President Abraham Lincoln once said, “Die when I may, I want it said of me by those who knew me best that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower when I thought a flower would grow.” This serious student of the Bible had come to understand a truly beautiful thought of God. Plucking thistles and planting flowers is a way of life which requires character of which Mr. Lincoln wrote: “Character is like a tree, and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it. The tree is the real thing.”
Character is the one thing God cannot produce in mankind against man’s will. God’s desire is to take of the physical dust of the earth and create beings with wonderful character like His. In a sense what occurred in the Garden of Eden is reenacted in every human being. Adam chose from which tree to eat and by so doing selected a lifestyle in direct opposition to God’s lifestyle. Adam chose Satan’s way of selfishness and intense competition as opposed to God’s way of love and compassion. Once this way was selected, he and mankind ever since have dwelt under the influence of Satan’s dead tree. We dwell on an earth covered by the sea of Satan’s thoughts, attitudes and desires; however, we like Adam still possess the wonderful gift of free will.
We may not live in the Garden of Eden, but we do not have to eat of Satan’s rotten fruit, nor do we have to produce rotten fruit for him. We may be just dust of the earth, but he cannot stop us from plucking thistles and planting flowers. He cannot stop us from becoming solid trees of good character and bearing fruit to benefit our fellow man.
We are currently not in the Garden of Paradise, but each of us whether we like it or not is a garden. The produce of our garden is our character. Each of us is a living, breathing garden alive in the most exciting time in history. Walking the face of the earth today are over six billion piles of dust! We are literal piles of dirt that eat, sleep and breathe, six billion piles of dirt with the ability to reason, six billion piles of dirt with the incomparable gift of free will.
We can learn by looking about us at physical creation to determine what is necessary to produce bounteous fruits of the physical earth. We choose fertile soil. We cultivate the ground and carefully place seed in the soil. We water the seed and weed the little plants. We watch the sun perform its wonders. Then in season we harvest the fruit of the land. Around the world people feel a connection to the land. Farmers everywhere love their land. People love their gardens, their trees, their lawns and even their potted plants. The wonder of working the soil with our hands and watching seeds sprout and grow is good for both mind and body.
The connection we feel is because we are made of earth as scripture says in Genesis 3:19. “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” Just as physical ground can be tilled and nurtured as a garden to produce physical crops, so man can be fertile dust of the earth for God’s spiritual purposes. We can produce a spiritual harvest for God. Through God’s power, combined with our free will, spiritual crops form our character. Now let’s put together the supporting scriptures that explain this beautiful thought of God.
We will turn first to Hosea 10:12-13. “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you. You have plowed wickedness; you have reaped iniquity. You have eaten the fruit of lies, because you trusted in your own way, in the multitude of your mighty men.”
Fallow ground is land that has been plowed and left uncultivated and unseeded. Left in this condition a farm field will be very rough ground and perfect for the production of weeds and undesirable plants. Exposed ground allows unwanted seeds to drift in and take root. To bear good crops, plowed land must have the clods cultivated and broken up, softened as it were and prepared to receive seed and rain. Rich, well-prepared land can be carefully sown so that rain can germinate the seeds and sunlight can do its work.
As the seedlings grow, they must be carefully weeded and cultivated to enable them to eventually produce a bountiful harvest. If the tiny plants are not cared for, weeds will choke them and predators will feed on them, reducing yield or even killing them. Hosea clearly shows that God views each human being as fallow ground, which He wants broken up, cultivated and sown with good seed upon which He can send His rain and sunlight in order to produce righteousness and goodness. The intent is for us to reap mercy.
God contrasts verse 12 with Satan’s way of life, which through lies turns our gardens into rough ground which produces iniquity. Without the proper care, our minds become receptive to lies which take root and turn our gardens into an ugly mass of thistles and thorns. Mankind is constantly influenced by lies that cause us to reap iniquity, pain and sorrow. Lies convince our minds of many things that cause us to bear evil fruit. How many young lives have been prematurely snuffed out by fighting wars spawned by lies? How many innocents must die at the hands of terrorists who have swallowed the lie that any means are justified by the end? When will people learn that it is never all right to prosper because we have impoverished someone else, hooked them on drugs or slandered their name? Isn’t 6,000 years of reaping what we sow enough to teach us that we are our brother’s keeper?
The earth is indeed God’s garden, and the dirt that each of us is composed of is our little section to tend and to keep. Let each of us stop believing the lies and look to God for some good seed, gentle rain and the sunlight of His truth. Galatians 6:7-10 is clear on this subject. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
Now let’s read the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-9. “On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: ‘Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, [and the thistles] and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’”
Christ’s explanation of this parable is in Matthew 13:18-23: “Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Weaving all of these scriptures together reveals a picture of some people receiving God’s seed in the fertile, well-prepared ground of their minds and hearts and bearing a bounteous crop for God. Christ also reveals in verse 19 that receiving the seed has something to do with hearing the word of the kingdom. The parable of the sower also clearly shows that many people do not bear fruit because lies and selfishness prevent their soil from producing.
It is fair to ask at this point just how successful has God been over the millennia? Since these thoughts were first penned in the Old Testament and reiterated by Christ in the gospels, how many people have heard and come to understand and then gone on to bear much fruit? Man’s historical record is written in his blood, sweat and tears. Most people have lived and died never even owning a Bible let alone comprehending just what God wants! Modern technology now makes the Bible a perennial best seller, yet the world remains an armed camp with many living a dreadful existence of poverty and despair.
Even so-called Christian nations pursue policies of hatred and ethnic cleansing, sometimes even against other Christian nations and peoples. It seems most nations are either in a war, recovering from a war or preparing for the next one! The evidence makes one question the success of God’s efforts.
The answer to this paradox lies in how God will achieve ultimate success. God is methodically moving through time toward a huge harvest. We are on the verge of that time, and it has taken almost 6,000 years to arrive at this place. Digest No. 3, “The Great Lights”, spoke of times and seasons being marked off both physically by sun and moon, and spiritually by the Son of God and His called out ones pictured by the moon.
We have seen down through the ages God called a few people to accomplish His special purposes. Among these people were the prophets and the apostles. These were dedicated individuals who gave their lives to reflect God’s light and be examples and teachers of God’s way of life. They became, in essence, trees to bear fruit for the rest of us and record God’s ways so His light could illuminate us today. They became trees of life.
Let us go back to the parable of the sower and read some dialogue we skipped over. In Matthew 13:10-16 the apostles asked Christ why He spoke in parables and received a fascinating answer. “And the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Why do You speak to them [speaking of the multitudes] in parables?’ He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: “Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.” But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear…’”
Christ here made a distinction between people who were called to understanding at that time and others who were left purposely in the dark. He also mentions this in Matthew 13:34-35. “All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: ‘I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.’” There were indeed some secrets that Christ did not want to reveal at that time.
John 6:44-45 confirms the idea that not everyone is called to know at the same time. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.”
Understanding that Christ deliberately did not want all who heard Him to comprehend the truth of His mysteries of the kingdom is crucial. You see there are two harvests spoken of in scripture. As we saw in Digest No. 3, there is a spring harvest and a fall harvest. A spring harvest obviously must come first and the fall harvest last. The prophets, apostles and a few other specially called early formed the firstfruits. These form a foundation for God to carefully build a kingdom. These firstfruits form a government to help establish and rule this kingdom, which is almost ready to burst forth at Christ’s return. We will discuss the exciting topic of the mysteries of the kingdom in the next Digest.
Right now we need to realize that we are well along in the times and seasons and are now making the transition from spring harvest to fall. The earth is about to widely receive God’s seed and the light which will cause it to burst forth in spiritual abundance! It is time for God’s secrets to be known throughout the world and no longer be hidden from the earth’s multitudes. God’s rain is God’s truth. God’s truth is about to fall all over the earth! The times and seasons clearly show this.
Deuteronomy 32:1-3 expresses this beautiful thought of God in a song that Moses sang to the people of that time. “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. Let my teaching [That is doctrine in the King James Version.] drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, as raindrops on the tender herb, and as showers on the grass. For I proclaim the name of the Lord…” God had Moses sing these words for the people of that time and record them for the benefit of all time and all people even to this very day!
God’s teaching and the true doctrines form the rain for our minds and our hearts. Humanity is the spiritual grass and the herbs of the earth. Note these interesting scriptures. Isaiah 40:6-8 “The voice said, ‘Cry out!’ And he said, ‘What shall I cry?’” The inspired answer was: “‘All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.’” Let us once again take a moment to compare physical creation to comprehend some of God’s beautiful thoughts.
Did you know that on the earth the most important and prolific food staple is grass and its seed? Of course we know that livestock feed on grasses to sustain them and thereby indirectly us. But mankind’s largest food staple comes from ripened seeds of grasses. Wheat, barley, flax and even rice and corn are all forms of grass as any good encyclopedia will tell you.
Grass seed is harvested in two harvests: spring and fall. Flax, barley and winter wheat are firstfruit harvests, but by far the largest harvest is in the fall. Both harvests require diligence to soften the ground and prepare the ground to receive the seed and let the rain and sunlight work their wonders. Then the farmer needs to carefully weed and care for the seedlings as they grow. This is what leads to a bounteous harvest. Both harvests in a sense are also compared to the two harvests that God will have of mankind. In order for us to bear sufficient bountiful crops for God, we need to soften our hearts and minds to receive God’s seed, water and light to produce a crop.
The firstfruit harvest has taken almost 6,000 years to prepare through the lives of just a few. Paul wrote of them nearly 2,000 years ago in I Corinthians 3:6-11. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
Paul knew that the people he labored among and taught 2,000 years ago were God’s field to produce a crop forming a very special building. The crop was the character that the people were forming of godly character and righteous character. He has called out people to form the grass of God’s field at the time, a comparative few in all the earth. They were what we call the firstfruits, the few allowed to understand the mysteries of the kingdom and bear fruit one hundred, sixty or thirty-fold.
James refers to the firstfruits as God’s light that helps them bear fruit in James 1:17-18. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”
God has to liberate mankind from darkness in a logical, well thought-out plan. He will not leave the rest behind. Paul relayed this to us in Romans 8:18-23. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”
This is a very high thought of God that it is time for us to comprehend. Paul is writing of God’s ultimate plan to save the whole world starting with the firstfruits termed the sons of God. He then explains that all creation groans under the bondage of Satan’s corruptness until the firstfruits are ready to be revealed at Christ’s second coming. At that time all mankind will be set free from Satan’s corrupting influences, and a huge harvest of people will begin! Right now you and I live in the transition time as God moves from calling firstfruits, to the massive calling preparatory to Christ’s coming and the start of the wonderful Millennium when Christ will reign instead of Satan.
We now have the opportunity, if we so desire, to let God work in our minds and hearts bearing fruit for Him. Each of us that decides to let Christ work in our lives becomes another point of light on the earth and another patch of ground reclaimed from Satan’s vast wilderness. That wilderness is now shrinking as the earth becomes increasingly fruitful. God’s light will push from here forward and shrink the territory that is shrouded in darkness until eventually at Christ’s coming the whole earth will be bathed in His light.
The big harvest takes place at the end of the age, mistakenly referred to as the end of the world. Let us go back to Matthew 13:37-43 where Christ explains the parable of the wheat and the tares. You can read the parable on your own in verse 24-30. “He answered and said to them: ‘He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’”
God is now preparing the people of the earth for this wonderful occasion: the end of Satan’s 6,000 year reign of oppression and the start of God’s Millennium of liberty. God will win and His harvest promises to be huge. Before we conclude Digest No. 5, let us consider for a moment why so many live in fear of the end of the world.
Revelation 12:9 tells us that Satan deceives the whole world. This must be true since God will never lie to us. The whole world means virtually everyone. Most people who believe in God will say that they think He is good, kind and compassionate. Yet when they think of the end of the world, they portray God as a harsh dispenser of justice, about to wreak havoc on the earth He created. Often people point to wars, earthquakes, famines and other disasters as signs of Christ’s coming and what He is instigating on the earth. Some, such as terrorists and hate groups, even want to help God along in this plan! Others teach fear religion causing anxiety and near panic to many people, robbing them of hope as they wait for their worst nightmares to become reality. If these beliefs are widespread throughout the world, you can bet they are wrong! Many believe most life on earth is about to perish. This is inconsistent with a huge harvest living on into a beautiful Millennium on the earth. Future Digests will deal in detail with this wrong-headed thinking.
A few scriptures at this juncture will give us confidence in God’s beautiful thoughts and His plans. First let us see that even the apostles had to learn this lesson. Luke 9:51-56 “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?’ But He turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.’ And they went to another village.”
Now let us take careful note of Matthew 24:3-8. “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.’”
The word sorrows is odin #5604 of the Strong’s Concordance in the Greek section which means birth pangs. This goes right along with what we read in Romans 8 as part of creation’s groanings. Christ said do not be troubled by such signs because He knew 2,000 years ago that many more wars, famines and earthquakes would come, just as many had already taken place before Christ’s first coming. Unfortunately, many well-meaning people come saying “Jesus is the Christ” and then point to all the wrong signs of His return. Even worse, they sometimes point to Him as causing those awful signs quite contrary to the scriptures we just read!
There are a number of true signs that Christ gives us, and there is one major one mentioned just after His warning not to be deceived, and that is in Matthew 24:14. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations and then the end will come.” The word gospel means “good message” and to announce good news. Yes, it is time for the mysteries of the kingdom to be understood, parables and prophecies to be unlocked and the truth of God’s word made plain so a worldwide harvest can take place!
We now grasp enough definitions of what God means by such terms as light and dark, wilderness and garden, trees and grass, sea and fresh water, that we can now make sense of some remarkable scriptures. Isaiah 60:1-5 “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around, and see: they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be nursed at your side. Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you…” “The abundance of the sea shall be converted,” it says in the King James Version. Satan’s thoughts and influence will be removed from the earth, and God’s truth, the gospel of the kingdom, will go forth and convert mankind.
This amazing time is referred to in Revelation 14:6 and 15-16. “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth – to every nation, tribe, tongue and people…” “And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, ‘Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.”
We skip down to Revelation 15:3-4, and we can read of the end time song of Moses being sung once again just like it was in Deuteronomy 32. “They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested.’”
It was in this song that Moses sang what we read earlier. “And hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. Let my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, as raindrops on the tender herb, and as showers on the grass.” It will have taken a long time for these words to have borne such fruit for the big harvest at the end of the age. Soon no one will doubt God’s success or His great wisdom. Let’s all throw off darkness and deception by letting the truth of God’s word reign in our lives. Let’s soften our minds and hearts cultivating our fallow ground to receive seed, rain and sun. Let’s do unto others as we would have them do unto us, for we are our brother’s keeper. Let’s pluck the thorns out of our lives and plant flowers and fruitful plants, so that we can produce thirty, sixty or even a hundred-fold. Let’s stop eating the fruit of the dead tree, and maybe we can grow into the stature of a tree casting a good shadow for others to see and bear fruit for others.
We will now go to Isaiah 55:1-13 in conclusion. “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you – the sure mercies of David. Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people, a leader and commander for the people. Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, and nations who do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and the Holy One of Israel; for He has glorified you.
“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
“‘For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.’”
If we allow only good thoughts and attitudes into our minds and care for our fellow man, then we shall reap a bountiful harvest. God gives us some splendid promises in Matthew 5:5-7, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” God wants to abundantly give to all who will listen and care to obey Him. Let’s conclude with God’s words in Isaiah 28:23-26, 29. “Give ear and hear my voice, listen and hear my speech. Does the plowman keep plowing all day to sow? Does he keep turning his soil and breaking the clods? When he has leveled the surface, does he not sow … wheat … barley … and rye? For He instructs him in right judgment, his God teaches him… This also comes from the Lord of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance.”
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The Times and Seasons Digest is FREE.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The source for the Hebrew and Greek words in this book and their meanings is The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, by James Strong, Copyright © 1995 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
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