The King Who Rains (Psalm 72)

In 1955, the king of Thailand travelled through the largest region of his kingdom. It was dried by drought. Crops were failing. The people there suffered from chronic poverty and malnutrition, even though they faithfully gathered each year to shoot homemade rockets into the sky “to ask the

weather god to release the monsoon upon the earth.”

The situation was dire, so, the king started developing a plan. In 1969, after 14 years of research, the Royal Rainmaking Project was a go. A fleet of aircraft distributed dry-ice flakes over the tops of clouds. The government says that it started raining within 15 minutes. The Project continues today. In 2019, they conducted over 1,600 rainmaking operations throughout the kingdom.[1] Sadly, as of 2020, Thailand was still experiencing drought – the worst in 40 years.[2]

Psalm 72 is a song about a great kingdom and a great king. His reign is unlike any we’ve seen. There is a perfect harmony between God and sovereign and citizens and even nature. Who wouldn’t want to live in this kingdom under this king?

Above verse 1 we see the words, “Of Solomon.” We assume that means “by” Solomon, but it could also mean “for Solomon,” or “concerning Solomon.” There’s a little bit of confusion because this Psalm is the only one to also have a postscript. The last verse tells us, “The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are concluded.” It’s possible he wrote this song for his son. It’s possible they worked on it together. And some scholars think it may have been used at Solomon’s coronation.[3]

That makes sense because in this song we see an ideal king and an ideal kingdom. One commentator calls it “A vision for government.”[4] And it’s quite a vision. We’ll see it’s so great that no human king could ever live up to it.

Psalm 72:1-4 – God, give your justice to the king and your righteousness to the king’s son. He will judge your people with righteousness and your afflicted ones with justice. May the mountains bring well-being to the people and the hills, righteousness. May he vindicate the afflicted among the people, help the poor, and crush the oppressor.

Rulers sometimes pick up a nickname. Ivan the Terrible. William the Conqueror. Cautious Cal. John Adams was referred to as “His Rotundity.”[5] The king of Israel should always have “the righteous” after his name. Righteousness is the theme of this opening stanza. It should define the nation of Israel and the man on the throne.

Sometimes we use the word “righteousness” and we think, “Well, that means not being bad.” The word means implies a standard. We talk about meeting standards, a standard of living, standard time, the gold standard. The king of Israel must conform to the standard given to him by God.[6]

Solomon prays at his coronation, “Lord, give me Your justice and Your righteousness so that I can rule the people and judge fairly so that the whole kingdom overflows with well-being.”

Today, government policies are often conformed to the result of polls – skewed polls. Or shaped around selective data – statistics that reinforce certain ideas or perspectives. But the ideal kingdom is one where God’s righteousness and kindness are the standard.

The song has just begun, but already Solomon cannot live up to the ideal. No human king could be so righteous the mountains work with him in blessing the people. No king has been able to help every suffering person in his kingdom and always judge fairly in every case. The ambition of this first stanza are higher than any human government has ever been able to achieve.

Psalm 72:5-7 – May they fear you while the sun endures and as long as the moon, throughout all generations. May the king be like rain that falls on the cut grass, like spring showers that water the earth. May the righteous flourish in his days and well-being abound until the moon is no more.

The king of Psalm 72 is a king who rains in nourishment and benefit and provision on his people. In reality, where does every government get the money it has? It has to take it from the people. That’s one of the reasons why God didn’t want Israel to have a king, originally. When they said, “We want a king,” God sent messengers to tell them, “No you don’t. He’ll tax you. He’ll take your land. He’ll take your sons and daughters. He’ll take your labor.”

But here we see what God wants for His people. His desire is that the king would nourish them and help them to grow. The poor, the afflicted. Those with less access than others. In this song, the blessing is for all of them, for all the people and it was meant for every generation.

It begs the question: If this was God’s intention, why isn’t there a son of David sitting on the throne in Israel right now? If the moon still shines at night, why isn’t there a Davidic king in Jerusalem?

Most of you know why things are the way they are. Israel not only rejected God’s way of doing things, they rejected God. After centuries of patience and mercy and trying to bring them back, God allowed judgment to fall on the nation of Israel. But,He hasn’t given up on them. His promises, His intentions, His affection for them persist. He still guarantees that, one day, a son of David will sit on the throne and Israel will experience the righteous blessings described in this song.

Solomon was a great man who started with a lot of promise. When God appeared to him in a dream and said, “What do you want Me to give you,” Solomon said, “Give me the wisdom so I can lead this great people!” He had care and affection for his subjects. But, we know that ultimately he failed to live up to this stanza, too. Just after he died, the people of Israel came to Solomon’s son and said, “Hey, your dad worked us to the bone. He put a harsh yoke of labor on us.”[7] He wasn’t a refreshing rain to them, but a heavy weight.

Psalm 72:8-11 – May he rule from sea to sea and from the Euphrates to the ends of the earth. May desert tribes kneel before him and his enemies lick the dust. 10 May the kings of Tarshish and the coasts and islands bring tribute, the kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts. 11 Let all kings bow in homage to him, all nations serve him.

May he rule from sea to sea! We’ve been hearing a chant recently: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” Of course, the meaning is, “Let’s kill all the Jews who live in Israel.”

Notice the difference in the way our God does things. First of all, His intention is to establish a righteous and wonderful Kingdom that covers the whole earth and He has the power to do it. It is His right because the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. But in His grace, when He sets up His forever Kingdom, He will allow nations to still exist,[8] and He will allow them the freedom to obey or disobey.[9] Now, disobedience will bring consequences, but this is a God grace, not genocide. A God Who invites, Who welcomes, Who makes a place for those who want in.

In this kingdom, though Israel will always remain distinct, we see that Gentiles will be grafted in.

Solomon did expand the territory of Israel up to the Euphrates river.[10] But he definitely didn’t live up to this stanza. The friendships he made with Gentiles didn’t make him more righteous. In fact, it was his practice of marrying foreign wives, some for alliances, that drew his heart away from God.

Psalm 72:12-14 – 12 For he will rescue the poor who cry out and the afflicted who have no helper. 13 He will have pity on the poor and helpless and save the lives of the poor. 14 He will redeem them from oppression and violence, for their lives are precious in his sight.

Ronald Regan famously said that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Sadly, the people God installs to protect others often become the ones who do the oppressing, who cause the affliction, who commit the violence.

The throne of Israel was supposed to protect the weak. All government is supposed to because God’s heart is to help the weak. It is His delight to use His infinite strength to rescue. To save. He is the Redeemer King, Who uses His own wealth, His own resources, to pay for your freedom. To pay for your future. He left His throne Personally to come down and save you. As far as I know, the King of Thailand didn’t fly any of those planes, let alone empty his vaults to save his starving people.

A few weeks ago I was at a Christian graduation ceremony and the main speaker talked about how important it is that you work to be a part of the Kingdom of God. He referenced the parable of the Pearl of Great Price and said, “Do whatever you have to to gain the kingdom of God.” And I was so disappointed because, no! No, YOU are the pearl! You are the treasure and God is the One Who gave everything to have you![11] You are precious in His sight. Your life matters. Your future matters. He has such plans for you and He spares no expense in accomplishing what He desires for you.

You may ask, “Well, if that’s true, why am I suffering? Why don’t I feel protected or provided for or sheltered?” Psalm 72 doesn’t promise that you’ll never suffer or struggle. What it tells us is that the Great King will save, will show pity, will redeem. You are His and He loves you and He will not forget to accomplish His plans for your life.

Of course, Solomon didn’t live up to this stanza either. No king could care this much. It’s impossible. There isn’t enough time. There isn’t enough money. There isn’t enough power for a human king to help every suffering person in his kingdom.

Psalm 72:15-17 – 15 May he live long! May gold from Sheba be given to him. May prayer be offered for him continually, and may he be blessed all day long. 16 May there be plenty of grain in the land; may it wave on the tops of the mountains. May its crops be like Lebanon. May people flourish in the cities like the grass of the field. 17 May his name endure forever; as long as the sun shines, may his fame increase. May all nations be blessed by him and call him blessed.

During the time when David and his sons were king, if the nation of Israel honored God and went His way, they would be materially blessed. The crops, the weather, the economy, all of those things would be miraculously good. That was God’s promise to them.

Sadly, the hearts of the kings turned away from God and the people followed. Solomon didn’t live up to this stanza. At the end of his life, he no longer loved the Lord. Solomon’s son didn’t care about the people at all. And the kingdom split into two nations and it was downhill from there.

Instead of flourishing, theirs was a history of fracturing. But, their failure is not God’s failure. In fact, the Lord faithfully preserved a remnant. He extended centuries of mercy and help and deliverance and forgiveness again and again and again, even when the nation was unfaithful.

Now, God has a great plan for your life. That plan is for growth and progress as you walk with Him. His plan is that the whole world would be blessed by His grace.

There in verse 17 we hear again the promise He made all the way back in the time of Abraham – that “all the nations would be blessed.” That’s His desire. More than desire, that is His work. A work He is still accomplishing and will complete and we get to participate in.

Psalm 72:18-19 – 18 Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does wonders. 19 Blessed be his glorious name forever; the whole earth is filled with his glory. Amen and amen.

Solomon was a great man – the wisest to ever live. But as the song comes to a close he and David and everyone else acknowledge that it is God alone Who does wonders. It wasn’t the throne of Israel that gave wealth or power or greatness, it was the God Who established the throne.

And so, as the coronation ceremony ends, they recognize that they needed someone greater than Solomon. Someone Whose name would be above every other name. Someone Whose glory would fill the whole earth. Someone Who could live up to the ideal.

“Amen and amen” – Let it be true, yes, let it happen!

It was a long wait with a lot of let downs over the centuries. But then something amazing happened. In Matthew 12 a descendant of David shows up and He says this, “Look, something greater than Solomon is here.”[12] And He told them, “The Kingdom is at hand! The Kingdom you’ve been waiting for. That perfect, wondrous, ideal Kingdom from Psalm 72.”

But what was the response? The leaders of Israel rejected the King. The Romans nailed Him to a cross. And so, the ideal Kingdom was put on hold. It’s not an allegorical Kingdom. We don’t build it ourselves. We’re waiting for that moment, announced in Revelation 11, when it happens – when the Kings comes again for the last time and: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.”[13] When the whole earth is filled with the righteous, gracious, perfect glory of God.

Psalm 72:20 – 20 The prayers of David son of Jesse are concluded.

The prayers were concluded, but the plan continues. God’s plan for this world, God’s plan for your life is continuing. The Root and the Offspring of David is alive and He loves you and invites you to accept Him as King – to enthrone Him in heart heart while we wait for His earthly throne to be established.

We still have a vision for government. It’s the vision shown to us in Bible prophecy like the Revelation, the end of Ezekiel, the book of Isaiah. We know the King Who lives up to every stanza of Psalm 72. The One Who will accomplish this ideal. And so, each day we can crown Him in our hearts and pray, “Your Kingdom come.” Knowing one day it will and all will be right and good and wonderful because the King Who rains will bless us with His grace and power and righteousness forever and ever, amen.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 Suvat Chirapant   The King And The Cloud – The Story Behind The Royal Rainmaking Project
2 https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/146293/drought-hits-thailand
3 C. Hassell Bullock   Psalms, Volume 1: Psalms 1-72
4 John Goldingay   Psalms, Volume 2: Psalms 42-89
5 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nicknames_of_presidents_of_the_United_States
6 The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. Vol. 5.
7 2 Chronicles 10:3-4
8 Micah 4:2
9 Zechariah 14:17
10 https://embassies.gov.il/MFA/AboutIsrael/Maps/Pages/The%20Kingdom%20of%20David%20and%20Solomon%20-%201000%20BCE.aspx
11 The Bible Knowledge Commentary
12 Matthew 12:42
13 Revelation 11:15

The Pursuit (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2)

You’ve seen it before. The scene in the movie where the unorthodox teacher stands in front of the class and tosses the textbook in the trash. Dead Poet’s Society, Maverick, even Michael Scott does it in an episode of The Office. The students sit in wonder – this is a different kind of teacher.

You don’t expect that scene to play out in the Bible. There you are, sitting in a “How-To-Live-Life” seminar. You just heard an amazing presentation from a teacher named Proverbs. You’re excited to put his lessons into practice. Then the next speaker approaches the podium. He looks a lot like Proverbs, but he’s older. He carries himself differently. You can tell he’s seen some things.

Before this new speaker begins, the host of the “How-To-Live-Life” seminar introduces him. “Ladies and gentleman, we have a special opportunity here to listen to earth’s greatest expert. Believe me, you’re really going to want to hear what he has to say.”

And then, the new speaker begins. “Nothing matters,” he says. ”You’ll be dead soon. But the day you die is better than the day you were born.” If you were walking in the hall while Ecclesiastes lectured, you’d be confused. “Did he just say there’s no difference between humans and animals? Did he say there’s no afterlife? Did he say you really shouldn’t be that righteous?”

At the end of his lecture, you might raise your hand and ask, “What about Proverbs?” Ecclesiastes answers, “I know Proverbs. I also know that outside these walls, the race doesn’t always go to the swift. The good sometimes die young. And nothing you might achieve will last the test of time.”

As a book, Ecclesiastes is different. It falls in the group of books we call the Wisdom Literature of the Bible – Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, and Song of Solomon, though those last two are more often regarded as poetry in our minds.

But even though Ecclesiastes is in the club, it stands apart. It’s been called the “strangest book” in the Bible[1] – “bipolar,”[2] – the “low point” of the Old Testament,[3] and the Bible’s “resident alien.”[4]

Melville called it the “truest of all books,”[5] but my college’s campus pastor once taught a sermon about how the author obviously didn’t know what he was talking about. What’s going on here?

One commentator writes, “There is perhaps no book in the Bible that is the subject of more controversies than Ecclesiastes.”[6] And it’s true. The folks in the ivory towers argue about everything in it. Is it prose, or is it poetry?[7]

Was it written in Hebrew or another language? Who wrote it? When was it written? Where was it written? It has intricate structure. No, it has no structure. It’s philosophy. No, it’s anthropology. It’s pessimistic. No it’s optimistic.

Even if we tune out all of those academic squabbles, we have to admit that, when we read this book, it’s unsettling. The book knows it’s unsettling. At the end we’re told, “[This book is] like [a] cattle prod—painful but helpful…like a nail-studded stick with which a shepherd drives the sheep.” It is meant to poke us. It is meant to confront us with difficult thoughts and realities.

But then, we step back and remember that the Holy Spirit inspired, preserved, and delivered these chapters for us. This book is essential. We need to be prodded by it. We need to wrestle with it, even though it ends up asking some questions that it does not answer. We need to pursue what Ecclesiastes wants to teach us. This book is all about pursuing. Let’s start getting to know it.

The name of the book itself is unusual. What does “Ecclesiastes” mean, anyway? The word comes from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. In Hebrew, the title of the book is the title of the person who wants to teach us. His title is Qohelet,[8] and already we are confronted with ambiguity. The precise meaning of this word is uncertain.[9] Your version probably has either “the Teacher,” or “the Preacher.” But other possible meanings are the the one who assembles,[10] the summoner.[11]

The collector.[12] The searcher.[13] The idea is that this individual is on a quest and he has cataloged his expedition so that he can gather us together and teach us about the things he discovered.

Who is Qohelet?

Ecclesiastes 1:1 – The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem.

From before Christ was born until the 18th century, both Jews and Christians accepted Solomon as the Teacher and author of Ecclesiastes. I say Teacher and author because the book does something interesting: At the very beginning and very end of the book, an author speaks to us and he talks to us about the Teacher, as if he’s someone else. It’s like that image I gave us – the author is the host of the presentation and he invites the Teacher to come up and deliver his lecture. Afterward, the author returns to make some closing remarks about what we’ve all heard.

You probably noticed I said “until the 18th century,” Solomon was considered the author. What happened then? Well, “Biblical criticism” happened. During the enlightenment period, particularly in Germany, theologians started adapting secular ideas in their study of the Bible.[14]

The goal became: “How can we understand the Bible without the supernatural?” Darwinism influenced their interpretation.[15] This mentality has pervaded academia ever since. You’ll hear it called “form criticism,” or, “source criticism,” or “redaction criticism” or “higher” criticism. It’s all the same idea: Let’s reject the supernatural and instead see the Bible as a collection of less enlightened human documents. What you’ll often find is that these scholars think the entire Old Testament was written after the Babylonian captivity.[16] They conclude we can’t trust that the Bible is telling us the truth about when it was written, who wrote it, or what it records. They say the Bible needs to be “demythologized.” Really, it’s just an attack on the Bible’s authority. Sadly, many well-meaning Christian scholars still go along with this mentality and method of interpretation.

With that said, Ecclesiastes never explicitly says that Solomon is the author and Teacher. What we’re told is that the author is a son of David and he was king in Jerusalem. That could be a number of people. But, given what he says about his wealth, his activities, and his level of wisdom, the book definitely wants us to think it is Solomon speaking.[17]

I listened to a podcast with some of these Christian scholars who throw in with higher criticism. They said, “Who even cares if Solomon really wrote the book? It shouldn’t matter at all.” But that’s a problem because in this book the author says, “I conducted a bunch of real experiments to find truth about life and purpose and the human experience.” If that’s not true, if the the lab experiment was made up or the data falsified, how can we trust his conclusions?

I learned this week about a man named Diederik Stapel. He’s been called “the biggest con man in academic science.”[18] As a university professor, he falsified more than 50 papers with fake research. He gave fake data to students under him who were “earning” their PhDs. He made all these claims and was published in all sorts of journals – butit was all made up. His findings weren’t true.

Experts can’t make up their findings. It’s the basis of true discovery. And here, the book of Ecclesiastes says, “I have run comprehensive and profound experiments concerning the human condition, so listen to what I have to say so you don’t waste your life.” If that’s the message, then it definitely matters whether this book can be trusted.

Now, even if you’re not familiar with this book, I’m guessing you’re familiar with its slogan, which is: “Everything is ________”

Ecclesiastes 1:2 – “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Absolute futility. Everything is futile.”

Ecclesiastes is a book full of keywords. The most important is rendered “futility” in my translation. Your version may say “vanity,” or “meaningless.” The Hebrew word is hevel, and it will be used 38 times in 12 chapters. This is the Teacher’s main word. In fact, in Hebrew it’s the very first word in the speech.[19] Hevel, hevel, everything is hevel. That’s the word he starts with and the word he’ll end with.

It is important that we understand what he means. This is the point from which he instructs us. But what does hevel mean? There’s a difference between vanity and futility and meaningless, right? Things become even more complicated when we start listing out what the Teacher labels as hevel.

Wealth is hevel. Work is hevel. Being single. Being born. Being wise. Injustice. Succession. Enjoying good things. Everything everyone does is hevel.

But wait…how can everything be categorized the same way? And, if everything is “meaningless,” why then does the Teacher command us to enjoy good things and work hard (which he will)?

We need to understand hevel with more than one definition. It’s not always worthless. The word literally refers to smoke or vapor.[20] David used this term in Psalm 144 when he said, “A human is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”[21] Jeremiah used the term to talk about “worthless idols.” And then he said, “The people who follow hevel idols become hevel themselves.”[22] But then, in Proverbs 31 we’re told, “charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting – hevel.” That doesn’t mean beauty doesn’t exist or that it is meaningless – just that, like smoke, it dissipates.

So when we come to this word in Ecclesiastes we shouldn’t have a one-sense-fits-all attitude. In some cases it will have a negative connotation, like meaningless, but in other cases it will mean something more like “absurd,” or “transient,” or “ephemeral.” So as we listen, the image of smoke is very helpful. Because smoke is real, but you can’t hold onto it. You can’t control it. You can’t use it to construct anything. There it is and then it’s gone. That’s hevel. And the Teacher says life is like that.

There are other keywords and phrases that the Teacher keeps coming back to. He did that on purpose. We’re told in chapter 12, “The Teacher sought to find just the right words to express truths clearly.”[23] He picks his words very carefully. Some of the words he keeps using are: Toil. Wisdom. Death. Advantage or profit. But, with hevel, there are two other key phrases that are going to be the most important for us in our study so we can understand the message.

The first is: under the sun. He uses this phrase 29 times. It means life on earth – life in the mortal realm. Life as the average person knows it – disconnected from eternal purposes. And the message is that if your life is lived for what you can gain, build, or experience under the sun, then no matter what you do, your life will be nothing more than a puff of smoke.

We can trust that the Teacher is right about that conclusion because he lived it. We’ll see all the things he did. He went farther into all of these pursuits than any of us could ever dream and the end of every single one was: hevel. One author points out he went down seven different roads: He was a philosopher, a student, a party animal, an alcoholic, a workaholic, an aristocrat, a puritan, a philanthropist. Every single road was a dead end.[24] The Teacher was always left unsatisfied.

As he pursued all these things, none of them solved the problems in his heart and the absurdity around him. But, as he studied, he noticed that God was always there, in the background, and He is very active. He does things. He gives things. Most importantly in this book, He wants to give joy.

Seven times, usually at a very low point of his study, the Teacher will pause and tell us to enjoy our lives – to rejoice in the day-to-day. In the face of disappointment, in our confusion, when confronted with injustice, when dealing with old age and death, receive joy. The Teacher says that our lives, even when distressing, are a gift from God that He wants us to enjoy them. In fact, one commentary boils down the entire message of Ecclesiastes to this heading: Finding Joy In A Fallen World.[25]

Historically, the Jews would read Ecclesiastes aloud during their Feast Of Tabernacles – which was a celebration of eating, drinking, and joy.[26] How can this be? How can a message that seems so pessimistic – so full of despair – drive us to joy?

Have you ever started a book then read the last page to see how it ends? This is a book where we need to read the last page before reading the rest. The closing words are not from the Teacher, but from the author, who endorses the message of the Teacher and then says,

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 – 13 When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.

The secret is: there is more than what we see under the sun. There is a God Who is watching and working. A God Who has gifts for us, a plan for us, a purpose for our lives even when those lives seem to be ruined by the hardships of this world! A God we can pursue.

The Teacher knew a lot. He experienced more in life than any of us ever could. But there are things we know that he did not. We know a level of wisdom that was hidden to the believers of the Old Testament. Paul explains to us in 1 Corinthians that Christ is the wisdom of God. One author writes, “Ecclesiastes is the question to which Christ is the answer.”[27]

This doesn’t cancel out the Teacher’s message. In fact, we can learn all the more from it. As we hear the Teacher tell us again and again, “There’s nothing new under the sun,” we are reminded that he’s right, but there is something new above the sun – We are new creations in Christ. God is doing a new thing through His people. As we hear, “hard work under the sun is vanity,” we can remember the promise that when we serve God, our labor is not in vain![28] When we hear that time, death, and chance are coming for us all, we remember that God elevates us out of worry, out of despair, out of the intimidation of death, the frustration of the random nature of life. We are able to see life providentially and in the light of the New Covenant.

The Teacher wants to drive his listeners to God.[29] Duane Garrett writes, “In short, Ecclesiastes urges its readers to recognize that they are mortal. They must abandon all illusions of self-importance, face death and life squarely, and accept with fear and trembling their dependance on God.”[30]

Our lives are a vapor, here for a moment, then gone. We know we will live on in eternity. But this life is hevel. As we live it, a lot of absurd, transient, confusing things will happen. The Teacher says, “Yeah, that’s right. There is no magic formula that guarantees wealth or long life or success. Don’t pretend like it always works out the way you want. Because, most of the time, it doesn’t. But, if you pursue wisdom, if you have a God-centered view of life,[31] not only will your odds for advantage increase, you also will be in line with this God Who made you, watches you, loves you. And, the more you will truly be able to enjoy your day-to-day life, which is what God wants for you.”

Did you see Jerry Seinfeld’s commencement speech at Duke University this year? It was fun and humorous. But in it, Jerry says things like, “Life doesn’t make sense. The world doesn’t make sense. It’s an insane mess.” He should read Ecclesiastes. He needs that goad. He needs this pointy stick.

For unbelievers, Ecclesiastes will poke you with the reminder that you are going to die. And one day, no one will remember anything you did. What happens when you take your last breath? You may try to tell yourself, “Well, nothing happens, we just cease to exist.” But it’s not true. And deep down you know it’s not true because God has put eternity in your heart.

For believers, Ecclesiastes will poke us with some hard truths. Trying to do the right thing doesn’t always result in better circumstances. Sometimes what should happen doesn’t happen, because we live in a fallen world. Meanwhile, you can be content. We are commanded to “refuse to worry,” in this book. To spend less time stressing and more time enjoying – to make every part of our lives God-centered. To pursue the portion God has given you and to realize the joy He has in mind is probably not the “happiness” we think of when we hear things like, “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The Teacher will admit that this pursuit is difficult. In fact, he admits he fell short of really apprehending wisdom the way he wanted. But here’s what’s exciting: There’s another teacher who did. Paul figured it out. “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself.”[32]

A solid, meaningful, joy-filled day-to-day life is within our reach. In fact, that is a gift God wants us to receive. Ecclesiastes will help us in our pursuit. It will help us avoid dead ends. It will get us above the sun, closer to the Lord, pressing on and enjoying the path along the way.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 William P. Brown   Ecclesiastes
2 J. A. Loader   Polar Structures in the Book of Qohelet
3 Franz Delitzch, quoted in Duane A. Garrett   The New American Commentary: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs
4, 9, 29, 30 NAC
5 Tim Chaddick   Better: How Jesus Satisfies The Search For Meaning
6 Choon-Leong Seow   Ecclesiastes
7 Greg Parsons   Guidelines for Understanding and Proclaiming the Book of Ecclesiastes, Part 2
8 Roland Murphy   Word Biblical Commentary: Ecclesiastes
10 WBC
11 Dan Lioy   A Biblical-Theological Examination of Genesis 5, Ecclesiastes 1, and 1 Corinthians 15:50–58
12, 17, 19 Seow
13 Ray Stedman   Ecclesiastes 1:1-18 – The Search For Meaning
14 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_criticism
15 Iain Provan   The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs
16 https://www.gotquestions.org/redaction-higher-criticism.html
18 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diederik_Stapel
20, 26 Parsons
21 Psalm 144:4
22 Jeremiah 2:5
23 Ecclesiastes 12:10 NLT
24 David A. Dorsey   The Literary Structure of the Old Testament
25 Douglas Mangum   Lexham Context Commentary: Old Testament
27 Peter Kraft quoted in Chaddick
28 1 Corinthians 15:58
31 The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 5: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs
32 Philippians 4:11

Truth, Justice, And The Armageddon Way (Isaiah 59:1-21)

Who is it that “Always gets their man?”

Just ask Snidely Whiplash, whose criminal obsession is tying young women to train tracks. Royal Canadian Mounted policeman “Dudley Doright,” he’ll tell you, “always gets his man.”

The Lord “Always gets His man.”

  • When the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air,” He ‘got’ righteous Noah to build the Ark. 
  • After the global flood, mankind was scattered abroad to form many nations. God ‘got’ Abraham to start a new nation.
  • Pharaoh enslaved the Israelites, making “their lives bitter with hard bondage.” the LORD ‘got’ Moses to lead them out of Egypt.

Whether it was Gideon or Barak or Samson or Jephthah or David or Samuel. He even got Jonah! 

God always gets His man Except this time.

Look at verse 16, “He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor”

When was that?? It hasn’t happened yet. It is coming at the end of the 7yr Great Tribulation which shall come upon the whole world.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Injustice Is The Herald Of Your Nation’s Demise, and #2 Justice Is The Hallmark Of Your Nation’s Deliverance.

Let’s take a look at the demise of a nation in verses one through fifteen.

Track with me as I find the word “justice” in these verses (at least in my NKJV).

  1. Isa 59:4  No one calls for justice…
  2. Isa 59:8  … there is no justice in their ways…
  3. Isa 59:9  Therefore justice is far from us…
  4. Isa 59:11 … We look for justice, but there is none…
  5. Isa 59:14  Justice is turned back…
  6. Isa 59:15  … there was no justice.

Repetition is there for a reason. God wants to talk to us about justice & injustice in a nation.

Isaiah wrote and prophesied in the seventh century Before Christ. At the moment, he is warning the Jews of Judah that they will come under God’s judgment because of their disobedience to, and departure from, His Law. The walls of Jerusalem, the city of Jerusalem, and the Temple in Jerusalem, will be  razed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. They would be captives in Babylon for approximately 70 years.

Isa 59:1  Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear.

Isa 59:2  But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.

  • A hand too short to save is an accusation that the LORD is not all-powerful.
  • Ears that won’t hear is an accusation that the LORD is not all-loving.

These are the accusations leveled at the LORD in every generation, by every unbeliever.

The problem is sin. According to Dr. J. Vernon McGee, the Israelites’ sins are referred to 32 times in this short passage, and there are 23 separate charges brought against them.   

An indictment is essentially a formal accusation that a person has committed a serious offense These next verses are an indictment of Judah.

Isa 59:3  For your hands are defiled with blood, And your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken lies, Your tongue has muttered perversity.

Isa 59:4  No one calls for justice, Nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; They conceive evil and bring forth iniquity.

Isa 59:5  They hatch vipers’ eggs and weave the spider’s web; He who eats of their eggs dies, And from that which is crushed a viper breaks out.

Isa 59:6  Their webs will not become garments, Nor will they cover themselves with their works; Their works are works of iniquity, And the act of violence is in their hands.

Isa 59:7  Their feet run to evil, And they make haste to shed innocent blood; Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; Wasting and destruction are in their paths.

Isa 59:8  The way of peace they have not known, And there is no justice in their ways; They have made themselves crooked paths; Whoever takes that way shall not know peace.

Thus ends the indictment. The accused speaks – not in defense, but with repentance.

Isa 59:9  Therefore justice is far from us, Nor does righteousness overtake us; We look for light, but there is darkness! For brightness, but we walk in blackness!

Isa 59:10  We grope for the wall like the blind, And we grope as if we had no eyes; We stumble at noonday as at twilight; We are as dead men in desolate places.

Isa 59:11  We all growl like bears, And moan sadly like doves; We look for justice, but there is none; For salvation, but it is far from us.

Isa 59:12  For our transgressions are multiplied before You, And our sins testify against us; For our transgressions are with us, And as for our iniquities, we know them:

Isa 59:13  In transgressing and lying against the LORD, And departing from our God, Speaking oppression and revolt, Conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.

Isa 59:14  Justice is turned back, And righteousness stands afar off; For truth is fallen in the street, And equity cannot enter.

Isa 59:15  So truth fails, And he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him That there was no justice.

A final injustice is that anyone who repents is preyed upon by those who choose to continue in sin. Scholars tell us these words are evidence of repentance.

There is nothing unique to Israel in this indictment. God is over all the nations and He expects nations to both acknowledge Him and to uphold justice.

If they don’t do right, He must indict.

Several times in our studies we have paused to ask, “What about the United States? Where are we in prophecy?”

We’re not. At least, not directly. We are a nation and thus are expected to acknowledge God and to uphold justice. We are not doing either of those.

Each of us could suggest various injustices. One on every list is legalized abortion. It is an injustice that you can not put any spin on. We are killing innocents by the millions.

When talking about abortion from the pulpit I don’t always touch upon the fact that there are women here who have had abortions. The apostle Paul would say to you, and therefore we say to you, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). What has washed away your sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

One of His purposes in coming was to “heal the broken hearted” (Isaiah 61:1). If you find yourself struggling, contact the Kings County Crisis Pregnancy Center. They can help you; they will help you.

This November will be the first presidential election in my lifetime in which there is no Pro-Life candidate for the nation’s top office.

Could the lack of a Pro-Life candidate be the watershed moment, the final national sin, that brings a severe judgment upon America?

We will only be able to answer that after it happens.

Presidential elections seem to stir-up the exhortation that churches are not doing enough to influence voting. Critics accuse, “They’re worried they will lose their tax exempt status. They need to obey God rather than man.” The next 3 minutes or so will be interesting, I hope, but put it in the column of Pastor Gene’s Opinion.

The rule governing Churches states, “Churches and other 501(c)(3) organizations can engage in a limited amount of lobbying (including ballot measures) and advocate for or against issues that are in the political arena.” But the law prohibits pastors from endorsing or opposing candidates during official church functions such as sermons.

Churches apply for tax exempt status. The pastors who are criticizing churches who aren’t endorsing candidates are tax exempt because they applied for it and, in doing so, agreed to follow the IRS guidelines. In other words, they promised to follow the law but are openly breaking it. I will respect them when their “Yea is yea” and they renounce their exemption.

What’s not to like about the Church being exempt from taxes?!

I’d like to think that we will humbly disobey the ruling authorities when it comes to obeying God rather than man. Who remembers COVID19? Do you remember the egregious restrictions the government put on Church services? Do you remember the Church in town that was never shuttered? That was us.

Injustice is the herald of a nation’s demise.

It can be argued that there has always been injustice. True, and one day either a particular injustice or the accumulation of them will cause God’s longsuffering to cease.

Let’s take a look at the deliverance of the nation of Israel.

Isa 59:16  He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor; Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.

“Zion” refers to both a hill in Jerusalem and to the city itself. Zionism the movement to establish the nation in its land.

When the LORD said there was “no man… no intercessor,” it is a dramatic pause in the action to heighten the moment. There was a man who would intercede. He would be more than a man. He would be God in human flesh; He would be the God-Man; His name is Jesus.

There is something very similar to this in the Revelation. In Heaven, John sees “in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals” (5:1-5).

Both of these passages – Isaiah & the Revelation – are describing Jesus Return as King to save Israel. As is typical of Isaiah, we have quantum leaped from the 7th century to the end of the Great Tribulation.

Isa 59:17  For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, And was clad with zeal as a cloak.

I love those scenes in movies where the heroes ‘suit-up’ for battle. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers did an especially good job with Aragorn, Legolas & Gimli at the Battle of Helms Deep.

He comes as a warrior, complete with a “breastplate” and a “helmet.” With “zeal,” and for “vengeance” He will subdue every enemy of His people, the Jews.

Isa 59:18  According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, Fury to His adversaries, Recompense to His enemies; The coastlands He will fully repay.

Isa 59:19  So shall they fear The name of the LORD from the west, And His glory from the rising of the sun; When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him.

We are taken forward in history to a moment of global victory. From west to east, all the way to the coastlands, this man will conquer.

The enemy coming like a flood is a favorite verse when we are in some testing or trial. That’s fine! BUT – it is describing a real future event.

In His Olivet Discourse about the Great Tribulation, Jesus warns Jews in & around Jerusalem to flee from the antichrist. He describes what happens next:

Rev 12:15  So the serpent [Satan] spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman [the nation of Israel], that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood.

Rev 12:16  But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.

This flood could just be a metaphor for the ferocity of the antichrist’s troops going after Israel. Could be a flood!

The forces of the antichrist will invade Israel in what has become known as the Battle of Armageddon. J. Dwight Pentecost wrote, “It is not an isolated battle, but rather a campaign that extends over the last half of the tribulation period.”[1]

Isa 59:20  “The Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,” Says the LORD.

This is the moment the apostle Paul is thinking of when he says “all Israel will be saved.”

Isa 59:21  “As for Me,” says the LORD, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the LORD, “from this time and forevermore.”

Every Jew living at that time and every Jew born in the Millennial Kingdom will be saved.

Jerry Bridges wrote, “God’s wrath arises from His intense, settled hatred of all sin and is the tangible expression of His inflexible determination to punish it. We might say God’s wrath is His justice in action, rendering to everyone his just due, which, because of our sin, is always judgment.”

God expects all nations to uphold justice. God does indeed punish nations because of their sins, e.g., Sodom and Gomorrah.

Is there hope for the US? Nineveh was on the calendar for judgment on account of injustice. Jonah gave them no real hope, preaching, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (3:4). They repented, “and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (3:10).

I’m of the opinion we already are under judgment. Look, for example, at violence in America. Again, critics say, “There has always been violence, sometimes worse then what we are experiencing.”

OK… But today we are no longer policing violence. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t recall Law Enforcement being told by government to stand down.

  • “Pittsburg PD recently announced that police officers will no longer respond to certain calls labeled ‘in-progress emergencies,’ such as harassment, theft, and burglary alarms.”
  • A Vallejo CA resident who addressed the City Council said same thing that is being repeated all across our nation. “I don’t know if when we call 911 if there’ll be a response… If someone will show up.”

Whether we are ripe for judgment or are already judged will be revealed in time.

Larry Norman once sang, “Don’t ask me for the answers, I’ve only got one – That a man leaves his darkness when he follows the Son.”

We must return to, and turn to, Jesus.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5aede374b98a78f247e293ab/t/640cc77c0fc3795e4463c761/1678559100475/Eight+stages+of+Armageddon.handout.pdf

Prophecy Update #786 – OneHealth To Rule Them All

The 77th World Health Assembly is meeting from May 27th to June 1st in Geneva, Switzerland. On the agenda is the proposal called OneHealth. The OneHealth agenda is designed to centralize control of future pandemic-type risks.[1]

That isn’t all it does.

The One Health agenda considers the health of people, animals, and plants, as though all three are of equal value. They call it “our shared environment.”

They have a very modern, professional educational campaign. It is, of course, a scare campaign. They had me wondering how I could still be alive with everything we face! But if I’m in a nation that surrenders its sovereignty to ‘them,’ I will be safe.

Climate change, poverty, and hunger would be under their control. It will naturally lead to forced lockdowns and restrictions; and not just for pandemics. Anything could be deemed an emergency that will require their intervention.

Global programs like OneHealth are not in themselves a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. They are, however, consistent with unfulfilled prophecy. We know that the world is headed for globalism: there will be global government and global commerce. Citizenship & participation will require a person to use some kind of biometric identifier. OneHealth is pursuing that agenda.

Global government, global commerce, global surveillance, and the surrender of national sovereignty are just a few End Times predictions we can see trending in the news.

Most significantly, the Bible predicted that the nation of Israel would be born in a day, that Jews would return there from their dispersion all over the Earth, and that Jerusalem would be at the very heart of global tension until every nation stands against her & God intervenes to save her.

Our ‘futurist’ reading of the Bible is the correct reading!

The unfulfilled prophecies in the Bible will be fulfilled to the letter. Everything in the Revelation after chapter three is in the future.

We are most definitely seeing the stage being set for the 2nd Coming of Jesus.

Jesus promised to resurrect & rapture His Church. He said, in fact He promised, He would do it before His Second Coming, and before a time of Great Tribulation would come upon the whole Earth.[2]

The resurrection and rapture of the church is presented as an imminent event. It could happen anytime. Right now, for example.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, get ready, stay ready, and keep looking up.

Ready or not Jesus is coming! 

 

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 https://www.prophecynewswatch.com/article.cfm?recent_news_id=6909
2 Revelation 3:10

The Escape Of Water (Psalm 114)

Psalm 114:1-8 – When Israel came out of Egypt—the house of Jacob from a people who spoke a foreign language—Judah became his sanctuary, Israel, his dominion. The sea looked and fled; the Jordan turned back. The mountains skipped like rams, the hills, like lambs. Why was it, sea, that you fled? Jordan, that you turned back? Mountains, that you skipped like rams? Hills, like lambs? Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool, the flint into a spring.

In 2012, the Mississippi River flowed backwards for nearly 24 hours.[1] Strong winds from Hurricane Isaac pushed water back from where it came at 182,000 cubic feet per second.

It wasn’t the first time the Mississippi flowed backwards. Two hundred years earlier, for a 2-3 month period between 1811 and 1812, three major earthquakes hit Missouri. They were all above 7.0 in magnitude. There are records of them being felt as far as Canada.[2] The seismic shift created waterfalls on the river and, for a time, caused it to flow backwards.

Here’s what didn’t happen: The Mississippi river didn’t flow to a particular point, stand still, let a bunch of people cross on dry land, then resume its course when told it was allowed to flow again. That happened to the nation of Israel once on a river and once on a sea. Oh, and as a side show, mountains did some dancing. That is the message of Psalm 114. Short but powerful in its recollection.

Scholars categorize this as a hallel Psalm. These are songs that are meant to praise and thank God for His personal and national deliverance. There are three collections of hallel Psalms in the Psalter. We have the “Egyptian Hallel” Psalms in 113 through 118, the “Great Hallel” Psalms, also called the Songs of Ascent in Psalm 120 through 136,[3] and then the “Final Hallel” Psalms in 146 through 150.[4]

Last week we learned from Psalm 111 how important it is to remember the work of God – the acts of God on our behalf. Throughout history, as Jews observed the Passover feast, this is one of the songs they would sing together.[5]

Let’s begin in verse 1:

Psalm 114:1 – When Israel came out of Egypt—the house of Jacob from a people who spoke a foreign language—

The Exodus was the birthday of Israel.[6] And so, this song is sort of their Happy Birthday To You.

They lived in Egypt for more than four hundred years, and yet, we sense the distinction and separation. They didn’t know the language. They were sheltered away in the land of Goshen. “Foreign language” here has a connotation of a “barbarous” tongue.[7] We know the kind of barbarity God’s people faced in Egypt: Enslavement. Beatings. The murder of their sons.

God saw their misery, He heard their cries and He came down Personally to rescue them.[8] But, being prisoners in a land with a foreign language didn’t only happen in Egypt. Some scholars think this Psalm was written after the exile. For the Jews, being trapped in a land with a barbarous tongue was a sign of judgment.[9] A Jew could find himself in Babylon, hearing a language not his own, and know, “I’m here because my nation would not go God’s way, even when He tried to to show us mercy.”

But, even then, God was willing to rescue and deliver. Psalm 114 can be sung after Egypt or Babylon or Rome. Our God is a saving Deliverer.

Meanwhile, there is that subtle reminder that God’s people are always meant to be separate. We’re meant to belong to a different Kingdom, a different way of life, a different perspective and mentality. People sometimes criticize Christians for the vocabulary we use. I saw an article today titled, “How NOT To Speak Christianese.” But we are meant to be a separate people.

Psalm 114:2 – Judah became his sanctuary, Israel, his dominion.

Who is the “his” in this verse? A lot of commentators believe it’s referring to God, and that may be true, but it doesn’t track perfectly. After all, God hasn’t been mentioned yet and the whole earth is His, not just Israel. There’s no other passage that suggests that the land of Judah is Yahweh’s sanctuary.[10]

Instead, it makes more sense to some commentators and to me that the “his” in mind here is the family of Jacob. God’s people who were delivered from their bondage and then given a land on the other side of the Red Sea and the other side of the Jordan.

Notice, the song talks about a sanctuary and a dominion. In other words, God freed them not just to go wherever they wanted, but to follow Him to a particular destination and in that destination, they would have a life of comfort and commission. Worship and work. Rest and regency. It was a place where they would commune with God but also serve God according to His purposes. Because it is true that our lives are His sanctuary and His dominion. He is our possession and we are His.[11]

Within that framework they had a great deal of freedom and opportunity. God gave them everything they needed, as far as startup resources. But we see that they were freed to serve.[12] They were brought out from their bondage for a purpose. For multiple purposes. And it was when they abandoned those purposes that the rest of life started falling apart.

Psalm 114:3 – The sea looked and fled; the Jordan turned back.

You scared, bro? The sea looked and ran away. What was it that the sea saw? That question will be answered in a moment.

But first we should note the semicolon – a little piece of punctuation that indicates a pause. In this case, it was a pause of 40 years because God’s people, in the presence of the Shekinah Glory, said, “Eh…we’re not sure You’re for real. We kinda want to go back to slavery.”

So the Lord said, “Ok, we’ll wait. And 40 years from now when there’s a group of people who will do what I’m asking, I’ll be right there, ready to part the Jordan river to let them into the land.”

That semicolon is full of the faithfulness and compassion and grace of God. A God Who is willing to wait. A God Who is willing to condescend to us. A God Who is willing to hang in there with weak and undeserving human beings because He loves us so much.

There’s a lot of power in the semicolon. The Bible tells us that God was going to come a first time, then He’s going to come again. We’re in the semicolon. He still has all His power and all His loyalty and all His kindness and all His providence. But, rest assured, the sentence will be continued and completed, because it’s already been written. It’s already been published. We’re just in the semicolon.

Psalm 114:4 – The mountains skipped like rams, the hills, like lambs.

This is probably speaking of the different shaking phenomena at Mount Sinai when the Lord gave Moses the Law.[13] The language is interesting. The words used can mean alarm,[14] or a joyful celebration.[15] One commentary says it represents the “motion of the mountains.”[16]

Creation is waiting and watching and groaning for the Lord’s return. Creation is ready to move when God arrives. Mountains will level themselves. Seas will dry up. Hills will split apart. Because creation is excited about God doing His work.

Isaiah talked about the motion of mountains several times in his book. There he pictures mountains being leveled into a road, then breaking into joyful shouts because God was bringing back His people, because God was showing compassion to the afflicted.[17]

What did Jesus say about our faith? He said in Matthew 17, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.” That’s a hard verse for us to understand. But, on a devotional level, it reminds us of Psalm 114. The created order is ready to bow down in obedience and worship of God – to move when He commands.

Psalm 114:5-6 – Why was it, sea, that you fled? Jordan, that you turned back? Mountains, that you skipped like rams? Hills, like lambs?

So in verse 3 we were told the Red Sea and the Jordan saw something and went running. What did they see? One translation puts it this way, “What’s wrong with you, sea?”[18] Another commentator has it like this: “What was with you?”[19]

The answer is still coming, but this is a good spot to remind ourselves that, as our life flows on, as the tides of life come in and out, sometimes the Lord may need to shake us up. Sometimes we may need to reverse course. Sometimes we may need to stop moving in the direction we’ve been flowing if the Lord comes and says, “I want to do something different in your life.”

Remember: God wants our lives to be a visible testimony of His grace and His power and His truth and His trustworthiness. If we only, always flow the same way as all the other rivers, what notice would anyone take? How does that demonstrate a God Who acts so differently?

Psalm 114:7 – Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob,

What did the sea see? Why did the mountains move? It wasn’t because of Moses. It wasn’t because of the people on the shore. It was the Lord. It was His presence. He came and everything changed. He spoke, He directed, He decided, and everything fell into place as a result.

In verse 7 God is referred to in two ways: “The Lord” and “the God of Jacob.” The One true God has chosen to attach Himself to people. The God of Jacob. He would come to Isaac or Jacob and say, “I’m the God of your father.” He gives Himself to us. He shares His presence with His people. He says, “I am yours and you are Mine. Let’s dwell together.”

There’s nowhere we could go to escape His presence.[20] He is with us always, to the end of the age, bringing times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.[21]

We are called to tremble at His presence. The term of course means a reverent fear, acknowledging His power and greatness, but it also means to whirl in rejoicing.[22] To celebrate the nearness of this God Who has given Himself to us with such grace.

Psalm 114:8 –  who turned the rock into a pool, the flint into a spring.

So, not only did God part the waters so His people could cross, He did so much more. An earthquake once made the Mississippi flow backwards. Ok, that’s a big deal. Here, the Lord says, “When My people needed water, I made water flow out of a rock.” Of course, that was a beautiful symbol of Christ’s redemptive work and His provision for us. But it also was an actual rock that started leaking water – gushing water – to feed thousands upon thousands of people and animals. As much as they needed. You didn’t need a LifeStraw to drink out of this pool. It was pure, living water. And then that rock followed them through the desert and kept providing day after day.

This is what God does to accomplish His good purposes to save, to deliver, to direct, to transform the lives of His people. This is the distance He’ll go. This is what He’s capable of. Psalm 114 is a pretty short song, but the simple reminder packs a punch. There is never a reason for us to tell God, “Well, God, in my situation, I can’t do what You’ve asked me to do. It’s too hard.” It’s not!

James Smith writes, “The Hebrew [in verse 8] uses a timeless participle in this last sentence which suggests the continuing provision for his people.”[23]

God still provides living water. He still moves mountains. He still makes a way and calls us to join Him. He says, “This is the way, walk in it.” And He promises to walk with us. Giving us His presence, His tenderness, His careful attention, His grace. Always guiding and providing and accomplishing His good work.

Let’s be the people who rejoice in His presence, who watch for His coming, who reverse the flow of our lives if He asks us, who trust that He knows the way, that He knows the best timing, that He knows what He’s doing and then do it with Him so that we can worship and work according to His purposes for us.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120829192423.htm
2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=em8xvSZ7gEw
3 Psalms 135 and 136 are not part of the Songs of Ascent
4 The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 5: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs
5 Daniel Estes   Psalm 73-150: An Exegetical And Theological Exposition Of Holy Scripture
6 EBC
7 Robert Alter   The Hebrew Bible: A Translation With Commentary
8 Exodus 3:7-8
9 Jeremiah 5:15
10 John Goldingay   Psalms: Volume 3
11 Psalm 119:57
12 Estes
13 James Smith   The Wisdom Literature And Psalms
14, 19 Goldingay
15 C. Hassell Bullock   Psalms, Volume 2: Psalm 73-150
16 Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown   Commentary Critical And Explanatory On The Whole Bible
17 Isaiah 49:11-13
18 Alter
20 Psalm 139:7
21 Acts 3:20
22 See Alter, Estes
23 Smith

Bad Religion (Isaiah 58:1-14)

The majority of us have either heard someone say, or we have said to someone, “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a _____________.”

It is a relationship with Jesus Christ the living God who rose from the dead and is alive forevermore.

When we say, “Christianity isn’t a religion,” we mean that our own good works and observance of rites & rituals, diets & days, feasts & fasts, cannot save us.

Religion, however, is not always a bad thing.

Don’t take my word for it. In his NT letter, James says, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (1:26-27).

In our text the LORD mentions two religious practices: Sabbath keeping and fasting. He uses them as examples:

  • In verse thirteen the LORD encouraged the Jews to “call the Sabbath a delight.” That’s pure religion!
  • In verse four the LORD called them out, saying, “Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness…” That’s  bad religion!

Let’s not throw religion out with the holy water.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Selfishness & Bad Religion Go Together, and #2 Self-lessness & Pure Religion Go Together.

Let’s take a look at selfishness (58:1-5)

Isa 58:1  “Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins.

I’m guessing that Isaiah would “cry aloud” in the Temple. “Trumpet” blasts were important ways to communicate. When he spoke it was as if a trumpet were sounding throughout the city.   

His messages would mostly be about the “transgression” and “sins” of God’s people. It was a difficult season to be a prophet.

Have you ever been in a time when it seemed it was always winter but never Christmas?

Until fairly recently, believers received their teaching from the local church they attended. Now you can listen to or watch literally millions of Bible studies. That’s great! But I wonder if we have we lost a sense of God having a peculiar message for us?

Isa 58:2  Yet they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways, As a nation that did righteousness, And did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; They take delight in approaching God.

They seem praiseworthy. But it was all external.

Isa 58:3  ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’

Their fasting was altogether selfish.

When they said the LORD had “not seen,” nor had He taken “notice,” they meant that whatever it was they were fasting for had not been granted.

This is ground zero for bad religion. It isn’t relational. God is not Father or Friend. He is a fulfillment center who delivers blessings when I do religious works.

I object to anything that creates distance between a believer & Jesus. Jesus didn’t die on the Cross so I could pray to saints. Or to shroud things in mystery.

Isa 58:3  …“In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers.

Isa 58:4  Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, To make your voice heard on high.

In a word, they were being ugly. Jesus says of fasting that we should “anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father” (Matthew 6:17-18).

Isa 58:5  Is it a fast that I have chosen, A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, And to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the LORD?

On top of everything else, God had not asked them to fast. It was their own idea, carried out with their own rules. Things can seem spiritual, and yet be totally devoid of God. Likewise things that are simple can be filled with the presence of God.

Isaiah’s audience was the southern Jewish kingdom of Judah. They were pagan-loving, idol-worshipping, child-murdering, sex perverts.

You don’t fast for sin; you forsake it in repentance.

We’ve been praying for revival these many years. That’s great, but we should realize something. It is always accompanied by repentance among believers. One commentator wrote, “Any study of revival will demonstrate the unbreakable connection between revival and repentance.”

The LORD asked them an insightful question: “Would you call this a fast… acceptable… to the LORD?” God believed that they had a capacity to examine themselves and come to a correct conclusion.

Several verses in the NT could be cited, but one should suffice. “But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another” (Galatians 6:4).

What are we looking for when we examine ourselves? Let’s call it the Doctrine of Decreasing Discipleship. It is based on comments made by Jesus & by John the Baptist:

  • Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist…” (Matthew 11:11).
  • John the Baptist said, “[Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
  • Jesus said, “But he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.”

If John was “the greatest,” and if any believer in Jesus after him is “greater,” than we, too, must increase Jesus by decreasing more & more.

There is a lot of talk about decreasing our so-called ‘carbon footprint.’ What we truly need to decrease is our ‘carnal footprint.’

Richard Baxter wrote, “Men would sooner believe that the Gospel is from Heaven, if they saw more such effects of it upon the hearts and lives of those who profess it. The world is better able to read the nature of religion in a man’s life than in the Bible.”

Ask the Lord how you can “decrease” in your life

Let’s take a look at self-lessness in the remaining verses (58:6-14)

Isa 58:6  “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke?

Isa 58:7  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?

Jesus did all these things in His First Coming. He is the example of the purest religion.

Jesus, the Second Person of the Tri-une God – very God of very God – was virgin-born a human. He was fully God and fully man. For more than 30yrs He set aside the voluntary use of His deity to obey His Father as a man by the leading of God the Holy Spirit.

That’s as far as we need to go to be reminded that Jesus “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the Cross.”

God becoming man to die as our substitute… that is the self-lessness we are to imitate.

If someone were to ask you, “What is fasting? you most likely would answer that it is depriving yourself from food in order to spend serious alone time with God.

In verse seven, the LORD said, “Is [fasting] not to share your bread with the hungry?”

I don’t think I’ve ever thought of fasting that way. I think of it as depriving myself of my food. I don’t think of it as sharing food with hungry people.

This isn’t ‘pay-it-forward.’ That is rich people helping other rich people in a line of cars waiting to get burnt coffee-flavored beverages at a Starbucks. Pure fasting has to be costly – a genuine deprivation. And it doesn’t need to involve money, although it often does because that is the commodity we most understand.   

Isa 58:8  Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

This is a description of a procession or a pilgrimage. It is probably poetry to describe the processions of Jews who will return to Jerusalem after the 70yrs of captivity in Babylon. It would be a fresh start for the Jews to reinstate the rites & rituals of their religion as commanded by the LORD. Could also be looking farther, to the pilgrimages in the Millennial Kingdom.

Devotionally it describes a person or a people who were in the Kingdom of Darkness. They suddenly are transferred from darkness into light. They are healed, spiritually; they are declared righteous & walk in righteousness. If they go on that way, no enemy can penetrate the “rear guard.”

Isa 58:9  Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ “If you take away the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,

Isa 58:10  If you extend your soul to the hungry And satisfy the afflicted soul, Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, And your darkness shall be as the noonday.

“Pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness” are what people do who compare themselves to others and conclude they are better. They like to heap burdens on people that they cannot bear. They won’t lift so much as a finger to help.

Pure religion is never like that. Jesus said His burden was light because He would yoke with us and carry the load.

We should always be thinking of ways to lessen, to lighten the load people carry. We can apply this to believers & unbelievers:

  • Instead of insisting that believers must do more praying, more giving, more fasting… We emphasize what the Lord has done for us.
  • Unbelievers have a sense that coming to God is hard, that it involves rituals and rules keeping that most find impossible. Is that grace? Is that salvation by grace through faith?

One of our guys texted me, “I’m trying hard to be saved by grace.” It was tongue-in-cheek, a satire. Grace, by definition, isn’t about how hard I try.

I submit to you that we sometimes do communicate that grace involves a lot of effort. You wouldn’t believe what some churches require of new converts before they will ‘accept’ them.

Isa 58:11  The LORD will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

Are you tired of watering your lawn? Then paint your grass green. It’s a real thing. But it’s only on the surface. Don’t settle for the surface in your walk with Jesus. Ask Him how you can make your roots go deeper.

Isa 58:12  Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.

Isaiah looks ahead and sees the Babylonians invading Judah. It will leave the city and the Temple and the wall in ruins. This is a great promise to the future generation that returns from captivity to rebuild.

There are a lot of television shows featuring repairs and restorations. They’re always fantastic. But they’re nothing compared to what God has promised to do in your life.

Isa 58:13  “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words,

Isa 58:14  Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

The Sabbath is more than the weekly day of rest. The land was to celebrate a Sabbath every seventh year. No crops were to be planted. Judah had ignored the land-Sabbath for 490yrs. They blew it off, so God kept them out of the land until they had ‘repaid’ the 70 years they owed Him!

Keeping the Sabbath was good religion. It wasn’t ‘made’ to deteriorate into a religious ritual. It was ‘made’ for man to delight in the LORD.

The Jewish authorities made it bad by heaping rule after rule after rule. It got ridiculous.

Jesus was accused of violating the Sabbath. Insane, right? As God, Jesus had instituted the Sabbath. If anyone knew how to ‘keep’ it, it was Him in His incarnation. His general principle for keeping the Sabbath was, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

“I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, It is anyone’s guess what “riding on the high hills” means. Some translate it, “soaring over the high hills.” If Disney ever opens in Jerusalem…

“And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.” The mention of “Jacob” is encouraging. The northern 12 tribes had been conquered by the Assyrians. Were they lost forever? Nope, and that is why the LORD calls them “Jacob.” He was father of the 12 tribes. This is a promise that the LORD will keep His promises to Israel nationally.

Christians are always in a hurry to criticize the Law of God. Since it cannot be kept by mere mortals, we only see it as condemnation. King David thought otherwise:

  • In Psalm 19 David sang that the Law was “perfect, “sure,” “right,” and “clean.”
  • He sang about it “converting the soul,” “making wise the simple,” and “rejoicing the heart.”

If the Law is so great, why don’t we observe the Sabbath? The Sabbath was given to one nation, to Israel. It was a sign of the special covenant between them and God.[1] The Sabbath was never given to any other nation.

Justin Martyr (AD150) was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John. Justin wrote a treatise called, Dialog with Trypho the Jew. After mentioning Adam, Abel, Enoch, Lot, Noah, Melchizedek, and Abraham, he wrote, “Moreover, all those righteous men already mentioned, though they kept no Sabbaths, were pleasing to God; and after them Abraham with all his descendants until Moses… And you [Jews] were commanded to keep Sabbaths, that you might retain the memorial of God.”

I know what you’re wondering. What did Tertullian have to say in AD200?

Therefore, since God originated Adam uncircumcised, and inobservant of the Sabbath, consequently his offspring also, Abel, offering Him sacrifices, uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath, was by Him commended… Noah also, uncircumcised – yes, and inobservant of the Sabbath – God freed from the deluge. For Enoch, too, most righteous man, uncircumcised and inobservant of the Sabbath, He translated from this world…[2]

This is exactly how bad religion gets started. Someone comes along and insists that we must do something, like keep the Sabbath.

Geno pointed out to me that a number of churches are practicing some kind of ‘breath’ before Bible study. Some call it “Meditative Breathwork.”

I call it weird. It seems harmless enough – even helpful. It suggests subtly then more strongly that you can only be truly spiritual if you master these techniques.

“Let us keep on coming boldly [or breathy?] to the throne of grace, so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Christianity is a relationship whose fruit is pure religion.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 Deuteronomy 4:8; 5:3,15; Exodus 34:27; 31:13,16,17; Ezekiel 20:10-12; Nehemiah 9:13,14.
2 An Answer to the Jews 2:10; 4:1, Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 3, page 153

Prophecy Update #785 – Make My Baby’s Brown Eyes Blue

Jesus said “As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark…” (Matthew 24:37-38).

If you have read Genesis, you know that Jesus was describing the type of “marrying” that was taking place before the flood. In chapter six we read, “Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose…There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them” (6:1-4).

  • The “sons of God” in this passage are fallen angels – 200 of them – who came to Earth.
  • The “daughters” were human women.
  • Their offspring were “giants.” They weren’t just tall men. These are what we call Nephilim.

All ancient rabbi’s & all church fathers up to about AD 300 taught the sons of God were angels and the daughters were human women.

According to the Dead Sea Scrolls, “Fallen angels procreated the first Nephilim, leading the way to genetic tampering.”

What scholars call The 2nd Book of Enoch describes the genetic tampering that produced Nephilim, both before & again after the global flood.

When Jesus said the End Times would be as the Days of Noah, one thing He was getting at is genetic tampering with the human race.

We expect to see genetic tampering. Do we? Yes.

The most recent article I read was titled, New genome testing company helps customers weed out babies with imperfect genetics.

Excerpts:

Burgeoning West Coast genome testing company is promising prospective parents “healthy babies” by helping them to selectively discard embryos that show any sign of predisposition to unwanted physical or mental conditions.

Observers in the world of science, medicine, and children’s rights see in Orchid Health’s mission a cruel dystopian future founded upon the erasure of unconditional love from procreation and child rearing.

“I think basically sex is for fun and embryo screening is for babies,” said the company’s founder Noor Siddiqui.  Genomic screenings like Orchid will only contribute to the millions of embryos that are destroyed or forsaken to indefinite cryopreservation.[1]

Jesus predicted there would be genetic tampering of an egregious type. We expect it. We see it.

Many, if not all, the things we talk about as being signs we are living in the Last Days are coming to pass: Global government, global commerce, some type of personal identifier that could be precursor to the Mark of the Beast, the exponential growth of human knowledge, e.g., through Artificial Intelligence, etc.

Besides all that, the Bible predicted that the nation of Israel would be born in a day, that Jews would return there from their dispersion all over the Earth, and that Jerusalem would be at the very heart of global tension until every nation stands against her & God intervenes.

While we are looking out at all that, we are looking up. Jesus promised to resurrect & rapture His Church. He said, in fact He promised, He would do it before a time of Great Tribulation would come upon the whole Earth.[2]

The resurrection and rapture of the church is presented as an imminent event. It could happen anytime. Right now, for example.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, get ready, stay ready, and keep looking up.

Ready or not Jesus is coming! 

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/new-genome-testing-company-helps-customers-weed-out-babies-with-imperfect-genetics/
2 Revelation 3:10

Working For His Weak Friends (Psalm 111)

In 1982, Canadian rock band Loverboy made a bold claim: Everybody’s working for the weekend. Not Dashrath Manjhi. He was working for a much different reason. He gave himself a project: carve a path through a mountain ridge in eastern India. This little road would be just 360 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 25 feet deep, but it would shorten the distance from his village to basic facilities – like a doctor – by 70%. Dashrath hewed his path using hand tools – hammer and chisels.[1]

It took him 22 years to finish his little road. The job was done in 1982, the same year everyone else was working for the weekend. Why did Dashrath do it? Because in 1959, his wife was injured when she slipped and fell on that ridge, while bringing his lunch one day. That same mountain stood in the way, keeping them from getting to a doctor before she died from her injuries.

Dashrath has been called the hardest working person ever. But, that’s not even close to true. The hardest working Person has worked for way more than 22 years and He doesn’t stop for lunch or sleep or vacations. He didn’t carve one 360 foot long road, but the life paths for each of the billions and billions of people who have ever lived on planet earth. Yahweh, the God of the Bible, has worked, is working, and will still work for all of human history in every place on planet earth.

Psalm 111 is a song of praise that reminds us to think about God’s work and shows us how considering the acts of God fuels our worship and a deeper spiritual life.

Psalm 111:1 – Hallelujah! I will praise the Lord with all my heart in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.

Hallelujah is a plural mandate – a group command. Everybody needs to praise the Lord. But then he goes immediately to his own, personal commitment.[2]

I will praise the Lord with all my heart.

We’re all called into relationship with God. We’re all invited to be a part of the work that this Psalm talks about. But at the end of the day, I can’t help it if the person next to me doesn’t want to participate. My part is my part. What is the attitude of my heart? What’s going on in my mind?

His commitment is challenging: I will praise the Lord with all my heart. Of course, we know that this is the greatest and most important commandment, right? Not to just give lip service to God, but to love the Lord with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind. To devote it all to Him.

Our heart is the size of a fist, but we can store an awful lot in it, can’t we? If I pause for a moment and start thinking about all the things going on in my heart – the desires, the concerns, the plans, the hurts, the hopes, the distractions, a lot fills that space. The psalmist says, “I’m going to praise the Lord with all my heart. I’m going to fill up my thoughts and attention and expectation and concern only with the Lord in this moment.” That’s a high bar.

He invites us to praise in the assembly and in the congregation. The first group is smaller, like a circle of friends. The second is a larger group.[3]

He’s determined to praise God on his own and with his friends and in larger settings. And he invites everyone else to join him in this purpose.

Have you seen the videos of people at these Anti-Israel protests being asked why they’re there and what they’re marching for and they don’t know? The psalmist has clear purpose: I’m going to praise, we should get together and praise. Why? Because…

Psalm 111:2 – The Lord’s works are great, studied by all who delight in them.

We don’t praise because we have to. Yes, we’re commanded to praise, but it’s not like the pagan gods where if you don’t appease them, they’ll come and wipe out your crops. We worship God because He works and the more we understand His works, the more delighted we will be and inspired to proclaim His greatness. Because the things He does really matter.

Have you seen some of these “world records” people hold? Longest fingernails. Largest collection of rubber ducks. Longest time balancing on one foot in high heels. Those are feats, I guess. But they don’t matter. God’s works are great, meaning they are of amazing value and importance.[4]

Verse 2 refers both to the deeds of God and the things He makes.[5] Miracles and mountains. It’s not just the things God has done, but what He is still doing. His ongoing providential acts.[6]

Daniel Estes writes, “Praise is nurtured by contemplating what the Lord does.”[7]

He continues, “As the people of the Lord see the world more carefully, they are led to praise the Lord; and as they praise the Lord, they are prompted to see the world more clearly.”

Psalm 111:3 – All that he does is splendid and majestic; his righteousness endures forever.

Has your favorite musician ever put out an album you didn’t like? A dud after all those hits? Did your favorite team finally win the championship only to get knocked out of the playoffs the next year? No duds when it comes to God’s work. All He does is splendid and majestic.

People love to ask “Why doesn’t God…” Psalm 111 encourages us to ask, “What has God done? What is God doing?” If we investigate those questions we will discover that God is good and He is always victorious and that the point of His work is to help us. To rescue and redeem. Perhaps it’s time for us to think of ways to incorporate talking about what God is doing more in our lives.

Psalm 111:4 – He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered. The Lord is gracious and compassionate.

God really wants us to know about what He’s doing. It’s not for His benefit, it’s for our benefit. Our discovery of what He has done for us is our only hope. Romans 10: “How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him?”[8]

God does all this work, this work of grace to rescue people from death, but He can’t rescue them unless they respond to His offer, which means they need to hear about His offer. So, He has caused His works to be remembered. The word remembered is a noun which means proclamation.[9]

God says, “Remember Me. Remember what I’ve done.” Psalm 78 says that in the wilderness God’s people, “did not remember His power on the day He redeemed them.” And the result was they rebelled against God and broke His heart.[10] Same thing in the time of the Judges.

Psalm 106:7 says, “Our ancestors in Egypt did not grasp the significance of your wondrous works or remember your many acts of faithful love; instead, they rebelled by the sea.”

When God’s people fail to remember, the result is drift and rebellion and ruin.

It’s not just the people of Israel who need to remember the acts of God. What did Jesus say when He gave us the Lord’s Supper? “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Remember His work of grace and compassion. Remember His faithfulness and His promises and His accomplishments for you.

Tonight on your drive home you might think through your life. What are some of the acts of redemption God worked on your behalf? Some moment when you should’ve died, or should’ve been arrested, or been found out for something you did. A moment when you should’ve lost everything or received what you didn’t deserve. We can’t possibly know all the things God does for us, but as we consider His work just for us, it will have a great spiritual effect.

Psalm 111:5 – He has provided food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever.

Does this mean that no Christian will ever go hungry? Obviously not. Paul said, “I’ve often been hungry and thirsty without food.”[11]

In the old covenant, God made physical promises to Israel. He said, “Obey Me, and you’ll never be sick, you’ll always have huge harvests,” all these physical guarantees. But, prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel let us know that a new covenant was coming, one that deals with the heart and the spirit. The book of Hebrews calls it a “better covenant” with “better promises.” This new covenant was mediated by Jesus Christ when He poured out His blood for us. And now we don’t settle for living by bread alone, but on every word that comes from God. God has provided food for us – the Bread of Life. If we eat of it, we will live forever. Our blessings are higher than the temporal.

Psalm 111:6 – He has shown his people the power of his works by giving them the inheritance of the nations.

Sometimes skeptics criticize Christians by saying, “You think you have the corner on truth.” The truth is, God does share special revelation with His people, but we’re not trying to keep it from anyone. God has made space for anyone to come in if they are willing. Come, be a part of His family, receive the full revelation of Who He is and what He’s done. Come be set free by the truth!

Meanwhile, one of His great works is to give His people special inheritance. This world is not our home, but the New earth will belong to us. Ethnic Israel also has a promised land inheritance. What the world calls “Palestine” belongs to the Jews. In fact, way more than the territory they currently have is theirs by covenant. So, while the nations quibble and rage over the west bank, we know that God will keep His promise and the descendants of Abraham will receive their land in full one day.

Psalm 111:7 – The works of his hands are truth and justice; all his instructions are trustworthy.

I love this because it depicts God as being hands-on in this work. He doesn’t hire out the hard stuff. He does it with His own hands. And while He’s working, He’s teaching.

It is important to God that we understand the truth. He wants us to know so that we can have a close relationship with Him and so that we can go His way and be in line with His work so that our lives can be blessed and grow and we can get where He wants us to be.

In Jeremiah 6 the Lord says, “I’m instructing you so that you know the good way to go so that you’ll take it and find rest.[12]

That’s His desire for us. That we not only recognize His work, but recognize that His works work in our lives.

Psalm 111:8 – They are established forever and ever, enacted in truth and in uprightness.

We’ve had great leaders in our country who did some significant things. But then their time passes. New leadership comes into power and often undoes what the last guy did. Today, our government is defined by gridlock and in-fighting and ineffectiveness.

The Lord’s ways are established forever. There’s no time, no place where they don’t work. There’s no situation where we look back and think, “Oh, God didn’t really know what He was talking about.”

There are Supreme Court decisions that everyone looks back on in agreement as bad decisions. Not so with the Lord. All His ways are true and good and upright and consistent.

Psalm 111:9 – He has sent redemption to his people. He has ordained his covenant forever. His name is holy and awe-inspiring.

Why does God do all the things He does? Of all the things He could be doing, why hang in there with humanity? Why bother trying to fix something that is this broken? It’s a lot of work!

In 1924, when George Mallory was trying for the third time to reach the top of Mount Everest, someone asked him why he was doing it. His famous answer was, “Because it is there.” Mallory and his partner died on that trip. Makes you wonder if that was reason enough.

God does what He does for you! He does it because you need saving and He is a Savior. He is the Redeemer, spending His days at sin’s slave market, offering to buy every single suffering soul who is trapped in guilt and shame and held captive by the devil.

He says, “I have ordained this covenant forever.” He has put Himself on the hook to do all the things He’s promised in His Word. He’s not like these politicians who make hundreds of promises but don’t even keep half of them. He does what He says.

Psalm 111:10 – 10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his instructions have good insight. His praise endures forever.

If a person fears God, that means they believe He exists and they take Him seriously and they will want to understand Him more and they’ll be listening to what He says and conforming their lives to what He asks. That process will lead that person to consider the works that He does, which then prompts that person to praise and then we’re back at verse 1 and it starts all over again in this wonderful loop of worship.

In fact, the word praise there at the very end is a derivative of the word hallelujah that we read at the top.[13] So we end where we began, only we know God even more. We’ve thought of Him again. We’ve reminded ourselves of His power and grace toward us and how He’s still working because we still need His saving. And it is His delight to do things so that we can be delighted in Him. And that delight should leak out in worship.

Here we are, in the assembly of the upright. We have set aside a few more minutes to praise our Lord. To remind ourselves of Who He is and what He’s done and what He’s promised. His power, His grace, His goodness. We get to lift up an offering of adoration and thanksgiving to this all-powerful God of grace, Who loved us first, Who remembers us. What an opportunity we have. Psalm 33 says praise from the upright is beautiful. So let’s do what we came to do.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dashrath_Manjhi
2 John Goldingay   Psalms: Volume 3
3 Derek Kidner   Psalms 73-150
4 Theological Wordbook Of The Old Testament
5 Kidner
6 Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown   Commentary Critical And Explanatory On The Whole Bible
7 Daniel Estes   Psalm 73-150: An Exegetical And Theological Exposition Of Holy Scripture
8 Romans 10:14
9 The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 5: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs
10 Psalm 78:40-42
11 2 Corinthians 11:27
12 Jeremiah 6:16
13 C. Hassell Bullock   Psalms, Volume 2: Psalm 73-150

Judah, Don’t Take Your Love To Crowns (Isaiah 56:9-57:21)

President Donald Trump is not the first to use derogatory names for political opponents; it has a long history.

Publisher James Callender called our second POTUS, John Adams, a “hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

I was surprised to find that sort of thing in Isaiah.

The leaders of Judah are called “blind watchmen,” “ignorant,” “dumb dogs,” and “greedy dogs.” The LORD outs them as functional alcoholics.

That’s just His opening salvo!  He goes on to say they are “sons of the sorceress… offspring of the adulterer and the harlot.”

Before you cut loose on Sacramento, however, be reminded that First Timothy 2:1-3 & First Peter 3 direct us to speak truth to power without vulgarity.

There was a righteous remnant of Jews in Judah:

  1. The righteous perishes, And no man takes it to heart; Merciful men are taken away” (57:1).
  2. The last phrase of the same verse is, “While no one considers That the righteous is taken away from evil.”

You noticed it. Twice we read that the righteous will be “taken away.” We will take a look at these ‘take-aways’ as they relate to 7th century Judah. We will apply to our lives what we can without blurring the biblical distinction between Israel, who remains the Apple of God’s Eye, and the Church. 

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 When You See The Righteous Perishing, The End Is Near, and #2 When You See The Righteous Removed, The End Is Here.

#1 – When You See The Righteous Perishing, The End Is Near (56:9-57:13)

We pick-up our commentary in 56:9.

Isa 56:9  “All you beasts of the field, come to devour, All you beasts in the forest.

Isa 56:10  His watchmen are blind, They are all ignorant; They are all dumb dogs, They cannot bark; Sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.

Isa 56:11  Yes, they are greedy dogs Which never have enough. And they are shepherds Who cannot understand; They all look to their own way, Every one for his own gain, From his own territory.

Isa 56:12  ‘Come,” one says, ‘I will bring wine, And we will fill ourselves with intoxicating drink; Tomorrow will be as today, And much more abundant.’ ”

This is a herding metaphor. The “watchmen” are sheep-herding dogs. A blind, alter-barked dog who sleeps all the time isn’t ideal. When Ralph Wolf comes, you need Sam Sheepdog.

There were three hyena’s in the animated Lion King. Ed was clearly disabled. These men are like that.   

Gentile nations are the “beasts” who are set upon Judah to discipline them:

  • Assyria destroyed the 10 tribes in the north.
  • Babylon would conquer the 2 southern tribes that comprised Judah.

Isa 57:1  The righteous perishes, And no man takes it to heart; Merciful men are taken away, While no one considers That the righteous is taken away from evil.

Isa 57:2  He shall enter into peace; They shall rest in their beds, Each one walking in his uprightness.

The “righteous,” i.e., believers, are described as being “taken away” by the LORD to protect them from the growing evil. It is described as “peace” & “rest.” In other words, they were dying.

Have you ever said something like, “I’m glad Grandpa didn’t live to see this?” Isaiah wrote 150yrs before the series of Babylonian invasions that would leave the Temple sacked, and Jerusalem abandoned. It would break the hearts of the righteous to see it.

Isa 57:3  “But come here, You sons of the sorceress, You offspring of the adulterer and the harlot!

Isa 57:4  Whom do you ridicule? Against whom do you make a wide mouth And stick out the tongue?

I gave up sticking out my tongue at a very young age. One of my brothers (I can’t remember which on account that my traumatic memory represses it) hit me under the chin while I was sticking out my tongue at him. Effective.

Isa 57:4  … Are you not children of transgression, Offspring of falsehood,

The Jews disowned the LORD. They took on the characteristics of their new ‘parents.’ We see three such traits in verses 5, 6 & 7.

Isa 57:5  Inflaming yourselves with gods under every green tree [This is sexual perversion. The pagan religious rituals were fertility based  They involved all manner of perverse sexual behavior. Anything you could imagine that you should not imagine]. Slaying the children in the valleys, Under the clefts of the rocks? [This is exactly what it says – child sacrifice].

Isa 57:6  Among the smooth stones of the stream Is your portion; They, they, are your lot! Even to them you have poured a drink offering, You have offered a grain offering. Should I receive comfort in these?

Isa 57:7  “On a lofty and high mountain You have set your bed; Even there you went up To offer sacrifice [This is idolatry].

Isa 57:8  Also behind the doors and their posts You have set up your remembrance; For you have uncovered yourself to those other than Me, And have gone up to them; You have enlarged your bed And made a covenant with them; You have loved their bed, Where you saw their nudity.

Their homes were supposed to be centers of learning about the LORD, but the people had made them places of idol worship and adultery. Instead of teaching the children the LORD’s statutes, they were laying them on burning-hot idol statues.

Isa 57:9  You went to the king with ointment, And increased your perfumes; You sent your messengers far off, And even descended to Sheol.

Judah was an adulterous queen who decorated and perfumed herself to court other nations.

They went as far as “Sheol.” Wait, what? Sheol is the place of the dead. They didn’t physically enter Sheol. We are reminded that there are real supernatural forces behind the chaos of this world, always seeking to devour us.

Isaiah 57:10 in the CEV reads, “Though you tired yourself out by running after idols, you refused to stop. Your desires were so strong that they kept you going.”

Unbelievers baffle me with their resistance to Jesus. Just when I think they are about to open to Jesus’ knocking, they bar the door with false optimism that they can handle life without God’s help. Even as they lose the things they believed would satisfy them.

Isa 57:11  “And of whom have you been afraid, or feared, That you have lied And not remembered Me, Nor taken it to your heart? Is it not because I have held My peace from of old That you do not fear Me?

Isa 57:12  I will declare your righteousness And your works, For they will not profit you.

Isa 57:13  When you cry out, Let your collection of idols deliver you. But the wind will carry them all away, A breath will take them. But he who puts his trust in Me shall possess the land, And shall inherit My holy mountain.”

They did not fear the LORD because in mercy He delayed discipline. If the Lord did not delay discipline, there wouldn’t be a church. Ananias & Sapphira were struck dead for lying to God the Holy Spirit. Are we without sin?   

God will one day “declare” the self-righteousness of the unsaved. It will prove insufficient to save them.

Unbelievers may feel secure, but even a wind as weak as a breath can topple them.

“Let your collection of idols deliver you” is a terrifying epitaph that could be engraved on the majority of headstones in cemeteries.

“But he who puts his trust in Me shall possess the land, And shall inherit My holy mountain.” God, by His providence, always preserves a godly remnant in Israel. In the future, “all Israel” will be saved at the Lord’s return.

What about us, as a nation?

Child sacrifice? Check that box. According to the CDC, in 2021 there was one abortion for every five newborn children in the US.

Sexual perversion? It seems the latest rage among celebs and the powerful is sex-trafficking of human beings, including and especially children.

Idolatry? Sure – it is everywhere you look.

There are no statistics on the accelerated perishing of the righteous. I think we must concede, however, that righteousness has been on its way out for quite some time in our country. We call evil good, and good, evil.

Is the End near? We think so. But we also agree with something A.W. Tozer wrote. “When He returns is not as important as the fact that we are ready for Him when He does return.”

#2 – When You See The Righteous Removed, The End Is Here (v14-21)

In verse one we read, “While no one considers That the righteous is taken away from evil.”

As a general principle God will not destroy the righteous with the wicked.

Examples might be better than arguments. Lot, the nephew of Abraham, was living in Sodom when the angels came to destroy it. Abraham bargained with the LORD, saying, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” (Genesis 18:23). The LORD said He wouldn’t. The angels got Lot away before the fire & brimstone.

There are other examples, e.g., Rahab who converted & was saved when Joshua fit the Battle of Jericho.

The early church historian Eusebius tells of a prophetic oracle given to the Jerusalem church that caused Christians to flee before its destruction in AD70.[1] Did every believer get out of Jerusalem in time? Maybe!

God does not destroy at all. He saves. Any destruction is deserved, and the LORD is willing to save any who simply believe Him.

Isa 57:14  And one shall say, “Heap it up! Heap it up! Prepare the way, Take the stumbling block out of the way of My people.”

“Heap” means build. It describes getting the road(s) ready for the righteous to travel. He’s describing a return to Jerusalem. One such return would happen after the 70yr Babylonian captivity. Another would happen in 1948 and continues to this very day.

Ultimately, this is describing pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the Millennial Kingdom.

“Stumbling-block” is a name of Jesus.[2]

The Jews ‘stumbled’ over Jesus in His First Coming, but will receive Him as King at His return.

Isa 57:15  For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

“Contrite” means that which is broken, crushed, beaten small, trodden down. Heart attack survivors often describe feeling like an elephant is sitting on their chest. The real ‘elephant in the room,’ so to speak, is sin crushing your soul. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up. You’ll be able to breathe as God the Holy Spirit takes residence in you.

Isa 57:16  For I will not contend forever, Nor will I always be angry; For the spirit would fail before Me, And the souls which I have made.

Don’t read this as if the LORD was fed-up with them. He’s saying that if He didn’t intervene, the human race would “fail.”

It is similar to what Jesus said to those Jews who would find themselves in the future Time of Jacob’s Trouble. “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:22).

This is the incredible longsuffering of God. He will wait as long as He possibly can in order that the greatest number of people will be saved.

Isa 57:17  For the iniquity of his covetousness I was angry and struck him; I hid and was angry, And he went on backsliding in the way of his heart.

Isa 57:18  I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will also lead him, And restore comforts to him And to his mourners.

Isa 57:19  “I create the fruit of the lips: Peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near,” Says the LORD, “And I will heal him.”

The “him” the LORD is talking about is the nation of Israel. God disciplined “him,” then waited, but Israel went on backsliding.

Still, after all that, the LORD would “lead” Israel back, “restore,” give him “peace” to sing about. Twice the LORD simply said “I will heal him.”

Israel remains the chosen nation of God, the Apple of His Eye. “Has God cast away His people? Certainly not! God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew” (Romans 11:1-2).

Isa 57:20  But the wicked are like the troubled sea, When it cannot rest, Whose waters cast up mire and dirt.

Isa 57:21  “There is no peace,” Says my God, “for the wicked.”

If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, you may not call it peace, but that is what your heart is always seeking. It’s why you’re never truly satisfied. You don’t have peace with God, and therefore you can’t know the peace of God.

All the while, the Lord is seeking you, drawing you, loving you.

Jesus came in the first century and made a genuine offer to establish the Kingdom. His offer was officially rejected. He was crucified, buried, then rose from the dead. As He ascended, the promise of the Kingdom was renewed. The disciples were told Jesus would return, and He will.

His Return is preceded by a 7yr time of great tribulation. It is called the Time of Jacob’s Trouble because it is a time set for God to bring Israel to salvation.

We are not Israel. We are the Church. Jesus promised the Church, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the Earth” (Revelation 3:10).

We will be kept “from” the Tribulation by being taken away.

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (First Thessalonians 4:16-17).

When the Church is resurrected & raptured, and the righteous are “taken away,” the end is here. The four horsemen ride out of Heaven’s stables and the Time of Jacob’s Trouble follows the course set down in chapters 6-20 of the Revelation.

Again quoting Tozer, “Let us be alert to the season in which we are living. It is the season of the Blessed Hope, calling for us to cut our ties with the world and build ourselves on this One who will soon appear. He is our hope – our Blessed Hope enabling us to rise above our times and fix our gaze upon Him.”

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 Eusebius, ‘Church History’ 3.5.3
2 Matthew 21:44

Prophecy Update #784 – The End Game Is To End Jews

Pro-Palestine, Anti-Israel protests on college campuses dominated the news this past week. Jewish students were redirected “for their own safety.” They were told to go home and stay home. Several schools told students to finish their semester online.

I read an article this week about the early stages of antisemitism in pre-WWII France.[1] The author wrote,

“In 1941, my Jewish father lived in Paris. He was only 16 years old, and he lived with his parents in the 13th district. I remember him telling me how his Jewish father… was asked to turn in his bicycle to the local police station. As a citizen in good standing, he did, and so did tens of thousands of Jews. Now, the Jews were stuck at home with no mode of transportation, but maybe the underground Metro railway, as long as they wore their yellow star patch and only used the last car of the train.”

Jews being told to stay at home “for their own safety” is eerily reminiscent of the first steps to the Holocaust.

Alan Dershowitz commented,

“During recent protests in New York, there were calls to repeat the barbarity of October 7 ‘a thousand times.’ There were shouts of ‘We are Hamas,’ ‘Death to America,’ ‘Burn Tel Aviv to the ground,’ and ‘Jews go back to Poland.’ The chant of “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is pervasive. Free of what? Free of Jews. The goal is to make all of Israel Judenrein – ethnically cleansed of all Jews. One never sees a sign calling for a two-state solution or for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. These are not the goals. What is demanded is the end of any Jewish presence in the Middle East.”

Researchers agree that the antisemitism we are witnessing is unprecedented. CNN reported “Antisemitic incidents in the US reached their highest level last year since the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a civil rights non-governmental organization, began recording them in 1979. Antisemitic incidents have nearly tripled in the last six years. Last year, criminal and non-criminal cases of harassment, vandalism and assault of Jewish people and people perceived to be Jewish hit record-high levels in the US.”

An organization called Combat Antisemitism reported “A nearly 60% increase in antisemitic incidents in 2023 [globally].”

The Jerusalem Post: “The annual report for 2023 and January 2024 on the fight against antisemitism published by the Diaspora Ministry, the World Zionist Organization, and the Jewish Agency, showed that between October and December, the number of antisemitic incidents worldwide increased sixfold [235%].”

As much as 2500yrs ago, the Bible predicted that the Jews would be dispersed from their homeland to all the nations of the Earth. After a time, they would return; Israel would be a nation once again.

But she would be a hated, despised nation. Jerusalem especially would be a source of constant tension and turmoil throughout the whole Earth.

Antisemitism is nothing new. The current, global, irrational antisemitism is, if not new, unprecedented. It is what we expect from reading the Bible as future history.

As all eyes are on the Middle East, we are looking up.

1Th 4:16  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

1Th 4:17  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

1Th 4:18  Therefore comfort one another with these words.

The resurrection and rapture of the church is presented as an imminent event. It could happen anytime. Right now, for example.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, get ready, stay ready, and keep looking up.

Ready or not Jesus is coming! 

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 https://harbingersdaily.com/how-long-will-it-take-for-jewish-people-outside-of-israel-to-realize-theyre-in-grave-danger/