Category Archives: 16 Prophets in 2016

Culmination of Prophecies

After having read through the Old Testament prophets for the entire year, it just makes sense to end the year with a blog that culminates the work of the prophets. Nearly all the prophets proclaimed a message about the fall of Israel, Judah and Samaria for their failure to obey the LORD God. The measure of a prophet is found in the fulfillment of what they predicted. We have recounted throughout the year how that which was prophesied by the various prophets came to fruition.  While the prophets foretold of the destruction and devastation of particularity Israel and Judah, we found within each book a message of Hope. This is the message of Christmas – there is Hope in the Lord regardless of how dark the days may seem. The father is a holy and righteous loving God. While He demands obedience and righteousness, He also gives grace and mercy to His people. This has been a very trying and weird year. Who would have guessed that the Cubs would win the World Series and then Donald Trump a non-political figure would win the Presidency of United States? The political rhetoric in America has been at a frenzied pace for the last 1 1/2 years. It continues while I pen this last blog of the year. We must all come to grips that our future is not ultimately bound up in a sports team or in a political hopeful. Ultimately it is the Father in Heaven that will determine the days and seasons of our lives. Prophecies are foretold before the events occur. The prophecies of Jesus the Son of God coming as a child 700-750 BC [Before Christ] and were fulfilled in exact ways. While there may be skeptics that would entertain that New Testament writers “read into” what the Old Testament prophets wrote to come up with a ‘Messiah Scenario” there are too many specific and unique predictions that Jesus fulfilled, that He and only He could have done which affirmed His title and position as the “predicted Messiah.” God was not late in predicting the Messiah, we find that in the Garden of Eden, God was already at work in His message of Hope for the Nations/mankind. Genesis 3:15, the battle between Stan and God would culminate in Jesus dying, but Satan being defeated at Calvary. The Messiah would be from the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; specially from the tribe of Judah – Numbers 24:17 * Genesis 49:10. We are also told that the Messiah would sit on the throne of David as the Lion of Judah,  predicted in 2 Samuel 7:12-13 and Isaiah 9:7. We are told where and from whom the Messiah would be born. Isaiah 7:14 indicates a virgin woman would bear the Savior and that He would be born in an obscure village called Bethlehem – Micah 5:2.  We also have the prediction that Elijah would precede the Messiah. Malachi 4:5-6, one like the prophet Elijah would come. John the Baptist [cousin] is this man, coming eating honey & holocaust dressed in camel’s hair. John’s message was that the Kingdom of God was coming – Jesus’ message was the Kingdom of God is Here! The disciples knew of the prophecy about Elijah to precede the Messiah but questioned how that was true – Matthew 17: 10-13. It seems that even though many people may know the prophecies, it doesn’t mean that we/they grasp the significance or fulfillment. Many more predictions about the Messiah center around His crucifixion, death and resurrection. He was prophesied to be crucified even before it was a method of punishment – Psalm 22:16-18; his feet pierced, Zechariah 12:12; mocked and ridiculed – Psalm 22:7-8. Isaiah 53 is a huge source of prophecies that Jesus would fulfill at Calvary. But again just as with previous dark prophecies that seemingly end without HOPE – Hope is found not in the death, but the resurrection of Jesus. Psalm 16:10 & 49:15. We know that Jesus resurrected 3 days later, for the graves were opened up, spirits walked around in Jerusalem. Jesus appeared before upwards to 500 people. Too many people verify that Jesus was/is alive. Our hope is in the resurrection but also in the Coming again of Christ. The next time Jesus comes it will not be like a lowly servant, but a reigning King of King and Lord of Lords! While I could go on with the prophecies and their fulfillment; there are too  many for this writing. But there are estimated some 300 prophecies that were fulfilled by the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is absolutely undeniable that Jesus is the Son of God and the Coming Messiah. Because of Bethlehem there is a Calvary, because there is a Calvary the Resurrection is real; and finally just as the Resurrection is valid so will the Return of Jesus. But there is much work to be done before that should occur – in other words so many people, places and nations urgently need to hear the Life Saving Hope that is found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s get to work!!

Merry Christmas

Talk to you in the New Year!

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Questions and Answers

We conclude our 16 prophets in 2016 with the book of Malachi. Most people only know one thing about Malachi – that of tithing and not to rob God of the 10%.  Malachi – about 400 years before Jesus is born, Malachi writes a very powerful book. While it is at the end of the Old Testament, its place should be somewhere between Ezra and Nehemiah. Malachi means “God’s Messenger.” We don’t know much about Malachi other than Yahweh uses him to bring multiple charges against Judah [Israel]. I count nine different questions of rebuttal from the charges God makes to His people. He begins with God telling them He has loved them. They come back with “How have you loved us?” The rebuttal questions whether God has actually loved them. It seems that because it was difficult times, and the voice of God seemed both distant and absent, that God had abandoned them. Jehovah declares His love through the “choosing of them” i.e. Jacob over Esau. 2nd, God tells them they have dishonored His name. “How have we despised your name?” They did so by not respecting Him through giving defiled sacrifices – in fact sacrifices they had stolen and wouldn’t even give to their friends.  Cain and Abel story fits here for Abel brought an acceptable sacrifice while Cain a marginal one. The attitude of “best versus good enough.”  Can we be guilty of just giving something rather than our best to God? Quickly the people come back with a “How have we defiled you You?”  Again it is in reference to the condition of the sacrifice – blind, diseased  and lame – in other words what they no longer wanted, so to get rid of it they give it to the LORD – and they [religious people] can’t figure out why God has issue them! Next God accused them of profaning His name. Instead of holiness and righteousness, they profane His name by conducting sacrifices without honor or respect to Yahweh. Going through the motions of “practice”. God was looking at their heart, He saw how they really felt about their homage to Him. The priests half-hearted in their service. He rebuke them and cause them to vomit up at their carnal feasts. A lukewarm performance and service to God and His people – preachers must be cautious of “routine” ministry”. God can take away our ministry and give it to another. In chapter 2, we find the recall of three covenants God has made with His people – with Levi as the priesthood, with Israel as His people and with the people as His bride. God’s word is eternal. God doesn’t forget His promises or covenants as man does. The marriage covenant brings to mind the story of Hosea and Gomer; Israel & Judah had both played the harlot with other gods and kings in hopes of satisfying their own fleshly lusts.  The marriage is a significant metaphor, Paul uses it in Ephesians and John’s Gospel and Revelation speak of the Marriage of the Lamb to the Bride. The metaphor is all about faithfulness of the Bride – we do commit spiritual adultery with God. We all have cheated on Him, by chasing after “lessor gods.” Divorce comes up because Ezra and Nehemiah both found that returning Jews were divorcing their wives and intermarrying with the gentiles.  The Father was witness to how the men were treating their wives, even though they wept with many tears, blessings didn’t come.  For some reason we think that we can be right with God and wrong with each other and God will bless. It just doesn’t work that way! In chapter 3, multiple metaphors are used to describe what God is going to do to “cleanse” Judah and the people. You would think that after 70 years in exile, that there would be a wake-up call to the people to get it right – man has a short memory and attention span! The fuller’s soap and the refiner’s fire will be God’s way of purifying the sin in the people and clergy [priests]. Return to Me is the clarion call from God – but they respond “How shall we return?” Then the famous “will man rob God?” Quickly the people come back with “How have we robbed you?” In tithes and offerings! Most people think of this as cheating on how much they gave, but really it is the attitude of their giving. Think of Ananias and Sapphira and their cheating God of what was right in Acts 5.  The last charge “your arrogant words against Me.” What – “how have we spoken against you?”  In that you make evil good and good evil; you pronounce blessing on evildoers.  The Book of Remembrance is a stark reminder that God misses nothing. He is keeping records of our deeds and the heart with which we do them. Look at Revelation 20:11-15, where the “books” are opened and each man is judges out of what is written in the books. This is not the “Book of Life” that is names of the beloved of God, those who present with the Lord because of salvation/repentance.  but God is not done yet – times  and times again where Jesus will return and set all things right – warning to be heeded by us and answers to questions our Lord ask about our service to Him. No half-hearted worship, offerings or service are acceptable to God , He demands  and deserves our best.

 

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It was the Best of Times, It was the Worse of Times

Zephaniah the great-great grandson of King Hezekiah, along with King Josiah lived during the great reforms of the child King Josiah. Obviously the two are half brothers [different mothers]. It is truly amazing to see that both men were sensitive to the things of God, especially after having Manasseh and Amon in their family tree, two of the worse kings Judah had with their propensity to idolatry with Molech and Baal.  Zephaniah prophesied during his Kingly brothers reign. While there seemed to be a bit of a revival on the outside, the internal heart’s desire was still bent towards idolatry. Sometimes there is the attempt to dress up the outside and not deal with the real problem on the inside – too many of us what to “wash the outside of the dish, and leave the inside filthy;” such was the condemnation of the Pharisees and  Sadducees by Jesus.

As pastor I have found that even the Church lauds the “behavioral modification” efforts without ever really addressing the “spirit” that caused the rebellion in the first place. The Church rewards behavioral modification in such things as now they attend church, Sunday School, tithe and etc. But the focus is not on “conforming to the prescribed behavioral patterns observed in the Church; but to be transformed from the inside out through the power of Jesus. I have often heard that Christians are known for being a bunch of “quitters.” They quit this and quit that, as if things that they have given up are a reflection of a salvation experience. An unredeemed person can “act” as Church Holy” as anyone, without ever being saved through faith in Christ. Mimic religion doesn’t save!

Zephaniah gets to the heart of the matter, not the outward appearances. God will in fact judge the nation of Judah for its – hidden sins of idolatry before men. As we finish up this year of prophets the underlying message has been that God’s people have been unfaithful They have broken the commandments and covenant of God. They have gone their own way, even though God has loved them and provided for their every need. I can hear the Father saying something like “for all I’ve done and this is the thanks I get!”  Imagine living in such a time as this writing; confusion I am sure would be the order of the day – Zephaniah how can you preach the doom and gloom when so many good things are happening? While the people did the reforms that were publicly obvious, they did not cleanse their minds and hearts of idolatry. Judah will be punished [phrased used 5 times in the book]. God is holy and He expects holiness from His people.

The indictment reminds me of how we act sometimes, we act all prim and proper in public, but in private we act like heathens! Zephaniah resounds with judgment and the “day of the LORD” like another prophet – Joel. The fearful and dreadful “day of the LORD.” This message is one that rings familiar with Revelation 21, with the New Heaven and New Earth for the first heaven and first earth have passed away – same message from God in Zeph 1:2-4.  So we have a then and future judgment on ALL things. God cleanses the world of sin – He did it with the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Promised Land through exile and He will do it through fire in the Apocalypse time. But, I love that word, because it tells me there is more coming. Just as God will cleanse through judgment the sins of men and nations, He also will have a REMANENT!  The book closes with a message of hope as all other prophetic books have – I will Restore! There will be another day, God will not hold His anger forever against Judah or us. But until the final judgment before the throne, we are admonished in Zeph 2:3 to gather together, be humble, seek humility and righteousness, Perhaps we will be hidden from the judgment to come. Bottom-line – Be found Faithful!

 

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The Branch of Jesse – Jesus

In Zechariah we find in chapter 3 and 6 a reference to the “Branch.” This alludes to none other than Isaiah 11:1-5, there we find that from Jesse comes David, but also from David we know that his throne was promised to be established forever, and that the Lion of Judah would sit and reign. The book has so many symbols and illustrations it would be difficult to address each one in this forum.  In chapter 3, we have the High Priest Joshua in filthy clothes, this illusion could be to the corrupted priesthood before the Fall of Jerusalem. Yet we are told that Joshua was to put on new clean clothes, referring to the cleansing of sins by the LORD. Interesting enough also is that Satan is accusing before God the sins of the people. Rev. 12:20 informs us of the accuser – Satan how that night and day he brings accusations against believers. The problem is that they are true, however, God has forgiven us in Christ Jesus.  Satan does this to us as well, too many times we listen to the lies of Satan and let his lies defeat us in our spirit. We must rebuke him in the name of Jesus, for our sins have been dealt with at Calvary!

Some information on the Branch helps us understand the prophecy about Jesus. “The BRANCH” is an important messianic title, signifying our Lord’s coming from the stock of David (Isa. 11:1). As Branch, He is King (Jer. 23:5; 33:15), God’s Servant (Zech. 3:8), “the Man whose name is the BRANCH” (Zech. 6:12), and “the Branch of the LORD” (Isa. 4:2). Some see in these four titles a parallel to the four Gospels. Matthew presents the Branch of David, the King; Mark, the Servant; Luke, the Man; and John, “the Branch of the Lord” who is God come in human flesh (John 20:30–31). [Warren W. Wiersbe, With the Word Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), Zec 5:1.] I though it was interesting that the king and priest are combined in Christ. He is a priest after the Order of Melchizedek [ Hebrews 5] This is significant for Jesus is not a priest after the Order of Levi; before the Law, was Abraham. Jesus can be the High Priest without being a Levite, He is superior to Levi, therefore no conflict being from the tribe of Judah.

In chapter 4, we have the images of the lamp stand and bowls filled with oil that keep the lamp lite. Zechariah always asks, “What are these?” there is a great dualism with this book, for it applies to the restoration and building of the Temple again, but also is referencing the Reign of Jesus.

I found it quite reassuring that several times God has his emissaries watching and roaming the Earth.  Truly, we know that earthly rulers will influence this world, but ultimately, God is in control. This ia a message we all need to remember in light of the Americans recent election.  Zerubbabel will be the first to return to the waste land of Judah. I can’t imagine what it was like to see the Holy City laying in ashes and rubble. Scripture tells us that Zerubbabel didn’t finish the building of the Temple – that wouldn’t be completed until Ezra. I am sure it was exiting to see the labor forces coming together to measure the foundation and trying to set the stones back in place. Again I couldn’t help but think of 1 Peter 2:4-8 of how Jesus being the Chief corner-stone would be rejected by the very people He came to save.

In chapter 5 I was somewhat confused about the Ephah, a bushel of grain. Other than it represents the sins of the nation. For the woman and basket are thrown down. Wickedness is viewed as being feminine, which is why a woman was used in the illustration. We see that wickedness is confined, condemned, controlled and conquered. The Crown of God on Joshua as King-Priest is the prophetic allusion to Jesus.

In chapter 6 we have the horses and chariots, this we are told is those which have been given authority to guard the earth, specifically North and South.

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What Part of This don’t you get?

Zechariah chapters 1-2. As the book opens up we find that the Word of the LORD comes to Zechariah during the reign of King Darius second year. Darius reigned some forty years after the Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. So the exiles have been living in exile for more than half the captivity time of seventy years. Still they don’t seem to get why they are in exile.  The LORD is still begging them to Return To Me, that I may return to You! Your fathers sinned grossly against Me. Repent! Judah still hasn’t repented for the idolatry and wayward rebellion that caused their exile. One has to ask the question – “What part of this don’t you get?” Similar is the way many Americans live today.  We live in a very corrupt society, we have just been through a horrendous election, and we still don’t get why we are in such dire straits.  My belief is the Church has compromised with the world and become “comfortable with the world, just as the world has become comfortable with us – they are comfortable because there isn’t any conviction or preaching about the ungodliness prevalent in our society. In other words, the Church has become irrelevant to the World – Matthew 5:13-16 tells us the problem. We have lost our Saltiness and Light emitting ability.

When the people of God confess/repent of their sins, God is Faithful to cleanse us. [1 John 1:9]  Just as God is faithful to discipline for corruption, He is also faithful to forgive and restore. It is interesting that as the Red Horse and White horse were patrolling the earth. The Angel then comes and ask “How long will you be angry with Israel?” The answer is the hope for restoration for Israel and the Promise Land. However as God restores Judah, His wrath will be against the other pagan nations for they have made “sport” of the fact that Israel and Judah have fallen on hard times and been devastated. God will turn His wrath against those that “capitalized” on the punishment of Judah. There will be a future for Judah, we know for the people will return to the Promise Land and rebuild the Temple and repair the walls during Ezra and Nehemiah’s days.

Israel and Judah were punished for their failure to listen to the warnings given by the prophets and for their sensuous idolatry of Baal. They had become too much like the world and God had to cleanse His people. Sometimes we won’t get to the point of repentance until we are “broken” by the benevolent hand of God.

I still believe that the Church in America is still “put on notice” if you do not repent I will bring all the disasters and wrath intended for the unbelieving nations upon you. As I have stated several times this last year – “Christ not Caesar is the answer.” Only Jesus and the return of His people to holy and godly living and obedience will remedy our nation of its ills.

The vision of 4 horns – the nations that subdued Israel and Judah – I think of how the people of Israel were scattered to the 4 winds/directions of the earth during this time. [2:6]But God will and did gather His people once again; with the promise of prosperity. In 2:13, we get the picture that God has been “aroused or slumbering and has awoke to work.” God is going to do great things again with His Chosen people Israel. He has His plan and that plan includes preparing Judah, Jerusalem and the people for the coming of His Son. In 2:11 we find the promise of many nations will join themselves to the Lord – this has to be seen as the “spread of the gospel” because of Jesus Christ.

The warning of the nations rings true – if you mistreat and plunder My People – you will be destroyed. A lesson here, God will use anyone and even unbelieving nations to correct and discipline His people, but that doesn’t give them the right to abuse the power given them by God.

There could be even worse days ahead of us, especially if we continue to let the warnings go unheeded. God will not be mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth he will also reap [Gal 6:7-9] 2 Chronicles 7:14 – IF My People, the future depends on our return to the Lord and repent of our sins.

 

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I’m Back!

My apologies for being out of pocket for over a month. To tell you the truth I have been overwhelmed with all the election and the way in which our country has conducted itself, from all sides. Since we were looking at the 16 prophets in the Old Testament and specifically Ezekiel, I had to take a break from all the doom and gloom. I have sort of taken a respite of sorts. I did just return from a Revitalization conference in Orlando, which served to give me some much needed space from all the rhetoric.

Since the election I have found that nothing is different, however we must still dedicate ourselves to prayer and fasting for our Lost and Unredeemed world. With President-Elect Trump we must understand that while Americans have voted, God has given power for him to serve as our President. This all is not without controversy. But in the end, we as believers and children of God must serve Christ not Caesar.

I am starting back today with the blog and will be posting on Zechariah shortly.

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Nineveh where hast thou fallen?

Nahum is an oracle of God against Nineveh, the capital of the Northern Kingdom. The Assyrians are in power and God reminds the Northern Kingdom just who is the authority and power  that rules. We all are familiar with the book of Jonah, the wayward backslidden prophet of God who refused to go to Nineveh because he knew that Jehovah was merciful and long-suffering, not willing that any should perish. Jonah’s refusal to go to Nineveh did not prevent God from pouring out a revival/great awakening on the King and the people of Nineveh that lasted for 100 years. Now a 100 years later, the Assyrians are attacking a killing the people of Israel. Of course, this is part of the plan of God. The Northern Kingdom [Israel] has been entrenched in Baal cultic worship. Oh, Ahab and Jezebel have made sure of that!

Nahum opens up with a vengeful passage. The LORD is jealous, avenging, wrathful, anger against adversaries. Trouble is on its way! Samaria, the center of Assyrian empire is going to fall in 722 BC. The Great kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar is on the rise. The Assyrians will fall completely by 612 BC, very close behind will be the deportation of the Jewish exiles in 587-582 BC. I have been amazed at how our God draws all things unto Himself. He speaks and it happens. Yet the thought that the Old Testament God is a mean, anger, evil God is wrong. It may appear to be so, but Yahweh does not flippantly judge people. He is long suffering and compassionate, even to His enemies. Our Father in heaven acts, when He has exhausted all attempts to reconcile with His people. While we know that kingdoms come and kingdoms go; they rise and fall with the strength of the LORD.  When I think of our current situation here in America and the political upheaval abounding, I cannot help but wonder how long before Yahweh says enough is enough? No people can thumb their nose at God and expect to be unaffected by His awesome power. Assyria, Babylon, Persians, Medes, Greeks, Romans and yes the Americans all are subject to the power of the LORD of the universe!

While the LORD used several empires to bring judgment upon HIS people, the problem occurs when the empowered kingdom, no longer adheres to the plan of God and takes allowances that are not permissible in God’s plan. The evil religious practices were rampant in Israel and Assyria. The people of God acted like their foreign neighbors.

Nahum is an oracle of God describing what will happen to the once enlightened and revived Nineveh. A familiar illustration of locust, is found in 3:15-17; this same language is found in Joel 1:14. The prediction of devastation and destruction is sure. Often though when there is a delay, people think that God has forgotten, or worse yet that they got away with something. All the world will submit, and bow down to Jesus – nations, kingdoms, and people. Even though there was a great revival and saving of people in Nineveh for 100 years, they forgot, drifted away and got completely absorbed into cultic worship. This happens today to churches, nations and people.

R.G. Lee preached “payday, someday” sermon. It is a truth we all must believe. God is a loving and compassionate God, but He will not tolerate any worship other than to Him!

There are many that proclaim that our nation “was a blessed nation by God” but can we really say that we are today? Nineveh tasted of the goodness of the LORD, but then left Him. Has America done the same? Have we not been blessed by God, because He chose to do so, and we have disregarded His love for us, thinking that we are the power behind our success? Will the locust be coming soon to America? We do well to heed the past work of God on other nations of disobedience!

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