus was ready to triumph over Satan’s temptations by being being filled with the Word of God, so must we too be ready. When Jesus was confronted by Satan’s great temptations He overcame them by relying on the Word of God: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God . . . [For it is written] you shall not tempt the Lord your God . . . For it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10).

            In the days that lie ahead we must put on the whole armor of God so we will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. We must keep the big picture burning brightly in our minds and hearts. And never forget, we can be more than conquerors through Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.

            We are now marching toward Pentecost and the promised land. We must gain the total victory over sin and death. We look forward to singing the victory song of Moses in the Kingdom of God: “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints” (Revelation 15:3).

                                                                                   In Christ’s Service,

                                                                                   Donald Ward – Chairman of the UCGIA

                       

 

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