Thursday, September 26, 2013

Preparation for War

We all are familiar with the (biblical) saying “time for peace and a time for war”.   As of late we have been hearing of wars and rumors of wars.  However, the present war that we are in, the terrorism war, has really never been fought before, and at the same time we hear “peace, peace when there is no peace.  What is all this confusion about?   Is this happening for the purpose of bringing together some one-world system?  Is it so that Islam will become the only legitimate religion in the world?  Is it to restore and bring back the tribes of Israel to their homeland?  Or is the Creator judging iniquity and sin? Whatever the reason might be, we who have been taken out of this world’s system and order, and have been transferred into the kingdom of YHVH’s beloved Son, need to focus on what the Word of YHVH says, just in case we should find ourselves in a grip of an even fiercer war.

With this in mind, let us take a look at how one of the kings of Judah faced his nation’s war-woes.  It was during the reign of King Jehoshaphat that some of the surrounding nations, Ammon, Moab, Syria and Mount Seir (Esau) were gathered together as “a great assembly” (2 Chron. 20:2) to destroy Judah/Israel.  When Jehoshaphat first heard the news of this mighty army he “feared”.  Is inflicting fear not the motivation of the terrorist packs nowadays?  We can see just how sinister this spirit is, as was illustrated this week in a mall in Kenya. None of the victims were wearing military uniforms.  With this kind of demonic mayhem, is it any wonder that the nations are spending more on protecting themselves from these religious fanatics than on any other military objective? 

What did Jehoshaphat do when he faced the same threat of annihilation from his neighbors?  Scripture records that he”set ‘natan pa’neem’ himself to seek ‘drash’ YHVH”.  “Natan pa’neem” means to give oneself, set or put oneself in a position before the face of YHVH in order to “drash”, to inquire advice of YHVH  (ref. 2 Ch. 20:3-4). Then he proclaimed a fast throughout Judea.  The Judeans gathered from many places to seek  - “baqesh” - or simply ask for divine protection.  Notice the difference between what the king did in turning to God, and the people.  As a leader, he set himself before the face of YHVH and inquired for YHVH’s counsel and wisdom.  But before he begins to make his requests, he acknowledges the Elohim whom he is addressing.  He then reminds YHVH, by way of questions, as to who He is: “YHVH, Elohim of our fathers, are You not Elohim in the heavens? And do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the heathen? And in Your hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand You? Art You not our Elohim, who did drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the seed of Abraham Your friend for ever?” (2 Chr 20:6-7).   Why did the king address YHVH in this way?  Was he himself in doubt as to who He was and what He could do?  Did the Almighty need someone to remind Him of His position and duties?  In the following statement we can see what Jehoshaphat was driving at.  Those questions came from one who knew and feared (revered) the Elohim of Abraham, and knew that what He was and what He did was all for one purpose, to glorify His name: “And they dwelt therein, and have built thee a sanctuary therein for Your name sake” (v. 8).

The king understood that if YHVH were going to move to deliver him and His people, it would not be because of their worthiness or their righteousness, as the mere fact that those nations were ‘knocking at their door’ meant that YHVH was not pleased with Judah. Listen to the following statements of the king:  “If, when evil comes upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for Your name is in this house,) and cry unto You in our affliction, then You will hear and help” (v. 9).  This is the prayer of a very wise man, who knew how to get the Elohim of the heavens to respond to his plight and the fears of the people.  This confession, and the following conclusion, demonstrated humility and complete dependence on YHVH’s sovereignty, not only over Judah, but also over those kingdoms of the enemies that were about to attack the nation (see v.6).

Here is Jehoshaphat’s concluding prayer   “O our Elohim, will You not judge them? For we have no might against this great company that comes against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon You” (v. 12).  The king, along with the men, women and children were not looking at their own chariots and horses, at their strong men with their bows, arrows and spears, neither for the shrewdness of their politicians and generals.  Their eyes were upon YHVH Elohim alone; He was their only Savior and Deliverer.  It was only then that the Spirit came to a priest/prophet and delivered YHVH’s response to their supplication, consecration and prayer. 

Jahaziel (“God will cause to see”) came to deliver the message: “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but Elohim's.
Tomorrow go down against them: behold, they come up by the cliff of Ziz; and you shall find them at the end of the brook, before the wilderness of Jeruel. You shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of YHVH with you” (v.15-17).  What wonderful words! Now they knew exactly where the enemy will be the following day, and what they (Judah) were to do.  But even better news were encapsulated by the statement: “the battle is not yours, but the Almighty’s”. 

This, however, is not the end. Even though they had this wonderful word from YHVH they still had to go to bed that night and wake up to a very unpredictable future.  They had to face their enemy, which is something we too must do. As believers, our enemies are principalities and powers in heavenly places; they come to us in the form of evil thoughts and intentions. At that time the only thing the Judeans had to stand and act upon was YHVH’s word. So too today - we must face our enemy with faith and trust in the truth of YHVH’s word.  

The following day, the king, knowing the doubts and fears of his people, encouraged them with these words:  “Believe in YHVH your Elohim, so shall you be established; believe his prophets, so shall you prosper” (20).  The Hebrew word for “established” is “te’am’nu”  - of the root a.m.n, which is “to believe”. Thus Jehoshapat addressed the nation with a play on words: “ha’aminu, ve-te’amnu”: “Believe and be established, confirmed, strong” and in particular “become credible”. In other words, by believing, trusting, giving credit to and having faith in YHVH, they themselves were becoming not only strong and established, but also “credible”.

“Praise YHVH; for his mercy endures for ever” (V.21).

Friday, September 6, 2013

Gog and Magog war

In the past few months, with the current situation in Israel, some have written, asking if we thought that this was the beginning of the Gog and Magog War. While anything is possible with YHVH, and He will ultimately fulfill His word in His way and in His time, we, who have the Holy Spirit and the scriptures, try as best we can to discern the time and season in which we are living. So with that in mind, let us take a stab at what is happening and attempt to come to some (subject to change) conclusion.

I personally do not believe that this is the time of the Gog and Magog ‘scenario’ for the following reasons: According to Ezekiel 38, which describes the times of YHVH's judgment upon Gog and Magog, that war takes place at a season in which Israel is "dwelling securely" (verses 8,10, 14).  The root for the word “securely” here is “ba’to’ach” (, meaning security, quietness, trusting, confidence, while in Aramaic it means to throw one down upon his face. Based on this definition, Israel of the pre-Gog and Magog days will have been humbled by YHVH and will come to trust Him fully. In verse 8 we read that the war takes place at the time during which the land is restored from the sword (war) and a remnant of Israelites, who have been gathered from the nations, are living on the mountains of Israel (Judea and Samaria) in a state of trust and confidence in YHVH. It seems that this condition can only come to pass after the prophetic fulfillment of Ezekiel 34-37. This is one of the main reasons for this sequel of chapters (that is, events), which climaxes in chapter 38.

Chapter 34 focuses on the condition of the lost sheep of the House of Israel.  The shepherds, or leaders, of the political and religious systems are seen as “feeding themselves” (v.2), and “eating the fat and clothing themselves with the wool” (v.3.). They dominate the flock with harshness, manipulating and controlling them for their own purposes.  They do not strengthen the sick, nor do they bind up the wounded. They do not protect those under their charge from the beasts of the field (which could mean demons), but leave them to run wild over the mountains fleeing to the high places, and do not even bother to look for them, and when they do happen to find any, they pen them up in their earthly institutions for the purpose of serving their own interests.  This seems to be the condition of the lost sheep of Israel today.  However, there is a remnant that the Shepherd of Israel, Yeshua, is calling out. This remnant He will bring back to the land and to the mountains of Israel to graze in good pastures (v.13-14).

Chapters 35 and 36 describe Israel as having some problems with Esau from Mount Seir (see Ez 35:2,12; 36:2).  The latter, together with some of his sons and cousins from the surrounding nations, are allying themselves (see Ps. 83), planning to stake a claim upon the mountains of Judea and Samaria and proclaim ownership over them (35:10). Thus, they are ridiculing Israel, saying: “Aha, the everlasting heights belong to us and have become our possession” (36:2).  But YHVH will speak in His jealousy and in His wrath against all the surrounding nations (36:5). He will gather them together, and will have them pound their agricultural equipment into military hardware. Then He will bring them down to the Valley of Jehosaphat (meaning, “His judgment”), and there He will judge them for dividing up His land and for the violence done to the sons of Judah (Jews; ref. Joel 3:2, 9-12,19).

At about this time period YHVH will lift up His standard, and recover a second time the banished ones of Ephraim and the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. Ephraim’s jealousy towards Judah will depart, and Judah’s enemies will be cut off, as together they will swoop down on the slopes of the ‘Philistines’ and plunder the sons of the east (Edom and Moab), and even the tongue of Egypt will be destroyed (Is.11:11-15). As mentioned above, the prophet Joel, who also foresaw this, concludes that the destruction resulting from this war of YHVH’s judgments will fall on the surrounding nations.

Because the Ephraimites help Judah during this war with the surrounding nations, they will possess and return to portions of Samaria, Lebanon and Gilead (Zech.10:7-10), and the nations all around will be subject to them. There will even be a highway from Assyria for the remnant of His flock (Isa. 11:16). YHVH will establish the throne of David over the united Israel, and Yeshua their Shepherd and Messiah will rule over them and prove Himself holy in them. He will make a covenant of peace with them and pour clean water upon them. YHVH will also give them His Spirit, so that they will walk in His ordinances and keep His statues and observe them (Ez. 37:21-28). They will live securely for a thousand years, as Yeshua will rule the nations with a rod of iron through this royal priesthood and holy nation. Thus, all the nations will know that YHVH is the one who sanctified Israel, when His dwelling place is in their midst, for they will be living securely and no one will make them afraid. (Ez. 34:28).

It is at the end of this period that YHVH causes Gog and Magog to take note of His people, who are living securely. Now let us pick up the narrative from Revelation 20:7-8: “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle.” What thousand years is John speaking about?  Is he not referring directly to the chapter that precedes Ezekiel 38, the chapter that deals with the two trees, Israel and Judah, who are living securely under one kingdom authority of YHVH their God, and Messiah Son of David, as one nation in a land that was given to their forefathers, and are now no longer at strife with the surrounding nations?

The big question that is usually asked at this time goes something like this: “Is the Messiah physically present during the thousand years, or is His presence the indwelling of the Spirit of Holiness, ruling in and through His redeemed people?”

 Because I see through a smoky class, my understanding of this could change in light of progressive revelation or reality.

Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity…