When the Heavens Declare

When the Heavens DeclareWe’re entering a season when “the heavens are declaring the glory of God” (Ps 19:1) in new and dramatic ways. And they’re highlighting the Lord’s “engraved invitation” to enter the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Today will be memorable for a solar eclipse that will completely block the sun for many in the U.S. It’s estimated that 220 million people will see today’s action in the heavens—perhaps the largest audience for a total eclipse ever. Here in Arizona we’ll miss the “path of totality,” but the 70% eclipse we will witness, clear skies permitting, should be impressive enough.

For those fortunate enough to see it, I’m praying it will move us all to meditate on the amazing piece of evidence an eclipse provides that our solar system was designed.

God tells us from the very beginning that the heavenly bodies were created for signs. (Gen 1:14) A total solar eclipse only happens because the sun and the moon appear to be nearly the same size from our vantage point. Although the sun is approximately four hundred times bigger than the moon, it is also “coincidentally” approximately four hundred times further away. Isn’t that amazing? And if you consider the celestial mechanics that enable the earth to shadow the moon so we can witness a total lunar eclipse as well, it becomes even more so.

This is the eleventh post in this series on Divine Appointments: Insights from God’s Calendar. Nothing in the Bible is old news! As we’ve walked through the Hebrew year, the Lord’s been gracious to provide some great insight into how He’s working, even in our day.

The new moon that creates the eclipse will also usher in Elul, the last month of the Jewish civil year. This brings us into a very auspicious season. Elul leads up to the month of Tishri, which kicks off with the Jewish High Holidays, also called the “Days of Awe”:

  • Tishri 1: The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, the Feast of Trumpets
  • Tishri 10: Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement

The forty days between Elul 1 and Yom Kippur are very significant in rabbinical teaching. And this year, the Lord has chosen to punctuate this auspicious season with unprecedented activity in the heavens.

Forty Days with Signs in the Heavens

Let’s walk through the components of this.


1. Forty Days of Repentance

Traditionally, Rosh Chodesh Elul [the first of Elul] marks the beginning of a forty-day “Season of Teshuvah” [Repentence] that culminates on the solemn holiday of Yom Kippur…. a time each year to prepare for the Yamim Nora’im, the “Days of Awe,” by getting our spiritual house in order.

During this time we make additional effort to repent, or “turn [shuv] toward God.” In Jewish tradition, these forty days are sometimes called Yemei Ratzon, Days of Favor, since it was during this time that the Lord forgave the Jewish nation after the sin of the Golden Calf.

– John J. Parsons on Hebrew4Christians.com

Scripture speaks in many places of a “book of life” in which the names of the righteous are recorded (Ex 32:32,33, Ps 69:28, Mal 3:16, Rev 3:5, Rev 13:8, Rev 20:12). It also hints that there may be a corresponding book for the names of the wicked (Rev 20:12).  Of course, as believers in Yeshua we know that righteousness before God is attained only through faith in Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice, resulting in our names being recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Praise the Lord, this one overrides the other books! (Rev 13:8, 20:12, 21:27)

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor 5:17)
And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. (Heb 9:27-28)

There is a Jewish tradition that the “book of life” and “book of death” are opened on Rosh Hashana and closed on Yom Kippur, thus sealing the “decree” for each person for the New Year. So in rabbinical Jewish practice, the forty days leading up to Yom Kippur constitute a last opportunity for the righteous to demonstrate their faithfulness and have their names inscribed in the “book of life” for the coming year.

Why forty days? The rabbis teach that, after Moses descended from Sinai, he saw the people’s sin and broke the first set of tablets. He ascended Mount Sinai again on Elul 1 and remained there forty days. He came down on Yom Kippur with atonement made, carrying a new set of tablets representing a second chance for Israel. (Deut 9:25 – 10:10)

Numbers are always significant in the Bible. Mentioned 146 times in Scripture, the number forty speaks of preparation though testing and, optimistically, of a new work.

Forty days of cleansing rain during the Flood.
Forty years in Egypt for Moses, then forty years in the Midian desert caring for sheep while the Lord prepared him to lead His people.
Forty years in the wilderness for the children of Israel, while a new generation grew up to replace those who participated in the Sin of the Spies.
Forty days without food or water for Elijah at Mount Horeb.
Forty days of testing for Yeshua in the Judean wilderness before His ministry began.
Yeshua also appeared to the disciples for forty days after His resurrection.

Sadly, the invitation to be made over and join God in a new work isn’t always accepted. The spies spent forty days in the land before delivering their negative report. The prophet Ezekiel lay on his right side for forty days to symbolize Judah’s sins before the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem and destruction of the first temple.


2. Eclipse in the Heavens

There’s another noteworthy forty-day period in the Bible. Jonah gave a forty-day warning to Nineveh (Jonah 3:4). Jonah’s example is apropos in view of today’s eclipse.

Why do I say that? Have you ever wondered why Jonah’s message to the Ninevites had such miraculous effect? A set of cuneiform tablets discovered in the nineteenth century appears to provide a clue. Nineveh experienced solar eclipses during the reign of Ashur-Dan III, which coincided with that of Jeroboam II, who reigned when Jonah prophesied (2 Kings 14:25). The first Assyrian eclipse, on June 24, 791 B.C., covered 74% of the sun. The second, on June 15, 763 B.C., covered 98.7% of the sun.

According to Donald Wiseman, a former curator at the British Museum and a leading expert on Assyrianology (no, I didn’t know that was a thing either!), Assyrian writings establish the impact an eclipse would have had on the Ninevites as a powerful precursor of divine judgment.

According to the Assyrian writings cited by Wiseman, here’s what a solar eclipse would have meant to them: “the king will be deposed and killed, and a worthless fellow will seize the throne…rain from heaven will flood the land…the city walls will be destroyed.” The Assyrians tell us that at such a time, there would be solemn fasting, and the king would hand over his throne to a substitute until the danger passed. At least once when there was a total solar eclipse, the Assyrians cried, “Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (in Assyrian, adi arbat ūmē ālninuaki innabak, which can also mean, “Nineveh shall be made to repent!”).

Could it be that in His mercy, God engineered Jonah’s visit to correspond with an impressive pair of eclipses to urge Nineveh to repent? That could explain why He got heavy-handed with the fish, to make sure the wayward prophet arrived on schedule!

Could God have appointed an eclipse to signify an open season for repentance and renewal for us as well?

Sphinx that Guarded Nineveh's Main Gate

Last week at the British Museum. These enormous winged-lion-sphinx things guarded the gates to Nineveh and probably witnessed Jonah’s entrance!

Going back to the diagram…

Forty Days with Signs in the Heavens

3. Tishri 1 and The Revelation Twelve Sign: A Once-in-Human-History Event

I devoted a post to this, When Stars Sing, a few weeks ago. I urge you to read it if you haven’t—I think you’ll be amazed.

When Stars Sing

The Revelation Twelve sign is a once-in-human-history event. Jesus, Peter, John and Joel all told us that signs in the heavens would herald the “great and awesome day of the Lord” (Luke 21:25, Acts 2:20, Joel 2:31, Rev 12:1-2). A sign is unfolding right now we’ve been told of in explicit detail in Revelation 12. The Lord tee’d this one up at creation, for our generation. I think He wants as many people as possible to know about it!

“When these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, for your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28)


4. The Prophetic Feast of Trumpets

I’ve written before about the prophetic significance of the Feasts, so this bit will be review for some of you as well. On Sinai, God ordained a total of seven Feasts of the Lord—the number that in the Bible represents completion or perfection—with God’s lunar calendar determining the dates. The first four feasts, the Spring Feasts, are types of Jesus’ first coming. The Spring Feasts were all fulfilled, in sequence, in precise detail perfectly on their appointed dates on the Hebrew calendar.

  • Passover: Fulfilled the night “Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us” (1 Cor 5:7). “The Lamb of God” took away the sins of the world (John 1:29) when He gave Himself on the cross.
  • Feast of Unleavened Bread: Leaven is a symbol for sin in the Bible and this feast was a call to the Jewish people to live in purity and sanctification. Praise God, this one was fulfilled by Christ’s sinless life. “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed, Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us.” (1 Cor 5:7)
  • Feast of First Fruits: This celebration of the earliest harvest, the barley harvest, happens three days after Passover. It was fulfilled when Jesus rose. “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” (1 Cor 15:20)
  • Feast of Weeks: In Jesus’ day, this celebration of the wheat harvest was known by its Greek name—Pentecost. For three of the seven feasts, all Jewish males were required to travel to Jerusalem. Which explains why there was a tremendous crowd from all nations present when the Holy Spirit descended upon the new church in tongues of fire! (Acts 2)

The last three feasts, the Fall Feasts, have yet to be fulfilled.

But if the Spring Feasts were fulfilled precisely, in order, on their Biblically prescribed dates at our Lord’s first coming, is it not reasonable to expect that the Fall Feasts will also be fulfilled precisely, in order, and on their Biblically prescribed dates at His second coming?

Next up: The Feast of Trumpets.

According to John J. Parsons on Hebrew4Christians.com, during the month of Elul it’s customary to blow the shofar daily. Each day except Shabbat the following blasts are sounded:

  • A long single blast, the sound of the king’s coronation
  • Three short, wail-like blasts to signify repentance
  • Several short blasts of alarm to awaken the soul
  • A long, final blast

This culminates in the Feast itself, when one hundred trumpet blasts are blown. During this forty-day period, easily more than 350 trumpet blasts will echo! According to Paul, “the last trumpet” will sound before we’re caught up in the air. (1 Cor 15:50) Many believe Paul’s language in this key passage regarding the Rapture may be a reference to this Feast.

Is this the year that will see our Redemption fully realized? Only the Father knows. But here’s something that intrigues me.

The rabbis have taught for centuries that the “Days of Awe,” the High Holiday period from the Feast of Trumpets through the Day of Atonement, represent the opportune time for good Jews to “Seek Hashem [the Lord] when He may be found.” (RAMBAM in “Hilchot Teshuvah,” the “Law of Repentance” 2:6 referencing Is 55:6)

But here again, Paul tells us that the fulfillment of Isaiah 55:6 can be found in Yeshua year round. Rom 10:5-8 says “’The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching.” Also, 2 Cor 6:1-2 states “And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain—for He says, At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.’ Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’…”.)

The Feasts are only shadows of the heavenly realities which Christ Himself fulfills forever. (Heb 10:1) But with the show going on now in the heavens,

…it’s hard to imagine how we could receive a more beautifully engraved invitation to “seek Him while He may be found” (Is 55:7) and to ensure our names are written in “the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (Rev 21:27)

Brothers and sisters, if you haven’t made a personal commitment to accept Jesus Christ’s free gift of salvation and to follow Him with all your strength, I urge you to wait no longer!

 

If you’ve never opened God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus (Rom 3:23, 6:23), please please please be persuaded to do it now! It’s simple. Just tell God from your heart that you admit you’re a sinner that needs a Savior (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23), that you’re done running your own life, and that you’re ready to make Jesus Lord of your life.

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Rom 10:9-11)

The decision that saves you is that simple!

Simple… But no one said living it out will be easy. Especially now.

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2 Comments

  1. Shelly Azgour says:

    Awesome explanation of our connections with Judaism that is playing a vital role in helping us know God better and his Torah and his will for us in revealing His feasts.

    • Sorry for the slow response, Shelly! Having a bit of trouble catching up after returning from the U.K.. :-/ I really appreciate your kind words. Truly, the Lord teaches me with every one of these posts, and I’m thrilled if that process is giving me some gleanings that are useful to others. <3

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