The Guilty Party (Psalm 32)

When someone is declared bankrupt many (but not all) of their debts are wiped out. But first their assets are liquidated and sent to creditors. Their accounts are left empty and their record is left with a mark that makes future business difficult or impossible. The Biblical bankruptcy process is much less punishing for the debtor. Paul explains in Colossians 2 that, for those who are saved:

Colossians 2:14 – [God has] erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.

All the wrong things you’ve done in word, thought, or action count toward your spiritual debt. If you had 1,000 lifetimes of good works you wouldn’t come close to paying it off. But God offers you a full pardon and is willing to go into His own pocket to pay your debt. If you let Him, He will not leave you empty-handed. He will immediately fill your eternal accounts with more than you could ask or imagine and will make you His Friend for all eternity.

In Psalm 32, David tells us how he personally discovered God’s forgiveness – how he went through this spiritual bankruptcy process. He went in being crushed by the weight of his guilt. But then he received God’s forgiveness and came out stronger, more secure, and more joyful than ever before.

Psalm 32:Superscript – Of David. A Maskil.

As an author, David is worth listening to. Of course, he’s writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and that is reason enough. But as a writer, David speaks with the authority of experience and expertise. John Phillips points out that David is one of the greatest sages of Scripture, one of the greatest saints, and one of the greatest sovereigns. But he is also one of the greatest sinners.[1] So when he speaks about forgiveness and closeness with God, we should pay attention.

Psalm 32:1-2 – How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How joyful is a person whom the Lord does not charge with iniquity and in whose spirit is no deceit!

From the start, David wants us to feel joy as we realize God has made His forgiveness available to any person who is willing to receive it. That is good news which should fill up our hearts with celebration. Right from the start of this book, in Psalm 1 we’re told about the eternal joy that God wants for people. The problem is, we’re unable to walk that road of righteousness on our own. We don’t qualify. We fall short of the standards of righteousness. But now David reveals that there is a way to attain that spiritual happiness thanks to the forgiveness of God. The message of the Psalms is that anyone can walk with the Lord, anyone can be forgiven no matter what they’ve done because He has made it possible.

In verses 1 and 2, David describes a spectrum of sin. Commentators note that he uses three terms for those wrong things we do. The first is transgression, which speaks to us of rebellion against God. The second is sin, which means falling short or missing the mark of perfection. The third is iniquity. This is a term that speaks of corruption and twistedness – acts of evil.[2] So we see David isn’t just talking about the worst of wickedness that men do. He’s talking about all of the wrong things. From basic imperfection to abject evil. It all applies and he says that all of it can be forgiven.

David also gives three different terms to describe what the Lord wants to do with our sin and guilt. First, He forgives. The Lord promises to carry our sins away and remember them no more. Second, David says our sins can be covered. It doesn’t mean a cover-up in the negative sense. And it doesn’t mean just sweeping our guilt under a rug for it to fester.

Some of you have had a stain on a wall and when you tried to paint over it, the stain bled through the new coat. But, if you first treat that wall and paint on Kilz primer, that will put an end to the stain. God cleans while He covers. The Bible explains that the blood of Jesus cleanses us and makes us brand new. It purifies us and covers us in righteousness so we can walk with God.

Third, David tells us that God will not charge us with iniquity. Perhaps you saw the story of Irmgard Furchner. At age 18 she worked as a secretary in a Nazi concentration camp. Almost 80 years later, the law finally caught up with her and she was brought to court. At her job, all she did was paperwork. But that was enough for her to be charged and found guilty for aiding in the murder of more than 10,000 people.[3] There was nothing she could do to free herself from her guilt. The charges were waiting for her after all those decades.

God knows exactly what we’ve done. The thousands upon thousands of counts of imperfection, of rebellion, of hate, of wickedness, of selfishness, of meanness, or vice. And we’re guilty of them all. But God makes us this offer to carry them away, to cover, and to never charge us for any of it.

The offer sounds amazing until we read. “In whose spirit is no deceit.” Do we have to be perfectly honest before we can be forgiven? Jeremiah says, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable.”[4] So is this an offer that we can’t actually enjoy? Is this like one of those mailers you get claiming someone is going to win a million dollars when, clearly, no one is going to win?

Jesus once said to Nathanael, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom is no deceit.” Was that literally true? We don’t know a lot about Nathanael, but we know that he made the same mistakes as the other disciples. He argued over who was the greatest. He failed to be there at the foot of the cross, choosing instead to run and hide. And one of the only times he does speak in the Bible is when he scoffs at the idea that anyone from Nazareth could be used by God. Or consider David himself. He had many moments of terrible dishonesty.

This ‘no deceit’ line shows that forgiveness is not only about settling a debt. It is the beginning of a transformative process which completely changes us from the inside out. God doesn’t just say, “I’ll square your debt,” He goes further and says, “I’m going to make you a new creation.”

On top of that, the term for deceit here can refer to slackness, or a sluggishness to do an activity.[5] David shares that he had that sluggishness at first.

Psalm 32:3-4 – When I kept silent, my bones became brittle from my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat. Selah (There, what do you think of that?) [6]

We don’t know when David wrote this song or what situation he was referring to. Some scholars tie it to his sin with Bathsheba, and that’s definitely a contender. Whenever it was, he had fallen into sin and then held his guilt in his heart. He closed the Lord out and tried to act like nothing was wrong. But it started eating him alive. We know something about summer heat, right? David said this guilt that he was holding in was like those dog-days of late July. 115° but with no A/C, no shade, no ice.

David was a strong man. He had killed giants and lions and bears with his own hands. But he was no match for guilt. Did you know being “weighed down by guilt” is more than a metaphor? In 2013, Princeton published a study showing that the feelings of guilt are, indeed, felt like weight in our minds and bodies.[7] David felt it eating him from the inside, crushing him from the outside.

In verse 4, was David suggesting that God was inflicting this pain on him? On the one hand, we have to take this Psalm with the Psalms before and after. In Psalm 31 David wrote, “my strength has failed because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.” He rightly understood the destructive nature of sin. Paul talks about this in Romans 1, where sinners are left to deal with the appropriate consequences of their choices.

At the same time, though God is ready to forgive sin, He will not ignore sin. He applies firm pressure on the sinner in order to draw us to repentance, so He can remove the weight of our guilt. He tells His children that He will discipline them when they sin, because He loves them.

I was a lifeguard for a few summers in college. I always enjoyed practicing removing a swimmer with a neck injury from the pool. You would go in, apply a hold with firm pressure, rotate that swimmer into position, and get them strapped tight onto a backboard so they could be lifted out of the water. If not, the person would die. God applies that kind of pressure when we dive into sin.

Psalm 32:5 – Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah (There, what do you think of that?)

All David had to do to receive God’s forgiveness was confess. Technically, we don’t even see his confession here. He says, “I will confess to the Lord,” and immediately forgiveness flowed, the guilt was gone, and David had the relief he needed. So, what is confession? Confession is more than just saying a few words. Confession means to realize God’s truth in your heart, agree with that truth, turn from your sin and face God, saying, “I am guilty, I am sorry, and I want to receive Your mercy.”

Does this mean that, as a Christian, I don’t have forgiveness for individual sins until I confess? There are some churches that hold a doctrine like that. If you’re a Christian, if you’ve been born again, you have eternal forgiveness right now. In Christ we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He has poured out on us.[8] God never comes back with a sponge to sop up what He poured out. But we also read in 1 John, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins.” So which is it?

There are two aspects of forgiveness. The first is judicial. Has your debt been paid? If you are in Christ, then Christ’s death on the cross dealt with all your sin, past, present, and future. You are sealed into a promise. When the Judge of heaven and earth looks at you, He sees His Son and pronounces you clean. But there is also relational forgiveness. When we rebel against God or go our own way, we remove ourselves from His boundaries and His leading and His commands. Those sins bring breeches and barriers in our relationship with the Lord. Through confession we are able to once again live in the fullness of His grace.

This is depicted in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The son went out from the father’s house on his own way, into ruin. The father did not announce, “the Prodigal is no longer my son.” He was still his son. But once the son came to his senses and returned home, he was able to have not just the title of son, but the benefits of the father’s love and they embrace and reconcile and rejoice together.

Another question is: If God knows everything, then why do I need to confess? Isaiah 55 explains that when we seek God, when we confess and abandon our own way and instead embrace the Lord, He is able to cover us with His compassion and freely forgive. Through confession we step from the shadow of guilt into the light of God’s mercy. The Prodigal not only had to mentally admit he was wrong, he had to also leave the pigsty and return to his father. Proverbs 28 says, “whoever confesses and renounces [their sin] will find mercy.”

David said, “I did not conceal my iniquity.” We’re no good at covering over our sin. That’s the job the Lord wants to do. Don’t think for a minute you can clean yourself up for God.

Awhile ago, one of our little ones got sick to their stomach in the middle of the night. We went in to make sure they were ok and we said, “Where did you throw up?” They said, “In the bathroom. But I cleaned it up.” Let’s just say, “clean” isn’t the word I would use. It was the middle of the night. They were sick. It was dark. They grabbed whatever towel they could and did their best. But they needed a parent to actually take care of it. Don’t try to cover your sin. Let the professional take care of it.

Psalm 32:6-7 – Therefore let everyone who is faithful pray to you immediately., When great floodwaters come, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance. Selah (There, what do you think of that?)

David is not suggesting all his problems were immediately solved. He was a man who knew many troubles for many years. But, in the final judgment, David knew he was safe. He would be delivered just as Noah was in the ark when the flood waters came.

There’s a judgment coming. If you’re not a Christian, you’re going to be judged for your sin. You will stand before God’s throne and your debts must be paid. Without Christ, there’s no deliverance.

There is also a global judgment coming one day. The whole world will be flooded with the wrath of God. Knowing that judgment is coming, let everyone who is faithful pray immediately. If you want salvation, there is no time to lose. Call out to God for forgiveness. Hide yourself in Him. Don’t wait. God is ready to receive each of us us as spiritual refugees, covering us and sustaining us and making us new. That’s not just David’s opinion – The Lord Himself would verify the message of this song. It’s the Lord speaking in our next verses,[9] where we read:

Psalm 32:8-9 – I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with my eye on you, I will give counsel. Do not be like a horse or mule, without understanding, that must be controlled with bit and bridle or else it will not come near you.

Why would anyone refuse God’s offer of salvation and forgiveness? It happens every day. In fact, we saw a few weeks ago in our study of Isaiah 1 how God’s people had become so stubborn, so hard-hearted that they were, indeed, dumber than donkeys, spiritually speaking.

The truth is, our hearts are inclined to evil. We’re prone to wander. And we’ll wander right into ruin if we don’t trust the Lord and go His way.

Harry Randall Truman, not the president but the Mt. Saint Helens resident, was warned to evacuate his home in 1980. Precursor earthquakes had knocked him out of bed as he slept, so he moved his mattress to the basement. He told interviewers, “[that] mountain is a mile away, [it] ain’t gonna hurt me…You couldn’t pull me out with a mule team.”[10] No mules would be necessary. On May 18 he was vaporized along with everything he owned with the volcano erupted.

A person who doesn’t admit they’re a sinner and then receive the free gift of God’s salvation is like Harry Randall Truman. They’re like an ignorant mule, with no understanding.

“I will show you the way to go; with My eye on you, I will give counsel.” God guides not with a whip, but with gentleness.[11] The “way” He shows us is that “way” from Psalm 1 – the way where everything we do prospers. Where our lives are made strong and fruitful, weathering the seasons that come our way, always growing, always developing. This is where the Lord wants to guide us.

John Phillips gives us some important insight here. He writes, “If the Lord is to guide us with His eye, it means that we must stay close to Him. A person cannot give another person a warning look or a warm look or a welcoming look if he is in Chicago and the friend is in Atlanta. Let us see to it that we allow our Lord to guide us by keeping our Bibles open and our eye ever looking to Him. He will make it plain what we ought to do.” God’s counsel isn’t only for the sinner on the day of his salvation, it’s also for the saint every single day of their life.

Psalm 32:10 – Many pains come to the wicked, but the one who trusts in the Lord will have faithful love surrounding him.

To trust God means to depend on His faithful love.[12] It means to put our hope in Him, rather than our own strength or our own plans or the systems of this world. To trust the Lord means to enter into this covenant love He talks about – His hesed. That we acknowledge the truth about ourselves, and that we receive His love and love Him in return. That’s how we walk in the joy of this song.

Psalm 32:11 – Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

A Psalm like this makes us think a lot about our mistakes and how we fall short of God’s glory. But let’s remember what David’s perspective is: He started with joy, he’s ending with joy. He says, “Here’s what’s true about God’s forgiveness. Here’s how we can all have it day-by-day, no matter what we’ve done. Here’s how God plans to revolutionize our lives and surround us like a shield and a refuge and a Teacher and with the kindness of a Friend. So let’s praise the Lord for it!” If we pause to consider all that God had forgiven David, or all that God forgave Paul, or all He has forgiven you and me, the spiritual reaction should be like finding out you’ve won the lottery.

Despite his many mistakes, David felt no need to carry his guilt any more. He confessed it and turned from it. It was done, it was gone. And it was replaced by joy.

How joyful are you? That’s how our text opened, right? “How joyful is the one.” David says forgiven people are joyful people. Paul does too. He described himself as overflowing with joy in 2 Corinthians. The Christian life is supposed to be full of joy and peace, overflowing with hope. Because the Lord bears away our guilt and leads us into a way full of joy.

Has God borne away your guilt? Or are you still on the run? In September of 2021, Irmgard Furchner went on the run, hoping to avoid her trial. She was picked up a few hours later.[13]

Maybe you’re on the run, spiritually speaking. You can’t avoid the Judge. Turn yourself in. When you turn yourself in to this Judge, He cleans your slate, cancels your debts, makes you new. You don’t have to work off your guilt. You are saved by grace through faith, not of works.

In fact, when Paul spoke in Romans about how we are justified by faith alone, how salvation is all a work of grace, he used this Psalm as the Old Testament basis. If you believe what God has revealed in the Scripture, if you come to him in repentance, acknowledging your spiritual bankruptcy, He will forgive you.

For Christians, forgiveness isn’t new, but it’s not finished either. In this Psalm, David reminds us that God’s forgiveness still applies and we who are faithful can stay in that closeness with the Lord, we can be quick to praise, quick to rejoice, quick to pray in confession as we discover more and more of what God has saved us from and what He has saved us for and we walk with Him on this way He’s leading us.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 John Phillips Exploring Psalms Volume 1
2 James Montgomery Boice Psalms Volume 1
3 https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/germany-convicts-97-year-old-woman-nazi-war-crimes-media-2022-12-20/?utm_source=pocket_saves
4 Jeremiah 17:9
5 Dictionary Of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains: Hebrew Old Testament
6 The meaning of Selah is debated, but one helpful understanding of the term is “There, what do you think of that?” See Phillips.
7 https://www.princeton.edu/news/2013/10/08/weighed-down-guilt-research-shows-its-more-metaphor
8 Ephesians 1:7-8
9 Derek Kidner Psalms 1-72
10 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_R._Truman
11 J.J. Stewart Perowne Commentary On The Psalms
12 Psalm 33:18
13 https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/96-year-old-german-woman-released-after-going-run-skip-n1280876

Make Plows, Not War (Isaiah 2:1-22)

Rosie the Riviter was the poster girl for women who worked in factories during the war to end all wars.

In January 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the establishment of the War Production Board. Its purpose was to convert the factories of peacetime industries into manufacturing plants for weapons and military equipment.
After the war, the factories retooled to peacetime manufacturing. Rosie went home.

God had the idea centuries before Roosevelt

There are two verses in the Bible that discuss manufacturing changes during war and peace:

Joel 3:10 – “Beat your plowshares into swords And your pruning hooks into spears.”
Isaiah 2:4 – “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks.”

Joel wasn’t talking about conflicts and wars through the centuries. He was talking about a specific, future war. It will be fought by mankind against God. He went on to say,

Joe 3:11  “Assemble and come, all you nations, And gather together all around. Cause Your mighty ones to go down there, O LORD.
Joe 3:12  “Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; For there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.
Joe 3:13  Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; For the winepress is full, The vats overflow – For their wickedness is great.
Joe 3:14  Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.
Joe 3:15  The sun and moon will grow dark, And the stars will diminish their brightness.
Joe 3:16  The LORD also will roar from Zion, And utter His voice from Jerusalem; The heavens and earth will shake; But the LORD will be a shelter for His people, And the strength of the children of Israel.

This “valley of decision,” or of “Jehoshaphat,” is the location for the Battle of Armageddon. The nations of the world will gather there in combat. Suddenly the sky breaks open to reveal Jesus Christ and His heavenly armies. The nations will join forces against the Lord.

It isn’t much of a fight. Jesus saves the human race from annihilating themselves. He establishes the promised Kingdom of God on Earth. Then, and only then, with the Lord present and ruling, can the factories for the last time retool to making “plowshares” and “pruning hooks.”

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Your Future Can Be One Of Hope, or #2 Your Future Can Be One Of Hiding.

#1 – Your Future Can Be Full Of Hope (v1-5)

It is generally held that the Old Testament prophets did not fully understand what they were prophesying.

Prophets did not always live to see their prophecies fulfilled. Most were without honor in their hometowns. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church Age, said to the religious leaders, “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?” (Acts 7:52).

Speaking of all believers up to the time it was written, the Book of Hebrews reminds us, “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise” (11:39).

If you and I are not raptured, we will die without receiving the promise.

By “the promise,” we mean the return of Jesus. No worries. If we die before the Lord comes, to be absent from our bodies is to be immediately present with Him. When He does return, the dead in Christ will be raised first, and then living believers raptured.

Will we obtain a good testimony through faith? In other words, Will we live by faith trusting God that all His promises are true, whether we see them fulfilled in our lifetime or not? “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

You are not going to see “all things” until you are in Heaven. Everything doesn’t always fall neatly into place. It doesn’t need to. We walk by faith. One church leader said, “The word hope I take for faith; and indeed hope is nothing else but the constancy of faith.”

Isa 2:1  The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

Isaiah described his experience as “the word [he] saw.” I like the sound of that.

We are privileged to sometimes ‘see’ the word. For example, if you lead a person to Christ, or witness it, you see the word in its promised power.

The northern kingdom of Israel would soon be overrun by the merciless Assyrian army. Isaiah was ministering in the south, in the kingdom of Judah, and in Jerusalem.
Isa 2:2  Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD’s house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it.

“The latter days,” in this passage, are the time when the things mentioned in these verses occur. It is after the Lord returns to rule over the Kingdom of God on Earth. We mostly refer to it as the Millennium because, in the Book of the Revelation, we are told over and over again that it lasts 1000 years. It is the period of time between Jesus Christ’s Second Coming, and the creation of new heavens and a new Earth.

“The Lord’s house” on Earth will be a Temple in Jerusalem. The Millennial Temple occupies the last nine chapters of Ezekiel.

Jerusalem is an uphill climb to an elevation of nearly 2500ft. That isn’t really very high, so how is it above other mountains, and exalted in the hills?

One way is in its authority. It may not be the tallest peak, but it is home to the greatest Person.
It may be the tallest peak at that time. In the Great Tribulation there will be “a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found” (Revelation 16:18&20).

When Jesus returns, there are living human beings on the Earth, both believers and unbelievers who have survived the Great Tribulation. In a judgment we call The Sheep and the Goats, believers are separated from unbelievers.

Unbelievers are sent to the place of temporary punishment to await final judgment.
Believers enter into the Kingdom in their human bodies, begin to re-populate the earth, and are the nations of the Earth.

We label as ‘Millennials’ anyone born between 1981 and 1996. The true ‘Millennials’ are those in the Millennium.

Isaiah likens this traffic into Jerusalem to a river’s “flow.” We could say that humans from every nation, tribe, tongue, and people will be constantly streaming into Jerusalem. It will be the number one streaming service on Earth.

Isa 2:3  Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

You’ve heard the expression, “There’s a new Sheriff in town.” It means that things are going to be handled differently. The “many people” who go to be taught His ways may be a reference to delegations from all the nations of the Millennial Earth. They came to know Jesus during the Great Tribulation. Their Christian experience will be very different from any other generation. They had little time, and almost no resources, to learn about Jesus. What they did know very well is persecution. Jesus will need to teach them the “path.”

Isa 2:4  He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.
“Rebuke” could be translated decide or convince or convict. Jesus will arbitrate between the nations, making final binding decisions, and enforce them.

I hate to be the one to deliver such terrible news, but there will be a ban on assault rifles.

Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, human beings have learned violence:

Al Capone is credited with saying, “You can get much further with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.”

Michael Corleone said, “If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone.”

It makes sense when you recall that Jesus called the devil a “murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). He is a homicidal maniac.

Jesus is no pacifist. He will gently shepherd the inhabitants of Earth, but when necessary His rod will be one of iron resolve. Jesus will demand obedience to doing what is right, with severe consequences for wrong behavior.

We should note that these first four verses are also the first four verses of chapter four in the Book of Micah. Critics argue about who said it first, Isaiah or Micah. The answer, of course, is that God said it first. His repetition ought to peak our interest.

Isa 2:5  O house of Jacob, come and let us walk In the light of the LORD.

This world is darkness. Spiritual darkness. Ahead is the brilliantly lit New Jerusalem. Walk towards its light.

Sadly, Judah would refuse, and go after idols, trusting in other nations rather than the Lord. They would go dark.

Believers sometimes go dark. All of a sudden you realize that you haven’t seen them at church, or anywhere for that matter. It doesn’t always mean they’re backslidden, but it could.

Athletes describe a feeling of being “in the zone.” In this state, they feel invincible, as if the game slowed down, the crowd noise fell silent and they achieved an incredible focus on their mission.

The apostle Paul said, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:13).

Hope in the Lord’s return can help us be “in the zone.” Whether we die short of His coming or live to be raptured, it doesn’t matter as long as we are straining towards Heaven. Hope can shut-out all the periphery that distracts us from Jesus.

#2 – Your Future Can Be One Of Hiding (v6-22)

Do you have a Go-bag? It should be a sturdy and easy-to-carry backpack or duffle bag containing things you would want to have with you if you have to leave in a hurry. Zombie apocalypse, pandemic, planet overrun by apes, etc.

Prepping is not so crazy, as long as you’re not a prepper. There is a line somewhere between being ready and being Rambo.

In the future Great Tribulation, when God’s measured wrath is unleashed, men will try to hide in caves. But as the song says, there will be Nowhere to run to, Nowhere to hide. Go-bags and diesel generators are going to get you through safely.
Isa 2:6  For You have forsaken Your people, the house of Jacob, Because they are filled with eastern ways; They are soothsayers like the Philistines, And they are pleased with the children of foreigners.

Judah looked to the East for help:

They adopted dark practices of Eastern religion, like soothsaying.
They intermarried, having “children of foreigners.” God isn’t racist. Foreign wives, however, meant foreign religious practices. It meant idolatry.

The title of Isaiah’s message was You’ve got to change your “eastern ways,” Judah.

Isa 2:7  Their land is also full of silver and gold, And there is no end to their treasures; Their land is also full of horses, And there is no end to their chariots.

Wealth and military might are a good thing until you trust in them instead of the Lord.

Isa 2:8  Their land is also full of idols; They worship the work of their own hands, That which their own fingers have made.
Isa 2:9  People bow down, And each man humbles himself; Therefore do not forgive them.

If you worship what you make, you are worshipping yourself. The idol represents what you want, and the practices involved usually bring self-gratification.

Does Isaiah ask God not to forgive them. This can be translated, “the LORD will not pardon them.” If they refuse to repent, God cannot forgive them.

Isaiah suddenly pivots and looks past the 8th century, past our 21st century, to see the Great Tribulation.

Isa 2:10  Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust, From the terror of the LORD And the glory of His majesty.

In the Revelation we read, “And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’ ” (6:15-16).

Isa 2:11  The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, The haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, And the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.

Mankind will manifest a lofty-looks haughtiness. That style will be in. It describes someone who looks down on others, thinking themself superior.

We do this anytime we look only in the outward appearance of things, replacing things that God values in a person with the world’s standards.

Isa 2:12  For the day of the LORD of hosts Shall come upon everything proud and lofty, Upon everything lifted up – And it shall be brought low –

“The Day of the Lord” is a reference to the entire Great Tribulation. You could look at that entire time as God’s attempt to humble lofty, haughty men.

Barry Webb writes,

Many of Isaiah’s contemporaries looked forward to the day of the LORD as the time when He would step in and destroy Israel’s enemies, just as He had done long ago in the days of Moses and Joshua. But Isaiah and the other eighth-century prophets realized that this confident expectation was grounded in arrogance rather than faith, for Israel and Judah had taken on the ways of the surrounding nations and were therefore just as deserving of judgment. In fact they were more guilty than others because of the greater privileges they had enjoyed. This is a most sobering thought, and one that we ourselves would do well to ponder.

Christians might think God will intervene to save their nation. That’s OK, but it begins with us, the church, being obedient.

Isa 2:13  Upon all the cedars of Lebanon that are high and lifted up, And upon all the oaks of Bashan;
Isa 2:14  Upon all the high mountains, And upon all the hills that are lifted up;
Isa 2:15  Upon every high tower, And upon every fortified wall;
Isa 2:16  Upon all the ships of Tarshish, And upon all the beautiful sloops.

The Day of the Lord will affect the planet: Land (v14), sea (v16), and everything men have built (v15). The world and its inhabitants will greatly suffer, and the works of man will be destroyed.

Isa 2:17  The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, And the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; The LORD alone will be exalted in that day,

Let’s call loftiness and haughtiness, pride. Pride was the devils downfall. It was pride that got our original parents in trouble in the Garden of Eden. To super-oversimplify the situation, God must bring us low in order to lift us up to sit with Him.

Isa 2:18  But the idols He shall utterly abolish.

No idols, no idol worship. Sometimes you need to separate yourself from the things that draw you away from the Lord. It’s not a sign of weakness but of wisdom.

Isa 2:19  They shall go into the holes of the rocks, And into the caves of the earth, From the terror of the LORD And the glory of His majesty, When He arises to shake the earth mightily.

We talk about the World Economic Forum in our prophecy updates. It is the organization that seeks to pull together all of the elite leaders of government and business in order to take over governing the planet. That is not my opinion; it is their stated goal.

They usually meet once a year, in Davos, Switzerland. They met this past week. They have decided they are going to build a village where WEF members can come anytime. It takes a village to take over the world.

They are going to need bunkers during the Great Tribulation. No matter how far or deep into the Earth they go, God will shake them.

Isa 2:20  In that day a man will cast away his idols of silver And his idols of gold, Which they made, each for himself to worship, To the moles and bats,
Isa 2:21  To go into the clefts of the rocks, And into the crags of the rugged rocks, From the terror of the LORD And the glory of His majesty, When He arises to shake the earth mightily.

It will be shake & bake. We read in the Revelation, “Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory” (16:8-9).

Isa 2:22  Sever yourselves from such a man, Whose breath is in his nostrils; For of what account is he?

Isaiah comes back from the future to continue addressing Judah.

“Breath in his nostrils” is a way of referring to the frailty of human life. Any breath could be your last breath. The exhortation is for Judah to stop trusting in alliances with other nations and trust instead in their covenant relationship with God.

If you are not a believer in Jesus, you are hiding from Him in plain sight. He sees you; He loves you; He died for you, taking your sins upon Himself so God could declare you righteous.

When I had a kidney stone, the doc shot me up with Demerol. It didn’t take long for me to experience tunnel vision. I could only see things in the very center of my vision. Everything else was pitch black.

Tunnel vision is a metaphor we apply to describe someone who is focused on their goal, shutting out everything else.

We benefit by spiritual tunnel vision. Block out sin and the world, focus on the Lord. Look for the city whose builder and maker is God. Let faith produce hope as we wait for the appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Billy Graham once said, “I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right.”

Prophecy Update #730 – Knowledge On Steroids

Christians are encouraged to look for “the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). We are encouraged to look ahead to tomorrow, living with the awareness Jesus could come today.

One of the ways we look ahead to tomorrow is to consider the hundreds of unfulfilled prophecies in the Bible. We can expect the world to be moving in the direction predicted for the End Times.

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

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

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

An angel told Daniel, “But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (12:4).

Futurists read that, and expect knowledge to rapidly increase in the Last Days. One post I read this week explained how researchers track the increase:

Have you ever heard of the “Knowledge Doubling Curve?” First described by Buckminster Fuller in 1982, this curve notes that, until 1900, human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the middle of the twentieth century, knowledge was doubling every 25 years. As of 2013, human knowledge was doubling every 13 months on average. Now, human knowledge is almost doubling every day.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is sort of the poster robot for the increase in knowledge. Fujitsu says in a brochure, “Artificial Intelligence is hugely powerful – there is a real possibility that it is the most powerful technology we have ever created.”

Here are a few random quotes:

AI has the potential to produce art, music, poetry, plays, and even video games. It’s now possible for machines to learn from their experiences and make decisions based on them. They can even create new information about their surroundings that wasn’t present before. The fact that these capabilities are now being exhibited in machines suggests that “artificial” intelligence is approaching a somewhat ill-defined idea of what constitutes “real” intellect.

AI singularity refers to an event where the AIs in our lives either become self aware, or reach an ability for continuous improvement so powerful that it will evolve beyond our control. Scientists like to predict when singularity may occur. It is sooner than later.

An Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) system would be able to surpass all human capabilities. This would include decision making, making rational decisions, and even includes things like making better art and building emotional relationships.

Is knowledge increasing, as we expect from Daniel? Yes.

We are witnessing the stage-setting for the seven year Great Tribulation that is described in the last book of the Bible.

We will not be on Earth during that terrible Time of Jacob’s Trouble. The resurrection and rapture of the church are imminent. It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it.

Jesus will come, in the clouds, and raise the dead believers of the Church Age. He will transform the bodies of living believers to glorified, resurrection bodies.

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

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

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

Saint Your Wagon (Genesis 45:16-28)

Scale models can be helpful in preparing people for the mission ahead. In Apollo 13, we watch the crew train on docking with the lunar module again and again. They needed to be ready for trouble.

In the 1970’s, the Swiss army decided they wanted to build tank simulators in order to train new drivers. After all, real tanks are really expensive to build, fuel, and maintain. But, it was the 70’s, so you couldn’t just generate a virtual world in Unreal Engine and let people game their way through. Instead, they built an extensive, miniature landscape that would be connected via camera to real-world controls in a model that thousands of tankers trained on, without having to burn countless gallons of fuel or accidentally crunching over real buildings.[1]

As the Joseph saga comes to a crescendo, we are able to look at, essentially, a scale model of our own spiritual lives. We have been called before a throne, offered forgiveness, commanded to do certain things and stay in close relationship with this all-powerful Sovereign, and to spread the word of His invitation to others. It’s not always easy. God’s providential work in our lives requires that we walk by faith, that we live in humility, and, sometimes, that we face the consequences of our mistakes. But, no matter the difficulties or our missteps, the destination is worth the pilgrimage.

Let’s take a look at this scale model of God’s generosity and guidance, beginning in verse 16.

Genesis 45:16 – When the news reached Pharaoh’s palace, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” Pharaoh and his servants were pleased.

In Mark 7, Jesus is traveling through the Gentile towns of Tyre and Sidon. After healing a man who was deaf and mute the people declared, “He does everything well.”[2] Joseph had that kind of effect on the Egyptians. Through Joseph, God saved their nation. People at every level had affectionate appreciation for him. Joseph wasn’t only on the good side of the elites while ignoring the servant class. They all were pleased to hear that his brothers had come to town. He lived as a blessing.

Kenneth Mathews points out that the Egyptians used Joseph’s Hebrew name, not the Egyptian name he had been given.[3] In this regard, Joseph was like Daniel in that he remained set apart in his Godly culture, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t have successful relationships with unbelievers.

Christ does not conform to pagan culture – He always remains apart and calls us to be set-apart and Godly. But separation isn’t the same as segregation. We can be both holy and winsome to a dying world. In fact, we must be both of those things. Daniel and Joseph are great examples of that tension. They offered help to the pagans around them, while remaining holy and unconformed.

Genesis 45:17-18 – Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Tell your brothers, ‘Do this: Load your animals and go on back to the land of Canaan. Get your father and your families, and come back to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you can eat from the richness of the land.’

The king spoke through Joseph. Bruce Waltke notes the brothers needed someone to interpret the words of the king and act as an intermediary for them.[4] This is what Christ does. He is the Word Who became flesh, dwelt among us, became our Substitute, and now makes intercession for us.

Joseph didn’t have to convince Pharaoh to welcome his brothers. There’s no scene where he and Pharaoh had a meeting to talk it over, yet Pharaoh gives the invitation to come and be blessed just as Joseph did in the last passage.[5]

God the Father is not a cosmic grump, ready to smash the petulant humans who annoy Him. He and the Son and the Spirit are One. Together they extend love, mercy, generosity, and welcome to anyone who is willing to receive them. There’s a lovely phrase there that speaks to us of the Father’s heart: Pharaoh said, “Return to me.” That’s the Lord’s desire. Yes, He has plans for our lives but more importantly, He desires communion between us and Him.

Just as all of this rescue happened through Joseph, so too spiritual rescue happens only through Christ. There is no other “brother” that the 11 could turn to. There was no other deliverer who could’ve saved Egypt from the famine. There was only one, provided by God.

Pharaoh’s offer continued:

Genesis 45:19-20 – You are also commanded to tell them, ‘Do this: Take wagons from the land of Egypt for your dependents and your wives and bring your father here. Do not be concerned about your belongings, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’ ”

At the start of this story, the brothers simply hoped to get a few bags of grain so they wouldn’t starve to death. Now what’s the offer? Way more than a sack of oats. We’re talking about all kinds of provision and protection and security and reconciliation and enjoyment and honor and freedom. The best Egypt had to offer, not just for these men but for all their families.

Pharaoh didn’t bother taking a head count. He didn’t say, “I’ve got tickets for 25 people.” He said, “Bring them all. It doesn’t matter how many. I’m writing you a blank check.”

But, notice: behind this generous invitation there was insistence. Pharaoh commanded them to do this, just as the Lord commands us to be saved. “Turn and live.”[6] They would only get the blessing if they obeyed. This would be a very plain teaching that Moses would give the Israelites in Deuteronomy: If you want the blessings God offers, you must follow His commands. Of course, there was no reason not to obey. But it was still a choice they would have to make.

Pharaoh made it possible for all of them to get to Egypt. The wagons meant the very young and the very old, the sick and the weak could make the trip.[7] No one needed to miss out.

At the same time, Pharaoh encouraged them to travel light.[8] He said, “Don’t be concerned about your belongings.” He didn’t want them to get back home, look at all the stuff in their tents (much of it they had shamefully stolen from Shechem) and decide it was too much trouble to pack it all up.[9] Another way of translating the phrase is, “Regret not your belongings.”[10] Don’t regret what you’re leaving behind. What the king was offering far outmatched whatever they had.[11]

In our own lives, God has told us not to be wrapped up in our earthly belongings. We’ll have to choose. We can’t serve both God and material wealth. But the Lord reveals that He has much, much better planned for us. Don’t trade the best of heaven for the odds and ends of Hanford.

Genesis 45:21 – The sons of Israel did this. Joseph gave them wagons as Pharaoh had commanded, and he gave them provisions for the journey.

Pharaoh and Joseph are so detail oriented. They’ve thought about the trip there and back again. They considered the old and the weak and the little ones. They have everything picked out, set aside, made ready for this family to come and enjoy rest in the midst of the world’s famine.

And while these men and their families would experience individual salvation, they were also living and moving as a unit. The United Sons Of Israel. They would take the walk together, with a common purpose, sharing the joys and the responsibilities of the journey. There would be a lot of unknowns on the road. Wheels might fall off, donkeys might go lame, storms might brew on the horizon, but they would work together to make progress toward their new home.

Genesis 45:22 – He gave each of the brothers changes of clothes, but he gave Benjamin three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of clothes.

The brothers had stolen and ruined Joseph’s beautiful coat. Then they beat him, threw him in a pit, and sold him into slavery. Now, Joseph gives them each new robes of their own. Remember: Joseph had been given a royal robe. Now he gives those sort of robes to his brothers.[12]

Not only is this a beautiful depiction of God’s generous grace – how Jesus, Who was stripped naked, beaten, and crucified, now raised in glory offers us His robe of righteousness, we also can see the tender heart of God. You see, when the silver cup was found in Benjamin’s sack, what did all the brothers do? They tore their clothes. There they are, guilty and broken and disheveled. Joseph says, “Let’s take off these ruined robes and instead put on these royal robes.” Scholars tell us that they were probably the kind of clothes used for festive occasions.[13] Joseph is not only providing for their need, he’s telling them, “The time for mourning is over.[14] Your guilt is gone.”

In Zechariah 3, the Angel of the Lord spoke and said, “Take off his filthy clothes! I have removed your iniquity from you and I will clothe you with festive robes.”

What about the extras given to Benjamin? Some commentators say Joseph is showing the kind of favoritism that got Jacob into trouble. Maybe. On the other hand, Benjamin had the largest family of all the brothers. He had 10 sons. The closest behind him had 7. Most of the others had 4 or 5.

Benjamin’s gift reveals something about the brothers and something about the Lord. The brothers, who had been so jealous before, aren’t jealous anymore.[15] It doesn’t bother them at all. And jealousy shouldn’t bother us, either. The truth is, God is not always equal in His distribution of grace when it comes to physical circumstances. That’s just the truth. About 4% of children don’t make it to their 5th birthday.[16] 1 out of every 10 people on planet earth will go to bed hungry tonight.[17]

God’s spiritual grace and eternal promises are equal. But the physical “gifts” are not. Is that fair? Well, what would be fair? What would’ve been fair for the 10 brothers of Joseph? Fair would’ve had them impaled on a pole for their evil deeds. So, they were all way over into the positive side of the equation. Five changes of clothes instead of two changes of clothes really wasn’t something to get upset about, when what you deserved was execution.

God has given us access to heaven. He has given us spiritual gifts. He gives us joy and peace. He brings us into His family. He rewards us for the things He accomplishes in our lives. We have no reason to complain that someone else has it physically better than us, especially when we have it far physically better than almost all the people who have ever lived in any place or generation.

Does that mean we shouldn’t worry about feeding the hungry? Of course not. That’s not what I’m saying. But when we see what looks like lopsided grace in physical circumstances, we can continue to trust God, be thankful, and then use what we have to be generous like He is.

Genesis 45:23 – He sent his father the following: ten donkeys carrying the best products of Egypt and ten female donkeys carrying grain, food, and provisions for his father on the journey.

They brought the best of their land only to have even more of the best given back to them. This speaks to us of God’s generosity toward us. You cannot out-give God.

Luke 6:38 – Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

God does not need you to give to Him or His work. YOU need you to give to Him and His work.

When the brothers came, they brought 10 donkeys. Now they’re coming back with 20 more. Plus wagons. Plus supplies for a round trip. Plus a land grant. Plus silver. Plus, plus, plus!

Genesis 45:24 – So Joseph sent his brothers on their way, and as they were leaving, he said to them, “Don’t argue on the way.”

Scholars debate about what Joseph meant, because the root word is only used this one time.[18] It can have a variety of meanings, which aren’t mutually exclusive. One is what we read: Don’t argue or quarrel on the way.[19] Don’t get into a fight over who should’ve done what. All has been made new. Or, it can mean, “Don’t be afraid or anxious as you go.”[20] Yes, storms and robbers and potholes and complications still exist, but don’t focus on those things and worry about them. It might mean, “Don’t have second thoughts about following through on this plan.”[21] Stay the course and see it through to the end. It can mean, “Stay calm and peaceful, don’t worry that Joseph might turn against you.”[22] We’ll see they did worry about that after Jacob died. One linguist says that the word for ‘argue’ is the antonym for the word ‘peace.’[23] Don’t be not at peace.

All of these angles speak to us of commands and encouragements we’re given as children of God living the Christian life. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be quarrelsome. Don’t let the cares of the world shake you out of peace or out of pace. Follow through and receive what God wants to give.

Genesis 45:25 – So they went up from Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan.

After more than 20 years, the brothers would finally have to admit what they did to Joseph. And, then they would have to bring Pharaoh’s offer to Jacob. Why would he believe them when they had spent so many years lying?

Their stakes of their return make us wonder why Joseph didn’t go with his brothers. When Jacob dies and it’s time to bury him, Joseph goes to Canaan. Not only Joseph, but all the elders of Egypt go! But not here when it was way more important. Why? Well, the focus is on Jacob now. He, too, must make the choice to walk by faith.

Genesis 45:26 – They said, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt!” Jacob was stunned, for he did not believe them.

You see, it’s all about belief. Jacob hears the message and, at first, he did not believe. We’re told he was “stunned.” Your version may say, his “heart stood still.” Linguists tell us that these modern versions blunt the force of the original.[24] Jacob nearly died of shock on the spot.[25]

Genesis 45:27 – But when they told Jacob all that Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to transport him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived.

What brought revival? It was when these changed men humbly and honestly delivered the words of the rescuer and the invitation of king and showed a demonstration of the reality of His power and grace. “Here’s what the man said. Here are the wagons. Yes, we were lying, thieving killers, but now we are set free by the truth, and we’re here to say the king has invited us all to be with him.”

The wagons were a big deal. You couldn’t just get wagons. They were an innovative and rare vehicle in Egypt.[26] They would be pulled by a team of oxen. One ox cost as much as four month’s salary. They were the luxury vehicles only the elite could afford.

When the brothers shared the message and pointed and said, “Look at what the king has provided to us,” he saw that it was real and it brought revival to Jacob’s heart.

Genesis 45:28 – Then Israel said, “Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go to see him before I die.”

Jacob didn’t see Joseph yet, but he trusted in the news and in the testimony of his other sons and he said, “I’m convinced. Let’s go.” This is a big move. This isn’t a small trip. He was going to spend the rest of his life going to Egypt and living there with the rescuer.

Did you notice the little change there? It says, “Then Israel said.” Gordon Wenham points out that Jacob turns into Israel when his spiritual strength returns – when Jacob walks in faith, he is Israel.

What a beautiful model of the Christian life. The King and the Prince have invited us to come. They have provided all we need for the journey. They trust us to share the invitation with others. They have enriched our lives beyond what we could ask or imagine or deserve. Now we have the chance to take the trip, to walk by faith, trusting our Lord and being used by Him to demonstrate the power and grace and provision that He makes available to anyone who will believe. And some will believe when they look at our changed lives, when they see in us a true demonstration of the reality of God’s grace and generous mercy. When they see the wagons of heaven that we’ve brought with us to share with them, knowing there is a hope and a home and future waiting for us.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 Tom Scott This 1970s tank simulator drives through a tiny world https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcQifPHcMLE
2 Mark 7:37
3 Kenneth A. Mathews Genesis 11:27-50:26 The New American Commentary Volume 1B
4 Bruce Waltke Genesis: A Commentary
5, 13, 24 ibid.
6 Ezekiel 18:32
7, 20 CSB Study Bible Notes
8, 14, 18 Mathews
9 Gordon Wenham Genesis 16-50 Word Biblical Commentary Volume 2
10 Robert Alter The Hebrew Bible: A Translation With Commentary
11 Faithlife Study Bible Notes
12 John Goldingay Genesis
15, 19 Waltke
16 https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-survival/under-five-mortality/
17 https://www.worldvision.org/hunger-news-stories/world-hunger-facts
21 Wenham
22 Derek Kidner Genesis, Andrew Steinmann Genesis
23 Alter
25 Robert Davidson Genesis 12-50
26 Heidi Köpp-Junk Wagons And Carts And Their Significance In Ancient Egypt

The Millennium Forecast (Isaiah 1:1-31)

Billy Graham wrote these words in a 2012 article titled, My Heart Aches for America:

Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

I don’t see God apologizing anytime soon.

Our nation is in a moral free fall. Because we “did not like to retain God in [our] knowledge, God gave [us] over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (Romans 1:28). Is it too late to recover?

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.”

God announced His judgment, then offered Judah forgiveness, and a complete pardon. For their part, they needed only to repent and God would restore.

Was this principle exclusively for Israel? God applied this principle to every Gentile nation in the Book of Jeremiah when He said, “The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it” (18:7-8).

We need God to relent. I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 If You Repent, God Relents, and #2 When God Relents, You Are Restored.

#1 – If You Repent, God Relents (v1-17)

I can’t emphasize enough how simultaneously thrilling and intimidating it is to comment on Isaiah. Listen to the scope of this book in a quote from commentator Barry Webb:

“The vision begins with Heaven and Earth being summoned to listen (1:2), and it ends with their being so affected by what they hear that they are transformed into new heavens and a new Earth (66:22). It is about renewal on a massive scale, the re-creation of the universe. Isaiah’s vision begins with the historical Jerusalem of his own day, corrupt and under judgment (1:8), and finishes with the end-time city of God, the New Jerusalem, the joy and delight of the whole Earth (65:17-19). It reveals God’s dealings with His people from the eighth century BC (1:1) right down to our own time and beyond, to the things that will bring history to a close and usher in eternity (66:22-24). Its sweep is huge. In a very real sense the vision is as big as the mind of God himself.”

Isa 1:1  The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

The nation of Israel divided after King Solomon died. The north was called Israel, and the south, where Jerusalem was located, was called Judah.

I mentioned Billy Graham. He had the privilege of ministering to twelve sitting US presidents, from Truman to Obama. Isaiah ministered to four sitting kings of Judah.

Isa 1:2  Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O Earth! For the LORD has spoken: “I have nourished and brought up children, And they have rebelled against Me;
Isa 1:3  The ox knows its owner And the donkey its master’s crib; But Israel does not know, My people do not consider.”

Were the Jews dumb and dumber, like donkeys and oxen? No – donkeys and oxen were smarter than they were. The animals were smart enough to return home to their master, while the Jews were running further away from a loving Father.

Isa 1:4  Alas, sinful nation, A people laden with iniquity, A brood of evildoers, Children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the LORD, They have provoked to anger The Holy One of Israel, They have turned away backward.
Isa 1:5  Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, And the whole heart faints.
Isa 1:6  From the sole of the foot even to the head, There is no soundness in it, But wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; They have not been closed or bound up, Or soothed with ointment.

In procedural cop shows, there is always that scene where they have to enter the abandoned, rat infested warehouse, inhabited by barely alive addicts, in order to find someone. If Isaiah was writing today, he might use that to illustrate the true condition of the Jews, having run away from God to idols.

When Jesus wrote to the church in Laodicea, in the Book of Revelation, He said, “You say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (3:17).

We need the Spirit of God to show us our true condition, personally and nationally.

Isa 1:7  Your country is desolate, Your cities are burned with fire; Strangers devour your land in your presence; And it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
Isa 1:8  So the daughter of Zion is left as a booth in a vineyard, As a hut in a garden of cucumbers, As a besieged city.

“Booths” and “huts” were like today’s pop-up tents. When invaders came, those working in the fields would find no protection in a pop-up. The enemy would overrun them, then destroy outlying cities, then besiege Jerusalem by surrounding it and waiting for the inhabitants to surrender or starve.

Isa 1:9  Unless the LORD of hosts Had left to us a very small remnant, We would have become like Sodom, We would have been made like Gomorrah.
Isa 1:10  Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the law of our God, You people of Gomorrah:

Judah had become a spiritual Sodom and Gomorrah. It was evident by their sexual sin. Ezekiel chapter sixteen[1] and Leviticus 18:22 agree with what Jude wrote in his New Testament letter, “Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, [have] given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh” (v7).

The apostle Paul described a nation in a downward spiral, saying, “For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due” (Romans 1:26-27).

Just when you think sexual immorality can’t get any immoral-er, a new, sinful behavior is accepted, legalized, and pushed upon believers.

Sexual sin, especially when called good and legitimized, is a strong indicator that God has withdrawn from a nation.

Gotta love that word, “remnant.” A remnant is a left-over amount from a larger portion or piece. No matter how bleak the outlook, God, by His amazing providence, always has believers to keep history moving towards the promised consummation.

Herman Melville, in his 1850 novel White-Jacket, wrote, “We Americans are the peculiar, chosen people – the Israel of our time; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world.”

America is a great Gentile nation, but we do not replace Israel in prophecy. We will want to be careful in making applications from Isaiah.

Isa 1:11  “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” Says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats.
Isa 1:12  “When you come to appear before Me, Who has required this from your hand, To trample My courts?
Isa 1:13  Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.
Isa 1:14  Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.
Isa 1:15  When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.

The elaborate yet beautiful rules and rituals that God set for Israel in the Law of Moses in order to worship Him were not meant to take the place of a personal relationship with God through faith. It was doing Judah no good to go to the Temple, outwardly professing love for the Lord, while inwardly rebelling, and desiring to get their sacrifice over with in order to rush to the places of their idolatrous worship.

Isa 1:16  “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil,
Isa 1:17  Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.

The exhortation is to believe God, to be saved, and then they would be able to embody the virtues that God intends a nation to promote – “Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.”

Jonah was sent by God to Nineveh. “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. The king said, “Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?” Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.”

When judgment is announced, grace intervenes.

#2 – When God Relents, You Are Restored (v18-31)

When you say “God relents,” even though that is how the Bible reads, it hits a theological nerve in some believers concerning the sovereignty of God. If mankind can do something that moves God, some people think that the fabric of the universe will somehow be destroyed.

God’s sovereignty includes Him “relenting” in response to repentance. We see it in Jonah, in Jeremiah, and in Isaiah. It’s an offer we can refuse.

Isa 1:18  “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.”

“Reason together” is in a tense that means, listen to reason. You are in need of forgiveness and a complete pardon. Listen to reason and receive God’s offer.

Where can you find forgiveness and complete pardon from your sin? Only at Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, where the Savior died on the Cross, lifted up to draw all men to Himself.

God has made an incredible offer to individuals, and to nations. Let’s listen to reason, repent, and be restored

Isa 1:19  If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land;
Isa 1:20  But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword”; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

God made both unconditional and conditional promises to Israel:

His gift of the Promised Land was unconditional.
Blessing them in the land was conditioned upon their obedience.

We need to be careful and not think that outward blessing equates to godliness, especially in the Church Age when weakness and suffering have high value as currency in Heaven.

Isa 1:21  How the faithful city has become a harlot! It was full of justice; Righteousness lodged in it, But now murderers.

An idol-worshipping Jew left the Temple after sacrificing his lamb, and sacrificed his infant son to Molech.

Isa 1:22  Your silver has become dross, Your wine mixed with water.

Economic collapse and shortages of essentials is no fun. It’s no joke that the phrase, “Have you checked your 401K lately?” has become a cultural catch-phrase. It reminds us of a few more things Jesus said to the Laodiceans: “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see” (3:18).

I touched upon it a moment ago – Heaven has its own currency, valued much higher than the world’s.

Isa 1:23  Your princes are rebellious, And companions of thieves; Everyone loves bribes, And follows after rewards. They do not defend the fatherless, Nor does the cause of the widow come before them.

Bribes and outright theft in government are awful. I find it worse that it has become expected.

Have you ever had a surprise inspection? A nation had better be compassionately caring for its fatherless, widows, and all others who are disadvantaged when the LORD inspects.

Isa 1:24  Therefore the Lord says, The LORD of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel, “Ah, I will rid Myself of My adversaries, And take vengeance on My enemies.
Isa 1:25  I will turn My hand against you, And thoroughly purge away your dross, And take away all your alloy.

For a time, the Incredible Hulk was the Champion of Sakaar, besting all those who faced him in arena combat. Could you imagine reading the fight card and seeing he was your opponent?

God considered the rebellious Jews His “enemies” and “adversaries.” Our nation does not want God as their opponent.

Isa 1:26  I will restore your judges as at the first, And your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.”
Isa 1:27  Zion shall be redeemed with justice, And her penitents with righteousness.

This nugget is dropped in to give the remnant hope. God calls them “penitents,” a word meaning those who repent. The remnant and any who may yet repent would see the restoration of Jerusalem.

This was not guaranteeing that each and every one of them would live to physically see Jerusalem restored. They saw it by faith. Like father Abraham, the promise was enough. “He waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). He never saw the city, but God’s promises were as good as seeing it.

When you have God’s promises, in His Word, you do not need to see them fulfilled. You can rest and find contentment knowing that God cannot lie.

Isa 1:28  The destruction of transgressors and of sinners shall be together, And those who forsake the LORD shall be consumed.
Isa 1:29  For they shall be ashamed of the terebinth trees Which you have desired; And you shall be embarrassed because of the gardens Which you have chosen.
Isa 1:30  For you shall be as a terebinth whose leaf fades, And as a garden that has no water.
Isa 1:31  The strong shall be as tinder, And the work of it as a spark; Both will burn together, And no one shall quench them.

The trees and gardens were the sites of idol worship. Those sites would be consumed, as would the idol worshippers. You’ve heard the expression, “Turn or Burn?” That’s what Isaiah was predicting.

We need to be careful when we discuss idolatry, to not take cheap shots at people for having, let’s say, a hobby they enjoy. Sure, a hobby can be an idol for someone. I am saying that idolatry is much more sinister, buried deeper in the heart.

The sources I consulted agree that the big three, little ‘g,’ ‘gods’ that the Israelites worshiped alongside YHWH were Baal, Asherah, and Molech:

Baal comes to signify material prosperity.
Asherah was worshipped with practices of sexual immorality.
Molech was the idol upon whom babies were burned.

As a nation, we are deep into those gods:

As far as I can tell, the so-called Prosperity Gospel is an American invention. It’s adherents believe that, “Power is given to believers that binds and looses spiritual forces and turns the spoken word into reality. Faith is demonstrated in wealth and health. It could be measured both in the wallet – one’s personal wealth – and in the body – one’s personal health – making material reality the measure of the success of immaterial faith.”

The US has legalized all manner of sexual immorality, while simultaneously nuking Biblical morality.

We don’t burn babies; we abort them. By the millions – 64m in these United States since the procedure was legalized. The techniques used are brutal and violent.

As a nation, we worship Baal, Asherah, and Molech.

A.W. Tozer wrote, “Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late, and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work.”

Evangelist Charles Finney said something similar: “A revival is nothing else than a new beginning of obedience to God.”

Isaiah will have a new beginning of obedience to God when he has a vision of they Almighty and utters the famous phrase, “Here am I, send me” (6:8).

If you are not a believer, you obey God by receiving His indescribable gift, Jesus Christ, as your Savior. You should say, “Here am I, save me.”
If you are a believer, you’re going to want to spend time with Jesus, at the end of which you, too, say, “Here am I, send me.”

✅ When judgment is certain, grace intervenes
✅ If a nation repents, God relents

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 The Hebrew word translated “detestable” refers to something that is morally disgusting and is the exact same word used in Leviticus 18:22 that refers to homosexuality as an “abomination.”

Prophecy Update #729 – What’s The Deal With Davos?

Christians are encouraged to look for “the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). We are encouraged to look ahead to tomorrow, living with the awareness Jesus could come today.

One of the ways we look ahead to tomorrow is to consider the hundreds of unfulfilled prophecies in the Bible. We can expect the world to be moving in the direction predicted for the End Times.

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

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

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

The World Economic Forum (WEC) 2023 meeting in Davos, Switzerland, starts tomorrow. Before we talk about it, there are two other news stories I’d like to mention. Both of them involve the trend to a cashless society, like the one predicted in the Revelation.

Nigeria has set a limit on all cash withdrawals to $45 per day to force the population to use digital money only. One commentator said, “When the nudging stops, social shaping will be done by force.”

Denmark has switched to a largely cashless system.

Meanwhile, organizers have confirmed the WEF will host 52 heads of state and government and nearly 600 CEOs.  Additionally, over 300 government ministers are expected to take part in their annual meeting.

I copied this blurb off one of their websites:

The Covid-19 crisis, and the political, economic and social disruptions it has caused, is fundamentally changing the traditional context for decision-making.

The inconsistencies, inadequacies and contradictions of multiple systems – from health and financial to energy and education – are more exposed than ever amidst a global context of concern for lives, livelihoods and the planet. As we enter a unique window of opportunity to shape the recovery, this initiative will offer insights to help inform all those determining the future state of global relations, the direction of national economies, the priorities of societies, the nature of business models and the management of a global commons.[1]

A simple way of understanding the goal of the WEC is to realize they want to eliminate national sovereignty in favor of a group of elite leaders who would govern globally.

Florida Governor DeSantis commented, “Their vision is they run everything and everybody else is just like a serf,” and their proposals are “really weakening western society, western values.”

For example. The CommonPass system, backed by the World Economic Forum (WEF), is designed to create a common international standard for travelers to demonstrate they do not have coronavirus. The CommonPass is currently being trialled by Cathay Pacific Airways and United Airlines on certain flights between London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore. The project is being implemented in collaboration with government representatives from 37 countries around the world, as well as public and private partners.

The WEC would mandate vaccinating and testing for COVID, for every country, according to their agenda. The United States would be included, but unlike the United Nations, which has negligible power over national sovereignty, the WEC would. Eventually they will mandate their entire agenda.[2]

The US Embassy in Switzerland lists the following US government officials attending the conference:

Secretary of Labor Martin J. Walsh
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines
United States Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai
Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Christopher Wray
United States Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power
Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry
Three US Senators
Nine Representatives from Congress[3]

Futurists have long held that the Bible predicts that government of Earth, especially during the seven-year Great Tribulation, will be global, concentrated in a coalition of nations, then in one man – the antichrist. The WEC is exactly the kind of organization you expect to see in light of prophecy.

We are witnessing the stage-setting for the seven year Great Tribulation that is described in the last book of the Bible.

We will not be on Earth during that terrible Time of Jacob’s Trouble. The resurrection and rapture of the church are imminent. It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it.

Jesus will come, in the clouds, and raise the dead believers of the Church Age. He will transform the bodies of living believers to glorified, resurrection bodies.

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

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

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 https://www.weforum.org/great-reset/
2 https://www.gdg.travel/blog/commonpass/
3 https://ch.usembassy.gov/wef-2023/

Let Buy-Sons Be Bygones (Genesis 44:1-45:15)

In 1981, Mehmet Ali Ağca shot Pope John Paul II. He was sentenced to life in prison. The Pope, who survived the attack, met with Ağca in 1983. After the meeting, the Pope said that he had forgiven Ağca for what he did. Nevertheless, the man stayed incarcerated for 19 years. Finally, in the year 2000, the Pope urged the Italian President to pardon Ağca. He did, and Ağca was deported back to Turkey…where he began serving a prison sentence for a murder he committed in 1979.[1] It was a very public example of forgiveness, but didn’t have the happiest of endings.

Imagine if the Pope had met his attacker there in his cell and not only said, “I forgive you,” but “come live with me at The Vatican.” That would’ve been a shocking forgiveness.

The forgiveness in our text is amazing. The brothers had the greatest guilt. Joseph had the greatest power. No one could fault him for striking them down for what they had done. The stage was set for one of history’s great revenge stories. Instead we see one of history’s greatest reconciliations.

God has forgiveness ready for every guilty sinner. And, we remember that Jesus spoke about showing mercy and said to we who have been forgiven, “Go and do likewise.”

Genesis 44:1-2 – Joseph commanded his steward, “Fill the men’s bags with as much food as they can carry, and put each one’s silver at the top of his bag. 2 Put my cup, the silver one, at the top of the youngest one’s bag, along with the silver for his grain.” So he did as Joseph told him.

In some ways, Joseph shows us things about how God works. We call this “typology” in the Bible. But, God does not deal with us deceptively. It’s hard to know what Joseph was thinking with this deception. But apart from that, we’ve seen that Joseph is very generous to his brothers. He gives them the grain, he gives them the silver, he throws them a feast. They didn’t just get the grain they paid for, but as much as they could carry.[2] It reminds us that God is tender and generous. He gives us all we need, all can carry for the journey, plus hidden treasure that we don’t even know about.

Ambrose, the fourth century theologian, wrote: “Even though we are unable to see Christ’s gifts, nevertheless He is giving them.”[3] We get to discover those gifts and treasures along the way.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I find it funny that the silver and the chalice are placed specifically at the top of the bags – even after the last trip’s debacle, the brothers don’t bother to check their bags to make sure everything is in order. The last chapter closed with them getting hammered. Gordon Wenham writes, “Hangovers in Scripture and in life are often unpleasant.”

Genesis 44:3-9 – 3 At morning light, the men were sent off with their donkeys. 4 They had not gone very far from the city when Joseph said to his steward, “Get up. Pursue the men, and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid evil for good? 5 Isn’t this the cup that my master drinks from and uses for divination? What you have done is wrong!’ ” 6 When he overtook them, he said these words to them. 7 They said to him, “Why does my lord say these things? Your servants could not possibly do such a thing. 8 We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the silver we found at the top of our bags. How could we steal silver or gold from your master’s house? 9 If it is found with one of us, your servants, he must die, and the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.”

What is Joseph doing? As a character, he’s often put in a category with Daniel as men who have no sins recorded on the pages of Scripture. It’s a dumb category because even Daniel spends time confessing his sins in prayer. And we have to admit that Joseph’s maneuvers in these chapters are a little weird. It’s hard to know what his full motivation was since the Bible doesn’t comment on it.

On the one hand, some think he is purely trying to discern the moral character of his brothers and his schemes are like the wisdom of Solomon, revealing their hearts.[4] There are others who are convinced that Joseph’s plan at this point is to isolate Benjamin so that he can keep his brother in Egypt and send the rest of the family away – sustaining them with food from afar.[5] There are some who feel that Joseph is just as much in need of heart transformation as Judah or Reuben – that he’s dealing with favoritism and a hard-heartedness of his own.[6]

For their part, the brothers are quick to declare their innocence. They make what is known in the Bible as a “rash vow.” “We’re so sure you’re wrong that if you find the cup, let the man die!”

The Bible gives us quite a few examples of rash vows. Jephthah in Judges is probably the most famous. Then there’s Saul, whose vow almost killed Jonathan. Herod, whose vow led to John the Baptist’s beheading. Jacob made a rash vow about Laban’s household idols in Genesis 31.

Ecclesiastes, Leviticus, and Proverbs all speak about this issue. Jesus spoke directly about making vows in the Sermon On The Mount. Don’t make rash vows. Be slow to speak and slower to promise.

Genesis 44:10-13 – 10 The steward replied, “What you have said is right, but only the one who is found to have it will be my slave, and the rest of you will be blameless.” 11 So each one quickly lowered his sack to the ground and opened it. 12 The steward searched, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest, and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13 Then they tore their clothes, and each one loaded his donkey and returned to the city.

Even though we can’t be sure of Joseph’s emotional motivation, we can see that he is recreating a scenario in which the 10 brothers are pitted against the young favorite, as they had been when they abused Joseph 22 years earlier.[7] Already we see a difference. Before they had debated about what to do with Joseph – most wanting to kill him, one wanting to rough him up but then get him home, others wanting to sell him. Now we see they consistently act as a unified group. They act together. They move together. They agree together. As we’ve seen over the last few passages, these men are growing spiritually by leaps and bounds.

Christians are called to unity. We’re not always going to agree on everything, but unity is essential. Jesus said that our love for one another should define us.[8] Paul commanded us to “pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.”[9] There will be disagreements, even offenses, but true Christianity bears with one another in forgiveness and love, which is the bond of unity.

The brothers didn’t start yelling at Benjamin, “This is all your fault!” They moved together. It’s remarkable that when the steward said, “Just this guy is in trouble, the rest of you can go,” yet all the brothers packed up and went to face the music together.

Genesis 44:14-15 – 14 When Judah and his brothers reached Joseph’s house, he was still there. They fell to the ground before him. 15 “What have you done?” Joseph said to them. “Didn’t you know that a man like me could uncover the truth by divination?”

Pagans would use cups like this to pour oil into water or wine into other liquids and look at the patterns on the surface to try to divine the future.[10] But the absurdity of pagan divination is on full display here: If you use the cup to divine, how did you divine without the cup?

Did Joseph do these divination rituals? Lots of scholars try to excuse him from it. We just don’t know. The truth is, he’s living before the Law – before divination of this sort is prohibited for God’s people. I don’t think Joseph believes he can divine with a cup, but he’s also trapped in this Egyptian system. So we don’t know what he did and didn’t do since there was no Daniel moment where he says to his boss, “Yeah, I’m not doing that.”

The brothers don’t just bow, they fall down in abject, desperate submission.[11] Now, we know that all is going to be forgiven. What they deserve is imprisonment and death for their crimes. But this prince has peace and mercy in store for them. But to receive it, they must return to him. They must come to his throne and fall on his mercy. The same is true spiritually speaking. God is ready to forgive. His desire is to shower sinners with love and mercy and grace and generosity, but we each must come to Him, confessing our guilt, and ask for the mercy that He is so ready to give.

Genesis 44:16-17 – 16 “What can we say to my lord?” Judah replied. “How can we plead? How can we justify ourselves? God has exposed your servants’ iniquity. We are now my lord’s slaves—both we and the one in whose possession the cup was found.” 17 Then Joseph said, “I swear that I will not do this. The man in whose possession the cup was found will be my slave. The rest of you can go in peace to your father.”

Judah’s words are so beautiful. He is a man who has had his heart changed by God. Though they weren’t guilty of this theft, he knew they were guilty men. They had killed and stolen. They had lied. They had dishonored God. And Judah knows that they are facing a reckoning not just before Joseph, but before the Lord. How could they justify themselves? They couldn’t. They were guilty many times over. As so, in this moment, Judah knows they can only appeal for mercy, not for justice.[12] In the Tamar incident, he learned the importance and power of confession. And this humility and honesty has helped the Lord transform him from a murderous, human-trafficking John, to being the spiritual leader of this family.

This opening statement from Judah must’ve been amazing to Joseph. You see, he was recreating this 10 brothers vs. 1 brother situation, but as R. Kent Hughes points out, the temptation was much greater this time around. 22 years earlier, the temptation was, “If we sell Joseph we can each get 2 pieces of silver.” They were already rich men. Now the temptation is: Abandon your brother and you get to walk free instead of being enslaved. But then Judah says, “We’re guilty and we’re at your mercy.” Joseph knew they weren’t guilty of this cup crime. So this would’ve been a huge moment.

Genesis 44:18-23 – 18 But Judah approached him and said, “My lord, please let your servant speak personally to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, for you are like Pharaoh. 19 My lord asked his servants, ‘Do you have a father or a brother?’ 20 and we answered my lord, ‘We have an elderly father and a younger brother, the child of his old age. The boy’s brother is dead. He is the only one of his mother’s sons left, and his father loves him.’ 21 Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him to me so that I can see him.’ 22 But we said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father. If he were to leave, his father would die.’ 23 Then you said to your servants, ‘If your younger brother does not come down with you, you will not see me again.’

Judah’s speech is the longest in all Genesis.[13] A lot of it is a re-hash for us, but there is a very interesting piece of information that we hadn’t heard before. He reminds Joseph that they told him, “The boy (Benjamin) cannot leave or his father would die.” And yet, Joseph proceeded with his demand that they bring Benjamin to Egypt. Did Joseph think they were lying or did he simply no longer care about the well-being of Jacob? It seems possible that, as Joseph hatches these plans, he’s not actually considering what it might cost.[14]

Throughout the speech, Benjamin is silent while Judah advocates for him. Christ does the same for us. We have no plea before a holy God. We have no defense. All we can hope for is a Substitute, which is exactly what we get in Jesus – the Son of Judah, Who ever lives to make intercession for us. He is the One Who secures forgiveness for us. It’s not our effort but His.

Genesis 44:24-34 – 24 “This is what happened when we went back to your servant my father: We reported to him the words of my lord. 25 But our father said, ‘Go again, and buy us a little food.’ 26 We told him, ‘We cannot go down unless our younger brother goes with us. If our younger brother isn’t with us, we cannot see the man.’ 27 Your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. 28 One is gone from me—I said he must have been torn to pieces—and I have never seen him again. 29 If you also take this one from me and anything happens to him, you will bring my gray hairs down to Sheol in sorrow.’ 30 “So if I come to your servant my father and the boy is not with us—his life is wrapped up with the boy’s life—31 when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die. Then your servants will have brought the gray hairs of your servant our father down to Sheol in sorrow. 32 Your servant became accountable to my father for the boy, saying, ‘If I do not return him to you, I will always bear the guilt for sinning against you, my father.’ 33 Now please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave, in place of the boy. Let him go back with his brothers. 34 For how can I go back to my father without the boy? I could not bear to see the grief that would overwhelm my father.”

Judah’s pleas are all the more tender when we remember that he was the one who made the plan to sell him to the Ishmaelites. Now, Judah is fighting on behalf of the more-loved, favorite son.

He offers himself as the substitute. This is the first time in Scripture that someone has done such a thing.[15] Even Abraham didn’t offer himself in place of his beloved son on Mount Moriah, but hoped that God would provide a substitute. Now Judah, who knows what it feels like to lose two sons, offers himself, even though it would mean he would lose his other sons who were back in Canaan. What a transformation of grace! This is what the Bible means when it says that, in Christ, we are new creations – the old has passed away.[16] This is why our primary answer to problems is getting people converted. Laws don’t change people. Incentives don’t make the difference we want. But, if a person becomes born again? Anything is possible. Look at what faith did in Judah’s life. If we want societal change, the most important goal is for people to be made new in Christ.

Genesis 45:1-2 – Joseph could no longer keep his composure in front of all his attendants, so he called out, “Send everyone away from me!” No one was with him when he revealed his identity to his brothers. 2 But he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and also Pharaoh’s household heard it.

Whatever Joseph’s thoughts or plans were, clearly he has become overwhelmed by all that he’s seen. These are not the same men he knew 22 years before. It’s time for the game to end and reconciliation to happen.

Genesis 45:3 – 3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But they could not answer him because they were terrified in his presence.

Suddenly this angry prince starts speaking to them in Hebrew. Suddenly, his face comes into focus. Suddenly he speaks the name that they hadn’t used in years but thought of so often. Suddenly they “look on him they pierced.” If they thought they were in trouble before, now they’re terrified.

But in this moment of revelation, all their guilt is washed away by mercy and forgiveness. Joseph has no anger. He uses a tender term for father, sort of like abba.[17] It’s all about reconciliation and forgiveness now.

Genesis 45:4-8 – 4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please, come near me,” and they came near. “I am Joseph, your brother,” he said, “the one you sold into Egypt. 5 And now don’t be grieved or angry with yourselves for selling me here, because God sent me ahead of you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there will be five more years without plowing or harvesting. 7 God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. 8 Therefore it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

Joseph says, “Come near me,” not so he can strike them or frighten them, but so they can embrace. As we approach the Lord and fall into His loving arms, He blots out our sins,[18] because He paid their penalty.

Joseph is emphatic: It wasn’t you, it was God Who did all this to me. Was that right? Did God do all these things? In the saga of providence it is true that God used Joseph as a sort of Ark to save His people from death. But should we then think that God forced the brothers to do what they did?

In the Book of Acts, Stephen comments on Joseph’s life under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and he says that, “God was with Joseph and rescued him out of all his troubles.” The Lord was working good out of the evil work of men because He needed to protect the chosen line which would deliver the Messiah.

This is not a story of God making men do evil, but a story proving that sin, hatred, and injustice cannot thwart God’s grace or His plan.[19] It is also a demonstration that, no matter what is happening in a family or a region or around the world, God preserves a remnant for His purposes. And His purpose is always great deliverance. Rescue for the guilty. Redemption for the undeserving. A great deliverance. When all the world is against them, God was for them. And though God is not the cause of your suffering or difficulty or opposition, He is able to work in and through it to accomplish a great deliverance in and through your life. But that work will mean that we have to be agents of grace rather than grievance, reconciliation rather than revenge, forgiveness rather than hostility. Joseph let go of any hard feelings he had toward his brothers and instead makes himself available to help and to save and to give to them all that he has.

Genesis 45:9-13 – 9 “Return quickly to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: “God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me without delay. 10 You can settle in the land of Goshen and be near me—you, your children, and your grandchildren, your flocks, your herds, and all you have. 11 There I will sustain you, for there will be five more years of famine. Otherwise, you, your household, and everything you have will become destitute.” ’ 12 Look! Your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin can see that I’m the one speaking to you. 13 Tell my father about all my glory in Egypt and about all you have seen. And bring my father here quickly.”

The choice was very clear: Come and be saved or lose everything. There was no other option and no other hope. This is the forgiveness of God on display. Come and join His Kingdom, come and be fed, come and be enriched, come and be protected, or die. What a shocking heart-break that so many people choose famine over faith.

Joseph told them to hurry. There was no reason to wait and no time to lose. The same is true for the lost today. Hurry into His presence. Rush into His Kingdom. He has only the best in mind for you.

Genesis 45:14-15 – 14 Then Joseph threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin wept on his shoulder. 15 Joseph kissed each of his brothers as he wept, and afterward his brothers talked with him.

There was a total reconciliation between Joseph and each of his brothers – not just one or two. Joseph shows real affection, not simply a begrudging willingness to throw some grain their way. God is ready to embrace us with this kind of personal, affectionate forgiveness. But here is the deal:

Proverbs 28:13 – 13 The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.

None of this “forgive yourself” nonsense. No, the way forward is to fall on God’s grace, which He is so ready to give in abundance to overflowing. But we must go to Him. We must bow before Him. We must confess our guilt and acknowledge that He alone can save. And then we can receive the richness of His provision.

As Christians, we’re then called to practice the kind of gracious forgiveness God shows us. We live in a land of hatred, hostility, grudges, and retaliation. That isn’t the way forward. Not in our families, not in our churches, not in our politics, not in our society. Grace is the way forward. Be a servant full of faith and forgiveness from the heart, knowing the Lord is on your side and His rescue plan continues even now.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attempted_assassination_of_Pope_John_Paul_II
2 Gordon Wenham Genesis 16-50
3 Saint Ambrose Seven Exegetical Works
4 Derek Kidner Genesis
5 See Robert Candlish, John Goldingay, Eugene Roop
6 Mark A. O’Brien The Contribution Of Judah’s Speech, Genesis 44:18-34, To The Characterization Of Joseph
7 Kenneth A. Mathews Genesis 11:27-50:26
8 John 13:35
9 Romans 14:19
10 Bruce Waltke Genesis: A Commentary
11 John Goldingay Genesis
12 Wenham
13 Faithlife Study Bible Notes
14 Waltke
15 ibid.
16 R. Kent Hughes Genesis: Beginning And Blessing
17 Robert Alter The Hebrew Bible: A Translation With Commentary
18 Robert Candlish Studies In Genesis
19 Hughes

The Thorn Ultimatum (2 Corinthians 12:1-10)

The top three New Year’s resolutions: Exercise more… Eat healthier… Lose weight.

The apostle Paul had what we can call a ‘New Man’ resolution. He resolved he would “take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (v10).

Among them would be “a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet [him]” (v7).

We have likewise been promised by Jesus that in the world we should expect tribulation.

Paul didn’t resign himself to his suffering as if burdened by it. He took “pleasure” in them. “Pleasure” is better translated to think well of, to approve, and to be willing.

“Infirmities… reproaches… necessities… persecutions… [and] distresses.” You have them. Are you boasting about them?
Do you have a thorn in your flesh? If so, do you believe that “the power of Christ… rest[s] upon [you]”? (v9).

Do you want, in 2023, to grow spiritually, to be a stronger Christian? God will design a custom lesson plan to teach you that it is when you are weak that you are strong.

Charles Spurgeon wrote, “I am certain that I never did grow in grace one-half so much anywhere as I have upon the bed of pain.”

In our time remaining, we are going to go through the text to reveal Jesus and thereby understand more about the pleasure and boasting made possible by grace.

The title of today’s message: “The Thorn Ultimatum.”

Asthma, scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, sinusitis, heart palpitations, nervous trouble, bone & joint deformity, color blindness, scoliosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, anemia, partial deafness, astigmatism, fatigue.

Those were the boxes that were checked on Steve Rogers’ WWII draft card. He made five attempts to enlist. During the fifth, he was noticed by Dr. Abraham Erksine, who had the authority to approve him. The 5’4” chronically ill 95lb weakling was exactly the man the doctor was looking for.

The rest is comic book gold. The scientist supplied Steve with super-soldier serum. He transformed into Captain America. He was bigger, stronger, and faster. He was physically enhanced.

When someone becomes a Christian, and receives the “super-Spirit,” are they physically enhanced? No, of course not.

If, however, you stop to think about it, we often act as if a Christian is physically enhanced.

We identify as ‘spiritual’ by those who are presentable, healthy, talented, educated, and successful in the world. It is natural for us to look upon the outward man, not the inward.

Once upon a time, the nation of Israel demanded a king. “There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish… a mighty man of power. And he had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul. There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people” (First Samuel 9:1-2).

Israel’s Man of the Year, and Sexiest Man Alive, Tall Saul, was a miserable failure.

The LORD sent the prophet Samuel to the house of Jesse to anoint His choice for king. He was ready to repeat the mistake and choose Jesse’s eldest son. “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart’ ” (First Samuel 16:7).
That “man after God’s own heart” was David, only a boy, the least in his family. Good choice.

William Carey’s biographer said he “was born in a forgotten village in the dullest period of the dullest of all centuries.” His family was poverty-poor. He did not go to school beyond the age of 12. A skin affliction made him sensitive to outdoor work, so he became a cobbler’s apprentice.

Attracted to the ministry, Carey was rejected when he gave his first sermon as a candidate. It took two more years for him to be ordained.

In 1787, Carey suggested that all Christians had a duty to share the Gospel around the world. His enthusiasm was met with this answer: “Young man, sit down. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine.”

Undeterred, he founded the Baptist Missionary Society five years later. One year after that, he was sent to India. There were repeated attacks of malaria and cholera.
Carey and his wife Dorothy lost three small children on the mission field. Dorothy progressively lost her sanity, unable to cope with the strain of living at a subsistence level in India.

A fire in 1812 at the mission printing plant destroyed years of Carey’s translation work. On top of all that, there were no conversions for seven years.

What modern mission board would not feel it their obligation to recall Carey as a failure?

Carey eventually formed a team who translated the Bible into 34 Asian languages.

He established 19 mission stations.

He formed 100 rural schools encouraging the education of girls.

His fight against the custom of sati led to its being banned in 1829. It was the Hindu practice by which a widow sacrificed herself by sitting atop her deceased husband’s funeral pyre.

A.B. Simpson writes, “God is not looking for extraordinary characters as His instruments, but He is looking for humble instruments through whom He can be honored throughout the ages.”

2Co 12:1  It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord

Paul saw Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus on the day he was saved.
He had a vision when he was called to minister to the Gentiles.
It was by a vision that he was sent to Macedonia.
When things got tough in Corinth, he was encouraged via vision.
After his arrest in Jerusalem, vision.
In the midst of the storm at sea that would leave him shipwrecked on Malta, vision.
Add to all these that Paul had spent three years in the desert receiving teaching directly from the risen Lord.

But wasn’t Paul boasting by mentioning his “visions and revelations of the Lord?” William MacDonald writes, “When boasting of weakness, the apostle didn’t mind mentioning himself. But when boasting of visions and revelations of the Lord, he would not apply them directly to himself, but would rather speak of the experience impersonally as having occurred to some man he knew. He was not denying that he was the one who had the experience, but was simply refusing to involve himself directly and personally.”

2Co 12:2  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows – such a one was caught up to the third Heaven.

Paul was “a man in Christ.” One thing this conveys is that you didn’t see Paul, you saw Jesus. Spiritually speaking, he was hidden in Christ.

Fourteen years earlier he had been “caught-up to the third heaven.”

The Bible speaks of the atmospheric heavens, the stellar heavens, and the third Heaven – the dwelling place of God.

2Co 12:3  And I know such a man – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows –
2Co 12:4  how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

“Paradise” is used here as a synonym for the third Heaven. Paul didn’t know if he had died and gone to Heaven, or if he was simply transported there while still alive.

“Not lawful… to utter” could mean that these visions and revelations were personal – not meant to boast to others about. He drew from them now in order to show the boasters their arrogance:

Paul was “in Christ,” humbled by visions.
They were in their flesh, quick to draw attention away from Jesus to themselves.

2Co 12:5  Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities.
2Co 12:6  For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.

By not outright owning that he was the man, it allowed him to use his experiences as an illustration without boasting.

The loudest speaker in tongues, the most elaborate ‘prophesier,’ the most exuberant, Pentecostal worshipper – these were the fleshly standards the Corinthian’s established. Paul was content to be seen as weak, or not to be seen at all.

Now is a good time to talk about Paul’s appearance. There is a literary portrait of Paul in a second century writing called The Acts of Paul and Thecla. Paul is described as “a man of middling size, and his hair was scanty, and his legs were a little crooked, and his knees were projecting, and he had large eyes and his eyebrows met, and his nose was somewhat long.” He sounds a little like Dobby, the house-elf in Harry Potter.

Now we come to it – the infamous “thorn in the flesh.”

2Co 12:7  And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.

“Thorn” is the translation of a word used of a tent-peg or a rather large stake upon which you were tortured or impaled. Interesting that Paul worked with canvas, making tents.

“In the flesh” identifies it as a physical infirmity. The thorn, or its effects, were visible.

“A messenger of Satan” must be understood in the context of it being “in his flesh,” i.e., something visible. It does not mean a malevolent creature oppressed Paul. It is similar to the situation with Job in the Old Testament.

Satan thought it would stumble Paul, but God knew it would humble him.

Speculation about the thorn is mostly on one of the many ancient eye ailments on account of a weird thing he wrote concerning the Christians in the regions of Galatia.

He said, “For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me” (4:15). He followed that up by saying to them, “See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!” (6:11). “Large” in the sense of his not being able to read small print. Paul’s King James Version Bible was giant print.

There were many chronic eye conditions in ancient times. Trachoma, for example, is a good guess. From its initial description in antiquity until the late 1930s, no specific treatment or effective cure existed.

Because these eye conditions are described as conjunctivitis, we think pink eye – not really a big deal. It was a huge deal. Some of the images that come up on a search will make you wince.

Having to listen to a guy who had trachoma, you’d understand why you’d want to give him your eyes.

2Co 12:8  Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.

Why only “three times?” Jews prayed three times daily:

Daniel, “in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem… knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (6:10).

The apostles continued to observe three daily times of prayer in the Temple (Acts 2:15, 3:1, 10:9).

It would seem that Paul prayed for one day’s cycle, then received God’s answer.

The Lord does not heal as much as He did in His first coming. He healed as a sign that He was the promised Messiah. We are in an age in which He is made visible in our suffering more than through our healing.

2Co 12:9  And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

God’s answer was to remind Paul that His “grace is sufficient.” The Lord doesn’t say He will give Paul more grace. He reminded him that grace was already sufficient to meet every circumstance.

Let’s touch upon the problem of pain. People ask, “Why, God?” Why is there evil, and why doesn’t God do something about it.

It was necessary for God to give our original parents, Adam and Eve, free will to choose to follow Him, or to reject Him. C.S. Lewis observed, “Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.”

Our parents chose poorly, and the result is the fallen world we live in, whose ruler is the devil.

Why doesn’t God do something? He has; He is. In the Garden of Eden He promised to send His Son to be our Savior.

Jesus Christ would be born, God in human flesh, to die in order that we might have eternal life believing in Him.

Justifying sinners, declaring believing sinners righteous, is no simple task.

Jesus came a long time ago; what’s going on with that? God is waiting in a special way, called long-suffering, because He is not willing that any should perish eternally, but all come to eternal life.

God loves the world so much that He sent his only begotten Son to die that men might not perish but have eternal life. No man comes to the Lord unless he is drawn by God. Wonderfully, on the Cross Jesus draws all men to Himself. Whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. He is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe.

Let us be clear: Jesus can save every man, but those who refuse His offer of salvation, who refuse to believe in Him, remain in their sins and must in the end to be consigned to eternal, conscious punishment in the Lake of Fire.

The word “rest” is tent upon. You’re body is the “tent.” Jesus dwells in you by means of God the Holy Spirit. Listen to these two descriptions:

The apostle John said of Jesus He was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
The “Spirit of grace” is a name of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 10).

Because He is full of grace, wherever Jesus is present, grace is full; it is sufficient.
He ascended into Heaven, then sent God the Holy Spirit to live in us. He is the Spirit of grace, by whom we have sufficient grace.

When Jesus told Paul His grace was sufficient, He wasn’t talking about giving Paul an injection of super-grace.

He was talking about Himself, living in Paul’s ‘tent’ by the Spirit of God, with sufficient grace in every circumstance & suffering.

You may not immediately receive that sufficiency. It can be hard to wrap your mind around the fact that all resources in heavenly places are yours. But it doesn’t make it untrue, or suggest there is another source other than Jesus.

Alan Redpath writes, “Return to the battle, no longer trusting in the false and insufficient human resources which so foolishly we had taken into the battle, but now trusting in the limitless resources of our risen Lord.”

2Co 12:10  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

There are hard truths to learn, and severe mercies to be experienced, in following the Lord. Elizabeth Elliot, no stranger to loss, said, “Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering. The love of God did not protect His own Son. He will not necessarily protect us – not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.”

You might remember the classic SyFy series, Quantum Leap.

Doctor Sam Beckett stepped into the quantum accelerator and vanished. He found himself jumping into someone else’s body, “facing mirror images that were not his own.”

In Episode 22, Sam leaps into a woman. Two men are attempting to abduct her. Sam is helpless until Al, his trusty holographic sidekick, reminds him that he is trained in Judo, Karate, Muay Thai, and Taekwondo. Once Sam is reminded, he easily dispatches the bad guys.

God the Holy Spirit doesn’t need to leap into you. He is already in you. It is up to you and I to believe it.

I came across this quote summarizing what we’ve expounded upon:

“God knows what each one of us is dealing with. He knows our pressures. He knows our conflicts. And He has made a provision for each and every one of them. That provision is Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit, indwelling us and empowering us to respond rightly.”

Prophecy Update #728 – Killing You Swiftly

Christians are encouraged to look for to “the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). We are encouraged to look forward to tomorrow, living with the awareness Jesus could come today.

One of the ways we look forward to tomorrow is to consider the hundreds of unfulfilled prophecies in the Bible. We can expect the world to be moving in the direction predicted for the End Times.

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

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

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

There are unfulfilled prophecies about a global government led by the charismatic man we commonly call the antichrist. He will be supernaturally energized by Satan. He will come on the scene sometime after the church is resurrected and raptured. In the very middle of the future Great Tribulation, he will demand to be worshipped as God.

Don Stewart writes, “Satan has always wanted worship. He began his career by wishing to change places with God. That did not work. He will finally get his chance as he energizes the antichrist.”

Jesus said of Satan, “He was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). Murder is one of Satan’s most prevalent activities.

Since Satan is a murderer, when he rules the New World Order through the antichrist, we can expect him to go on a killing spree. We know that he will murder anyone who refuses to worship the antichrist (Revelation 13:12).
It makes sense to me that since Satan will murder so freely in the future, we should see an increase in murders before the Great Tribulation, and a change in how the world thinks about murder.

Chicago is at or above 700 murders for 2022. Mexico reported more than 31,000 violent homicides in 2022, 86 per day.

More troubling, however, is how the world’s thinking about murder is changing. For one, it isn’t called murder. It’s called assisted death or euthanasia.

Euthanasia is the act of intentionally ending a life to relieve suffering. It is further described as voluntary, involuntary, active, or passive.
Intentionally helping another person to kill themselves is known as assisted death, or physician-assisted death.

Canada is all about assisted death. They call it, MAiD – Medical Assistance in Dying. According to one source:

It has recommended veterans kill themselves instead of waiting for a wheelchair lift.
It has expanded the program to the mentally ill.
Companies are advertising for assisted suicide.
Churches are even having assisted suicide ceremonies.

Over 30,000 people have been assisted in dying since it was first legalized in 2016.

This next one you won’t believe, but it’s true. Health Canada financed a children’s activity book explaining doctor-assisted suicide. “Canadian Virtual Hospice first published the booklet in July in order to prepare children who have someone in their life who may have chosen Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD). Topics in the booklet include defining MAiD, who is eligible, and how it is administered to a patient.”

Said the reporter, sarcastically, “It’s just a fun little book about killing yourself.” We would put it in the column, ‘Indoctrination.’ Can you imagine what these kids brought up in a culture of assisted death is going to think about the elderly, the infirm, the mentally ill?” [1]

I saw the original Soylent Green. A catastrophically polluted and over-populated future society not only made suicide legal, but encouraged and facilitated by the state.

An all-expenses-paid, voluntary euthanasia is posited as Japan’s solution in the critically acclaimed film titled Plan 75. Japanese film director Chie Hayakawa had an idea for a screenplay when she decided to test out her premise on elderly friends of her mother and other acquaintances. Her question: If the government sponsored a euthanasia program for people 75 and over, would you consent to it?

“Most people were very positive about it,” Ms. Hayakawa said. “They didn’t want to be a burden on other people or their children.”

A 2021 journal article said: “Assisted dying practices, which include euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS), have expanded significantly around the world over the past 20 years. The growing global aging population accompanied by higher levels of chronic disease and protracted illnesses have sharpened the focus on end of life issues.” [2]

We are witnessing the stage-setting for the seven-year Great Tribulation that is described in the last book of the Bible.

We will not be on Earth during that terrible Time of Jacob’s Trouble. The resurrection and rapture of the church are imminent. It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it.

Jesus will come, in the clouds, and raise the dead believers of the Church Age. He will transform the bodies of living believers to glorified, resurrection bodies.

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

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

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 https://notthebee.com/article/canada-is-promoting-its-assisted-suicide-program-to-little-kids-through-an-activity-book-and-the-evil-growing-north-of-the-border-seems-to-be-increasing-by-the-day
2 https://apm.amegroups.com/article/view/50986/html

Lunch Meet (Genesis 43)

The term “power lunch” was born in 1979. At restaurants like The Four Seasons, VIPs and CEOs would sit at tables spaced far apart, taking long, boozy lunches, while less powerful workers hurried to scarf a sandwich from a street vendor. In the time-is-money rat race of New York City, being able to sit down for a meal midday became a status symbol.[1]

There’s a boozy, power lunch in Genesis 43. After debate and delay, Joseph’s brothers return to Egypt hoping to get some life-saving grain and retrieve their imprisoned brother at the same time. The problem is, no one in the family really wants to make the trip. The brothers are afraid they might be jailed as spies and thieves. Jacob is afraid Benjamin won’t come home. Meanwhile, as readers we know what’s really going on – we see that God’s incredible providence has unfolded to give this family salvation and safety and shelter and harmony. As the family of faith hesitates, we want to shout into the pages, “JUST GO!”

But the drama of these years wasn’t really about grain, it was about hearts. This was the family through which God was going to bring the Deliverer. This was the family God had called out from all the others on the earth to know Him and follow Him and represent Him. But they were off track. Compared to Noah in his ark or Abraham on Mount Moriah, their faith looks pretty shriveled. But the Lord was drawing them back. He put Joseph in position to show them Who the God of their Fathers really was, what He was really capable of, and how He was still in love with this family.

Genesis 43:1-2 – Now the famine in the land was severe. 2 When they had used up the grain they had brought back from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and buy us a little food.”

Things were very bad not only in Egypt but also Canaan and the surrounding regions. Nine of Jacob’s sons had made it back from their first trip with the grain they needed to survive, but the problem wasn’t going away, in fact it was only getting worse.

Jacob is pretty old at this point – around 130 years. He seems to be slipping or at least become less effective as the leader of this family. In the last chapter, he had been the one who lit the fire under his sons about going to get food. He saw the danger of the famine. Now, because he’s so hesitant to do what must be done, he’s become out of touch with their situation. “Buy a little food.” Notice he doesn’t say, “Go and rescue your brother Simeon.” Simeon had been written off by his dad.

John Goldingay suggests that maybe Jacob thinks they could just sneak down to Egypt, grab a little grain without being noticed, that way they wouldn’t have to deal with the whole Benjamin/Simeon situation.[2] This is not great leadership and would not solve their problem.

Genesis 43:3-5 – 3 But Judah said to him, “The man specifically warned us, ‘You will not see me again unless your brother is with you.’ 4 If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy food for you. 5 But if you will not send him, we will not go, for the man said to us, ‘You will not see me again unless your brother is with you.’ ”

Judah emerges as the next leader of this family. He’s the fourth-born, but Reuben, Simeon, and Levi didn’t make the cut. There might be the smallest whisper of Christ foreshadowed here. When we think of Israel, there are three great men that stand out above all others: Abraham, Moses, and David. But all of them leaders are eclipsed by Christ Jesus.

When Judah spoke to Jacob, he was very straightforward. He doesn’t allow Jacob to spin the situation or sidestep the problem. And Judah has grown quite a bit compared to who he used to be. He’s willing to obey what the Prince of Egypt had said, despite what the consequences might be. Going back to Egypt could mean imprisonment, enslavement, or even execution for them.

Genesis 43:6 – 6 “Why have you caused me so much trouble?” Israel asked. “Why did you tell the man that you had another brother?”

Jacob’s selfishness is stopping him from doing what is right. In his heart he knows what needs to be done, but he keeps stalling[3] as lives hang in the balance. His big worry is how he’ll feel if Benjamin doesn’t come back from Egypt, meanwhile, Simeon hasn’t come back from Egypt, and all the people of his family are nearing starvation unless they return and do what Joseph commanded.

Genesis 43:7-10 – 7 They answered, “The man kept asking about us and our family: ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ And we answered him accordingly. How could we know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother here’?” 8 Then Judah said to his father Israel, “Send the boy with me. We will be on our way so that we may live and not die—neither we, nor you, nor our dependents. 9 I will be responsible for him. You can hold me personally accountable! If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, I will be guilty before you forever. 10 If we had not delayed, we could have come back twice by now.”

Every day they waited made their situation more dangerous. Jacob is the clan boss, but Judah steps into leadership. He even used the same phrase that Jacob had in the last chapter, “so that we may live and not die.” Judah speaks respectfully, responsibly, and resolutely. He shows that he is concerned for the whole family and puts himself on the line for all of them. His remarks constitute a legally binding vow.[4] Unlike Reuben, who cowardly used his sons as a human shield for himself, in the last passage, Judah literally says, “I will become surety for Benjamin.”[5]

We see a spiritual spark as the brothers rally behind Judah there in verse 7. Their hearts were softening as the Lord drew them on with His grace and kindness. It’s demonstrated most powerfully in Judah himself. We remember the scandal of Genesis 38, but also we remember that it was Judah who had concocted the scheme to sell Joseph into slavery 20 years earlier. Now, he had become a rescuer and redeemer. This is what the Lord can do in a life. Think of John Newton – who worked in the slave trade until he was born again and joined Wilberforce’s abolitionist movement and then penned history’s most famous song: Amazing Grace. God’s grace and truth can convert men like Newton and Judah and Saul of Tarsus and you and me.

Genesis 43:11-14 – 11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your packs and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balsam and a little honey, aromatic gum and resin, pistachios and almonds. 12 Take twice as much silver with you. Return the silver that was returned to you in the top of your bags. Perhaps it was a mistake. 13 Take your brother also, and go back at once to the man. 14 May God Almighty cause the man to be merciful to you so that he will release your other brother and Benjamin to you. As for me, if I am deprived of my sons, then I am deprived.”

Jacob relies on his wealth, but then finally brings the Lord into the plan. It’s been a long time since Jacob invoked his God. And here he reminds himself and his sons that their God is El Shaddai, a God of covenant power and provision. He appeals to God’s mercy and His ability to intervene, even in the highest towers of human government. Still, we miss the spiritual confidence that we hope for in our Bible heroes. Jacob is more resigned than full of faith. And his words still betray the imbalance in his heart: He calls Benjamin by name, but only calls Simeon “your other brother,“ not even “my other son.” But, still, we see a step in the right direction. He does call on the Lord. He does appeal to His mercy. He does believe that God is in charge of the situation.

As readers, we know just how much God’s power and mercy have already accomplished on their behalf. While they hesitate and delay and debate and wring their hands, the Lord had turned the trajectory of the world’s greatest empire on a dime so that this family could be saved. The tension in the story is not over whether God will save – He’s already done all that needs doing. The tension is whether Jacob and his sons will miss it because of hard-heartedness and bad choices.

Genesis 43:15-17 – 15 The men took this gift, double the amount of silver, and Benjamin. They immediately went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph. 16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to his steward, “Take the men to my house. Slaughter an animal and prepare it, for they will eat with me at noon.” 17 The man did as Joseph had said and brought them to Joseph’s house.

I don’t think we can underestimate what a strange day this would have been. There among thousands of refugees seeking relief,[6] one of the Egyptian officials suddenly stops everything and says, “You ten guys…you’re going to lunch at the Prime Minister’s house.”

There’s a whole devotional here about this other guy – the steward over Joseph’s house. If Joseph can represent Jesus, the Back-From-The-Dead-Redeemer, then this guy can represent us. There he is, serving in Joseph’s house. Bringing others in to feast there. Speaking to strangers with kindness and grace. Representing his master and doing whatever he’s told. Of course, Joseph was the greatest steward of all time. Imagine being hired to be the steward of that guy’s house. How could you ever live up to the job? You can’t, but you get the job anyway. This guy is a great little devotion for us serving the Lord with joy and obedience and generosity.

Genesis 43:18-22 – 18 But the men were afraid because they were taken to Joseph’s house. They said, “We have been brought here because of the silver that was returned in our bags the first time. They intend to overpower us, seize us, make us slaves, and take our donkeys.” 19 So they approached Joseph’s steward and spoke to him at the doorway of the house. 20 They said, “My lord, we really did come down here the first time only to buy food. 21 When we came to the place where we lodged for the night and opened our bags of grain, each one’s silver was at the top of his bag! It was the full amount of our silver, and we have brought it back with us. 22 We have brought additional silver with us to buy food. We don’t know who put our silver in the bags.”

There was an ancient tradition that is called “the dangerous banquet” where enemies would be brought to dine and then the trap would spring.[7] We see it a few times in the Old Testament and it’s found in literature outside the Bible, including ancient Egyptian writings. It was also “common knowledge that ranking officials [in Egypt] maintained private dungeons in their homes.”[8] The sons of Jacob are shaking in their sandals. They didn’t even want to cross the threshold of the house.

In their fright they have that silly line, “and take our donkeys!” Egypt doesn’t need your donkeys. But we see how the Lord is stripping away the things they think they need. He’s neutralizing their wealth. He’s dismantling their defenses and schemes because He’s bringing them to a heart confrontation where they will have to choose to surrender to grace.

Genesis 43:23-24 – 23 Then the steward said, “May you be well. Don’t be afraid. Your God and the God of your father must have put treasure in your bags. I received your silver.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. 24 The steward brought the men into Joseph’s house, gave them water to wash their feet, and got feed for their donkeys.

The steward’s response to the frantic Hebrews is: Shalom! Mercy to you![9] Don’t be afraid! He tells them, “I received your payment.” I was thinking about this: Joseph was in charge of everything, but I doubt it would’ve been ok even for him if he just sent out their grain with no silver coming in on the books. I wonder if Joseph himself paid for the grain he gave his brothers in chapter 42.

The steward must have blown their minds, not only by relieving their fears of imprisonment, but by giving them the traditional Hebrew greeting,[10] and then by speaking to them not of Ra or Osiris, but of their God and the God of their fathers. That meant something to them.[11] “…How do you know about the God of our father…?”

The feed for the donkeys is a tender touch. Maybe the steward, who undoubtedly heard them freaking out earlier, pulled Joseph aside and said, “They’re pretty worried about their donkeys” and then made sure to give special attention in that area. That’s the kind of affectionate care God has for you and the kind of tenderness He call us to as His stewards sent out to minister to others.

We don’t know how much time passed between chapters 42 and 43, some think it was less than a year, some think it was upwards of two years.[12] Whatever it was, it was longer than it needed to be. After all this time, here comes Simeon. I wonder if he said, “Thanks for hurrying back, guys.”

Genesis 43:25-26 – 25 Since the men had heard that they were going to eat a meal there, they prepared their gift for Joseph’s arrival at noon. 26 When Joseph came home, they brought him the gift they had carried into the house, and they bowed to the ground before him.

Jacob hoped this gift would bring them deliverance. Throughout the whole story, their wealth is neutralized. This gift is totally ignored, even out of place. Joseph’s servants have already prepared a great feast. The sacks of dried goods was unnecessary. It reminds me of that scene in The Office when Michael Scott brings a Tupperware of sun-spoiled potato salad to a fancy, catered dinner.

Genesis 43:27-31 – 27 He asked if they were well, and he said, “How is your elderly father that you told me about? Is he still alive?” 28 They answered, “Your servant our father is well. He is still alive.” And they knelt low and paid homage to him. 29 When he looked up and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, he asked, “Is this your youngest brother that you told me about?” Then he said, “May God be gracious to you, my son.”30 Joseph hurried out because he was overcome with emotion for his brother, and he was about to weep. He went into an inner room and wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out. Regaining his composure, he said, “Serve the meal.”

Now is a good time to remind us that Benjamin isn’t a little boy. He’s at least in his mid or late twenties. He’s probably older because he has ten sons at this point.[13]

This would’ve been a really weird moment – to have a head of state come in, suddenly run out, no one knows what’s going on, then he comes back a while later acting strange.

What was going on with Joseph? Is he just a crybaby or what? The words are modernized in an unhelpful way. The original says something like, “His mercy grew warm.”[14]

A lot was coming together in Joseph’s heart, too. Remember: he had only known these brothers of his as hateful, violent, and cruel. For his first 17 years, they were the worst of men. The last time they had a meal around him was when he lay crying and bleeding, naked in a cistern.[15] But now he’s seeing something different. Could it be that a happy ending really might happen for this family?

Genesis 43:32 – 32 They served him by himself, his brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians who were eating with him by themselves, because Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, since that is detestable to them.

Another strange moment. The brothers might have whispered to each other, “Wait…we get why we’re not eating with the Egyptians…but is this Prime Minister dude also not an Egyptian?”

This detesting separation reminds us that the unbelieving world will never truly accept God’s people. Think about it: Joseph had saved their entire nation. But this was the best they could do. “Yes, you’re our savior. Yes, you’re in charge of almost everything, but our culture says you’re gross.” It’s exactly that kind of prejudicial barrier that is demolished in the family of faith, particularly in the Church, where God breaks down every wall of separation and brings us together to feast in unity.

This separation also gives insight into why God was may have wanted the family in Egypt. In Egypt they would be isolated and sequestered. In Canaan, they would be assimilated. In fact, several of the sons were already assimilating with Canaanite wives – exactly what God could not allow.

Genesis 43:33-34 – 33 They were seated before him in order by age, from the firstborn to the youngest. The men looked at each other in astonishment. 34 Portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, and Benjamin’s portion was five times larger than any of theirs. They drank and became drunk with Joseph.

Now that the brothers showed they were more honest and humble, why didn’t Joseph just reveal himself? There was still another test he wanted to give them. What would they do when their little brother got a bunch of favoritism? Twenty years ago they failed in a big way. Would they have the same flare of jealousy against Benjamin?[16]

For the moment, they were all smiles. In fact, they started getting hammered. Your version may say they “made merry” with Joseph, but the word used means drunk or intoxication.[17] Probably not the best choice. In fact, it was a really stupid thing to do. Solomon would later warn us:

Proverbs 23:1-2 – When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you, 2 and put a knife to your throat if you have a big appetite;

But this was part of Joseph’s plan to reveal what sort of men they were. Meanwhile, this was literally the first happy meal they had had together as brothers ever. The brothers certainly weren’t perfect, but they were growing on the spiritual level.

Allen Ross points out that, through this scene, they demonstrate responsibility, honesty, unity, humility, gratitude, and make restitution.[18] God’s work wasn’t done, but they were making progress as He drew them on in mercy and grace. Let’s make some progress, too, by watching for what the Lord is doing and getting our fears, our shortcomings, and our bad ideas out of the way.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 https://www.marketplace.org/2012/07/09/made-ny-how-power-lunch-was-spawned
2 John Goldingay Genesis
3 Gordon Wenham Genesis 16-50
4 Robert Alter The Hebrew Bible: A Translation With Commentary
5 Bruce Waltke Genesis: A Commentary
6 R. Kent Hughes Genesis: Beginning & Blessing
7 Eugene Roop Genesis
8, 10, 14 Hughes
9 Susan Brayford Genesis
11 Andrew Steinmann Genesis: An Introduction & Commentary
12 See Hughes, Goldingay, Steinmann
13 Genesis 46:22
15 Nahum Sarna Genesis
16 Steinmann, Wenham
17 Theological Wordbook Of The Old Testament
18 Allen P. Ross Creation & Blessing