The Fight in Spiritual Warfare

 “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar; and the thing was true, but the time appointed was long: and he understood the thing, and had understanding of the vision. In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. And in the four and twentieth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel; then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude. And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength. Yet heard I the voice of his words: and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground.” Daniel 10:1-9 (KJV)

 Daniel 10:1-21

 There are wars in our world today. That is no profound statement I realize that, but it is none the less true. We grieve over the wars that have been fought  in Iraq, what is going on in Syria, and many other places; and the young soldiers who are dying, civilians dying, women and children included in that. No war is pleasant. It is not really pleasant to even speak of. Sometimes, as bad as it is, wars are necessary to stand against what is evil. I do not think any one in their right mind would say that, “The attack of September 11, 2001 was not an attack from evil“.

Ever since the beginning of man; Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden we have come under attack from evil. The world is still under the domain of the chief of all evil and that is the devil. He still has his demons working and influencing the leaders of the world, but all his work and efforts will be to no avail. The devil and his demons are a defeated foe. They were defeated on the cross where Jesus died and conquered evil there. Proof of that is in that He rose from the dead.

There is a warfare which we as Christians are fighting today. Some will say, “You said that Jesus had conquered evil, why are we still fighting a war against it?” Jesus did conquer evil, and that is part of the glory of the matter. We need to remember that we are not fighting for victory, we are fighting from the victory. “Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world.”

Paul the apostle told us…

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” Eph. 6:10-12 (KJV).

Paul also tells us that…

“(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)” 2 Cor. 10:4 (KJV).

Daniel was finding out about spiritual warfare.

AS WE LOOK AT THE TIME THAT DANIEL HAD THIS EXPERIENCE (v. 1). It was approximately two years after Cyrus had made the decree that the captives of Jerusalem could return to their homeland. In the book of Ezra we read,

“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,  Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem” Ezra 1:1-3 (KJV).

This event takes place a few years following the events of chapter 9, because we see at the beginning of chapter nine that it took place during the first year of Darius of the Medes.

It could be that Daniel may have written the document that gave the Israelites permission to return to Jerusalem. Remember Daniel was in the court of the king, so this may have been his responsibility.

THE PROBABLE CAUSE OF DANIEL’S MOURNING (vv. 2-3). It is not told us what it was that caused Daniel to mourn, specifically. We do know that it had been approximately two years since the decree had gone out for the people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.

News had most likely came back to Daniel of the trying circumstances of the 50,000 Hebrews who returned to the land. There were other Hebrews who had never left who were mocking those who had returned, and were hindering the work of the temple. There was a spiritual battle raging in Jerusalem.

Daniel’s heart was greatly burdened. He was so burdened – maybe for a couple of reasons; First, he may have been burdened for the people’s circumstances in Jerusalem – the work had been hindered and stopped (Ezra 4:1-6). Secondly, Daniel was probably burdened to better understand the prophecies he had received. It is quite possible the battle in Jerusalem over the building of the temple is the scene of the battle between the angelic being (vv. 13 & 20). It seems to relate to an ongoing battle (v. 13b “…I remained there with the kings of Persia”, said the angel. Daniel, in fact, had spent 21 days in mourning and fasting, because of his sorrow, and desire to get God’s direction and will. The prayer was heard on the first day, but due to the spiritual battle Daniel endured in prayer and fasting until he received answer.

Fasting seems to have been an almost forgotten practice. Private fasting, where there is no self aggrandizement, is a practice that Christians need to begin practicing in order to be overcomers in the life of faith.

Let us never forget to pray for our nation’s leaders. It could very well be that there are evil spirits directing the hearts of evil men and hindering the works of godly men. In fact the Bible is clear about that. Let us always beware to never pray to angels nor worship them – they are servants of God and servants to us as well. We are to worship and pray to God alone.

DANIEL’S PERSONAL ENCOUNTER WITH THE LORD (vv. 4-9). The appearance of this “…Certain man” seems to be almost identical to the description given of Jesus in the Revelation…

“And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;  And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.  His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;  And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.  And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:“ Rev 1:12-17 (KJV).

It is because of this that many, including myself see this ‘certain man’ as a Christophony – a pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus Christ. It would be similar to His appearance in the fiery furnace with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. This revelation took place while Daniel was walking by the river Hiddekel. Sometimes when one becomes burdened a walk in a place of quietness brings the best encounters with God. What an encounter it was. This is the first time Daniel has a personal visit from our Lord, at least that is recorded.

Even though they did not see the One whom Daniel saw, the men with Daniel fled and hid, because they realized something was going on and it was too great for them to stay around (vv. 7-8). The vision was so awe-inspiring Daniel had no strength. He heard His voice. Being so weakened and overcome by His presence Daniel went into a deep sleep. We should in no way consider this “deep sleep” as bad on Daniel’s part. From the excitement he may have blacked out and lost consciousness. Sometimes it is when our minds are resting in the Lord we are renewed, refreshed, and revived. NOTE, Daniel’s position “…My face toward the ground.” Most likely this “deep sleep” was probably the same type “deep sleep” God put on Adam when He created Eve”. So it was a God induced sleep.

DANIEL IS TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL (vv. 10-21). It does not say it clearly but most likely the hand that touched Daniel was the hand of Gabriel the angel who had spoken to him previously (8:16; 9:20-23).

NOTICE: The words this angel speaks to Daniel; “…A man greatly beloved” is spoken twice in this chapter (vv. 11 & 19) and one other time in the previous chapter (9:23). He says, “Fear not” twice (vv. 12, 19). “Peace be unto thee”, and “Be strong, be strong”. A double admonition.

Why Daniel prayed for twenty one days – the Spiritual Warfare. The angel was hindered by the “prince of Persia”. This could not have been a mere man which the angel of God was battling. It had to have been a “demon angel” appointed by satan over the kingdom of Persia. If Daniel had quit praying this ‘prince of Persia’ could have won the battle. Let us never cease praying for God’s will to be accomplished in His people and in the governments of men. Because of Daniel’s unceasing, fervent prayer the angel came with an answer. Delayed prayers are FAITH TESTING and FAITH BUILDING prayers. Daniel was touched three times by the angel (vv. 10, 16, and 18).

There are some who believe that this whole encounter was with the pre-incarnate Christ. It cannot be – because Jesus would not need the help of Michael. Jesus could, but speak the word, “Be gone” and that demon would flee. There is no doubt in my mind that from verses ten through verse 21 the one who touched Daniel was an angel, and most likely Gabriel, who had spoken to him previously.

The angel came to give Daniel understanding of what the “latter days” held for the Hebrews, and Gentile nations.

The angel speaks of returning to battle the ‘prince of Persia’. He tells Daniel that the ‘prince of Greece’ is on the way. It almost seems the angel encourages Daniel to keep praying. PLEASE REREAD EPHESIANS 6:10-18.

The powers of darkness are at work in the world, its governments, plotting, scheming, deceiving, seeking to steal, to kill, and to destroy all that is godly, holy and righteous.  Let us as the Church of Jesus Christ keep praying too. Let’s pray for forgiveness of our own sin, confess them and repent. Let’s pray for those who are lost. Jesus is coming soon.

MARANATHA.

Standing Before the Throne

“Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, over against the king’s house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house. And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre.” Esther 5:1-2 (KJV)

A decree had been written by Haman, approved by king Ahasuerus to kill all the Jews in the land of Persia.

The LORD God of Israel (though His name is never mentioned) had sovereignly placed Esther, a Jewish young lady as queen of Persia. Mordecai, the Jewish uncle to Esther, was a man who honored the king, but would not honor the man Haman. Esther has been given a challenge to approach the king while in the court of his throne, and risk her life for the attention of the king in the matter of the decree.

Esther stood in the court, was seen by the king; he held out his scepter. She had found favor in his sight. She approached the king, and touched the top of the sceptre. It was the law of Persia; no one came into the court of the king, approaching his throne without an invitation from the king; on punishment of death, unless the king held out his sceptre.

Due to this bold, and courageous stand by Esther the plot of Haman is exposed, he is hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai, and his ten sons are hanged on it too (Esther 9:10, 13). The Jewish people receive a decree which allows them to protect themselves against any Persian who would attack, and kill them.

The Lord Jesus Christ is our king. We have immediate access to the very throne of God. The sceptre of His throne is always held out for one of His princes, and princesses – those who are born again through the blood of Jesus Christ. You, by His blood shed on the cross approach the throne of God. You need no one to go for you.

To try and approach God without Christ Jesus is a death sentence. No one can see God and live; except through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son of God and God the Son.

See Hebrews 4:16

The Word of GOD is Sure

“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and He hath charged me to build Him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all His people? His God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (He is the God,) which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” Ezra 1:1-4 (KJV)

Just for a note: Cyrus was named by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 44:28 – 45:4); at least 150 years before Cyrus was born. Of course this is the fulfillment of God’s Word.

Jeremiah the prophet tells of the children of Israel spending 70 years in captivity in Jeremiah 25:8-11 and 29:10-14. Daniel the prophet while in the captivity reads Jeremiahs prophecy, and realizes the promise (Daniel 9:2).

The one thing I am always blessed by; encouraged by; inspired by; is that God’s Word is always fulfilled. He will not allow it to return to Himself void; or without accomplishing what He has said.

The Word of God is the one thing in the world that never changes; because God does not change. He is reliable. He will judge sin; all sin. It has been judged in His Son Jesus Christ Son of God, and God the Son. The wrath of God was poured out upon Him on the cross, and when we believe Him, turning from our sin, He saves us by His grace.

Henry Martyn (1781-1812)

The following article is borrowed from Kairos Journal.  I found it quite interesting and informing.  I pray the readers here will as well.

“Alone against Islam”: Henry Martyn (1781-1812)

The debate inside the tent soon matched the soaring temperatures outside as the solitary, sickly Christian rebuffed the arguments of his Muslim opponents. Henry Martyn (1781-1812) had reached Tabriz in May 1812 hoping to present a copy of his Persian translation of the New Testament to the Shah, the nation’s ruler, for his commendation. But before that could happen, the Shah’s vizier (1) ordered him to dispute with the mullahs. After an hour or two the vizier finally intervened with an ultimatum. “You had better say ‘God is God, and Muhammad is the prophet of God.’” No-one moved. All eyes focused on Martyn. Later he recalled, “I said, ‘God is God,’ but instead of adding ‘Muhammad is the prophet of God,’ I said, ‘and Jesus is the Son of God.’” The mullahs rose in disgust and the vizier refused his visitor’s request. (2)

Fifteen years earlier, few could have imagined such a scene. In October 1797, Martyn entered Cambridge University to read mathematics and five years later became a fellow in classics. As a brilliant scholar and linguistic genius, an academic career beckoned, yet Martyn turned his back on it. Charles Simeon (3) asked him to serve as his curate in 1803, and under his influence the young man set his heart on serving Christ overseas.

Leaving behind the woman he loved, Martyn arrived in India in April 1806 as a chaplain of the East India Company, responsible for the souls of the locally stationed British soldiers. But his heart burned for the indigenous Muslim and Hindu populations, and before long he was preaching to them despite heat, opposition, and ill-health. Putting his linguistic skills to use, he started the simultaneous translation projects of the New Testament into Persian, Arabic, and Urdu and completed the Urdu edition in February 1809.

His desire to revise the Persian and complete his Arabic New Testament led Martyn to leave India and enter the formidable domain of Islamic Persia in May 1811. Setting out for Shiraz, a prominent center of Shia Muslim scholarship and poetry, he traveled with a wet towel around his face and neck because of the fierce heat. Once installed in his new home, Martyn worked with a local, Mirza Seid Ali, on the Persian translation, and in less than nine months he completed the New Testament and a version of the Psalms in an accurate and readable vernacular. “No year of my life was ever spent more usefully,” he wrote. (4)

Yet Martyn’s time in Shiraz was far from tranquil. As the only Christian in a Muslim city, he was an easy target for abuse, and the governor had to intervene to stop the constant stoning of his house. He defended the gospel in lengthy discussions with the mullahs and wrote a reply to a defense of Islam published by the leading mullah, Mirza Ibrahim. Always willing to engage the Sufis, his conversations invariably reached an impasse over the deity of Christ. Before he left Shiraz to see the Shah in May 1812, only one man had turned to Christ. Yet the fruit of Martyn’s life appeared after his untimely death that October. His Persian edition reached people in 1846, being used until 1910, and his work still shapes the current edition.

Reflecting on his life, Martyn commented, “Even if I never should see a native converted, God may design, by my patience and continuance in the work, to encourage future missionaries.” (5) Today, Persia (modern day Iran) is still held in the vice of radical Islam, pouring forth a message of threat and triumphalism backed up with arms and money. As political and military solutions are considered to contain its influence, Henry Martyn’s sacrificial example shows the only sure way to challenge Islam. May God be pleased to send many more like him to confront the nations with Christ’s truth.

Footnotes:
1     A high official in certain Muslim countries and caliphates, especially a minister of state.
2     Richard T. France, “Henry Martyn,” in Five Pioneer Missionaries, ed. S. M. Houghton (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1965), 291.
3     Vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge, England.
4     Ibid., 285.
5     Ibid., 263.

Day 32 – Providence

My reading today consisted of the last five chapters of Esther, and the first nine of Job.  The commentary this morning will deal solely with Esther.

Esther is a book of the Bible that never names the name of God.  God is not even mentioned in person; however the work, power and presence of God is clearly seen by those who have the eyes to see it.  There are many times in Christian life where it feels as though God is nowhere to be found; and all we have to go on is faith.

I have heard the term “Providence”, and usually speaking of the work of God in the events of mankind.  Well, if there is a Biblical case for providence, then, it can certainly be seen throughout the book of Esther.

Let me give you a list of the characters in Esther.  First there is the king, Ahasuerus, “Xerxes” in newer translations; there is the queen who is not in the story very long, but plays a prominent part in the development of the story; there is Mordecai – a Jewish captive from Jerusalem; there is Haman – an Agagite; and then there is Esther – who will be queen.

One thing that can be seen by this event in the story of Israel, its captivity, and return is that even though we may mess up, sin, and seemingly ruin our lives through disobedience we do not thwart the plan and will of God.  That can be seen in the story of Esther as well.

Let us first find out about Haman – the Agagite.  Haman was a descendant of Agag whom king Saul of Israel was disobedient to God in letting him live.  Samuel eventually kills Agag (1 Samuel 15).  For many centuries this hatred for the Jewish people had been stewing in the hearts of the family of Agag; and in this story it came to fruition.  Haman had it in his heart to rid the Persian Empire and the world of the Jewish people.

Though God is not mentioned; He had another plan.  God’s plan was to bring the children of Israel back to their Promised land; so that the Messiah and Savior of the world would one day come, and die for our sins.

Haman sets a course of action after his appointment as prominent leader in Persia.  All others were to bow to him; however Mordecai would not bow to him.  Mordecai knew who Haman was, and saw his heart.  Mordecai had also overheard a plot to assassinate the king, revealed it and the perpetrators were hanged (2:21-23).

One verse that stands out in the book of Esther is one that is well known to many of us –

“For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 (KJV)

This occurs following the murderous plot of Haman to exterminate the Jewish people.  It is not yet known that Esther is Jewish, and Mordecai, as the uncle of Esther, is telling her that it is time to reveal the truth of her identity, for the salvation of her people.  Mordecai is asking Esther to enter the throne area of the royal house without invitation, and that in the Persian courts could be deadly, meaning immediate and sudden death, if the king did not recognize the one entering by holding out his scepter (4:11); and after three days of fasting she enters the throne room, and the king holds out the scepter (5:1-2).

The night before the banquet of Esther the king cannot sleep remembering what Mordecai had done saving his life from the plot of the two who were hanged for their assassination attempt.  Haman’s plot is known by the king, he has even given him the authority to send the message with the kings signet ring seal on the documents authorizing its execution.  The following day, however, Haman is put to humility by walking Mordecai around the streets of Jerusalem, exalting him for the great deed he has done in exposing the plat of assassination.  Haman probably realizes by now that “his goose is cooked”.

It becomes even more apparent when Esther reveals it to the king at the banquet.  Haman has built a gallows on which to have Mordecai hanged; and finds himself hanging on the device of his own imagination.

God, though not named, is also a prominent presence in the book.  His hand of Providence is seen, in the elevation of Esther, a Jew, to the seat of the queen of Persia; the man despised by the Agagite is exalted to the Agagites position after his plot is foiled.  God’s people do return to Jerusalem; and the Messiah is born, dies on the cross for the sins of the world, is buried, and rises bodily from the grave conquering sin, hell and death.

Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God ever lives; that those who trust in Him might live too.

Christian take note of the Providence of God; even when you do not think He is present and working; take another look.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Day 31 – The King’s Cupbearer

I only wrote a bit of Nehemiah yesterday, so since my reading this morning was the rest of Nehemiah this writing will only deal with the King’s cupbearer.

My reading today began in Nehemiah 5 and extended to Esther 5.  I will deal with Esther, the Lord willing, in tomorrow’s commentary.

We are told that Nehemiah was a captive of Israel in Shushan the palace (1:1) of king Artaxerxes of Persia.  Nehemiah was the king’s “cupbearer (1:11).  This task was more than just simply carrying the cup of the king’s wine and drink.  Nehemiah was to taste the drink, then if he did not die from drinking it; because someone might be trying to assassinate the king; then, he would know that it was safe for the king.

Nehemiah was a man who had a heart for his home and people.  We see in verse 3 of chapter one that he had received word from Hanani who had returned from Judah that the remnant who had been left of the captivity were in great affliction, and it crushed his heart.

“And they said unto me, ‘The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.’  And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, and said, ‘I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love Him and observe His commandments: let Thine ear now be attentive, and Thine eyes open, that Thou mayest hear the prayer of Thy servant, which I pray before Thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel Thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against Thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.'” Nehemiah 1:3-6 (KJV)  (This prayer continues to the end of the chapter).

One day as Nehemiah is serving the king his countenance was sad (2:1-3).  He receives the king’s favor, and is allowed to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls.  When he arrives in Jerusalem he arises in the night and surveys the walls of the city to investigate the walls condition, and the work that would be needed to restore them.  When he tells the people of his plans.  There is some reluctance to the plan, and some outright mockery of the plan (2:19).  He tells them that “The God of heaven, He will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in  Jerusalem”; the latter part speaking to Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, of course.

The work is started with the gates and the wall.  One of the things that must be doe when rebuilding something is to get the trash out of the way (4:10).

Once the work was squared away, and assignments made, and materials gathered the work on the wall was done in quick order.  They had to work with weapons on their sides and nearby.  They had a trumpeteer with Nehemiah at all times.  Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem hated the work of the Lord and His servants; and they were set to stop it.  That is the case with the servants of the devil in every age.  He is like a lion walking about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).

The wall is finished in 52 days (6:15).  They had a heart to work and to get the wall erected.

We need to remember that Nehemiah was a contemporary of Ezra, and we find Ezra present in the reading of the Law,

“And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: and Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.”  Nehemiah 8:5-6

In the 10th verse of chapter eight we find a verse which is very familiar to many Christians,

 “…for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

The people had heard the Law of the LORD, and began weeping, and mourning; and they are told to not weep nor mourn, but to rejoice in that day.  It was a day to celebrate because they had returned to the worship of the LORD of hosts.

There is a need among Christians today to rejoice in the wonderful grace of the Lord.  His work of grace is more than amazing; it is glorious.  We have much to rejoice in.  The joy of the LORD is our strength.  That is what The King’s Cupbearer was rejoicing in.

Nehemiah’s final prayer is short, but shows his dependency on the God of grace and the grace of God; “Remember me, O my God, for good” (13:31).

Come to the grace of God through the death, burial and bodily resurrection of His Son Jesus.  There is the source of joy and strength.

-Tim A. Blankenship

 

Day 30 – Inspirational and Encourageing

Today marks the thirtieth day for the journey through the Bible in ninety days.  I have been thoroughly blessed, inspired, and encouraged.  I have also learned things I did not know, helping me to realize even more that “The more I know; the more I realize I do not know.”  I am now one third of the way through this journey and looking forward to the next 6o days.

I was greatly inspired and encouraged by reading through Ezra and the first four chapters of Nehemiah this morning; thus, the title for today’s post.

In yesterday’s reading, finishing 2 Chronicles we were left with Judah going into Babylonian captivity, Jerusalem being destroyed, the walls broken down, the temple destroyed, and all the vessels, gold, silver, bronze, taken to the storehouses of Babylon; just as the prophet Jeremiah warned and foretold.  The prophet Isaiah had warned of this destruction, and captivity at least one hundred years before it happened.

Some may ask, “Why do you put so much stock in the Bible?”  and my answer to that is, “Because, when God speaks, it comes to pass; just like He says it.”  There is not one word God speaks that has been diminished, is being diminished, or will be diminished.  That is why I was so inspired and encouraged by Ezra and the first four chapters of Nehemiah.

Someone has said, and I believe it was written by Charles H. Spurgeon; “God will not allow His children to sin successfully.”  Reading the Bible sure helps us see that.  God pulls no punches.  We can see clearly that God deals with sin.  We see also that He is gracious, and slow to anger and wrath.  He is also merciful in not giving us what we truly deserve.

According to Jeremiah’s prophecy the nation of Israel would be in Babylonian captivity for seventy years.  At the time of Ezra that seventy years has been fulfilled, and we read –

“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, ‘Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and He hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all His people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (He is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.  And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place helpa him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”  Ezra 1:1-4 (KJV)

Now here is a catcher for you.  The prophet Isaiah names the king that will do this probably 150 years or more before Cyrus is born.  How can this be?  The prophet, being inspired by God; God who knows all things; who knows the past, present and the future, and knows your name; and knew you before you were born; told the prophet what was going to happen, and to write it down.  Isaiah did –

“That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, ‘Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.’ Isaiah 44:28

‘Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.  For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel Mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known Me.”  Isaiah 45:1-4 (KJV)

In Ezra God has  put it in the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia to fulfill His word of promise to Israel/Judah and have the temple in Jerusalem rebuilt, even to providing the precious metals and all necessary costs at Persia’s expense.

God’s purpose in the captivity was to drive Israel from her sins, and to give rest to the land for the sabbath years the people had avoided to observe (2 Chronicles 36:21), and to restore their faith in Him.  In reading Ezra we read of much opposition from people of the area, even putting the work of the temple to a standstill until the king finds that it had been ordered by Cyrus years before, then the work is continued with the approval of Persia.  Haggai, and Zechariah were two prophets  who prophesied during this time, and encouraged the people to continue building without the approval of the king of Persia, until they did receive it (chapters 5 – 6).

Ezra went to encourage and lead in the temple’s rebuilding and to teach the word and law of the LORD –

“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.”  Ezra 7:10

There are some things I read in Ezra about their divorcing the foreign wives and sending them away that poses some problems. However, the problem was their sins and disobedience to the word of God, not God’s causing.  How seriously should God’s people take the matter  of holiness?  Very seriously.

Nehemiah had a burden for the building of the walls of Jerusalem.  He is sent by the king to go and rebuild the city.  He surveys the city walls, the city (chapter 2:12-20), then he challenges the people and they comply joyously with his requests.  Now see what God has wrought in the Old Testament with Judah.

Now, think of what God can do with you if you would surrender yourself to the way of Salvation which is found only through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ and His death on the cross, His burial where all our sin, guilt and condemnation was carried away as far as East is from West, and then He arose bodily from the grave; and is today seated by the Father’s right hand as our Great High Priest.  There is no one but Him who can deliver you from your sin.

Inspirational and Encourageing?  To me it definitely is.

– Tim A. Blankenship

Get Out of Babylon

Get Out of Babylon

 

There were several Jews who had chosen to remain in the places of their captivity. They had grown comfortable, even complacent, and apathetic. They had made homes for themselves, but were going to be coming under judgment if they did not get out of “Babylon”. God was about to pour out, to rain down His judgment on the nation(s) that had so badly treated His people.

The following verses speak of the then captive people of “Babylon”, but even looks further into the future of the nation of Israel. It is future even of today’s world and time.

Hear the word of the Lord:

“Up, up! Flee from the land of the north,’ says the LORD: ‘for I have spread you abroad like the four winds of heaven,’ says the LORD. ‘Up, Zion! Escape you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon.’ For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘He sent Me after glory, to the nations, which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye. For surely I will shake My hand against them, and they shall become spoil for their servants. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me.’” Zechariah 2:6-9 (NKJV).

There is surely more here in these verses than just a warning to the people in Babylon of Zechariah’s day to flee their current captors. The phrase, “I have spread you abroad like the four winds of heaven…” seem to imply they are all over the world. Babylon would have been most of the known world of that time. They were, or had been the dominant world power, but that was about to quickly subside. It had already fallen to the Persians, and would soon fall to the Greeks, and then be conquered by the Romans. God’s people were to be back in their homeland before Babylon fell.

The glory of the LORD would be seen in the fall of Babylon. Israel is the “apple of God’s eye”, and to touch His people outside of God’s hand of approval was to bring judgment on themselves. The glory of the LORD was not, or had not been seen in their captivity, but He was about to free them all, send them home, and secure His glory before the eyes of the people of Babylon and the watching world.

In procuring the glory of the LORD, the Babylonians became a spoil to the ones who had formerly been their servants. Remember when Israel left Egypt. The people gave them gold, silver, jewels, and precious gems. They were given much bounty. The same is true as they came out of Babylon.

If we will look at the present state of Jewish people we would see that many are currently in the land of Israel, and almost under duress by the nations of the world. There are also many of the Jewish people who are still all over the world. Many live here in the United States of America, many in Russia, Canada, and other parts of the world. They are “spread abroad like the four winds of heaven…”, but there will come a day, and probably very soon, when God will call them all to return to their promised land. They will receive spoils from those they have served, and then the world will know that the “LORD is God”; or as the prophet Ezekiel says it, “Then they will know that I am the LORD”; written some sixty plus times in Ezekiel’s prophecy.

There is a word from the LORD in these verses for today’s Christian as well. At a time when there seems to be a spirit of mingling with the sins of the world, an evil of co-habitating with wickedness whether it be in couples living together before marriage, or just going along to get along this is an evil that has come into the Christian family, and we do not hear the Word of the LORD, which the apostle Paul has spoken, “Come out from among them, and be separate,,’ saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” (2 Corinthians 6:17). The false teachers are telling us we have to be like the world to win the lost of the world; but that is a lie from hell. Here we are told clearly, specifically to “Come out from among them…”. Hear the Word of the Lord, and “Get Out of Babylon”.

My what a mighty and powerful God we serve. His Word is coming to pass. Will you join Him in it, ie., in His work; or will you bow out? As for me and my house we will join Him.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Jerusalem… The Throne of the LORD

Jerusalem… The Throne of the LORD

The LORD in the previous verses has spoken through the prophet to plead with Israel to return to Him. It will require them to put away their idolatry, to renew their hearts and their lives in Him. The LORD even says, “I am married to you.” (v.14). The promise is for them when they return. The problem is they have not yet returned to Him. They one day will; by God’s own promise and assurances.

“Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days,’ says the LORD, ‘that they will say no more, ‘ The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore. At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts. In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to your fathers.” Jeremiah 3:16-18 (NKJV).

If you will note this promise is conditional upon their return to Him, from their state of a backsliding heart. I have stated it before and will state it again here, though this is not my own: I think Charles H. Spurgeon has been credited with this statement, “God will not allow His children to sin successfully.” The southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel, since the reigns of Rehoboam and Jereboam, are the children of God, or the nation of God’s choosing. If you will read all of the Old Testament from the Exodus through the book of Malachi, you will find God’s hand of correction, and discipline on the two kingdoms. In them we have examples of what the Christian’s life should be like and God’s discipline upon us when we rebell and sin against Him.

The LORD’s words spoken through the prophet are spoken as an already completed thing. It is completed in the mind of God. When God says something is going to come to pass it is as good as done. You will notice that He says, “When you are mutltiplied and increased in the land…”. It is an already decided and an already accomplished event; it just needs worked out in the people’s hearts and lives. There would be coming a time when the people were going to be carried away to Babylon, and in 70 years they would return. In this return they would return as one nation once again, but this promise has much more prophetic influence than just that fulfillment. The children of the nation of Israel, are still missing the ark of the covenant; they are even looking forward to the return of the ark of the covenant.

Even when Cyrus king of Persia made proclamation for the “house of the LORD” to be built in Jerusalem, and after Nehemiah was given permission to go and rebuild the wall of the city of Jerusalem, the people were still in bondage to a foreign power. Even in the day of Jesus they were still under the powers of the Roman government. Since the Babyloninan captivity they have not really been free. In our day, though they are supposedly a free nation, they are still under the rule of Gentile governments. The United Nations and the United States of America are pretty much their ruling nations.

There will come a day when Messiah reigns in Jerusalem. That in the time and the day they will no longer be depending on the representative power and presence of the Lord, ie., the ark of the covenant; but they will have the real, full, and glorious power and presence of the LORD in person. He will be their king. How is it that some Christians want to take these promises and spiritualize them, and make them for the church? This promise has not happened yet. It has not been fulfilled. It is yet to be fulfilled; and to the letter. The amillennialist would have us believe that these events have already occured and the promise is fulfilled in the Church. The thing is, this prophecy had nothing, has nothing to do with the Church. It has to do with the people of Israel. It is dealing with a real people, in a real land, with a real city of Jerusalem; not a figurative one.

The children of Judah and Israel did come back from Babylon, after seventy years, just as Jeremiah had prophesied; but they have never had free rule of the land. It has been ruled by other nations for centuries. When, however, Jesus sits as king on “The Throne of the LORD”, then will all the nations be gathered into it. It won’t be so that they can rule, but so that they can worship the King. Jerusalem will be The Throne of the Lord.

-Tim A. Blankenship