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|Shalom Scripture Studies, Inc.||A Hebrew-Christian Bible Fellowship|
|December, 2016 (5777)||Vol. 42 No. 12|
History of Chanukah
Upon assuming the Seleucid throne in 175 B.C.E., Antiochus IV, who vainly called himself "Epiphanes" (god manifest), dedicated himself fanatically to the total Hellenization of all the peoples under his rule. Of those peoples, the Jews alone refused to be Hellenized. So Antiochus decided to force Hellenization upon them. He banned the Torah and the Commandments; he sacked and defiled the Beit ha-Mikdash, inaugurating the sacrifice of pigs, and erecting there a statue of Zeus; and he decreed the death penalty for all Jews who refused to worship the Hellenic idols and who remained loyal to the Torah and the Commandments.
The Jewish revolt against this oppressive regime began in 168 B.C.E., when Mattathias the Hasmonean, a priest who had settled in Modi'in (a village northwest of Jerusalem), refused to permit idolatrous worship there, saying:
"Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him and have chosen to do his commandments, departing each one from the religion of his fathers, yet I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers!" (I Mac. 2:19)
When a Jew then arose to sacrifice to an idol, Mattathias killed both him and a royal officer who was present.
Then, Mattathias and his sons and followers fled to the hills, and organized to wage a guerilla war, which culminated three years later in the miraculous victory, led by Judah the Maccabee.
However, the eight days of Chanukah do not directly commemorate the spectacular victory of a tiny people over the imperialist ogre. Rather, they directly commemorate the purification of the Beit ha-Mikdash and the rededication of the altar. To the question "What is Chanukah?", our rabbis answered:
When the Greeks entered the Beit ha-Mikdash, they defiled all the oils in the sanctuary. When the Hasmoneans prevailed and conquered them, they conducted a search and found but one tin of oil, which lay with the seal of the High Priest, and there was in it an amount sufficient for kindling only one day. But a miracle was wrought concerning it, and they were able to kindle with it for eight days, until they could crush olives and produce pure oil. (Shabbat 21b; Maimonides, Hilk. Han. 3:2)
To Jewish people, the miracle of Chanukah is the miracle of Jewish history. Despite the cruelest persecutions of imperialist powers and evil rulers, and despite the temptations of collaboration and assimilation, the light of our Torah and the lamp of the Commandments have never been extinguished. Even in the darkest times of apostasy and genocide, even when it has indeed appeared that we could not possibly preserve the light for more than one day, we have refused to surrender, we have defied the logic of history, and miraculously, time and again, the light continued to burn until we could regroup ourselves and generate new strength.
The true miracle of the Festival of Lights -- which is the miracle of all Jewish history -- was not military but spiritual. The portion of Scripture recited in synagogues for Chanukah is, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts". (Zechariah 4:6)
Before kindling the lights, say these Blessings:
Baruch atta adonai elohenu melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav v'tzeevanu l'hadlik ner shel Chanukah
Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us by Your commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of Chanukah.
Baruch atta adonai elohenu melech ha-olam, she-assa nissim la'avotenu bayamim ha-hem ba-z'man ha-ze.
Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who wrought miracles for our fathers in days of old, at this season.
On the First Evening only, add this Blessing:
Baruch atta adonai elohenu melech ha-olam she-hecheyanu v'kee-y'manu v'hee-gi-yanu la-z'man ha-ze.
Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has given us life, and has sustained us, and has brought us to this season.
Each evening, after kindling the first light, say this while lighting the others:
Ha-ner-oht ha-lahlu anachnu mahd lee-keen al ha-nissim ve al ha-t'shu-oht v'al ha-neef la-oht shey ahsee-tah la-ahvohteynu al y'dey koh ha-ney cha ha-k'dohsheem v'kol sh'monaht y'mey chanukah ha-ner-oht ha-lahlu kodesh v'eyn lah-nu r'shoot l'heesh'tamesh ba-hem elah lir-ohtam bil'vad. K'dey l'hodoht l'shimcha al nisecha v'al y'shuatecha v'al neef-le-oh teh cha.
We light these candles because of the miracles, the deliverances, and for the wonders that You did perform for our fathers by the hands of Your holy priests. And these lights are holy all eight days of Chanukah. And we do not have a right to use them improperly, but only to look at them in order to thank Your name for Your miracles, for Your deliverances, and for Your wonders.
The Second Temple.
The nine-branched candelabra used on Chanukah.
English word for Chanukah.
FEAST OF LIGHTS
Another name for Chanukah.
Psalms of praise to God.
Family name of Mattathias the Priest.
Name of the Hebrew month during which Chanukah falls.
The name given in later times to the Hasmoneans.
Song sung on Chanukah.
The Everlasting Light which burned in the Second Temple.
THE BIRTH OF JESUS
DR. AND MRS. ELIAS E. HIDALGO
IN THE BOOK OF GENESIS WE FIND THE FIRST MENTION AND PREDICTION OF THE COMING BIRTH OF JESUS, ALSO KNOWN AS THE SEED OF THE WOMAN IN GENESIS 3: 15.
IN STUDYING THE SCRIPTURES FROM THE BEGINNING OF CREATION, WE KNOW THAT THE ALMIGHTY GOD HAD SET IN MOTION CERTAIN RULES BEFORE ADAM AND EVE. THEY WERE SIMPLE AND STRAIGHT FORWARD SUCH AS,
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
THE GARDEN WHERE ADAM AND EVE LIVED MUST HAVE BEEN BEAUTIFUL AND MAJESTIC AND SUPPLIED WITH THE NECESSARY NUTRITION AS WELL AS SURROUNDING BEAUTY. THEY HAD ONE COMMAND TO OBEY, THOU SHALT NOT EAT OF THE TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL.
NOW, LET US SEE IF OUR PARENTS OF LONG AGO OBEYED OR DISOBEYED THE LORD.
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
ACCORDING TO THE ABOVE SCRIPTURES THEY BOTH DISOBEYED THE LORD GOD AND THE CONSEQUENCE OF THEIR ACTIONS ARE AS FOLLOWS.
Genesis 3: 9-15
And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
SUCH A SIMPLE COMMAND TO OBEY, AND YET, THE SEED OF DOUBT HAD BEEN PLANTED IN BOTH OF THEIR MINDS AND HEARTS, SO THEY WILLINGLY CHOSE TO GO AGAINST THE WORD OF GOD. JUST IMAGINE HOW MANY MILLIONS OF INDIVIDUALS IN OUR DAY HAVE CHOSEN TO DO THE SAME THING, THAT IS, THEY HEAR AND KNOW THE WORD OF GOD, NEVERTHELESS, THEY OF THEIR OWN VOLITION, GO CONTRARY TO THE VOICE OF THE LORD.
Psalm 19: 1-3
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
AS IN THE DAYS OF ADAM AND EVE, THUS IT IS TODAY, EVEN CREATION DECLARES THE GRACE AND MERCY OF GOD, BUT WHY ARE MEN AND WOMEN SO NEGLECTFUL TO LISTEN TO AND TO OBEY THE LORD? IT IS BECAUSE OF SIN THAT ENTERED THE WORLD BECAUSE OF THE DISOBEDIENCE THAT OUR PRIMAL DESCENDANTS (ADAM AND EVE) COMMITED TOWARDS THE ALMIGHTY GOD.
SO WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
THE PREDICTION OF THE SEED OF THE WOMAN WHO IS NONE OTHER THAN THE MESSIAH THROUGH WHOM SALVATION COMES TO EVERY INDIVIDUAL THAT WILL BY FAITH BELIEVE AND RECEIVE HIM, WHOSE NAME IS YSHUA (JESUS), WHICH BY THE WAY MEANS SALVATION IN HEBREW.
THIS GREAT AND GRAND PREDICTION WAS TO BE REALIZED THROUGH THE ANNALS OF HISTORY, CENTURY AFTER CENTURY WOULD PASS, THEN ULTIMATELY, THE FULFILLMENT WOULD ARRIVE.
NOW, WE WILL TRAVEL QUICKLY THROUGH BIBLICAL HISTORY TO FIND THE PROPHECIES THAT WOULD BRING THE REDEMPTION OF MANKIND IN AND THROUGH THE PERSON OF THE ANOINTED ONE.
LET US LOOK AT A FEW PROPHETICAL SCRIPTURES THAT GIVE US A ROAD MAP THAT ANTICIPATES THE SOON APPEARANCE OF THE ULTIMATE PROPHET, THE SON OF GOD.
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.
THESE VERSES GIVE TO US GODS PROPHETICAL SCHEME IN BRINGING INTO THIS WORLD THE PREDICTED AND PROPHETIC COMING OF THE SEED OF THE WOMAN TO REDEEM MANKIND FROM THE ORIGINAL SIN WHICH CAME AS A RESULT OF DISOBEDIENCE IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN, LONG, LONG AGO.
IMAGINE A JEWISH VIRGIN WOULD BE CHOSEN BY GOD HIMSELF TO BRING FORTH A SON AND HIS NAME WOULD BE CALLED IMMANUEL (WHICH MEANS GOD WITH US).
IN ADDITION TO HIS ADVENT, HE IS GOING TO HAVE SOME BEAUTIFUL TITLE NAMES, SUCH AS, THE MIGHTY GOD, THE EVERLASTING FATHER, THE PRINCE OF PEACE.
THIS CHILD, THAT THE PROPHET ISAIAH SPOKE OF WOULD BE BORN FROM WITHIN ISRAEL AND THIS SON THAT IS TO BE GIVEN TO ISRAEL WOULD ULTIMATELY BRING FORTH THE PARDON FOR SIN AND THE PEACE OF GOD THAT PASSETH ALL UNDERSTANDING TO ALL WHO WOULD BOW THEIR HEARTS AND MINDS TO HIM, YSHUA (JESUS).
EVEN THE PLACE OF HIS BIRTH IS PROPHETICAL IN NATURE FOUND IN THE WORD OF GOD.
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
TODAY IN THE LAND OF ISRAEL, THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM IS SCRIPTURALLY RECOGNIZED AS THE BIRTH PLACE OF JESUS OUR LORD. THIS PROPHECY CAME BY INSPIRATION OF GOD TO THE PROPHET OF ISRAEL BY THE NAME OF MICAH CENTURIES BEFORE ITS FULFILLMENT. TODAY THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM IS MISSING ITS RIGHTFUL INHABITANTS, THE JEWISH PEOPLE FROM WHOM THE MESSIAH JESUS CAME FROM. IT IS ALMOST IN TOTAL AN ARAB CONCLAVE WITH A SMATTERING OF JEWS. WE BELIEVE WHEN THIS SAME JESUS RETURNS TO THIS EARTH WHO IS THE MESSIAH AND SAVIOUR OF ISRAEL AND THE WORLD, WHEN HE RETURNS AND ESTABLISHES HIS MESSIANIC KINGDOM IN JERUSALEM, THEN, ALL THINGS WILL BE AS GOD INTENDED FROM THE BEGINNING WITH NO INTERFERENCES FROM MANKIND.
WE ANXIOUSLY AWAIT THIS TIME.
LET US NOW BE REMINDED OF HOW ALL OF THE ABOVE CAME TO FRUITION AND THE PERFORMANCE THEREOF.
Galatians 4: 4-5
But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
HOW WONDERFULLY CLEAR THIS NEW TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE IS THAT REMINDS US THAT IT WAS GOD HIMSELF WHO MOVED HEAVEN AND EARTH AFTER OVER 5,000 YEARS OF WAITING, THAT IS, FROM GENESIS 3: 15, TO BRING FORTH HIS SON THAT WAS MADE OF A WOMAN (JEWISH VIRGIN), MADE UNDER THE LAW TO BRING ADOPTION OF SALVATION TO MANKIND.
WE ARE ALSO REMINDED OF THE WAY THIS TOOK PLACE.
Luke 1: 26-33
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
THERE IS A HEBREW EXPRESSION THAT GOES LIKE THIS, NES GADOL HAYAH SHAM WHICH MEANS, A GREAT MIRACLE HAPPENED THERE
TRULY, WE ARE SO AMAZED AND HUMBLED THAT THE ALMIGHTY GOD WOULD VISIT THIS EARTH WITH THE GOOD NEWS OF SALVATION, WHO IS JESUS, GOD'S ONLY BEGOTTEN SON AND SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD, TO ALL PEOPLE.
Luke 2: 4-11
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT OUR MESSIAH WAS BORN IN BETHLEHEM, GREW UP IN NAZARETH AND SPOKE THE WORD OF GOD THROUGHOUT ERETZ YISRAEL THE LAND OF ISRAEL, OFFERING HIMSELF AS THE LAMB OF GOD THAT TAKETH AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD.
WELL, SOME BELIEVED IN HIM AND SOME DID NOT. SUCH IS THE CASE TODAY. HOW SAD THAT THE FREE GIFT OF SALVATION OFFERED TO ALL OF MANKIND BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH IS CONSTANTLY REJECTED, BUT PRAISE BE TO GOD THAT THERE ARE THOSE OF US THAT HAVE BELIEVED AND HAVE BEEN GIVEN LIFE ETERNAL THROUGH HIS ULTIMATE DEATH, BURIAL AND RESURRECTION. THANK YOU JESUS FOR LOVING US WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS.
THE END RESULT IS THIS, THAT GOD HAS GIVEN TO ALL WHO BELIEVE THE STATUS OF SAINTS (CHASIDS) SEPARATED ONES, TO LOVE AND SERVE THIS WONDERFUL ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD, YSHUA HA MASSHIACH ADONAI (THE LORD JESUS CHRIST)
EVEN AS WE HAVE BRIEFLY LOOKED INTO THE PREDICTION, PROPHECY AND PERFORMANCE OF THE COMING OF JESUS OUR LORD TO THIS EARTH, THERE IS STILL ONE MORE ASPECT OF GODS GRACE TO US WHO BELIEVE IN HIM YSHUA (JESUS).
AND THAT IS OF COURSE THE PROMISE OF HIS RETURN THAT FOLLOWS AFTER ALMOST 5,000 YEARS OF ANTICIPATION OF THE ADVENT OF OUR MESSIAH, THIS PROMISE IS ADDRESSED IN THE FOLLOWING MANNER.
John 14: 1-4
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
THERE IT IS, THE PROMISE, OF JESUS RETURNING VERY SOON. OUR BLESSED SAVIOUR IS COMING AGAIN TO RECEIVE US UNTO HIMSELF AND TAKE US TO A PLACE THAT HE HAS PREPARED FOR US.
AS THE APOSTLE JOHN SPEAKS OUT IN THE LAST BOOK AND IN THE LAST CHAPTER OF THE HOLY BIBLE,
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
WE ALSO ANTICIPATE WITH JOY UNSPEAKABLE AND FULL OF GLORY FOR THIS COMING EVENT WHICH IS A PROMISE FROM GOD TO US, AND REMEMBER, THAT GOD IS NOT A MAN THAT HE SHOULD LIE, THEREFORE WITH FULL CONFIDENCE IN HIM AND HIS WORD WE ALSO SAY, EVEN SO, COME, LORD JESUS.
Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen
The Barked Fig Tree!
"He has laid waste my vine, and barked my fig tree; He has stripped it bare and thrown it away!" Joel 1:7
There will be memory in Heaven. Will Noah ever forget the Ark, or Abraham Mount Moriah, or Jacob his wrestling with the angel? No — never! Will Joseph ever forget the pit and the prison, or Moses the passage of the Red Sea, or the woman of Samaria the conversation at Jacob's well? No — never! Will Mary and Martha ever forget the village of Bethany, or Peter Christ's look in Pilate's Hall, or Paul the road to Damascus, or John the Isle of Patmos? No — never!
Now, one of the uses to which memory will be applied in the heavenly state, will be to review the wisdom and goodness, condescension and truth — which have guided our life in the present world. Let us, then, for a few moments, take something like a review of the discipline of life with which we are familiar in a greater or less degree.
EVERY MAN HAS A FIG-TREE. We very early become proprietors. We all have our fig-trees — all — whether born in a workhouse, or begotten in a palace.
What is a fig-tree? Something that we love; something that we are fond of; something that sends a living joy through the warm heart whenever we think of it. The fig-tree of one man is an ample fortune; of another, buoyant health; of another, success in business; of another, a beloved relative; of another, a lovely child; of another, a happy home.
The fig-tree of the infant is a choice toy.
The fig-tree of the child is a favorite companion.
The fig-tree of the studious youth is a school prize and college honors.
The fig-tree of the young man is a beautiful day-dream of future years.
The fig-tree of the groom is his bride.
The fig-tree of the bride is her husband.
The fig-tree of the mother is her first-born.
The fig-tree of the father is an only daughter.
The fig-trees under which we each sit are different in size, in foliage, and in fruit — but every man has a fig-tree! Some of our fellow-creatures are so poor, and their life from the cradle to the grave such a struggle with misery — that we would hardly have thought that they could have had a fig-tree. But they have. The human heart was made to love, and love it will, in spite of poverty, humiliation, and sorrow.
What is meant by barking of the fig-tree? Stripping it, peeling it, laying it bare and bleeding — and then the glorious fig-tree withers and dies. And so when...
this ample fortune is reduced, or
this buoyant health is shattered, or
this surprising success is reversed, or
these brilliant prospects are clouded, or
that beloved relative droops and dies, or
that darling child is snatched from our embrace, or
that happy home is turned into a house of mourning
— then have we the reality of which the saying is the picture — the barking of the fig-tree!
Have you not seen...
the infant's toy broken, and
the child's companion die, and
the betrothed married to another, and
the bride carried to her tomb, and
the husband left a widower, and
the wife become a widow, and
the first-born carried away by death, and
the only son become a miserable prodigal?
You have seen all this, and you have heard the voice of an infant, and of a child, and of a youth, and of an adult, say, "He has barked my fig-tree!"
Every man is liable to have his fig-tree barked. Are there no exceptions here? None!
If special friendship with God could have spared his fig-tree — then Abraham would not have heard the command to offer his son.
If distinguished honor could have spared his fig-tree — then David would not have entered his palace, saying, "O Absalom, my son Absalom, would to God that I had died instead of you!"
Or if pre-eminent usefulness could have spared his fig-tree — then Paul would not have felt his keen thorn in the flesh.
"There is no discharge in this war!" "Every heart knows its own bitterness!" There is not one, the fairest, and youngest, richest, and healthiest — whose feet, sooner or later, will not have to pass through the deep waters of the Divine chastisement.
Pain and sorrow;
disappointment and temptation;
death and judgment
— await us all.
But how are we prepared to meet them? Is it in reliance upon our own strength of will, or our own righteousness of life? If so, then, alas, for our souls! The feeble reed will snap beneath the hand that leans upon it! The foundation of sand will sink beneath the storm! The frail anchor will give way when the tempest of judgment comes, and leave us amid the swelling floods of the great day, like a vessel that has drifted from its anchorage — the helpless prey of every wave.
WHY does God bark our fig-tree? There are many wise and gracious purposes.
One purpose is to promote consideration. "When times are bad — CONSIDER!" Ecclesiastes 7:14
The great sin, danger, folly, and ruin of men is, that they will not think. They will hear, read, admire, applaud — but they will not think. Now, when God has a purpose of mercy towards any, He seems to say, "I am resolved that he shall think, and I will send him that which will make him think!" Then comes the barking of the fig-tree. Then follows, thinking upon hitherto forgotten subjects — the divine, the spiritual, the eternal. "Now, I see!" says the stricken one, "that there is no friend, like the friend that sticks closer than a brother. There is no refuge of my soul, like Jesus! There is no rock, like the rock of ages! There is no treasure like heavenly treasure! Fig-trees, farewell! I will flee away from you to God my Savior, my everlasting home."
For the most part, we refuse to listen to God in the time of health and prosperity. In the garden where flowers are blooming beautifully, and trees are waving freshly — we have seldom an ear for the voice of Him who pencilled every leaf and feathered every bough. But when the flowers are all withered, the trees are stripped, and the garden is but a grave of what once it held — the most worldly mind is for a time subdued into listening to God. It is as though God had been hidden by the deep rich foliage — but he could now be seen, when the blight and the storm have done their stern office.
And is it so that the beloved of our hearts must die, before we can live. Must bough after bough of fragrant blossom and pleasant fruit be severed; must the fig-tree be barked before we are led to give to God our hearts, and to Christ our service. Yes, it is even so. The loss of wife, or children, or property, or health — has often resulted in untold blessings to the loser. It has produced in him pious thoughtfulness, and the eternal Spirit has made it the means and occasion of his conversion to God.
When God barks our fig-tree — it is to open the Scriptures to our hearts. But are not preachers and commentators, the best interpreters of Scripture? Nay, heart-break is the deepest teacher. What a different book is the Bible when the fig-tree is in its prime — from what it is when barked and withered! How different when the mind is at ease is that passage, "Cast your burden on the Lord" — from what it is when crushed with a load of care! And when surrounded by friends and helpers, how different is that passage, "I will never leave you nor forsake you!" — from what it is when deserted of all and left alone. How different when the family circle is unbroken is the voice from Heaven, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord!" — from what it is when death has made a gap in it. How much more power and life and peace in one case, than in the other.
Who does not know how the Bible appears to open itself in the season of trouble. Its pages seem a hundredfold more irradiated, when we have to darken our windows because death has crossed our doors — than when the full unclouded sun has poured upon us all its light.
The Bible may be called a handbook for the afflicted. Nothing is better calculated to soothe sorrow and alleviate distress, than its devout perusal. The greater part of it would be insipid to a man who never passed through trouble of any kind, for there would be in it comparatively little personally interesting to him.
Set a man who knows nothing of trouble to preach a sermon on the words, "Deep calls unto deep; at the noise of your waterfalls all your waves and your billows are gone over me!" Set a man who never prayed in his life, who never lost a friend, who was never in any circumstances of deep sorrow and affliction, to give an exposition of the words, "You have covered your face with a cloud, so that my prayer should not pass through."
But let God by some terrible providence "bark his fig-tree" — let a big cloud gather over his head — make him feel that he cannot bring his dead child back to life — that his wife will not hear him as she lies in her coffin — that he cannot build his house again that was burnt down last night — then he will understand the meaning of that lamentation, "You have covered your face with a cloud, that my prayer should not pass through," and its relation to his own state. This is a glorious result of affliction.
The fig-tree is barked to teach heavenly mindedness. Fig trees drag down the heart to earth, and keep it there. I have heard, indeed, says the worldly mind, of a beautiful country where the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father, and I have listened to the pilgrims on the road to it singing —
"There is a land of pure delight,
Where saints immortal reign;
Infinite day excludes the night,
And pleasures banish pain!"
But as long as I have my fig-tree, I am content with earth, and have no inclination to soar away to higher and purer regions. Then comes the barking of the fig-tree, and along with it a total change of sentiment, for then the confession is, "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us!" This is the way in which God teaches heavenly-mindedness to His children.
Who does not know how, in proportion, as tie after tie has been broken, as branch after branch has been cut off — the soul of the Christian will often soar heavenward as though on new wings — his worldly attachments proving themselves the only encumbrances, so that the place where he was stripped of them, becomes the place where he mounts nearest to the throne of the Eternal God!
When God barks our fig-tree, it is to encourage sympathy. What a beautiful trait is compassion in the character of the Christian! How much of the loveliness of Jesus would disappear, were the tenderness to be withdrawn from it! How Jesus molds us into the pattern of His own tenderness by barking our fig-tree, for then we learn to "weep with those who weep," to be "a brother born for adversity," and delicately to handle the wounds of others, having felt the same ourselves.
Who was the most tender-hearted member of the Christian Church? Was it not Paul? Where did he learn his sympathy? Was it not from his own sufferings?
Nay, where did Jesus learn to sympathize with His people? Was it in the heights of glory? Rather when He was led as a lamb to the slaughter — when in the darkness of the ninth hour He said, " My God, my God, why have You forsaken me!"
The barking of our fig-tree gives us a tender sympathy with fellow-sufferers, which mere knowledge can never give. And, oh, how differently sympathy is felt when it rises out of felt experience, from the mere sympathy of kind fellow-feeling.
Christian reader, the gospel affords the richest consolations when our fig-tree has been barked. It tells us that it is barked through the agency of Divine Providence, "HE has barked my fig-tree!"
Does God bark our fig-tree wantonly? The great are sometimes wanton; but wantonness can exist only where there is wickedness, and He who is said to bark the fig-tree is Holy, Holy, Holy! Carefulness in the treatment of all things, is one of the characteristics of the Divine conduct.
Does God bark our fig-tree cruelly? Impossible, because God is Love. Can a mother find pleasure in the sufferings of her first-born? Will she break the toys of her babe, merely to see him weep? Will she put wormwood into the food of her child, merely to see him loathe it? Will she rob her boy of all his pleasures, merely to vex him?
This is possible — but it is impossible that our God — for the mere sake of afflicting us, or for any pleasure which He could have in our pain — should bark our fig-tree.
Can God bark our fig-tree ignorantly? He who formed the eye — shall He not see? He who teaches man knowledge — does He not know? He sees our fig-tree even when it is a sunny thought, and a pleasant imagination, and a golden hope. And if He strips it — it is not as when an animal is slain by a random shot, or by a stray arrow; but as when a piece of intricate work is taken to pieces by a skillful workman. God's eye is fully upon the object, when He barks the fig-tree.
Can God bark our fig-tree unwisely? Nay, He has an end — a right and a good end — and the very manner of his doing it is perfect.
This barking of the fig-tree is part of His plan, and harmonizes with all His working from the beginning and forever. Sometimes we can see the end of the Lord — and sometimes we can see it within ourselves. The owner of the fig-tree has...
made too much of it,
esteemed it too highly,
felt too dependent upon it,
rejoiced in it too fully,
given his heart too much to it, and
has allowed it to screen God and Heaven from his view! He has looked too much at the traced shadow of the fig-tree upon the earth — and too little through the fig-tree to the blue heavens and to the sun beyond. He has sat under its shadow — when he should have been up and busy with work beyond it. He has confined himself to the fruit of this tree — when other provision has been made for his enjoyment and sustenance. He has felt this tree to be his all — and to correct this evil, God has barked his fig-tree.
If the end of the Lord is not CORRECTION, it may be PREVENTION. The tree may be barked...
lest it should screen God and Heaven from our sight,
lest we should try to rest under its shadow,
lest we should try to live by it alone,
or as preparation for some blessed estate — for the enjoyment of which this barking our fig-tree is the necessary training.
Reader, learn to see a Father's hand, yes, a Father's heart in every affliction! It is not a vindictive enemy who has chastened you — but a loving friend! It is not an unfeeling stranger — but a tender Father. He with a gentle, tender hand, has barked your fig-tree. No enemy has done it. It is no accident. God has done it. God has barked my fig-tree, and God is Love to His redeemed people.
Also, never forget that there is reserved for you a glorious tree that never fades — the tree of life! "And he showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." Revelation 22:1-2
Therefore, account nothing safe until you reach that world in which no tree of pleasure dies, where every tree is a tree of rich and boundless LIFE.
While here on earth, learn to say, "Whom have I in Heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" Psalm 73:25-26
"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word." Psalm 119:67
"And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: 'My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.' Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?" Hebrews 12:5-7
"As a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you." Deuteronomy 8:5
"For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble spring from the ground. Yet man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward." Job 5:6-7
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11
"Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal." Job 5:17-18
"It is Your hand, my God!
My sorrow comes from Thee,
I bow beneath Your chastening rod;
'Tis love that bruises me!
"I would not murmur, Lord,
Before You I am dumb!
Lest I should breathe one murmuring word,
To You for help I come.
"My God! Your name is love,
A Father's hand is Thine;
With tearful eye, I look above,
And cry, 'Your will be mine.'
"I know Your will is right,
Though it may seem severe;
Your path is still unsullied light,
Though dark it oft appear.
"Jesus for me has died;
Your Son You did not spare,
His pierced hands, His bleeding side,
Your love for me declare!
"Here my poor heart can rest,
My God! it cleaves to Thee;
Your will is love, Your end is blessed,
All work for good to me!"
IS AN ENGLISH WORD THAT MEANS