Monday, August 25, 2014

Prophetic Restoration

With the pending promise of prophetic doom, there always followed
the pending promise of prophetic restoration
          In the last article I addressed the Prophetic Judgment of Israel and when I left off the punishment of Israel for the breaking of the covenant was a done deal.  God was going to use Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babylon as the instrument of discipline for Judah.  He confirmed this when King Zedekiah sent Melchiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest to inquire of the prophet Jeremiah about Nebuchadnezzar’s bellicose plans toward Jerusalem. Jeremiah’s reply on behalf of God was “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: “Behold I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, with which you fight against the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans who besiege you outside the  walls and I will assemble them in the midst of this city.  I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger and fury and great wrath. I will strike the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast; they shall die of great pestilence. (Jeremiah 21: 2-6).
            The Lord goes on to assure that those people left from the famine, pestilence and sword in the city of Jerusalem would be handed over to Nebuchadnezzar and their enemies. He then states, “Behold I set before you the way of life and the way of death. He who remains in this city shall die by the sword, and by pestilence, but he who goes out and defects to the Chaldeans shall live and his life shall be as a prize to him.” (vs.8,9).  Thus the fate of Judah was sealed and there was no relenting on God’s part, but the good news was that it was not a forever exile.  The Lord determined that for 70 years Judah and surrounding nations would serve the king of Babylon, but at the expiration of those years he would also punish the king of Babylon and the nation of Chaldean for their iniquity. (Jeremiah 25: 11-12).   He also pronounced a judgment on other nations in Israel’s neighborhood beginning with Egypt and ending with the kings of the north and all the kingdoms of the world. (vs. 15-26).  
            Although God in his justice chastises Israel, he never completely forsakes them.  With the pending promise of prophetic doom, there always followed the pending promise of prophetic restoration.   Jeremiah captures this when he is commanded to write of the Lord, “For behold, the days are coming says the Lord, that I will bring back from captivity my people Israel and Judah and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.” (Jeremiah 30: 1-3).  In verse 11 it states, “For I am with you, says the Lord to save you:  Though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, Yet I will not make a complete end of you, but I will correct you in justice, and will not let you go altogether unpunished.  There is much that can be discussed in chapter 30 of Jeremiah, but one thing that must be apprehended is that the judgment and restoration of Israel was not a onetime occurrence.  It indicates a yet future judgment and restoration beyond the 70 years of Judah in exile.  It is a theme that appears again with Jesus when he is talking to his disciples while they are in Jerusalem. 
         In Luke 21 the disciples remark about how the temple was beautifully adorned with stones and donations.  Jesus responded, “As for these things which you see, the days will come in which not one stone shall left upon another that shall not be thrown down.” (vs. 6).  The disciples with shock asked, “Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place.” (vs.7). Jesus goes on to give them a list of signs indicating what is referred to as the end-times or end of the age, but what I want to emphasize is where he says, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near…..For these are the days of vengeance that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” (vs. 20, 22).  “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days, for there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations.  And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”  (vs. 23,24).
            In the Principle of the Second (The Age To Come), I proposed that in a set of two that which is first represents the flesh or natural and that which is second represents the spirit. I described this age as a natural or fleshly age and it coincides with the times of the Gentiles and the second age as spiritual age which is led by restored spiritual Israel with Jesus as the king over Israel and ruling the nations. What became evident to me after having this verse brought to my attention and some contemplation was that just as in Jeremiah, Judah and Israel is still absent from the land because we are still in the times of the Gentiles.  Although we have a people known as the Jews in Israel, it is apparent that their presence did not end the time of the Gentiles and for all practical purposes Jerusalem is still being trampled by Gentiles.
           Also, the Jews that rule present day Israel have never been known to have been led away captive into all the nations.  So now the question becomes where are the people who experienced the desolation of Jerusalem when the city was razed by the Romans in 70 ad and who eventually of those who were left would be led captive into all nations? This is the question that will be dealt with in future articles because the identification of the people is not just about solving a great mystery, but is germane to the fulfillment of the times of the Gentiles and the conclusion of this age.



Sunday, August 17, 2014

Prophetic Judgment

Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God
 
Often times I hear pastors or people say “God is good”.  And where I would in the main agree with that statement, the question is “Is he anything else?”  Sometimes it would appear that there is this one-dimensional view of God that undergirds the church when our society and history suggest there is a multi-dimensional aspect to his character.  In the last article Prophetic Particularity, I talked about God’s affinity for detail with illustration of how he selected Shem out of Noah’s three sons in which to redeem a people for himself.  Out of Shem he selected Abraham to be the one he would bless by making him into a great nation and once this nation came to fruition he made a covenant with them.  A covenant is defined as a written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action. 
The covenant God made with Israel is found in the book of Deuteronomy.  It once again reveals how particular and specific God was with those issues that concerned him especially as it relates to the crafting of images for the worship of false gods.  If the people kept the covenant he made with them, God would bless them tremendously, but if they disregarded the covenant he would curse them with all sorts of afflictions.  Deuteronomy 28: 15 lists these curses which one should take the time to read.  The curses portend awful things for the Israelites, but they nonetheless as time would go on find themselves invoking those parts of the agreement.
I want to take a look at the book of Jeremiah the prophet.  As I have done before I will focus on particular passages but provide the general background.  When the Lord calls the prophet Jeremiah, Israel specifically Judah is in a state of spiritual delusion and decline so that they are on the cusp of being destroyed by a foreign power.  The delusion is that they did not believe disaster would come upon them and is exhibited by the words, “Peace, peace” when there is no peace.” Jeremiah 7:11.  But why is disaster coming upon them? It is a familiar story and same song expressed by the Lord when he says, “What injustice have your fathers found in Me that they have gone far from Me, and have followed idols, and have become idolaters? (Jeremiah 2: 5).  In verse 13, it states, “For my people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns-broken cisterns that can hold no water.” 
Men are amazing to contemplate sometimes.  How do you forsake the fountain of living waters, for basically dead stagnate waters?  God set before Israel a beautiful deal that if they could only follow he would have awesomely blessed them.  But alas, they did not and Jeremiah cites many offenses committed by Judah and one in particular was done by Manasseh the son of Hezekiah the king of Judah.  Manasseh during his reign rebuilt high places to Baal, made wooden images, worshipped the hosts of heaven, built altars in the house of the Lord, caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; practiced soothsaying, witchcraft and sorcery and consulted mediums and spiritists. (2 Chronicles 33: 3-6).  All of these things provoked the Lord to anger and activated the judgment of God for the breaking of the covenant. 
So who is the foreign power God is going to use to punish Judah?  It is no other than Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon.  What I want to draw attention to is Jeremiah 27:6 where the Lord states, “And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant; and the beasts of the field I have also given him to serve him.  Notice that God calls the king of Babylon his servant.  He is making clear that in his sovereignty and power he controls what the nations are allowed to do especially in regard to Israel. 
He makes it evident that Israel is the fulcrum upon which history turns and it was within his purview to raise up a nation to execute judgment upon Israel.   Jeremiah in his many words to the people of Judah reveal an aspect of God that is far from soft and buttery.  He is unsparing in what he declares will happen to the people of Judah such as the statement in Jeremiah 15:3 “And I will appoint over them four forms of destruction, says the Lord. “the sword to slay, the dogs to drag, the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy.” 
Because of Jesus sacrifice for the sin of mankind and God’s grace and mercy, the church of a more gentile character has lost the judgment aspect of God’s character along with in some quarters the holy aspect of his character.  It has caused the scales to be weighed too heavily to one side that does not deal with the hard words and more severe facets of God’s nature.   When one is considering topics of prophetic significance, the hard things must be considered and the prophetic judgment of the people of Israel fall within this category. 
As the Apostle Paul stated in Romans 11:22   Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. Here Paul is letting a gentile church know that they are not above being cut off if they do not continue in God letting them become a part of the good olive tree of Israel.  He has balanced the scales with both the goodness and the severity of God and let us know that these attributes of God have not been dissolved with the passage of time.


 



Friday, August 8, 2014

Prophetic Particularity

The Good intentions of men should never usurp the Divine intentions of God

            When I was growing up my sisters and I would often visit my grandmother who was a great cook.  Despite my grandmother being a great cook, there were some things that she could not get my older sister to eat.  She would always tell her, “You are too picky and have too many likes and dislikes.”  My sister nonetheless would not be moved or change her mind about particular foods she did not like.   As is demonstrated numerous times in the bible and in some of the previous articles, God too has a strong affinity for particularity.   This affinity manifest itself in the book of Genesis when Noah is speaking prophetically over his sons after the flood.  He had just had an incidence with his sons involving his nakedness and Ham’s reporting of it to his brothers and proceeds to speak about his sons’ futures.  (Genesis 9: 22).  In verse 26, he proclaims, “Blessed be the Lord, The God of Shem.”  From his words it is evident that Noah understood the power of speaking and also which son God was choosing to make himself known.  Also, indicative in his statement is that his sons and by extension their descendants would lapse into the worship of false gods, but he would redeem one son from them to be his people. 
            We next see this particularity manifest in God’s calling of Abraham who is a descendant of Shem.  Specifically, God tells him, “Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you and I will make you a great nation…” (Genesis 1-2).  Consider that God did not call his two brothers Nahor or Haran who equally are of the line of Shem.   He made a choice and the reasons underlying his choice is not readily apparent, but as the sovereign God it is his to make.  It could be that Abraham is a second son as Shem is and in the Principle of Second (The Age To Come),  I posited that in a set of two that which is first represents the flesh and that which is second that which is spiritual.  Also, it illustrates the theme of separation as God separated Abram from his fellow Shemites and then from his brothers.   In Prophetic Speaking Part 1,  Moses and Aaron exemplifies this concept of separation which the reader can review, but when the laws are given for the worship of him even within the congregation of Israel, God’s particularity appears in the separation of the Levites as being the ones to minister before him. 
            There are occurrences in the life of Israel where ignoring or being ignorant of this particularity causes trouble.  I have already talked about the incidence with Korah, Dathan and Abiram.  But there is another incidence having to do with the ark of God being brought to Jerusalem by King David.   The basic backdrop is that David had been anointed King of Israel and was now taking the throne.  He wanted to bring the ark to Jerusalem also known as the City of David.  Specifically, I Chronicles 13: 6-10 provides, “And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, to Kirjath Jearim, which belonged to  Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God the Lord, who dwells between the cherubim, where His name is proclaimed.  So they carried the ark of God on a new cart from the house of Abinadab, and Uzza and Ahio drove the cart.  Then David and all Israel played music before God with all their might, with singing, on harps, on cymbals, and with trumpets.  And when they came to Chidon’s threshing floor, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen stumbled.  Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzza, and He struck him because he put his hand to the ark, and he died there before God.”  “David was afraid of God that day saying, “How can I bring the ark of God to me?” (vs. 12).  When I first read this story many years ago, my initial response was “Wow, God killed him and it was an accident.  He was just trying to protect the ark.”  I may have thought then that it was an extreme response, but what it demonstrates is (1) God expected people to respect his holiness in that the ark represented his presence and (2) The good intentions of men can never usurp the divine intentions of God.  Note that the people was singing, playing harps and cymbals and trumpets with all their might.  They were having a good ole church time praising the Lord.  God did not care about any of that. 
            So what does God care about?  He cares about detail and about people not substituting their own judgments for his commandments.  In the case of the ark, God had a people who he designated and called to handle the ark.  People could not just willy nilly decide someone else could take their place.  David having learned this lesson attempted to bring the ark up a second time, but this time he acknowledged, “No one may carry the ark of God but the Levites for the Lord has chosen them to carry the ark of God and to minister before Him forever.” (I Chron 15:2).  Men have an inclination to look at the universe and see creation coming together haphazardly, chaotically or by happenstance as with evolution.  But the detail of creation reveals that it is anything but the aforementioned and God in his dealings with Israel validates this particularity for detail. If He is the same yesterday, today and forever than he is still prophetically particular about detail and that includes the people whom He called as a nation naturally and spiritually.
            A wise man once said, “The good is the enemy of the divine.”  In my own walk I have learned you can do a good thing, but it may not be the right thing.  The flaw of Israel, the church and even humanity is that we eschew following directions that lead to life often to our detriment.  We do good things that look good on the outside, but we fail to inquire of God as to what it is that he wants leading to the budding of fleshly fruit which dies instead of spiritual fruit which lives.  For we would do well to remember as Isaiah 55:8 reports, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways my ways, for as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts, “says the Lord."
             


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Prophetic Speaking and Backing Part 3

Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world
I John 4:4
A discussion about prophetic speaking and backing would not of course be complete without the inclusion of Jesus.  He is the epitome of speaking with the accompanied backing of the Father.  His casting out of demons and healing of many illnesses was done with only speaking.  Additionally, his speaking included mastery over even nature and of course death.  In the last article I talked about the show Sleepy Hollow and the way witches use speaking in the form of incantations and spells in contrast to prophetic speaking.  I noted the exaltation of witches in Hollywood shows and another such show is American Horror Story.  This show is almost a mirror image of Jesus and his disciples in the sense that they have a witch called a Supreme.  She embodies the seven wonders in being able to perform a variety of magical feats including resurrection.  Sleepy Hollow also used a witch to resurrect Icabod Crane.  At this point it seems like there is some Jesus envy in the spiritual world.  I don’t think they ever got over being bested by Jesus and think nothing of co-opting his power and authority for their exaltation which he possessed and gave to his disciples.   Basically, they lie about who has the true power as no witch or sorcerer in real time has ever been able to best a prophet sent of God .   
Since Jesus did so many miracles, they will not be detailed here, but I do want to focus on a particular incident he had with his disciples.  Jesus and his disciples had gone to Jerusalem and were returning to the city from Bethany.  Matthew 21:18-22 provides, “Now in the morning, as he returned to the city, he was hungry.  And seeing a fig tree by the road, he came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” And immediately the fig tree withered away. Now when the disciples saw it, they marveled saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?”  So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what is done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, Be removed and be cast into the sea, it will be done. “And all things whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”  (vs.22) 
When I really begin to think about this incidence, I initially had a hard time understanding why Jesus would kill a fig tree particularly when I read in another scripture that the tree was not in season.   Then I had a hard time with telling a mountain to be removed and cast into the sea.  Why would anyone want to do that  even if you could manage not to doubt.  The ecological disaster alone would be momentous.  Then it occurred to me that the point of the lesson was not about the state of the tree, but the fact that Jesus had the authority and the understanding about speaking.  He used the language of creation, and creation responded whether or not creation had done anything to merit the speaking.  Also, I was thrown because Jesus threw in the part about prayer and asking, but I didn’t see where he had asked the Father to wither the fruit tree.  But then I realized when he used the language of creation that it was asking, just not in the way one traditionally thinks of it. 
Moreover, the withered fig tree illustrates another dynamic.  The authority to use the power of speaking is in one’s discretion as being a part of the prophetic call of significance but not abusively as one would see with witches and curses and whatnot.  This can be observed when Jesus rebukes the disciples when they asked the Lord if he wanted them to command fire to come down from heaven and consume a village of Samaritans just as Elijah did (Luke 9:54).  Jesus scolds, “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.” (vs.56).  What is somewhat humorous  is that the disciples had spent enough time with Jesus and had been given his authority that they believed they could command fire to come down from heaven.  You could almost feel that they thought it would be so cool to see happen.
As this article draws prophetic speaking and backing to a close, it can be ascertained that the spoken word if authorized by God has the power to affect many situations.  It is the reason why nations in antiquity are no longer around.   It is also the reason why the current order of things has its expiration date.  In concluding, I am reminded of a movie I saw once about Kodiak bears.  The story centered around a baby bear that had lost its mother and was trying to survive alone.  He encountered many dangers and one such danger was a mountain lion.  In the most poignant scene,  the little bear is on a river bed and the mountain lion is menacingly growling at him with the intent to harm.  The baby bear instinctively rises up on his hind legs to present his best height and most fierce face.  
All of a sudden the camera pans to the lion and his growling is gone and a look of panic covers his body, but not so much that he doesn’t high tail it out of there.   When the camera pans back to the baby bear,  it is now seen why the lion ran.  Behind the baby bear is a huge male Kodiak bear with jaws wide and fangs bared.  The lion could have killed the baby bear, but he was no match for a full grown Kodiak male bear.  That in a nutshell is prophetic speaking and backing.  In and of ourselves we are little baby bears in the spiritual world, but when God is behind us it is if they are looking at the biggest bear they have ever seen.  It is His power they see and must respect.