I wrote this article a few years ago, but considering all that we have been discussing lately, and especially looking and watching the events in Israel right now, I thought it appropriate to revisit the subject of “the dog days of summer”. Of all of the reports coming out of Israel right now, the most concerting to me personally was a report two days ago that two long range missiles were fired at the nuclear power plant at Dimona. Exactly what the outcome of the current conflict between Israel and its enemies will be I cannot say, however as we all know, the Word of God tells us that one day it will culminate in the beginning of the end. Add to that the fact, as we have already discussed, the Ninth of Av is only three weeks away. Seems like a good time to “keep watching”.
"Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. "So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near--at the doors. Mark 13:28-29 NKJV
I find it surprising when so many ask me why I choose to study and teach on prophecy when there are so many portions of scripture like this one from Mark that make it clear what Jesus expects from us. I try to explain to those who question that this is not merely a suggestion from God, but a command repeated over and over again. As such, I try to get the point across that if God commands us to watch, it is because He intends to show us signs that we will recognize as harbingers of the end of this age. One of the points I have often contemplated concerning this passage is if it is possible God is giving us a clue as to when the rapture would occur when He chooses to use the season of summer in this passage.
As I considered that, I also was reminded of something I realized back in the day when I was a history major in college. Do you know the vast majority of conflicts and wars this world has seen have started during the summer months? My point? I just wonder if the conflict that God reveals in His Word concerning the future of Israel and the world, taken along with His command to watch with a reference to the season of summer, should be a major clue to those of us who choose to obey His command to watch? Something else to consider is what we discussed last week concerning Israel and their three weeks of national mourning which began yesterday and culminate with the fast on the ninth of Av. Could it be that Jesus is suggesting to us through the passage in Mark that we should be especially watchful during the summer?
The term “dog days of summer” is probably familiar to most, yet many are probably not aware of what it means or of it's origin. Actually, the answer to that question is hazy and debatable, while some believe it may date back as far as the Roman Empire. As to what it might mean, let me make a suggestion based solely on my own observations and experiences. One, like most people I have a dog. I also live in a part of the country which experiences summers which tend to occasionally receive triple digit heat late in the season. I have had occasion to notice my dog gets just a little testy during these days of excessive heat, exhibiting a marked lack of patience and a tendency to growl and lash out when disturbed. A funny thing though, I have also noticed here and there that people tend to do the same thing as well.
As I have watched and waited for the return of our Lord I have noticed that we as believers are not immune to the same feelings of impatience and irritability that are a common occurrence in this life. A large part of my watching revolves around research which necessitates visiting a large number of websites and reading commentaries, blogs, and letters by other believers who have answered the call to watch. In the past few years as seasons, watch days, prospective rapture dates, etc. come and go I would have to say it appears that the collective mood of the body displays an increasingly impatient, sometimes argumentative and discouraged appearance.
Now the upside to this is that it is obviously a sign that the body is anxiously awaiting the rapture and the longer we wait the greater the relief when it occurs, but we also need to guard our hearts from allowing the disappointment that we are still here from manifesting itself in actions which hurt our witness to others, as well as dividing the body according to positions we might hold because of our individual opinions on doctrinal issues. I think this is exactly what Paul had in mind when he wrote the following verse.
Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, Romans 15:5 NKJV
In this letter to the church at Rome, Paul gives instructions concerning how believers should relate to one another in chapters fourteen and fifteen. I think it's very instructive that when talking about this subject, of all the attributes Paul could choose to describe our Father he chooses “patience and comfort” to show us exactly what we need to imitate in order to achieve harmony with each other. Especially helpful to me is the definition of “like-minded” that we find mentioned here. It is the Greek word phroneō, which basically means that although we might have an opinion, it is more important to strive for harmony rather than arguing to the point of causing division.
For many the disappointment of still being here can lead to discouragement which is an open door to the feelings we have talked about, yet we do have a reason to be encouraged about the situation we find ourselves in. In this passage from his letter to the Corinthian church Paul gives us some instructions we can use to combat the “dog days” we seem to be experiencing.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward [man] is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen [are] temporary, but the things which are not seen [are] eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NKJV
Paul says we need not be discouraged because every day we are being “renewed” whether or not we realize it. The word for renewed means we are given new strength and the best way I can see to receive that is to keep looking ahead towards what we know is the promise of things to come. We are also told we are being prepared by enduring what is described as a “light affliction”. Now I'm sure many of us might not see it that way but notice also that Paul tells us that the affliction is for a “moment” and is not going to last forever. The end will eventually come and when it does, we will finally see that the eternal was worth what we endured while here. The best way I know to avoid discouragement is to focus on the finish, and not the race or we will stumble and lose heart.
When the time came for me to make the transition to running distance races instead of sprints I received some of the best practical advice from my coach that is extremely relevant to this passage. He told me before my very first race that I should concentrate on running my race and to ignore everybody else. The reason became clear at the start when everybody else disappeared in a cloud of dust and I was left alone running at the pace I had trained for. I could easily have become discouraged but I kept running my race and thinking about the finish. Imagine my surprise when at about the three mile point I came around a corner and saw all those runners I thought were long gone just in front of me.
As believers we are not immune to the emotions living in this world can produce, especially when someone turns up the heat. Impatience and discouragement are tools Satan uses to cause us to stumble, but by focusing on the promises from God which we have concerning what lies ahead we can overcome the emotions that come when we feel the heat.