Sunday, February 23 2020
I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE… During the last winter of His life, Jesus made an earth-shattering statement that literally brought the future into the present. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26.
“I AM the resurrection and the life.” We need to read this over and over again to let the Words of Jesus permeate our hearts and our very being. Heaven is on earth and speaking to us through the power of His Spirit and The Word, right this very minute.
This is the setting for His words: “Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So, the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’” John 11:1-3
Jesus had just received word that a dear friend was sick. Instead of focusing on the illness, Jesus immediately grasped the incredible opportunity it presented. "When he heard this, Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.'”
In the midst of chaos and grief, what an unbelievable blessing was about to occur! Jesus was so certain of this fact that He waited 2 more days to announce His return to the home of His friend, Lazarus. The response of those around Him was predictable as they questioned His touch with reality. “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
The disciples did what many of us Christians do when faced with a spiritual dilemma. They quickly decided they needed to use their own intellect to plan their course of action. They knew Bethany was just 2 miles from Jerusalem, and they knew the Jewish leaders had tried to stone Jesus a few short months before following His address at the Feast of Dedication. So instead of believing in Jesus...
Verses 9-10 record how Jesus responded to their flawed earthly reasoning. “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
We can learn something very valuable from this allegory. Everything is ordained within its limits, like day and night. So, when it comes to moving forward in our spiritual life, if it’s not in God’s timing, in His light, we’re probably going to stumble around…a lot.
"After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep."
These verses are wisdom straight from the mind of Jesus. He defined Lazarus’s death as sleep. And His plan to end death’s hold on Lazarus was to wake him up! The timing for this revelation of truth is impeccable. In a few short weeks, Jesus would defeat death on the cross, and would Himself awaken from its grasp. “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Revelation 1:18
When Jesus spelled out plainly that Lazarus was dead in verse 14, He followed it up with a statement to the disciples that should shake our very souls. " …Lazarus is dead. And I am glad I was not there. I am happy for you because now you will believe in me. We will go to him now.”
When Jesus and His followers arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had already been dead and in the tomb for four days. Martha ran out to greet him saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you anything you ask.” Jesus’ reply would astound the world. “Your brother will rise and be alive again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus' reply challenges the very depths of our traditional beliefs today, just as He did Martha's. “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
" I AM the resurrection..." In other words, we don't have to wait for the last day. He is here. Right Now. In THIS place, in this time. He is Calling out to us, asking us to believe in Him as Messiah, sent by God to be the Savior of the world.
May we be quick to answer as Martha did. “Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God. You are the one who was coming to the world.”
Then Lazarus’ other sister, Mary, came and bowed at the feet of Jesus and again uttered this statement of belief in verse 32 “...Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Verses 33-34 continue to provide us with invaluable insight. "When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come along with her weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.' Where have you laid him?' He asked. 'Come and see, Lord, they replied.'"
What follows next in verse 35 is the shortest verse in the Bible and without a doubt, the most profound. "Jesus wept." This is the first record in the Bible that Jesus wept. "Then the Jews said, 'Look! He loved Lazarus very much!'” John 11:36.
The people around Jesus reacted just like many folks do. They made assumptions based on their limited understanding of the situation. Though it sounded like a plausible explanation, it wasn’t the truth then, and it isn’t the truth now. How do we know? Because Jesus wept only one more time in His entire life and that was when He entered Jerusalem for the last time. And he wept for the same reason He wept in Bethany at the death of Lazarus.
Luke 19:41 tells us "As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
Now we understand why Jesus say he was glad He was not there when His friend died. If Jesus had been there, as Martha and Mary said, Lazarus would not have died. “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad I was not there. I am happy for you because now you will believe in me.”
Now it becomes clear that Jesus wept both times because it took death for people to believe in Him as the Son of God. Even at the end of this very chapter, the Pharisees and Sanhedrin hatched a plot to kill Jesus because he raised Lazarus from the dead. They knew that a man raising the dead would cause people to do what? Believe in Him!
Most of the time, we connect the shortest verse in the Bible with the love of Jesus for Lazarus. And certainly, He did love Him. But the truth is the great paradox that Jesus wept because it would take Lazarus' death, the death of God's chosen people, His own death, and perhaps the looming prospect of our own deaths, for mankind to finally believe in eternal life through Jesus Christ and His resurrection.
“But the chief priest and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him.” This verse sounds very much like a warrant that the Jewish Talmud asserted had to be publicly voiced or posted in the larger towns in Judea at least 40 days before a trial of a Jewish citizen. Jesus would be crucified on the 14th day of the first month, God’s appointed Holy Day of Passover. That would place the warrant announcement that must occur at least 40 days before, to around the mid-point in the 11th month to the beginning of the 12th month at the latest. Today, February 23 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, is the 29th day of God’s 11th month. The crucial legal wheel in the plot to crucify Jesus had begun to turn.
So, what did Jesus do the last winter before His death? He shattered the boundary between heaven and earth, announcing “I am the resurrection and the life... Whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Sunday, February 16 2020
..BABYLON…COME OUT OF HER MY PEOPLE... We need this timely warning that the infamous biblical Babylon and her expansive walls still exists. We Christians are literally surrounded by her idols, mindset, and government. Given the call of the Almighty to "Come out of her, my people!", will we listen and repent?
Babylon is referenced 280 times from Genesis to Revelation. It was founded by Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, the 3rd generation of descendants from the survivors of the flood. That means the first Babylonians were all from the same family and had first-hand accounts of God's strength and might. No doubt they worshipped and identified with God on an intimacy level we can only imagine. Yet, God's Word in Genesis 11: 4 reveals they were driven by two fundamental human concerns we still have in common with them to this very day: pride, revealed in their human desire to “make a name for ourselves”, and fear that they would end up "scattered over the whole earth".
Over centuries, Babylon became a powerful city/state, and later the capital city and namesake for one of the most powerful nations in history. Babylon is remembered for the self-aggrandizing Tower of Babylon (possibly the biblical location of the Tower of Babel), the opulent Hanging Gardens of Babylon, (one of the Seven Wonders of the World), and its immortalized rulers like Nebuchadnezzar, said to have built an 11-mile defensive wall outside the city, wide enough on top for chariots driven by four horses to pass each other. The civilization was so advanced that more than a thousand years before Galileo, considered the father of modern astronomy, astronomers in Babylon were using pre-calculus to track the movement of the planet Jupiter, which they revered as a god.
It's a God-thing that after Jerusalem fell, God's chosen people were exiled back to the very place their ancestors feared leaving-- Babylon. Could it be that God was going to continue to teach them a much-needed lesson about the pitfalls of their pride and fear? Could it be the very same lesson we need to learn today?
The biblical list of those captured and sent to Babylon, or were later born there while in exile, reads like the “Who’s Who” of the Old Testament. Ezekiel, Haggai, and Zechariah were part of the Babylonian diaspora of Judah. Esther and Mordecai, as well as Nehemiah and Ezra lived there.
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were exiled there as young men. They were given Babylonian identities. "… unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego." Then they were appointed to high offices under the king. Their assimilation into foreign culture was gradual and comfortable for a time. To show their allegiance, the king commanded all his officials to bow down to an idol of himself. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused, they were thrown into a fiery furnace. Miraculously, they were preserved from the flames, and the king saw four men walking in the flames, "the fourth ... like a son of God".
The king’s response in Daniel 3:28-30 says it all. "Then Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.’ Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.”
So we can see here that being in Babylon, with all its idols, was not really a problem but an opportunity to bring glory to God that might never have happened under any other circumstances. In fact, if we look at this closely, we will see that God's point all along was NOT that they thrived in their lives, but that they never veered from their sole allegiance to the Almighty, no matter what government ruled over them and demanded.
Amidst it all, the exiled prophet Zechariah is interrupting mankind's 21st century plans with the same stern warning from the Almighty he delivered to Judah twenty-six centuries ago. He begins by noting the date on the Hebrew calendar. “On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet:” Zechariah 1:7.
The 18th day of February on our 2020 Gregorian calendar is the 24th day of Shebat on God's ancient calendar. It was about that time that Zechariah began to receive eight visions from God concerning the future of His chosen people, and their return to Jerusalem. It’s impossible to read these chapters in Zechariah without seeing them as promises from God for all His people, for all time. We can see that Israel, and Babylon, indeed all nations, fit into the scope of these visions. “These are the four spirits of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world…'Go throughout the earth!'” Zechariah 6:5, 7b.
In our last lesson, we received God's wisdom through Zechariah’s third vision in chapter 2. This is the only vision given to His people which appears to prepare them for the Lord’s final coming. His vision of the surveyor with a measuring line attempting to measure New Jerusalem, gives keen insight into how little we understand the Lord's plans, and how bent with pride we are to accomplish things our way. "Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’" Zechariah 2:4-5 https://www.facebook.com/fontanacommunitychurch/posts/2752672118146293
The vision ends with these commanding prophetic words in 2:7-9 “'Come, Zion! Escape, you who live in the Daughter of Babylon!' For this is what the Lord Almighty says: 'After the Glorious One has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye— I will surely raise my hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me.'"
In Revelation 18, Babylon is identified as an adulteress, making those connected with her whoring ways rich in things of the world. As we take in this sickening scenario, remember that an adulteress always has a bridegroom. Can't she be a Bride to her Bridegroom and still participate in the satisfying agenda of the world? “‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins'...Woe! Woe! O great city. O Babylon, city of power! In one hour, your doom has come.”
Is it possible that the mindset or "offspring", called "daughter" of Babylon in our focal scripture passage, is alive and well today? Remember the Tower of Babel and the 3rd generation of God-worshippers from Noah, driven by pride and fear? “Come, let us build…Let us reach to heaven.”
And how did God address these pride-filled, fearful, Babylonian worshippers? He confounded their unified understanding through their language. Today, there are 41,000 denominations and organizations in the world which claim to be Christian churches, but each one seems to be speaking a different language. Could the confounding of our denominations be God’s way of exposing our idolatrous religious aspirations to reach heaven, above our worship of Him, alone? Do we 21st century Christians have the same sinful bent to “make a name for ourselves”, and fear that we will end up "scattered over the whole earth”?
Centuries later, even though God called His chosen people out of their physical and spiritual temporary place of Babylonian exile, they had become so comfortable, they didn't want to leave, even if it meant returning to Jerusalem itself.
We desperately need this timely warning that the infamous biblical Babylon and her expansive wall still exists today. We Christians are literally surrounded by her idols, mindset, and government, and have been influenced by her self-serving ways to the point that we have become intoxicated with her. We are no longer seeing with spiritual eyesight, and are out of control.
Jeremiah 51:7 gives a description of Babylon with seems to fit our current world situation with amazing accuracy. ‘Babylon was a gold cup in the Lord’s hand; she made the whole earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore they have now gone mad’
BABYLON...COME OUT OF HER MY PEOPLE
Tuesday, February 11 2020
A CITY WITHOUT WALLS...God's Word crosses the chasm of 2700 years with a timeless message for 2020. When a prophet had a vision of “a man with a measuring line in his hand” headed to measure Jerusalem's walls, God dispatched an angel with this chastising message: "Jerusalem will be a city without walls... And I myself will be a wall of fire around it," declares the Lord, "and I will be its glory within."
February 18 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar is the 24th day of God's 11th month, the day the visions of Zechariah began. So when God's Word is delivered with amazing accuracy and timing to point out the same fatal flaw in OUR plans, it is NO coincidence. It is because of His grace that He is allowing us the possibility of learning a lesson through another nation who claimed to call on Him as God, but failed miserably to serve Him instead of themselves.
The Lord continues with this message: “Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north, for I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven…”
God had said in Ezekiel 5 that He would judge them severely. "Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again. Therefore in your midst parents will eat their children, and children will eat their parents."
The Holy City of the Lord fell when the Babylonians encircled it and effectively cut off food supplies for about 18 months.In their weakened and tormented state, their arch enemy broke through their physical facade, burned Jerusalem to the ground, executed their leaders, and exiled the people to the Babylonian lands of the north. Read about it in Jeremiah 52.
Generations passed, and although the people continued to worship the Almighty, the essence of the Babylonian government and mindset became a cancer slowly eating away their very souls, changing even the way they perceived God’s provision. They became convinced they needed Babylonian walls to survive. They even reckoned that they prospered behind them. Without realizing it, they replaced their eternal identity as the chosen people of God with a national identity of the world.
Indeed, when their descendants were given the choice to reclaim the City of God, Jerusalem, many were unwilling to return. They had become comfortable, but unknowingly, complacent, in their adopted home. Even when God made provision for them and urged them to "Come!", they still balked.
Their lack of trust that God could and would accomplish their deliverance was exemplified in Zechariah's vision of the man running toward Jerusalem with a measuring rod to make sure God 's provision was good enough. “Run, tell that young man, ‘Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’” Zechariah 2:4-5.
The truth is, wherever God is, there can be NO measurable walls, because His glory is immeasurable and boundless, and will NEVER be contained!!
Or look at it another way. Without God's presence, there is NO protection, because He identifies HIMSELF as the "wall of fire..."
Hebrews 11:8-16 tells us what God's chosen people should have been doing instead of measuring walls. "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God..."
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for another country. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
2700 years later, these words ring true with agonizing clarity. Though we were taught by Jesus Himself how to pray to our Father in Heaven, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven..." has now been replaced with frantic pleas for God to save OUR kingdom on this earth. Indeed, what we don’t see as 21st century Christians is that whatever kingdom we pray that God will sustain, is the true kingdom of our heart.
Israel had to learn her kingdom lesson the hard way. The 12 Tribes of Israel began as a nation blessed by the Almghty. As the 12 sons of Jacob, whose name was changed to “Israel” by God Himself, they survived 40 years wandering in the desert, and then were ruled for 350 years by God’s appointed judges. But soon, Israel demanded to be like all the other nations, and be ruled by a king.
Following the death of King Solomon, the nation quickly sank into the bottomless political pit of electing a new King, splitting the nation in two. The kingdom of Israel, with its capital of Samaria, lasted around 200 years, until the Assyrians conquered and scattered the people across the northern isles. The kingdom of Judah ruled from Jerusalem for 350 years before being conquered by Babylon.
That brings us to our current lesson timeline. And it all has to do with a measuring line. We Christians seem to be very good at using one. We use it to prove our spiritual “point”; to see if our Christian notion “measures up” to God’s Word; or to measure the spot in our brother’s eye while neglecting to measure the log in our own. So, in a very real sense, we raise our own walls and set our own boundaries with it, even though God’s Word says we’re WAY off base, just like the young man in Zachariah’s vision.
We’ve bred generations of Christians now focused on man-made walls that appear to serve humanity in terms of security and sovereignty--but only for awhile. Indeed, when we use the walls of Jerusalem as a "measuring line" that justifies the building of a national wall, we completely ignore that the Jerusalem Wall was attacked 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, besieged 23 times, and completely destroyed twice. Much of the wall was rebuilt by Muslims who occupied the area for 900 years.
If the national process of building a wall springs from a spiritual dimension of prejudice, fear and hatred, the physical benefit of that worldly structure has fallen under the control of Satan Himself, and is doomed from the very start--and so is the nation.
Receive the Lord's perfect plan for the city and kingdom HE will build: "Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’" Zechariah 2:4-5
A CITY WITHOUT WALLS...
Saturday, February 01 2020
A MAN RIDING A RED HORSE…out 2700 years ago during this month, the ancient prophet Zechariah's night-visions began with a man riding a red horse. These revelations continue to encourage God’s people, reminding us He is interested in the details of our lives, and is working behind the scenes with a perfect plan for rebuilding His heavenly and earthly Temple through His people on this earth.
Yes, the same word that Zechariah proclaimed in the 6th century B.C. is being declared to us 21st century Christians. We still don’t want to hear it any more than the people of ancient Judah did. But thank God, here it is, still just as applicable as ever... still the word of the Lord for His people!
Zechariah began his prophetic ministry a few months before when he delivered God’s message that Judah must repent of their sin or there would be NO future with Him. “’Return to me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty. Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.’ But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the LORD. Where are your ancestors now? And the prophets, do they live forever? But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your ancestors?’ Then they repented and said, ‘The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.’ Zechariah 1:2-7. https://www.facebook.com/394745103939018/posts/2519786238101550/
In today’s climate we Christians don’t want to hear the word “Repent” any more than the religious folks did back then. We’re so busy pointing the finger at each other, we don’t even consider that our personal humiliation through the chastisement of God’s Word and the power of His Holy Spirit, is absolutely essential for the blessing and intervention of the Almighty in any part of our lives, whether it's personal or national.
Zechariah came on the scene at a time when God’s physical and spiritual throne was no longer in Jerusalem. The nation had been judged mightily for their sins, and God’s glory had departed the Jerusalem Temple. In a matter of centuries, the physical Temple was decimated, and Israel was reduced to the exiled remnant of Judah. Several generations had lived in Babylon and surrounding areas and had been slowly assimilated into its mindset, forsaking the God of their ancestors. Though they had been given permission to return to the rubble of what was once their mighty, Holy City, the remnant nation of Judah desperately needed their Lord God to return to them.
In the first vision, when Zechariah saw a man riding a red horse standing in a group of myrtle trees, there can be little doubt that was the Pre-Incarnate Son of God, appearing again as He had to so many others in the Old Testament. In Joshua 5:13-15, He appeared as Commander of the army who brought down the walls of Jericho, telling Joshua, who was standing alongside him, “take off your sandals for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Ezekiel 1-7, Jesus appeared to Ezekiel in glory and radiance, handing him a scroll of his words, instructing him to eat it and speak to the House of Israel. In Daniel 7:13, Jesus appeared “like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven, claiming His kingdom that would never be destroyed. And again in Daniel 10:6, He appeared as a man dressed in linen, “His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.”
This the accounting of Zechariah’s first vision in the 1st chapter:|
7 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo.
8 During the night I had a vision, and there before me was a man mounted on a red horse. He was standing among the myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind him were red, brown and white horses.
9 I asked, “What are these, my lord?”
The angel who was talking with me answered, “I will show you what they are.”
10 Then the man standing among the myrtle trees explained, “They are the ones the Lord has sent to go throughout the earth.”
11 And they reported to the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, “We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace.”
12 Then the angel of the Lord said, “Lord Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?” 13 So the Lord spoke kind and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.
14 Then the angel who was speaking to me said, “Proclaim this word: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, 15 and I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they went too far with the punishment.’
16 “Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,’ declares the Lord Almighty.
17“Proclaim further: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.’”
Through this vision, we can clearly see Jesus interceding on our behalf, despite what is happening around us. Even though He appears to be silent, He is valiantly fighting in the background, unseen by human eyes, aided by warrior angels, focused on our restoration to His kingdom, and the coming judgment on those who would keep that from happening.
While the chosen people of God are struggling, and bereft, the rest of the world is "at rest and in peace" and doesn’t have a care in the world, failing to intercede on behalf of those who need their help and support. This is what the Lord Almighty says in verse 14: “I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, and I am very angry with the nations that feel secure.”
We need to catch hold of this vision in its entirety today. Security and peace in this world are not the goal for us as God’s people. We press forward to the High Calling in Christ Jesus which is restoration into God’s presence and His kingdom. Too many Christians have lost sight of this and have become fixated on worldly goals, like personal and national security at any cost. Their pride in what they have, is hardening their hearts to others in need. Exacting their own brand of godly justice in the process, they were actually setting themselves up for the judgment of the Almighty, Himself.
The people of Judah learned the hard way that mindset was sheer foolishness. They knew the only way they were going to be restored to God was through the presence and power of a heavenly warrior whom they could trust with their very lives. They understood that focusing on achieving physical peace and security above all else was, in fact, idol worship. They finally bowed to God as the one true judge, and trusted that, not only would He right every single wrong, He would give them the kind of peace and security they could never accomplish on their own.
There is much more to be learned through Zechariah's visions. Next week’s lesson will continue with another vision of a young man who attempts to measure God's plan in human terms, leaving us all to grapple with His chastising message: "Jerusalem will be a city without walls... And I myself will be a wall of fire around it," declares the Lord, "and I will be its glory within."
It is no coincidence that these ancient visions are revealing more to us about our 21st century lives than we ever thought possible. The 24th day of the eleventh month of Shabbat, recorded as the date of the beginning of Zechariah's visions, is February 18 on our 2020 Gregorian calendar. Through His grace and perfect timing, the Almighty is reminding us of another nation just like ours, who claimed to call on Him as God, but failed miserably to serve Him instead of themselves.
The Almighty's appointed message for 2020 is the same message delivered about 2700 years ago. God is sending us visions of deliverance and hope that will never change. They began and continue right this very minute through our Intercessor Warrior, The Incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." Revelation 1:6
A MAN RIDING A RED HORSE...
Monday, January 27 2020
YOU HAVE STAYED LONG ENOUGH AT THS MOUNTAIN… Around 1500 BC, God Almighty announced through Moses that the Israelites had to move forward away from their comfort zone in order to follow Him. “In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the LORD had commanded him concerning them…The LORD our God said to us at Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance…” Deuteronomy1:3,6
As we delve deeper into God's Word, not only do we find that the appointed 1st day of His 11th month began January 25th at sunset on our 2020 Gregorian calendar, it is also right on target for us Christians who have put our trust in Jesus to deliver us from bondage and lead us to our Promised Land.
Yet, for many of us, Moses’ opening words in Deuteronomy 1:1-2 will be reckoned as totally irrelevant. “These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness east of the Jordan—that is, in the Arabah —opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab . (It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.)"
If you don’t get anything else from today's lesson, please remember the scripture in parentheses. “It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.” That is a brief summary of the entire 40-year wilderness trek of the Israelites, and according to God’s word, that journey should have been completed in just 11 days!
If the route God planned for His chosen people to the Promised Land could have been accomplished in only 11 days, it staggers the mind to comprehend why it took the Israelites over 40 long years to get to the place He promised them! And it is absolutely heartbreaking to be reminded that not only did they waste decades wandering in an arid and lifeless desert, they had stood in the very place God had appointed for their deliverance just a little over a year after they left Egypt!
And that’s exactly what Moses reminded them of over and over through the entire book of Deuteronomy, except for the final 34th chapter. Sadly, the closing chapter was written by someone else and recounted the death of Moses himself somewhere on the very same plains of Moab where he delivered his final proclamation to God’s chosen people.
Moses began his 33-chapter oration by simply repeating God’s word as given to them less than a year after their deliverance from their bondage of sin. “The LORD our God said to us at Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land that the LORD swore he would give to your fathers--to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob--and to their descendants after them.’” Deuteronomy 1: 6-8.
“You have stayed long enough at this mountain.” Though this is one of the most profound statements in the entire Old Testament, many of us Christians will speed-read right over it. We have “arrived” in our American Christianity and are now content to gather and pontificate about how great God is, gathering all His blessings close, refusing to share with “the least of these”. We ignore God’s Word which in contemporary English plainly says "Whenever you failed to help any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do it for me.” Matthew 25:45. As puffy wisps slowly envelope our revered heights, we identify them as glory-clouds straight from heaven. We are unwilling to consider that they’re probably noxious death-vapors spiraling upward, intent on sucking the very life of God from us all.
Too strong? Maybe it's not strong enough. Moses didn't t mince words when he recounted the disobedience of the Israelites and the dire consequences for their refusal to follow God’s leading.
"Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.' In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go. When the Lord heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: 'No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your ancestors, except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.''" Deuteronomy 1: 29-36
If all this sounds like history might be repeating itself, you’re beginning to understand the scope of today’s lesson. Indeed, if you went back and asked both generations of Israelites what-in-the-world they were doing all that time, their answer would most assuredly be “worshipping and following God.” It is certainly not surprising to hear the same excuse used in this generation for our wanderings in and out of religious dogma and works designed to deliver “mountain-top” worship experiences to each and every “believer”.
Little has changed. It's in our fallen nature to acknowledge our Maker, and then set about developing our own ways of interpreting just exactly what He is saying to us. The problem is that we usually begin with a prejudiced mindset, and rarely even consider that our understanding may be nowhere near what the original Word of God intended. A prime example can be found in the very scripture we are studying today. Deuteronomy is the first book of the Bible to speak of loving God. The beginning verses 4-5 are so important they are given the ancient title “Shema” which means “Listen!”
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." Deuteronomy 6:4-8
If we view the intended meaning through the lens of those who wrote it down, we find that the Hebrew translation of “heart” is technically correct, but the function referred to is not the emotions, but the intellect, where conscious decisions are made and actions are contemplated. The soul or “nephesh”, is the very essence of life itself, as recorded in Genesis when the Holy Spirit breathed life into Adam, making him human and yet also in God’s image. The translation of “strength” does not point to physicality, but to very great effort through conscious thought and determination.
This commandment is so important that Jesus repeats it again to the early Christians in Matthew, Mark and Luke as the first of two commandments upon which all the law and the Prophets hinge upon. “The most important one…is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31
Love is the verb action called for in both these Great Commandments. John 13:34 expands upon the second commandment. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
And how did Jesus love His neighbor? "...with all His heart, with all His soul, and with all His might." He stood in our place and paid the penalty for our sins with His life. We 21st century Christians have wandered so far for so long, that many of us now think the Words of Jesus are negotiable, or worse still, totally inapplicable to us in the world in which we live. The basis of all idolatry is self-centered, rebellious people refusing to worship God as He teaches. So we shouldn’t be surprised when we wake up one morning and realize that overnight, American Christianity has become an unbelievable nightmare instead of the joy-filled day that the Lord has made. He didn’t make this mess. We did, with idols of our own making.
Hebrews 3:7-14 delivers an impassioned plea that sums up today’s lesson perfectly. “So it is just as the Holy Spirit says: “If you hear God’s voice today, don’t be stubborn as you were in the past, when you turned against God. That was the day you tested God in the desert. For 40 years in the desert, your people saw what I did. But they tested me and my patience. So I was angry with them. I said, ‘Their thoughts are always wrong. They have never understood my ways. So I was angry and made a promise: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”
“So, brothers and sisters, be careful that none of you has the evil thoughts that cause so much doubt that you stop following the living God. But encourage each other every day, while you still have something called “today.” Help each other so that none of you will be fooled by sin and become too hard to change. We have the honor of sharing in all that Christ has if we continue until the end to have the sure faith we had in the beginning. That’s why the Spirit said, “If you hear God’s voice today, don’t be stubborn as in the past when you turned against God.”
"YOU HAVE STAYED LONG ENOUGH AT THIS MOUNTAIN. BREAK CAMP AND ADVANCE..."