Tag Archives: Israel

Vicious Cycle

Readings in Judges can be down right depressing. When Joshua dies after 30 years of leading the Israelites into the Promise Land; I would imagine there was a very high feeling of success. Finally, Israel got the long Promised Land covenant to Abraham. While God had said that “wherever the sole of your feet would touch had already been given to them;” the conquest  of the Canaanite tribes still had to be done.

Joshua, a man of war, and great integrity of character delivered the people. Obviously Joshua was a very influential leader, for we find in Judges 2:10; Israel served God all the days of Joshua, the days of the Elders who followed Joshua; but there rose a generation that knew not the acts of God.  It amazes me as a person and a pastor how quickly people are to forget the blessings of God in their lives. The very next verse tells us that Israel went after Baals; the walked away from Yahweh; provoked Him to anger and incurred His wrath. It’s that same mentality of “what have you done for me lately?” Israel was a wayward, hard-headed and stiff-necked people – careful so is the Church for the most part!

I know the book of Hosea describes the terrible marriage Hoses and Gomer had; when I think of Israel and the spiritual marriage to God – oh how unfaithful they were to Him. Even in the wrath and anger of our holy and righteous God; there is great compassion and mercy. When Israel [and we] cry out to our Lord in distress that we self-inflected; God hears and delivers us. I was thinking about the Judges and how they were called to “deliver” Israel and how that they are a good archetypal of Jesus our deliverer!

The book of Judges reveals the insane cycle of Israel coming and leaving God continually. The cycle shows the unfaithfulness of Israel and the long-suffering of Jehovah. It appears that when a nation/church experiences times of opulence and abundance that a “look what I’ve done” attitude – pride develops and we leave our Heavenly Father who has done it all for us. I cannot but help think of the United States in this analogy. When we are in times of distress or economic decline, we seek after God – even those who don’t know God call on His name for deliverance. God hears the prayers of His people and a return of blessing and hope result. Soon however, people start to drift from the Lord – He isn’t as important now, for things are going good. Henry Blackaby speaks of this vicious cycle in his book “Fresh Encounter.”

One of the problems that I feel precipitated Israels waywardness is they broke the covenant with God. He told them to NOT intermarry with the people; do not take their gods and eliminate the Canaanite people. They failed in all aspects. Early in chapter one, we find that 6 of the tribes did not totally remove the people for their land. Eventually, co-existing with them and sharing their children and customs. Instead of being a change agent to the people; the culture and Canaanites change Israel. Over and over again through the book of Judges, the people of God become enslaved to the very people they were to oust from the land. In our homeland toady we find that we have been infiltrated with so many Eastern religions and customs; when Christianity is lived out correctly, it is declared “offensive” and legislated to stop. Now, before I get too far – the Gospel is for all – all people, all cultures all creation. But the world is having more impact on the Church then we are on the world!

Compromise and apathy are the order of the day. We are to be IN the world, not OF the world; sadly the latter is true. Is America and the American church already in the Vicious cycle of judgment and deliverance?

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Festivals, Famines and Foes

Amos 6-9; the prophet from the South brings the full verdict of God upon Israel in the North. Israel has departed from serving God since they were removed by God from Judah in 2 Kings 17. Jeroboam led the 10 tribes to serve Baal and pagan gods of the Canaanites.  God has had enough of His people and their idolatrous ways.  What caused the tribes to forget God? Was it just that they forgot because they were drawn away into pagan sensuous idol worship? Was it because of Solomon’s extravagant lifestyle and tax burden on the people? I think it was because the people became comfortable. No battles or wars to fight. The enemy had become unrecognizable, for Israel now lived among the pagan people. Also I think that Israel was living an affluent lifestyle. They had no need of God; they could provide for themselves. In chapter 6 we read of the “ease” of the people. They slept on beds of ivory, sprawl out on couches, ate from the flocks, drank from the sacrificial bowls, anointed themselves with the oils and listened to the songs composed for them. The sacred things became common place. No longer was there the “fear of God” among the nation. Israel had become arrogant, prideful and irreverent.  The Calm Before the Storm – surely for God would raise up Assyria to punish them. In Israel’s arrogance, they missed the warning signs from God. In Chapter 7, we get the illustration of a Plum-Line; God was going to measure with His standard, what was true. I remember using a plumb-line and a chalk line. One is used to get things vertically correct, the latter is to draw a horizontal line accurately. It is Amos and his intercession that prevents God from unleashing His wrath. Even in discipline, intercession is listened to by the Father. However, even God has a limit of long-suffering [7:8].

As many preachers of the Truth have learned, when the message becomes too close for comfort, people will lash out and criticize the messenger. Amos, is an outsider, just as many preachers are today in their churches. Preachers are seen just as Amos was “you’re not one of us.” In chapter 8, the image of a “summer Basket of Fruit” shows how quickly Israel’s lot will turn. Just as summer fruit doesn’t last, but spoils quickly, so would the fortunes of Israel. Their life of luxury would soon be over. Israel looks past the festivals to a time when they can resume their deceit, dishonesty and traitor tactics.

I wondered while reading the punishment of the Northern Kingdom, “why God didn’t give them into a period of exile” like Judah would later? The answer was again found in 2 Kings 17 – there was nothing redeemable about Israel. They had gone too far. Also, Judah was the covenant tribe of which the “Lion of Judah” would come.  In Israel, there were 19 different dynasties, with 19 different kings – all for the most part had the epitaph of “they walk not in the ways of their father David.” They continually did evil in the sight of the Lord. Jehovah was tired of their festivals to idols and the neglect of His own festivals. He wold send a famine among the people – a famine for the Word of God. No bread or water, parched and dry spiritual lives. We can think of the 400 years of silence experienced at the end of the Old Testament as a season of dryness. In chapter 9, we find that the judgment on Israel in unavoidable – the nation of Israel would be known as the “Lost Tribes.” Yet even in all of the peril, the book closes with Hope of restoration.

Now the crux of this blog today is to speak to the condition of not only United States, but to all nation who forget the God is God, and fall into an earthly living of affluence and arrogance. There is a famine of the Word of God. Preachers don’t preach the Gospel or the true revelation of God, they will defer away from pronouncing judgment on congregational, community or countries sins. Christianity has become a “How to”  or “self-Help” religion. I believe that there will be some more difficult and dark days ahead for our nation, and others who have sought – the “good Life” of the world and forfeited their souls. We have warnings today, we must listen, remember, repent and return. Israel didn’t and they were scattered to the four winds of the earth – this should teach us that “God is not a respecter of Persons!”

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Ephraim Oh Ephraim!

Our reading this week in Hosea 6-10 highlights Ephraim, most of us remember that Ephraim is one of two sons of Joseph. Instead of getting an inheritance himself, Josepha’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh each got a portion of the Promised Land.  Joshua, the leader of the nation Israel into the Promised Land was from the tribe of Ephraim, as was Jeroboam. Ephraim, endorsed David as King of the unified nations of Judah and Israel. Within the territory of Ephraim are Shechem and Shiloh, two very important worship centers before Solomon’s Temple was built.  It would seem that having such a proud legacy, that Ephraim would be a pillar for the people about true worship of Yahweh. However, in our reading Ephraim is another name for Israel; the Northern 10 tribes that broke away from Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. The history of the Northern Kingdom, which Hosea is prophesying against is a sorrowful story.

Jeroboam knew that if he didn’t build a place of worship like the Temple in Jerusalem, that the people would return; so he build Mt. Gerezim.  It is interesting that in the Northern and Southern kingdom the number 19 plays a big part. The Northern Kingdom had 19 dynasties [19 different kings]; whereas Judah had 19 kings but one dynasty. The Davidic line of kingship was reserved as God had promised David. Hosea is about Israel or Ephraim, which ever you want to use; and their idolatry and rejection of God. The time frame is prior to 722 BC, and the Fall under the Assyrian rulers. God has rejected Israel, He has decided to punish the nation for their rebellion and apostasy. Yet we find in chapter 6, that they say “let’s return to the Lord” and they just got told God was not going to hear them when they call. The presumption that God had to answer and heal them, when God is sovereign, He determines what He will and will not do.

In the Northern Kingdom the tribes inter-mingled with the pagan people, the exact opposite of what they were warned not to do.  Chapter 7:8 says the Ephraim is a flat cake not turned. This means that it is hard-cooked [burnt] on one side and raw on the other. The cake is useless, Ephraim had become useless. Instead of being the glory of God to the nations, Ephraim/Israel had departed from God and had become polluted by the ways and culture of the “enemies’ of God. In 8:4, the oven of Lust was so hot, the baker only stoked the fires once, and was not only able to rise the dough, but without stirring the coals, also able to cook the bread fully. In their attempt to become like the nations, Israel embraced both Egypt and Assyria. Egypt was where they came from [sin] and where they would return. Assyria, was the very power which would eventually conquer Israel in 722 BC. God’s indictment of Israel – “They have strayed; they have turned from Me.” When we think of Ahab and Jezebel and the Baal prophets, it is easy to see how the religious practices of Israel had become a violent stench in the nostrils of God.  We also find that Samaria has the “golden calf” this is a reflection back to the initial rebellion of Israel in Exodus 32-34.  Israel had trusted in the foreign kings to deliver them, but they failed to understand that God was behind the judgment of Israel, and that He was the one giving power to Assyria to conquer Israel. In the end, the judgment of God produced the “Lost 10 Tribes of Israel.” Only Judah remained; albeit they were just as guilty as Ephraim was in their idolatry and harlotry.

Such corruption in the people of the Northern Kingdom, they become carried away unto the four winds of the earth. After reading these chapters, I could not but identify with what is going on today in the Church. Have we become too friendly with culture? Have we compromised the Gospel for a crowd? Do the prophets speak of their own words instead of God’s? Is there severe judgment coming for us? Israel/Ephraim/Samaria all fell; Judah witnessed their fall. Yet Judah did not heed the warnings of God? Are we going the same path as they? “When I come who will I find faithful?”

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Finding Hope in the Horror

This week our focal passage is Isaiah 6-10. When we look at these chapters, one cannot help but get a sense of terror and judgment. However, even in the justice of God on the idolatrous people Judah, there is still the future hope of restoration. God uses whatever means to correct and restore His people back to himself. Hebrews 12 tells us of the discipline of the Lord. In fact without discipline for wrong doing and habitual sin, we are not children of His. I look at it this way, there are times I would like to correct kids I see in WalMart acting up; but they aren’t my kids. even though I am perturbed by their actions, I have not obligation or responsibility to correct. However, when it comes to the children of God and believers, God will correct and discipline His own.  Isaiah is talking to Judah, the fall of Israel in the North has yet to happen. Assyria will be the instrument that God uses to punish the Northern Kingdom; yet the message of discipline and restoration is given to Judah. I know when I saw my sisters get punished for something, I took notice; the effect of them getting whipped made me take notice.  In history we know that Assyria and Samaria are taken siege and captive in 722 BC. There was the thought and attempt to continue down into Judah, but God was done with His discipline. Judah thinking that they escaped punishment, continues in idolatry and immorality. The Fall of Jerusalem, Zion happens with King Nebuchadnezzar around 587 BC, with three deportations to Babylon. SO looking at the advanced warning Judah got, one would think that they would wake up and straighten up – Nope!

Isaiah begins prophesying during King Uzziah’s reign, but the death of the King drove Isaiah to the Temple – at this time of crisis, as with most national tragedies, people flock to the church for answers. Chapter 6 has been used by so many pastors to develop the true spirit of worship. It is interesting that Isaiah probably had been to the Temple many times, but this time he sees the LORD, and the glory of the LORD. He also sees himself and his condition as a sinner.  The message here is that the world maybe tossed into chaos, but the LORD God stills reigns and is not moved! Out of this holy encounter, Isaiah is commissioned to be the mouth piece for God to bring an unfavorable message to Judah.  The prophetic message in chapter 7 is often clouded by the single verse 14, the promise of a son. The prophecy has been attributed to Jesus, in fact this is one of the characteristics of Isaiah, that makes understanding difficult; is Isaiah talking to the situation then, or for the future Messiah of Israel. This promise of a “sign” often overshadowed the war and tribulation that is coming to Judah because of their wickedness and unwillingness to repent and return to Yahweh.

In chapter 8 we are given a very descriptive account of what is going to happen to Israel [Northern Kingdom], yet within the pronounced judgment, we still get the hope of a “remnant” people through all of the devastation. The mercy of God is so entrenched within His punishment. God is holy, He is just and righteous, but He is also long-suffering. Instead of complete annihilation, God shows His great love for humanity. When thinking about how terrible the punishment will be for the children of God, the chosen nation; we must always understand that regardless of our position in Christ, He does not tolerate unrighteousness and immorality. God is a jealous God – the greatest sin of Israel was the blatant idolatry and rejection of the God that loved them and delivered them. The struggle with Israel/Judah was they felt they were exempt from the fierce anger of the LORD because of the high standing as His people. This should bring to American believers a wake-up call; for we often think that God is our God, yet it is the opposite, we are His people. No one is exempt from the righteous anger of the Lord. So we cannot boast of our elevated position as His children. He will deal with His children.

In chapter 9 and 10 there is the planned use of Assyria as God’s instrument of dealing with Israel/Judah. However, there is a limit to what God would allow Assyrian conquerors to do. In chapter 10, the pride of the Assyrian kings would be their downfall. When the instrument elevated itself above the user [God]; enough was enough. See 10:15-19.  Even with the prophetic destruction of Samaria and Israel, God still has the hope of a returning remnant. Sin will be dealt with, but God has not cast all humanity aside. He will inflict punishment to the point of bringing His people back. Oh that we would learn early under the slight nudges of discipline to return to the Lord!

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