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!
Posted in Israel & The Jewish People Tagged with: debate, ezekiel, faith, God, heart, israel, jeremiah, Jerusalem, Jesus, jewish, love, messiah, messianic, military, prophecy, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, restoration, return, sid roth, tribes
“…. while I was by the river Chebar among the exiles, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.” -Ez. 1.1b
For Ezekiel, who functioned as a young priest of Judah, the bank of the river Chebar was hardly the ministry opportunity he would’ve had in mind when he laid his life down for service in the temple. The river Chebar was the territory of Babylon, and he was laboring among a people who had been exiled, and who were under the judgment of God.
It would’ve been a remarkably trying time for him, where all his expectations and ideals for God’s people had been shattered, and his own priestly desires had been walled in and suffocated by the cold reality of exilic experience. He was not where he had hoped to have been, and his people had totally fallen short of that for which he had prayed and labored.
…. the young priest had to pass through a waiting period of agonizing tension in which hope and fear alternated.
(Walther Eichrodt, EZEKIEL; Westminster Press, p. 54)
Ezekiel was likely being tossed to and fro by encouraging days, when a few of his kinsmen would come alive to the Law, and radically discouraging days, when others would curse him and the word he presented. Had God forsaken he and his people altogether? Was there any way to live as His people in the midst of Babylon? Could he bear the light of God in the soul-chilling surrounding of such darkness? Little did Ezekiel know that his own presence by the river Chebar would be the very extension of God Himself to a people in radical need of prophetic reality. Little did Ezekiel know what was coming. God Himself would break into the maze of questions and struggles to reveal the glory of His enthronement. And this is just what Ezekiel needed in such a time of shaking.
The coming of Yahweh to Ezekiel and the sending of the prophet to Israel show that God was still concerned with His mysterious and special purpose for the ‘house of Israel.’
…. God’s coming to keep faith with His people knew no barriers. In the full splendor of His regal glory God met His people in the midst of a heathen land.
(EZEKIEL 1, Walther Zimmerli; Hermeneia, Fortress Press; 1979, p. 140)
Perhaps you are reckoning with the same alternating emotions, going from hope to fear, from encouragement to discouragement. Perhaps you feel trapped in a type of Babylon, and you are wondering if there is any sense to your life and calling. Know this, dear saint: Just as the Lord was “still concerned” for His “special purpose for the house of Israel,” He is intensely concerned for you. He will “keep faith with His people.” Indeed, “He who began a good work in you will complete it, unto the day of Jesus Christ.”
You may be in the midst of a heathen land, but God will meet you even there. He will wash your feet, your hands, and your heart. He will be the balm of healing to your cracked soul. He will purify your lips and restore the praises of God to your mouth. He will mold and commission you, in the unique way He has appointed, to make you a voice in this generation. You need only to lift your eyes away from alternating emotions and distracting thoughts, and to see Him enthroned on high, “in the full splendor of His regal glory.” When the breakers are rolling over you and there seems to be no possibility of breathing, He is still enthroned, and extending His hand to you. He calls you today, even now, to come up above the tossing waves, and into the clear air of fellowship with Him.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Babylon, discouragement, ezekiel, healing, israel, Jesus, judgment, Ministry, Reality, Walther Eichrodt, Walther Zimmerli, Westminster
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.
Posted in Revolution & Justice Tagged with: compromise, ezekiel, jeremiah, old testament prophets, prophecy, prophets