Luke 6:25 – Laughing Now

The prophetic Word that Jesus speaks in the Beatitudes is both comforting and chilling.  For those who hear what He said and love Him, there can be no greater promise.  For those who don’t hear, don’t care to hear, and who either hate Him or are apathetic about God and the hope He brings, what Jesus foretells is a promise of disaster.

In His time on earth then, Jesus speaks a Word for NOW; a message of hope and one of hopelessness.  Consider how He phrased the bookend statements that He made.

To those who love Him and hear His voice, who are the sheep in His pasture, He set forth a couple of circumstances that pertain to the human condition.  In Luke 6:21 Jesus said:

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.  Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”

Throughout history, people have endured physical and spiritual hunger.  They have also undergone great, heartbreaking distress that can be a bane to the human soul.  But, Jesus says this need not be the case any longer.  For those craving nourishment of the body or of the spirit; for those aching in grief from loss; there is an answer.  A person who turns to Him finds life.  In Christ alone he will be satisfied; in Him only will the sorrow dissipate.  Such a message had never before been given; for us today we can receive it as a guarantee.

God’s promises are always fulfilled.  However, the one thing we never know is when.  Through our prayers, belief, and confidence in Christ, He may deliver us in this life from these afflictions.  But God is sovereign.  His ways are not our ways.  Regardless, these promises hold true.  If not fulfilled in this lifetime, we can be assured that in the next, as blood-bought believers in Jesus Christ, He will bring them to pass.  Thus, whether someone is hungry, is weeping, or has a body broken in illness, all these afflictions will disappear when Jesus returns.  We will be like Him.  He will give us glorified, perfect bodies.  No more will we experience the sorrows of this world.

In contrast are those who don’t know the Lord.  Unless they turn from their evil ways, Jesus warns them that trouble awaits right around the corner.  In Luke 6:25 here is what He says:

“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.  Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.”

As noted above, this is indeed a NOW Word.  It often seems as if those who reject the Good News of Jesus Christ pay no penalty.  Because God sends rain upon the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45), many who fall into this unjust category appear to live the good life and experience no consequences for their wickedness.  But Jesus says that everything will even out.  Vengeance belongs to God (Romans 12:19).  A day is coming when all who aren’t covered by the blood of the Lamb will stand before God in judgment.  Even before then, many will experience God’s wrath in the soon-coming Tribulation.  Some number of these people who have chosen to follow their own way, rather than that which Christ offers, will go hungry in that time; others will mourn and weep.  However, even those who seemingly ride above the winds and waves during that horrible seven years will not escape.  Their fate is assured, their eternity is one of torment.

Knowing this, shouldn’t we who Christ has redeemed have the heart  for the lost that He has?  What are we waiting for?  We’re nearer now to our redemption than when we first believed (Romans 13:11).  Doesn’t this also mean that those who aren’t currently in Christ are closer to their doom?

Jesus gave all of us a command.  We’re to operate in His power and authority.  Doing so, we’re to make disciples and teach them about the love of God and all His ways (Matthew 28:18-20).

Time is running out.  Shouldn’t we get busy?

Luke 5:26 – They Glorified God

When Jesus healed someone or cast out demons, He always had a purpose in doing so.  Because the people of Israel were lost and had been without a shepherd for so many years, Jesus had to get them thinking once more who they were as a people and why they even existed.  He had to transform their thinking about the gods of the surrounding cultures to God Most High.  As important, He wanted to change the religiosity of the people from those who stressed Law and Law only, to seeing Yahweh as a loving God who desired to have a personal relationship with Him.

God had been silent in Israel for 400 years since the prophet Malachi.  Israel had gone through much of what is known as the Second Temple period, i.e. the Intertestamental period, that began roughly about 500 BC and would end about 100 AD.  During this time of God’s silence, the Jews thought and wrote much about their understanding of God and His ways.  From this they produced quite a lot of literature exploring these concepts.  For instance, one of the works attributed to this period is the book of 1 Enoch that describes how the sons of God (bene Elohim), also known as the Watchers in Enoch and by Daniel (Daniel 4:13-17), came to earth, procreated with human women, and caused the massive amount of depravity that led to God destroying all creatures through the flood.

Jesus had a lot of work to do to get the heads of God’s children turned back to Him in the right way.  This had always been a problem.  From the very first when Yahweh interacted with man in the Garden, he wanted to go his own way.  The idea that Satan planted that man could be like God never left.  It caused all humanity inevitably to turn from God.  This led to the Tower of Babel incident where mankind disobeyed God’s direct command to scatter.  Since the people didn’t do it on their own, God had to take it upon Himself to do the scattering.  In the course of this, God effectively separated Himself from man – a sort of timeout – while He raised up Israel as His special heritage (Deuteronomy 32:9).  God placed His divine sons (again, more bene Elohim) over the nations and mankind in this process (Deuteronomy 32:8 – ESV).  In that position, God’s sons were to point men back to God; instead, they rebelled and became the so-called gods over those nations contrary to what Yahweh intended.

This led to all sorts of problems, not the least of which was that the people of Israel found these foreign gods more attractive than Yahweh.  One thing followed another, and through their wholesale turning from God in disobedience, He sent them into captivity in Babylon.  Despite His mercy of permitting them to return to the land, they didn’t learn the lesson, and God allowed them ultimately to go under Roman occupation, which set up the time and circumstances for Jesus to come.  In that prior period the sect of the Pharisees determined that following the Law was the key to Yahweh’s blessings.  Naturally, they went too far and legalism set in.  They had no heart for God, only for obeying His Law as they interpreted it.

So, along comes Jesus with the necessity of transforming the hearts of the people.  It required Him to preach and teach; it necessitated Him confronting the Pharisees for their misunderstanding of what God wanted; and it called for Jesus to show the awesome love of God through the miracles, signs, and wonders that He did.

The reading today illustrates how this worked.  It’s the paralytic man’s friends who have the confidence that Jesus will heal him.  We’re not told this man’s level of faith.  Perhaps he had given up on life in his poverty and presumed uselessness.  But his friends believed.  Isn’t it amazing that he even had friends?  This man could have been so depressed at his condition that he simply isolated from everyone other than in his times of begging.

Jesus knew all the circumstances surrounding this situation.  He also knew what the response would be among those who saw what He intended to do.  He forgave the man’s sins.  Had the man assumed that he was beyond forgiveness and that God hated him?  Then, Jesus healed him.  This miracle had two results as we see in Luke 5:25-26:

And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”

The poor man who had been paralyzed and without hope ended up glorifying God.  The people who witnessed this amazing healing also came away glorifying Him.

This seems to be one of the few instances that Jesus performed a miracle not on a Sabbath day, so the Pharisees didn’t have that to complain about.  But, they were present, and we know they took issue with Jesus.  Who but God could forgive this man’s sin (Luke 5:21)?  One way or another, Jesus found a sore point with His critics, but always in the hope and with the desire of turning their hard hearts back to God as He wished for them to acknowledge Him.

Israel today remains separated from God because she didn’t accept the fact that Jesus was the Messiah for whom they’d been waiting.  To this day, they have not glorified God through His Son.  That will change not too long from now.  God will soon pour out His wrath upon this unbelieving world, including the nation of Israel.  Through that horrible time, many will finally turn to the God of the Bible.  A remnant of those remaining in Israel will be saved (Zechariah 13:8; Romans 11:26).

Soon, and very soon all the world will bow down and confess that God is mighty and glorious and deserves all praise and worship.

Joshua 18:3 – Possession of the Land

God promised His children they would take possession of the land of Canaan.  All that He had told them that He would do since delivering them from slavery in Egypt, He made good on His Word.  Time and again He had demonstrated to the Israelites that they could trust HIm.  God allowed an entire generation to perish in the wilderness for lack of belief.  The next generation started out well by following His commands at Jericho and, after the incident with Achan, by gaining victory over Ai.  Joshua, with the anointing of Moses, continued to faithfully pursue all that the Lord had said in gaining the Promised Land.

However, after several of the tribes claimed their allotted portions, the remaining tribes seemed hesitant to follow through to claim their parcels.  The people of the tribe of Joseph – who were quite numerous – complained that they didn’t have enough room for everyone based on what they had so far.  The half tribe of Manasseh was supposed to take land to the west of the Jordan River but failed to do so.  Interestingly, Joshua 17:12 records:

Yet the people of Manasseh could not take possession of those cities, but the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land.

What was their problem?  Was God’s right arm not long enough?  No, it seemed they were fearful of the Canaanites who dwelled in the hill country because of their iron chariots and military prowess.  Joshua had to remind them that they as God’s people had great power and would succeed.  Despite that, there was a general reluctance on the part of the remaining tribes, necessitating Joshua to ask the question in Joshua 18:3:

“How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?”

This remained a problem in that the Israelites failed in many instances to drive out the inhabitants in the land.  Canaanites remained, although for a time Israel was able to dominate them and use them as forced labor.  This changed in the subsequent years when God’s people failed to follow Him, so that He allowed their enemies to grow strong as an object lesson (that they never fully learned).

What is the object lesson for us in this account?  Let’s substitute sin in our lives in place of the Canaanites that were a persistent thorn in the Israelites’ sides.

It’s a fairly simple message.  When we turn from our life of sin to follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us.  We are transformed and become new creatures in Christ Jesus.  As such, we’re to begin living for Him and like Him.  However, just as God told the Israelites that He would not eliminate all their enemies at once because it would overwhelm them (Deuteronomy 7:22), so it is with some aspects of the sin in our lives.  Our journey as followers of Jesus is one that must be taken a step at a time.  We call the process progressive sanctification.  Little by little we grow in the Lord, shedding the negative aspects of our past.  This might mean that some of the sins from before our salvation cling to us.  We are completely washed in the blood of Christ, fully forgiven and cleansed, but we haven’t yet taken out all the trash from the past.  In other words, like with the people of Manasseh, we still have some Canaanites dwelling in our midst.

Now, just as Israel tamed the Canaanites for a time putting them to forced labor, we may be able to live our lives in Christ with some prior sins lurking nearby.  We subdue them but don’t completely eliminate them.  What this ended up meaning for Israel was that if they failed to completely follow the Lord, the Canaanites grew stronger and more numerous.  This became a significant problem in the book of Judges.

This issue is one that many Christians face.  Rather than living completely for Jesus, they do so half-heartedly and allow certain sins to remain.  This can cause the problem going forward that when trouble strikes, those sins are ever-ready to rise up and contend for their portion of the land, i.e. the place in our life that they want to reclaim.

Joshua knew this would cause difficulties.  It’s why he asked the remaining tribes who hadn’t yet done what God commanded how long it would be before they took full possession of all that He had provided.

In our Christian walk, Jesus asks us the same question: “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?”

How long will it be that we allow the sins of our past to live and to influence us?  How long before we completely eliminate them from our lives?

When we follow Jesus in a half-hearted manner, we get a life that cannot receive all that God has for us.  He wants to give us life  and that more abundantly (John 10:10), but we have to eliminate all that will steal, kill, and destroy our life in Christ.

Luke 4:41 – They Knew That He Was the Christ

The Gospels show us that Jesus cast out demons everywhere He went.  For the people of Israel, this was astounding – no one had ever done this in such a manner.  Luke 4:36 reports:

“And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!

Just as Yahweh needed to get the attention of the Israelites when He re-introduced Himself to them in the time of Moses, in the same manner He had to re-acquaint His children with their Father.  This was one of the purposes that Jesus had in His earthly incarnation.  After all, just as the Israelites had been in captivity in Egypt for 400 years with no direct knowledge of Yahweh, so it was when Jesus appeared.  God had been silent 400 years; they had heard of Him, but they didn’t know Him.

However, consider the demonic spirits that Jesus cast out of so many with the power and authority of God.  At a Word from Jesus, they had no means to resist.  Luke 4:41 tells us:

And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.

The people in Israel didn’t know He was the Christ; to them He might have been a prophet, but beyond that His identity was a mystery.  It wasn’t until Peter identified Him in Matthew 16:16 as the Christ that anyone had any clue to this fact.  But, the demons knew.

Why and how?

The first thing we must do is identify the demons.  What were they?  Where did they come from?  God certainly didn’t make them.

The only logical answer goes back all the way to Genesis 6:1-4, when the sons of God (bene Elohim) trespassed their heavenly boundary and came to earth.  The text reveals that they married, i.e. had sexual relations and procreated with, human women.  And in that day Nephilim were on the earth.  The presumption is that from the union of the rebellious, spiritual sons of God that took human form, the Nephilim were birthed.  The account also reveals that violence was the order of the day.  These mighty hybrid beings had an innate violent nature.  Half divine and half human, they were an abomination in the eyes of God.  His disobedient sons wanted to be gods and supplant their Father.  Just as Satan whispered to Adam and Eve: “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5), so did these spiritual entities have the same desire.  They wanted to create offspring and to have their children populate the earth in place of Yahweh’s children.

God couldn’t let that happen.  When He saw the wickedness that had corrupted the entire earth, He was grieved and had to act.  The reason for the flood was to eradicate the depravity that consumed the planet (Genesis 6:11-12).

In the course of the flood, God cast His rebellious sons into the lowest pit of hell known as Tartarus (Jude 6).  Except for Noah, his family, and the animals he saved, all other creatures in the world died.  But the Nephilim are an interesting case, because they were hybrid beings.  Their human bodies died, but their angelic spirits survived.  In the birthing of the Nephilim, they retained this divine aspect.  When they died and lost their physical bodies, the spiritual nature remained.  It is from this separation that demonic spirits were released.  They are bodiless and restless.  They know they are supposed to reside in a body, but do not.  This is why they roam the earth seeking for a body to inhabit (Matthew 12:43).

These demonic spirits know who God is because He is the One who caused them to wander without a resting place.  When the 2nd Person of the Trinity walked the earth, these beings knew all too well who He was.  It’s why Luke 4:41 describes their interaction with Jesus as it does: they knew that he was the Christ.

As the son of God – as God Himself – Jesus demonstrated that He was Emmanuel – God with us.  His power and authority are absolute.  Satan and his demons continue to do everything they can to thwart the will and purposes of God.  During the upcoming Tribulation, they will have a field day, thinking their reign of terror will persist despite God’s Word to the contrary.

But, just as God destroyed the earth in a flood to eliminate the depravity that consumed it, so will He cause all disobedient flesh in our time to die.  More than that, He will cast all rebellious spirits into the place created for them: the Lake of Fire.  They can pretend to be like gods now, but their fantasy will not endure.  Jesus Christ is the victor.  He has the final Word.

Awaken Prophecy Update 3-24-21: Pagan America

Awaken Bible Prophecy Update 3-24-21: Pagan America

Discussion Points:

* California Aztec worship

* Pledge of Allegiance to Allah

* Wiccan prayers in Iowa government

* Indian goddess Kali

* Hillsong & Halloween

* A Children’s Book of Demons

 

Sources:

California Aztec worship:

https://www.foxnews.com/us/california-schools-aztec-gods

Pledge of Allegiance to Allah:

Fort Collins High School Club Recites Pledge Of Allegiance In Arabic, Places America Under Allah

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/lawsuit-public-school-forced-my-child-to-convert-to-islam

Wiccan prayers in Iowa government:

Wiccan High Priestess Delivers Invocation At Iowa House of Representatives

Indian goddess Kali:

https://www.indianeagle.com/travelbeats/goddess-kali-on-new-york-empire-state-building/

Hillsong & Halloween:

Hillsong Pastor Nathan Finochio Says Christians Parents Should Let Kids Celebrate Halloween Because It’s Not Fair That The ‘World Has More Fun’

A Children’s Book of Demons:

BLACK FRIDAY: Walmart And Amazon Selling ‘A Children’s Book of Demons’ For Kids And Families Who Want To Learn How To Summon The Devil

 

Luke 4:30 – Through Their Midst

When Jesus began His ministry, He wasted no time riling up the religious community.  In the power of the Holy Spirit following the 40 days of temptation in the wilderness, Jesus soon went into the synagogue on the Sabbath.

A report had gone throughout Galilee that He was apparently a holy man.  Have you ever heard of men of God today who have fasted for 40 days?  The Holy Spirit is strong in them.  As it was with Moses after his time on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, these people have – if not an actual glow – then certainly a metaphorical glow.  Their speech rings with the truth of God; sometimes they have insightful words of wisdom and knowledge; often they have a healing touch.  If this is true of ordinary men, consider what it must have been like with Jesus!

This presumed holy man enters the synagogue and unrolls the scroll of Isaiah to read.  The indication He gives is that the words He reads pertain to Him.  Everyone is dumbfounded.  Aside from John the Baptist, God has been silent for 400 years.  Is this man the fulfillment of whom John spoke would come?  Has Yahweh finally returned to raise up Israel once more as His Chosen People, even as He promised through the prophets?  Could this man be the Prince to Come?  Would He be the One to deliver Israel from captivity?  All these kinds of thoughts are likely going through the minds of those present.

Then, someone points out that Jesus is the son of Joseph the carpenter.  Remember Jesus?  He was that snot-nosed kid who was always so smart-alecky; after all, He knew the answers to all the questions people had about God.  He even pretended to be on a par with the learned rabbis when He went up to Jerusalem.  Remember how He caused His parents such worry?  Who is He to teach the Words of Isaiah and to even claim that He is God’s chosen man to fulfill the prophecy?  Absurd!

The men in the synagogue are now in heated discussion.  Some say that any man who spends 40 days in the desert must be holy; others argue that no prophet has ever come from Galilee.  This man is surely an imposter.

Jesus then speaks Words that cut to the quick.  He rebukes them in their flawed thinking that a prophet couldn’t arise in their midst.  Besides, if He can’t do miracles here like what He did in Capernaum, He must be a fraud.  Really?

Then, Jesus thoroughly irritates them.  He speaks of how God moved in the days of the prophets.  Elijah did a miracle of provision with the widow of Zarephath; Elisha healed Naaman the Syrian of his leprosy.  Were there no needs in Israel at the time?  Of course there were.  But God chose to make Himself known to pagans rather than His own children.  The clear implication that Jesus makes is the accusation that Israel wasn’t worthy of Yahweh doing these things for them.  These pagans had faith; but Israel didn’t.

How could that be?  Wasn’t Israel the offspring of Abraham?  If so, then no others were worthy of Yahweh’s touch (maybe a little pride working through all this?).  How dare Jesus point this out!  Their indignation rocketed off the charts.

Jesus so offended them that they were determined to kill Him.  He had obviously blasphemed by implying that God was working through Him.  They would avenge Yahweh and rid themselves of this heretic!

So, these men of God (remember, this all started in the synagogue) took Jesus to the cliff outside of town, intending to throw Him over it and eliminate Him from among them.  Luke 4:30 tells us what happened next:

But passing through their midst, he went away.

How did this happen?  Let’s not miss the import of this short sentence.  Jesus was surrounded by hostile men.  They wanted nothing more than to rid themselves of His presence.  Surely, they had hustled Him up that hill holding firmly to Him the entire time.  At the moment they attempt to cast Him over the cliff, their grip loosens; somehow they no longer have hold of Him.  He turns and walks through this crowd of angry men.  They can do nothing.  Do they see Him passing by or are they blinded?  The text doesn’t tell us.  All we know is that Jesus has supernaturally escaped.

When He’d gone, what might have been the response from these men?  Were they astounded?  Did they remain full of rage?  Had they witnessed this miracle or had their eyes been veiled?  Did some believe?  Were there a few who became accusers in the ongoing effort to silence Jesus?

Jesus came to seek and save those who were lost.  These men were among those.  Although, there were many who recognized that Jesus was the God who had come to deliver Israel, as a whole His children failed to see because their hearts were hard.  This resulted in Israel remaining barren for another 1,900 years until God once more decided the time was right to redeem His people.

Sadly, as Jesus lamented over the lost opportunity to the people of His day, great catastrophe would befall them because, as Luke 19:44 records His Words:

“… you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Luke 3:8 – Fruits of Repentance

Without repentance, there is no salvation.  Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us:

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Accompanying repentance, one who experiences this 180 degree turning, or change of mind (Greek: metanoia), should first have Godly grief.  Why?  Because this kind of grief is an understanding and acknowledgment of one’s sins.  We must have that awareness as the underlying condition in order to repent.  It is then only through that repentance that salvation is even possible.  True repentance is the key to a legitimate born-again experience, which leads to a true relationship with Christ.

There are many today who don’t believe in sin.  They consider men as basically good.  If they take the “Good Person Test” and are asked if they think they’ll go to heaven, they often say, “I hope so.”  Why?  “Because I’m a good person.”  The idea of sin has never really entered their minds or been properly taught to them.

Worse are those with New Age thinking that is based on karma and reincarnation.  People in this camp don’t believe that sin separates them from God because they are God(!); it’s simply that their awareness must be awakened to that fact.  Thus, they must evolve through many lifetimes so as to reach that ultimate stage of consciousness.

This is in direct contrast to what John the Baptist preached as the forerunner of Jesus Christ.  He wasted no words in declaring that people were all sinful and subject to God’s coming wrath.  He told them there was only one way out in Luke 3:8:

“Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.”

John was speaking to the children of Israel, but his words are as relevant for us today.  For the Israelites, they thought that simply because they were descendants of Abraham, this was enough for their salvation and to come into the presence of God.  John corrected them of that false notion.  Similarly, with the common thinking of being good or being on the wheel of karma that we have no need of repentance because there’s another way to heaven, John’s words declare the truth of the matter.

However, what John said had a condition associated with it.  First, to be repentant, someone had to experience Godly grief.  Secondly, for true repentance in a person’s life, they had to show the fruits of that repentance.  If these conditional aspects weren’t present, neither was repentance as far as John was concerned.  As we saw above, Paul took this a step further in that repentance was a necessary condition for salvation itself.

The people asked John for examples of the fruits of repentance.  He was happy to oblige.  Among those examples are sharing what we have with others, not cheating someone, and not extorting from someone or lying about them.  Essentially, John was giving an abbreviated version of the Ten Commandments, which Jesus then boiled down to two: Love God; love your neighbor as yourself.  True repentance leads to these actions.

All too often today is the practice of leading someone in a prayer of salvation.  The thinking is that once someone repeats that prayer, they’re saved.  Boom!  Mission accomplished; notch on the belt; move on to the next sinner.

Perhaps we might want to pause and examine that practice.  Many years ago, Ray Comfort, the noted evangelist with Way of the Master, pastored a church.  Many people came forward for altar calls to be saved.  The problem Ray noted was that they would tell him they had repeated this exercise for salvation numerous times, having responded to altar calls over many years when they were seven, twelve, sixteen, etc.  Discerning a problem, Ray examined their confession of faith and realized that none of these had ever experienced true repentance.  Thus, they weren’t actually saved, and as a result, felt they needed to repeat the process.  Upon learning this key fact, Ray was able to minister in such a way that repentance of one’s sins became the cornerstone of real faith.  His teaching of this called Hell’s Best Kept Secret has helped many people to gain legitimate salvation and to enable others to help many with their struggles so that they might be truly born-again.

John the Baptist was on to something.  God gave him the necessary tools to prepare the way for the Lord.  We would do well to adopt John’s approach just as Ray Comfort did.  Let’s make sure that when we witness, we stress the problem with sin and the absolute necessity of Godly repentance from that.  Even when someone confesses faith in this manner, perhaps we should subsequently observe their lives.  Do they exhibit the fruits of repentance?  If not, it may be that their confession wasn’t heartfelt and true.

We cannot judge the faith or salvation of other people, but we can certainly watch how they live.  If we discern a potential problem, doesn’t Scripture encourage us to warn them and thus pull them from the fire?

Joshua 7:11 – Secret Sin

Quite often in Scripture, the events that occurred in the Old Testament are a living example of what can take place in the church body, or even within our families.  They show us human failure and the repercussions of that.  God is holy – plus, He sees all!  He will not allow sin to contaminate His house and His people.

When the Israelites overcame Jericho by the hand of the Lord, He commanded that everyone and everything in that city be devoted to destruction.  This meant that all people and things were to be destroyed and dedicated to Him.  He also said that the choice possessions made of precious metals were to be placed in the temple (tabernacle at the time) treasury (Joshua 6:18-19).  Unfortunately, there was a man whose flesh got the best of him, and he paid the price.

The man, Achan, took some of the items from the victory over Jericho as his own in direct disobedience to God’s Word.  That which belonged to God went into Achan’s own tent.  When Israel subsequently went up against the Amorite city of Ai, God allowed them to be soundly defeated because of this.

It’s interesting how this plays outs.  Joshua sends spies, and they report that because the enemy is so few, there’s no need to send many men against them.  Their assessment is flawed, and Ai thoroughly whips them.

Because of Achan and his offense against the Word of Yahweh, that sin causes blindness.  In this case, it’s the blindness of deception.  The spies cannot see what is really there since sin has misled them into unwarranted arrogance.  They think Israel cannot be defeated.  Their pride in the taking of Jericho has completely blinded them.

In his distress, Joshua comes before the Lord, who instructs him what to do.  Yahweh tells his servant they have a serious problem, as Joshua 7:11 outlines:

“Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings.”

Achan’s sin was committed in secret.  Yet from God’s perspective with Israel, it was infectious.  One man’s trespass affected the entire nation of Israel.  This caused God’s people to literally become what they were supposed to eliminate.  Consider how God puts this in Joshua 7:12:

“Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you.”

He says the Israelites themselves have become devoted to destruction as a result of their not completely devoting to destruction all those things that He has commanded.  That single individual brought his sin upon the entire body; all Israelites suffered from his iniquity.

The only way to correct the problem was to completely eradicate all traces of this sin.  In this case, God commanded that Achan, his entire family, and all his possessions must be removed; they all had to be burned by fire.  I can’t even imagine the growing knot in Achan’s stomach as God narrowed down who had committed the sin: by tribe, by clan, by household, and finally by Achan.  The approaching dread the man felt had to be awful.

Upon discovery, Achan confessed to those things he had stolen.  His words in Joshua 7:21 are telling:

“Then I coveted them and took them.”

Achan coveted.  He lusted after something that was not his to have.  He had directly trespassed against the Tenth Commandment as well as the First.  He had put these things into his heart place of Yahweh.

Before Israel could bring God’s punishment upon Achan, He directed His children to consecrate themselves (Joshua 7:13).  To do His will, they needed to first be purified of sin themselves.  God told Israel to stone Achan and everyone in his household.  He required them to burn all that they owned.  The infestation of sin had to be completely rooted out.  Only then was Israel relieved of the burden of Achan’s iniquity.

This has direct application to the church today.  Often, sin begins in secret with just one person.  However, sin is not content to remain isolated.  It has a voracious appetite.  The sin of one easily spreads to another.  The members of a person’s own house may look the other way when sin appears because of embarrassment, or any of a number of other reasons.  Perhaps a friend in the church learns of the sin in this family.  He keeps it confidential, but then someone else hears, perhaps because of gossip.  The infestation spreads.  Maybe another person becomes tempted upon hearing of the pleasures of the initial sin.  Who knows?  Eventually, if not appropriately dealt with, an entire church can be consumed.  From there, it can be an entire denomination that falls.

Extreme, you say?  How then have we ended up with homosexual pastors in the pulpits sanctioned by the governing authorities in various denominations?  I doubt if I need to spell it out further for you.  Sin is a plague that can ultimately impact everyone.  Because these churches and denominations accepted the initial sin of an individual rather than appropriate God’s righteous wrath against that first person, whole bodies have fallen into apostasy.  God gave instructions on how to approach someone who sins.  When that procedure was ignored, the consequences were drastic.

For those who study Bible prophecy, all this is expected.  We know that in these latter times, apostasy within the Body of Christ would cause many to fall away.  They have, and more will follow.  For those of us who remain faithful, our job is to continue that way, first and foremost.  We are also to reach out as we can to rescue those in sin.  Perhaps our meager effort will keep someone from the eternal flames.

God has shown us the true and righteous way to live.  We’re to be obedient to that and not let sin creep in where it doesn’t belong.

Joshua 5:15 – Take Off Your Sandals

To be in the presence of the Lord is an awesome thing.  Coming before the Holy One of Israel must have been a heart-stopping experience.  In many places in the Bible we see mere mortals fall down in wonder when an angel appeared; consider how much more breathtaking it was when God Himself stood before them.

Angels – messengers or servants of the Lord – always deflect the homage that someone wants to heap upon them.  They inevitably say, “Don’t bow down before me.  Worship God.”  We can know when it’s actually Yahweh in these situations because He accepts the honor and reverence.  When in God’s presence, the ground on which a person stands becomes holy.  All glory and praise is due to the Lord God Almighty.

The first instance we see of this occurs in Exodus 3:5:

Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

Moses has been in the wilderness tending sheep for forty years with the Lord preparing him for this day.  He turns aside when he sees a bush burning but not being consumed.  In the flames arising from that bush, Moses sees a figure.  It is the angel of the Lord (Exodus 3:2).  According to the text with what this being says, the ground itself has transformed into something holy.

The question becomes: Is the angel of the Lord Yahweh Himself?  Isn’t God a Spirit?

Second temple Jewish literature speaks about the Two Yahwehs, or the Two Powers in Heaven.  From their study of the Scriptures, it became evident to the Jews at that time that though Yahweh was One, there were two instances of Him.  There was the Yahweh who could not be seen, and there was the Yahweh who appeared often in human form.  Amazingly, many passages depicted these two Yahwehs appearing at the same time.

In this scene, the angel of the Lord manifests visibly, demands that Moses remove his sandals, and declares that He is God in Exodus 3:6:

And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

It’s hard to argue that the angel of the Lord isn’t God when He says specifically that He is.

When Joshua led the Israelites over the dried-up Jordan River to the plains of Jericho, he encountered another such manifestation.  Rather than the text saying He was the angel of the Lord, it tells us in Joshua 5:14 that this being was “the commander of the army of the Lord.”

Was this entity Yahweh, one of the Two Powers in Heaven?  Look at what He told His servant in Joshua 5:15:

And the commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

He instructed Joshua to remove his sandals for the ground had become holy.  Holy ground only becomes that way in the presence of the Lord.  The commander of the heavenly host was Yahweh in physical form, and Joshua knew that He was God.

When we see these verses, we know now that this second Yahweh is the pre-incarnate Jesus.  He is the One who stood before Moses at the Tent of Meeting, and he is the One who gave up all His heavenly trappings to come to the earth and be born of a virgin.

The ground where God stands is holy.  Those who come into His presence cannot help but fall down in awe to worship the very dirt at His feet.  Have you ever been worshiping God and His Spirit is so heavy that you can do nothing but fall to the ground?

Besides the knowledge that those who are resurrected finally gain at the end of the Millennium as they stand before the Lord in judgment, it is because God’s presence is so overwhelming that every tongue confesses and every knee bows (Philippians 2:9-11).

Our Lord is a holy God.  There is none like Him.  When we come before Him in praise and worship, in prayer, or in reading His Word, we are on holy ground.  Let us bow down and give Him the glory which is His alone.

Luke 1:45 – She Who Believed

There are some number of us who lament the fact that few in the church today take an interest in Bible prophecy.  We see that as a lack of teaching and preaching from the pulpit, and the subsequent disinterest in the congregation because they’re not inspired to search deeper into the Word of God in order to understand the times.  Most people appear to be content with the sermon the pastor preaches, perhaps think on that for a few hours, then after that neglect what God determined should be their daily approach to life.

As Joshua was about to lead the Israelites over the Jordan to take the Promised Land, Yahweh implored the people to do the following, as stated in Joshua 1:7-8.  His purpose was to prepare His people so that He could continue to guide them in all their ways:

“Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

All that Moses commanded the Israelites was contained in the Book of the Law.  They were to read and study the Words of God every day, throughout the day.  Its Words – God’s Words – were to be constantly present in their minds and hearts and on their lips.  This was one of those implied conditional statements that Yahweh inevitably told His children.  The effective “if” was that if they kept God’s Word always before them and were obedient to all it said, then He would bring them prosperity and success in all they did.

It was a simple condition for living well.  In fact, God had previously stated that when they had a king ruling over them, upon his taking the throne, he was to write out the Law and keep it with him, reading it daily, so that he would be righteous in the sight of the Lord and rule justly.

As time passes and the Israelites achieve victory over the inhabitants of the land and they settle into it, as ease and comfort overtake them, they quickly forget the One who brought them to the dance.  The book of Judges follows that of Joshua, and that sad chronicle depicts this problem acutely.

How different is it for the church today?  As noted above, not much.  The majority of those who sit in the pews don’t read their Bibles regularly or deeply.  Pastors by and large haven’t encouraged that practice.  Another part of the problem is that in this void, Bible prophecy and its understanding have also suffered.  Seminaries and Bible colleges somewhere along the way ceased to teach all of the Bible; in that process much of God’s Word was spiritualized.  Yes, we must be careful not to take Scripture too literally where the Biblical writers didn’t intend that; such an approach can result in foolish misunderstandings.  But, to relegate the 30% of the Bible that is prophecy to a spiritual purpose only, or just to past events, neglects what God intended to accomplish.  This has caused much ignorance and apathy regarding Bible prophecy.

In the New Testament we’re given a singular result of someone who diligently believed and applied God’s Word to her life.  Mary, the soon-to-be mother of Jesus was hailed by the angel Gabriel when he came to her.  In Luke 1:28 look at what he said:

“Greetings, O favored one; the Lord is with you.”

Goodness, that’s a strong and positive message from God.  To be given these words was troubling to Mary.  Who was she to gain such favor?  She was nothing but a young girl who had been faithful to the Lord; but why did that make her special?

I think that the verse before her Magnificat, where she bursts out in prophetic praise, is significant in this regard.  In Luke 1:45, Mary herself provides the answer:

“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

We know that Mary had to be found faithful in her life for the Lord to notice her and bring this blessing.  Faithfulness would have meant doing what God said His children should do.  What was that?  Exactly that which was noted earlier: Mary meditated on the Law and was careful to follow it.  It was this that brought God’s favor, even as He had declared.

Mary believed what God had spoken in the past and spoke now through Gabriel.  She believed in the fulfillment of God’s Word.  To put it another way, she believed and accepted the prophetic Word of God.  As far as she was concerned, Bible prophecy was real and alive; Mary actually encountered its fulfillment.

If people today – pastors and pew sitters – don’t take such a view as Mary did, and neither are they reading the Word – especially all the Word – how can God pour out His favor?  Many in the church seek revival, i.e. a move of God in their midst, but will He do that if they haven’t prepared?  The first chapter of Luke brings us the story of John the Baptist, who God brought into the world to prepare the way of the Lord.  Without John first proclaiming God’s Word, and it subsequently softening the hearts of the people to bring them to repentance, would they have been ready for Jesus to come?  In the same manner, how can the church be ready for a move of God if they haven’t consecrated their hearts and repented?

God wants His people to be ready for all He has.  He continually warns us to watch and to be alert.  The people perish for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).  How many will perish who haven’t come to truly know Jesus as Lord and Savior, perhaps because they never were taught Bible prophecy that confirms God is real and all that He says will come to pass?