Israel, Back From the Dead

I frequently hear questions like, “Wasn’t the prophesied regathering of Israel and Judah fulfilled after the Assyrian and Babylonian captivity and before the time of Jesus Christ?” Or, “How do we know that the current state of Israel is a fulfillment of Bible prophecy?”

Those are questions that have generated a multitude of books that run into the hundreds of pages each, so I probably won’t persuade the hardened skeptic to change his mind here in this blog post. But I will try to give a summary answer to anyone willing to consider the possibility that the current state of Israel is a fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

First, the Jews were not scattered to the ends of the earth at the time of the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions (Jeremiah 49:28-33; Ezekiel 5:1-17; 12:1-28; Matthew 23:37-39; Luke 13:31-35; 21:20-24). They were removed to Assyria and Babylon. That’s a limited and very distinct location on the map in what would today be modern Iraq and portions of Iran. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was removed from the land in 722 B.C. by Assyria (2 Kings 17:24-34). The Southern Kingdom of Judah was removed from the land in 586 B.C. by Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:1-25:21). The scattering of the Jews to the four winds came with the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in A.D. 70 (Matthew 23:37-39; Luke 13:31-35; 21:20-24).

Second, Israel was a vassal state to Rome in the New Testament period. That’s a nation that is under the rule or oversight of another power. Notice all the Roman authorities mentioned in the Gospels—Herod, Pilate, and Caesar. The Jews had only limited self rule in religious matters, and even then they had no authority to execute religious criminals (Matthew 27:1-26; Mark 15:1-15; John 18:38-19:15).

Third, Israel has been brought back to the land in a state of unbelief. Just as the Lord through the prophet Ezekiel predicted (Ezekiel 36). The nation will not turn to Jesus Christ until at least the middle of the Great Tribulation, when the Antichrist sets up his image in the Temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15-28; Mark 13:14-23; Revelation 13:11-18), and possibly not until Jesus returns at the end of the Great Tribulation (Zechariah 12:10-13:1).

Fourth, the people were brought back to sovereign national statehood from national death. Ezekiel 37 is not about revival in the Church of Jesus Christ. Although I think we can allow for some spiritual application about the need for revival. But it’s not about revival, it’s about resurrection. Those are two different things entirely. It is about the resurrection of a dead nation, and God clearly identifies that nation as Israel. Ezekiel 37:12 says, “Therefore prophesy and say unto them, ‘Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.’” This is God raising up His people and bringing them back into the land of Israel. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for “land” in that verse is ’ÂdhÎmÎh. It means the ground, dust, or loose soil of the earth. Clearly God promised to bring the Jews back into the geographical land area He has given to them. The Jews are not the occupiers of that land. They are the rightful owners because God made an unconditional everlasting covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12).

In fact, the proper name for the modern state of Israel prophesied in Ezekiel 40:2 is Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel) (additional source: http://www.knesset.gov.il/docs/eng/megilat_eng.htm). Ezekiel 40:2 says, “In the visions of God brought he me into the land of Israel [Eretz Israel], and set me upon a very high mountain, by which was as the frame of a city on the south” (KJV).

Fifth, God said He would never utterly reject, cast off, or be finished with the nation of Israel (Leviticus 26:1-46; Amos 9:1-10). Leviticus 36:44 says, “And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God” (KJV). And Amos 9:8 says, “Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the LORD” (KJV). In fact, God promised to restore David’s kingdom in Amos 9:11-15. That process did not begin in actuality until May 14, 1948, when Israel declared its independence. It will not come to complete fruition until the Millennial Kingdom begins. But we see even now that Israel is a land blooming as a rose (Isaiah 35:1).

The Word of God explicitly tells us there is no chance He will utterly and forever cast off His people Israel.

Jeremiah 31:35-37 says,

35 Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, And its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name):

36 “If those ordinances depart From before Me, says the LORD, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease From being a nation before Me forever.”

37 Thus says the LORD: “If heaven above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel For all that they have done, says the LORD (NKJV).

The last time I looked the sun, moon, and stars are still in place. Neither have the astronomers found the end of the universe, although they are desperately looking for it. And the geologists have not searched out the deepest parts of the earth beneath us. I’m guessing they wouldn’t like what would find, even if they could.

Sixth, every person and every nation that has tried to destroy Israel and the Jewish people has met an unpleasant end. In the Bible, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome all came and went as great empires, but Israel and the Jewish people remained. In the 20th century, Adolph Hitler and his Nazi regime literally tried to bring about “the final solution” to “the Jewish problem.” What happened was that Germany and Europe were a divided people for nearly half a century. Only about 3 years after WWII ended, the Jewish people declared their independence as a free and sovereign state. The Land of Israel is the only free democratically governed state in the Middle East. All the Muslim states that surround Israel are ruled by tyrannical governments. Ironically, the Muslims all sided with Hitler and the Nazis during WWII. And the former Soviet Union, which also persecuted the Jews (as well as Christians), crumbled from within and ceased to exist on December 26, 1991.

Although we continue to see Israel’s enemies plotting her demise, they will meet a similar fate as all the enemies that went before. My prayer is that the United States of America is never a part of such an effort. The God of Israel will not hold us guiltless.

Joel 3:2

I will also gather all nations, And bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; And I will enter into judgment with them there On account of My people, My heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land (NKJV).

Zechariah 12:2-3

2 “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem.

3 “And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it (NKJV).

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6).

Thank you very much, and have a Blessed Day in the Lord Jesus Christ!

His Hebrew name is: Yeshua haMashiach or Yehoshua haMashiach

The Focus of Prayer

Our Pastor started a series of messages on prayer this first Sunday of the new year. His text was Ephesians 1:15-23. He didn’t have time to deliver the whole text, but he will pick up the message and finish preaching the text. Suffice it to say that it was a great message, and there was a great spirit of worship and anointed preaching in the service. My point is not to re-preach his message. You can listen to it at http://www.oakgroveag.org/sermons, if you so desire. It should be up within a week or so.

The point I want to make is about the emphasis of the text itself. Our Pastor pointed this out, both in his preaching and in his Powerpoint notes. Humor me, and follow along with the prayer of the Apostle Paul for the Ephesians.

Ephesians 1:15-21

15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,

16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:

17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,

18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power

20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,

21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church,

23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. NKJV

Do you see where the emphasis is? It’s on the Lord. It’s on Who He is, what He does, and what He is to His Church—His Body. We don’t see the Apostle drawing prayer circles on the ground after the manner of Honi the Circle Maker (as one author does in his book of the same name, referencing a story found in Jewish extra-biblical writings). We don’t hear him praying a Sun Stand Still prayer (as another author suggests in his book of the same name), as though the text describing Joshua’s prayer (Joshua 10:1-15) is an example for how we should pray today. And we don’t see him using the popular methodology of commanding or declaring and decreeing something like a lot of extreme Charismatics are doing. In fact, a believer commanding something in prayer is usually commanding demons to come out of a person or to cease their deceptive activity. Even then, it should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (there aren’t that many references to it, so I will let the reader look it up using a good concordance). It is His authority demons obey, and not ours.

Of course, the one verse hyper-Charismatics love to quote is Isaiah 45:11 “Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me” KJV. However, the New International Version (NIV) of Isaiah 45:11 comes much closer to the original Hebrew text of this verse, “This is what the LORD says– the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?

So Isaiah 45:11 is a question, and not a command to believers to order God to do something as so many erroneously teach. This word picture makes me think of someone leaned back in a big chair asking some little pipsqueak down here on earth, “Are you talking to me? Do you think you can give me orders concerning the work of my hands? Do you dare question me about my children? Do you know I can squash you like a very small bug?” Thankfully, the Lord is more merciful than my imagination about that word picture.

One of the aforementioned authors even says, “Bold prayers honor God”. Perhaps we could agree with this statement to the point that the Bible says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 , NKJV). I suppose it could also be considered bold to pray in faith believing God to answer (Matt. 21:22, Jn. 7:39, Jn. 20:27, Jn. 20:31, Gal. 3:9,

1 Pet. 1:8).

Even in the model prayer Jesus gave to the first disciples (and by extended application to us), his prayer is fairly mundane for the most part. I will quote from Luke 11.

Luke 11:1-4

1 Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

2 So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.

3 Give us day by day our daily bread.

4 And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.” NKJV

The boldest statement in that prayer is, “Forgive our sins”. The part of the prayer about daily bread is just horribly mundane in the eyes of the “extreme prayer” dudes and dudettes. Yet in the verses that follow this model prayer, Jesus commends persistence, even in the mundane matters such as bread (Luke 11:5-13). And finishes by saying that our heavenly Father will much more give the Holy Spirit to those who ask (keep asking) Him (Luke 11:13).

Our faith is not in our faith. Our faith is not in our ability to work up enough sweat, emotional intensity, and volume to cause God to see how serious we are and answer us because we have earned it. By the way, we can’t earn anything from God! Our faith is in someone—Jesus Christ. Jesus is the object of our faith. He is the One Whom we are believing in. Anything or anyone else we are believing in falls flat.

Neither is our faith in our ability to get quiet enough long enough to get God’s favor because we haven’t said or thought anything. The Contemplative Prayer movement is primarily based on a misunderstanding of Psalm 46:10. It says in the NKJV, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” That verse has nothing to do with so-called wordless prayer. Psalm 46 deals with the sovereignty of the God of Israel and His protection of His city and His people. “Be still and know that I am God” means we are to trust Him in the troubles that come our way. I’m sure we all pray silently at times, but that’s not the primary mode of prayer prescribed in the Bible. We usually pray vocally with words, and sometimes the Holy Spirit prays through us with groanings that we don’t understand (Romans 8:26). In fact, the only real example of silent prayer is Hannah’s prayer for a son found in 1st Samuel 1.

1 Samuel 1:9-20

9 So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the LORD.

10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish.

11 Then she made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”

12 And it happened, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli watched her mouth.

13 Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk.

14 So Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!”

15 And Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD.

16 “Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.”

17 Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.”

18 And she said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

19 Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her.

20 So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the LORD.” NKJV

In her prayer, Hannah’s lips moved, but her voice was silent. Obviously this was not a normal mode of prayer among the Jewish people because Eli thought she was drunk. Furthermore, she clearly was not in some contemplative peaceful state because the text states that she was in bitterness of soul and anguish, she was a woman of sorrowful spirit, and her prayer came from the abundance of her complaint and grief. When Eli told her to go in peace, she went her way and she was no longer sad. So the contemplative idea of emptying your mind of care through silence has no biblical basis. It is a methodology the so-called “Desert Fathers” (Roman Catholic mystics) acquired from Hindu and Buddhist sources and added to their “Christianity”. Thomas Keating, one of the men who revived the practice of contemplative prayer or centering prayer, did an interview with the Garrison Institute in October 2008. In the interview, the man clearly reveals that his worldview is more Hindu and Buddhist than Christian. That interview is posted in three parts at the following links.

Part 1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaLRcCooyTY

Part 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnbKZID1Jqc

Part 3

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjUBp1bjt0k

Keating’s focus is on becoming “the Other”. In other words, the person involved with this method of prayer is focused on becoming God. Don’t take my word for it. Watch the interview, and see for yourself what he says is the goal of this method of “prayer”. Contrary to their assertions, the contemplative prayer promoters are focused on self, rather than the Jesus Christ of Scripture.

The late Larry Norman had a song called Why Don’t You Look Into Jesus. In that song was the line, “Why don’t you look into Jesus, He’s got the answer”. I don’t fault Larry for his intentions, and it is true to a point. Jesus does have the answer. But more importantly, and more correctly, Jesus IS the answer. True prayer brings answers to meet the needs of saints and repentant sinners alike. True prayer also brings glory to a holy and majestic God. So whatever the need, whether mundane or extreme, Jesus is the answer. But we must remember that He is sovereign, and sometimes we don’t get the answers we would like (and I struggle with this at times like almost everyone else). However, we get the answers that work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). This is a promise to saints. Unbelievers don’t get to claim this as some sort of umbrella to cover them while they remain in sin. My advice to unbelievers is to repent and receive the free gift of salvation purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ.

James 2:1 says, “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality” NKJV. Notice the italicized words. The Greek text says, “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glory, with partiality”. Jesus isn’t just the Lord of glory. He is THE GLORY of God Himself. Ezekiel’s first vision clearly reveals the glory of God is a person, and what he sees in his vision, climaxing in the sight of the one sitting on the throne was “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD” (Ezekiel 1:28). Then in Ezekiel 3:12-23, we see the Glory of God is a person (the glory of the LORD stood there), and not just some ethereal substance.

Ezekiel 3:12-23

12 Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a great thunderous voice: “Blessed is the glory of the LORD from His place!”

13 I also heard the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels beside them, and a great thunderous noise.

14 So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me.

15 Then I came to the captives at Tel Abib, who dwelt by the River Chebar; and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.

16 Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:

18 “When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.

19 “Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

20 “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand.

21 “Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.”

22 Then the hand of the LORD was upon me there, and He said to me, “Arise, go out into the plain, and there I shall talk with you.”

23 So I arose and went out into the plain, and behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, like the glory which I saw by the River Chebar; and I fell on my face.

Ezekiel’s reference to what he saw by the River Chebar goes back to his vision in chapter 1. This shows us that Jesus Christ is, and always has been, the One Who is THE GLORY OF GOD. I leave you with Hebrews 1:1-4.

Hebrews 1:1-4

1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,

2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;

3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. NKJV

Jesus Christ is God the Son, He is the embodied Glory of God, and He is the answer!

Period. End of discussion.

Thank you very much, and have a Blessed Day in the Lord Jesus Christ!

His Hebrew name is: Yeshua haMashiach or Yehoshua haMashiach