Unit 7 – Return of the Exiles – # 1 A New Thing

coverrzWe left the Black Hills of South Dakota and moved to Sioux City, Iowa, in May of 1999 – almost exactly 17 years ago on the day that I started to write this lesson. We’d bought a failing business that we thought we could turn around in a matter of months. We could not have been more wrong.

We couldn’t sell our house in Rapid City, so we had to rent one when we got to Sioux City. It was a scary place over on Jones Street, but it was all we could afford. It sat on a hill, 25 steps straight up to our front door. It smelled like kitties in the living room, the basement was full of termites, the air-conditioning failed (and being from the Black Hills we weren’t used to the heat and humidity) and the windows were in such disrepair that they wouldn’t open. My dad called it “The Rock,” and he wasn’t talking about the Lord. He was referring to the Nicolas Cage/Sean Connery movie about Alcatraz. This place was that horrible.

Over the course of our first year in Sioux City, while we battled the termites, air conditioning and a flooded basement, the store that we thought we could quickly turn around was losing money left and right. It was costing money to keep it open – money that we didn’t have.

You cannot imagine how discouraged we were…and things didn’t turn around for quite a while.

In the spring of 2000 (one year later) we finally sold our home in Rapid City, and we used the money for a deposit on a little bit better rental and got out of that scary place on Jones. We were still losing money through the store, hand over fist, but this next rental had working air conditioning, and all of the windows opened but one, but Jim had needle nose pliers and that solved that problem.

And somewhere in that spring of 2000 I found myself at the Christian book store. I couldn’t afford to be there, but there I was looking for a Bible study to help me understand my circumstances. For whatever reason, I pulled a paperback off the shelf entitled Ezra, flipped it over and read the back cover. The description was enticing. For many years I’d been what I’d call a New Testament Christian, but I didn’t know anything about my Old Testament. This little study promised to tell me all about the return of the Jews from their Babylonian exile. It said that it would go into great detail about how everything happened, and the corresponding reasons.

Well, I used the last few bucks I had on one of my credit cards and took it home. I started on it the moment I arrived. The first thing it said to do was get some colored pencils – I didn’t have those, and I’d just used my last ounce of credit to by the book. So I thought I’d just use a regular pencil and see what happened.

The problem was that I was supposed to draw different symbols, dashes, circles – all kinds of stuff – in a color-coded format. It was the most complicated thing I had ever undertaken (remember, I make pizza for a living) and I was only a paragraph into the thing.

The further I went into the study, the more complicated it became. I couldn’t figure out what had happened to these Jewish people and why on earth they were living in a Babylonian exile! Though, I did relate to their suffering. I honestly saw a parallel to my own exile in Sioux City, Iowa. I wanted to go home to my beloved Black Hills of South Dakota more than you could ever imagine. And here I was, stuck in a hot, humid hell-hole, losing money hand over fist, trying to learn something from a nonsensical Bible study. I remember thinking, “My God doesn’t make things this complicated…but Satan does.”

I closed the book and threw it in the trash. I sat down and I started to read my Bible from Genesis forward, and now I know what happened to those Jewish people. I know their kings and their prophets, and I know how it pertains to me living in the light of Christ Almighty.

Look with me at a promise that the LORD made through Isaiah. The context is the Israelites’ redemption from their captivity in Babylon, and it speaks to the intense thirst they have for God – remember those dry bones we talked about last week – God is going to satisfy that thirst.

19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;     now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness     and rivers in the desert. 20 The wild beasts will honor me,     the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness,     rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, 21     the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise. Isaiah 43:19-20 esv

I am doing a new thing…

water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, drink to my chosen people…

The captives are going to call out to God in the midst of their spiritual drought. In captivity, they will know they’re dry as a bone. The captives will at last take responsibility for their thirst, and God will satisfy their thirst. He’s going to do a new thing, which speaks to a new time of forgiveness. They will be redeemed from out of Babylon, and blessed with God’s holy Presence.

And not only does this new thing happen to the Jewish people in exile, but a new thing can happen to us right here in Sioux City, Iowa – I am confident of this, because a new thing happened to me! When I finally took responsibility for my own thirst, God soaked me with rivers in the desert.

Now as we begin the account in Ezra, and as we read the records of the returning Exiles, keep in mind that Ezra is just writing this account. He does not go to Jerusalem in the first wave of returnees.

1In 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, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:

“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” Ezra 1:1-4 esv

So here we have a Gentile ruler, which is to say, a worldly king who does not believe in the God of the Jewish people, making a proclamation in writing giving credit to the God in heaven who’s house is in Jerusalem for his victory and resultant enrichment. Nebuchadnezzar made a similar profession of faith, but only after he’d spent seven years eating grass on his hands and knees.

Cyrus, on the other hand, points out that he’s received the kingdoms of the earth from the God of the Jews in the midst of his blessing. He does not have to be brought low (like Nebuchadnezzar) in order to see from where his blessing originated.

Is this a profession of faith? Possibly. We have to keep it in context however, and the passage begins with: the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus.

Remember, 1The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. Proverbs 21:1 esv

As well, if we take just a peek into the local history of the time it appears that Cyrus genuinely sought to mollify all of his captive peoples, whether Jewish or otherwise, for the benefit of their gods during his rule.

And not only does Cyrus, in writing, declare that God has blessed him, but he tells the Jews that God has requested of him to suggest that they go back to Jerusalem to rebuild God’s house – the holy temple that was destroyed when they were exiled into Babylon.

This would be the equivalent of a worldly unbeliever in our day age coming up to a believer and saying something like: I believe that your God has blessed me with abundance, and He also told me to tell you to get your act together. And think about rebuilding your temple so that you may worship properly in His house – oh, and by the way, here’s a little financing to get you started.

How many of us are going to listen to that?

Well, probably some of us – but not very many, especially if we’re prospering right where we are, like many of the Jewish people were at this time. And if we don’t see anything wrong in our exile, and we consider ourselves blessed in affliction, we’re not going to open ourselves up for potential discouragement.

However, if we’re loving the Lord with all our hearts, all our souls and all our minds, we’re going to hear startling truth in Cyrus’ words. We’re going to be on board with rebuilding our temple, which in our day and age is our body (individually and corporately).

Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem. Ezra 1:5 esv

So the Jewish people are going back…at least some of them. What’s important to realize in the above verse is that God is always moving and calling out to us—it’s up to us to respond, i.e., “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers serviced beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15-16 niv 1984

So some of the Jews are going back to rebuild – the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites with all whose spirits God had moved.

One thing my commentaries pointed out was that a probable reason for such a small amount of returnees was the fact that the northern kingdom had been exiled about 135 years prior to the Judean exile (so approximately 200 or more years in exile). For instance, let’s say England in 1775 exiled our forefathers to America. Well, we’ve been born and raised here. I don’t want to go to England and start over no matter what kind of a deal they offer me! No matter what my roots were 200 years ago, my family and my heritage is here.

ALSO, they knew that their land (back in Judah) had been “resting” or experiencing a “Sabbath” for 70 years—it wasn’t pastures, farmland and villages anymore. Much of their land had reverted back to a wilderness and required resettling. This was going to be dangerous.

And besides wilderness, there were people there, just to the north, who really didn’t want the Jews coming back and starting up their religion again.

Remember when the northern kingdom was exiled… 24 And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel. And they took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities…

And there’s a plague of lions, and so the king of Assyria sends a priest from out of his batch of exiles to teach the transplants how to worship Jehovah, and that gets rid of the lions…but:

29 …every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the shrines of the high places that the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities in which they lived…

33 So they feared the Lord but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away. 2nd Kings 17:24-33 esv

And the new race that came out of those people, the Samaritans, do not want anything to do with the pure worship of Jehovah, which the exiles intend to restore – and God stirs up enough of these exiles to make a profound difference in what will take place in Jerusalem.

When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, Ezra 3:1-2a esv

First things, first; they will worship.

28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29 esv

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,     ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;     worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. Psalm 29:1-2 esv

…they built the altar of the God of Israel to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. They set the altar in its place, Ezra 3:2b-3a esv

Most likely this means that they put the altar back into its original footprint.

They set the altar in its place for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening. Ezra 3:3 esv

And they start to obey completely the Law of Moses, maintaining the burnt offerings and the feasts as prescribed by Moses. This was a sacrificial worship. In our day and age it would be our time, talent and treasure. (References were in homework). Fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and that’s these Samaritans. They are terrified of these people bringing trouble into their midst, and so the Jews start to worship in the ways that God gave Moses. Worship is their solution to fear. They gathered as one man… Ezra (3:1), so we know that the community is united in a common cause, and that’s in their worship of the Lord God Almighty.

It takes about 14 months after they’ve returned to Jerusalem to get the foundation of the temple in order. So far it doesn’t seem as if the Samaritans that they fear have tried to meddle in their plans, so they begin to rebuild the temple.

10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,

“For he is good,     for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”

And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away. Ezra 3:10-13 esv

Not everyone in this unified community was happy about the foundation. The older members of the community remembered the splendor of Solomon’s temple, and when they saw its itty-bitty replacement, they wept with a loud voice.

Here’s the deal, God had asked the Israelites, over and over again, (and there were some among the returnees who remembered this) “…consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy…” (Leviticus 11:44) but they’d lived such unholy lives that now their temple was a shambles, and they knew it—their sins had manifested themselves into a pile of rubble. God’s chosen people “My peculiar treasure” (Exodus 19:5 KJV) suddenly saw their lust and greed for what it was, and they were filled with sorrow.

Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” Ezra 4:1-2 esv

 The adversaries (NIV 1984 uses the translation enemies) of Judah and Benjamin come along and offer their “help” in the rebuilding. These folks would be the Samaritans we just read about in 2nd Kings. They’re sort of like the Mafia. They’re enemies. They are completely different from the Israelites, and everyone knows it. Why on earth are they offering their “help?” Thankfully, the Jewish leadership knows what’s up.

 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.” Ezra 4:3 esv

In other words, “You can’t help us because we know you’re not holy and pure in your worship. Besides, we’re working under authority of the king!”

Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build Ezra 4:4 esv

Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, Ezra 4:4 kjv

 and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. Ezra 4:3-5 esv

The exiles were deeply grieved and repentant when they saw that teeny little foundation, yet they continued to rebuild their temple – their place of worship. But then Satan, under the pretense of philanthropy, comes along and offers to help them.

This is an incredible parallel as regards our own personal walks with God. Oftentimes we assume that Satan will always come at us with blatant, obnoxious force, and we couldn’t be more wrong. Sometimes he comes quietly, in the form of a “helper.”

If we are truly repentant and we’re trying to clean up our act, what in the world do we want with people, whose beliefs don’t line up with our Scriptures, giving us advice on how and where we should worship? And perhaps, can they help us in that worship?

George Williams said of these “helpers,” they

…induce Christian people to accept in spiritual efforts the cooperation of persons who are not true followers of Christ.

—George Williams, The Complete Bible Commentary

They are God’s enemies, plain and simple. Their beliefs don’t line up with what we find in His Word. Their intention is not to “help” you. They are Pretenders and you need to avoid them.

So, these enemies of Judah and Benjamin, the Samaritan Mafia, Pretenders, offer their “help,” and when the Israelites refuse, the Pretenders go into subvert and destroy mode – just like any good Mafia operative would.

 They bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose… esv

The KJV says hired; the NIV says bribed officials to work against them.

“Hired guns” would be the appropriate present-day terminology. The Samaritans paid the local Mafia to take care of the problem.

Discourage, frighten, frustrate, scheme, gossip – these are tools of the Pretender. If you reject a Pretender’s false overtures, you’re gonna pay.

This is an old, old scheme of the devil. He is not particularly creative, and he uses the same old tricks to divert and distract us away from our purpose in God that he always has. What’s really alarming is that we always fall for it!

I’ve actually had this same trick played on me, right here in this century. I had just started my writing ministry, and I wasn’t prepared for the Pretender. I wound up accepting help from a full-blown Pretender. When I realized what I’d gotten myself into, I separated from the Pretender’s “help.” That ole Pretender flipped out and made so much trouble for me that my ministry came to a standstill, and I had a serious crisis in my faith.

24 Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. Ezra 4:24 esv

24Thus the work on the House of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. Ezra 4:24 niv 1984

Discourage, frighten, frustrate, scheme, gossip.

But God knew that all that would happen, so He already had a plan of encouragement in place – because nothing is going to stop Him from doing His new thing.

God is the flawless inventor of our encouragement. And just like He did with me, He will get these Israelites back on track! God used faithful servants to minister to me at my lowest point and do a new thing in me. In two weeks we will see how He used two faithful prophets to do a new thing in Israel.

But those who prophesy are speaking to people to give them strength, encouragement, and comfort. 1st Corinthians 14:3 ncv

September 25, 2016 PDF

Worksheet to prepare for class on October 9, 2016 2-back-to-work-part-i-encouragement-worksheet

© 2016, Ta`Mara Hanscom

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Unit # 7 – Return of the Exiles (Intro) Exiled in the World They Loved

coverrzI love the Old Testament! Its rich history reveals to us the power and majesty of our living God, and His work within us!

16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, Ephesians 3:16-20 esv

Honestly, I don’t think any of us can have an appreciation for the life of Christ within us unless we know about His historical power in the Old Testament.

Last spring we left off our studies with the people of Judah being taken into exile in Babylon – some of this will be review, especially if you read the prophetic Scriptures over the summer months. But also, we’ll fill in the big Biblical blank between the time the Israelites were taken into captivity and when Cyrus decreed to set them free.

The exile of the Israelites is easy to see from our side of their history. We have the Scriptures to look back on and study, and can watch each step they made in the wrong direction. Though they’d been warned against making friends with the world around them, the Israelites couldn’t seem to help themselves. From Genesis forward it looks as if they always wanted to keep just one little toe in a friendship with the world.

James warns us: What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:1-4 esv

God considers our worship of anything other than Him adultery – you adulterous people!

For the Israelites, their adultery in their relationship with God involved casting aside His perfect Law and participating in fertility rites and child sacrifice lifted up in the names of many of the gods in their surrounding nations and communities. Furthermore, they’d brought these abominations into God’s house.

God, through prophets and His own Angel, warned them over and over again that they would be punished for their adultery, but they wouldn’t listen.

Jeremiah preached:

30 “For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the Lord. They have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. 31 And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. 32 Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Topheth, because there is no room elsewhere. 33 And the dead bodies of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the beasts of the earth, and none will frighten them away. Jeremiah 7:30-33 esv

I don’t know about you, but that sounds to me like the potential for a valley of dry bones! Which is where we are going to pause for just a little bit. Please turn with me to Ezekiel 37.

A young priest, Ezekiel, exiled in Babylon, was given a vision of dry bones:

1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. Ezekiel 37:1-2 esv

The dry bones that Ezekiel envisioned were not only those who’d perished in judgment, but they represented the dry spiritual state of the exiles. They’d turned from a gracious, loving God, smack dab into a violent religion. They were so spiritually dry they were nothing but a garbage pile of bones.

The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, had been given power from God to remove the Israelites from the Promised Land – and the survivors were taken to his country, where they served that nation for 70 years. And while they were there, God told the Israelites to pray for the peace of the city of their exile, plant gardens, build houses, get married, have more sons and daughters…and get them married off as well.

12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. Jeremiah 29:12-14 esv

As they were exiled, the Israelites’ mouths were closed for their God. But God knows that after a time in exile their voices would call out to Him, and Him alone, and He’s going to hear them and bring them back to the Promised Land…

Which brings us back to Ezekiel’s vision:

3And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 37:3-6 esv

O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord…

These dried up, religion-loving exiles need to hear the word of the Lord so that they can be restored to their relationship with I AM – their Creator, and their God.

7So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.

Sound = voice;

rattling (some translations say shaking) = earthquake.

So there are these skeletons sort of rattling around…just some empty bones. But there’s been a voice and an earthquake…And there are a couple of ways this can be interpreted.

Literally, it’s God’s voice calling the Israelites out of their spiritual graves. But I love what George Williams wrote about this verse:

The commanding voice of Cyrus caused a political earthquake and raised the exiles out of their captivity grave…

—George Williams, The Complete Bible Commentary

2nd Chronicles and Ezra 1 both report that the heart of Cyrus was stirred up or moved by the Lord to show immense favor for the captive Jews. One cannot imagine the political unrest when this mass exodus of a captive people is ordered by the king.

 8And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them.

So these rattling around skeletons are clothed in some beauty. The human body in all of its complexities is a beautiful thing – But there was no breath…

The Hebrew for breath can also be translated spirit. These beautiful bodies had no spirit in them.

You know, we can look really good on the outside, but on the inside we are still dead.

The Pharisees were beautiful – on the outside – and Jesus scolded them for it:  26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:26-28 esv

You haven’t taken My ways to heart. You’re just faking your way through it, hoping to impress others with your appearance! But I know what’s missing within you – it’s My Spirit.

There’s a lot of knowledge packed into this Book, and I love every word. But for as much as I pack into my head, if I don’t take any of it to heart, and if I don’t bow before the One who wrote the words, then I’m just impressing those on the outside – those who listen to my knowledge, those who are impressed with my studies. And that’s not the audience I should be worried about.

Thankfully God has already implemented a plan to fix that! And the vision of Ezekiel is a double prophecy, richly illustrating not only what’s getting ready to happen to the exiles (who are so filled with phony religion), but also a future plan for us.

9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

11Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off. ‘ 12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.” Ezekiel 37:7-14 esv

Jesus promised: 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

We can be dead at times – just like those dry bones – but then our Savior speaks into His creation and we hear His voice. Now, whether or not we answer is up to us… 28…an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. John 5:25-29 esv

O dry bones, you’d better hear the word of the Lord!

Last year we left off in the final stages of Judah’s judgment and captivity all due to their not hearing the word of the Lord. And though the Bible isn’t specific on those 70 years, I looked at several ancient historians and pieced together what happened to the Israelites (and the Babylonians) before Cyrus came along and set the captives free – speaking to them the word of the LORD!

The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, took whoever had survived the lengthy siege back to Babylon, where they were to serve that kingdom. And while Nebuchadnezzar ruled (about 43 years), Babylon prospered – but as soon as he was gone there was quite a bit of civil unrest and Babylon started to change governments left and right.

After Nebuchadnezzar died, his son, Evil-merodach, ascended the throne, and the Babylonian government went into a complete upheavel.

According to historians, Evil-merodach released King Jehoiachin (the Judean king who’d lived in exile for 37 years – which we do have in our Biblical history) within moments of the beginning of his reign. And apparently it upset the oligarchy so much that after only a couple of years, Evil-merodoch was assassinated in a coup possibly instigated by his sister’s husband – who’d been a high ranking official in Nebuchadnezzar’s army. His name was Neriglissar.

Neriglissar appears to have been a peaceful ruler as there’s no evidence of war or anything like that during his reign. He was reported to have died a natural death only 4 years later, and his son, Labashi-Marduk, ascended the throne. He was quite young – historians refer to him as a child king – and his rule lasted only 9 months. Neriglissar, his father had not been of royal blood, and so it appears from different historical writings that the priestly party of the time decided to end that dynasty and they appointed a sort of statesman of the time. His name was Nabonidus.

Nabonidus actually married Nerglissar’s widow (which was Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter), and they had a son named Belshazzar – whom we become familiar with in the book of Daniel.

According to my Chronological Study Bible, Nebonidus actually left Babylon in the hands of his fairly incompetent son (Belshazzar) in order to live in an oasis in the Arabian dessert so that he could worship the moon god, Sin.

So the Persians decide to take advantage of this. And one night while Belshazzar is partying it up with his harem and one thousand of his closest friends, drinking wine from the holy vessels of God Almighty, he was slain and the kingdom of Babylon was given into the hand of Darius the Mede.

Darius is either a throne name for King Cyrus, or it’s the name of the governor that Cyrus put in charge of Babylon. At any rate, when we hear about Darius we can interchange his name with Cyrus.

The prophet Isaiah had foretold the Babylonian decline 200 years before it happened, and then he named the king who would deliver Israel out of exile.

28…Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,

and he shall fulfill all my purpose’;

saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’

 and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid. ‘”

1 Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,

 whose right hand I have grasped,

to subdue nations before him

and to loose the belts of kings,

to open doors before him

that gates may not be closed:

2 “I will go before you

and level the exalted places,

 I will break in pieces the doors of bronze

and cut through the bars of iron,

3 I will give you the treasures of darkness

and the hoards in secret places,

that you may know that it is I, the Lord,

the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

4 For the sake of my servant Jacob,

and Israel my chosen,

 I call you by your name,

 I name you, though you do not know me.

5 I am the Lord, and there is no other,

besides me there is no God;

 I equip you, though you do not know me…Isaiah 44:28 – Isaiah 45:5 esv

God had formed Cyrus, and even though Cyrus didn’t know who God was, God called him by his name. Page back with me to Ephesians 3:14 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named…

Cyrus, according to Josephus, had heard of this prophecy of Isaiah. It was supposed to the early historians of Biblical history, that this was why Cyrus sought to restore the exiles to their homeland, and rebuild their temple and city. And that may be so, however, our sacred record says that: the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia 2nd Chronicles 36:22besv

1The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. Proverbs 21:1 esv

God’s hand was on Cyrus’ heart, so whether or not he knew about Isaiah’s prophecy, Cyrus was still God’s servant.

At this point in history, the Jews have been through many government changes and wars, however, now with Cyrus at the helm of Persian leadership, if they so choose, the Jews are free to go home.

The freedom granted to the Jewish exiles is so cognate to our salvation in that while we are set free from sin and indwelled with the Holy Spirit, our physical bodies remain exiles from heaven here on earth.

And as we go through the Biblical history of the rebuilding of their worship and their temple, we’re going to be able to relate and sympathize with their struggles. Which is another reason I love Old Testament history! We’re living the same things right here in present day.

Because, let’s face it, we are just a beautiful bag of bones, clanging around without lives until God puts his breath into us.

Paul said about the Old Testament ancients who turned from God to idolatry that …these things took place as examples for us, that we might not *desire evil as they did. 1st Corinthians 10:6 esv

*friendship with the world

We can look upon each and every struggle that Israel experienced and learn from their sin and destruction. And if we pay attention to this sacred history, gifted to us by a holy God who loves us, I can guarantee we’ll avoid a lot of the heartache that we see the rest of the world experiencing. Not only that, but we’ll expose the glory of our Creator, casting a brilliant light in the darkness, and snatching many from the fire. (Matthew 5:14-16; Jude 17-24)

© 2016 Ta`Mara Hanscom

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Worksheet to prepare for class on September 25, 2016 1-a-new-thing-worksheet

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Ladies’ Sunday School begins September 18, 2016

coverrzThe exile of the Israelites is easy to see from our side of their history. We have the Scriptures to look back on and study, and can watch each step they made in the wrong direction. Though they’d been warned against making friends with the world around them, the Israelites couldn’t seem to help themselves. From Genesis forward it looks as if they always wanted to keep just one little toe in a friendship with the world…

Join us on Sunday, September 18, 2016, for our new unit in Rebuilding the Temple, Return of the Exiles. We’ll be meeting at 10:30 a.m. Lessons and worksheets will be posted here the following week. Come in person, or follow us on this blog.

© 2016, Ta`Mara Hanscom

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To Change A Heart

What I notice the most about politicians, as they endeavor to win my vote, is that they continually promise to change the existing laws – always in order to benefit a certain class of people. Whether to benefit those who want the laws to obtain abortion kept without change (or even augmented), or whether to benefit that class of business men and women who desire to keep a larger portion of the money that they earn, the bottom line on a politician’s promise is to change the law.

And speaking of the law…

Over these past few years I’ve been up to my ears in Old Testament law and history. My ladies’ Sunday school class has studied (in-depth) the rise and fall of Israel from their inception, all the way to their judgment and exile. God gave them many, many laws to follow, all of which were for their benefit. Unfortunately, they managed to follow only a very few.

God’s first command to Israel was: “You shall have no other gods before me.  “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them… Exodus 20:3-5a esv

Well, Israel fell into idol worship, and not only did they carve images and bow down to them, but they served and prayed to these images as well. And the service required to worship these idols was horrific. Many Israelite children were given in sacrifice (burned to death) in order to satisfy the idols their parents had carved for themselves.

God said to Israel, through the prophet Jeremiah: 30 “For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the Lord. They have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. 31 And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. Jeremiah 7:30-31 esv

God didn’t give a command (law) requiring child sacrifice, and in the end Israel and Judah were exiled and judged, in part, because of what they’d done to their children. Had they followed God’s good law, things would have been vastly different for them.

Which brings me back to these politicians who promise to change the law…

As I was thinking about this the other day it occurred to me that when God sought to reach humanity He didn’t start revising His perfect law. Instead, He set about to change hearts. He sent His only Son to minister and die for us so that our hearts would be changed in His goodness.

When the church in the Book of Acts starting living for the glory of Jesus Christ, 42 they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 esv

…with glad and generous hearts…

God, through the extravagant gift of Jesus Christ, changed the hearts of the people. Their possessions became irrelevant; fellowship took a center role in their community. They aided the impoverished, they reached out to the lost, and they won a reputation of grace. They praised their God, and He added to their congregations. They operated with glad and generous hearts, and they, in turn, were able to change the hearts of many. What a beautiful cycle.

God promised, through the prophet Ezekiel, And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26 esv

That new Spirit comes from a belief in our beloved Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who promised to send the Comforter. The church in Acts renounced their sin and turned from their deceitful ways. They believed that Jesus had died for them and was resurrected for them, and they became brand new creations.

Beloved, it’s not about changing laws in order to make things better in this nation – more than anything we should seek to change the hearts of the people most near us. Whatever one can do, that he/she should do. Can you pray for someone who is suffering? Can you share a meal? Can you give a ride? Can you give some of your clothing? Can you pay a medical bill? Can you pay the rent? What can you do?

And, to be clear, I’m not advocating skipping the ballot box. I believe it’s an awesome privilege as well as a duty to vote. Whatever political platform lines up with my Biblical belief, that’s the way I lean.

But in the meantime, let us set out to change hearts instead of laws. Laws will always be broken, even the Laws of God Almighty. But when God changes a heart, it will change forever.

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 esv

© 2016, Ta`Mara Hanscom

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Unit # 6 Kings & Prophets – # 11 The Sons of Josiah Part I – Shallum & Eliakim

neo-babylonian-empireOf all the kings of Judah, only Josiah had 3 sons who sat on the throne at Jerusalem.

After all of Josiah’s victory and revival there in Jerusalem, he neglects to ask the Lord how he should proceed in one matter of war – when Pharaoh Neco goes up to help the Assyrians at Carchemish.

The Babylonian Kingdom is all over the Assyrians. Babylon had nearly completed their dominance over the region, but the Assyrians and the Egyptians wanted out from under Babylonian rule.

Josiah’s great grandfather, Hezekiah, had made a treaty with the Babylonians so he rides out to fight Neco, defending his Babylonian ally, but he only makes it as far as Megiddo.

21 But he [meaning Neco] sent envoys to him, saying, “What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you.” 22 Nevertheless, Josiah did not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to fight with him. He did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to fight in the plain of Megiddo. 23 And the archers shot King Josiah. And the king said to his servants, “Take me away, for I am badly wounded.” 24 So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in his second chariot and brought him to Jerusalem. And he died…2nd Chronicles 35:21-24a esv

Ahab did the very same thing (1st Kings 22). Right before Ahab, king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, are about to go to war against Syria for the land at Ramoth-gilead, the prophet Micaiah prophesies that it’s in this battle Ahab will fall. So, hoping to avoid injury and/or death, Ahab disguises himself – and he loses his life.

With king Josiah gone, Jerusalem goes from revival to a full-blown panic. The people take Josiah’s youngest son Shallum and anoint him king of Judah. His name becomes Jehoahaz, and he is of a mindset against Egypt. This could be perhaps why his older brother, Eliakim, is passed over for the throne by the people. Because, as events unfold it certainly appears that Eliakim desired an alliance with Egypt, instead of Babylon – whom had been a long-time friend of Judah. An alliance with Babylon would make Judah enemies of Egypt.

It can’t be ignored that Jehoahaz reinstitutes idol worship in Judah. 32 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done. 2nd Kings 23:32 esv

He was a rebellious punk, but he was the man chosen by the people – who, honestly, weren’t really that interested in a revival. As we’ve previously studied, they were plotting to go back to idol worship during Josiah’s revival, and they were making their plans right in the Temple of the Lord!

According to the Babylonian Chronicle Neco’s campaign to the north lasted three months (July- Sept., 609 B.C.), and the Babylonians beat him badly. Nebuchadnezzar (who at the time was the crown prince of Babylon and commander of the Babylonian army) couldn’t stick around to finish off Neco because he received word that his father had died. Quickly, he had to return to Babylon in order to secure the throne.

So Neco survived, and according to 2nd Kings and 2nd Chronicles, Neco then dealt with Jehoahaz – the anti-Egypt ruler, who’s in treaty with Babylon, who’s just beat the pants off Egypt – on his way back to Egypt. …Pharaoh Neco put him in bonds at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might not reign in Jerusalem…2nd Kings 23:33a esv

In all my research, I could not find out for certain what Jehoahaz is doing in Riblah, where he is dethroned and hauled away to prison in Egypt. Riblah was Neco’s military headquarters at the time, so I’m going to take a guess that Jehoahaz is there to continue the fight against Neco, on Babylon’s behalf, hoping to overcome him in his weakened state.

Neco isn’t going to stand for that. At the first chance, he grabs the king, has him thrown in prison, and puts the eldest living son of Josiah on the throne in Jerusalem. Eliakim’s name is changed to Jehoiakim, and in doing this Neco establishes authority over all of Judah. Jehoiakim is, evidently, pro-Egyptian alliance. (And that fact will be revealed in the book of Jeremiah) He punishes the people of Judah (the ones who’d put his little brother, Shallum, on the throne ahead of him) with heavy taxation in order to support Neco’s ongoing war with Babylon.

The prophet, Jeremiah, is watching all of this go on in his country, and God gives him message after message to relate to the newest king, and his subjects.

Along with gloom, doom and despair, Jeremiah’s sermon at the Temple conveys a clear message of hope from the Lord:

It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds. Jeremiah 26:3 esv God will always forgive, if only they would listen and turn from their evil.

At this point, Egypt and Assyria have forged an alliance against the ever-growing kingdom of Babylon. Neco is rebuilding his military presence, creating a stronghold in the contested area of Carchemish, and Jehoiakim, being Neco’s ally, is probably helping him. God, through Jeremiah, is warning them of a disaster just around the corner – and it started with Carchemish.

From what I’ve been able to figure out in the history of Jeremiah, is that in the 4th year of Jehoiakim, the Babylonians beat Neco again in Charchemish. And they beat him so bad that he retreated back into Egypt. According to the Babylonian Chronicle, Nebuchadnezzar was hot on his tail and continued to war with Egypt at their border.

The reduced nation of Judah was right in the middle of this war – and they were a vassal state for Egypt, which meant that they had to support Neco.

God warns Judah, through Jeremiah, that it’s only a matter of time before Babylon invades – and what’s left of Judah will go into captivity and serve Nebuchadnezzar for 70 years. Jeremiah is very specific about this impending doom – unless they repent. God will always forgive.

Well, the leadership there in Jerusalem doesn’t care for what Jeremiah has to say. He’s almost executed for his first sermon at the Temple. And somewhere along the line, he’s banned (restricted niv1984) from the Temple and the court because of his messages.

But Jeremiah, ever faithful to his God, is not about to shut up about Judah’s dire circumstances. So, at the request and direction of the Lord, he writes a letter to God’s people.

In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.” Jeremiah 36:1-3 esv

This scroll then would have contained the prophecies of about 23 years. Everything that Jeremiah has prophesied up until this point, even including everything he said to Josiah, is going down on this scroll.

2…spoken to you against Israel and Judah…

Israel refers to the ten tribes in captivity, and God intends for this scroll to be sent to them. Judah refers to the two tribes that are about to be taken into captivity, and God intends for the scroll to be read to them.

 Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote on a scroll at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the Lord that he had spoken to him. And Jeremiah ordered Baruch, saying, “I am banned from going to the house of the Lord, so you are to go, and on a day of fasting in the hearing of all the people in the Lord’s house you shall read the words of the Lord from the scroll that you have written at my dictation. You shall read them also in the hearing of all the men of Judah who come out of their cities. It may be that their plea for mercy will come before the Lord, and that every one will turn from his evil way, for great is the anger and wrath that the Lord has pronounced against this people.” Jeremiah 36:4-7 esv

6…on a day of fasting…

This is unusual. It shows that the leadership in Jerusalem knows that something is wrong and they have to call out to God for help – and it’s obvious that they want help. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown explains:

An extraordinary fast, in the ninth month (whereas the fast on the great day of atonement was on the tenth day of the seventh month, Lev. 16:29 Lev. 23:27-32), appointed to avert the impending calamity, when it was feared Nebuchadnezzar, having in the year before (that is, the fourth of Jehoiakim), smitten Pharaoh-Necho at Carchemish, would attack Judea, as the ally of Egypt (2Ki 23:34, 35). The fast was likely to be an occasion on which Jeremiah would find the Jews more softened, as well as a larger number of them met together.

—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

But, it isn’t until about a year later that they finally call for the fast. In the meantime, Nebuchadnezzar is still fighting Neco on their back porch – and Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant for three years. 2nd Kings 24:1 esv

Nebuchadnezzar has gotten into Judah! And he’s even taken some of the hierarchy captive. This was probably when Daniel and his friends were carried off.

Judah is now a vassal state of Babylon instead of Egypt when Jeremiah’s scroll is finally read in the hearing of the princes and officials of Judah, and all of the people.

16 When they heard all the words, they turned one to another in fear. And they said to Baruch, “We must report all these words to the king.” 17 Then they asked Baruch, “Tell us, please, how did you write all these words? Was it at his dictation?” 18 Baruch answered them, “He dictated all these words to me, while I wrote them with ink on the scroll.” 19 Then the officials said to Baruch, “Go and hide, you and Jeremiah, and let no one know where you are.” Jeremiah 36:16-19 esv

Our king has killed for less, you guys need to hide, and you need to keep it a secret.

Jehoiakim’s heart is so hard that he cannot even consider repenting, even though the Babylonians have already taken citizens out of Judah, and they’re taxing the daylights out of the ones remaining. You’d think that all of the catastrophe that had befallen Jehoiakim’s people would have softened him up a bit.

20 So they went into the court to the king, having put the scroll in the chamber of Elishama the secretary, and they reported all the words to the king. 21 Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it from the chamber of Elishama the secretary. And Jehudi read it to the king and all the officials who stood beside the king. 22 It was the ninth month, and the king was sitting in the winter house, and there was a fire burning in the fire pot before him. 23 As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot. 24 Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments. 25 Even when Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them. 26 And the king commanded Jerahmeel the king’s son and Seraiah the son of Azriel and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel to seize Baruch the secretary and Jeremiah the prophet, but the Lord hid them. Jeremiah 36:20-26 esv

26…the Lord hid them.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown cross-referenced that verse with these:

19 Oh, how abundant is your goodness,     which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you,     in the sight of the children of mankind! 20 In the cover of your presence you hide them     from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter     from the strife of tongues. Psalm 31:19-20 esv

God hid them and kept them safe for His work.

But as I was thinking about the king mutilating and burning God’s Word, a portion of Romans came to mind:

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:28:32 esv

Doesn’t that sound just like what we’re learning about the Judean leadership of Jeremiah’s day? The king and all of his servants were not afraid – though the princes of the court (Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah) were obviously freaking out, urging the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen. No wonder God told Jeremiah not to pray for them (Jeremiah 7:16).

We see the same thing in our day and age. People so disrespect our God’s Word that they attempt to cut it off from anybody that it might do some good! The Bible has been thrown out of public service, into the same place that unborn babies have been discarded. Like Jehoiakim, who had undoubtedly burned alive his own children, and then mutilated and burned the Word of God, our own society does the same – and they give approval to those who practice these things.

27 Now after the king had burned the scroll with the words that Baruch wrote at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 28 “Take another scroll and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned. 29 And concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah you shall say, ‘Thus says the Lord, You have burned this scroll, saying, “Why have you written in it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and will cut off from it man and beast?” 30 Therefore thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. 31 And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the people of Judah all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, but they would not hear.’”

32 Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them. Jeremiah 36:27-32 esv

So not only was God’s Word restored, but more was added – including a specific judgment against the king himself. The king doesn’t care. He thinks that not only does he not have to listen to God, but he can rise above even the powerful Babylonian forces. In fact, during Jehoiakim’s reign, the Babylonian Chronicle reports that Nebuchadnezzar suffered a weakening of his military while fighting Neco at Egypt’s border. Scholars theorize that Jehoiakim attempted to take advantage of the situation in hopes of freeing Judah from Babylonian rule.

In his days, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant for three years. Then he turned and rebelled against him. And the Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldeans and bands of the Syrians and bands of the Moabites and bands of the Ammonites, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by his servants the prophets. Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the Lord, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also for the innocent blood that he had shed. For he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord would not pardon. Now the rest of the deeds of Jehoiakim and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers, and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his place. And the king of Egypt did not come again out of his land, for the king of Babylon had taken all that belonged to the king of Egypt from the Brook of Egypt to the river Euphrates. 2nd Kings 24:1-7 esv

2nd Chronicles adds a little bit of information to all that happened to Jehoiakim: 6…Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon … bound him in chains to take him to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar also carried part of the vessels of the house of the Lord to Babylon and put them in his palace in Babylon. 2nd Chronicles 36:6-7 esv

Jehoiakim slept with his fathers (2nd Kings)   and … bound him in chains to take him to Babylon…(2nd Chronicles)

The two accounts make it a little confusing as to what exactly happened to the king, except that he died in Jerusalem so, to me, it looks perhaps as if Jehoiakim died before Nebuchadnezzar could take him to Babylon. However, the Babylonian king loots Jerusalem, including the Temple. I find it interesting that Nebuchadnezzar takes only part of the vessels of the house of the Lord. Why didn’t he take all of them? Like, for instance, what happened to the ark of God? Did that go to Babylon, or were they not able to remove it?

Remember when the Philistines captured the ark and had possession of it (1st Samuel 4-5)? They put the ark in their temple, near their god, Dagon, and it wound up face down with its head and hands broken off. Furthermore, Philistines themselves were afflicted with tumors.

I can’t imagine then that God would allow His ark to be taken into the hands of the king of Babylon.

Josiah had the ark returned to the Temple of the Lord, and that’s the last mention of the ark in our Old Testament. It’s not mentioned again until Revelation when John sees it: 19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple…Revelation 11:19 esv

My personal theory is that God took the ark to heaven – because within it was His covenant, and both old and what would become our new covenant then were together in heaven until Jesus came.

Along with the other treasures of the temple, Babylon took some more of Judah’s citizens captive. Among them were, more than likely, a young priest named Ezekiel.

Jehoiakim’s son, Jehoiachin, is on the throne now, but he won’t be for long.

©2016, Ta`Mara Hanscom

# 11 – The Sons of Josiah Part I – Shallum & Eliakim – Narrative WP

Worksheet for April 24, 2016 # 12 – Worksheet

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Unit # 6 Kings & Prophets – # 10 – A Catalyst

I apologize for having not posted these lessons until now. Thank you for your patience.

Kings & Prophets Cover… Jesse [was] the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh…Matthew 1:6-10 esv

Just as I started to study for this particular lesson I began reading the book of Matthew during my personal time with the Lord…and as I read through the genealogy of Jesus, I had to smile. I know all the players now! I didn’t used to. In fact, before, when I’d read the book of Matthew, I’d just skip over that part because I couldn’t pronounce all the names. Besides, it was boring. What could these names ever possibly mean to me? But, now, as I read through the list again, I see the glaring omissions of several of the kings of Judah, and even one wicked queen.

If you’ve hung on with me in this series (Rebuilding the Temple), which we started in September of 2013, then you know exactly what I’m talking about here, because we’ve all come to learn these players together. Each one of them played a major role in the unfolding of God’s sacred history with Israel – and us.

In the genealogy that I just listed I zeroed in on only the kings, though we did start with Adam and Eve, and I ended with Manasseh because he is a catalyst in the line of events that will eventually lead to Judah’s exile.

My Webster’s Desktop defines catalyst:

…an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action.

After all Manasseh’s father, Hezekiah had been through, and all the reformation that he led, you’d think he would have been the catalyst for Judah. Unfortunately, his righteous influence on the people of Judah was short-lived. Once wicked Manasseh ascended the throne, evil prevailed.

What I hope to learn from Manasseh is that our words, actions and examples leave indelible marks on those who watch and listen to us.

Jesus said, 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37 esv

Words mean a whole lot more than we give them credit.

Manasseh’s reign is both the longest and the most wicked in all of Judah and Israel. The narratives in 2nd Kings and 2nd Chronicles give a vivid picture of how Manasseh governed Judah. He reinstituted idol worship, even going so far as to rebuild the high places that his own father had torn down. He reintroduced the worship of Baal and Asherah (from the family of Ahab), and he established reverence for the stars (perhaps something he picked up from his grandfather Ahaz?) He used witchcraft and consulted with mediums. He even went so far as to sacrifice his own son.

Manasseh was much like Ahaz in that he never met an idol he didn’t like.

10 And the Lord said by his servants the prophets, 11 “Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these abominations and has done things more evil than all that the Amorites did, who were before him, and has made Judah also to sin with his idols, 12 therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 2nd Kings 21:10-12 esv

God’s servants the prophets, in verse 10, were probably Nahum and for sure Isaiah – though there may have been unnamed prophets ministering as well.

An unnamed prophet records this statement in 2nd Kings:

13 And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 2nd Kings 21:13 esv

Nahum would not have been a threat to Manasseh and Judah, as he was preaching destruction against Assyria. Assyria was still large and in charge of their region, including Babylon – which Hezekiah had a treaty.

On the other hand, the prophet Isaiah may have incensed wicked King Manasseh with the prophecy of the plumb line of verse 13. And I think it’s Isaiah’s prophecy being referenced in those verses from 2nd Kings because of what I found in his book:

14 Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers,     who rule this people in Jerusalem!

Manasseh being the current ruler.

15 Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death,

This would be human sacrifice, which the king was into.

    and with Sheol we have an agreement, when the overwhelming whip passes through     it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge,     and in falsehood we have taken shelter”;… 17 And I will make justice the line,     and righteousness the plumb line; Isaiah 28:14-17 esv

This speaks back to verse 13 in 2nd Kings 21 above.

Isaiah’s message was aimed straight at Jerusalem’s leadership, and that was Manasseh. Skip down to verse 16 with me.

16 Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he made Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. 2nd Kings 21:16 esv

This innocent blood would not only be the blood of child sacrifice, but it indicates righteous blood as well – perhaps the blood of righteous prophets. Josephus wrote that Manasseh ordered daily executions. And, according to the Assumption of Isaiah, Manasseh had the prophet Isaiah sawn in two. The writer of Hebrews spoke of the prophets,

…Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two…Hebrews 11:35b-37a esv

What a horrible picture it paints for Judah in Manasseh’s time.

1Therefore the Lord brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon. 12 And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13 He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God. 2nd Chronicles 33:11-13 esv

Though Manasseh was born after Hezekiah’s reforms, trials and repentance, he must have had a thorough knowledge of his father’s faith because when his distress gets bad enough Manasseh repents to his God (see verse 12). Hezekiah’s words of God and his faith in a holy Creator left a mark on Manasseh, so much so that it brought him to conversion there in the prison, and for that God brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom.

And once he gets home to Jerusalem he tries to undo the damage that he’s done, but it’s too late. His words and faithlessness had already left a permanent mark on his son, Amon. As soon as Manasseh passes away and Amon, takes over leadership, he goes right back into idolatry and evil.

The wicked reign of Amon is described in only eight verses in the book of 2nd Kings, and four verses in the book of 2nd Chronicles. But look with me for a second at a portion of the account in 2nd Kings 21:

23 And the servants of Amon conspired against him and put the king to death in his house.

Amon’s father Manasseh had just recently led a revival and reformation in the land. Could it be perhaps that these same servants, who had served Manasseh, were drawn into a revival with their king? And when his son reinstitutes idol worship, these faithful servants rise up and kill him intending to maintain the revival. If that’s truly how it was, then Manasseh’s good words left a mark as well. But there’s more to the story…

 24 But the people of the land struck down all those who had conspired against King Amon, and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his place.

Keep in mind that Josiah is only eight years old here. Perhaps (big PERHAPS here) the people of the land, Judah’s citizens, weren’t as sold on repentance and revival as Manasseh and his servants. Perhaps they liked the way Amon was running the kingdom, and they killed these servants in fear of what they might teach young Josiah.

 …26 And he was buried in his tomb in the garden of Uzza… 2nd Kings 21:23-26 esv

Amon is buried, with his father, in the garden of a leper – recall King Uzziah had been stricken with leprosy because of his irreverence in the temple of the Lord. 2nd Chronicles 33:23 niv 1984 gives us another clue: …unlike his father Manasseh, he did not humble himself before the Lord; Amon increased his guilt. And I cannot help but wonder if it’s Amon’s irreverence that lands him in the garden of a leper, remembered in the sacred record for all eternity.

We will be held to account for every careless word.

Josiah is only eight years old when he comes into his kingdom, and we know he’s going to be a good king right away: For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. 2nd Chronicles 34:3 esv

The young king was only 16 years old then when he began to seek the Lord, and then only 20 when he started reformation. Also, Jeremiah is called by God just a year later: …the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. Jeremiah 1:2 esv

Jeremiah has the same relationship with King Josiah as had Isaiah with King Hezekiah.

Jeremiah and Josiah may have been boys together, and Jeremiah was possibly involved in the conversion of King Josiah.

As soon as the young king begins to seek out the Lord, he realizes that Judah is in big trouble with her idolatry, and so he starts to tear down phony altars and high places.

…in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them. And he broke in pieces the Asherim and the carved and the metal images, and he made dust of them and scattered it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 34:3-5 esv

If you recall, when we were studying the division of the kingdom and the idolatry of Jeroboam, a man of God came to Bethel and prophesied Josiah by name.

That prophecy was fulfilled at this same time that Josiah began his reformation.

15 Moreover, the altar at Bethel, the high place erected by Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, that altar with the high place he pulled down and burned, reducing it to dust. He also burned the Asherah. 16 And as Josiah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar and defiled it, according to the word of the Lord that the man of God proclaimed, who had predicted these things. 17 Then he said, “What is that monument that I see?” And the men of the city told him, “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and predicted these things that you have done against the altar at Bethel.” 18 And he said, “Let him be; let no man move his bones.” So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came out of Samaria. 19 And Josiah removed all the shrines also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which kings of Israel had made, provoking the Lord to anger. He did to them according to all that he had done at Bethel. 20 And he sacrificed all the priests of the high places who were there, on the altars, and burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem. 2nd Kings 23:15-20 esv

The account in 2nd Chronicles says that Josiah went to the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, and as far as Naphtali, in their ruins all around…2nd Chronicles 34:6 esv

Apparently, Assyria during this time period had started to lose ground in what had once been the Northern Kingdom because Josiah was allowed to tear down those altars from within the ruins.

When he gets back to Jerusalem, he starts to make repairs to the temple of the Lord – and that’s when there’s a startling discovery.

14 While they were bringing out the money that had been brought into the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord given through Moses. 15 Then Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan.

I love how Hilkiah refers to it as the Book of the Law. Notice that as we read on.

 16 Shaphan brought the book to the king, and further reported to the king, “All that was committed to your servants they are doing. 17 They have emptied out the money that was found in the house of the Lord and have given it into the hand of the overseers and the workmen.” 18 Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it before the king.

To Shaphan it is just a book, nothing any different from any other book.

19 And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes. 2nd Chronicles 34:14-19 esv

Words mean something – especially God’s words.

Up until now, King Josiah has been hammering out a physical revival. He’s going through a lot of outward changes in his kingdom, probably hoping to rally all of Israel into a revival. But, upon hearing the words of the Lord, Josiah is deeply convicted.

Tearing of one’s clothing was a sign of deep grief in our Old Testament, but also one of repentance.

Josiah heard God’s word and immediately he has to inquire of the Lord. It’s been a long time since a king has inquired of the Lord. But the small delegation is sent over to Huldah, the wife of Shallum (who might have been the uncle of Jeremiah) and she doesn’t have very good news for them.

24 Thus says the Lord, Behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the curses that are written in the book that was read before the king of Judah. 25 Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands, therefore my wrath will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched. 26 But to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, 27 because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and its inhabitants, and you have humbled yourself before me and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. 28 Behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place and its inhabitants.’” And they brought back word to the king. 2nd Chronicles 34:24-28 esv

And what’s really remarkable is that when the king hears that judgment is inevitable for his kingdom, he renews the covenant with the Lord, and he does this with whatever remnant is available from the Northern Kingdom. This is a spiritual revival.

32 Then he made all who were present in Jerusalem and in Benjamin join in it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. 33 And Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel and made all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord, the God of their fathers. 2nd Chronicles 34:32-33 esv

Notice how he made them to join in, and then he made them serve the Lord their God.

Make no mistake, Josiah is sold-out for the Lord his God, but there were those within the kingdom who would have just as well left everything the way it was.

Even after the extravagant Passover, the account in 2nd Kings 23:26-27 niv 1984 says: 26Nevertheless, the Lord did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had done to provoke him in anger. 27So the Lord said, “I will remove Judah also from my presence as I removed Israel, and I will reject Jerusalem, the city I chose, and this temple, about which I said, ‘There shall my Name be’ ”

Why is this? With so much outward repentance the Lord always forgives. He even forgave Manasseh for his wickedness. Why bring him up now?

The answer was revealed to Jeremiah.

Again the Lord said to me, “A conspiracy exists among the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10 They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear my words. They have gone after other gods to serve them. The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant that I made with their fathers. Jeremiah 11:9-10 esv

There were those in Judah, and even in Jerusalem, who were conspiring – the Hebrew word there comes from a word meaning treason. They were plotting in secret behind the king’s back to overthrow the righteous system of government and to then go back to the way it was before Josiah – when good ole Amon was ruling, before those pesky servants did away with him.

And after all that, Josiah decides to go out to fight the king of Egypt – because Judah still has a treaty with Babylon – and he’s mortally wounded in battle.

Huldah was right, however, in that Josiah would die in peacetime. It was peaceful there in Judah. There was no war or destruction. Josiah had to go looking for it, and he gets himself killed.

Words mean more than we could ever imagine, therefore we must be very careful with them.

Manasseh thought he could reverse everything he’d said and done in front of Judah, but his fifty-five year reign ruined them. Even the great revival of his grandson could not lead them into permanent repentance. His words and actions became the final undoing of Judah.

Manasseh was a catalyst of evil. We must always guard our own words and ways, purposing to be a different sort of catalyst – catalysts of revival and reverence for the Lord.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 1st Corinthians 15:10 esv

Devoted to the Lord, immersed in His Word daily – that should be our goal as women of God!

© 2016, Ta`Mara Hanscom

# 10 – A Catalyst – Narrative WP

Worksheet for class on April 17, 2016 # 11 – Worksheet

This is part of our continuing series:

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His First Act As King – A Victory Message

© Easton’s Illustrated Dictionary

© Easton’s Illustrated Dictionary

Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household.

13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. Exodus 12:3, 13, 14 esv

Besides being a memorial day or a day of remembrance (as Matthew Henry called it) that first Passover was also prophetic of our deliverance from the bondage of sin and wickedness.

The lamb, of course, is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. It must be without blemish. Our Lord Jesus was perfect in every way – even declared innocent by Pontus Pilate at His trial. (John 18:38) And one of the thieves crucified next to Him declared Him innocent as well. (Luke 23:41)

In His perfection He obeyed God’s laws and festivals – including the memorial of the Passover.

In the homework, we looked at the Gospels to see how Jesus celebrated the Passover, which was His last supper with His disciples. There are some significant things within that last supper that point to our eternity with Him.

The blessing of having four Gospels is that what may have been overlooked in one narrative, has been brought to light in another – and through this we can bring the event to its fullest revelation.

Multiple accounts of the same event, such as we’ve found in the Kings, Chronicles, and the Prophets, is a beautiful mystery in our Scriptures, and one that I enjoy immensely.

After the Passover supper, 36 …Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” Matthew 26:36-38 esv

That terminology is not unique to Matthew’s account. Mark makes a similar report: “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” Mark 14:34 esv

So after the Passover supper, after Jesus has basically foretold them that a new Passover remembrance is about to be instituted, Jesus asks them to watch with Him.

Go back to the account of the first Passover in Exodus 12:

40 The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts [the NIV will say divisions, the NKJV will say armies, but the word translated from the Hebrew is hosts] of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It was a night of watching by the Lord, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the Lord by all the people of Israel throughout their generations. Exodus 12:40-42 esv

…all the hosts of the Lord…

hosts = Transliteration: ṣābāʾ

Phonetic Pronunciation:tsaw-baw’

—Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary

It comes from tseba’ah, tseb-aw-aw’, which means: a mass of persons (or figurative things), especially organized for war (an army).

—Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary

The Commander of the Lord’s Army, who is Christ Himself, was watching with His heavenly host to bring the Israelites out of slavery and bondage.

But now, cloaked in flesh, Jesus watches. And He asks the disciples to watch with Him. This will be an entirely different Passover – this is one of those things we see happen in the Old Testament, and Jesus takes it into the New Testament and turns it completely upside down. He knows that He is nearly ready to bring humanity out of the slavery and bondage to sin, but unlike the Old Testament account of the Passover, wherein God took the firstborn of the wicked (i.e. Pharaoh’s house, etc), mankind itself (the wicked) will take the Firstborn of God. And the event will overcome the devil and death itself!

And as we begin to look a little closer into that event, I want you to be aware of one thing in the last supper account of Luke that Jesus says that’s not recorded in the other Gospels, and I need to put this in your mind before we go any further:

18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Luke 22:18 esv

That statement made by Jesus is unique to Luke’s account. The other accounts talk about new wine, and a new feast, so it really got me to thinking and praying about it – especially as I recalled a portion of the Gospel of John. Turn with me to John 19.

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:28-30 esv

Jesus received the sour wine…

This is the second time that Jesus was offered the sour wine. The first time (Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:23) He refused it.

This is not the new wine that we studied in the homework, and that He spoke of not drinking until He was drinking it new in the Kingdom of God.

This was a fermented wine, mixed with spices and myrrh, and it was used to alleviate the suffering of the crucified. Jesus refused it the first time because He hadn’t accomplished everything yet.

It is not for kings, O Lemuel,     it is not for kings to drink wine,     or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed     and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,     and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty     and remember their misery no more. Proverbs 31:4-7 esv

Jesus Christ is a King, and He refused the wine so that He would experience fully how humanity was suffering under the affliction and misery of sin.

And then, at the very end of His suffering, Matthew, Mark and John all report that Jesus finally receives the wine…but He said that He wouldn’t drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.

I want to suggest here that the Kingdom of God came right there at the cross, at that very moment. It certainly didn’t look like a King ascending the Throne in the eyes of the earthly realm, but I can assure you that it appeared immeasurably different in the Divine Realm.

Look with me into the Throne Room in Revelation:

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll     and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God… Revelation 5:1-9a esv

The word translated ransomed in the ESV, is better translated purchased in the 1984 NIV.

And that’s what it looked like that day in heaven when Christ took His rightful place at the right hand of the Father. And He was the only one who could do it. He declared Himself a victor when He said, It is finished. His first act as King was to purchase us with His blood.

The phrase It is finished, is actually one word in the Greek – and it’s really interesting. My Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary tells me that the word is teleō, which means:

finish, fulfill, accomplish or pay.

It’s spelled differently in my Fire Bible: tetelastai.

This word is used only two times in our New Testament – both times in the Gospel of John, and both times at the cross.

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished…John 19:28 esv

He knew the Kingdom of God had come, He received the wine, and He paid for us with His blood.

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Matthew 27:51a esv

The separation between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place was gone. It was flung open by the Great High Priest of Jesus Christ, Who opened it with the perfect blood of the Lamb who was slain… 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him… Colossians 1:20-22 esv

Above reproach – I like that! I am holy in His sight, and I can boldly approach the Most Holy Place.

And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” Matthew 27:51b-54 esv

They were thinking, what have we done?! This was the Son of God, and now we’ve killed him!

Go back to Revelation with me:

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Revelation 12:7-11 esv

While the Earthly realm was standing there with Jesus’ dead Body, wondering what on earth they’d done, seeing certain defeat in His death, the Divine realm watched in awe as their King disarmed the powers and authorities, and made them a public spectacle by triumphing over them with His cross! Colossians 2:15 niv 1984

Satan and his minions were humiliated in their weakness and hideous wickedness. The King said It is finished, and it was.

It just does not get any better than that!

Especially if you know the rest of the story…

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. John 20:1-12 esv

Turn with me to Exodus 25

17 “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. 18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. 21 And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. 22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel. Exodus 25:17-22 esv

You know what happened on that mercy seat once a year? I’m glad you asked!

On the annual Day of Atonement, both the bull’s blood (that made atonement, or “sin covering,” for the high priest and his family) and the goat’s blood (that served as an offering for the sins of the entire nation) were sprinkled on the atonement cover, or mercy seat, as an offering to God. The earthly atonement cover was a type—a prophetic symbol—of the heavenly “throne of grace” which believers can now approach because of Christ’s shed blood in order to receive mercy and help for all their needs…

Fire Bible © 2014 by Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC

And there Jesus had lain, with an angel at his feet, and an angel at his head, watching over Him until it was time for Him to rise from the dead. Our mercy seat, sprinkled with the blood of a King. He had told the people, early on in His ministry, that He’d come to fulfill the Law – and He did. That mercy seat in Exodus was not only patterned from what God had shown Moses on the mountain (Hebrews 8:5), but it was foretelling us of how the Law within its ark would be fulfilled.

Two angels, two heavenly witnesses, kneeling in awe and reverence over Jesus’ Body, watching Him ever so closely until it was time, and then the life came back into His Body, and walked out of the tomb. They got up off of their knees and had a seat, perhaps contemplating the enormity of what they’d witnessed, perhaps knowing that Mary was on her way to take a look at the place where her beloved Savior had lain, and…

13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” John 20:13-16a esv

A lot of people question why Mary didn’t recognize her Savior, and as my husband and I contemplated that we came to the conclusion that she was probably hysterical at the horrible circumstances of not being able to anoint Jesus’ Body. She was probably crying so hard that she couldn’t see through her tears and she didn’t recognize Him until she heard His voice.

Among many other truths, that spoke into my heart: Jesus can even reach a hysterical woman. I needed to know that.

We serve a risen King; a real King, on a real Throne, and He knows us by name. Not only that, but our Warrior Savior, as powerful, just and mighty as He is, is as well filled with tenderness and compassion when it comes to our needs. Mary needed to know where He was, and He made sure to reveal to her first (before all the other disciples, even His own mother) what had happened to Him.

Before He departed the earth, He said to His followers:

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 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.”

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God. Luke 24:44-53 esv

And to this account, the apostle Luke adds something to his letter in Acts:

10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:10-11 esv

This is far from over. He’s coming back for us! Let Him find us faithful and intentional as we seek out His glorious mysteries in the Scriptures that He so lovingly left behind.

That we would continually bring Him glory in all that we do, say, and teach as we wait for Him to return in the same way as he went into heaven.

© 2016, Ta`Mara Hanscom

Because of the Easter Holiday we won’t meet again until April 10, 2016.

Worksheet to prepare for class on April 10, 2016. # 10 Catalyst – Worksheet

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