“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”
EACH YEAR, THE ARRIVAL of the spring season brings a sense of joy and anticipation to people all over the world, the time of year varying depending on the hemisphere in which they reside. Many hearts are lifted up when witnessing the renewal of life that springs forth from the cold and barren ground after a harsh winter has ended. Indeed, the name “spring,” given to this season of the year, originated in the 14th century, when it was referred to as “springing time.” How harmonious are the words of our opening scripture with the thought of renewed life in each spring season.
The spring months of each year bring about new beginnings, as the eternal cycle of life, put in place by our great Creator, continues. The earth is warmed from the increasing length of daylight hours, as its axis begins its annual tilt toward the sun. We have faith that this annual cycle of nature will always come to pass on time, even as it has since the days of creation. However, we may ask, what do these things pertaining to the physical world mean to the child of God? Furthermore, what significance do they portend for the world of mankind beyond a mere appreciation of the natural realm? Let us consider the many ways in which the Scriptures answer these questions, and provide insights into God’s plan based on this annual season and its symbolic beauties.
IMPORTANT EVENTS IN THE PLAN OF GOD
As consecrated children of God, the spring of each year first turns our minds to the commemoration and anniversary of Jesus’ death. This was a vital event in the plan of God, and one which had to take place prior to, and in order for, any “springing forth” of life to occur. The date of Jesus’ death was calculated based on the arrival of the spring equinox, and as detailed in God’s instructions to Israel concerning their keeping of the Passover. (Exod. 12:1-6) Thus, this year, footstep followers of the Master celebrated the Memorial of his death after sundown on April 9th, this being its proper anniversary.
When God instructed the Israelites concerning the Passover, he also told them to eat of unleavened bread. (vs. 8) In addition, they were to dispose of any leaven, or yeast, that was in their houses. So important was this, that God proclaimed a seven-day feast immediately following the Passover, the primary purpose of which was to fully rid their homes of all vestiges of leaven. God’s instructions were: “Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses.” (Exod. 12:15) There were serious consequences for those who were careless and disobedient to the commandments of God. The same verse continues: “Whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.”
We might liken the requirements of this annual feast of Israel to what many would today call “spring cleaning.” Leaven, or yeast, corrupts and spoils easily. Thus, it is a fitting symbol of sin. The Apostle Paul spoke of the deeper and spiritual meaning of leaven, explaining its correlation to sin, and connecting it to Jesus’ sacrifice as the antitypical Passover lamb. “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”—I Cor. 5:6-8
These are powerful words from the apostle, pointing out our need to continually rid our spiritual house—our mind and heart—of all vestiges of sin, as we daily keep the feast of our consecrated walk. Although we may especially think of this responsibility as we focus on Jesus’ death in the spring of the year, the ridding of any leaven in our character is a daily task, regardless of the season.
OUR SPECIAL PRIVILEGE
When Jesus instituted the Memorial of his death, he instructed his disciples, “This do in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) Only Jesus could be represented as the antitypical “Lamb of God,” for only he could take away the “sin of the world,” thus providing the opportunity of salvation for the entire human family. (John 1:29) However, because of this, as consecrated believers during this Gospel Age, we have the privilege of partaking of a cup of spiritual blessing, and being constituted as members of Christ’s “body.”
The Apostle Paul spoke of this special privilege when writing to the brethren at Corinth, saying, “The cup of blessing, for which we bless God,—is it not a participation of the blood of the anointed one? The loaf which we break,—is it not a participation of the body of the anointed one? Because there is one loaf, we, the many, are one body; for we all partake of the one loaf.” (I Cor. 10:16,17, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott) The great privilege of which Paul speaks is that because we have partaken of the symbolic blood and body of the “anointed one,” Jesus, we “are one body.”
Being counted as a part of the Lord’s body indeed provides a cup of great blessing to us, but it also means sacrifice. Even in this, however, we are to rejoice. Regarding his own sacrifice, Paul said of himself, “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.” (Col. 1:24) Here we again note the Apostle’s reference to the church as Christ’s “body.” What a springing forth of new spiritual life is thus implied by our appropriation of the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice, and being constituted members of his body.
SPRING AND THE RESURRECTION
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Eccles. 3:1) As noted in the foregoing, it is proper that we take special note of Jesus’ death in the spring of the year, and our resulting privilege of being members of his body, as well as the responsibility we have of ridding our hearts and minds of the leaven of sin. Beyond this, however, is the “springing forth” of life epitomized in the grand hope of the resurrection. Jesus was the first to realize this hope. On the third day following his death, Christ rose from the dead, and became “the firstfruits of them that slept” in death. (I Cor. 15:20) The faithful members of the body of Christ, who are being developed during this present Gospel Age, will also be raised to a heavenly inheritance with their Master. They are part of the “firstfruits” class Paul speaks of in this verse.
The scriptures also promise a renewal of life for mankind in general, as they too will be given the opportunity, on earth, for a full resurrection, or restanding, before God. Jesus promised, “An hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28,29, New American Standard Bible) This opportunity for the whole human family will come under the administration of Christ Jesus and the faithful members of his body in the coming Messianic kingdom.
SUMMER AND WINTER
The psalmist wrote concerning the wonders of Creation, but spoke of only the seasons of the greatest climate extremes—summer and winter—as encompassing the annual cycle of nature. He said, “The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun. Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.” (Ps. 74:16,17) The Prophet Zechariah also spoke of summer and winter in relation to Christ’s coming kingdom. We read, “In that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea: it will be in summer as well as in winter.” (Zech. 14:8, NASB) That is, the “living waters” of Christ’s kingdom will gush forth continuously, regardless of season, and encircle the earth, from the east to the west.
The provision of blessings that will be made available for the human family during Christ’s kingdom is also described by the revelator: “He shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst …, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month.” (Rev. 22:1,2) By this, we realize that the fruitage of the kingdom, provided for man’s nourishment and development, is not to be available in only certain seasons, but “every month.”
“WINTER IS PAST”
Solomon wrote, “Lo, the winter is past; The rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; The time of the singing of birds is come, And the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land.” (Song of Sol. 2:11,12, American Standard Version) These highly symbolic words point forward to the time of Christ’s kingdom, when the world will be refreshed under the loving arrangements of the Heavenly Father. The reference to “winter” aptly describes the present reign of sin and death, a long season which has overshadowed the human family as the result of Adam’s transgression. The past 6,000 years has indeed been a barren, cold, forbidding and dark period of earth’s history under the leadership of the great Adversary, Satan. With few exceptions, men have struggled with the difficulties of this life for a few short years, with their hopes and dreams ending in the grave.
In Jesus’ prophecy concerning the time of trouble at the end of the present Gospel Age, he speaks of a “winter” period upon the earth. He says, “Woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter. For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.” (Mark 13:17-20) How thankful we are, however, that after the present winter of trouble, the springtime of the kingdom will renew life upon the earth!
“THE RAIN IS OVER”
In Solomon’s words previously cited, he says that “the rain is over and gone.” In this usage, the word “rain” is derived from a Hebrew word meaning “to shower violently,” as in a terrible storm. The violent storms of the present troubled world, Solomon prophesies, will come to an end, following which “flowers [will] appear on the earth,” evidences of a new season. Such words beautifully portray God’s ultimate purpose of blessing the human family.
Rain, whether in the form of a storm or a refreshing shower, results in a renewal of life to the earth. From this standpoint, we can view rain in a symbolic manner as always bringing about blessings from the Heavenly Father. Speaking on behalf of God, Moses said, “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass.” (Deut. 32:2) The Prophet Hosea also speaks of the Lord’s blessings coming as the rain. “Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.”—Hos. 6:3
The “latter and former rain” seem to prophetically denote the abundant showers of Truth poured out as a result of Jesus’ First Advent, and his invisible presence now during the time of his Second Advent. These former and latter rains have been especially for the benefit of Christ’s consecrated followers, those who have entered a covenant relationship with God and presented themselves as “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God,” their “reasonable service.”—Rom. 12:1
Between Christ’s First and Second Advents, a long period intervened during which there was little in the way of showers of Truth. Elijah’s pronouncement to the evil king of Israel points forward in a prophetic manner to this time of drought. “Elijah the Tishbite, … said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” (I Kings 17:1) The Apostle James reveals to us the length of this time. He states that Elijah “prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.”—James 5:17
In ancient Jewish calendar reckoning, which used 30 day months, “three years and six months” equated to 42 months, or 1,260 days. Using the scriptural designation of a “day for a year,” as found in God’s dealings with Israel, the long period without rain of which Elijah spoke prophetically describes a span of 1,260 years. (Num. 14:34; Ezek. 4:6) This aptly represents the portion of the Gospel Age during which the apostate church-state system suppressed the dispensing of the “rain” of Truth. John the Revelator also spoke of this same period, and foretold that God’s “two witnesses,” the Old and New Testaments, “shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth”—that is, covered up and concealed.—Rev. 11:3
We believe that this long period of drought is over, and that the “latter rain” has come as a result of our Lord’s Second Advent, or presence. We again read the words of James, who wrote of this time, saying, “Be patient, then, brethren, till the presence of the Lord; lo, the husbandman doth expect the precious fruit of the earth, being patient for it, till he may receive rain—early and latter; be patient, ye also; establish your hearts, because the presence of the Lord hath drawn nigh.”—James 5:7,8, Young’s Literal Translation
FURTHER SIGNS OF SPRING
In the verses quoted earlier, Solomon speaks of the singing of the birds. The New American Standard Bible interjects a further thought: “The time has arrived for pruning the vines.” A sure evidence that winter is past and spring has arrived is the return of the birds—announcing their presence with joyful song. Springtime is also a time of pruning, in order that vegetation may grow more profusely, and bring forth abundant fruitage during the new growing season. The spiritual fruitage that we, as consecrated believers, desire to produce also requires the pruning of our characters by God, that we might “bear much fruit.”—John 15:1-8
Solomon speaks of “the voice of the turtle [dove].” Doves are especially noted for their soft cooing. They have gentle and clean habits, and are often used as symbols of peace and purity. Turtledoves and pigeons are the only birds that were permitted to be offered in sacrifice under the Mosaic law. “If the … offering to the Lord be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons.”—Lev. 1:14
We quote the following account of events that took place shortly after Jesus’ birth: “When eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS. … And when the days of her [Mary’s] purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; … And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:21-24) As Luke writes, these things were done in accordance with the Jewish law. (Lev. 12:1-6) We rejoice that, in a much larger sense, Jesus will bring to all mankind peace, and the opportunity to develop a pure, gentle and loving character in his coming Messianic kingdom.
The Bible speaks prophetically, using symbolic language, of the life-renewing blessings of God’s coming kingdom. The Prophet Isaiah gives us this preview of that blessed day so near at hand. “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing. … In the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water.”—Isa. 35:1,2,6,7
The psalmist wrote of the confidence we should have in God, even in the midst of the world’s present troubles, knowing that he will soon intervene, and say, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10) It is God, David also says, “Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people.” (chap. 65:7) The restless waves and tumult of mankind will become stilled under the mighty hand of God. Then, the psalmist continues, “Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it. Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof.”—vss. 9,10
PRESENCE NOT GENERALLY KNOWN
When the Master was questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God would come, he said, “The kingdom of God comes not with outward show; nor shall they say, Behold here! Or there! For, behold, God’s royal majesty is among you.” (Luke 17:20,21, Diaglott) With these words, Jesus was telling the Pharisees that the kingdom of God was among them at that time in the sense that Israel’s rightful king—their foretold Messiah—was in their very presence. He, of course, was speaking of himself, yet due to their hardness of heart and lack of faith, they failed to recognize his presence as their Messiah at his First Advent.
Shortly after this, Jesus prophesied concerning his Second Advent presence, giving his disciples certain “signs” to look for. One of these concerned the days of the faithful patriarch Noah. Jesus said, “As the days of Noah—so shall be also the presence of the Son of Man; for as they were, in the days before the flood, eating, and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, till the day Noah entered into the ark, and they did not know till the flood came and took all away; so shall be also the presence of the Son of Man.”—Matt. 24:37-39, YLT
The point of this sign is that the people in general during Noah’s day did not know the significance of the time in which they were living, nor the events which would soon come to pass. They did not know, that is, until the calamity of the Flood was upon them. Noah knew, however, as did his family, for they believed what God had told them. He was a “preacher of righteousness,” Peter says, yet no one except his family gave heed to his words.—II Pet. 2:5
In Jesus’ prophecy quoted above, he was not speaking of the time of his arrival, but of his Second Advent presence following his arrival. God was invisibly present with Noah and supervised the entire process of building the ark and preparing for the coming flood. Likewise, we believe, Jesus is now invisibly present, unknown to mankind in general, preparing the earth as well as the people for the end of this “present evil world,” and the establishment of a “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (Gal. 1:4; II Pet. 3:13) Just as Noah and his family put their faith and trust in God under most difficult circumstances, so now only the Lord’s consecrated people know of the presence of Jesus, and have confidence that he is carrying out his Father’s plans and purposes to bring about the establishment of his kingdom.
“Watch therefore,” Jesus concludes, “for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matt. 24:42) The thought is—watch for the signs of his invisible presence, of which the “days of Noah” is but one example. A watcher, according to the scriptural use of the term, is one who is vigilant, attentive, on the lookout and wide awake. Faithful watchers during the time of the Lord’s second presence display these qualities, because they know of the good things God has in store for mankind once the present “flood” of trouble is past. The vast majority of mankind, however, just as in the days of Noah, know not of his presence, or of his benevolent purposes.
A GLORIOUS KINGDOM
We look forward with anticipation to God’s glorious kingdom soon to come. It will result in the betterment of man physically, morally, and spiritually, to an extent not experienced since our first parents fell from perfection. In fact, it is perfection that will be the grand result of this new day. Though a gradual work, it will surely be accomplished for all the willing and obedient. “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth,” God says. “It shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”—Isa. 55:11
It is our present duty and privilege as footstep followers of the Lord to “Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season.” (II Tim. 4:2) We are to continue to preach the “gospel of the kingdom” as a “witness unto all nations.” (Matt. 24:14) Though most do not have hearing ears at the present time, mankind’s “day of visitation” will soon come, in which all eyes and ears will be open to the glorious character, plans, and purposes of our loving God, and he will be glorified by all. (I Pet. 2:12) Concerning this time, God said through the Prophet Jeremiah, “They shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them.”—Jer. 31:34
We have learned from our consideration of this subject that the thought of spring brings to our mind the hope of renewal and recovery. So it will be, by the grace of God, for the present weary, sin-sick, and dying world of mankind, as we look forward to the springtime of God’s kingdom. The salvation that God has promised for his groaning creation is to bring about full recovery—not merely a temporary fix to limited problems. It will be a new arrangement, with no influence from man’s great adversary, Satan, for he will be bound. (Rev. 20:1,2) We quote this kingdom promise from the prophet: “An highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; … the redeemed shall walk there: And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isa. 35:8-10) Most assuredly, this will be a glorious and perfect spring!