The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Blood Moons and Red Flags

The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood – Joel 2:31


Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. – John 13:19


“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1). That first verse of Holy Scripture is the bedrock beginning of all other scriptures. This first verse presupposes that as Creator, God owns, oversees, and maintains control of His creation. We see this verified in His inspired word where it states, “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). The apostle Paul in his inspired Athenian address said, “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Then later in his letter to the Colossians Paul is further inspired to write of Jesus, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17). That last word “consist” (Greek synestao) means Jesus stands near His creation and holds it together. Jesus is involved with His creation.


Jesus is the Suffering Servant Messiah who gave His life for His lost sheep (Isaiah 53). He’s the Lamb of God that came to take away the sins of the world through His substitutionary sacrifice on the cross (John 1:29). Jesus finished His redemptive cross work. He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). But Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He continues to work to build His flock and care for those in the fold. He knows His sheep by name and they know Him (John 10:3, 14). The Good Shepherd Jesus gave His life for the sheep (John 10:11, 15-18). The Good Shepherd Jesus protects and oversees His flock today.


Like any good shepherd, Jesus watches for danger that threatens the flock. He watches for wolves and wields His Shepherd’s staff and club in defense. He routs the enemy of the sheep. He also watches for stormy weather and seeks to steer His sheep to safe haven. He directs their attention to the storm clouds so they’ll follow Him to safety. He calms them when the lightning flashes and the thunder peels. Jesus was aware of the signs in the sky. Even the Pharisees knew the old adage, “Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in morning, sailor take warning” (compare to Matthew 16:1-3).


From the very beginning God in His word states, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14). The sun, moon, stars and other bodies in the heavens are useable by God for “signs.” The word “signs” (Hebrew ‘ot) means a signal, a beacon, evidence, monument, omen, or flag. Is there evidence that God, at least in part, uses the “lights in the heavens” as a sign or a warning flag?


It wasn’t too long into the Bible before humanity fell under the influence of the serpent and his minions. Things got so bad in God’s creation that He determined to judge the world with a Flood that would eliminate all humanity except for Noah and his family. Prior to the Flood there were no clouds in the sky. The land was moistened and watered by underground canals (Genesis 7:11). The first storm clouds that God assembled in the sky were a warning sign of impending judgment. This world was guilty of great wickedness. Of the people in the world God observed, “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). The first storm clouds in the sky indicated judgment had come for the centuries of demonically influenced immorality, wickedness, corruption, and violence (Genesis 6:5-8, 11). And God did just this world. But aren’t you glad God also chose to give us a sign of promise in the rainbow in the sky? He would never flood the world again (Genesis 9:13f.).


I imagine the plagues of hail (Exodus 9:13f.) and darkness (Exodus 10:21f.) were pretty clear and impressive warning signs of God to the Pharaoh and his Egyptian citizenry. And I imagine the thunder and lightning on Mount Sinai was a pretty vivid and loud indicator from God to His people that He was there and they should think twice about casually setting foot on His holy ground (Exodus 19). There are many, many more incidents where God used natural signs in the sky to indicate His providential presence.


Nearly eight centuries (800+ years) before the birth of Jesus a prophet by the name of Joel was called by God to call His people to repentance. Joel was inspired by God to speak of a devastation that was coming on the Land because of the sinfulness of God’s people. But Joel also was inspired to speak of a future revival where the Spirit of God would be poured out on all people. This outpouring would be accompanied by spiritual gifting to minister for the Lord. It would be an awesome and great day (Joel 2:28-29, 31b).


We know that Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled in part at Pentecost. It was at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the 120 disciples prayerfully waiting in the upper room. It was then that the church was birthed (Acts 1-2). Baptized and overflowing with the Holy Spirit God’s people impacted the world like never before for the glory of God. Jesus and the powerful gospel were proclaimed in heaven sent power. You can read about the beginnings of this mighty work of the Spirit in the book of Acts.


But God’s word through Joel also speaks of a dark downward spiral of humanity away from God in the latter days. And accompanying that end time of His influence in history God said, “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood” (Joel 2:30-31). On the fateful holy day of Jesus crucifixion the sun was darkened from noon to three in the afternoon (Matthew 27:45). Scientists and skeptics have tried through the years to dismiss this darkness as a natural event; a solar eclipse. But even if that were the case, it’s a pretty good trick to coordinate a solar eclipse at just the right time of Jesus’ crucifixion!


Now what about the “moon into blood”? What about the blood moons of our day? There is a controversy over whether or not the two sets of two blood red moons of 2014 and 2015 are merely common coincidence or a sign from God. “Common coincidence” is an oxymoron; there is no such thing. Are these signs from God? Well, I’m no scientist, but the two sets of blood moons do appear extraordinary. Some complain that they can’t even been seen in Israel or that they can only be seen in certain sections of the world. Critics accuse that if these were signs from God they would have to be seen by the entire world. Well, they may not be naturally viewable in all parts of the world, but given the technology of our day such natural phenomena can indeed be accessed from just about every corner of the planet. Others complain that historically when we see such “signs” they sometimes appear after the events. Whether or not a sign appears before or after isn’t the important part though. What is important is that somehow God put His fingerprints on history. History is indeed His-story.


I find it very provocative that each set of blood moons in each year just happens to fall on Jewish high holy days (Passover and Tabernacles). I also find it very interesting that this second part of the tetrad (two sets of two) of blood moons just happens to fall not just on a seventh year Sabbath year, but on a Shemitah or year of Jubilee (cf. Leviticus 25). Think about this a bit. Why this particular set of years amongst all the other possible years? Of all the 365 days of the year why do two blood moons fall exactly on two Jewish High Holy days? And of all the possible years in a century why are they falling in a Jubilee year? That sounds a little providential to me.


The night Jesus was betrayed He warned His disciples of what was about to happen. He reiterated He was going to the cross, die and later rise from the dead. And as He was telling His disciples these important truths He commented, “Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He.” (John 13:19). Jesus wanted His disciples to be prepared for the hard redemptive work He was about to do. It would be hard for them. It would take courage they wouldn’t have. It would be hard and devastating to watch; even from afar. But their Shepherd Jesus would prepare them.


Jesus knew to be forewarned was to be forearmed for the disciples. The prophetic revelation Jesus provided was good preparation for His disciples. They didn’t understand or grasp everything that was about to happen, but having the groundwork for the cross work introduced to them prepared them to weather the storm of evil that was about to be dealt with by Jesus. Jesus always prepares His sheep.


The Sabbath day was a day of rest for God’s people. It was a time for God’s people to stop their work, reset their trust in God and focus on Him. By resting on the Sabbath God’s people were being taught by God that what they had and how they survived was not primarily reliant on what they did. There sustenance was primarily based on God’s providential care and provision. God would prove this by providing enough on the sixth day for the sixth and seventh days.

God knew and knows the nature of humanity. They have an insatiable appetite for more. They tend to think all they have is because of all they do. God on the other hand says, “it is He [God] who gives you power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18). In the New Testament through Paul God questions, “And what do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). We owe everything to God. We are who we are by grace (1 Corinthians 15:10).

The truth that everything we have comes from God is further illustrated in the Old Covenant Sabbath year. Every seventh year there was to be a holy Sabbath; a year of rest. In the sixth year God would prove His provision by providing enough for that year and the Sabbath year. Then again every fiftieth year was a year of Jubilee; a special time of recognizing God as the Source of all we have. To do this the land was to be left alone; unplanted; to rest. In this time of rest they would have to rely on God and see His faithful provision. In the Jubilee year all debts were to be cancelled and all slaves set free. You see, we and our possessions don’t really belong to us; they belong to God (cf. Leviticus 25). They would have to trust God to provide.

But God’s people didn’t trust Him. They took the provisions of God and hoarded them. They used them to make more rather than enjoy fellowship and rest with their God. God’s people rebelled and refused to observe these Sabbaths for 490 years. God graciously and patiently waited for His people to repent. They did not repent. Therefore He removed His hedge of protection and allowed them to be defeated and taken into captivity, just like He said He would (e.g. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-28).

God’s people owed God 70 Sabbath years therefore they were taken into captivity for 70 years (Jeremiah 25). God’s people didn’t let their slaves go in the Sabbath years therefore God allowed them to go into slavery. The people didn’t allow the land to rest but instead worked it mercilessly to gain greater profits therefore they ended up losing everything. There is a principle of sowing and reaping that we see in both Testaments. There is a consequence for our decisions (cf. Galatians 6:7-9).

Joel spoke of the moon turning to blood “Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD” (Joel 2:31b). Jesus warned of false christs and false prophets showing signs to deceive (Matthew 24:23-26).  Jesus said His coming at the end of the Tribulation would be associated with “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matthew 24:29). He told His first disciples this and the Spirit recorded this for us as a warning; a prophetic revelation of preparation. Maybe the recent blood moons are the birth pangs of such predicted developments (Matthew 24:8).

Are the tetrad of blood moons a sign of warning from God? A popular evangelist once said if Jesus didn’t return soon He would have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.  Things aren’t getting better, they are getting worse. Civilization isn’t seeking God or getting closer to Him, they are hell-bent and unrepentant. You don’t’ need blood moons and signs in the sky to know our world is in a whole lot of trouble. Jesus said the latter days would be “as the days of Noah” (Matthew 24:37); they are. Jesus said, “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26). There’s a whole lot of shaken going on in this world. It’s as though Someone is trying to get our attention.

When I send an email that is very important, that I want a person to read, I flag it with a red flag email marker. That red flag is a sign to the recipient to pay attention and take notice; to read carefully. Maybe God is sending us a blood red warning flag. Maybe He’s giving us a big blood red moon of a warning sign in the sky for all to see. If so, then we need to get serious with Him and His word. If not, there’s still plenty of “signs” in our world today that human history is winding down to a conclusion. Joel wrapped up his prophecy with the statement that in those last days, “it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Joel 2:32a). Maybe it’s time to heed the red flag and call on the Lord. He’s warned you because He loves you.

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