Take A Chance On Elohim (Jonah 3)

“One answer, right now: Yes or no?” We’ve watched those scenes many times where a character is offered a sudden, life-changing opportunity. Their decision usually leads either to the saving of the world or their untimely death.

800 years before Christ’s birth, Nineveh found itself in a do-or-die situation. God sent them an urgent message. The people certainly didn’t deserve it. The courier didn’t want to deliver it. But the result was the greatest revival of all time. The entire city turned to God. Here’s how it happened.

Jonah 3:1-2 – The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach the message that I tell you.”

Most of you are familiar with Jonah’s story. Our focus tends to be drawn to him and the great fish, the storm on the sea – it’s a thrilling drama. But the Lord’s focus was on the people of Nineveh. And so, after the misadventure, chapter 3 opens with God saying, “Ok, let’s start over.”

This wasn’t just a second chance for Nineveh, it was also a second chance for Jonah. Jonah was a believer and a prophet, but, just like us, he had his shortcomings. He did not like Assyrians and he did not like the idea of God helping them. But, even though he had refused to obey God in chapter 1 – preferring to drown in the sea than preach to Ninevites – the Lord was still willing to commune with Jonah and even use him for heavenly purposes.

This was the second time God sent Jonah, but He didn’t say, “You know what a bad job you’ve been doing, right?” Or, “You’ve really been a disappointment, so you better make it up to Me.”

God is gracious. Even though Jonah had failed, even though we know he still has some serious heart issues to work out, there’s no condemnation only commission. “Get up, go, and preach.”

That’s essentially our same commission today as God’s messengers on planet earth. And God told Jonah to proclaim a specific proclamation. It was “the message that I tell you.”

Douglas Stuart writes, “Jonah, in other words, is here commanded to say exactly and only what Yahweh will tell him to say. He is held to a tight leash in terms of his verbal freedom.” Why? Because God’s message, His Gospel, is the power of God salvation.

The content of our preaching matters. Our job is to deliver God’s Word, God’s truth to a lost and dying world, not our own philosophies of life or goodness. His Word has power, not our ideas.

Jonah 3:3 – Jonah got up and went to Nineveh according to the Lord’s command. Now Nineveh was an extremely great city, a three-day walk.

Jonah obeyed and his obedience led to great spiritual fruit. It matters when we obey God. It matters when we disobey Him. Lives and futures hang in the balance.

What is meant by Nineveh being a “three-day walk.” Ancient history tells us that the circumference of the greater-Nineveh area, including outlying villages and territories was 60 miles. To give us some perspective, that whole area would be from here to Corcoran in the south, past LNAS in the west, up to Fowler/Kingsburg in the north, and Visalia to the east.

So maybe it was that large of an area. Or maybe it means that it took Jonah 3 days to go from neighborhood to neighborhood, preaching as he went. A three-day circuit, rather than three days to cut a straight line through.

Now, Nineveh was a large and powerful city. It had a population of 600,000 to 1,000,000 people. But this was a city at the end of God’s long-suffering rope. They had one last chance. The fish had been “prepared” for Jonah and received him, gladly for three days. The question was: Would Nineveh be willing to receive Jonah during his three-day visit? One answer, right now: Yes or no?

There’s a piece of language that’s easy for us to miss in English. We read Nineveh was “an extremely great city.” Linguists point out that, literally, the phrase is, “a city important to God.”

Around here, we don’t think much of the “great” cities of the world. We’re disgusted by the decay and lechery and lawlessness of places like San Francisco and New York City. I’d venture to say that, on some level, we feel toward those places much like Jonah felt toward Nineveh.

Meanwhile, God says, “Nineveh is an important city to Me.” Why? Because He loved the people in those cities. He was not willing that they should perish, but perish they must if they stayed in their sin. But what an amazing revelation: God was personally concerned for Nineveh. Concerned enough to send them an ambassador. Concerned enough to unleash a storm on the Mediterranean sea so Jonah couldn’t escape. Concerned enough to prepare a great fish to swallow him up before the waves did. Concerned enough to suffer long with unlovely people.

Nineveh belonged to God. They were wayward, lost, and about to be consumed, but He wanted them back. He wanted them in His embrace. He wanted them alive.

Jonah 3:4 – Jonah set out on the first day of his walk in the city and proclaimed, “In forty days Nineveh will be demolished!”

Seven words (maybe eight in your Bible). In Hebrew it’s just five words. He probably said more than that as people came out and conversed with him, but it was a very straightforward message.

That word “demolished,” which you may have as “overthrown,” is interesting. Commentators point out that it’s a word that means “turned,” or, “overturned.” In this context it definitely speaks of destruction, but the word also carries an idea of transformation.

One way or another, in a few days, Nineveh would be changed. They’d either be turned to dust, or turned into disciples. One answer, right now: Yes or no.

That’s the choice still today, by the way: Death or deliverance. Human life can only take one of two turns. Maybe you’ve heard the old preacher adage: Turn or burn! It’s harsh, but it’s true. Turn or be overturned. Death or discipleship.

Jonah 3:5 – Then the people of Nineveh believed God. They proclaimed a fast and dressed in sackcloth—from the greatest of them to the least.

It took Jonah three days before he called out to God from the belly of the fish. The Ninevites responded on the very first day!

This book wants us to see the universal nature of God’s salvation: Anyone can be saved. Anyone can be forgiven.

Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire. This was not just an ancient San Francisco. As Jonah stepped through the city gates, it’s very possible that he walked past prisoners who had been impaled alive on pikes. One of the kings of Assyria had a habit of putting his enemies on display at the city gate, chained to a wild bear “that would slowly devour [them].” That was Monday Night Football for the Ninevites.

Even these people could be saved. And all of them would be. The entire city believed. Not only that, we see they had a living faith, full of action. They call a fast. They put on sackcloth.

Sackcloth was the clothing worn by the poor, by prisoners and slaves and those in mourning. It showed that they understood they had done wrong and wanted to change.

Now, the book does something that we might not see. When we see God and Jonah interacting, the Lord is referred to by His name, Yahweh. But here, with the Ninevites, we see that they believed “Elohim.” That’s a more general term, used of a variety of heavenly beings. The point is, these people didn’t know God’s name. They didn’t know everything Jonah knew. They didn’t know all the stories or the law of Moses or all the other important details – but they knew enough to be saved. The Lord doesn’t make people complete the SAT before allowing them into salvation. What did the tax collector pray? “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” That was the prayer of the Ninevites.

Jonah 3:6-8 – When word reached the king of Nineveh, he got up from his throne, took off his royal robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he issued a decree in Nineveh: By order of the king and his nobles: No person or animal, herd or flock, is to taste anything at all. They must not eat or drink water. Furthermore, both people and animals must be covered with sackcloth, and everyone must call out earnestly to God. Each must turn from his evil ways and from his wrongdoing.

The king here is probably not the king of Assyria, by the way, just the ruler of the city. He makes this decree, but everyone was already doing it. We see that he, too, was genuinely convicted of sin and turning to God. He made it official. And he even stepped further from his position. He didn’t just wear sackcloth, he sat in ashes. He didn’t just fast, he extended the fast to the animals!

I’ve heard of lipstick on a pig…I’ve never heard of sackcloth on a pig. Some of you dress up your dogs in little outfits. I’m not sure how you keep farm animals covered in sackcloth. But they were serious. Everything in life stopped. No commerce. No games. No training. The entire city shut down and turned their attention to repentance and to this God Whose name they did not yet know.

It was a corporate action, but we also see the king talking about individual responsibility. “Each must turn from his evil ways.” God works with nations, blessing them or judging them, but at the same time, salvation is always an individual transaction between God and each person. And, in Nineveh’s case, it does not seem like God was doing the Abraham agreement: If I can find just 10 righteous people, I’ll spare the city. Each and all had this moment of choice.

How long did this fast go on? It’s hard enough to fast from food and this was also a no-water fast.

There’s an interesting difference in the Septuagint version. There Jonah says three days instead of forty days. If that is what Jonah said, it would make sense that their fast would last three days because that’s about as long as you can go without water before dying. It would illustrate the sincerity of their repentance. “In three days you’re going to be judged.” “Ok, well, we’re so willing to show our sorrow, we’re so dependent on God’s mercy, we will forfeit our lives at His feet.”

Either way, this is a very dramatic scene. Imagine the noise of the animals who are hungry and thirsty in their pens. Braying and lowing and pawing against the boards.

Jonah 6:9 – Who knows? God may turn and relent; he may turn from his burning anger so that we will not perish.

They were sincere but didn’t know what was going to happen. “Who knows? Let’s take a chance on this Elohim and see if maybe He’ll show us mercy.”

Why would they think God is merciful? Their gods certainly weren’t. Why stay and wait to see rather than flee for their lives? The answer comes to us in the Gospel of Luke. We’re told that Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh. He told them his story. How he had disobeyed God, but God, in His mercy and compassion and grace gave him a second chance.

We Christians are called to be living witnesses of God’s grace and mercy so that others can understand there’s grace for them, too. That Christ offers real hope – real restoration and refuge.

Who knows? Well, Jonah knew. That’s why he didn’t want to go to Nineveh. He knew God would be merciful. And, to his credit, it seems he communicated that idea to these pagans who then were willing to take a chance on it being true.

Jonah 6:10 – 10 God saw their actions—that they had turned from their evil ways—so God relented from the disaster he had threatened them with. And he did not do it.

God can forgive anyone. He wants to forgive everyone. He can’t pretend we haven’t done evil – He’s not a God of compromise. But He is a God of compassion.

This is what God wanted all along: For Nineveh to realize they were far from Him and to turn back to Him so that He did not have to judge them for their wickedness. As Jonah will angrily say in chapter 4, “I know You’re a God Who is slow to anger and abounding in love!” The Lord wants to deliver people and cities and nations because they are precious in His sight.

The Ninevites did not convince God not to destroy them. They did not purchase their salvation with acts of piety. They received the mercy that God extended as a free gift.

Here is how they received it: First, they believed God. You are saved by grace through faith. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.

Then we see in the kings words that, after they believed, they called out to God and turned from their sin. If a person actually believes the Gospel, that will be the result.

Psalm 91 tells us those who call on the Lord will be saved. And to turn to God means to turn away from sin, turn away from idols. It means we trust Him and receive His offer of rescue and transformation.

This chapter is an example of what is still true today. Jeremiah tells us that God still announces judgments on wicked nations, but that if that nation turns from evil, He will relent from bringing disaster. If they won’t, He won’t.

The individual situation is also the same. Maybe the modern Ninevite has more than three days or more than forty days, but there is a number. Maybe it’s 1,000 or 10,000. One day the offer of salvation will expire and judgment will fall. One answer, right now: Yes or no?

For all of us, Jonah 3 is a reminder that God has called to us. We must respond to Him. And as we respond to Him, He responds back again to us. As we draw near to Him, He comes near to us.

This moment of faith brought the people of Nineveh 100 years of grace. A hundred years! What might my faith and repentance and trust in God bring for my family, my community, my nation?

Come & Sing A Suffering Servant’s Song Of Sprinkling (Isaiah 52:13-15)

Charles Spurgeon described it as “A Bible in miniature, the Gospel in its essence.”

Kyle Yates called it, “The Mount Everest of Old Testament prophecy.”

Frantz Delitzsch said it is “The most central, the deepest, and the loftiest thing that Old Testament prophecy has ever achieved. It is as if it had been written beneath the Cross upon Golgotha.”

John Calvin said, “This chapter may be truly called the key to unlock the door of the whole Bible.”

Ivan Engnell said, “Without any exaggeration, [it is] the most important text of the Old Testament.”

Martin Luther: “This is truly the chief place in the Old Testament.”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: “This chapter is the Grand Canyon of the Old Testament, displaying the depths and heights of God’s redemptive purposes.”

J.I. Packer: “Here we find the beating heart of the Gospel, a chapter that encapsulates the essence of Jesus Christ’s redemptive work.”

Oswald Chambers: “The entire Bible converges on the message of Isaiah 53.

In terms of structure, the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is a song. It contains five stanzas, each consisting of three verses. Because of its structure we are confident that the last three verses of chapter 52 belong as the first three verses of chapter 53. Remember, there were no chapter & verse divisions until around the 1200s.

We will listen to each stanza by itself. Today will be Part One of Five. Because each stanza contains three verses, I must adjust and organize my comments around three words: Servant, Suffer, and Sprinkle.

#1 – “Behold, My Servant” (v13)

The Book of Isaiah is the most quoted book in the New Testament. The estimate is that there are over 60 direct quotations and numerous indirect references. (The Psalms are quoted more than Isaiah, but we consider them individual songs, not a single book.)

Isaiah 53 is the most quoted chapter from the most quoted book.

There is no doubt that Jesus is the servant. There are, however, at least three other suggestions:

  1. The nation of Israel.
  2. King Darius of Persia.
  3. The prophet Isaiah. 

None of them make any biblical sense.

More importantly, the New Testament eliminates any confusion:

  • The Gospel of Luke records Jesus Christ stating: “For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined… For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And He was reckoned with transgressors;’ for what is written about Me has its fulfillment.” The Scripture quoted was from Isaiah 53.
  • In Acts 9:35 we read how “Philip [the evangelist] opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him [the Ethiopian treasurer] the good news of Jesus.” Again, the Scripture was Isaiah 53.

Jesus is the servant who fulfills Isaiah 53. One commentator writes, “It is the unanimous testimony of the New Testament that the subject and theme of Isaiah 53 in the Old Testament is the Christ of Calvary.”

What if you did not have the unanimous testimony of the NT? It would be harder to come to a conclusion. It would be harder still if you were expecting a Military Messiah who would conquer your enemies on the field of battle.

The Ethiopian treasurer could not sort out Isaiah 53 until Philip provided the NT identification as Jesus.

We appreciate unlikely heroes. Strider the Ranger is the unlikely true King of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings.

Jesus was the unlikely King of kings who came to His own in order to bring them the kingdom. They did not receive Him.

Isa 52:13  Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently…

Christianity is unique in many ways. One of them is that our God humbled Himself and came as the servant of all. We’ve been singing a song for a while now that has a lyric, name another God like this. You can’t.

Jesus isn’t your personal servant, available to do your will. There’s a thing going around among Christians. It’s called “Demand Praying.” They emphasize a particular definition of the word “ask.” They say, “There is no doubt that this word describes someone who prays authoritatively, in a sense demanding something from God. This person knows what he needs and is so filled with faith that he isn’t afraid to boldly come into God’s Presence to ask and expect to receive what he has requested.”

Jesus served you by dying on the Cross and taking upon Himself your sin.

It follows that we serve by dying to ourselves daily. We don’t demand; we wait for the Lord to command.

You dads and moms – Are you teaching your kids to demand everything & anything that they want? Is that even a relationship? The person who does that in the NT is the Prodigal Son.

Did Jesus make demands upon His Father in Heaven? Did Jesus tell His Father what to do for Him? Just the opposite. “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (John 5:19).

“Prudently” doesn’t capture the power of what is being said. The ISV translates it as prospering.

The effort to redeem lost humanity will prosper; it will succeed. It is the perfect plan executed by the perfect Person.

Isa 52:13  … He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.

“Extolled” isn’t a word we use much. It has a bunch of possible definitions, e.g., “standard” (like a banner on a high pole), “lifted-up,” and “refuge.”

The Messiah would be a standard lifted up on a high pole for those who sought refuge.

If you are familiar with the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt, you will remember the episode in which poisonous serpents were in the Israelite camp biting and killing them. Moses put a bronze serpent on a pole. It was a standard. Any Israelite who was bitten could simply look at the pole lifted-up and it would be refuge to them in that they would not die.

Jesus told us that it was a picture of the salvation refuge He would accomplish by being “lifted-up” on the Cross. He said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life” (3:14-15).

You may have seen a ‘B’ movie in which someone ends up in the snake pit. Multiple snakes bite and hang-on accompanied by lots of screaming. That is how unbelievers look from Heaven. Take refuge at the Cross. Look to Jesus for your help. The Cross upon which the Lord died is the only remedy for defeating “that Serpent of old, the devil and Satan” (Revelation 12:9).

“Exalted” also involves being lifted-up, but in context, Isaiah was no longer talking about the Cross. This is Jesus lifted-up to Heaven. In the Book of Acts the apostle Peter preached, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it” (Acts 2:23-24).

The Jews were awaiting the Messiah. Isaiah described Him. He would be a servant to all by dying in a manner illustrated by the serpent on the pole so that anyone who looked to Him for salvation would be saved. We can see this would be a hard sell for those with hardened hearts.

Lifted up was He to die
‘It is finished’ was His cry
Now in Heaven exalted high
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

#2- “Behold, My Suffering Servant” (v14)

After 20+ movies, in the final battle, CaptainAmerica finally said it: “Avengers, assemble.” 

The way he said it, subdued, was an interesting choice.

Ecce Homo.

Those are the Latin words used by Pontius Pilate in the Vulgate translation of the Gospel of John. He presents a scourged Jesus, bound and crowned with thorns, to a hostile crowd. In English he said “Behold, the man.”

How did Pilate say it, I wonder? Was it matter-of-fact? Was it emotional? Was he loud or soft?

Three English words, two Latin words; the very brevity catches your breath. It was a live event. A man’s life was at stake. A nation was at stake. The world was at stake. Jesus must move forward, to the Cross.

Isaiah ecce homo’s in verse fourteen.

Isa 52:14  Just as many were astonished at you, So His visage was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men;

There are a few ways of hearing this. One would be Pilate’s appraisal that Jesus was just a man. He was no threat to Israel or to Rome. Of course, Pilate was wrong.

Was it sympathy with which he spoke? Was Pilate saying, “Look at him. He’s barely recognizable as a man.”

Here is another, probably not what Pilate meant, but certainly appropriate. “Behold, Man,” as in Mankind.

Jesus was representing Mankind. His many biblical names include “The Last Adam” & “The Second Man” (First Corinthians 15:45, 47).

The first man, Adam, had failed. The Second Man, Jesus, had succeeded and was going to finish it by dying in our place.

God told Adam & Eve that if they disobeyed Him, they would die. They ate the forbidden fruit (probably a fig) and they died:

  • They immediately died spiritually.
  • They began to die physically.
  • They would die eternally – meaning they would die then live forever separated from God and in constant, conscious torment.

Thanks to our original parents, we inherit a sin nature. Sin is imputed to us. We commit individual sins.

Our only hope is that a Second Adam would be born, without a sin nature. He would have to resist the tempting of the devil. He would need to live a sinless life, and then be willing to die in our place.

Survey history. Could anyone else do this? Buddha? Mohammed? Vishnu? What would Confucius say?

The tempest’s awful voice was heard
O Christ, it broke on Thee!
Thine open bosom was my ward
It braved the storm for me
Thy form was scarred, Thy visage marred
Now cloudless peace for me.

#3 – “Behold, My Suffering Servant Sprinkles” (v15)

We need a cleansing which makes us fit for God’s holy presence. An outward sprinkling of water symbolized the inward cleansing of our souls.

Isa 52:15  So shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; For what had not been told them they shall see, And what they had not heard they shall consider.

If you are a king but you keep your mouth shut before another king, that king is King of kings!

This is Jesus after His return. He establishes a Kingdom of God on Earth that will last one-thousand years. Israel, and Jerusalem especially, will be the capital of the world. Humans in mortal bodies will be on the Earth. They will need salvation, here depicted as “sprinkling.”

I again appeal to the remarkable conversion of the Ethiopian treasurer. Think of him in terms of verse fifteen. “For what had not been told [him he saw], And what [he] had not heard [he considered]. Philip told him the Good News of salvation; he saw it; his wanting to be baptized by Philip means he considered and received the Lord.

There will be a whole lot of sprinkling going on in the Kingdom.

There is something subtle happening in this song that we will get more into later (Lord willing).

It seems that the 5 stanzas match the 5 Levitical offerings in the OT.

  1. We see the Burnt offering – 52:13-15
  2. We see the Meal offering – 53:1-3
  3. We see the Peace offering – 53:4-6
  4. We see the Sin offering – 53:7-9
  5. We see the Trespass (guilt) offering – 53:10-12

The Hebrew word for “burnt offering” means to ascend, literally to go up in smoke. The smoke from the sacrifice ascends to God, “a soothing aroma to the LORD” (Leviticus 1:9). The entire animal would be consumed (except for the hide).

It prefigures Jesus on the Cross in several ways:

  1. His physical life was completely consumed. He genuinely died.
  2. He ascended to God.
  3. His covering (that is, His garment) was distributed to those who officiated over His sacrifice (Matthew 27:35).
  4. He gives to those who believe in Him a robe of righteousness.

The Jews understandably had a hard time seeing the Messiah as a suffering servant. They do not see Him yet. Built into the Temple sacrifices was a symbolism that would help. All of the sacrifices, the rituals, the feasts… They all prefigured the coming Messiah, the Savior, Jesus.

Lord, through the blood of the Lamb that was slain
Cleansing for me, cleansing for me!
From all the guilt of my sin now I claim
Cleansing from Thee, cleansing from Thee

Sinful and black though the past may have been
Many the crushing defeats I have seen
Yet on Thy promise, O Lord, now I lean:
Cleansing for me, cleansing for me!

From all the sins over which I have wept
Cleansing for me, cleansing for me!
Far, far away, by the blood-current swept
Cleansing for me, cleansing for me!

Jesus Thy promise I dare to believe
And as I come Thou dost now me receive
That over sin I may never more grieve
Cleansing for me, cleansing for me!

Prophecy Update #775 – Please, Don’t You Be My Neighbor

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

We are careful to use recognized, reliable sources for news. There is a lot of sensationalism surrounding unfulfilled Bible prophecy, and we don’t want to add to it.

We’re not saying the things we report are the fulfillment of prophecy – only that they are the things you’d expect in light of the Bible’s unfulfilled prophecies.

The things we follow include:

  • Growing apostasy in the Church (Second Timothy 3:1-9).
  • Instantaneous global communication (Revelation 11:4).
  • The move towards a global government (Revelation 13).
  • The move towards a global cashless society, accessed by a personal identifier (Revelation 13).
  • An exponential leap in human knowledge (Daniel 12:4).

By far, however, the most important and exciting End Times indicator is the nation of Israel regathered to the land promised to them by God.

Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum writes, “Anyone who reads the Bible will soon realize that the Jewish people are the apple of God’s eye. Israel, they will quickly see, is the centerpiece of divine, prophetic activity.”

Dr. Michael Rydelnik writes, “It cannot be denied that not only have the children of Israel endured despite the harsh treatment they have received, but against all odds, after 2000 years of exile, the Jewish people have once again returned to the Land of Israel as the biblical prophets promised they would. The Hebrew prophets foretold a day when God would draw His people back to Israel. Although centuries of dispersion caused this aspiration to retreat into the far background of Jewish life, it never fully disappeared.”

Think of Israel today, and of Jerusalem in particular, while I read this verse from Zechariah. “And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it” (12:3).

It is expected, but not encouraging, that the US is wavering in support. I read an article whose title was a question, US & Arab States Plotting Imposed Peace Plan Upon Israel?

Excerpts:

A scheme has been uncovered that apparently would involve announcing – unilaterally – a Palestinian state right away.

The proposed plan, described by the Washington Post, calls for “the withdrawal of many, if not all, settler communities on the West Bank; a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem; the reconstruction of Gaza; and security and governance arrangements for a combined West Bank and Gaza.”

Stunningly, the action could involve “early U.S. recognition of a Palestinian state – even as elements of political reform, security guarantees for both Israel and the Palestinians, normalization and reconstruction are being implemented.” Israel, according to reports, would be left out of the process entirely.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been opposed to such a move.

“1,400 murdered and the world wants to give them a state. It won’t happen,” National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said on social media.

Source: https://www.prophecynewswatch.com/article.cfm?recent_news_id=6692#google_vignette

We believe that from chapter four through chapter nineteen in the Revelation are all unfulfilled future prophecies. There are many others in the Bible.

One thing that is coming is a Great Tribulation upon the whole earth. It will last for 7yrs. Towards the end Jesus Christ returns in glory to end a global conflict and establish the Kingdom of God on earth.

Jesus promised His Church, “I… will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10).

He keeps us entirely out of those 7yrs by raising deceased Church Age saints, then rapturing “we who are alive and remain.”

When? The return of the Lord for us is imminent. It could happen any time. Nothing needs to occur before Jesus can come for us.

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

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

Everybody’s Fool (Psalm 14)

Only 8% of job applicants ever make it to the interview phase. On average, 118 people will apply for a given job these days. The pressure is compounded when you learn that 77% of recruiters will disqualify you as a candidate if they find a typo on your resume.

God isn’t hiring, but He does like to add people to His company. The problem is: None of us measure up. There’s no one good enough to be recruited. But, in God’s mind we’re all loved enough to be rescued.

The State of the Union, quarterly earnings calls, unemployment and inflation reports all evaluate what’s going on in a group and identify weaknesses and make projections. Psalm 14 is a sort of State Of The Human report for us. And, apparently the Lord really wants us to get this message, because this Psalm is published a second time almost word for word as Psalm 53. And Paul repeats much of it in his letter to the Romans. So, message received. This is the situation. This is the condition and position of man. And, it’s not a pretty picture.

Psalm 14:1 – For the choir director. Of David. The fool says in his heart, “There’s no God.” They are corrupt; they do vile deeds. There is no one who does good.

“Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist.” That line in The Princess Bride is immediately and hilariously followed by a Rodent Of Unusual Size absolutely smashing Westley out of frame and chewing him up for a bit.

Just because a person says it doesn’t make it so. What novel or symphony or knock-knock joke ever wrote itself? What painting ever simply materialized on a blank canvas? But, this Psalm isn’t just talking about smug, YouTube atheists who take pleasure in mocking the idea that God exists. This includes people who live as if there is no God, whether they philosophically believe a God exists or not. And that is a much larger group of people.

The truth is, most people will tell you that they believe a God exists. 74% of Americans by one recent count. But how many live as if God exists?

To either reject the idea that God exists or to live as if it doesn’t matter, David says, is foolish. He uses a particular word here: The Nabal says in his heart “there’s no God.” Of course, many of you know there was a man named Nabal during David’s time who embodied foolishness. He was selfish and senseless and shortsighted. His foolishness went beyond being the local curmudgeon. He was a danger to himself and to others. His foolishness caused harm to his family, his community. It ultimately put him into an early grave and no one was sorry to see him go.

This is true of every fool, to one degree or another. Rejecting God results in corruption and vile deeds. I’m sure we can all identify some fools we know if we think for a moment. But David would have us sing this song with a mirror in our hands. “There is no one who does good.” We’re all fools.

Now, that is a bold claim. But if we pause to consider, we find that it is a very true claim. Any time I go my own way instead of God’s way, I am living as if there is no God or as if God does not care about my life. I’m a fool. Of course, I don’t consider myself a Nabal, but let’s see what God thinks.

Psalm 14:2-3 – The Lord looks down from heaven on the human race to see if there is one who is wise, one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one.

There are lots of stories where the good guys are trying to find that special person who will become the chosen one. Willy Wonka found Charlie. Mr. Benedict found the four, extraordinary children who would comprise his Mysterious Benedict Society. Men In Black found Will Smith.

God looks down on everyone – in that last phrase it’s as if He even checks the list twice – and His finding is: There is no one who does good, not even one. It’s a poor showing for team humanity.

One translation says, “All turn astray, altogether befouled.” It’s not just that we’re misunderstood or that we’re being misused on Team Humanity. Sin has ruined us. And we see it’s not just in a passive way, as if, “Well, sin has stained us and that looks pretty bad.” No, it’s much worse than that because we have turned away from God. We have departed. We have defected. We have withdrawn from God. We all have made the same choice that Adam and Eve made, only we make that choice again and again, day after day. We’ve become corrupt.

That’s the second time David has used that word. That’s bad news because, when the Lord looked down on the earth at Noah’s time, He said, “Mankind is totally corrupt, so I have to judge them.”

Every time the Lord assesses humanity, this is what happens. Tower of Babel. The days of Noah. During Ezekiel’s time. During Jesus’ first coming to earth. The story is always the same.

Well, then, if no one does good and if no one seeks God, then does that suggest that God only saves some and doesn’t save others? Or that, as some Christian traditions teach, “regeneration precedes faith?” That since we’re dead in sin we can’t exercise faith? That a person only seeks God because determines that they do?

No. The Bible reveals to us that without the intervention of grace, humanity will always stay in sin. But, God has graciously intervened. He reveals Himself in nature and in His Word. He calls to us. He puts eternity in our hearts and determines the time and place in which we live so that we might grope for Him and seek Him, and He frees our wills so that we have a genuine ability to do so.

But without His intervention, we have no hope. And without His transformation, we remain in our sinful foolishness. We need a new nature, a new mind, a new heart that acts in response to grace.

Psalm 14:4 – Will evildoers never understand? They consume my people as they consume bread; they do not call on the Lord.

When a person rejects God, when they refuse to follow Him, the only alternative is to do evil. That’s the clear claim of the first 4 verses. That evil metastasizes and produces oppression. Harming others becomes commonplace – like eating bread before the entrée arrives.

But wait! Out of nowhere there are suddenly two groups being talked about. Up to this point, everyone has been lumped together. No one is good. Everyone is foolish. Now we see there is a group of evildoers and then there is a group that the Lord identifies as His people.

How do I get in the group of God’s people? Call on the Lord. Psalm 91 is all about the people who are protected and cared for by God. In that Psalm, the Lord says:

Psalm 91:15 – 15 When he calls out to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble. I will rescue him and give him honor.

On the flip side, when a person or a nation does not call on the Lord, the result is wrath.

Psalm 76:9 – Pour out your wrath [Lord] on the nations that don’t acknowledge you, on the kingdoms that don’t call on your name.

So these are the groups. Those who call on the Lord are brought into His family, transformed from the inside out, given heavenly honor. And then there are those who won’t believe God or live as if God doesn’t matter. That keeps you in your sinful foolishness and makes you a slave of evil.

Sadly, evildoers can come from anywhere. Think of the time of David and Samuel. There were Philistines. Those were obvious evildoers from outside. Very clear enemies with an obvious agenda. But then there were the sons of Eli. They were priests and should’ve been spiritual guides, but instead they abused the people, and ripped them off, and defiled God’s house. Later there was Absalom, David’s own son. He betrayed his family and the Lord.

All of these enemies came from different places, but the fruit was always the same. They all tried to devour others for their own desires. They all oppressed the weak and thumbed their noses at God.

Paul would make a list of evildoers in 1 Corinthians 6 and then said, “And such were some of you.” The good news is: The corrupted can become consecrated. Fools can become faithful. We all start as Nabal, but we don’t have to stay that way. The Bible has a book totally dedicated to learning God’s wisdom. Proverbs 1 opens by saying, “Take these words and with them you will be instructed in righteousness.” And when we follow God’s revelation, when we respond to His call and call back to Him, we become His people and the Lord protects His people. He provides for them. He communes with them.

Psalm 14:5 – Then they will be filled with dread, for God is with those who are righteous.

The fools of the world often seem to have one up on the people of God. But there is a reckoning coming. A judgment is coming on all who reject God. And, when that day comes, they will be filled with dread. Why? Because, without God, they go into eternity alone. Separate. Abandoned.

One of the Old Testament prophets wrote, “[The Lord] will chase His enemies into darkness.” The foolish unbelievers are headed toward a dreadful end because they will not accept God’s invitation to be with Him.

Now, we who believe in God and live like it are headed not to the end but toward a glorious new beginning. It’s only possible because God has gifted us His righteousness. Notice, it says “God is with those who are righteous,” not “Those who are perfect.” We’re not perfect. We’ll be perfected, but here and now we still fall short. We still make mistakes. We still fail to live up to the wisdom of God. But, we are clothed in His robe of righteousness, and that makes all the difference.

What a good reminder that God is with us. He’s here now, watching your life. Directing your life. Let’s act like it.

Psalm 14:6 – You sinners frustrate the plans of the oppressed, but the Lord is his refuge.

An attack on God’s people is an attack on the Lord Himself because He is our Refuge. We are in Him.

What did Jesus say to Saul on the road to Damascus? “Why are you persecuting Me?”

You Christians here tonight, remind yourself that God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in time of trouble. He is our Rock and stronghold. He is trustworthy and secure. We are invited to hide ourselves in Him and be sustained and satisfied by His grace. His ways are true. His Words are wisdom.

Why try to find security somewhere else? In life we face problems or we get scared or we get into trouble and our tendency is to look to some other human or some human system or use human ingenuity to outwit our trouble. But, if we understand Psalm 14, that’s just letting the inmates run the asylum and thinking things will be ok.

A “better” fool, or a lesser fool than the other fool is still a fool. We want to source the wisdom and insight and motivation and perspective we need for life from the Lord, our Refuge. That’s the climax of this song. Look at verse 7.

Psalm 14:7 – Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come from Zion! When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

This is what we want. Not for a single problem to be solved but for all the foolishness of this life to be dealt with. That every enemy would be overcome, including the Nabal within our own hearts.

Our prayer can be: Lord, deliver me from Goliath, deliver me from Absalom, but also deliver me from myself. There’s a Nabal within, trying to take over, trying to coax me out of my Refuge. Lord, keep me close and save me from all these fools.

That phrase, “When the Lord restores the fortunes of His people” may say “brings back the captivity” in your version. Linguists argue over specifics, but literally the phrase is, that God would “turn the turning” of His people. What a beautiful picture this is – God bringing captives home. God, restoring the fortune of those who had lost everything. God turning and guiding and assisting us as we go His way.

At the end, the Psalm speaks to both Jacob and Israel. They’re the same people, of course, but on a devotional level there’s a wide difference between Jacob and Israel. Jacob was a scoundrel. Interestingly, one translation has verse 1 of this Psalm as, “The scoundrel says in his heart…”

If you were here for our Genesis studies we saw the life of Jacob and how he developed in understanding and faith in God. As God walked with him, he transformed him from scoundrel to servant. And so, we can join with this final verse and say, “Lord, deliver us! Turn our turnings. Turn us from scoundrels to servants. From fools to faithful. Bring us into Your company and transform our hearts and minds. Fashion us into wise doers of good and make us glad along the way.”

Jesus Wants To Keep You Barefoot & Preaching (Isaiah 52:1-12)

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

January 2, 1956, was the day that 29-year-old Jim Elliot had planned and prayed for. He and four other missionaries would be setting up camp in the territory of a dangerous and uncivilized Ecuadorian Indian tribe known then as the Aucas.

The Aucas killed strangers.

Nevertheless Jim Elliot had no doubt God wanted him to tell the Aucas about Jesus.

With Jim Elliot were Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and pilot Nate Saint. They were flown in and dropped off on an Auca beach. Nate Saint then flew over the Auca village and called on loud speaker to come to the beach. After four days, an Auca man and two women appeared. They shared a meal with them and urged them to return with others.

January 8, 1956. Two Auca women walked out of the jungle. Elliot and Fleming waded toward them. As they got closer they heard a terrifying cry behind them. They turned and saw a group of Auca warriors, spears raised, poised to throw.

Elliot had a firearm, but the missionaries had vowed they would not kill an Auca who did not know Jesus to save himself from being killed. Within seconds, the missionaries were dead.

I came across a detail that was new to me. Two others had initially signed-on to accompany Elliot to Ecuador. They bailed on him. Wedding plans got in the way.

Did they dodge a spear? Or miss the honor of being martyred? That is for them to take before the Lord.

What we can glean is that it is possible for a believer to prioritize living in the material world over spiritual things.

In the eighth century BC, the prophet Isaiah saw 150yrs into the future of God’s chosen nation. He predicted the fall of Jerusalem to the armies of King Nebuchadnezzar. He saw the Jews led away as captives to Babylon. Isaiah also saw they would be freed by Cyrus of Persia to go home. Most of them, the majority, did not go home.

They prioritized living in the material world over spiritual things.

Since we live in a spiritual Babylon, we can ask, “Am I prioritizing living in the material world?

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Get Up & Put On Your Beautiful Garments, and #2 Go Out & Show Off Your Beautiful Feet.

#1 – Get Up & Put On Your Beautiful Garments (v1-6)

The Bible reveals all human beings are sinners. To illustrate, we are told that our clothing is like filthy rags. Dressed in filthy rags, we cannot be admitted into Heaven. We need a white robe, called the “robe of righteousness.” Jesus is the only ‘distributor’ who has this robe. He gives it when you believe what He did for you on the Cross. You believe God and Jesus exchanges clothes with you:

  • The Lord takes away your filthy garments.
  • The Lord gives you His robe of righteousness.

It is a one-size-fits-all grace garment given to whosoever in the human race believes God.

Our chapter begins with “beautiful garments.”

Isa 52:1  Awake, awake! Put on your strength, O Zion; Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city! For the uncircumcised and the unclean Shall no longer come to you.

It is crucial that we first read these verses, and all of Isaiah, and all the OT, as it pertains to its original audience. It is written to Jews of the southern kingdom of Judah. These verses… This chapter… Invites them to come home from Babylon.

The Lord depicts the city of Jerusalem as a woman who puts-on her Sabbath Day best.

We encounter this kind of illustration a few times in the Bible. The most prominent is at the end of the Revelation. We read, “One of the seven angels [said to the apostle John] “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” Sacrificing lambs anticipated the coming of a Savior who would be the final sacrifice required to forgive sin  And [the angel] carried [John] away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed [him] the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God” (21:9-10).

The “bride” is the resurrected & rewarded Church. She is so identified with the city that it’s not wrong to call it the “bride.”

This trope is used humorously in the MCU when Captain America calls Spider-Man “Queens,” a Burroughs in New York.

The “uncircumcised” and the “unclean” refer to unbelieving Jews and unbelieving Gentiles, respectively. Are there in 2024 unbelievers in Jerusalem? Yes. That means Isaiah was talking about the far future, the Kingdom of God on Earth.

Isa 52:2  Shake yourself from the dust, arise; Sit down, O Jerusalem! Loose yourself from the bonds of your neck, O captive daughter of Zion!

“Arise; Sit down.” They were to “arise” in Babylon and leave, then “sit down” in Jerusalem. There is no doubt all of the Jews ought to have left.

“Bonds of your neck” are those shackles that you see on ancient prisoners. That was how they were led in, but no how they would be let out.

Isa 52:3  For thus says the LORD: “You have sold yourselves for nothing, And you shall be redeemed without money.”

Slaves were bought & sold. The Jews were conquered and not sold. They could leave once King Cyrus of Persia gave them their freedom. There was no price to pay.

In the NT, the apostle Paul describes certain people as “having been taken captive by [the devil] to do his will” (Second Timothy 2:26). There are Bible commentators who say he is talking about believers, not unbelievers. I use it a lot to describe the irrational behavior of unbelievers. For example, some of the things going on in our country are not political issues. They are matters of common sense that every rational person ought to agree with. They are so irrational, so illogical, it leaves you scratching your head. Every time I see a biological man compete in a sporting event against biological women, that’s insane. It isn’t even debatable. Some principality or power thought it up and folks taken captive by Satan impose it.

Isa 52:4  For thus says the Lord GOD: ‘ “My people went down at first Into Egypt to dwell there; Then the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.

This is a 24 word summary of two thousand years of Jewish history, from the Exodus to the Assyrian invasion and ruin of the northern kingdom. It highlights the historic persecution and antisemitism against God’s beloved nation.

Isa 52:5  Now therefore, what have I here,” says the LORD, “That My people are taken away for nothing? Those who rule over them Make them wail,” says the LORD, “And My name is blasphemed continually every day.

Isa 52:6  Therefore My people shall know My name; Therefore they shall know in that day That I am He who speaks: ‘Behold, it is I.’ ”

When you read the Bible, it seems as though the Jews are in a constant state of rebellion and failure. God is over and over again forced to discipline them. The other nations of the world look upon this. They take advantage of the Jews, and they blaspheme the Lord. All that is going to end.

The last book of the Bible, in its closing chapters, describes a farther future. Babylon will be a city again. God will destroy her again and save His people.

James Bond walks out of the ocean. He removes his SCUBA gear and is perfectly clothed in a tuxedo, complete with lapel flower.

Believers in Jesus have additional wardrobe they put on over their robe. One is the armor of God. We are told to put it on because we are in a war against malevolent creatures.

In World War II, Allied forces invaded Normandy, France, to establish a beachhead.

We must not allow Satan to have the beachhead.

There are three lifestyles believers adopt on their journey:

  1. You can think of your time on Earth with Jesus as if you are living on a luxury liner with the Church. You never get close to the beach because your life is about comfort.
  2. You can disembark and get into a landing craft. You’ll take heavy fire. The Higgins Boat amphibious landing craft was typically constructed from plywood. It could ferry a roughly platoon-sized complement of 36 men to shore at 9 knots. Can you say “sitting duck?”
  3. You can storm the beach. Wearied, wounded, wondering… We press on that [we] may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of [us]” (Philippians 3:12).

#2 – Go Out & Show Off Your Beautiful Feet (v7-12)

“In 2015 an exhibition of ancient clay tablets discovered in modern-day Iraq shed light on the daily life of Jews exiled to Babylon. The exhibition featured more than 100 cuneiform tablets, each no bigger than your palm, that detail transactions and contracts between Judeans driven from Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar around 600BC.”

The Jews traded, ran businesses, and helped the administration of Babylon. One archaeologist said, “They were free to go about their lives, they weren’t slaves. Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t a brutal ruler in that respect. He knew he needed the Judeans to help revive the struggling Babylonian economy.”

Let’s say in Babylon you are a successful businessman with a comfortable life. Your kids are happy – your son plays football for the Babylon Bees, your daughter spends summers interning at the hanging gardens.  All of a sudden you could go “home.” But… You are home. Only a handful of Jews who had seen the Temple would survive.

You’d be going ‘home’ to ruins, to a city with no walls and no Temple. There were no incentives. Materially speaking, it was foolish. You’d have to be stupid… or spiritual.

You might face a huge, life-changing spiritual decision. You will face many less drastic but just as important spiritual decisions. When you do, it is more than OK to be a faithful fool for Jesus. Choose the option that represents storming the beaches.

The last three verses of this chapter belong with chapter fifty-three. They are the LORD’s excited, enthusiastic anticipation of the return of the Jews to Jerusalem once Cyrus tells them they are free to go.

Isa 52:7  How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

The “watchmen” of verse eight suddenly see heralds running in the mountains spreading Good News as they go. The “Good News” is the return of the Jews.

The apostle Paul borrows this verse to describe believers heralding the Gospel in the Church Age (Romans 10:15). The Gospel message includes the understanding that Jesus has made peace between us and God.

For a run like that, unless you have Hobbit-feet you’d better be wearing Kicks. Why go barefoot?

Some fit Swede I found in my research wrote on his blog, “In the last twelve months, I have worn nothing but barefoot shoes or no shoes at all. Before that, I spent another twelve months in mostly barefoot shoes when working out, running, or going on walks. I’m not exaggerating when I say it changed my life.”

Research it for yourself. For health & fitness we ought to go barefoot.

I think I’m right in saying that the Jewish priests ministered in the Temple barefoot. We are not told that; we assume it because there is no description of footwear.

My speculation on the Barefoot Messenger Service is that it communicated a return to Temple worship. The barefoot priests had not been able to perform their tasks in the Temple for more than 70yrs. When they returned to Jerusalem, they built the Temple before the walls. Stupid – unless you understand that worship is warfare.

Why am I not preaching barefoot? Even more so, why does the worship team have shoes on? Answer two questions:

  1. As a believer, is your body permanently indwelt by God the Holy Spirit?
  2. As a believer, is worship an event or is it your lifestyle?

Since you are the Temple of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and your life is worship, shouldn’t you go barefoot at all times?

Isa 52:8  Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, With their voices they shall sing together; For they shall see eye to eye When the LORD brings back Zion.

Isa 52:9  Break forth into joy, sing together, You waste places of Jerusalem! For the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.

The only commentary here is to note God’s joy. You & I can bring joy to God!! We are always quick to point out the truth that God does not need us. But that doesn’t cancel out His enjoying us. We are not just another something that God has created out of boredom. We are made in His image. We are meant to be His greatest, and therefore most beloved, creation.

Isa 52:10  The LORD has made bare His holy arm In the eyes of all the nations; And all the ends of the earth shall see The salvation of our God.

Maybe you’ve seen The Ghost & the Darkness. It is the terrifying but true story of two lions in Kenya, Africa, the Tsavo Man-eaters. In one scene a native, Mahina, thinks he has killed it. He looks at Val Kilmer and raises up his bloody arms in a victory pose. Yeah, they eat him later.

Isa 52:11  Depart! Depart! Go out from there, Touch no unclean thing; Go out from the midst of her, Be clean, You who bear the vessels of the LORD.

Isa 52:12  For you shall not go out with haste, Nor go by flight; For the LORD will go before you, And the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

Get up! Get out! You won’t need anything, so don’t be like your ancestors in the Exodus from Egypt and take spoil. March properly with the implements from the Temple that were stolen by Nebuchadnezzar. Don’t hurry in fear but enjoy the walk. God will guide & protect, and He has your ‘6’.

I used to think it was probably OK for some or even the majority of the Jews to remain in Babylon. But that’s just wrong. God told them to depart and get to Jerusalem.

The figure historians have arrived at is 80%. That is, 80% of the Jews in Babylon remained behind. You can read all about it in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.

Without Jerusalem and the Temple, many prophecies about the coming of Messiah could not have been fulfilled by Jesus some 400yrs later.

We are set-up to examine ourselves, “Am I luxury crusin?” “Am I motoring to join the fight?” “Am I on the beach, sometimes running, sometimes crawling, but advancing?”

Were the missionaries of Operation Ecuador fools? Absolutely!

We aren’t in Ecuador but the mission is the same. We come together as the Church to be built-up in our faith in order to go out and do the work of the ministry. The work is the Great Commission, to go into the whole world with the Good News of salvation in Jesus.

We should be willing to be fools in Operation Hanford, or Lemoore, or NASLemoore, Corcoran, Armona, Grangeville, Avenal, Stratford, and, yes, Riverdale; in Operation My Home, My Workplace, My School.

Elizabeth Elliot wrote, “I have one desire now – to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.”

Prophecy Update #774 – My DNA’s Better Than Yours

“As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
– Jesus

The Days of Noah are briefly described in the sixth chapter of the Book of Genesis. Fallen angels were attempting to change what it means to be human at a genetic level.

We find a more detailed description in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Discovered in the 1940s preserved in caves, the Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of ancient Jewish texts. They are about 60% biblical manuscripts and 40% manuscripts that were in circulation at the time. The 40% – they are not Scripture. They are not authoritative. What they are, however, is accurate history and prophecy. The first apostles and the early church fathers read them, quoted from them, recommended them, and believed them to be truthful, reliable documents. The Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, mentions about 20 of these books. It’s just wrong not to consult them.

Dr. Ken Johnson is a Dead Sea Scroll scholar & translator. He is also a Calvary Chapel guy He writes, “There… exist fragments of what is referred to as the Book of Giants. Though very badly fragmented, they provide more details on the practices of the fallen [angels].”

One of the fragments reads, “They took two hundred donkeys and asses[ccxc], two hundred rams and goats[ccxci], two hundred of the beasts of the field, including various types of animals and birds, for the purpose of mixing species.” (4Q531 Frag. 3).

Johnson explains what is meant:

The Book of Giants… details how the fallen angels descended from Heaven and studied all types of creatures from insects to mammals, birds, and even mankind.  They took two hundred of each kind of animal or bird and cross bred them with another kind that had a similar chromosome count to create a creature with an unstable chromosome count. One example given in the text is sheep with 54 chromosomes and goats with 60 chromosomes. This produced a half-sheep, half-goat creature with 56 or 57 chromosomes. Only a few of the two hundred pair combinations would have the ability to reproduce. These unstable life-forms were then crossed with other unstable life-forms with a chromosome count not too different from their own. This process was continued until the desired creature was created. The Ancient Book of Jasher mentioned cross breeding cattle with birds. This might have been the origin of the legend of Pegasus, a winged horse.

Is it like the Days of Noah?

It is if we see a trend towards changing what it means to be human.

Elon Musk is forging forward with NeuraLink. A chip is inserted in your brain by which you can communicate with computers and other connected devices. It is being dubbed “The technology that could change what it means to be human.”

Let’s get really freaked-out. The Surgeon General of the Sunshine State has called for a halt in the use of COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines. His argument is that despite being told it is safe, the mRNA in these particular shots allow junk DNA to enter your cells and remain.  Dr. Joseph Ladapo calls the new push to be vaccinated “anti-human.”

Vladimir Putin knows more about genetic alterations then he was willing to tell Tucker Carlson in their interview.

Jesus said the Last Days would be like the Days of Noah. There was a strong effort then and now to manipulate DNA & alter what it means to be human.

We live in the Church Age, between the first coming of Jesus and His return to establish and rule the Kingdom of God on earth. His return will be preceded by a seven year time of incredible trouble upon the earth. Most commonly it is called the Great Tribulation, but the prophet Jeremiah calls it the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. It is a reminder that God will use that time to reveal Himself to unbelieving Israel. By the end of the seven years “all Israel will be saved.”

Jesus promised His Church, “I… will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10).

He keeps us entirely out of the 7yr Great Tribulation by raising deceased Church Age saints, then rapturing “we who are alive and remain.”

When? The return of the Lord for us is imminent. It could happen any time. Nothing needs to occur before Jesus can come for us.

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

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!


“When
in the end that church will suddenly be caught up from this, then it is said, ‘There will be tribulation such as not been since the beginning, nor will be.’ ”

– Irenaeus (AD130-202), Against Heresies 5.29

How Does He Love Me? Let Me Count The Ways.

In 1850, Elizabeth Barrett Browning published Sonnet 43: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. The poem was an exploration of the love she felt for her husband, Robert. Lizzie’s father did not approve, and so she and Bob not only courted but also married in secret. After the ceremony, they fled to Italy, where Elizabeth wrote her sonnets and the couple lived for 15 years.

Is Psalm 103, David writes a song that could be tilted How Do YOU Love ME? As the stanzas unfurl, we are reminded of the tender, unfailing, destiny-changing nature of God’s love for us. This is no love expressed in secret – it has been on display for thousands of years for all the world to see. It is His great desire that people know about His love. The world keeps turning because God wants to shower us with His love and draw others into relationship with Him.

Psalm 103:1 – Of David. My soul, bless the Lord, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

This song is directed inwardly. In it there are many Gospel truths and God is glorified – it’s very worshipful – but David’s message is to himself.

He speaks to his “soul.” If you’re like me, the soul seems like a ghostly thing. But in the Bible, the soul refers to your essential being. It’s your life, your mind, your will, your appetites, the things you yearn or thirst for. That which makes you you.

All of that, David says, should bless the Lord. Everything inside, all of my essence, every compartment of life. To bless means to praise, to kneel, to salute. David’s desire is that the entirety of his being would be oriented toward praising the Lord and loving Him.

Who are we to bless? It’s this Person Who loves us so well. Love has a name, and it’s Yahweh. We can personally know Him because He has revealed Himself in His Word.

Psalm 103:2 – My soul, bless the Lord, and do not forget all his benefits.

Another way to read that last phrase is, “Do not ignore all His dealings.” Derek Kidner says it seems David needed to rouse himself out of some sort of apathy or gloom. The best way to do that is to remember Who God is and what He has done. Remember His accomplishments.

We’re prone to forget the Lord’s dealings. There are warnings of God’s people forgetting the Lord in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Hosea, 2 Peter, Hebrews, and Revelation. When we forget, we slide into discontent, discouragement, resentment, frustration, doubt. The Biblical antidote is to remember what God has done, how He deals with His people, and to remember the benefits of salvation.

Psalm 103:3-5 – He forgives all your iniquity; he heals all your diseases. He redeems your life from the Pit; he crowns you with faithful love and compassion. He satisfies you with good things; your youth is renewed like the eagle.

How does He love me? Let me count the ways: He forgives, He heals, He redeems, He crowns, He satisfies, He renews. What a list!

Now, someone might say, “Wait just a minute. I’m diseased. I’m old and tired. The promises here don’t ring true.” How are we to deal with a phrase like, “He heals all your diseases?”

First of all, we see that phrase paired with “He forgives all your iniquity.” Biblical poetry often uses a literary method called parallelism which connects one line with another. In this couplet, David would have us think about spiritual and moral disease in our hearts resulting from sin. God heals those diseases. He heals the inner man. He takes a killer like Saul and transforms him into a hero like Paul. Paul was cured of his hatred, his violence, his self-righteousness.

Of course – in the end – all our physical diseases will be healed. The effects of sin will be undone in the Kingdom. That counts! We want healing now, and that’s ok, but we most definitely will be healed in eternity.

We’re not surprised when an old Christian dies, right? None of us think, “Well, I’m a Christian, so I’ll never get old and die.” Neither should a Christian be surprised when our bodies get sick.

That’s not to say God doesn’t still heal today. He absolutely does. Just yesterday I was talking to a friend of mine from out of town. He told me that about a week ago doctors found a very scary lump in his wife. They prayed about it for a week. They went back to the doctor yesterday morning and the lump is just gone! That’s not a coincidence and it’s not because my friend has more spiritual power than someone else. God decided to heal in that situation.

But not every sickness is healed in the here and now. That same friend has a very difficult, chronic illness that has not been healed. But in the end, we will be raised incorruptible, unsick, full of glory and vigor. That’s what God will do for us. And there we’ll be crowned with love and compassion.

The Lord crowns us with His attributes. He is the King of love. He is compassionate. And that’s what we’re going to look like in the end. It makes sense that we should look more and more like that as we walk with Him. Christians are being conformed into this image.

Meanwhile, the Lord promises to satisfy us, not with worldly things, but with good things. “No one is good but God alone.” Satisfaction in the Christian life comes from Godliness.

Psalm 103:6-7 – The Lord executes acts of righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. He revealed his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel.

God’s active love is applied personally, nationally, and globally. We’re told that He “executes acts of righteousness.” He performs it and advances it and manufactures it and accomplishes it. He is always right and always righteous.

People see suffering or injustice in the world and some react by saying, “How could a God love,” or “Why doesn’t God.” Those are hard questions, but those questions misunderstand the problem. God is always righteous. God is gracious even to the guilty. It is man who has fouled the earth.

Now God works tirelessly to save us from our own destruction. And He does not hide behind the scenes. He reveals and demonstrates His power and His truth. There He is, throughout all human history, accomplishing what He said He was going to do and telling us about it along the way.

People are intrigued with what billionaires do – the islands they buy, the places they go. The media always wants to know why did Elon Musk do this thing over here, or, what is Mark Zuckerberg building over there? They are enigmatic figures that we guess about.

We know Who God is. We know why God does things. He has revealed His ways and His deeds. We can go to the record right now and discover His plan, His principles, His character, His heart.

One of His righteous purposes is to execute justice for the oppressed. We want to be on His side of those issues. In the mid 1800s, there were some so-called Christians who tried to use the Bible to defend American slavery. What could be more unjust? I suppose those so-called Christians who try to defend abortion might take the cake.

God is a God of justice for the oppressed. He not only saves, He pours vengeance out on His enemies. He is keeping score and the score will be settled one day.

These references to justice in the Bible have propelled some churches into what is called the Social Gospel, where the focus ultimately shifts away from the spiritual onto the physical. The emphasis tends to become using human means and worldly structures to temporally benefit those who are oppressed or disadvantaged. Not all of those efforts are wrong, but what is wrong is pouring all of our activity into earthly programs, which will inevitably fail or become corrupted themselves.

Our hope can’t be in human programs, governmental systems, human leadership. I saw a flag outside a house the other day that said, “Jesus 2024: Our only hope.” That’s a good reminder of our spiritual reality. We should be as civically involved as the Lord leads us, we should seek to alleviate suffering, but the final answer isn’t a law or a leader or a poverty plan. It is God’s righteousness operating in many individual hearts that changes lives and exalts a nation.

Psalm 103:8-10 – The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love. He will not always accuse us or be angry forever. 10 He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our iniquities.

God is so gracious, so faithful, so compassionate that even Israel is not abandoned by Him. God cannot and will not forsake Israel. Thank goodness, because we’re no more deserving of His mercy.

Back in Exodus, after the incident with the golden calf, the Lord came, dealt with that situation, and then identified Himself with the quote David uses here: Slow to anger. Abounding in love.

Late in Jeremiah, after all the pronouncements of judgment, God says, “No matter what, there is no way I would reject Israel.”

That doesn’t mean God doesn’t care about sin. Look at the history of Israel and the disciplines they endured. David would be the first one to tell you that sin has terrible consequences. But, in wrath God remembers mercy. Even when His anger must break out against sin, He is compassionate.

Kidner writes, “God, infinitely wronged, not only tempers [His] wrath, but tempers justice – though at what cost to Himself, only the New Testament would reveal.”

Our sin demands death and wrath. But God said, “I’ll pay the bill. I’ll send My own Son to die so that I don’t have to give these people what they deserve.” And even though we still go on sinning, He still relates to us in loving, merciful compassion.

Psalm 103:11-13 – 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his faithful love toward those who fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.

David uses three pictures here: One spacial, one theoretical, one familial, all to illustrate the fact that God’s love for you cannot be bounded. You can’t hit the edge. There isn’t an end.

Scientists recently discovered a new galaxy that is “baffling” astronomers. According to current space science theories it shouldn’t be able to exist. That galaxy is 300 million light years away. To give you some perspective, the space shuttle Discovery traveled at 5 miles a second. It would take the Discovery more than 37,000 years to travel one light-year.

The Lord wants you to know His hesed love for you is greater than the span of galaxies. Hesed is a word we’re less familiar with than the New Testament agape, but it is just as important. God’s hesed is not a feelings-based love. This is a love based on covenant loyalty. It is kind and steadfast and gracious, and strong. It is a love that is constantly shown in action and faithfulness. Just as east can never meet west, God’s love for you cannot come to an end.

If you want to experience this love, there is a requirement: You must fear the Lord. David is going to say that three times in these verses. The Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.

Psalm 103:14-16 – 14 For he knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass—he blooms like a flower of the field; 16 when the wind passes over it, it vanishes, and its place is no longer known.

We are nothing more than dust bunnies. Talk about a rags-to-riches story! Look at how frail, how fleeting a human life is in the grand scheme. And yet, we are the object of God’s special attention.

I’ve vacuumed up a lot of dust bunnies. I can’t say that I’ve ever felt any emotion for them. But look at the tenderness of God. Look at how mindful, how thoughtful, how caring He is toward us.

We would have no place unless God made a place for us, and that’s exactly what He’s done and is doing for us. The Lord has gone to prepare a place for His people – one that lasts forever.

Psalm 103:17-18 – 17 But from eternity to eternity the Lord’s faithful love is toward those who fear him, and his righteousness toward the grandchildren 18 of those who keep his covenant, who remember to observe his precepts.

David shows what it means to fear the Lord – it means to keep His covenant and to observe His precepts. To be in right relationship with this God Who loves so much requires that we understand Him and undertake what He commands. This is why we need to study the Bible. Emotional religiosity isn’t sufficient. It must be informed by the truth.

But we also should take to heart here that we will not be automatically spiritual, even if we study a lot. The Psalm opened with, “Don’t forget.” Here we see “those who remember to observe.” The Christian life is a conscious choice day-by-day, not just in the mind, but with all the soul. In heaven, we’ll be complete. We will have perfect free will. Obeying God will be then like breathing is now.

But on this side of eternity, it’s a walk that takes purposeful steps. In fact, the prophet Micah said, “Other people are following their gods, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God.”

Sadly, we tend to be faithless at times – to backslide or stop progressing or wander off the path. Praise God that when we are faithless He is still faithful. He keeps His covenant.

Psalm 103:19 – 19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.

Yesterday I saw a video of the mayor of Chicago complaining at a press conference because of his low approval numbers and he essentially said, “You’re all expecting me to be mayor, but my kids have soccer games and I have other stuff to do in my personal life.”

God isn’t stressed out about His responsibilities. He’s not strained to His limits. He invites us to pile all our cares onto Him. He is the Almighty. He is absolutely in charge and His ways are the answer. If we want a better life, a better family, a better society, then we should recognize that Christ is King and His Kingdom will never end and then orient our lives accordingly.

Psalm 103:20-22 – 20 Bless the Lord, all his angels of great strength, who do his word, obedient to his command. 21 Bless the Lord, all his armies, his servants who do his will. 22 Bless the Lord, all his works in all the places where he rules. My soul, bless the Lord!

David the dust bunny commanded the angels to praise the Lord. It is an astonishing thing that we will judge the angels one day. That should humble us. That should inspire us to serve the Lord in heart, mind, and body right now. To conduct ourselves as His people in His purposes.

In all the places where God rules. I was thinking how remarkable it is: God rules everywhere, except one place: the human heart. He doesn’t not force us to open that territory to Him. Almighty God allows rebellion. He allows people to shut Him out for a time – not forever. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

But for now, this wonderful Lord suffers long and He reveals Who He is, He reveals the power of His love and invites us to love Him in return.

Years before their marriage, Robert Browning had written a letter to Elizabeth Barrett. He had read some of her earlier poems and asked to meet her. She hesitated and resisted at first, but finally accepted the invitation. As a result, she discovered the great love of her life – her soul mate.

David took a look at these things and his response was, “My soul, bless the Lord!” Despite his earthly prominence, despite the mistakes he had made, despite the difficulties he faced, he realized the best thing he could do was receive God’s love and take his position in God’s Kingdom.

Psalm 116:12-13 – How can I repay the Lord for all the good he has done for me? 13 I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.

Freaked Out Mr. Fox (Luke 9:7-9)

Last year, an Oregon family received the worst delivery possible: an urn full of ashes and an accompanying death certificate, notifying them that their beloved 23-year-old son was dead. He had been living in a recovery center and had not been in contact with his family for several years.

Three months after hearing the news, the family was contacted again. Their son, Tyler John was alive and ready to talk to them on a video call. The newspaper outlet reporting the story called “this  bizarre story of resurrection an urn-ormous mix-up.”

In Luke chapter 9, Herod, the phony king of Galilee, received a similar shock. It seemed like someone he thought was dead was back. That’s bad news if you’re the one who killed him.

In the opening chapters of this Gospel, the Savior arrives and gets to work. Though kings and devils and doubters stand against Him, He cannot be stopped. He heals the sick, raises the dead, commands wind and waves, casts out demons, teaches enormous crowds, and gathers disciples.

Not everyone understood Who Jesus really was. Most of us come to these chapters knowing the rest of the story. We know Jesus is the Messiah, the GodMan Who came from heaven to make a way that human beings can be forgiven of their sins and receive everlasting life. But, at the time, it wasn’t so clear for many. Even Jesus’ disciples struggled to apprehend His identity.

Luke chapter 9 highlights the fact that most people were wonder Who Jesus really was. From the countryside to within the palace walls, Jesus was being discussed. We have this interesting scene shown in three of the four Gospels, where Herod is concerned and confused, talking about Jesus, confronted with this reality and then we see the response.

It challenges all of us to consider Who Jesus is and what that means – to pause for a moment and set aside our distractions, our desires, our activities, and preconceptions and to acknowledge the reality of Jesus Christ, how we can know Him, and what difference that should make in a life.

Luke 9:7a – Herod the tetrarch heard about everything that was going on.

There are six Herods mentioned in the Bible. They were all from the same, extended family. It was not a good group. The three we’re most familiar with were all killers. This one, called Herod the tetrarch is also known as Herod Antipas. His father was Herod the Great, who killed the babies in Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus.

He ruled over a fourth of the territory of Israel. He wasn’t really a king – more like a governor – only allowed to exist as long as Rome’s Emperor said it was ok. That didn’t stop him from cosplaying as a king. He even had a political party that supported him and stroked his ego – the Herodians.

He had authority over two regions, but he mainly operated in Galilee. He built Tiberias as his capital on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He was a man of great success, great achievement, but also a man of great vice and corruption. He threw wild parties, stole his brother’s wife (who was his niece). He was jealous of titles and always looked out for his own interests.

His life of excess was interrupted in Luke 9. Suddenly, he could not escape hearing about this Jesus and the things He did. The Lord had just sent out the Twelve with power to heal and preach about the Kingdom of God. For a man like Herod, this was no longer just whispers of a backwoods rabbi with a few admirers. This was a growing movement – one unlike anything the world had ever seen. One that made bold claims backed up with undeniable proofs.

Jesus’ influence wasn’t only in villages or up in the hills. The wife of Herod’s very own steward not only believed Jesus, she was a key financial supporter of His ministry. In Acts 13 we learn that one of Herod’s close friends was also a believer in Jesus.

“Everything that was going on” can also be translated as “all that was coming to pass.” It’s a small distinction, but throughout these verses we should notice an emphasis on the prophetic nature of Jesus’ presence and ministry. The people having these conversations weren’t only saying, “Can you believe what’s happening,” there was also a palpable sense that something was unfolding.

That’s still true of God’s activity today. The Bible reveals that Jesus Christ is not only still alive, He is not only still working, He is accomplishing an eternal plan that will be completed in full. We discover this plan in God’s Word. There, on its pages, we see the beginning, the middle, and end.

If you’re a Christian here today, it’s good to be reminded that your spiritual life is not just about your circumstances right now, or reactions to problems today. The Lord does have strength for today – He is mindful of whatever situations you find yourself in presently – but there is a worldwide, cosmic plan that is still unfolding. And God has invited you to have a specific part in that plan and He invites each of us to walk with Him and discover what assignments, what opportunities, what position He’s set aside for us in that plan.

Luke 9:7b-8 – [Herod] was perplexed, because some said that John had been raised from the dead, some that Elijah had appeared, and others that one of the ancient prophets had risen.

We’ll hear Herod’s thoughts in the next verse. For now, we see his confusion. He wasn’t just puzzled, he was quite disturbed. One dictionary defines this as, “perplexity amounting to despair.” Another source says “perplexed” means, “unable to find a way out.”

Rumors were flying. Maybe John the Baptist was back. That would be bad news for Herod. If not John, maybe this miracle-worker was actually Elijah. For Jews, that would signal the end of the age, a major advance in God’s plan. For Herod, a God-mocking unbeliever, that wouldn’t be good news. He knew what Elijah had done to kings like Ahab. These Herods were worried about their status and keeping control of their pretend kingdom. Remember how paranoid Herod the Great was when wise men from the east came saying a new King of the Jews had been born. He didn’t know Who Jesus was, but no matter Who He was, Herod was worried.

Did you notice that all of the rumors had a resurrection emphasis? Maybe an ancient prophet has risen. Maybe Elijah is back. Maybe John is raised from the dead. Their guesses weren’t right, but it was undeniable that Jesus’ ministry had a supernatural, life-from-death quality to it.

In chapter 8 He literally raised a girl from the dead and she wouldn’t be the only one. But, even beyond those miracles we see that encounters with Jesus weren’t just about making things a little better in the here and now, or providing short-term fixes to problems. Jesus Christ brings new life.

Jesus said that if we want to live forever in heaven we must be born again. When a person is born again, we are made alive in Him – pulled out of the jaws of death, given a new heart, a new spirit, a new mind, a new perspective. The resurrection power of God starts transforming us now. We are “raised up” presently in purpose and spiritual provision and then those who are born again will be raised up out of the grave to live forever and ever in the heavenly Kingdom with God Himself.

When Christianity becomes diminished to the short-sighted level of “Your Best Life Now,” or just about God making me feel better or making my circumstances easier, then we have seriously underestimated the power of God, the plan of God, His purpose in saving us and providing for us. Christianity is about resurrection. It is about life over death. We are set free from the old, dead nature, the old, dead systems, the old, dead snares of sin and now God has shared with us His power. We will share, Paul says in Romans 6, “in the likeness of His resurrection.”

Herod was not comforted by Jesus’ resurrection power. He was condemned by it.

Luke 9:9 – “I beheaded John,” Herod said, “but who is this I hear such things about?” And he wanted to see him.

We learn in Matthew and Mark that Herod was convinced John was back, or at least that the spirit of John the Baptist was now on Jesus. That made Herod paranoid because it exposed his guilt.

You see, before he died, John told Herod, “You’re in sin and need to repent.” That made Herod quite angry, but he was torn. On the one hand, he wanted to kill John. His wife wanted it, too. But he was afraid the people wouldn’t stand for it. He also knew that John was righteous and so he was afraid to actually kill him. So, to try to shut John up, Herod threw him in prison.

But then something strange happened: Herod started talking to John. And, we’re told in Mark 6 that Herod even liked listening to John. How can that be? How can a man want to kill somebody but, at the same time, feel compelled to talk to him about spiritual things?

The answer is that the Holy Spirit was reaching out to Herod the tetrarch. Despite his wickedness, despite his guilt, despite his unworthiness, God sent an offer of peace to him. God was willing to send His best people to share the truth with this terrible man. Even though Herod was terrible, God loved him, just as He loved Pharaoh in Joseph’s time, Abimelech, Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, Jeroboam, and so many other unworthy kings. Just like He loves you and me.

God gives a genuine offer of peace to every person on earth. He did for Herod. And we see that Herod “wanted to see Jesus.”

Ok! So does that mean Herod was seeking the truth? Sadly, the answer seems to be a very definite “no.” The Bible promises that if you seek the Lord, you will find Him. Looking at the evidence we see that Herod had no real desire to learn about Who Jesus really was. He had no intention of surrendering to God and turning from his sin.

He did not go to see Jesus, like Nicodemus did. He could have. He did not invite Jesus to his home like other civic leaders did. He could have. He would’ve heard that his steward’s wife was a disciple of Jesus. He could’ve spoken to her plainly about the Lord. He didn’t.

He wasn’t seeking the truth. He was scared of retribution for the things he had done. By chapter 13 we learn that Herod wanted to kill Jesus. It was then Jesus said, “Go tell that fox I’ve got real power and I’m not afraid of you and My work cannot be stopped.” Herod wasn’t looking for truth. He was a fox – a jackal – a thief and destroyer, out for his own interests. He wanted to hide his guilt, maintain his sad little throne, and hold onto his power as long as he could. He just wanted to find a way out of the conviction he was feeling.

Herod would finally get to see Jesus. It was the day of our Lord’s crucifixion. Pilate sent Him over to Herod and Herod got all excited because he thought he was going to see Jesus perform some wonder, some miracle. He was no longer perplexed, no longer paranoid. He just wanted a show. He kept trying to talk to Jesus – kept asking Him questions. But, by then, it was too late. Jesus had absolutely nothing to say to this man who refused to answer God’s calls when they came.

Now, if you’re not a Christian here today, Jesus still has something to say to you. He’s not silent. That’s why He allows us to eavesdrop on this palace conversation. He wants to communicate to all of us today, whether we be kings or peasants, rulers or servants.

If you’re not a Christian, God’s message is that you are a hell-doomed sinner who needs to be rescued from their guilt. You may think of yourself as a king or queen. You may enjoy great success or achievement. You may think religion is for suckers.

But here is the reality: The real King, the King of heaven and earth, the One Who holds your life in His hands has pronounced you guilty of sin against His law. The penalty for that sin is eternal death. Success won’t save you. Making political moves won’t save you. Wealth can’t save you. Good deeds can’t save you. Only Jesus Christ can save you and He wants to save you.

In Acts 4, we read:

Acts 4:12 – 12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.

You need to reckon with this question that perplexed Herod: Who is Jesus? Do you believe He is Who the Bible says He is? Do you know what the Bible says about Him? Many people have mistaken His identity.

Some think of Jesus as make believe. He’s not. He is altogether real. He is alive right now. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is busy unfolding His plan to establish His forever Kingdom.

Some think of Him as a good teacher, or the founder of a new religion. It’s just like how the people talked in these verses. Is He John? Is He Elijah? Maybe He’s this or that.

The truth is, John the Baptist was simply the herald. Jesus is the King Who was and is and is to come. John said he wasn’t even worthy to unstrap Jesus’ sandals.

Elijah was a prophet of God who lived for a brief time and gave some messages from heaven to people. Jesus is God, Himself. Jesus was there with Elijah – the Angel of the Lord – Who empowered Elijah and directed him.

The ancient prophets of Israel had a dramatic place in Israel’s history, but they all pointed people to the Messiah Himself – the One on whom all history pivots and rests.

Herod had been brought face to face with some of these truths. His response was “how do I find a way out of this?” But he couldn’t escape. Instead, he simply ignored the reality of Jesus. But ignoring the truth wouldn’t help him. In fact, it just pushed him further and further away from the very Person Who wanted to rescue him from his sin until it was too late.

He had this opportunity to discover the truth and to have Jesus change his life, but instead of seeking, he ignored. He busied himself with other things. He never learned the truth.

If you aren’t sure Who Jesus is, we’d invite you to respond to this offer of life He’s giving you. It will require you to actually speak to God and invite Him into your heart and life.

One commentator wrote, “Who Jesus really is cannot be discovered through second-hand reports and rumors.” But you can know Him today. If you seek Him, you will find Him.

If you are a Christian here today, that means you know Who Jesus is. It’s good to be reminded the truth about our King. But there are some secondary applications for us. One is that some people who are close to you may not understand Who Jesus is. It is our privilege to not only try to introduce Jesus to them, but also to represent Jesus to them.

Another important principle for us is that our goal as servants of God is to broadcast Jesus, direct people to Jesus, glorify Jesus. This whole scene with Herod happened because the 12 were going from place to place preaching about the Kingdom. As a result, Herod wasn’t talking about Bartholomew or Peter or Thomas. People were talking about Jesus. We should not be upset or disappointed if we are not acknowledged or if people aren’t impressed with us. Isn’t it better to have the affectionate attention of God Himself, Who delights in us?

The more we understand Who Jesus is, the more we understand who we are. Our value in His eyes. Our place in His plan. The spiritual wealth and privilege and authority we have because we belong to Him. We know that we don’t need to be perplexed by this life and we don’t need to try to find a way out. We’re on our way in – into His forever Kingdom, where we will rule and reign with Him, the true King Almighty, Who was and is and is to come.

Prophecy Update #773 – Blinken’s Not Thinkin’

Where is the United States in Bible prophecy?

It’s a valid question to ask. The place to start looking for an answer is with Israel. After all, the US isn’t mentioned nearly 700 times, but Jerusalem is.

The modern nation of Israel is a genuine miracle. Her existence fulfilled numerous prophecies regarding the regathering in the Last Days of the Jews to their homeland:

Isaiah 11:12 ESV He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

Isaiah 66:8 ESV Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her children.

God makes one thing clear to all other nations:

“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’ ” (Genesis 12:1-3).

History shows the US as a blessing to Israel.

President Harry Truman made certain we were the first to recognize her status in 1948.

BUT we must consider these prophecies:

Zechariah 12:3 ESV On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it.

Zechariah 12:9 ESV And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem,

Blessing Israel does not mean we must condone everything she does or does not do. Cursing her, in part, would involve siding with her enemies.

All of which leads us to the January 31st headline on axios, US State Department reviewing options for possible recognition of Palestinian state.

Excerpts:

Secretary of State Tony Blinken asked the State Department to conduct a review and present policy options on possible US and international recognition of a Palestinian state after the war in Gaza, two US officials briefed on the issue told Axios.

While US officials say there has been no policy change, the fact the State Department is even considering such options signals a shift in thinking within the Biden administration on possible Palestinian statehood recognition, which is highly sensitive both internationally and domestically.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has long opposed a two-state solution, has recently rejected calls for Palestinian sovereignty and Israel is vehemently against any recognition of a Palestinian state by individual countries or at the UN.

Source: https://www.axios.com/2024/01/31/palestine-statehood-biden-israel-gaza-war

So: Where are we in prophecy?

If “all” means all, we will be against Israel.

We could be seeing the start of that. I would suggest a more likely scenario: The Church is removed from Earth by Jesus, leaving the US crippled, at which point our great nation allies with “all” against Israel.

We live in the Church Age, between the first coming of Jesus and His return to establish and rule the Kingdom of God on earth. His return will be preceded by a seven year time of incredible trouble upon the earth. Most commonly it is called the Great Tribulation, but the prophet Jeremiah calls it the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. It is a reminder that God will use that time to reveal Himself to unbelieving Israel. By the end of the seven years “all Israel will be saved.”

Jesus promised His Church, “I… will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10).

He keeps us entirely out of the 7yr Great Tribulation by raising deceased Church Age saints, then rapturing “we who are alive and remain.”

When? The return of the Lord for us is imminent. It could happen any time. Nothing needs to occur before Jesus can come for us.

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

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

“When in the end that church will suddenly be caught up from this, then it is said,

‘There will be tribulation such as not been since the beginning, nor will be.’ ”

Irenaeus (AD130-202), Against Heresies 5.29

Don’t He Make You Wanna Go Home (Isaiah 51:1-23)

“Oh, the burden on my back grows heavier with every step, but my heart longs for the Celestial City. I press on, for there awaits a home not built by human hands, a place where my soul shall find true rest and eternal joy. The journey is arduous, yet my eagerness to reach the heavenly abode propels me forward, enduring all trials on the path homeward.”

Called Pilgrim’s Progress for short, the full title of John Bunyon’s 1678 masterpiece is The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come. It is an allegory of our walk with the Lord from Earth to Heaven.

The main character is Christian, who is a Christian. He is every Christian. He is, in his own words, “eager to reach the heavenly abode.”

Our passage in Isaiah describes an eagerness to reach the heavenly abode.

It’s in verse eleven: “So the ransomed of the LORD shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness; Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

Christian was eager to go home…Christians ought to be eager to go home.

  • The apostle Paul was eager: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23).
  • The apostle Peter was eager. He urges us to “hasten” the Lord’s coming (Second Peter 3:12).

What about us? How eager are we to go home? I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Let’s Be Eager To Go Home, and #2 Let’s Be Loathe To Stay Here.

#1 – Let’s Be Eager To Go Home (v1-11)

Isaiah’s immediate audience was the nation of Judah. His topics revolve around them and their promised land and earthly kingdom. We can see ourselves, the Church, in relation to the events discussed. For example, when Isaiah looks into the far future and sees the return of the Lord to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth that was promised to Israel, we come with Him from Heaven to Earth.

The LORD told the Jews that in approximately 150 years they would be disciplined by God for their idolatry and spiritual adultery. King Nebuchadnezzar would burn the Temple, raze Jerusalem, tear down its walls. The Jews would be captives in Babylon.

King Cyrus of Persia would give the Jews their freedom to return to Jerusalem and rebuild. We like to point out every chance we get that in a stunning prophecy, Cyrus is named by Isaiah before he was born. Take that, Nostradamus.

Isaiah is a little like Sam Becket. He’s the scientist leaping through time in the SyFy classic series,  Quantum Leap. We need to pay close attention to Isaiah’s ‘leaps’ to know where he has taken us.

  • Sometimes he describes the Jews returning to Jerusalem from Babylon.
  • Sometimes he describes the Jews in the future Great Tribulation.
  • Sometimes he describes the 1000yr Kingdom on Earth Jesus will establish at His return to Earth.
  • Sometimes he describes eternity.

In verses one through eight Isaiah is jumpy.

Isa 51:1  “Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, You who seek the LORD… [There was always a remnant of believing Jews. They were declared “righteous” by believing God. They sought God, following His precepts]. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug [The idiom we would use is, “You’re a chip off the old block.” Abraham was the block].

Isa 51:2  Look to Abraham your father, And to Sarah who bore you; For I called him alone, And blessed him and increased him.”

When descendants of Abraham look at his storied life they see the whole plan of God to redeem Jews & Gentiles. One man becomes as numerous as the sand along the seashore, and as the stars in the sky (Genesis 22:17). We would say, “He who has begun a good work will perform it.” The Jews might be in captivity. They might suffer terrifically throughout history. But God will prove faithful to Abraham.

For his part Abraham stumbled at first, but as he continued with the Lord, he found his spiritual rhythm. So much so that at one point he would have sacrificed his only son without asking a question.

Like father Abraham, like his sons. Judah could have that same faith. So can we as spiritual sons & daughters.

Isa 51:3  For the LORD will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the LORD; Joy and gladness will be found in it, Thanksgiving and the voice of melody.

Isa 51:4  “Listen to Me, My people; And give ear to Me, O My nation: For law will proceed from Me, And I will make My justice rest As a light of the peoples.

Isa 51:5  My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth, And My arms will judge the peoples; The coastlands will wait upon Me, And on My arm they will trust. [“Peoples” & “the coastlands” refers to Gentile nations].

This sounds very Kingdom-of-God-on-Earth-ish. The Bible tells us Jesus will return to establish a Kingdom on Earth that will last for 1000yrs. His return is at the end of 7yrs of Great Tribulation.

  • Jesus will transform “waste places” and the “wilderness” to be like Eden.
  • His rule will be in righteousness, dispensing justice.
  • Jesus will save all who call upon Him.

Isa 51:6  Lift up your eyes to the heavens, And look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, The earth will grow old like a garment, And those who dwell in it will die in like manner; But My salvation will be forever, And My righteousness will not be abolished.

This is a leap farther forward. After the 1000yr Kingdom the Lord will create new heavens & a new Earth that will exist eternally.

Isa 51:7  “Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, You people in whose heart is My law: Do not fear the reproach of men, Nor be afraid of their insults.

Isa 51:8  For the moth will eat them up like a garment, And the worm will eat them like wool; But My righteousness will be forever, And My salvation from generation to generation.”

Back from the future… The remnant can encourage themselves by remembering their destiny as opposed to that of unbelievers.

Those who follow the Lord will be reproached and insulted on Earth. That can hurt, but it doesn’t need to. Would you rather unbelieving men praise you, or the Lord? He bore their reproaches for you; now it is your turn to do bear them for Him. As Maxwell Smart would say, “And loving it!”

Isa 51:9  Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD! Awake as in the ancient days, In the generations of old. Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart, And wounded the serpent?

Isa 51:10  Are You not the One who dried up the sea, The waters of the great deep; That made the depths of the sea a road For the redeemed to cross over?

Commentators see these three verses as a prayer from Isaiah’s coal-burned lips. Is it, though??

God’s words were a sermon about the Jews in Bible prophecy. Isaiah gets excited. I can’t really blame him for going full Pentecostal. Instead of saying, “Can I get an Amen!”, Isaiah said, “Can I get an A-wake!”

“Awake… Awake… Awake.” Who does Isaiah think he is to order the LORD who never slumbers or sleeps to awaken? That isn’t what Isaiah was doing. There are exhortations in the Bible for sleepy, lazy believers to wake up & serve. This isn’t that. He was asking the LORD to “wake up” the way our kids might come to us on Christmas morning and say “Get up! It’s time to open presents!!”

Nemo was super excited; it was the first day of school! Marlin was asleep. “Get up! Get up! Time for school! Time for school! First day of school!”

Isaiah was excited to go home “to Jerusalem and beyond.”

Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart, And wounded the serpent?” Rahab, in the Bible, is another name for Egypt. The “serpent” or monster (in some versions) is Pharaoh. The LORD recalls the drying-up of the Red Sea that provided the redeemed Hebrews a clear, dry path across. When the Egyptians followed, the water was released, drowning the army.

Isa 51:11  So the ransomed of the LORD shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness; Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Do we have that eagerness? Sure we do… Or we did & can once again. As the Bible ends,“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And …him who hears say[s], “Come!” (v17).

#2 – Let’s Be Loathe To Stay Here (v12-23)

If you have been with us before, you’ve heard me talk about Jesus coming to resurrect the dead believers of the Church Age and transform living believers. We call this event the Rapture of the Church. It can occur anytime and it will occur prior to the Great Tribulation. It is a pre-Tribulation event.

We don’t hold this position because we want to avoid persecution; We hold it  because it is what the Bible teaches.

Opponents of the pre-Tribulation rapture are multiplying and getting more antagonistic. They will try to convince you, for example, that no one in the early church ever believed in such nonsense. That’s not true. Here’s a quote from Irenaeus. He was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the apostle John. Irenaeus declared, ““When in the end that church will suddenly be caught up from this, then it is said, ‘There will be tribulation such as not been since the beginning, nor will be.’ ” (AD130-202, Against Heresies, 5.29).

With the Church removed, God focuses on the Jews. That is why the prophet Jeremiah called the Great Tribulation, The Time of Jacob’s Trouble. The remainder of the chapter seems mostly set in that troubled time.

Isa 51:12  “I, even I, am He who comforts you…

The LORD’s comfort is not a food, or a favorite bankie, or a hug with tapping. Those are fine in their own way. No, by “comfort” He means preserving His often undeserving people. It isn’t antisemitic to point out Israel’s epic failures. Takes one to know one.

Isa 51:12  “… Who are you that you should be afraid Of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass?

Isa 51:13  And you forget the LORD your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens And laid the foundations of the earth; You have feared continually every day Because of the fury of the oppressor, When he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor?

“Fury” is a terrifying description of Satan’s efforts against Israel in the Time of Jacob’s Trouble:

  • He is depicted as a great red dragon wanting to devour Jesus in His first coming.
  • He is depicted as a flood in his efforts to kill every last Jew to thwart the return of the Lord.

Fear of any man, or fear of anything at all besides God, is irrational for a believer in Jesus. What is the worse thing that we face? Death.  For a believer, “to die is gain.”

Yes, you will suffer. In some cases your suffering will be extreme. I’ve been thinking about what the apostle Paul said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). “This present time” isn’t merely a season. It is all of human history from the fig to now. Paul immediately brings up creation in the next two verses in Romans 8. We get overwhelmed by pain, but it is nothing when you consider the Heaven you are journeying to.

Isa 51:14  The captive exile hastens, that he may be loosed, That he should not die in the pit, And that his bread should not fail.

The Jews would be “captive exiles” in Babylon. This describes their fear that they were headed toward extinction. They were ignoring the LORD’s prophecies and promises that the nation could never become extinct. The destiny of the entire human race depended upon God working through them.

Isa 51:15  But I am the LORD your God, Who divided the sea whose waves roared – The LORD of hosts is His name. [“Hosts” is armies].

Isa 51:16  And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, Lay the foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’ ”

Like Fievel Moskowitz, God “Had a plan.” It was to have a special, set-apart nation to share His “words” with Gentile nations. He protected them with His “hosts.” He shaded them when necessary.

Planting “the heavens” and laying “the foundations of the Earth” was a preliminary, and temporary, project. The LORD required a workshop to work on His people.

Isa 51:17  Awake, awake! Stand up, O Jerusalem…

Now who is excited? The LORD pictures Himself waking-up a slumbering child so they don’t miss the celebration.

Isa 51:17  … You who have drunk at the hand of the LORD The cup of His fury; You have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling, And drained it out.

Has any people group suffered for practically their entire existence more than the nation of Israel? In the future 7yrs God is pours out wrath upon their oppressors.

I tend to forget that Jerusalem will be attacked by the antichrist just prior to the Lord’s return to Earth. A description can be found in the fourteenth chapter of the OT Book of Zechariah. It’s ugly.

Jesus returns & once again saves His people.

Isa 51:18  There is no one to guide her Among all the sons she has brought forth; Nor is there any who takes her by the hand Among all the sons she has brought up.

Isa 51:19  These two things have come to you; Who will be sorry for you? – Desolation and destruction, famine and sword – By whom will I comfort you?

Isa 51:20  Your sons have fainted, They lie at the head of all the streets, Like an antelope in a net; They are full of the fury of the LORD, The rebuke of your God.

The Jews suffer terribly during the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. Only of the Jews on Earth will survive.

Isa 51:21  Therefore please hear this, you afflicted, And drunk but not with wine. [Makes me think of Hannah weeping in the Temple. Eli thought she was drunk with wine, but it was an intoxication from sorrow over being barren]

Isa 51:22  Thus says your Lord, The LORD and your God, Who pleads the cause of His people: “See, I have taken out of your hand The cup of trembling, The dregs of the cup of My fury; You shall no longer drink it.

Isa 51:23  But I will put it into the hand of those who afflict you, Who have said to you, ‘Lie down, that we may walk over you.’  And you have laid your body like the ground, And as the street, for those who walk over.” [So much death that their bodies are the street their enemies walked on]

Isaiah’s earlier shout-out lasted about 30 seconds. It occupies three verses. The LORD’s encouragement occupies twenty. Maybe we should listen more.

You must have noticed that the LORD tells the Jews to “listen” three times (v1, 4&7).

A.W. Tozer had plenty to say about listening. He prefaced it by saying, “The Bible will never be a living Book to us until we are convinced that God is articulate in His universe. [Did] a silent God suddenly began to speak in a book and when the book was finished lapsed back into silence again forever?”

With regard to listening Tozer said:

It is important that we get still to wait on God. And it is best that we get alone, preferably with our Bible outspread before us. Then if we will we may draw near to God and begin to hear Him speak to us in our hearts.

I had the privilege of meeting Alan Redpath. He has a story about Tozer. When they both served in Chicago, Tozer – who was there before Redpath – invited Redpath to pray with him mornings. Redpath said he went, but not often. He felt he was interrupting something deep going on between Tozer & his Lord.

Wait, wait, wait on the Lord

I must wait, wait, wait on the Lord

Learn my lessons well

In His timing He will tell you

What to do, where to go, what to say