Who has heard such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. (Isaiah 66:8)
This is what the Lord God says: Look, I will lift up My hand to the nations, and raise My banner to the peoples. They will bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders. (Isaiah 49:22)
They will bring all your brothers from all the nations as a gift to the Lord on horses and chariots, in litters, and on mules and camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “just as the Israelites bring an offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord.” (Isaiah 66:20)
“However, take note! The days are coming”—the Lord’s declaration—“when it will no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives who brought the Israelites from the land of Egypt,’ but rather, ‘As the Lord lives who brought the Israelis from the land of the north and from all the other lands where He had banished them.’ For I will return them to their land that I gave to their ancestors.” (Jeremiah 16:14,15)
“ . . . the nations will know that I am the Lord. For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land.” (Ezekiel 36:23,24)
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach appeared recently on a Sid Roth television debate with Dr. Brown (Viewable at: http://www.sidroth.org/site/News2?news_iv_ctrl=-1&abbr=tv_&page=NewsArticle&id=11373&security=1041).
Shmuley recited a list of reasons that Jesus “can’t” be the Jewish Messiah that was, to say the least, less than persuasive. One of his “reasons” seemed particularly strange; Shmuley cited the “unfulfilled” Messianic prophecy that Israel’s Messiah would “restore the kingdom to Israel.” He asked, with his characteristically-intense, rising volume, pitch, and speed, whether anyone thought this prophecy has been fulfilled.
Surely Shmuley is aware of the massive return to Israel in recent decades of people of Jewish ancestry from Russia, Africa, the U.S., and other parts of the world. Christians (and perhaps other people of faith from around the world) have financially supported the return of those who couldn’t have “made aliyah” otherwise. Even if Shmuley refers to the restoration of military power and superiority to Israel, rather than the restoration of its lost tribes and scattered citizenry, these military objectives have also been accomplished by tiny Israel in recent decades!
Yes, Rabbi Shmuley, many viewers are absolutely certain that these amazing prophecies have been — and are still being — fulfilled before our eyes.
The prophetic verses above (and there are many more on this topic) become so powerful and precious in light of recent history, with regard to the return of the lost tribes or scattered citizenry of Israel. But the statement at the end of Isaiah 66:20, which is about Israel’s children being brought back to her in every possible type of conveyance, is deeply intriguing: “as the Israelites bring an offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord.”
Could the “clean vessel” be a new Israel (“Messianic” Israelis), whose citizens’ eyes will increasingly be freed from the “scales” that have blinded them (also foretold in prophecy), and whose people will at long last see the One who has so long been obscured from her understanding and recognition — and finally requite to the Lord the offering of love and recognition that He so richly deserves?
May it increasingly come into manifestation before all rejoicing hearts. Maranatha!
“…. the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple….” -Mal. 3.1a
A friend and teacher of mine once gave a remarkable definition of man-made traditions with regard to spirituality:
Religion is man’s attempt at making God something he can manage.
This has long been the egotistical disposition of mankind: seeking to create God in an image we prefer, rather than receiving and loving Him as He is.
The prophets of Israel were commissioned by the Lord to shake His complacent and sleepy-hearted people away from their preconceived notions and traditions, and to usher them into a revelation of God’s true nature and purpose.
The false prophets of Judah in Jeremiah’s day, for instance, leaned hard on age-old traditions, and used them as a blanket of false security. They claimed that judgement could not befall Jerusalem, for the tradition declares that God Himself is in the land and that it is therefore protected and covered. The moral conduct of the priests and prophets, the lifestyles of the people in the land, and the nature of Judah’s political activities were not to be discussed. Israel was protected because of Abraham’s faithfulness, and no trouble could overtake them. Or so they assumed.
Tradition says that Yahweh lives in the midst of the people. This is interpreted as Israel’s great security against all danger. In contrast to this, the prophet discerns the freedom of Yahweh in His coming. Yahweh cannot be domesticated by knowledge oriented toward the past, nor can He be attached, like some predictable element, to a pious view of existence. Rather, He shatters the fixed conception that Israel developed in her tradition, and in this, His new and terrifying coming, He proves Himself to be Yahweh….
…. the name of Yahweh cannot in its true content be considered neutrally as tradition. It is the suggestive appellation of the One who, for all that is said about Him, remains a personal subject and decides Himself, in His freedom, what He will do when He comes. And as certainly as He once came to Israel, as tradition tells of Him in Israel’s worship and apart from this, He is never at the disposal of humans like earthly property.
(The Fiery Throne: The Prophets and OT Theology, Walther Zimmerli; Fortress Press, 2003; p. 4)
He never contradicts His own character, but He does obliterate our definitions and categories, especially when we are seeking to utilize Him for our own purposes. “He is never at the disposal of humans like earthly property.”
His radical mercy will shatter our self-righteous assumptions and ideas. His fierce wrath will burn up our moral lightness and our loose views toward sin. He cannot be confined to our tidy theological definitions and traditions. The prophets remind us that we cannot fit the Lord into our schedules, plans, and dreams. If we would have anything to do with Him, we’ve got to cast our lives- lock, stock and barrel- into His Kingdom. After all, by nature, only God Himself is free.
We experience the glorious freedom of love, righteousness, peace, and truth only as we sink our souls into Him.
What is called “prophetic” today, in most cases, is just a super spiritual encouragement session. We look at each other, see some sort of picture and then turn it into some type of encouraging word. I am not against this, but it is so far removed from the prophets burden. Jason Upton, “Raise up a prophetic generation that is not about the future, fortune or fame of man, but about the feelings of your heart.” I remember Dr. Michael L. Brown talking about the prophetic office, he said, “The prophet is an alarm clock. Most people don’t love their alarm clocks.”
Where are these men today? David Wilkerson has passed on. Leonard Ravenhill has been gone for years. Where are those whose intimacy with Jesus, births a burning burden that gushes out of their heart to see the church wholly given over to God? We must always remember that there is an extreme difference between a prophetic gift and the office of a prophet. A prophet is the visible expression of the heart of God. He is God’s heart walking around on the earth. This is a heavy call, many have started, but they end up stopping short or veering off into some social justice, trend or more cutting edge message to lighten their load because it is too heavy to consistently carry. Intern, they end up becoming something partial. This has never accomplished God’s desires. Standing up against social things is no substitute for a quick word from the counsel of the most high.
Prophets, RISE UP!!
Let your intimacy with Jesus be your pregnancy. Live in prayer. Then say whatever He tells you. I tell you that only His ecstasy will tap you into His agony and only His agony will take you low enough in prayer to produce life and quicken you with His words.
Listen to this short Clip from the movie JEREMIAH. I think it is a prophetic call to the modern church of America.
Here’s a bouncy, happy song about some aspects of God’s holy love. Shira Harwood, Marian Iovino, Joshua Pearson and I recorded this in our basement. It’s been primarily written for children, but it’s been enjoyed by a quite a few adults. Listen, I’m sure you’ll be edified. We’ve included Scriptures to help your meditation.
Jeremiah 32:40-41 40 “I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me. 41 “I will rejoice over them to do them good and will faithfully plant them in this land with all My heart and with all My soul.
Ephesians 2:4-7 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with [the Messiah] (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in [the Messiah] Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in [the Messiah] Jesus.
Gave us Your Son
Romans 5:8 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, [the Messiah] died for us.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Give us Your Spirit
Luke 24:49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Galatians 4:6 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
With all Your heart, with all Your might – It’s holy love
Isaiah 6:3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
1 John 4:8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Holy love longs and Holy love calls and
Isaiah 44:22 22 “I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”
Jeremiah 24:7 7 ‘I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.
Malachi 3:7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’
Holy love sent His Son to find
John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Luke 19:10 10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Your love searches and Your love reaches
Ezekiel 34:11-12 11 For thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12 “As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.
It’s holy love
John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.
Holy love seeks and Holy love finds and
Luke 15:4-7 4 “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 “When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ 7 “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Holy love never lets us go
Your love’s strong and Your love holds on
John 10:27-30 27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 “I and the Father are one.”
Deuteronomy 3:24 24 ‘O Lord GOD, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as Yours?
It’s holy love
1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
I’m being kept for You …
Exodus 19:4-6 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. 5 ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
Malachi 3:17 17 “They will be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”
1 Peter 2:9-10 9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.
I’m being kept by You
Psalm 17:7-8 Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand. 8 Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings,
By You, for You
1 Peter 1:3-5 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus [the Messiah], who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus [the Messiah] from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
A good, good father is just like You
Psalm 103:13-14 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. 14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
Matthew 7:11 11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
Just like You, just like You are
Matthew 6:7-8 7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
You are… our provider
Genesis 22:14 14 Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.”
1 Timothy 6:17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.
You are… our strong tower
Proverbs 18:10 10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe.
Psalm 50:15 15 Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.”
2 Timothy 4:18 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
2 Thessalonians 3:3 3 But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.
Holy, faithful, genuine, mighty love
Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,
Romans 12:9a Let love be genuine…
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.
David Harwood is a prophetic teacher and worship leader, and author of the book God’s True Love.
“America has embarked on the European path of economic stagnation and declining influence. Since 1945, Europe has depended on America to defend it, while spending ever smaller percentages of its Gross National Product on defense. The huge budget deficits resulting from Obamacare will push America in the same direction.”
So wrote Jonathan Rosenblum, director of Jewish Media Resources and columnist for the Jerusalem Post. (2Apr10)
Rosenblum reiterates what most other conservative journalists write: “Every major government entitlement program has ended up costing many times more than initially projected, and the proponent’s cost projections on Obamacare do not meet even minimal levels of credibility.”
He adds, “World War II cost Britain its empire, and the huge budget deficits racked up by Obamacare will likely force America to abandon its role as global policeman.” This will leave nations like Iran to take the lead and push the surrounding Islamic nations into making a head-long rush to develop their own nukes.
The “retreat of the Great Satan will only whet the appetite of radical Islam.” One thing is certain: The UN will never protect Israel against the Islamists. And now it appears that America is turning its back on its only democratic ally in the Middle East.
Body language seems to be very strong with President Obama. Here he is obviously in command, ordering Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Head Mahmoud Abbas to pose for a nice photo op.
Just what is Obama’s agenda for the future? What else does he want to accomplish during his first term in office? Of course, he would love to pass his Cap and Trade bill, but Rosenblum believes he can only commit suicide once (with Obamacare) and he does not think the president has enough political capital left to get another massively controversial bill through congress.
Most Israelis have come to the conclusion that the Jewish state has no choice but to offer the several million Arabs in the West Bank their own state. Nevertheless, Israel is fearful of the way it appears Obama will make it happen.
From Israel’s perspective, Obama is not really interested in a peace treaty between Arabs and Israel. As Rosenblum notes, “No confidence-building measures are ever requested from the Palestinians. At every stage, new demands are placed on Israel to placate [the Palestinians] and convince them that the U.S. has the power to deliver a state on terms even they cannot refuse.” (Ibid.)
He has asked nothing of the Palestinians – such as recognizing Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish nation or renouncing terrorism. He has not countered the demands of the Palestinians who plan to send millions of Muslim “refugees” to live in Israel proper and to take Jerusalem away from Israel and make it their Muslim capital.
When Netanyahu visited the White House in late March, Obama demanded that he sign an agreement to stop all building in East Jerusalem’s Jewish areas and consent to 12 other demands. When Netanyahu stalled, according to many press reports, Obama stood up and said, “I’m going to have dinner with Michelle and the girls.” He added, “I’m around. Let me know if there’s anything new.”
“It was awful,” a U.S. congressman who spoke to the Prime Minister said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages,” poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House telephone line. He left with no official statement from either side, an unheard of treatment of a close ally. (www.timesonline.co.uk, 26Mar10)
0510 - Haaretz Story This headline expresses the mood in Israel – the awareness of the indifference of the world to threats against Israel’s existence.
Ironically, the Israeli people, after decades of “negotiations,” are convinced that the Palestinians do not really want a Palestinian state – that is, a state living in peace beside Israel. They do not want that. They want one state and one state only – which would extend from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River – in other words, they want the land of Israel as part of their state. They say it this way: One state for both Arabs and Jews with each citizen having a vote.
To gain such a state, they would be ready to submit (at least temporarily) to being the first democratic Arab Muslim state in history because then their Muslim voters would, within a very short time, vote in a Muslim Palestinian prime minister and dominate the Knesset. And that would be the end of the Jewish state.
But that is not all. Israel is falling behind in military capabilities. “According to the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, every Israeli request for upgraded weapons systems has been denied, while the Arab states, most notably Egypt, have been provided with numerous advanced systems on par with Israel’s.” Most recently, bunker busters necessary for any attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities were denied. (Ibid.)
We must remember that Obama sat comfortably under Jeremiah Wright’s anti-Israel and anti-Semitic invective – including honoring Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam – for nearly 20 years. He is comfortable with Islamic principles and ambitions.
Israel’s only hope is God. As the nations turn increasingly antagonistic toward Israel, Christians and Messianic Jews who know how God feels about the land He promised to the Jewish people must pray for Israel and for their own nation. The promise is still true today. I will bless those that bless you and curse those who curse you.
Nathan Harden had this to say on the oftentimes anti-Christian Huffington Post:
In today’s political landscape, we normally think of the mixing of religion and politics as the doing of white conservatives.
But if you know your history, of course, you know that The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was founded by a group of black religious leaders, the most important of which was the group’s first president, Martin Luther King.
The real work of the Civil Rights movement — everything from rallies to bus boycotts — was carried out through the organizational infrastructure of the black church. And the words that inspired the movement were mostly the words of preachers. Without religion, and Christianity in particular, it is not certain that the Civil Rights movement would have taken place at all.
Harden later points out that “King’s commitment to non-violent resistance was motivated by his faith,” quoting Dr. King as saying:
The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.
Dr. Brown adds more to the picture with his account of a pivotal moment in Dr. King’s life:
By January 1956, with the Montgomery bus boycott in full swing, threatening phone calls, up to 40 a day, began pouring into King’s home. Though he put up a strong front, the threats unsettled him. One midnight as he sat over a cup of coffee worrying, the phone rang again, and the caller said, “Nigger, we are tired of you and your mess now. And if you aren’t out of this town in three days, we’re going to blow your brains out and blow up your house.” King later described what happened in the next few minutes.
“I sat there and thought about a beautiful little daughter who had just been born. . . . She was the darling of my life. I’d come in night after night and see that little gentle smile. And I sat at that table thinking about that little girl and thinking about the fact that she could be taken away from me any minute.
“And I started thinking about a dedicated, devoted, and loyal wife, who was over there asleep. And she could be taken from me, or I could be taken from her. And I got to the point that I couldn’t take it any longer. I was weak. . . .
“And I discovered then that religion had become real to me, and I had to know God for myself. And I bowed down over that cup of coffee. I never will forget it. . . . I prayed a prayer, and I prayed out loud that night. I said, ‘Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right. I think I’m right. I think the cause we represent is right. But Lord, I must confess that I’m weak now. I’m faltering. I’m losing my courage. And I can’t let the people see me like this because if they see me weak, they will begin to get weak. . . .’
“And it seemed at that moment I could hear an inner voice saying to me, ‘Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo I will be with you, even until the end of the world. . . .’ Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared.” Christian History 65 (Vol. XIX, No. 1), 40.
“I brought you into the fruitful land to eat its fruit and its good things. But you came and defiled My land, and My inheritance you made an abomination. The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ And those who handle the law did not know Me…” -Jer. 2.7-8a
The situation with Judah in Jeremiah’s day was desperately grim. The once holy functions of the temple had been tainted with hypocrisy and idolatry, and the leaders of the nation, along with the nation itself, had been lulled to sleep by the spell of sinful pleasures. Jeremiah was one of a remnant of souls who still valued the word of the Lord, but even though the Spirit of God was resting profoundly upon him, and even though he had been praying and prophesying with clear statements from heaven, his words were not being heeded by the priests, the prophets, or the rulers of Judah. The nation’s response to his life and ministry is here summed up by Dr. Michael Brown:
…. despite forty years of incessant prophetic ministry by Jeremiah and clear indications that his words would be fulfilled- his people remained deaf to his warnings, suffering crushing defeat and exile.
(From his forthcoming commentary on the book of Jeremiah; Zondervan Publishing)
Verses 7 and 8 of Jeremiah 2 are a picture of the dramatic contrast between the fickleness of Judah’s leaders, and the unwavering faithfulness of the Lord. We see here a remarkable view of His kind intentions toward His people, and His plan to bring them “into the fruitful land to eat its fruit and its good things.” It becomes obvious that His desire is to bless them with a revelation of Himself, to crown them with lovingkindness and mercy, and to set them apart as His own Beloved people, a “light unto the nations.”
Tragically, as is elsewhere found in her history, Israel fell totally short of the Lord’s glorious intentions, and the downward spiritual spiral was so steep that the land, its leadership, and the nation itself was shot through with idolatry, presumption, indifference, and deception.
The priests had become so numb and accustomed to apostasy that they weren’t keen-hearted enough to ask, “Where is the Lord?” The glory of God had departed from the temple, but they were no longer jealous for His honor, no longer hungry to know Him in a vital way, no longer eager to come into that which He had desired for their lives or for their nation.
Instead, they had found a dubious niche in a self-serving paradigm, and the Lord of Creation, as He had revealed Himself, was excluded from their loyalties. Yahweh was grieved beyond measure, and so was His prophet Jeremiah. Hear Walter Brueggeman regarding the condition of Judah in that day:
No healing is possible. The sickness is too deep. The idolatry is too pervasive. Judah refuses the medicine that is available. The poet (and God) are pressed by this awareness to a new wave of grief.
…. The hurt in the face of Judah’s death requires and evokes more grief, more crying, and more tears than his [Jeremiah’s] body is capable of transmitting.
(A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile & Homecoming, Walter Brueggeman; Eerdmans Publishing, 1998; p. 94)
“Oh that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (9.1)
The prophet Jeremiah, and Yahweh all the more, had been shattered with sorrow over the condition of Judah. The Lord had lavishly offered the blessing of Himself, and His people- unwilling to rightly value His ways- had fallen headlong into sin, and made His inheritance into an “abomination.”
How is it that an inheritance, something which God Himself has initiated and given, could be distorted to the extent that it becomes an abomination? How can land that He has made holy and given so freely become a defiled land, if He Himself is the Author of that covenantal gift? True to His word, He will keep His promises with Israel, and all that He has intended for them will be fulfilled once and for all when He has His way in the hearts of His people. But the tragic reality is that in Jeremiah’s day, the vast majority of those who had heard His name and been touched by His promises had allowed the power of sin to snuff out the presence and word of the One who had given Himself to them so unselfishly.
“Yahwism,” as the OT scholars call the faith of Israel’s patriarchs and prophets, required an ultimate consecration of the heart and life to Yahweh. He had revealed Himself to Israel as the One true God, and He required an allegiance of the utmost kind. Any measure of affection given to other gods was an abomination in His eyes. “Yahwism” became too much for a people who desired to cling to their sin, and the events leading up to Judah’s judgment and exile are filled with backslidings, the hardening of hearts, and a turning away from the reality of worship. O.T. scholar Adam C. Welch had these remarkable thoughts to add to the picture, suggesting that “Israel trades gods because this One is too demanding”:
…. Israel forsook Yahweh, because the relation to Him was full of ethical content…. Yahwism had this iron core in it. The iron core was that Israel could only have Yahweh on His own terms…. Yahwism was no colorless faith which was simply the expression of the people’s pride in itself and its destiny. It laid a curb on men, it had a yoke and bonds. The bonds were those of love, but love’s bonds are the most enduring and the most exacting.
(Jeremiah: His Time and His Word; Adam C. Welch, Oxford: Blackwell, 1951; p. 183, as quoted in Brueggeman’s Jeremiah)
The history of Israel is marked with awesome demonstrations of the nature and power of God, but in Jeremiah’s day, they had set aside the revelation of the Lord to follow after gods of wood and stone. The prophet was a lonely, weeping figure, calling them back to Yahweh, back to holy ethics, and back to the primacy of whole-hearted worship. Catastrophically, the majority of the nation rejected Jeremiah and his message, and by doing that, rejected God Himself.
This is the horrific result of what becomes of a people who are being led by priests and rulers that handle the law, but do not know the Lord. To know the Lord is to be overcome with His kindness and mercy. To know the Lord is to bask in His ways and to relish in the place of prayer. To know the Lord is to tremble delightfully at His word, and to despise that which grieves His heart. To know the Lord is to desire the setting forth of His Son in the darkest places of the world. To know the Lord is to long for justice to “roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Am. 5.24)
I am afraid we are facing the same grave conditions in the Church of modern America that Judah was facing in Jeremiah’s day. We have swept aside the Gospel of Jesus and the apostles and replaced it with a message that is less requiring, less demanding, and altogether inglorious. Our congregations are often made up of souls who are not willing to “have Yahweh on His own terms.” We want to have a packaged religion, one that we can control, that will never surprise us, and that is devoid of the element of inward consecration. The glory of God has departed from the temple, and scarce few are discerning or truthful enough to ask, “Where is the Lord?” We have grown content with something so far beneath the glory of His intentions that we hardly know how to hunger after Him.
So many of our pastors have lost a value for the Scriptures, and are relying on all kinds of methods and novel ideas to enlarge their congregations. The “iron core” of “Yahwism,” which is whole-hearted worship and obedience, and the clarion call to righteousness and selfless love can be seen on precious few occasions. Idolatry is mingled throughout the Body, with saints gawking at American Idol, chasing after greater and more pricy possessions in entertainment and fashion, and our bellies are our gods. Fasting is a rare phenomenon in most places, and buffets are hit the hardest on Sunday afternoons. We know very little about self-control, and it raises a question as to how deeply we have really been immersed in the Holy Spirit. The nation is perishing under the weight of sin and rebellion, and we are often paying its way, having bought in to the consumeristic lie.
The word of Jeremiah is the same to the American Church as it was to Judah:
“Be appalled, O heavens, at this, and shudder, be very desolate,” declares the Lord. “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (2.12-13)
I am convinced that we have hewn up broken cisterns for ourselves. We have settled for a few hours of religion a week, while the abiding life of Christ is neglected in the realm of real life. We get an emotional lift in a church meeting and think we are doing God a service, but we have shirked off the true call of the cross, which Jesus said His disciples would take up daily. Our compartmentalized Christianity- this pathetically broken cistern- does not hold Living Water, and the lives of the saints show it. We need to break loose from the bonds of this age, shut down the distracting forces and all that robs our affections from Him. We need to return with all of our hearts to the Lord, the Fountain of Life.
We need desperately to enjoin our hearts with the prophet’s cry before it is too late for our nation. If the Church doesn’t come into the reality of faith, truth, and consecration, our witness and testimony will become a mere religious opinion; a harmless spiritual option among many; a diluted, powerless consideration, rather than an apostolic Gospel which, when proclaimed, will cause men to turn “from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thess. 1.9-10)
Can we break off the mingling of our hearts with the lies of this age, and plunge headlong into the Fountain of Living waters? Can we shatter the broken cisterns of compromise and timidity, and allow the Lord to make us into vessels of the abiding Life? Can we cease religious performance and twice-a-week emotionally based Christianity, and take up our crosses daily, following the Lamb wheresoever He goes? O, for a total consecration of our hearts to Him! O, for love that springs always from the Fountain of Life! O, for holiness that burns brightly in this crooked and perverse generation. O, for God to be glorified in His Church, and an apostolic witness to “turn the world upside down” again!
“For because of your trust in your own achievements and treasures, even you yourself will be captured; and Chemosh will go off into exile together with his priests and princes.” -Jer. 48.7
The Moabites were a people who lived in what we now know as Jordan, mostly making their abode along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. Their kingdom was often in conflict with Israel, and the God of Israel had a long-standing controversy with them. The prophets testify to this controversy.
Moab, as it is addressed in the prophets, presents the picture of a people poisoned by the spirit of pride, independence, and arrogance. This oracle from the prophet Jeremiah gives them an undesirable promise, that because of their pride and self-sufficiency, they will be captured and even their priests and princes, along with their god Chemosh, will go off into exile. This is to say that even their most ‘divine’ authorities and royal potentates would be of no aid to them in the day of the Lord’s judgment.
One of the characteristics that marks Moab is that as a people, she has been casual and laid back to the point of neglecting the truth of her condition, and the reality of God Himself. Listen to this description the Lord gives of Moab:
“Moab has been at ease since his youth; he has also been undisturbed, like wine on its dregs, and he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into exile. Therefore he retains his flavor, and his aroma has not changed.” (v. 11)
We may have commended Moab for its uniqueness and self-expression, for maintaining its distinctive cultural and religious qualities in the midst of changing times. But the Lord saw Moab as arrogant, non-pliable, and resistant toward Him. He saw them as vessels that had “not been emptied,” and though their “aroma has not changed,” the prophet indicates that the Lord is not pleased with the spiritual “smell” that Moab gives off. Hear the words of J.A. Thompson on this:
Moab is here compared with wine which has been allowed to settle down with its dregs and sediment to age and mature and improve its flavor. It had settled quietly on its lees and had never been disturbed by being poured from vessel to vessel. The picture is one of complacency. But this would soon change.
(J.A. Thompson, The Book of Jeremiah: NICOT; Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI: 1980, p. 705)
The Lord would not continue to endure the presence of Moab’s complacency, and the trust in her own achievements that she feverishly held onto would soon be toppled by the work of His hand.
“‘Therefore behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will send to him those who tip vessels, and they will tip him over, and they will empty his vessels and shatter his jars.'” (v. 12)
Can it be said that much of the Church is living on Moabite grounds? Trusting in our own achievements, proud and self-sufficient, vessels that have yet to be tipped over and emptied of the wine of this age?
What aroma are we releasing into the atmosphere? Forget the way you look in ministry or at some religious meeting. What about the aroma you release in your home… in the work place… in your neighborhood… at the grocery store, etc.? Are we filling the air with our religious opinions? Are we lacking a true expression of the love of God? Are we grumpy and crotchety when the sanctuary lights aren’t shining on us? Are we loose on sin, flatterers of men, or timid weaklings? Are we swept up by the same waves of entertainment, media, and fashion that move and jerk the undiscerning hearts of those who are walking in darkness?
How much of our upbringing and culture that is not of the flavor and aroma of God’s kingdom still lingers in our lives, and what excuses have we secretly made to permit that kind of a mixture? How often are we quenching the Spirit of God and going into modes of speech and conduct that are in keeping with attitudes which our culture may have always accepted and sanctioned, but that the Lord is not in harmony with?
“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” -2 Cor. 2.15
Are we functioning as vessels that have not been emptied, that are still filled with the wine of this age? Are we willing daily to be tipped over, emptied entirely, and filled with the Spirit of God Himself? I am convinced that the Church is in a mostly ‘Moabite’ condition, and before the final day comes when the rebellious ‘jars’ are tipped over and shattered, we need to tip over our vessels without reservation, that God may fill us with His own love and purity.
The Lord will only fill those vessels which have been tipped over willingly. The ones that remain upright, recalcitrant and resistant toward His heart and call, will in the last day be tipped against their wills, and shattered by His hand.
We need to be tipped and emptied of the wine of this age,that we may taste of the powers of the age to come. Having been filled with the Spirit of life, we will live and speak as vessels that have been fit to set forth the Son of God to Israel and the nations.
“Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the vessels of the Lord.” -Is. 52.11b
Editor’s Note: A previously published article from Dr. Brown. An important message to take to heart for those of us trying to make an impact in our culture.
When we think of the words “unyielding and hardened,” we think of stubborn sinners defiantly refusing to heed the message of God, of proud and obstinate rebels firmly entrenched in their arrogance and intransigence. We think of sinful hearts that refuse to bow, of determined and resolute wills that mock that which is sacred and disdain that which is holy. We think of the image of the earthly, not the heavenly.
Yet sometimes it is God Himself who makes His servants unyielding and hardened. He does it for His glory, and He does it for their good. It is part and parcel of the prophet’s call. The prophet must be immovable — utterly. The prophet must be a rock.
The Lord said to Ezekiel that:
the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to Me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate. But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are (Ezek. 3:7-8).
The Lord fights fire with fire!
God’s people would not listen to His words. They were defiant and resistant. How could the prophet withstand the pressure? How could he weather the storm? How could he stand firm and hold fast to the commission of the Spirit? The people were so hard. The prophet had to be harder still! Once he moved an inch, the battle was lost.
I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house (Ezek. 3:9).
Yes, Ezekiel, I will make you harder than flint!
This was also the word of the Lord to Jeremiah:
Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land — against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land (Jer. 1:18).
Jeremiah had to be “a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall.” He was standing against everyone!
Some of us get rattled when one unkind word is spoken against us, or when a leader doesn’t pay sufficient attention to us, or when our friends fail to recognize our gifts, or when our unsaved co-workers avoid us because of our faith. Talk about shallow security and shifting assurance! What would we have done if were in Jeremiah’s shoes?
The kings, the princes, the officials, the priests, the prophets, the people as a whole, and even his family stood against him. He had no wife or children, by the direction of the Lord (Jer. 16:20), and he was almost completely without friends. This man was alone in this world. Yet God told him to stand against the crowd, to refuse to be moved, to proclaim a word of terrible judgment and hardship, to declare that the ruthless enemy king was actually the servant of the Lord, that it was God’s will that the chosen people go into exile. How could this be?
“Jeremiah, back down! Look at this thing rationally. Listen to the voice of reason. Everyone can’t possibly be wrong. The leaders can’t all be misled. The prophets can’t all be deceived. The priests can’t all be in error. Nobody else is proclaiming such harsh things. Nobody else is telling us that our women will be raped, our children orphaned, our men slaughtered in battle. Nobody else is telling us that the Temple of the Lord — the very dwelling place of the God of the whole earth — will be destroyed. Never! Jeremiah, come our way and join the crowd. It feels so right to be accepted. It feels so good to be loved. Surely you’re not the only one hearing from God. You’re not a fanatic, right?”
Actually, what God calls faithful the world calls fanatical. Sometimes the pressure is intense! It is true that the prophet is made for pressure and that pressure makes the prophet, but Jeremiah was human, just like us. He needed affirmation and encouragement. He longed for moral support just like we do. The insults and taunts and hatred and rejection of the people must have stung him deeply. What did it feel like to be Jeremiah? His suffering was almost unbearable:
Alas, my mother, that you gave me birth, a man with whom the whole land strives and contends! I have neither lent nor borrowed, yet everyone curses me (Jer. 15:10).
O LORD, You deceived me, and I was deceived; You overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long (Jer. 20:7-8).
Surely a little compromise would be acceptable. Surely there must be some movement on Jeremiah’s part. It was impossible that so many good people could be so wrong. Surely the Lord understood both sides of the story. Surely He was not so inflexible. Hardly:
“Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,” declares the LORD (Jer. 15:19b-20).
There it is again! The prophet was called to be a mountain of holy resistance. “Jeremiah, do not budge!”
Listen to the cumulative force of these words from the Lord. God made the prophets as unyielding and hardened as the most obstinate sinners, with foreheads like the hardest stone, harder than flint, like a fortified city, a bronze wall, and an iron pillar. God built them up and God backed them up.
For the prophet, compromise was more bitter than death, and finding the middle ground was an act of treachery against the Lord. As Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters” (Matt. 12:30). Jesus was no people-pleaser either. In the prophet’s education and calling, there is no “Politics 101.” Who ever heard of a politically correct prophet? How we need the true prophetic spirit again in our day!
Of course, as to our character and attitude we must be meek and lowly, quick to listen and slow to speak, easily approachable, ready to learn, willing to receive correction, open to godly reason, submitted and submissive, teachable and kind, not argumentative but speaking the truth in love. Still I ask you, didn’t Jesus exemplify those characteristics to perfection? And yet He was absolutely inflexible and unyielding when it came to doing the will of His Father. He could not be moved. And wasn’t Paul a walking model of a godly, Spirit-filled minister? Yet who more than Paul refused to go the way of the crowd? Who more than Paul shunned compromise like the plague? It was Paul who asked the Galatians:
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ (Gal. 1:10).
Pleasing men and serving the Lord are often incompatible — totally.
Of course, I know there are fanatics and weirdoes who have separated themselves from the Body and who think they are on some kind of divine mission. They and they alone have the revelation. They and they alone — along with their motley little group of self-anointed spokesmen and self-appointed martyrs — have the truth. I am fully aware that there are some flakes out there who believe that the Spirit tells them to wear shorts and a tee shirt in the snow as a test of their obedience. (Why is it always those people who tend to be the most bold and vocal “witnesses,” always carrying their Bibles — their very big, prominent Bibles, of course — and never failing to show up just when you are finally reaching someone with the Good News? Why are they often the ones whose vehicles are so covered with gospel bumper stickers that you can’t even tell if they’re driving a car or a truck?)
To such people I say this: Grow up! Get into a congregation and practice submission. Take the low road and learn in quietness. If God has given you a word, He will make it known. Get your personal life in order and make a meaningful contribution to society (maybe starting right in your own home?). Your end-time prophetic mission to the universe can wait a few more years.
More seriously, there are really tragic cases of truly fanatical acts. I cringe when I think of the deeply deceived and disturbed individuals who have burned babies in ovens and shot, stabbed, and strangled at the supposed direction of the Lord. What a terrible and pathetic shame. What an ugly, inexcusable reproach. The Word of God and the voice of God never led these people to commit such atrocious acts, and nothing I am writing here is directed to such demented souls. What they need is a new heart through repentance and faith. What they need is to be saved from their sins.
But please hear me: There have always been religious fanatics, spiritual weirdoes, Bible-quoting flakes, and demonized pseudo-believers misrepresenting the Spirit of God. There have always been counterfeit Christians, bogus believers and satanized saints wreaking havoc in the name of the Lord. They existed in the days of Jesus, and they exist in our day too. Our error has been to retreat from righteousness because of the extremists and to tone down our message because of the fanatics. Our sin has been to compromise for the sake of “correctness” and to muddle the truth for the sake of middle ground. We justify our comfortable seat on the sidelines of non-commitment because others “take things too far.” As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow expressed so well, “We often excuse our want of [involvement] by giving the name of fanaticism to the more ardent zeal of others.”
This is sheer spiritual suicide, and it is guaranteed to fail. It is the way of the world and the formula of the flesh. It is Satan’s trap, and it is set to ensnare. Only the inflexible will escape. Are you entrapped? How have you fared on the day of testing? Remember: Temptation can come in the form of death threats or in the form of sweet promises. Have you held your ground in the face of temptation? Have you withstood the onslaught of the enemy and the world?
Are you inflexible when it comes to the clear and indisputable standards of God’s Word? Or have you compromised your convictions to keep the peace or to make your way up the ladder in your church or business? Have you quenched the persistent voice of the Spirit because it was too hard to go against the grain? The world can be intimidating. The church can be intimidating. Your friends and family can be intimidating. Your fellow-leaders can be intimidating. Have you feared the face of man, or have you feared the face of God?
And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. You must speak My words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you (Ezek. 2:6-8).
Do you grasp what God said to Ezekiel? They are rebellious; they don’t listen to Me. Don’t you be rebellious! Receive My commission, ingest My message, and declare My words to My rebellious people without flinching, without holding back, without watering down the truth. Not to speak is to rebel.
Again it is recorded in the book of Jeremiah:
Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came from the LORD: “This is what the LORD says: Stand in the courtyard of the Lord’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the LORD. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word (Jer. 26:1-2).
Tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
This was a quality that made Samuel great. When he was still young and after receiving his very first word from God — a frightful, terrible word — the Scripture says: “So Samuel told him [i.e., Eli the priest] everything, hiding nothing from him” (1 Sam. 3:18). He held back nothing, even though that word from God promised judgment and destruction on Eli’s very household. Samuel told the truth. As a result,
The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and He let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD (1 Sam. 3:19-20).
God would back us up too, if we would learn to declare His Word, directly and without dilution.
Yet so often we are weak-kneed wimps. We crumble like cookies and have as much staying power as spaghetti: When the water gets hot, we get soft. Where is our courage? Where is our conviction? Where is our commission?
It will take faces like flint and foreheads like bronze to stand strong in the midst of the world’s immoral madness and the church’s moral morass. Only those who are deep in Him will be able to confront the shallowness of this superficial age. Only those with roots will withstand the flood to come. Are you standing today? Are you firm? Are you moved forward by God, or do you move backward away from God?
For many years I have written and preached that we hardly realize how far we have fallen — as a nation, as families, as individuals, as a church. True restoration will be more radical than most of us (including myself) can imagine. And while we are certainly making spiritual progress in many ways, and while the Lord is truly moving in our midst, we dare not think that we have arrived, that times of refreshing are proofs of total approval, that an increase in spiritual life and power means an increase in prophetic truth and character. No! We must make a determined, fresh stand. We must recover the spirit of holy inflexibility, of divine immovability, of prophetic intransigence. We must reclaim the posture of the uncompromising overcomer — even if it costs us our lives:
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Rev. 12:10-11).
May this be our story too: overcoming the pressures of this age, refusing to cave in or give up, ruthless with the flesh, radical in the Spirit, obedient even to death. May God make us harder than flint. May we yield to Him alone.