All Nations Under God, Illuminated, With Liberty And Jesus For All (Isaiah 10:5-34)

The answer is: The British Empire.

The question, “What was the largest empire the world has ever seen?”

In 1821, the Caledonian Mercury wrote of the British Empire, “On her dominions the sun never sets; before his evening rays leave the spires of Quebec, his morning beams have shone three hours on Port Jackson, and while sinking from the waters of Lake Superior, his eye opens upon the mouth of the Ganges.”

You’ll be excited to know that occupying 21st place on the list of world empires was the Second Portuguese Empire. The Dutch made the top 100, coming in at 71.  

I did a quick Bible concordance check for the words British, Britain, and England.  Nothing.  

There is quite a bit of information in the Bible about other world empires. Most notably, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Why those? They were the nations that most affected the history of Israel. 

The noun, “Israel,” occurs in the Bible over 2500 times. Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum writes, “Anyone who reads the Bible will soon realize that… Israel… is the centerpiece of divine, prophetic activity.”

In the 8th century, Assyria was the world power… But they were not the real power.

God is sovereign over all the nations of Earth. “For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with understanding. God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne” (Psalm 47:7-8). 

The Lord had a work to do at Jerusalem and He chose Assyria to accomplish it. 

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 The Nations You Fear Answer To The LORD, and #2 The Nation God Favors Will Turn To The Lord.   

#1 – The Nations You Fear Answer To The LORD (v5-19)

October 1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis. I was 7yrs old. It is the first memory I have of nations against nations in a conflict that could end our species. It didn’t alleviate my fears that every day we were practicing ‘Duck & Cover’ in my classroom. Or that my inventive older brothers were trying to work out the details of a DIY underground fallout shelter.  

Do you ever wonder where nations originated? A long time ago, in a wilderness far, far away, mankind stopped wandering and, in rebellion against God, started to build a tower at which they could worship lesser gods. 

God said, “Let us go down and mix up their language” (Genesis11:7 GNT). God did so, and humanity was separated and scattered. The Babel incident in the eleventh chapter of Genesis explains how and why the nations that were listed in chapter ten came into being.

This is further explored in Deuteronomy, where we read, “When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when He divided mankind, He fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the Sons of God. But the LORD’s portion is His people, Jacob His allotted heritage” (32:8-9). 

The “Sons of God” is a designation for supernatural persons. God put certain supernaturals in charge of nations of the world. When He said, “Let us go down and confound their language,” it may have been a conversation within the Trinity. Or, God may have been talking to these supernaturals who would be over the nations. 

There is an example in the Book of Daniel. 

The angel Gabriel was dispatched to deliver the incredible End Time prophecy of the 70 Weeks to Daniel. On his way, Gabriel was hindered by a supernatural being he called the Prince of Persia. Michael, the archangel, came, so that Gabriel could continue. 

God would begin for Himself a new nation. In the very next chapter of Genesis, chapter twelve, God calls Abraham, who would be the father of this new nation.  Israel had, at least, these two missions:

  • In Isaiah 42:6 we read, “I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles.” 
  • In Romans 9:5 we read, “from [Israel], according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God.” 

The Savior Who was promised to mankind in the Garden of Eden would come through the nation of Israel to be a light to the Gentile nations.


Which brings us to the 8th century and the Assyrian Empire.

Isa 10:5  “Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hand is My indignation.

If you practice corporal punishment on your kiddos, you no doubt have a special spanking implement.  How do you spank a nation?  With another nation.  God employed Assyria to discipline His sons and daughters.  

Assyria, however, exceeded the boundaries God had set. So, “Woe to Assyria.”

Isa 10:6  I will send him against an ungodly nation, And against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, To seize the spoil, to take the prey, And to tread them down like the mire of the streets.

This was the spanking God ordered for “ungodly”Israel, the northern kingdom whose capital was Samaria.   

Isa 10:7  Yet he does not mean so, Nor does his heart think so; But it is in his heart to destroy, And cut off not a few nations.

The king of Assyria decided, apart from the LORD, that he would conquer other nations, too.     

The Assyrians knew they were called by God.

The leader of the future siege of Jerusalem would say, “Have I now come up without the LORD against this place to destroy it? The LORD said to me, ‘Go up against this land, and destroy it’ ” (Second Kings 18:25). 

Isa 10:8  For he says, “Are not my princes altogether kings?

If your princes are kings, what does that make you? It makes you the King of kings.

Isa 10:9  Is not Calno like Carchemish? Is not Hamath like Arpad? Is not Samaria like Damascus?

One-by-one these capital cities fell. Humanly speaking, the advance of the Assyrians could not be stopped. 

Isa 10:10  As my hand has found the kingdoms of the idols, Whose carved images excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria,

Isa 10:11  As I have done to Samaria and her idols, Shall I not do also to Jerusalem and her idols?’ ”

The multiple gods of these pagan nations were no match for Assyria. Israel was monotheistic, and she would fall. Judah worshipped the same LORD, so once they conquered Israel Assyria was emboldened to think Jerusalem would easily fall.    

Isa 10:12  Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Lord has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say, “I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks.”

God would stop the Assyrians from conquering Jerusalem. He’d punish the Assyrians. We will see how in a moment. 

Isa 10:13  For he says: “By the strength of my hand I have done it, And by my wisdom, for I am prudent; Also I have removed the boundaries of the people, And have robbed their treasuries; So I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man.

Isa 10:14  My hand has found like a nest the riches of the people, And as one gathers eggs that are left, I have gathered all the earth; And there was no one who moved his wing, Nor opened his mouth with even a peep.”

Really? It was all you? God was behind the scenes, orchestrating it. There are stories about Alexander the Great and Constantine that indicate divine intervention. Cyrus, king of Persia, is mentioned more than thirty times in the Bible. His interaction with the Jews is prophesied more than 150 years before his rule.  

Isa 10:15  Shall the ax boast itself against him who chops with it? Or shall the saw exalt itself against him who saws with it? As if a rod could wield itself against those who lift it up, Or as if a staff could lift up, as if it were not wood!

A lot of common expressions can be traced to the Bible. I don’t think this is one of them, but essentially what God says to the Assyrian is, You’re a tool!” 

God utilizes Gentile nations to push forward His salvation agenda. It doesn’t mean they always do as He wishes. Wait, what? I thought God was sovereign? Of course He is, but we need to define what that means. The Beacon Dictionary of Theology describes God’s sovereignty this way: 

  1. First, it may be seen as the divine right to rule totally.
  2. Second, it may be extended to include God’s exercise of this right. 

The debate is whether or not there is any room for genuine free will in the way God exercises His sovereignty. 

We believe that in His sovereignty God has granted mankind free will.

It could not be clearer in this passage. The Assyrians exercised free will, exceeding God’s directives, and God dealt with them accordingly. None of that sidebar interrupted God’s plan or thwarted His will. 

J. Alec Motyer wrote, “This passage asserts a philosophy of history, how the historical facts arise from hidden supernatural causes, and how the human actors who are the hinges on which history outwardly turns are themselves personal and responsible agents within a sovereignly ordered and exactly tuned moral system.”

I’ll read verses sixteen through nineteen in the International Standard Version. “Therefore the Lord GOD of the Heavenly Armies will send a wasting disease among Assyria’s sturdy warriors, and under its glory a conflagration will be kindled, like a blazing bonfire. The light of Israel will become a fire, and its Holy One a flame, and it will burn and consume Assyria’s thorns and briers in a single day. The splendor of its forest and its fruitful land the LORD will destroy – both soul and body – and Assyria will be as when a dying man wastes away. What survives of the trees in his forest will be so few that a child can count them.”

The Assyrians are compared to “thorns and briers,” and “trees” set ablaze to burn “in a single day.” That single day was a single night in 701BC when 185,000 Assyrian soldiers surrounding Jerusalem were killed overnight by the Angel of the Lord.  

What nations do we fear? Perhaps you saw the photo of China’s Xi Jinping shaking hands with Vladimir Putin. The accompanying article said they plan to “stand guard over the world order” under their new “friendship without limits.”

Don’t fear them. There are limits, and our Mighty God sets them. If they exceed them, they will be punished. Could it affect us negatively? Of course. But we see the Big Picture. 

Jesus conquers our fears and we share Him with the unsaved who have real cause to fear. 

If you have never been born again, if you die, there is no hope for you after death. You will be cast alive in the Lake of Fire to endure conscious torment for eternity. The good news is that Jesus came to Earth as God in human flesh. He allowed Himself to be crucified, taking your place. A.W. Tozer explains it like this: “The only sin Jesus ever had was yours, and the only righteousness we can ever have is His.”

#2 – The Nation God Favors Will Turn To The LORD (v20-34)   

History is the progressive development and implementation of God’s plan of redeeming mankind and restoring Creation. God’s preservation of the nation of Israel, and the city of Jerusalem, are the filter through which history must be interpreted. 

Isa 10:20  And it shall come to pass in that day That the remnant of Israel, And such as have escaped of the house of Jacob, Will never again depend on him who defeated them, But will depend on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.

Judah signed a treaty with Assyria in an attempt to solve her spiritual problems with politics. What a slap in the face of our Mighty God.

Isa 10:21  The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, To the Mighty God.

Isa 10:22  For though your people, O Israel, be as the sand of the sea, A remnant of them will return; The destruction decreed shall overflow with righteousness.

God promised Abraham that his offspring would be as the sand of the sea. No matter how bleak things look for Israel, there will always be a remnant from which this promise will be fulfilled.

Isa 10:23  For the Lord GOD of hosts Will make a determined end In the midst of all the land.

Isa 10:24  Therefore thus says the Lord GOD of hosts: “O My people, who dwell in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrian. He shall strike you with a rod and lift up his staff against you, in the manner of Egypt.

Isa 10:25  For yet a very little while and the indignation will cease, as will My anger in their destruction.”

It was too late to avoid their spanking, but God would rein-in the Assyrians from conquering Judah.    

Isa 10:26  And the LORD of hosts will stir up a scourge for him like the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb; as His rod was on the sea, so will He lift it up in the manner of Egypt.

Gideon killed the two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb, at the rock. And how about that thing at the Red Sea – when the waters flooded back upon the Egyptian army? What God did in the past, He would do in the present. God would “scourge” the Assyrians. They would join the ‘Nations Defeated by YHWH’ club.  

Have you heard the expression, “Why not here? Why not now?” It is a reminder that, just as God revived in the past, He can do it right here, right now. 

Isa 10:27  It shall come to pass in that day That his burden will be taken away from your shoulder, And his yoke from your neck, And the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil.

How can a “yoke” “be destroyed because of the “anointing oil?”  

  • Jesus said, “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).
  • At the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus read from Isaiah 62, which describes the “anointed” ministry of the Messiah. He told the listeners that He was the Anointed One (Luke 4:16-21). 

Rather than struggle through and butchering the pronunciation, let me just say that a list of 10 outlying cities occupies verses 28 through 31.

Isa 10:28  He has come to Aiath, He has passed Migron; At Michmash he has attended to his equipment.

Isa 10:29  They have gone along the ridge, They have taken up lodging at Geba. Ramah is afraid, Gibeah of Saul has fled.

Isa 10:30  Lift up your voice, O daughter of Gallim! Cause it to be heard as far as Laish – O poor Anathoth!

Isa 10:31  Madmenah has fled, The inhabitants of Gebim seek refuge. 

The listing of cities flows from north to south, describing the course of the Assyrian death march towards Jerusalem. 

Isa 10:32  As yet he will remain at Nob that day; He will shake his fist at the mount of the daughter of Zion, The hill of Jerusalem.

You can read the taunts and threats that the Assyrians threw at the Jews in chapter thirty-six. 

Isa 10:33  Behold, the Lord, The LORD of hosts, Will lop off the bough with terror; Those of high stature will be hewn down, And the haughty will be humbled.

Isa 10:34  He will cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, And Lebanon will fall by the Mighty One.

The Northern Kingdom of Israel ceased to exist following the fall of Samaria. Judah would survive the Assyrian onslaught with the help of the aforementioned Angel of the Lord slaughtering their encamped army. 

There is something else going on in this chapter. Look back to verse twenty-four. It says, “Do not be afraid of the Assyrian.” 

Some scholars consider the king of Assyria a type of the future antichrist, and list it as one of his names, along with Beast, Man of Sin, the Big Mouth, the Little Horn, the Insolent King, the Prince who is to come, the one who makes desolate, the despicable person, the strong-willed king, the worthless shepherd, the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction, and the Son of Perdition.

The expression “in that day” (v20) looks beyond the time of the Assyrian Empire into the prophetic future. 

The Assyrian designated himself, “King of kings.” Jesus is the King of kings, but in the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, the antichrist will claim that title, and he will demand his subjects worship him as God. 

Judah signed a treaty with the Assyrian. So will Israel sign a treaty with the antichrist. It is that antichrist accord that marks the beginning of the seven years of trouble. 

The Assyrian meted out God’s discipline upon the Jews. The antichrist will unleash a persecution against them like the world has never known. Its purpose is to turn their hearts to God.  

A “remnant” survived in the 8th & 7th centuries, and a “remnant” will survive the antichrist’s campaign of terror. The Bible indicates that of the Jews will die, but of them survive and are saved through the Time of Jacob’s Trouble to greet Jesus at His Second Coming.  

Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum writes, 

“As a nation, Israel is indestructible. So what if the Assyrians were coming? So what if there was going to be massive destruction? Nothing will destroy God’s promises and prevent Israel’s survival. Otherwise, there would be no final restoration. On the basis of the promise of a final restoration, the remnant should not be afraid. Israel will survive every invasion sent against her.”

Modern Israel has fought seven wars since being established in the land. The first one was the day after independence from the British. 

All the modern Israeli wars have miraculous stories of her victories.

God separated the people at Babel into nations. Then He began another, special nation – Israel. Do you know that there is another, fairly recent, nation that is special to God?

The apostle Peter said the Church is “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people…” (First Peter 2:9).

We are a “holy nation,” within our nation, the United States. Why? 

“That you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light, who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (First Peter 2:9-10).

We expect “the nations to rage… The kings of the earth [to] set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed…” (Psalm 2:1). 

What is our nation-within-a-nation mission?

We are to conduct ourselves “as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain[ing] from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having [our] conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against [us] as evildoers, they may, by [our] good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (First Peter 2:11-12). 

Prophecy Update #737 – Code Red

The only way to make sense of what is happening around the world today is to know what is going to happen tomorrow.  God has seen fit to tell us a great many things about the future.  There are hundreds of yet-to-be fulfilled prophecies in the Bible.

We reserve a few minutes Sunday morning to suggest news, or trends, that seem to be predicted by a literal, futurist reading of the Bible.

  • To avoid sensationalism, we are careful to use recognized, reliable sources for news.
  • We’re not saying the things we report are the fulfillment of prophecy.  We’re saying that they are the things you’d expect to be happening. 

A Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem will play a critical role in the Time of Jacob’s Trouble we commonly call the Great Tribulation. Both Daniel and Jesus reference it. When there is news about rebuilding it, or reinstating sacrifices, it is what you expect from unfulfilled Bible prophecy.  

A recent news article was titled, Red Heifers Arrive In Israel From Texas In Anticipation Of Third Temple Service.


The Temple Institute and Boneh Israel made a huge step towards reinstating the Temple service when five red heifers landed at Ben Gurion International Airport.

The red heifer was the main component in the Biblically mandated process of ritual purification for impurity that results from proximity or contact with a dead body. Because the elements needed for this ceremony have been lacking since the destruction of the Second Temple, all Jews today are considered ritually impure, thereby preventing the return of the Temple service.

The cows were between 5-8 months old. To be suitable for the red heifer ceremony, the cow must be two years and one day old so these heifers will be raised in Israel until they reach the proper age.[1] 

Have you heard of the Abraham Accords?  They are a series of joint normalization statements initially between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, effective since September 15, 2020. Israel is expanding those accords to include the other, mostly, Muslim, nations.

Another article reported, “Israel is negotiating with Mauritania, Indonesia, Somalia and Niger in order to expand the 2020 Abraham Accords normalization agreements. Sources said that Foreign Minister Eli Cohen was working to normalize ties with Mauritania, Somalia, Niger and Indonesia.”[2]

An article in Charisma magazine said the world is currently enduring a conglomeration of events that are all predicted to occur in the Bible, wars and rumors of wars overlap historic droughts and decaying morality within society. Men call evil good and good evil, and have replaced God with false idols. But perhaps the most telling sign of the times is the changing attitude toward Israel. Across the world, Jews are enduring an increase of anti-Semitism, including from countries that were once staunch allies.[3]

This is interesting. The prime minister of Israel came to the defense of Christians in the wake of a proposed law that would send believers to prison merely for sharing Jesus’ message in the Jewish state. We will not advance any law against the Christian community,” Benjamin Netanyahu announced.[4]

We are witnessing the stage-setting for the seven year Time of Jacob’s Trouble, more commonly called the Great Tribulation.  

We will not, however, be on Earth when God is pouring out His wrath.

The resurrection and rapture of the church are imminent.  It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it.

Jesus will come, in the clouds, and raise the dead believers of the Church Age.

He will transform the bodies of living believers to glorified, resurrection bodies. 

We will join Him in Heaven while the earth endures one final seven-year campaign of severe evangelism.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!



The Short Goodbye (Acts 20:1)

The inhabitants of Cherry Tree Lane had no idea how much life would change after Mary Poppins showed up. She came as a servant, but led the Banks family and others into a new, transformed experience of joy and fulfillment. At the end of the classic Disney movie, the family doesn’t see Mary go – they’re happily flying kites in the park with broad smiles. Her salty umbrella parrot says, “That’s gratitude for you – they didn’t even say goodbye!”

In Acts 20, after more than 2 years of daily service, leadership, and friendship, Paul was leaving the city of Ephesus. The circumstances weren’t as charming as a bunch of Brits flying kites in the park – a huge riot had engulfed the city in chaos. But, on his way out, Paul didn’t slip away unnoticed. He met with his Christian brothers and sisters who would stay behind in this turbulent position. 

Tonight, I’d like us to put ourselves in the Ephesians’ position. We can’t know what they were thinking, but we can guess what we might be thinking. What we’ll find is that this group of faithful Christians faced a lot of earthly uncertainty, but Paul was confident they could experience the kind of strength and peace and unity that only comes from the transformative power of the Gospel. 

In Acts 20, verse 1 we read:

Acts 20:1 – After the uproar was over, Paul sent for the disciples, encouraged them, and after saying farewell, departed to go to Macedonia.

Ephesus was a major city on the western coast of Turkey. Its population was 250,000.[1] It was home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – the temple of Artemis (or your Bible might call her Diana, which was her Roman name). Not only was this a religious site, it was also a bank, a refuge, and a civic center.[2]

But Ephesus wasn’t only home to Artemis worship. There was the Roman Emperor cult and a variety of Greek religious cults, as well as what are called “Hero” cults. There was widespread practice of the occult. One scholar writes, “Ephesus, the third largest city in the Empire, was by far the most hospitable to magicians, sorcerers, and charlatans of all sorts.”[3]

Paul arrived into this dark city sometime around 52 A.D.[4] The next 2 to 3 years were jam packed with ministry and miracles and evangelism and opposition. Among the enemies of the Gospel there was hardened animosity. Paul described it as fighting wild beasts in 1 Corinthians. Within the local Church, there was some confusion, particularly in the early days. Paul would discuss and instruct believers every day for two years. During these days, we read reports of savage demonic activity and widespread economic and social upheaval as people abandoned their old ways of life and embraced the Word of God, which set them free. 

Paul’s time in Ephesus culminated in a city-wide riot that lasted for hours before the people finally dispersed. Paul didn’t leave because of the riot – he had already determined to head to Jerusalem by way of Greece – but that’s the backdrop of the short goodbye in chapter 20, verse 1. 

“After the uproar was over.” 

The rioters went home, but the phrase here is interesting. Because, Luke (our author) doesn’t use the word that means “finished,” he uses one that means “restrained.”[5] It’s a less final word. In fact, it’s the word we get “pause” from.

The uproar wasn’t boiling over at the moment, but the enemies of the Gospel were influential, motivated, and ready to do some damage. Some of the Jews in the city were slandering Christianity[6] and the local Gentile union was convinced that Christians were going to ruin the city.[7] The riot died down but the turmoil wasn’t resolved. There were still threats of legal action,[8] still slander, still resentment, still fake news about what Christianity was all about. Add to that the simmering racial tension that was ingrained in the ancient Roman and Jewish cultures in that era.[9]

Now imagine you’re an Ephesian Christian. Often as I read through Acts, I put myself in the place of the characters we know – Paul and Timothy and Luke and Barnabas. We follow their stories and find wonderful application from how God moved in their lives – that’s a good thing. But tonight, we’re Ephesians. When Paul leaves for the next place, we go back home into the tensions and stresses that I’ve just listed out. If you still have a job, most of your coworkers aren’t believers. If you were ethnically Jewish, your Jewish friends and family who have rejected the Gospel have cut you off from the synagogue and from fellowship with them. If you were a Gentile believer, well, life looks a lot different now than it did before you were saved. You’re not doing the pagan things anymore. You’re getting rid of books and idols and your whole social calendar has changed. 

So there you are, with all that personal strain among family and friends and your field of employment. And now the general feeling around town is that Christians are a big problem. Christians are destroying the economy. Christians are deceiving the public. Christians have brought this great city to the verge of “ruin.” Luke describes the climate this way: “About that time there was a major disturbance about the Way.”[10]

What did it mean to be a Christian in Ephesus? And what would it mean now that Paul, the Apostle, the leader and spiritual father, was leaving? How long would it be until another riot broke out?

“Paul sent for the disciples.”

Paul wasn’t driven out of Ephesus – he left of his own free will – but it seems like he was keeping a low profile.[11] He wasn’t hiding, but he wasn’t making a big, public statement in his departure as he had in the city of Philippi. 

Paul felt compelled to travel back through the region to minister to the other churches he had established. But he wasn’t just on to the next thing. Maybe you know people who are always doing something new and sometimes that means they sort of leave your friendship behind. That’s not what Paul was doing. He was thinking of these Ephesian believers and wanted to squeeze one more ounce of ministry out on their behalf as he packed up to go. 

When Paul sent for them, we can see a contrast and a choice. The contrast is between this group of Christians and the group of craftsmen that had assembled in chapter 19. There, Demetrius had gathered the other craftsmen and silversmiths and incited their hate and their rage and their jealousy, leading to violence. The Christians assembled together were completely the opposite. This was a group dedicated to truth and peace and unity and the benefit of not only their friends, but also their enemies. 

Maybe at some point you’ve belonged to a fraternal order. Fraternal order of firefighters or Eagle Scouts or Sons of Italy. Acts 19 and 20 show two brotherhoods in Ephesus. You had the craftsmen, dedicated to their own wealth at the expense of others and then the Disciples, who were dedicated to the transformation of lives and communities through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Paul’s sending for them didn’t only show us a contrast, it also shows that the Believers would have to make a choice that day. After everything that happened, knowing all that was going on, when Paul sent up the signal flare, would you go and meet with him? Would you say, “Yes, I’m still a Christian, even though that might cost me something.” The question was, “Am I a disciple, or am I just a person who thinks some things about God?” 

Now, remember, these were people who hadn’t been Christians very long. Maybe a few years at the oldest. Some were probably brand new in their faith. But spiritual strength is available on day one of your spiritual life. The power to walk worthy of the calling is not withheld until you get a master’s of divinity. God provides it now. We never stop learning – that’s what the word disciple means: pupil or learner – but power for living and grace for today has been delivered to you even if you’re a brand new Christian in a violently pagan city like Ephesus. 

“[Paul] encouraged them.”

Ben Witherington writes, “It was Paul’s practice to reinforce and strengthen churches he…founded.”[12]

When it says he encouraged them it doesn’t mean he gave them pablum or cliches. He exhorted them and comforted them. He gave them authoritative words that built them up and made them strong in the Lord. 

Spiritual strength was important to Paul. In Romans 1 he says, “I very much want to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you.” He talks about the spiritual strength of God’s people in Romans, 1 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, and 2 Thessalonians. In Colossians 2 he says walking with God is meant to be rooted and built up in [Christ] and established in the faith. The New Testament assumes that you and I will be weak in eyes of the unbelieving world but strong in the power of our God. 

So the Ephesians come together and Paul has to give them the hard news that he’s leaving. They won’t have an apostle with them anymore. But, he reminds them of the truths of God’s power and their faith and that they do not have to have an apostle with them at all times in order to live the Christian life. That’s good because we don’t have apostles anymore! Now, apostles were necessary to establish the Church – God used their lives and teaching as a foundation – but now it is the “regular” disciples who take up the call and follow after the Lord wherever He has scattered them. 

Where it says Paul encouraged them, the term comes from a Greek word maybe you’ve heard before: parakletos. It means “one called, or sent for to assist another; an advocate, one who pleads the cause of another.”[13] “Paul, how are you going to advocate for us, how are you going to come along side and help us if you’re leaving?” Well, for one thing, even though the Church is scattered around the world, we’re still united in Christ. More importantly, after Jesus ascended into heaven, the Father sent us another Helper, the Holy Spirit, Who the New Testament calls “The Paraclete.” 

So, even though it would’ve been a hard loss when Paul left, he was able to remind them that a greater Helper was staying behind to build them up and strengthen them day by day. His help was much better than Paul’s. During the riot, Paul wasn’t able to do anything to help. But the Holy Spirit has omnipotent power and He will be with us forever.[14]

“After saying farewell, [Paul] departed to go to Macedonia.”

As Mary Poppins floated away, Bert says, “Goodbye, Mary Poppins. Don’t stay away too long!” She came back 54 years later for the sequel. These Ephesians didn’t know it, but most of them would never see Paul again. They would hear from him in 5 years or so when he wrote his letter to them,[15]but now their spiritual father, their pastor, their teacher, and friend was heading out. I imagine it would’ve been easy to think, “What are we going to do without Paul?” But then they would only have to remember what God had already done in their midst. How the Lord had saved them from the chains of sin. How He had freed their minds from the perversity and the lies and the waste that they had been steeped in before they were saved. How the Holy Spirit had filled their hearts and many of them had prophesied. How God had provided places for them to gather and answers to their questions and joy for their hearts. How they had already seen God accomplishing His good purposes in and through them day by day, even as opposition increased. How the Word of God was “spreading and prevailing” all around them.[16]

It would’ve been hard to say goodbye, but their spiritual future wasn’t dependent on Paul’s presence. The Lord was still with them and it was His presence that mattered most. 

I don’t mean to suggest that we face the kind of pressures that a first-century Christian did in pagan Ephesus. We don’t see blatant, violent persecution against Christians where we live. But, we do live in a culture that is increasingly hostile to the Lord and His Word. We live in a land of divisions and riots and upheaval. We live in a land of cults and belligerent fraternities and perversion. And here God has scattered us to the praise of His glory. Here, in 21st century America, God’s intention is to make us spiritually strong and then speak through our lives so that others who are currently lost and trapped in sin might be set free and transformed by the Gospel. 

We still have our Helper, the Holy Spirit, with us forever, instructing us and renewing us and bearing witness about Christ. We need to be a people who understand the days in which we live and understand what our place in this world is. For one thing, our place is “passing through.” But for another, our place is witnesses, being holy priests, lights in the dark, preachers of righteousness, disciples who go and make more disciples. 

God has called us into this Christian life and placed us into this local community. We are able to enjoy His spiritual strength even during upheaval because the Lord is with us and will be with us until the end. 


1 Gary Gromacki   The Spiritual War For Ephesus
2 The Temple Of Artemis At Ephesus   The Classical Outlook Vol. 22, No. 7
3 B. M. Metzger, St. Paul and the Magicians
4, 15 CSB Study Bible Notes
5 Thayer’s Greek Lexicon for Strong’s G5055 & G3973
6 Acts 19:9
7 Acts 19:25-27
8 Acts 19:39
9 Gromacki
10 Emphasis added
11 Ben Witherington   The Acts Of The Apostles
12 ibid.
14 John 14:16
16 Acts 19:20

Isaiah 9:1-10:4 – Talk To The Outstretched Hand

Sam realized Frodo was setting off alone to Mordor.  As Frodo rowed towards the opposite shore, Sam waded out into the River Anduin.  It deepened, and he was quickly in trouble because he couldn’t swim.  Unconscious and sinking, Frodo reached into the water and pulled him into the boat.   

Fast forward to Mordor.  Inside Mount Doom, Frodo went over the cliff.  

He was holding on to a ledge by his fingertips.  Sam reached down with his hand, and pulled him up.  

I’m sure you could recall dozens of scenes in which someone is similarly saved by an outstretched hand.  

Four times we read in our text, “But [God’s] hand is stretched out still” (v12, 17, 21, 10:4).

God’s outstretched hand represents His reaching out to discipline the nations of Israel and Judah.  The hand that metes out discipline would deliver the Jews if they turned to Him.  

Seventh century Israel and Judah refused God’s outstretched hand.  The LORD would, therefore, mete out national discipline.  

I’ll organize my comments around two questions: #1 Are You Firmly In The Grip Of God’s Outstretched Hand?, or #2 Are You Releasing Your Grip In God’s Outstretched Hand?

#1 – Are You Firmly In The Grip Of God’s Outstretched Hand? (9:1-7)

Clint Barton thought he had a firm grip on Natasha Romanoff, but she let go, falling to her heroic death.  

There was nothing heroic about seventh century Judah.  Their hands were slippery-slimey from immorality and idolatry.

Before we go on, let me mention something.  The hand and grip of God in these verses is a metaphor by which we can better comprehend God’s national discipline.  These verses have nothing to do with the perseverance of individual saints, or saints being “snatched” out of God’s hand (John 10:28-29).

Before we see God’s discipline, we are given a glimpse of the future.  Through the eyes of Isaiah, we see Israel in the Millennial Kingdom on Earth.

Isa 9:1  Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, As when at first He lightly esteemed The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, And afterward more heavily oppressed her, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, In Galilee of the Gentiles.

Isa 9:2  The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.

The first chapter of John’s Gospel describes Jesus coming to Earth as light shining in the darkness.  The light of the world, He means to transfer sinners from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. 

It’s great that we have the New Testament to comment on the Old.  Matthew 4:15-16 quotes Isaiah, applying it, saying, “Jesus… departed to Galilee, And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali…” 

Seven hundred years before Jesus came, Isaiah mapped out His early ministry movements.  It wasn’t in Jerusalem He made His headquarters.  It was in an obscure region.  Many Gentiles were settled there.  Talk about ruining the neighborhood.

His geography tells us a lot about how Jesus would conduct His mission.  He would constantly and consistently humble Himself, making “Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).  

Humility should mark our serving.  God accomplishes His purposes by unusual methods and through unusual men to assure He gets the glory.  

The recent film, The Jesus Revolution, depicts the role a young man played in igniting revival that began in Southern California in the late 1960s.  The popular actor who portrays Lonnie Frisbee is 48yrs old.  Lonnie Frisbee was 18yrs old when God used him to spark revival what would spread through North America, Europe, and Central America.  The more you learn about him, the more God gets the credit.    

Isa 9:3  You have multiplied the nation And increased its joy; They rejoice before You According to the joy of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.

Isaiah saw a regathered and restored, united nation:

  • He describes them as “multiplied,” meaning growing and expanding in all good things.  
  • The general attitude that prevails is like the joy of a plentiful “harvest,” or a great military victory in which much “spoil” was recovered.  

Imagine being a believer in the time of Isaiah.  Hope was lost for the northern kingdom of Israel.  Things were bleak at best in the south.  Nevertheless, a regathered and restored Israel would rejoice in the future kingdom of Messiah.

We should note in passing that Isaiah’s verbs are in the past tense.  He writes as if it has already happened. That is prophetic language.  As far as he was concerned, if it had been shown to him from God, it was as good as done.  

Isaiah may have anticipated the regathering and restoration in his lifetime.  You remember that Jesus’ disciples kept pressing Him about establishing the Kingdom.  They were still doing so at the ascension.   

The Bible encourages us to anticipate the kingdom:  

  • “Thy kingdom come” ought to permeate our praying. 
  • The last words in red in the Bible are, “Surely I am coming quickly” (Revelation 22:20). 

Isa 9:4  For You have broken the yoke of his burden And the staff of his shoulder, The rod of his oppressor, As in the day of Midian.

“Yoke,” “staff,” and “rod” illustrate the nation being oppressed by a succession of Gentile nations.  Midian were a people who oppressed the Jews in the time of the Judges.  God raised-up Gideon to defeat them by putting a Bible in every hotel room.  Seriously, Gideon was a goof, but God used him to reveal light in the darkness, literally, thereby scattering an army many times more powerful. 

Isaiah passes over the centuries between the first and second comings of Jesus.   He sees all burdens of oppression fully, finally lifted from Israel. 

Isa 9:5  For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle, And garments rolled in blood, Will be used for burning and fuel of fire.

Cortés was a very, very, bad man.  When he arrived in what is today Mexico, his soldiers were upset. To ‘motivate’ them, he burned the ships.

Burning weapons, voluntarily, means there will be ‘war no more.’  It’s mind-boggling since mankind has always been at war.  There are currently more than twenty active global conflicts.  

How will Israel, of all nations the most despised, finally enjoy peace?  “A Child [was] born.”     

Isa 9:6  For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

A “Child is born” who was first a “Son” Who could be “given.”  The Son existed before He was miraculously given to be conceived in a woman’s womb and born.  This can only, uniquely, marvelously, be Jesus. 

He will bear all the weight of human government.  We agree with the exclamation of the seventh-trumpet angel in the Book of the Revelation.  

He shouts, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (11:15). 

Five “names” are given Him.  How difficult must it have been to choose five!  Scholars say there are a minimum of 200 biblical names and titles for Jesus.  

The list starts with “Wonderful.”  It is not a description of the type of Counselor Jesus is.  It is a stand-alone name.  

Look at the names that come after. “Wonderful” and “Counselor.”  “Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” belong to Jesus uniquely.  There is no other “Mighty God,” “Everlasting Father,” or “Prince of Peace.”

“Wonderful” and “Counselor” are uniquely Jesus as well.

There is no other “Wonderful.”  It almost breaks my mind (in a good way) to think about this.  Whatever happens, I can honestly say in my spirit, “Lord, You are Wonderful.”  I can say that because I know He is working all things together for my good.  What is happening to me may be terrible.  But if I believe God is sovereign, in charge, that He loves me with everlasting love, then He is “Wonderful” in my abounding, or my being abased; in my blessings, or in my buffetings.  Job knew this when he said, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD” (1:21). 

One of the modern versions translates “Counselor,” “adviser.”  No, no, no.  He isn’t giving advice for you to weigh.  He’s not like Lucy, in her psychiatric booth, charging Charlie Brown a nickel.  Jesus is “Counselor,” not just someone who counsels, whose counsel I might accept or reject.  The Counselor constantly, directly, counsels Christians by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  No one else is capable of that. 

He is “Mighty God.”  Strong’s Concordance says that the word for “God” is a word that can be used of any deity, even an idol.  There are a lot of supernatural persons mentioned in the Bible, and probably more that aren’t.  Some of them are even called ‘gods,’ but with a lower case ‘g.’  None of them is “Mighty God.”  Only the God-Head, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are Mighty God.  The outcome of human history, and of our lives individually, is never in doubt or danger. 

He is “Everlasting Father.”  I thought the Father was the Father?  He is, and we must not confuse the  Persons of the Tri-une God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  

A better translation would be, “Father of Eternity.”  Question: Who is the father of the United States?  That’s right – George Washington.  Jesus is the unique “Father of Eternity” in that sense.  

It never gets old to say there can be no peace without the “Prince of Peace.”  On the Cross, by His substitutionary sacrifice, Jesus made peace with sinful humanity (Colossians 1:19-20).  Believers will enjoy that peace forever. 

Isa 9:7  Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

We talk about political parties having a ‘platform,’ and the ‘planks’ that constitute their platform.  

Jesus doesn’t run for office, and He will never need re-election.  But we can see a sort of platform in verse seven.  

With apologies to Ronald Reagan, Jesus’ government will be Big Government.  He will be over all the nations of Earth.  There will be no so-called separation between the spiritual and the state.  

There will be no religions or philosophies or psychologies or political parties  competing for mankind’s devotion.

Remember the huge move it was to relocate the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?  It took place, not coincidentally, May 14, 2018, the 70th anniversary of the creation of the modern State of Israel.  Jesus will move the government of Earth to Jerusalem, to King David’s throne.  It will fulfill the Davidic Covenant, which unconditionally promises Israel that a descendant of his will rule from his throne forever. 

A ‘plank,’ maybe the only one needed, will be Righteousness.  Isaiah doesn’t use that word; he uses “judgment” and “justice.”  If you have just judgments every time, that is righteousness.

“Read my lips,” George H. W. Bush famously invited us, then said, “No new taxes.”  As Dana Carvy would say, “Not gonna happen.”  

Jesus’ forever Kingdom will not need taxation.  His own “zeal” will power and prosper His rule. 

 Later in Isaiah we will read, “For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you’ ” (41:13). 

God grips you, Christian, like a parent holding the hand of a toddler crossing a busy street.  

🎶Put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee🎶

#2 – Are You Releasing Your Grip In God’s Outstretched hand? (9:9-10:4)

Clint Barton thought he had a firm grip on Natasha Romanoff, but she let go, falling to her heroic death.  

There was nothing heroic about seventh century Judah.  They were way beyond letting go.  Their hands were kept busy with immorality and idolatry.

Isaiah presents four cycles of discipline, marked by the repetition of, “For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.”    

Isa 9:8  The Lord sent a word against Jacob, And it has fallen on Israel.

Isa 9:9  All the people will know – Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria – Who say in pride and arrogance of heart:

Isa 9:10  “The bricks have fallen down, But we will rebuild with hewn stones; The sycamores are cut down, But we will replace them with cedars.”

Isa 9:11  Therefore the LORD shall set up The adversaries of Rezin [Reason] against him, And spur his enemies on,

Isa 9:12  The Syrians before and the Philistines behind; And they shall devour Israel with an open mouth. For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.

“Jacob,” “Israel,” and “Ephraim,” were all names for the ten tribes in the north. They had ignored God’s warnings that He would use surrounding nations to humble them.  In pride and arrogance of heart, they wanted no help from the LORD.  

“The bricks have fallen down, But we will rebuild with hewn stones; The sycamores are cut down, But we will replace them with cedars.”  

They said, essentially, that without God, they could & would Build Back Better.

Have you heard that somewhere before?  It first emerged as a summary of the efforts of the United Nations to impose its agenda on the world.  More recently, it was Joe Biden’s campaign slogan.  Other organizations, e.g., the World Economic Forum, and the World Bank, use it.

The Build Back Better adherents have as their modest goal to be planet Earth’s saviors.  I’d say it qualifies as “pride, and arrogance of heart” (v9).

We aren’t going to save Earth.  We are the one’s who need to be saved.  God will restore Creation. 

“For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.”  

Commentators tend to explain the outstretched hand as the promise of further discipline.  I’d say it is the prospect of further discipline, if they do not reach out to God’s hand.  The hand of discipline is the hand of love.  Isn’t that the point of His discipline?  He promised repentance would deliver a nation (Jeremiah 18:7-10).  His “hand” is “stretched out” to deliver you, or to continue your discipline. 

Isa 9:13  For the people do not turn to Him who strikes them, Nor do they seek the LORD of hosts.

Isa 9:14  Therefore the LORD will cut off head and tail from Israel, Palm branch and bulrush in one day.

Isa 9:15  The elder and honorable, he is the head; The prophet who teaches lies, he is the tail.

Isa 9:16  For the leaders of this people cause them to err, And those who are led by them are destroyed.

Isa 9:17  Therefore the Lord will have no joy in their young men, Nor have mercy on their fatherless and widows; For everyone is a hypocrite and an evildoer, And every mouth speaks folly. For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.

J. Alec Motyer says of this passage, “Rejection of the LORD led to reliance on human wisdom for national guidance, but their leaders were ‘misleaders,’ and moral decay spread throughout society.”

Moral decay.  We often define biblical sexual morality.  It is, at its foundation, sex between one biological male, and one biological female, in a monogamous, heterosexual union, having made a covenant of companionship to remain faithful to God and each other for as long as they both shall live.  

How are we doin’?  Not good.  We are being inundated with a cesspool overflow of sexual immorality.  It’s been said that the new morality is the old immorality.  God is, and will continue, to discipline nations because of it.  

Isa 9:18  For wickedness burns as the fire; It shall devour the briers and thorns, And kindle in the thickets of the forest; They shall mount up like rising smoke.

Isa 9:19  Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts The land is burned up, And the people shall be as fuel for the fire; No man shall spare his brother.

Isa 9:20  And he shall snatch on the right hand And be hungry; He shall devour on the left hand And not be satisfied; Every man shall eat the flesh of his own arm.  

Isa 9:21  Manasseh shall devour Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh; Together they shall be against Judah. For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.

Their wickedness is likened to a raging forrest fire.    They start small, but grow when fueled, consuming everything.  The refusal to repent is kindling for greater sin, until it becomes life-dominating.  

Their lustful cravings are compared to a hunger for meat that is so overpowering they would consume their own flesh.  You don’t need to be a cannibal to consume your own flesh.  Sin will do it for you:

  • Drug overdose deaths have reached a historic high, devastating families and communities.  More than 104,000 Americans died due to a drug overdose in the twelve month period ending in September 2021.
  • Collectively, smoking, alcohol and illicit drug use kills 11.8 million people each year. This is more than the number of deaths from all cancers.  

Isa 10:1  Woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees, Who write misfortune, Which they have prescribed

Isa 10:2  To rob the needy of justice, And to take what is right from the poor of My people, That widows may be their prey, And that they may rob the fatherless.

Isa 10:3  What will you do in the day of punishment, And in the desolation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help? And where will you leave your glory?

Isa 10:4  Without Me they shall bow down among the prisoners, And they shall fall among the slain. For all this His anger is not turned away, But His hand is stretched out still.

These issues would fall under the topic of Social Justice.  You hear that term a lot today.  It’s a hot topic.  Many of the issues being discussed are different than those in seventh century.  Still, social injustice invites God’s discipline upon a nation.

It’s pretty hard to lift someone on to a ledge with one hand grasping theirs.   

In the spiritual realm of salvation or damnation, Jesus is the only Person who can pull you up from the depths of sin into Heaven.

He can because He was the God-man who was lifted up on the Cross, then raised from the dead, to exchange His righteousness for your sin.  

What must you do to be saved? Believe on the Lord, Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. 

Prophecy Update #736 – Compassionate Communism?

The only way to make sense of what is happening around the world today is to know what is going to happen tomorrow.  God has seen fit to tell us a great many things about the future.  There are hundreds of yet-to-be fulfilled prophecies in the Bible.

We reserve a few minutes Sunday morning to suggest news, or trends, that seem to be predicted by a literal, futurist reading of the Bible.

To avoid sensationalism, we are careful to use recognized, reliable sources for news.

We’re not saying the things we report are the fulfillment of prophecy.  We’re saying that they are the things you’d expect to be happening. 

A one-world, global government of some sort will be a key feature of the final years on Earth before Jesus returns in His Second Coming.  We expect the nations of the world to move in that direction… And they are.  

A very unlikely country has stepped-up as a proponent and leader of a more global government.  I read an article titled, China-proposed initiative on global civilization hailed.


Leaders of political parties and organizations from around the world have hailed the China-proposed Global Civilization Initiative, saying that it has great relevance, together with the Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative, to building up countries’ consensus on addressing mounting global challenges in terms of peace, security, development and harmonious coexistence.

Their comments came as Xi [Z] Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, unveiled the Global Civilization Initiative on Wednesday at the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-Level Meeting. The initiative calls for respect for the diversity of civilizations, upholding the common values of humanity in pursuing peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom, and promoting robust international people-to-people exchanges and cooperation.

Political leaders who took part in the virtual meeting spoke positively about Xi’s initiative and expressed their willingness to work with the CPC.[1]

It is a big deal.  The CPC and World Political Parties Summit is an annual, international relations video conference between various international political parties, including both governing and non-governing parties, first held in 2021.  I couldn’t find the stats for this year’s summit.  In 2021 the summit involved representatives from 500 political parties across 160 countries and over 10,000 party representatives.   

The COVID19 pandemic and the constant fear generated by Climate Change are the leading factors that are driving the push for global government.  Add to that world hunger, and nations are ready to surrender sovereignty for survival.  

In September of 2021, The Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) called for global governance and recommended the establishment of a Global Health Board. 

The World Government Summit is an annual event held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It brings together leaders in government for a global dialogue about governmental process and policies with a focus on the issues of futurism, technology innovation and other topics.

Arvind Ashta is holder of the Banque Populaire Chair in Microfinance at the Burgundy School of Business (ESC Dijon), and has degrees in economics, business management, political science and law from prestigious institutions in India and France.  He recently said, “It is time to seriously consider the advantages of a world federal government.”

We are witnessing the stage-setting for the seven year Time of Jacob’s Trouble, more commonly called the Great Tribulation.  

We will not, however, be on Earth when God is pouring out His wrath.

The resurrection and rapture of the church are imminent.  It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it.

Jesus will come, in the clouds, and raise the dead believers of the Church Age.

He will transform the bodies of living believers to glorified, resurrection bodies. We will join Him in Heaven while the earth endures one final seven- year campaign of severe evangelism.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!



The End Of The Beginning (Genesis 50:1-26)

Funerals are starting to go away. The Washington Post reported, “Death is a given, but not the time-honored rituals. An increasingly secular, nomadic and casual America is shredding the rules about how to commemorate death…Somber, embalmed-body funerals…are, for many families, a relic.”[1] Between 2009 and 2019, the number of funeral homes in the United States shrunk by 1,500.[2] Researchers at the University of Bath concluded, “A funeral service is sometimes neither wanted nor needed, and families of the deceased should be encouraged to reject the convention if it’s unlikely to ease their grief.”[3]

Something tells me this is not a good trend. Ignoring the passing of members of our community and abandoning one of the fundamental observances of every generation is not going to improve our society or our cultural well-being. The modern mind may not want to face grief and death, but death remains a reality and a constant presence. 

We know why. Genesis explained it to us. God designed a cosmos full of thriving life. Man traded it for thorns and death. The book closes with two funerals, one extravagant, one much more plain. But as the passage adjourns, we are left with the hope that death is not the end. There’s still life ahead because God is not willing to let His creation be claimed by sin. He intends to take it back.

Genesis 50:1 – Then Joseph, leaning over his father’s face, wept and kissed him.

Jacob has just died. God promised that Joseph would be there to close his eyes and it was so. We see Joseph cry a lot – seven separate times in his saga – but he wasn’t defined by sorrow. He is consistently hopeful and trusts that God is present and accomplishing good things. 

Genesis 50:2-3 – He commanded his servants who were physicians to embalm his father. So they embalmed Israel. They took forty days to complete this, for embalming takes that long, and the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days. 

This was not the normal process for the family of Abraham. Was Joseph more Egyptian than Hebrew? The truth is, he spent 93 of his 110 years in Egypt. There are some who accuse him of trying to live simultaneously in both worlds.[4]

But that’s not really the portrait that Genesis gives us. 

There’s an interesting hint in verse 2: Joseph commanded his physicians to embalm his father, not the mortuary priests who were normally involved.[5] So, it appears that Joseph was separating the Egyptian religious aspect from the embalming process.

The Egyptians were deep into death ritual. Mummification was a real thing. The embalming process originated in “the belief that the ghostly double of the man might at any time return to take possession of the body.”[6]

Depending on how wealthy you were, you’d get more embalming done. The poor might just be washed and dried in the sun.[7] Pay a little more and you might be packed in salt. Go all the way up to the Cadillac option, and your brain and organs would be removed and replaced with spices, your body soaked in potassium nitrate and wrapped in linen dipped in resin.[8]

Joseph had promised his father that he would take him back to Canaan and bury him in the cave owned by their family. But Joseph also knew that the death of the Prime Minister’s father would be a big deal, politically. Indeed, we’ll see it was – the whole country goes into mourning. Plus, servants of Pharaoh couldn’t just leave the country whenever they wanted. There would be a significant amount of time between Jacob’s death and burial, so the body would need to be preserved. David Livingstone’s body was famously preserved so it could be shipped from Africa to Britain. His body was packed in salt, dried in the sun, then wrapped in calico and bark. They doused his face with brandy to preserve his features. His remains were then sealed with tar before being walked 1,000 miles to an outpost then put on a ship.[9]

All of chapter 50 stands in stark contrast to Genesis 1 and 2. Look at what earth has come to. Look at what sin does. There’s a tragic irony here: Joseph gives Jacob’s body to the physicians, but the word is “healers.” Why did humanity need healers? Now that they had them, what help were they once a man had died? Mankind is so quick to proliferate sin and yet so powerless against it.

Meanwhile, God has been constantly busying Himself with dealing with it for us. He says, “I will become your Great Physician.” We read in Isaiah 19: “Then they will turn to the Lord, and He will be receptive to their prayers and heal them.”[10] He has the plan, He has the power, He has promised to roll back sin, clear away our guilt, defeat death, and restore us to immortality if we will believe in Him and receive the free gift of His salvation. 

Genesis 50:4-5 – When the days of mourning were over, Joseph said to Pharaoh’s household, “If I have found favor with you, please tell Pharaoh that my father made me take an oath, saying, ‘I am about to die. You must bury me there in the tomb that I made for myself in the land of Canaan.’ Now let me go and bury my father. Then I will return.” 

It’s hard to get a feel for Joseph’s relationship with Pharaoh. At one point he says that “he’s like a father to Pharaoh.” On the other hand, he seems very anxious when making requests of him.

Joseph didn’t even ask Pharaoh, personally. He uses members of the household as a go-between. It could be that he was ceremonially unclean since he had come into contact with a dead body. Or it could be that he was unshaven in his grief and therefore couldn’t be in Pharaoh’s presence.[11] But he’s very careful in the way he brings this request. This is a big ask. If Pharaoh was paranoid, he might think his Prime Minister was defecting to Canaan. So, Joseph assures him “I will return.”

Genesis 50:6 – So Pharaoh said, “Go and bury your father in keeping with your oath.” 

For his part, Pharaoh is gracious and understanding. He not only allows Joseph to go, we’ll see that the whole affair becomes a state-sponsored funeral with Pharaoh’s approval. The whole nation was in mourning. The 70 days they observed for Jacob was just 2 days shy of what Egyptians would normally do for a king![12] The presence of God’s people made a big difference in this society. They didn’t come with a strategy to make a difference, but, as they walked by faith, the Lord was able to do what He wanted to do though them, which was make them a blessing to the nations. 

Genesis 50:7-9 – Then Joseph went to bury his father, and all Pharaoh’s servants, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt went with him, along with all Joseph’s family, his brothers, and his father’s family. Only their dependents, their flocks, and their herds were left in the land of Goshen. Horses and chariots went up with him; it was a very impressive procession.

This is a huge deal. In fact, it’s safe to say that the Egyptians had totally hijacked this funeral. You’ve got palace officials and cultural leaders, you’ve got the military, and all the who’s-who of the kingdom. As one commentator puts it, there were no no-shows – everybody was there.[13] And, there, tossed in the middle, were Jacob’s sons. It was probably a strange feeling. 

Genesis 50:10-11 – 10 When they reached the threshing floor of Atad, which is across the Jordan, they lamented and wept loudly, and Joseph mourned seven days for his father. 11 When the Canaanite inhabitants of the land saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a solemn mourning on the part of the Egyptians.” Therefore the place is named Abel-mizraim. It is across the Jordan. 

This whole scene was so Egyptian that the local Canaanites mistook who was being lamented over. According to ancient custom, the Egyptian portion of the entourage probably took leave of the body here “amid an elaborate set of ceremonies that would include divine mourners, incantations of protection for the deceased, female lamenters, ritual dancers, and a full-scale banquet.”[14] Meanwhile, the Hebrews are just waiting for all of that to be done so they can carry out their custom together. 

Genesis 50:12-13 – 12 So Jacob’s sons did for him what he had commanded them. 13 They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave at Machpelah in the field near Mamre, which Abraham had purchased as burial property from Ephron the Hethite.

Generally, scholars believe that the family left the Egyptian crowd behind here.[15] This scene continues the pattern in Genesis of strained or estranged sons coming together for funerals.

America is the land of individuality, but we need to keep unity and community close to heart. We’re not just Americans, we’re members of a Body that is meant to be knit together and growing and mindful of the other parts. We’re meant to work together to strengthen weak knees and tired hands, watching out for each other and celebrating with each other and weeping with each other. Don’t withdraw into individuality. Unify with your spiritual community, even when there’s tension to work through. 

Genesis 50:14 – 14 After Joseph buried his father, he returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone with him to bury his father. 

Why return when God wanted this family in Canaan? Well, God was also dealing with other people like the Amorites. He was giving them time to repent and turn to Him. As He said in Genesis 15, “the iniquity of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” His long-suffering was waiting for four more generations. Sadly, they chose sin and judgement instead of repentance and grace.

Genesis 50:15 – 15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said to one another, “If Joseph is holding a grudge against us, he will certainly repay us for all the suffering we caused him.”

“If he has a grudge.” Did Joseph have a grudge? They had no reason to think so. This was a totally unfair notion. Joseph had not only promised to help them, he had spent seventeen years taking care of them. He set them up in the best part of the land. He extended every once of grace he could to them. He had wept with them and embraced them and provided all they needed to live and thrive in the midst of the worst famine in history. He had already explained to them in chapter 45, “I’m here to save. I’m here to preserve life.” But the brothers’ guilt gnawed on. He couldn’t really forgive them, could he? What they had done was too awful. So they hatch a plan. 

Genesis 50:16-17 – 16 So they sent this message to Joseph, “Before he died your father gave a command: 17 ‘Say this to Joseph: Please forgive your brothers’ transgression and their sin—the suffering they caused you.’ Therefore, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when their message came to him.

In many ways, it feels like we’re back where we started. Genesis has covered thousands of years of history, it has revealed an astounding amount of God’s power and operations and His victories in grace. There has been a great deal of progress in the Lord’s redemptive plan. A clear choice has developed between believing God and following Him or just going the way of the world. But, after all this time, after all these chapters, we’re right back in Genesis 3. Human beings, crushed by guilt, trying desperately to parlay their way into forgiveness they know they don’t deserve. The brothers sew themselves some fig leaves here. They send this message, almost assuredly a lie,[16] hoping to get mercy. They hide in the shadows from their brother because they’re afraid. And it broke Joseph’s heart. He knew Jacob didn’t really say this because he was the one Jacob delivered his last will and testament to.

More importantly, Joseph had already forgiven them. He had already done the work to reconcile them. The only thing that was stopping the brothers from receiving grace and mercy and freedom from guilt was their own unbelief. It wasn’t that Joseph was withholding, it was that they didn’t believe he would forgive them. This is exactly the problem today. God does not have to be convinced or cajoled to forgive your sin. He has already paid the debt! The only barrier is your heart. Will you believe God has forgiven you and then embrace Him and trust Him? 

The brothers, out of fear, tried to obligate Joseph into not taking revenge on them. Meanwhile, Joseph is there saying, “I forgive you because of my hesed love for you. I don’t have to be restrained. I’d rather be embraced.”

Genesis 50:18 – 18 His brothers also came to him, bowed down before him, and said, “We are your slaves!” 

Poor Joseph has to be thinking, “What do I have to do to show these guys I love them and will provide for them???” The truth is, they weren’t slaves, they were brothers! Joseph recognized them as family, not foes. As one commentator points out, Joseph could’ve enslaved them back when he was “enslaving” the rest of Egypt for Pharaoh, but he purposefully didn’t![17]

What a sad scene – especially when we remember the dream Joseph had close to a century before, where the brothers came to bow before him. Back then it was such a contentious thing. If you would’ve told Joseph how it would play out here, he would’ve said, “That’s not what I want.” Maybe as a teenager he had been taunting his brothers with the dream, we don’t know. But he certainly wasn’t interested in holding his position over them now. 

It can be so hard for us to believe that God actually loves us and that He actually wants to shower His grace on us. But it’s true. How many times does the Lord have to say it and prove it and repeat it? He loves you! Make Psalm 119:132 your prayer: “Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your practice toward those who love your name.” Let’s not grieve our Savior by failing to believe in His goodness, His forgiveness, and His grace. 

Genesis 50:19-21 – 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people. 21 Therefore don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your children.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. 

Even though Joseph is the one with the broken heart, he still takes the time to comfort his fearful brothers. It reminds us of Jesus’ tender compassion in the hours before and during His crucifixion. 

Here Joseph delivers one of the most famous lines in Genesis. “You meant it for evil, God meant it for good.” Some extrapolate from that that God causes all occurrences in history – no rogue molecules. That is not the teaching of Genesis or any other book of the Bible. Instead, what we see is that God is so powerful He is able to accomplish His gracious purposes even though men actively rebel against Him. What Genesis shows us is that God is able to clean the mess of sin, no matter how bad of a stain it is. His providence cannot be overwhelmed by our awfulness. But we cannot jump from there to saying God caused these men to do an evil thing. To do so would mean God is the author of evil – that God generates sin. That is blasphemy. The Bible reveals that God’s will will be done and that man is a being with free will. Despite our wickedness and rebellion, God still accomplishes His will, and we are invited to join Him.

Joseph “spoke kindly to them.” The Hebrew literally means, “He spoke to their heart.”[18] And instead of saying, “Ok, listen, this isn’t working out, You still don’t trust me. You still don’t believe me. I’m not gonna take revenge on you, but let’s just go our separate ways,” Joseph instead doubles down on grace. He says, “I’m going to take care of you and your children.” That’s a taste of God’s grace. 

Genesis 50:22-23 – 22 Joseph and his father’s family remained in Egypt. Joseph lived 110 years. 23 He saw Ephraim’s sons to the third generation; the sons of Manasseh’s son Machir were recognized by Joseph. 

Joseph never had any face-to-face talks with God the way Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did. But Joseph knew God in a life-changing way. He’s constantly telling people, “This is what God is like, this is what God is doing, this is what I know about the character and nature of God.” We can know God that way, too, and we can trust Him through all circumstances just as Joseph did. 

Genesis 50:24-26 – 24 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will certainly come to your aid and bring you up from this land to the land he swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” 25 So Joseph made the sons of Israel take an oath: “When God comes to your aid, you are to carry my bones up from here.” 26 Joseph died at the age of 110. They embalmed him and placed him in a coffin in Egypt. 

Verse 24 doesn’t mean that he was the first of the brothers to die, it is speaking generally.[19] Joseph leaves this world full of faith. So much faith that he probably had to pull some strings to not have the Egyptians do what they wanted to do with his body after they died. He was embalmed and put in a sarcophagus,[20] but he said, “Save me for Canaan.” 

Imagine a sitting president dying in office but refusing to have a state funeral! Now, it’s possible there was a state funeral for Joseph, but Genesis doesn’t want us to end with that image. Instead, it ends with God’s people waiting for what’s next. The Lord wasn’t done. He had been coming to man’s aid since Genesis 3 and He was going to keep coming to their aid until the work of redemption was complete. Joesph knew it and wanted to be a part of it. “Don’t leave me in a temple or a pyramid. Get me to the Promised Land.” 

And so the book closes with all of us waiting. When will God finish His mission of coming to our aid? When will things be back the way they started? Genesis opened in Eden. One of the last places mentioned there is the “threshing floor of Atad,” which can be translated, “the threshing floor of the bramble.”[21] Such a wide gulf between what could’ve been and what we settled for. 

Man sure has made a mess of things. From sin came thorns and sweat and sorrow and death and bloodshed and quarreling and famines and floods and hatred and anxiety and every other terrible thing. It was all the opposite of what God wanted and offered. But, even after trading Eden for brambles, the Lord still offers men rescue. He still holds out everlasting life and the hope of glory to anyone who will go His way – anyone who will believe Him and trust His Word and His leading. Because of sin, there’s a life-long wait for us, with sorrows along the way, but, in the end, there will be life the way it was meant to be. In the end God’s children will be fully restored, fully free, in full communion with the Lord our Maker and Father and Savior and Friend. When the chapters of our mortal lives close, the next book is opened, the Lamb’s Book of Life, and we will experience a new beginning of the life God has always wanted for us, one that will never end. 


4 Joshua Berman   Identity Politics And The Burial Of Jacob Genesis 50:1-14
5 Kenneth A Mathews   Genesis 11:27-50:26
6 John Skinner   Genesis The International Critical Commentary
7 R. Kent Hughes   Genesis: Beginning And Blessing
8 Gordon Wenham   Word Biblical Commentary Volume 2: Genesis 16-50
10 Isaiah 19:22
11 See Hughes,   Robert Davidson   Genesis 12-50
12 Skinner
13, 20 Hughes
14 Berman
15 See Wenham, Skinner, though Waltke proposes the Egyptians followed to Macpelah
16 Derek Kidner   Genesis
17 Mathews
18 Waltke
19 John Goldingay   Genesis
21 Rober Alter   The Hebrew Bible: A Translation With Commentary

Isaiah 8:1-22 – It’s All Signs And Names Until Somebody Invades

They’re calling it, Headline Stress Disorder.

It is caused by exposure to excessive news coverage.  Symptoms can include stomach aches, headaches, teeth grinding, panic attacks, feeling depressed or sad, feeling overwhelmed, insomnia, lack of energy, anger, and irritability.  Further progression may lead to physical and mental diseases, e.g., anxiety disorders, depression disorders, endocrine disorders, and hypertension. 

From pandemics to politics… From inflation to invasion… From climate to crime… From infrastructure to immigration… From guns to gas… From derailed trains to deadly disease strains… There is plenty to fear. 

Seventh century Judah had Headline Stress.

Any of the following ‘headlines’ could have been above the fold:

  • Syrian-Israel Conspiracy Revealed
  • Egypt on the Prowl; When will Pharaoh Pounce?
  • Assyrian Empire Flexes Military Muscle
  • King Ahaz Celebrates Sacrificing Son to Molech
  • Government Scores High on Corruption
  • Latest Poll Finds No Compassion for Widows & Orphans: ‘Let Them Eat Manna’

The LORD supplied Isaiah with a simple solve for stressful times.  “Do not say, ‘A conspiracy,’ Concerning all that this people call a conspiracy, Nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.  The LORD of hosts, Him you shall hallow; Let Him be your fear, And let Him be your dread.  He will be as a sanctuary, But a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense To both the houses of Israel, As a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”

We are likewise told to be unaffected.  Jesus promised, “In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV).

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 The Lord Is Your Sanctuary, or #2 The Lord Is Your Stone Of Stumbling. 

#1 – The Lord Is Your Sanctuary (v1-14)

Two competing recent US headlines:

  • Sanctuary City Policies are a Threat to Decent People
  • Living in Fear: Understanding the Importance of Sanctuary Cities

While we are stressing about sanctuary cities, the LORD says, “He will be as a sanctuary” (v14).  

Herbert Lockyer writes, “How good of God it is to promise Himself as a sanctuary!  In the Old Testament He provided a Temple for His people; in the New Testament He has a redeemed people as His Temple.  But the wonder of wonders is that He also is our Temple.  How consoling it is to know that amid all the turmoil of the street, busy cares of the home, hurry and confusion of our modern life, we have a sanctuary.”

Our God is a strong, unassailable sanctuary, doubling as a mighty fortress:  

  • As our sanctuary, we partake of His promises and power. 
  • As our fortress, we have quite an arsenal of spiritual weaponry. 

We can be spiritually safe, sound, and secure, no matter the turmoil or trouble in the world. 

Isa 8:1  Moreover the LORD said to me, “Take a large scroll, and write on it with a man’s pen concerning Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.

Isa 8:2  And I will take for Myself faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.”

Isa 8:3  Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son.  Then the LORD said to me, “Call his name Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz;

Isa 8:4  for before the child shall have knowledge to cry ‘My father’ and ‘My mother,’ the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be taken away before the king of Assyria.”

The name of this unborn son breaks down like this:

  • Maher – he is quick
  • Shalal – plunder, loot, or spoils
  • Hash – he hurries, or swift
  • Baz – prey, as in hunting

Quick to the plunder, swift to the prey.  It was meant to serve as a warning of the future invasion of Assyria, which would result in the plundering and spoiling of the northern kingdom of Israel.

Our spiritual adversary, the devil, is swift to the prey. He is likened to a roaring lion, seeking to devour.  

Do you know how to survive a lion attack?  I mean in Africa.  Experts say: Don’t panic… Don’t run… Stand your ground.  

That’s our strategy against the devil – Resist & Stand.

You’ve successfully resisted the devil, and he has fled from you.  His next strategy is to plunder your life.  The terrible thing about this is that he enlists your help to do it.  You let down your guard, just a little, quit being vigilant, spiritually, and before you know it, your life has been plundered.

The Jews in Judah would watch as their fellow Jews in the north were plundered and devoured.  It ought to have served as an object lesson for them. They saw what happened, but they continued to sin as if it could not happen to them.

Isaiah named his son as a prophetic sign to the people of Israel.  No one would choose that name unless commanded by the LORD.  It was also written on a placard and displayed for all to see.  It was written “with a man’s pen,” meaning in big, clear, common letters.  

The placard was witnessed by two respected men, “Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah,” so that no one could deny that his birth was prophesied prior to the events predicted.  

Isaiah’s wife is called a “prophetess.”  

  • A handful of ladies were called prophetess in the Old Testament: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and Mrs. Isaiah. 
  • Between the testaments, we see Anna called a prophetess. 
  • In the Book of Acts, Philip’s four daughters “prophesied.”  

At CalvaryHanford, we believe the Church was founded by apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20).  These were offices in the early Church, not gifts.  

  • There are no more apostles, if for no other reason than no one can meet the Bible’s qualifications.  In the Book of Acts, the office of an apostle could only be held by a man who had first-hand knowledge of Jesus and His resurrection (Acts 1:21-22).  They are all dead. 
  • There are no prophets, holding an office in the Church.  The apostle Paul wrote about a mystery, “which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel” (Ephesians 3:5-6).  They made that mystery known, and other men took their place to build upon the foundation they laid. 

We are, nevertheless, continuists, not cecessionists, when it comes to the exercise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Men and women in the Church may have the gift of prophecy, or any of the gifts described in the Bible. 

Regarding the ladies, what is called ‘the role of women,’ we are complementarian, not egalitarian.  You can look those up later. 

From the moment Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz was born, Damascus and Samaria were on the doomsday clock.  Before he was old enough to say “Momma” or “Not the Momma,” the king of Assyria would prey and plunder. 

Isa 8:5  The LORD also spoke to me again, saying:

Isa 8:6  “Inasmuch as these people refused The waters of Shiloah that flow softly, And rejoice in Rezin and in Remaliah’s son;

Isa 8:7  Now therefore, behold, the Lord brings up over them The waters of the River, strong and mighty – The king of Assyria and all his glory; He will go up over all his channels And go over all his banks.

Every Jew would instantly comprehend this imagery:  

  • “Shiloah” (called Siloam in NT) was the gently flowing water supply of Jerusalem. 
  • “The River,” in verse seven, is the mighty Euphrates, associated with Assyria. 

“Rezin” was the last of the kings of Syria who reigned in Damascus.  The son of Remaliah, Pekah, reigned 20 years over Israel in Samaria.  

Because Pekah chose to ally with Syria, and not depend upon the LORD, they would not be protected to live the idyllic life-by-the-stream God promised them.  

Instead, they would be thrown into the geopolitical mess that is human history and be carried away by the raging flood of the Assyrian Empire.  Their help would come from the LORD or not at all. 

Isa 8:8  He will pass through Judah, He will overflow and pass over, He will reach up to the neck; And the stretching out of his wings Will fill the breadth of Your land, O Immanuel.

Judah, meanwhile, formed an alliance with Assyria.  Bad idea; the Assyrians would attempt to engulf them, too. 

The “stretching out of his wings” is a change of metaphor from flood to a bird of prey overshadowing the land.  An Assyrian god was eagle-headed. 

The waters do not cover the head and drown Judah, the bird of prey circles but does not kill.  Assyria would threaten Judah, but God would intervene.  As Captain Picard said of the Borg, “Thus far and no further.”   

Despite the worsening situation, there was hope.  “Immanuel,” God with Us, Jesus.  The promise of the coming of the God-man would be realized.  

The world will be rescued and restored.  Mankind will be redeemed and regenerated. 

Isa 8:9  “Be shattered, O you peoples, and be broken in pieces! Give ear, all you from far countries. Gird yourselves, but be broken in pieces; Gird yourselves, but be broken in pieces. 

Isa 8:10  Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; Speak the word, but it will not stand, For God is with us.”

Former Secretary of State, General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, had no problem expressing his confidence in the American military.  My favorite quote: “We’ve backed off in good faith to try and give you a chance to straighten this problem out.  But I am going to beg with you for a minute.  I’m going to plead with you, do not cross us.  Because if you do, the survivors will write about what we do here for 10,000 years.”

That’s the gist of verses nine and ten.  

Isa 8:11  For the LORD spoke thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying:

Isa 8:12  “Do not say, ‘A conspiracy,’ Concerning all that this people call a conspiracy, Nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.  

The “conspiracy” was the alliance Israel made with Syria, conspiring against Judah.  It seemed insurmountable.  Isaiah was instructed to not be stressed at the headline.   

Have you ever told someone, or been told, that an animal can sense your fear?  That African lion we talked about earlier.  It can sense your fear.  So, hey, don’t be afraid.  

I am afraid of all animals, to some extent.  I have not yet found my don’t-be-afraid switch.  

In the Lord, however – totally different.  What He tells me to do, I can do, if I believe Him and choose to.  

God flat-out commands us, “Don’t be afraid, don’t be troubled.”  

Isa 8:13  The LORD of hosts, Him you shall hallow; Let Him be your fear, And let Him be your dread.

“The LORD of hosts,” or, “the Lord of the heavenly armies.”  When I was a kid, and maybe this is still true, if somebody challenged you, or threatened you in some way, you’d ask, “You, and what army?”  

Not only the headlines, but anything and everything that threatens you, troubles you, stresses you – “You and what army” is no match for the Lord of the heavenly armies.  

“Him you shall hallow.”  Consider God’s holiness, that’s what this means.  Isaiah had earlier in this book been granted a rare glimpse of Heaven.  He was immediately undone by its holiness and his sinfulness.  

You and I have not been to Heaven like Isaiah.  But there was the moment when I was shown by the Holy Spirit the holiness of God and the sinfulness of my soul.  It frightened me, but there was grace in its reveal that led me to the Savior. 

“Let Him be your fear, And let Him be your dread.”  

I have always had a tough time describing the fear of God.  The safe, default, commentary is to say it is to ‘reverence God.’  That often leads to a rebuke at our being too casual with God.  

I’m sorry, but a Christian is a son or a daughter of God.  Jesus calls us His friends.  

I can’t help but think about John-John.  Those of you who are old enough know he was the adorable son of President John F. Kennedy.  There is a wonderful picture of JFK seated at his desk in the Oval Office, while little John-John plays underneath it.  The president in the seat of his power, his son without a care at all about nuclear annihilation. 

I prefer to think of my relationship with God like that – as His son, welcome in His presence, unaffected by the weight of the world.  

Any talk about the fear of God must take that relationship into account.  One aspect of the fear of God is that He knows if I truly want to be with Him, or if my heart is divided.  Ever get caught looking at your watch when talking to someone?  They might say, “Am I boring you?”  That’s the idea. 

“Dread” is even tougher to grasp.  We can turn to C.S. Lewis.  Susan is talking with Mr. Beaver.

“Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”  “Ooh,” said Susan.  

“I’d thought he was a man.  Is he quite safe?  I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”  “Safe?” said Mr Beaver.  “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.”

Fearing our holy God, we will fear nothing else.  If we don’t fear Him, we need to fear everything else!

A few nights ago, I was cable news Headline Stressing.  The host described the deepening alliance between Russia and China.  It will be a disaster for the US, a total game changer – maybe even Game Over.

God says to us, “Do not say ‘a conspiracy.’ ”  Our nation must ally with the Lord.  Then, “He will be as a sanctuary.” 

“Impractical,” you say; we need more alliances, more armaments, more of everything that makes us powerful.  Maybe.  I would submit modern Israel.  Even in unbelief, the LORD has protected them from every nation in the world.  

#2  – The Lord Is Your Stone Of Stumbling (v14-22)

‘Foot drop’ is a general term for difficulty lifting the front part of the foot.  You can’t always tell you are doing it, but if you come to uneven ground, there is a real danger of tripping and taking a fall. 

Instead of enjoying a walk with the LORD, both Israel and Judah were dragging their feet.  They were headed for a disastrous fall. 

Isa 8:14  He will be… a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense To both the houses of Israel, As a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Isa 8:15  And many among them shall stumble; They shall fall and be broken, Be snared and taken.”

God is often represented in the Bible as a rock, the place of safety, to those who trust in Him.  That same rock a stumbling stone, against which unbelievers fall and are broken. 

The “trap and… snare” were a good description of what trusting in an alliance with Assyria was really going to be like.  

Jesus is a superior Rock & Refuge to anything in the world.  (Possible church name?).  As we repeatedly proclaim, with great joy, God sent the Holy Spirit to live in you.  He empowers you to overcome; He enables you to obey. 

Isa 8:16  Bind up the testimony, Seal the law among my disciples.

Isa 8:17  And I will wait on the LORD, Who hides His face from the house of Jacob; And I will hope in Him.

Isa 8:18  Here am I and the children whom the LORD has given me! We are for signs and wonders in Israel From the LORD of hosts, Who dwells in Mount Zion.

Isaiah had “disciples.”  “Bind up [and] seal” refer to teaching them, especially to know the times. 


Isaiah uses the words that causes us so much agitation: “I will wait on the LORD.”  He would wait in “hope” because of his kids:

  • Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz described the coming judgements. 
  • We met another son of Isaiah’s earlier in the book, Shear-Jashub.  His name means, a remnant shall return.
  • Then there was a kid born to someone else who was named Immanuel, God with us.  

They were “signs and wonders” from the God of Israel.  After their national discipline, a remnant would return, and the Jews would bring forth Immanuel, the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world – Jesus. 

Isa 8:19  And when they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?

These were customs that the Jews adopted from their pagan alliances.  The “wizards and mediums” often genuinely contacted evil, malevolent creatures.  Why seek them, deceivers, liars, far less powerful than the LORD?  

So much modern muttering involves contacting your dead relatives.  You can’t.  Read the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, in the Gospel of Luke.  The dead in their sins realize Jesus was their only salvation, but it is too late for them.  What about their loved ones?  They have God’s Word, more powerful than a testimony from beyond the grave.  

Those who claim to speak for the dead always give a false hope.  They aren’t the evangelists that the Rich Man wished he could be.  

Isa 8:20  To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

Measure everything by the Word of God.  

Isa 8:21  They will pass through it hard-pressed and hungry; and it shall happen, when they are hungry, that they will be enraged and curse their king and their God, and look upward.

Isa 8:22  Then they will look to the earth, and see trouble and darkness, gloom of anguish; and they will be driven into darkness.

Lots of SyFy stories give you a look at the horrific future landscape.That’s verses twenty & twenty-one.

Why bother warning if the judgment was certain?  National judgment does not eliminate individuals from being saved.  

Is it too late for the United States?  No one can answer that.  If it is, individuals can still be saved. 

  • If you are a believer, tell folks what is coming upon the world.  Let them see you waiting patiently for Jesus to return.  Let them know that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but be given eternal life.  Jesus said that by being lifted-up on the Cross, He would draw all men to Himself.  He is the Savior of all men, provided you believe.  
  • If you are not saved, and you remain that way, you may one day wake up to the horrific headline, Millions & Millions Missing.  Jesus promised to come to bring us to Heaven.  He will come in the clouds, raise the dead in Christ, then catch-away living believers.  

Don’t be left behind.

Prophecy Update #735 – They’ve Taken The Man Out Of Repo Man

The only way to make sense of what is happening around the world today is to know what is going to happen tomorrow.  God has seen fit to tell us a great many things about the future.  There are hundreds of yet-to-be fulfilled prophecies in the Bible.

We reserve a few minutes Sunday morning to suggest news, or trends, that seem to be predicted by a literal, futurist reading of the Bible.

To avoid sensationalism, we are careful to use recognized, reliable sources for news.

We’re not saying the things we report are the fulfillment of prophecy.  We’re saying that they are the things you’d expect to be happening in the build- up to the future seven year Great Tribulation.

The aging apostle John was exiled to the Island of Patmos.  It was there that he received what we call The Revelation of Jesus Christ.  The bulk of the book, chapters six through eighteen, describe the Time of Jacobs Trouble.  

We commonly refer to it as the Great Tribulation, and that’s OK.  The prophet Jeremiah is the one who referred to it as Jacob’s Trouble.  I’m calling it that more-and-more, and I invite you do the same, because that title makes it clear that those seven years of great tribulation are focused on all Israel being saved.  

We know from the Revelation that there will be a cashless system of global commerce and identity.  Your resources will be accessed by a ‘mark’ on you or in you.  This ‘mark’ is some sort of personal identifier.

A cashless system of global commerce and identity is possible today, for the first time in human history.

The Wall Street Journal posted an article titled, Central-Bank Digital Currencies Are Coming – Whether Countries Are Ready or Not.


One hundred and fourteen countries are exploring digital currencies, and their collective economies represent more than 95% of the world’s GDP, according to the Atlantic Council’s Central Bank Digital Currency tracker.  Some countries, including China, India, Nigeria and the Bahamas, have already rolled out digital currencies.  Others, like Sweden and Japan, are preparing for possible rollouts.[1] posted an article titled, Project Cedar: Inside the Plot to Destroy the US Dollar.


On November 15, 2022, several of the world’s biggest banks agreed to a shocking new plan – one that could lead to a complete overthrow of the U.S. dollar as we know it.

Sponsored by the New York Federal Reserve, participants in this plan include banking giants like Wells Fargo, Citigroup, HSBC, and Mastercard, just to name a few.

The pilot program – dubbed “Project Cedar” – would convert regular US dollars into a brand-new type of dollar, which could have massive implications for all American citizens.

But “Project Cedar” is just the second step in a complete overhaul of the US banking system.

The first step was announced on March 9, 2022, when President Biden signed Executive Order 14067.

This Executive Order gave legal provisions for this new US dollar and could give the US government unprecedented control over your money and freedom.

In fact, it could even pave the way for things like:

  • Legal government surveillance of all US citizens
  • Total control over your bank accounts and purchases
  • And the ability to silence all dissenting voices for good

“I’ve been warning about this for months,” says renowned macroeconomist Jim Rickards.

“Now with the launch of ‘Project Cedar’, the wheels are fully in motion – and I don’t believe anything can stop it.”[2] posted an article titled, Cashless Payments Are Here To Stay. Here’s How To Determine Which Method Is Right For You. 


Prior to the Covid19 outbreak, there was already a significant decrease in cash transactions, as reported by Pew Research Center.  Fast forward three years, roughly four-in-ten Americans say none of their purchases in a typical week are paid for using cash.[3]

The article then lists a handful of technologies currently available to allow cashless commerce:

  • Your traditional debit or credit card. Those can be contactless through RFID and NFC technology, where all a user needs to do is tap their card at the point-of-sale to complete a transaction.
  • Mobile wallets and apps. Those can include any open wallet, from PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay, to closed wallets tied to a specific retailer or brand like Amazon Pay, Walmart Pay or the Starbucks app. 
  • There are RFID wearables such as wristbands that allow consumers to make cashless or contactless. 

We have reported on many more, e.g., retinal scans, palm vein readers, imbedded chips, etc.

Once government eliminates cash, and can access your funds electronically, there can be no expectation of personal freedom.

For example, if you miss your payments on Ford’s latest self-driving car then it will repossess itself and drive away without you. 

Two thousand years ago, the Bible predicted global government with the power to control all cashless commerce.  It could happen overnight. 

We are witnessing the stage-setting for the seven year Time of Jacob’s Trouble.  

We will not, however, be on Earth.

The resurrection and rapture of the church are imminent.  It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it.

Jesus will come, in the clouds, and raise the dead believers of the Church Age.

He will transform the bodies of living believers to glorified, resurrection bodies. We will join Him in Heaven while the earth endures one final seven- year campaign of severe evangelism.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!



Genesis 49:1-33 – I’ve Got Twelve More Things To Say

Fantasy tales often have a scene where the heroes receive specific items that come into play later. Tolkien fans remember the gifts Galadriel gave to the Fellowship of the Ring. In the land of Narnia, Father Christmas bestows each of the Pevensie siblings a weapon and a piece of equipment. 

As a youngster, I would think about which items I’d want to receive if I was in the story. I mean, Aragorn gets the Elfstone. Sam gets a wooden box. Of course, you learn that box was full of earth from Galadriel’s orchard and a seed with a silver shell which would grow into the “only Mallorn [tree] west of the mountains and east of the sea.”[1]

In Jacob’s final moments, he gives each of his sons a parting word. His messages apply not just to their immediate families, but far into the future when the people of Israel would grow into a great nation of tribes. Jacob’s last speech is the first long-form poem in the Bible.[2] Let’s take a look. 

Genesis 49:1-2 – Then Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather around, and I will tell you what will happen to you in the days to come. Come together and listen, sons of Jacob; listen to your father Israel: 

Both of Jacob’s names are used in this poem. These men were more than just sons of Jacob, they were part of Israel – the special, consecrated family through whom God was going to send the Deliverer of all mankind – the peculiar people through whom all nations would be blessed. Each of these men would have to decide if they believed what God said and live accordingly. 

Jacob used the phrase “in the days to come.” This term is used over a dozen times in the Old Testament, always in a prophetic context.[3] It looks all the way forward to the Messianic Kingdom, but it can also speak of things that were future to the speaker but past to us. Jacob’s vision intermingles elements from the conquest of Canaan all the way into the Millennium.[4] That is a common feature of Biblical prophecy – where there will be a more immediate, partial fulfillment, but also an ultimate fulfillment at the end of the age. 

Did the sons want to hear this prophecy? Do we? God gives prophecy because He loves to reveal Himself and because He does all He can so people might know Him and believe Him and go His way. We are invited to listen in to God’s forecast of the future just as Jacob’s sons were. 

Genesis 49:3-4 – Reuben, you are my firstborn, my strength and the firstfruits of my virility, excelling in prominence, excelling in power. Turbulent as water, you will not excel, because you got into your father’s bed and you defiled it—he got into my bed. 

Reuben joins the sad list of firstborns ruined by sin alongside Cain, Ishmael, Esau, and Er. He had a lot of potential. He excelled in prominence and power, but he lacked character. He sinned with Bilhah and we remember how he put the lives of his own boys as collateral in Genesis 42.

God cares about character, not capability. He doesn’t need your prominence or your power or your talent. He’s looking for humility. He’s looking for Godliness. It is men and women of character that He lifts up and causes to excel. 

Jacob describes Reuben as “turbulent.” The term can mean reckless behavior,[5] instability, and wildness as much as weakness.[6] Reuben was spiritually unstable and his life spiraled out of control. Spiritual stability is important. The New Testament talks to us about this – about the importance of not being blown about in our spiritual lives – about being rooted and anchored in the truth. 

This prophecy came true. Reuben’s tribe would produce no prophets, no priests, no judges, no kings.[7]The only famous Reubenites were Dathan and Abiram, who rebelled against Moses.

Genesis 49:5-7 – Simeon and Levi are brothers; their knives are vicious weapons. May I never enter their council; may I never join their assembly. For in their anger they kill men, and on a whim they hamstring oxen. Their anger is cursed, for it is strong, and their fury, for it is cruel! I will disperse them throughout Jacob and scatter them throughout Israel. 

In Genesis 34, Simeon and Levi butchered the men of Shechem. It was a shocking event, unsanctioned by the Lord. According to Jacob, there seemed to be an element of pleasure in it. They delighted in violence. It was a whim and fancy for them.

Jacob was right when he said they would be scattered throughout Israel. The Levites, of course, would live in cities throughout the other tribes. Simeon’s portion was within the territory of Judah and was slowly absorbed. At the end of the wilderness wandering Simeon was the smallest and weakest of the tribes. They’re not included Moses’ blessing of the tribes in Deuteronomy 33. 

But then, why does the tribe of Levi seem to fare so much better? These brothers give us a great object lesson: Two sinners, both deserving of their father’s curse. But even though they were both guilty, there was a chance for redemption. 

In Exodus 32, there is a moment where Moses calls out, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” And all the Levites gathered around him.[8] They stood for the Lord despite what their brothers were doing. So, God redeemed that tribe. He changed their future from cursing to blessing. Simeon did not make that stand, and so went their way without that tribal redemption. 

Now remember, all the sons of Jacob heard these words. Jacob is laying all this sin and judgment out on the table. “I thought this was a blessing ceremony?” It’s rough for the first three sons. Now Jacob turns to Judah – the one who had the idea to sell Joseph into slavery. The one who had all that unpleasantness in chapter 38 with Tamar. What would Jacob say to him?

Genesis 49:8-9 – Judah, your brothers will praise you. Your hand will be on the necks of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. Judah is a young lion—my son, you return from the kill. He crouches; he lies down like a lion or a lioness—who dares to rouse him? 

Jacob’s words for Judah are full of blessing and praise and greatness. Jacob identifies him as the kingly ruler not only of Israel, but all the peoples of the world. 

Why did he get blessing when his older brothers got cursing? The difference between them was repentance. We’ve seen how Judah was transformed in heart and life because he repented and decided to go God’s way. 

Biblical Hebrew has five different terms for lion.[9] Jacob uses one here that means the king of the beasts. Much of what he has to say about Judah is, in fact, fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the King of Kings, the One Whose reign will never end. 

Genesis 49:10-12 – 10 The scepter will not depart from Judah or the staff from between his feet until he whose right it is comes and the obedience of the peoples belongs to him. 11 He ties his donkey to a vine, and the colt of his donkey to the choice vine. He washes his clothes in wine and his robes in the blood of grapes. 12 His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth are whiter than milk.

Is it a prophetic problem that after starting to reign as kings, the sons of Judah were deposed and exiled into Babylon? Ezekiel references the lion being captured and “put in a Babylonian zoo.”[10]

The answer is that the right to rule has still not departed, and the greatest Son of Judah is going to return one day to take what belongs to Him and to establish His forever Kingdom on the earth. 

When He does, there will be so much abundance that you could park your donkey next to the vine and not even worry if he ate a ton of the grapes.[11] There will be a worldwide overflow of bounty, specifically pictured here by wine and vineyards. 

This gives us a powerful perspective on that first miracle Jesus worked in Cana when He turned water into wine. It wasn’t just kindness to the people at a wedding. He was demonstrating that, not only was He the Lamb of God, He was also the Lion of Judah – the One Who fulfills Jacob’s prophecy. And He was giving us a tiny glimpse of what His Kingdom will be like. 

Derek Kidner says this about verses 11 and 12: “Every line of these verses speaks of exuberant, intoxicating abundance: it is the Golden Age of the Coming One.” There is a deliberate excess in the Lord’s Kingdom, where we say goodbye to sweat and thorns and are met with extravagant feasting with the greatest King.[12]

Genesis 49:13 – 13 Zebulun will live by the seashore and will be a harbor for ships, and his territory will be next to Sidon. 

Zebulun’s land was 10 miles from the shore. Coastal trade routes flowed through it.[13] It’s also possible that Jacob is referring to the tribal land in the Millennial Kingdom, described in Ezekiel 48. 

Genesis 49:14-15 – 14 Issachar is a strong donkey lying down between the saddlebags. 15 He saw that his resting place was good and that the land was pleasant, so he leaned his shoulder to bear a load and became a forced laborer.

It’s unclear whether this is positive or negative. We hear “forced laborer” and that seems bad, but there’s no reference to sin. 1 Chronicles speaks positively of Issachar.[14] Jacob may mean they became very hard workers. The Organization for Economic Co-operation And Development ranks the USA as 7th hardest working among their 38 member countries. Mexico is ranked as number 1, with the average worker clocking in 337 more hours each year than the average American.[15]

Genesis 49:16-18 – 16 Dan will judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. 17 Dan will be a snake by the road, a viper beside the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider falls backward. 18 I wait for your salvation, Lord. 

Jacob sees a lot of trouble on the horizon for some of his sons. He pauses to pray for the Lord’s salvation, reminding himself and his boys that no matter how strong they were, they needed the Lord’s protection and provision and intervention if there were going to survive. 

Interestingly, verse 18 is the first and only use of the word “salvation” in Genesis, and it is the last use of the name Yahweh.[16] There is one place and only place only to find salvation.

Genesis 49:19 – 19 Gad will be attacked by raiders, but he will attack their heels.

One reason Gad would have so much trouble is because they decided to settle outside of Canaan in what scholars call the Transjordan. They would be attacked by the Ammonites, Moabites, Arameans, and Assyrians. As a result, they became skilled guerrilla fighters, but at great cost.[17]

Genesis 49:20 – 20 Asher’s food will be rich, and he will produce royal delicacies.

When Moses gives a list of blessings to the tribes in Deuteronomy 33, he calls Asher the most blessed and most favored among the brothers. And, it’s true, they became super wealthy in the land. But, money can’t fix everything – especially spiritual problems. As a tribe they were unable to drive out the Canaanites and so they simply settled among them.[18] Disaster was the result.

Genesis 49:21 – 21 Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.

Naphtali is described in terms of fruitfulness and growth. Moses would later say, “Naphtali, enjoy[s] approval, full of the Lord’s blessing.”[19]

Finally, we get to Joseph – Jacob’s favorite. We have to imagine that Joseph must have wondered what his dad was going to say. Because, even though he had been given the birthright in the last chapter, he just heard Jacob say that Judah was going to be the ruler of Israel and the world. That would’ve been a strange thing to hear when you, Joseph, are actually one of the world’s most powerful rulers and when you think your tribe is going to be the preeminent one. 

Genesis 49:22-26 – 22 Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine beside a spring; its branches climb over the wall. 23 The archers attacked him, shot at him, and were hostile toward him. 24 Yet his bow remained steady, and his strong arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, by the name of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, 25 by the God of your father who helps you, and by the Almighty who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, and blessings of the breasts and the womb. 26 The blessings of your father excel the blessings of my ancestors and the bounty of the ancient hills. May they rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince of his brothers. 

Joseph would be prince, not king. In fact, the term Jacob used for prince is never used of a king, but for something or someone set aside for special acts.[20] Joseph would have to accept the fact that his line was not chosen to rule. Still, his calling was magnificent. We see him described here as a thriving plant, fed by a vibrant stream.[21] We see that God was on his side giving him strength and victory. We see the word “bless” being used over and over, with Joseph pictured as enduring and on the move and adapting and winning victories. But the throne wasn’t for him. 

You and I are princes and princesses, but the throne belongs to King Jesus. We are blessed, filled, glorified by God, set aside for special acts, but there is One King and it’s not us, it’s the Lord. 

Genesis 49:27 – 27 Benjamin is a wolf; he tears his prey. In the morning he devours the prey, and in the evening he divides the plunder.”

The tribe of Benjamin was known for their bravery and skill in war. In Judges 20 we see them fighting as a pack and able to hold off the other 11 tribes for a while. They would supply the first king of Israel, but of course, it wasn’t their place and so his line would not endure. 

Genesis 49:28 – 28 These are the tribes of Israel, twelve in all, and this is what their father said to them. He blessed them, and he blessed each one with a suitable blessing. 

One commentator asked whether the first three sons agreed with verse 28. The truth is, it’s a blessing to be told the truth, even if it stings. The truth will set us free. 

Now that the poem was over, was everything locked in stone? Were these tribes “destined” to do only these things? Joel Heck writes, “Jacob predicted how things would turn out for each of his sons and their descendants, should they continue to display the character they had displayed thus far.”[22] While some elements were certain, there was still chance for success or for failure, depending on how the families developed in their walk with the Lord. Judah and Levi are our examples. 

Genesis 49:29-33 – 29 Then he commanded them, “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my ancestors in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hethite. 30 The cave is in the field of Machpelah near Mamre, in the land of Canaan. This is the field Abraham purchased from Ephron the Hethite as burial property. 31 Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried there, Isaac and his wife Rebekah are buried there, and I buried Leah there. 32 The field and the cave in it were purchased from the Hethites.” 33 When Jacob had finished giving charges to his sons, he drew his feet into the bed, took his last breath, and was gathered to his people. 

There’s a lovely reminder that we have people gathered in love around us here and we have people waiting for us in eternity. As Christians, we are part of an amazing family of God that is being built day by day, where those who have gone before are ready to welcome us home.

After so many years of heartbreak, Leah is finally elevated. But, even here, Jacob couldn’t bring himself to call her his wife.[23]

This passage is not a prophecy for the Church or for Gentiles except in very limited aspects. But there are a few devotional applications we can make from the broad strokes. 

First, we notice that, at the end of his life, Jacob was a blessing machine. He blessed Pharaoh. He blessed Joseph. He blessed Ephraim and Manasseh. He blessed his sons. But, being a blessing did not mean that he overlooked or accepted or celebrated their sin. Much the contrary. He delivered the truth in love, and we should too. 

Second, when we consider the first three sons and how they received cursing instead of blessing, we have to remind ourselves that it wasn’t because Jacob was mad, it was because they had embraced sin. Going back to the analogy at the beginning – in The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, when the gifts are handed out by Father Christmas, Edmund receives nothing because he had given into greed and jealousy. He joined the White Witch and then became her prisoner as a result. In the end he is redeemed, but the cost was high and he forfeited some of those gifts. 

Repent of your sin and be set free. Walk with God and receive the overflow of His gifts and power. If you made a mistake in your past, turn from it and be washed by God’s life-changing redemption. Move forward with Him toward a glorious future. 

The story of Jacob’s life ends in Genesis 49. The story of Israel continues to this day. We look forward to many of these prophecies being fulfilled by our Lord in His Millennial Kingdom, where we will rule with Him, feast with Him, and glory in Him forever. 


1 J.R.R. Tolkien   The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, “The Grey Havens
2 Gordon Wenham   Word Biblical Commentary Volume 2: Genesis 16-50
3 Andrew Steinmann   Genesis: An Introduction And Commentary
4 Carl Armerding   The Last Words Of Jacob: Genesis 49
5 Kenneth A Mathews   Genesis 11:27-50:26
6 Derek Kidner   Genesis
7 Bruce Waltke   Genesis: A Commentary
8 Exodus 32:26
9 Rober Alter   The Hebrew Bible: A Translation With Commentary
10 Wenham
11, 21 Mathews
12 Kidner
13 ESV Study Bible Notes
14 1 Chronicles 12:32
16 Steinmann
17, 20 Waltke
18 Judges 1:31-32
19 Deuteronomy 33:23
22 Joel Heck   A History of Interpretation of Genesis 49 and Deuteronomy 33
23 Meir Sternberg   The Poetics Of Biblical Narrative

Numbers 27:1-11, 36:1-12 – The Bold And The Dutiful

Governmental lobbying has always been a controversial activity. There are over 12,000 professional lobbyists working in Washington D.C. right now.[1] Their goal is to influence policy on behalf of a specific group or category of people. For example, the Catfish Farmers Of America spent more than $300,000 lobbying in 2011. The Balloon Council worked to drum up support for the Helium Stewardship Act. And, the American Dehydrated Onion and Garlic Association used to spend $300,000 annually to influence US import policy.[2]

In the book of Numbers there is a fascinating account where five sisters come before the Lord to lobby on behalf of themselves and a specific category of people. Their appeal establishes case law for Israel, just before they move into the Promised Land. But it’s more than case law. This story demonstrates to us that, in our relationship with God, He desires that we listen to Him and then boldly apply faith to our lives. When we do, the world is changed. Let’s take a look at this example and see how it might stir our hearts. 

Numbers 27:1-4 – The daughters of Zelophehad approached; Zelophehad was the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh from the clans of Manasseh, the son of Joseph. These were the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. They stood before Moses, the priest Eleazar, the leaders, and the entire community at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said, “Our father died in the wilderness, but he was not among Korah’s followers, who gathered together against the Lord. Instead, he died because of his own sin, and he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan? Since he had no son, give us property among our father’s brothers.” 

This is after the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. These five ladies are members of the younger generation that was going into Canaan to receive it as an inheritance from the Lord. 

They had been listening to the commands of the Lord and hearing how things were going to work as Moses explained the new laws for the young nation. They heard the regulations and believed the stories of God’s power and faithfulness. They were preparing for the next stage. But, at some point, they realized there was a problem: Once they got married, they would be joining another family tree and, since they had no brothers, their family would cease to exist.

So, they talk it over. They think it through. And they decide to come and raise the issue to Moses. In fact, they had undoubtedly worked through several layers of bureaucracy before getting to this point.[3]

But notice what what verse 2 says. They didn’t just come before Moses, but also God’s high priest, and all the leaders of Israel, and the entire community, AND before the presence of God Himself at the entrance of His Tabernacle. That’s a lot of pressure. 

On top of that, scenes like this one didn’t usually turn out very well in Leviticus and Numbers. When people came to dissent or complain about something, it usually ended with fire falling from heaven or the earth swallowing people up or a plague decimating the camp. 

But there’s a key difference in this situation. These sisters weren’t just complaining that they wanted leeks and garlic. They weren’t grumbling against Moses or saying God had failed. Instead, what they’re saying is, “We believe God. We believe the land will be given to Israel and we don’t want to sit back and allow what God wants to do to pass us by.”

We should be impressed and inspired by their boldness. Here’s what we know about the situation: These girls had no parents, they had no brothers, they had no husbands. They were single and on their own. They were of marrying age, so they weren’t very young or very old. But, in their time and culture, they didn’t have a lot of leverage. 

But they realized that God is generous and He is faithful. And they came to the conclusion that God wanted for the same thing for them that He wanted for others. 

This is wonderful boldness. They aren’t coming in anger. They aren’t brash. And they acknowledge that their father wasn’t perfect – he was a sinner who had to deal with the consequences of his sin – but, as a family, they weren’t rebels. They were on the Lord’s side. And they’ve realized that they were the only ones left to advocate on behalf of their father’s family. They nominate themselves to be vessels for God’s purposes. “Here we are, send us into the Promised Land!”

Jesus said something stunning to us. He said, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.” That is astonishing when we recognize that every single Christian has been called and commissioned to be a part of God’s global work in all sorts of ways. But many believers are content to let the opportunities pass them by – content to let others be used by God. These daughters of Zelophehad said, “We do not want to be a footnote on the margin of God’s history. We want God’s plan and promises and power to be operating in our lives.”

Numbers 27:5 – Moses brought their case before the Lord,

This is interesting: For all his wisdom and knowledge and experience, Moses did not know the answer to this issue! He had to go and personally dialogue with the Lord about it.[4]

Now, what’s going on here? When you read through the Law there are all these meticulous details. God had all of these plans and provisions for each aspect of life in Israel. From the national holidays to the food you eat and the clothes you wear. So, how is it possible that this issue fell through the cracks? Certainly, these sisters weren’t the only family in this situation. 

God hadn’t messed up. He wasn’t surprised by this complication. A great theme of this story is that God wants us to think through His revelation, apply it to our personal lives, develop our understanding of what He wants and how He does things, and seek Him out for more and more wisdom as we walk with Him. 

Jesus did this with the parables. He spoke in parables so that those who wanted to understand would follow up and draw near and go to Him and say, “Lord, explain this truth to me.”[5]

Because faith with God isn’t like memorizing vocabulary for a quiz and then forgetting everything once you’ve passed. According to one study, high school students forget 95% of what they’ve learned after 3 days.[6] That’s not what the Lord wants for our spiritual learning. 

Moses – the man who spoke to God face to face, the man who stood in the presence of God’s glory, a miracle-worker and deliverer of God’s people – he needed to go to God for leading and understanding. He needed to go and talk with the Lord about it and be directed. 

Numbers 47:6-11 – and the Lord answered him, “What Zelophehad’s daughters say is correct. You are to give them hereditary property among their father’s brothers and transfer their father’s inheritance to them. Tell the Israelites: When a man dies without having a son, transfer his inheritance to his daughter. If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. 11 If his father has no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative of his clan, and he will take possession of it. This is to be a statutory ordinance for the Israelites as the Lord commanded Moses.” 

So, wait, they were right? Then why not give this stipulation from the beginning? It’s because a relationship with God is not meant to be abstract or simply theoretical, but actually applied to our personal circumstances. And sometimes God waits to lay something out for us because, frankly, we’re not very interested in it. We read in James, “You do not have because you do not ask.”

Now, there was no talk of this family deserving the inheritance. They didn’t. None of the Israelites did. In Deuteronomy 9, Moses would say, “Understand that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people.” This was all a work of grace. And we know it’s grace because the Lord went beyond what these bold sisters requested.[7]

He opened up access to inheritance not just for this family but for any family in perpetuity that was facing the same hardship.

This is Who our God is! He is not trying to withhold any good thing from you. When they had no where to go, He welcomed them into His presence. When they had no earthly father, He stepped in to be their Father and provide for them, protect them, look to their future.

What these bold young ladies asked was unprecedented. But we serve a God Who likes to do unprecedented things. Not unbiblical things, but new things.

In 1450, Johannes Gutenberg invented his printing press and established a publishing house. Soon after, he produced 180 copies of the only Book that would come off his press: The Bible.[8] God began to do an unprecedented work because this man boldly applied his faith. In The Gutenberg Bible, Johannes wrote these lines: 

“Let us break the seal which seals up holy things and give wings to Truth in order that she may win every soul that comes into the world by her word no longer written at great expense by hands easily palsied, but multiplied like the wind by an untiring machine. Yes, it is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall soon flow in inexhaustible streams the most abundant and most marvelous liquor that has ever flowed to relieve the thirst of man!”[9]

Through Guterberg’s living faith, God started an unprecedented work of power and grace.

But, here’s the thing: Laws often have unintended consequences. For example, when stricter safety regulations are implemented in a society, individuals tend to engage in more dangerous behavior. It’s called the “Peltzman Effect.”[10]

In the last chapter of Numbers, Zelophehad’s family is back in the spotlight, as some other members of the clan realize an unintended consequence of the new statute. 

Numbers 36:1-4 – The family heads from the clan of the descendants of Gilead—the son of Machir, son of Manasseh—who were from the clans of the sons of Joseph, approached and addressed Moses and the leaders who were heads of the Israelite families. They said, “The Lord commanded my lord to give the land as an inheritance by lot to the Israelites. My lord was further commanded by the Lord to give our brother Zelophehad’s inheritance to his daughters. If they marry any of the men from the other Israelite tribes, their inheritance will be taken away from our fathers’ inheritance and added to that of the tribe into which they marry. Therefore, part of our allotted inheritance would be taken away. When the Jubilee comes for the Israelites, their inheritance will be added to that of the tribe into which they marry, and their inheritance will be taken away from the inheritance of our ancestral tribe.” 

When a woman was married, her inheritance would transfer to whatever tribe she was married to. Since the land was inheritance and not purchased, it wouldn’t be transferred back to the original tribe in the year of Jubilee. This is a problem because it could start to disrupt the geographical unity of each tribe’s territory.[11]

Just when we think we’ve got things figured out, we realize there’s always more we don’t know. In this life, we need ongoing guidance and leading and wisdom from the Lord. Which is why it’s a great comfort to read a section of Scripture like Proverbs 1, where it says, “Here’s God’s wisdom. It’s for your whole life. It’s for every day. If you’re young and inexperienced, you can learn what to do. If you’re already wise and discerning, it will still give you yet more wisdom and guidance.” 

Numbers 36:5-9 – So Moses commanded the Israelites at the word of the Lord, “What the tribe of Joseph’s descendants says is right. This is what the Lord has commanded concerning Zelophehad’s daughters: They may marry anyone they like provided they marry within a clan of their ancestral tribe. No inheritance belonging to the Israelites is to transfer from tribe to tribe, because each of the Israelites is to retain the inheritance of his ancestral tribe. Any daughter who possesses an inheritance from an Israelite tribe must marry someone from the clan of her ancestral tribe, so that each of the Israelites will possess the inheritance of his fathers. No inheritance is to transfer from one tribe to another, because each of the Israelite tribes is to retain its inheritance.” 

According to the Lord, both the daughters of Zelophehad and the sons of Gilead were right. In this complicated situation, it wasn’t girl vs. boy. They were all on the same side. They were all trying to navigate God’s leading and submit themselves to His plans. In this case, two rights made a right. 

Now, on top of the legal rules that were being established, there’s something very personal going on. Because, the sisters had come and said, “We believe in God’s plan. We trust that He’s going to do what He promised. We want to be a part of His inheritance.” And now, they have the opportunity to show if they really believe what they said. Was it really about honoring God? Was it really about their calling and their place in God’s plan? Or, was it about owning a parcel of land? 

You see, God’s response here is: “You can have what you asked for but, if you want it, you must remain within a boundary I’m establishing.” They could have their father’s inheritance, but to keep it they would have to marry within their own tribe. It was a reasonable ask, but one that required a choice to walk in faith and be obedient to God’s command. 

Walking with God means keeping within the boundary markers He has given. Now, those boundaries are given for our good and He gives us great freedom within His boundaries. Take marriage, for example. God gave these young ladies freedom to marry anyone they’d like, which was a remarkable amount of freedom, but it had to be someone from Manasseh. So, too, you single Christians are free to marry anyone you’d like, as long as they’re part of God’s family. You must marry a Believer in Jesus Christ. It’s for your good and it is the boundary that God established in 2 Corinthians 6. We say that we want God’s blessing on our relationships and for our future, and the Lord says, “Great. I want that too. And I’m ready to pour out My grace for you if you will keep within these generous confines.” 

So now, the sisters had the chance to practice their faith. Did they really care about the higher ideals that they talked about in chapter 27? Or was their lobbying just about wealth? 

In Deuteronomy 5, Moses says, “The Lord heard your words when you spoke to me. He said to me, ‘I have heard the words that these people have spoken to you. Everything they have said is right.’” Sounds like what the Lord said to these ladies, doesn’t it? But then the Lord said, “If only they had such a heart to fear Me and keep all My commands always, so that they and their children would prosper forever.”

The sisters could make a choice. They could choose inheritance within the gracious rule of God their Father, or they could choose absolute freedom for themselves and forfeit what God had set aside for them.[12]

Numbers 36:10-12 – 10 The daughters of Zelophehad did as the Lord commanded Moses. 11 Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, married cousins on their father’s side. 12 They married men from the clans of the descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained within the tribe of their father’s clan. 

These ladies are fantastic. No complaining. No suggesting that God was doing something wrong to them. What incredible faithfulness! Not only were they bold, we see they were dutiful and devoted to the Lord. They double down on their trust in Him. “Yes, we believe and we’ll do it. And we are not impoverished because You’ve given us a directive or a boundary, in fact, we’re happy to obey our Lord.”

This is the very end of Numbers. And it’s an incredible ending. Because this is a book that catalogs a lot of failure and disobedience. In chapter 11 the people complain to God again and again that they don’t like what’s happening, that they don’t like the food, it leads to judgment. In chapter 12, Aaron and Miriam challenge Moses’ leadership because they don’t like the woman he married. It leads to judgment. In chapters 13 and 14 the scouts see the land and tell all the people that they shouldn’t go in. Judgment. In chapter 16, hundreds of people rebel against Moses and are destroyed. It happens over and over. Challenges and complaints and disobediences. You get to chapter 25 and the people start openly worshipping Baal. But here is this one family – these brave, bold, devoted young ladies who have every reason to complain, every reason to give up, but they believe God and know that the point of faith is to apply it to life. And so they close out the book having changed their nation because of their bold and obedient faith.

Their example reminds us that God is a generous Father, ready to move heaven and earth so we can lay hold of the good things He has set aside for us. But He waits to see who is interested. Who  wants to be used. And, sometimes He waits because we don’t ask. When we go to Him, requesting that He move on our behalf, we will then have opportunity to prove whether we’re asking with wrong motives, for our own pleasures, or whether we’re actually walking by faith, believing what God has promised and joining in His efforts. Walking with Him means keeping within His boundaries. But, that’s exactly where we want to be. Being changed and bringing change for our Lord. 


3 Faithlife Study Bible Notes
4 Robert Alter   The Hebrew Bible: A Translation With Commentary
5 Mark 4:33-34
7 Ronald Allen   Numbers
10 Christopher J. Coyne   Unintended Consequences: How Regulation Influences Behaviour
11 Timothy Ashley   The Book Of Numbers 2nd Edition
12 Robert Jamieson   Commentary Critical And Explanatory On The Whole Bible