Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mystery Jerusalem Rising Ch 10 | True Prophets vs the Profitable Prophets - Part 2

In the last chapter, I showed the colossal failure of the monarchy. The monarchy corrupted the people, the priests, and the prophets. The end result was the people of God were deported from the Promised Land. In this chapter, I will show the work that God did in the midst of this failure to both preserve them and prepare them for the coming of the Messiah, Christ Jesus.

God acts according to the Elijah Principle
In 1 Kings 18, which records the great contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, Elijah demonstrates a vital principle. The “god of this world1” operates by manipulating the cultural trends and passing it off as God acting culturally. God, however, often acts counter-culturally.In the case of Elijah, God told him to stack the deck against himself in the showdown with the prophets of Baal. Elijah started the contest outnumbered 850 to 1. He then drowned the sacrifice with water so that it could not burn through any natural means available to one living in that time1. God demonstrated his power by burning the sacrifice supernaturally.

God did this to prove His power. It is more common in history for God to move “against the grain”to prove His power. In the Old Testament, God moves to preserve both his word and his people. Psalm 12 provides an excellent teaching on divine preservation. There is a battle between crafty words of deception and the word of God

 Verses 1-4 documents the dangers to God’s people posed by evil words: “flattering words” and tongues that speak “proud things.” People boast that through the use of crafty language they can prevail, even throw off God’s rule. Words are used to deceive and oppress people.  This danger is so acute that the very existence of a faithful remnant of God’s people is endangered.

God, however, has a plan to deliver His people (Psalm 12:5-7). The Lord is going to cut off crafty language (verse 3). He shall preserve them by preserving His Word. The Lord signals in verses 5 that “now will I arise; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.” Verses 6-7 gives the two-fold plan. He is going to preserve a pure word, and He is going to preserve a faithful people.
“Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.2They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?

“For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.6 The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.7 Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.”
- Psalm 12: 1-7

God preserves his Word
There are three major instances in the Old Testament in which God preserved His Word. Rediscovery of the Mosaic Covenant during Josiah’s reign, Jehiochin’s surrender,  and the ministry of Ezra.

During the fifty-five year reign of Manasseh, the conversion of Judah to idolatry was so complete that the priests forgot that the Mosaic covenant even existed. The document containing the Mosaic covenant was rediscovered during the 18th year of Josiah’s reign when Josiah asked Hilkiah, the High Priest, to count the silver that had been placed in the house of the Lord. Hilkiah re-discovered the book of the law:
“And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the Lord. And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.

And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king's, saying,Go ye, enquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.”

- 2 Kings 22:8-13
Josiah proceeded to jump start a national revival to try to turn the nation back to God. While the revival was short-lived, it spurred renewed interest in not only the books of the law but other important documents in the history of Israel.

It is politically correct in a number of circles to speak of Hebrew roots and Jewish traditions. According to this text, Manasseh wiped out from Jewish culture the knowledge of God and subverted the temple into pagan worship (2 Kings 21). There was an absolutely minimal level of knowledge that Josiah would have had prior to discovery of the book of the law. He would likely have had the memory of Mannaseh’s testimony of how God judged him for idolatry and his subsequent repentance (2 Chronicles 33). Josiah would likely be aware of the proclamation of the prophets that the Lord sent (2 Kings 21:10). Josiah would also have a minimal level of general revelation to his conscience (Rom2).  While this started his search for God, the successful revival of Judah would depend of the recovery of the documents and application of its principles of God's written Word. Everything we know about Jewish life prior to this time is known solely on the basis of the recovered historical documents.

When Nebuchadnezzar deported Judah to Babylon, there were actually two waves of deportation. One occurred during Jehoiachin’s reign (2 Kings 24:10-16) and the other during Zedekiah’s reign (2 Kings 25:8-11):

When Jerusalem was besieged during Jehoiachin’s reign, the king of Judah peacefully surrendered to the king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:12). Both the royal family and the skilled labor was deported to Babylon (2 Kings 24:14). This included the intellectual classes.

Zedekiah was installed as king over those who remained. Zedekiah rebelled and Jerusalem was once again besieged. This time, instead of peaceful surrender, Zedekiah attempts an escape. Zedekiah is captured; his sons are killed and his eyes are gouged out.Zedekiah is bound in chains, the temple is plundered, and all great buildings are destroyed (2 Kings 25:1-11).

A comparison of the two deportations shows that Zedekiah’s deportation was accompanied by much more violence than Jehioachin’s. While Jehiochin’s deportation was not a voluntary one, there is no evidence from the narrative to support the idea that violence was used as the means to forcibly relocate people. Since Jehoiachin peacefully surrendered, the implication would be that his government cooperated with and complied to demands made by Nebuchadnezzar’s officers. Nebuchadnezzar’s officers told Jehioachin that the skilled laborers and intellectuals were required to relocate to Babylon; in response, these people packed their bags and followed Nebuchadnezzar’s officers to the place that was assigned for them to live.

The significance of this forced, but otherwise relatively peaceful, deportation is that the documents necessary to preserve the light God gave to Israel traveled to Babylon and survived the deportation. These documents would include copies or originals of the books of the Mosaic Covenant, copies or originals of the books of history documenting Israel’s history during the rule of the judges, and copies or originals of the official accounts of the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah. These documents would later be used to reconstruct the spiritual life of Israel.

Proof that numerous documents survive the deportation can be found in Ezra. Ezra 2 shows that most of the priestly families kept detailed documentation of their genealogies. Ezra 7:1-5 shows Ezra’s genealogy. God raised up Ezra for a very important mission described in 7:6-10
“This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him…

“For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him.For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.”

- Ezra 7:6,9-10

Ezra is classified as a “scribe.” Scribes were literary experts. Scribes were the precursor to modern textual scholars. Ezra’s job, as a scribe, was to handle texts. Verse 6 says he was “a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given.” This meant two things: he had access to the source documents of the law of Moses and also the skills necessary to properly handle those documents.Verse 11 describes Ezra as a scribe of “of the words of the commandments of the Lord” The phrase “of the words of the commandments” is a reference to the diverse manuscripts, the words themselves, and not to the concepts or legal principles of the law. Nehemiah 8:1-2, in particular, describes Ezra as having possession of the books of the Law of Moses.

Additional evidence that Ezra had access to numerous pieces of manuscript evidence is provided in a letter King Artaxerxes of Persia sent to Ezra authorized him to return to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:12-26). Artaxerxes authorized Ezra to “enquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of thy God which is in thine hand.” The “law of thy God which is in thine hand” no doubt refers to the various manuscripts that were in Ezra’s possession.

Ezra’s task was to seek the law. He would study the ancient manuscripts and then present them in a systematic form to Israel. Ezra compiled much of the Old Testament. Ezra painstakingly pieced together sources into an easy to understand narrative. In the book of Kings*, for example,  Ezra cross-references reigns of different royal administrations from diverse official documents* to weave a single narrative. Ezra also meticulously cites from source, assuming the readrr is familiar with the source documemts.

There are those who believe that Ezra's role in compiling OldTestament books means he was engaging in revisionist history. These theological modernists argue that Israel was a polytheist pagan nation from the beginning and that they did not embrace monotheism until Israel’s return from the Babylonian captivity. They would argue that Ezra and his contemporaries manufactured the history that has been handed down. The modernist theory, however fails.

There are three reasons why the Modernists claim that Ezekiel’s history is manufactured is not plausible: The abundant use of sources known to his readers, the negativity and counter-cultural perspective of the narrative, and the early consensus within the Jewish community of Ezra’s work.

Ezra made abundant use of sources known to his readers, particularly in the books of the Kings. We frequently see the following formula “Now the rest of the acts of… …are they not written in” throughout the books (1 Kings 11:41; 14:19; 14:29; 15:7; 15:23; 15:31; 16:5; 16:14; 16:20; 16:27; 22:39; 22:45; 2 Kings 1:18; 8:23; 10:34;12:19; 13:8; 13:12; 14:15; 14:18; 14:28; 15:6; 15:11; 15:15; 15:21; 15:26; 15:31; 15:36; 16:19; 20:20; 21:17; 21:25; 23:28; 24:5;1 Chronicles 29:29;2 Chronicles 9:29; 13:22; 20:34; 25:26; 26:22; 27:7; 28:26; 32:32; 33:18; 35:26; 36:8). Ezra cites at least twelve previously existing sources 3.

Ezra cited these sources as questions, obviously assuming that the reader would be familiar with these sources. If these sources were either non-existent or communicated a narrative that contradicted the narrative Ezra was putting forth, then Ezra’s version of Israel’s history would not likely have been received as historical.

Most revisionist histories tend to be overly optimistic, glossing over the negatives of a nation’s past. For example, American history emphasizes the narrative of liberty while glossing over atrocities committed against blacks and Indians. This is rather typical of national histories, which are often used as apologetics of the ideals of the nation. The narrative of Israel’s history, however, is filled with negative and dark images that paint the people of Israel in a very bad light. The negativity and counter-cultural perspective of the narrative of Israel is very rare in history. Israel’s history, reflecting a sober introspection of the true nature of the nation, is the least likely of all nations of antiquity to be revisionist.

Ezra’s work was well received with the community of Israel. Consensus within the Jewish community of Ezra’s work would be unlikely if Ezra was trying to replace a pro-pagan narrative of Israel’s history with a monotheistic narrative, citing sources that either did not exist or contradicted him. Ezra’s narrative was well received because his contemporaries, many of whom have access to their own copies of the manuscripts, saw that his scholarship was impeccable.

Ezra’s renown as scholar positioned him to exert a profound influence as a teacher of Israel. Ezra, along with the priests, both taught the people and helped them understand the Law of Moses. This set the stage for national revival in Israel.
“And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month…
 “…And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
“Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.”
- Nehemiah 8:1-2,5-8

God preserves His People
The imprisonment of Manasseh by Assyria was a low point of the spiritual life of Judah. Previously, he subverted the nation and the temple into pagan worship. He was so successful that Judah forgot the Law of Moses. In the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign, Hilkiah rediscovered the book of the Law of Moses in the temple while counting silver. When this book was delivered to and read to Josiah, the king rent his clothes. He sent messengers to Huldah the prophetess, who confirmed that God was going to remove Judah from the Promised Land (2 Kings 22:8-17).

Josiah escalated a campaign to jump-start national revival (2 Kings 23; 2 Chronicles 34). He went on a campaign to annihilate idolatry and turn Judah back to God. He not only destroyed altars but killed those who did sacrifices. He read the law to the people and led Judah in recommitment to the Mosaic Covenant. This revival was successful in the short term.

“ And the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests, and the Levites, and all the people, great and small: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that was found in the house of the Lord. And the king stood in his place, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book.And he caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers.
And Josiah took away all the abominations out of all the countries that pertained to the children of Israel, and made all that were present in Israel to serve, even to serve the Lord their God. And all his days they departed not from following the Lord, the God of their fathers.”

– 2 Chronicles 34:30-33

While Josiah’s revival was successful short term, it failed to stop the idolatry long-term and it failed to stop judgment from falling on Judah. It did have long term fruit: It renewed interest in the Mosaic Covenant. This renewed interest would have also sparked interest other documents pertinent to the histories of Israel and Judah. This interest meant that steps would be taken to make sure that  important documents survived the deportation into Babylon; the survival of these documents was essential for both maintaining the light God had given and restoring the national life of Israel after she returned from her exile.

God did not abandon Israel during her captivity. He sent Hosea, Micah, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah beforehand to warn the people of the impending Babylonian Captivity. Ezekiel, Daniel, and Habakkuk~ were prophets who ministered during the captivity. Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi~ were prophets who ministered post-captivity.

God restores Israel in time for the Messiah
Jeremiah prophesied that all of the nation in the region of Judah would be captive in Babylon 70 years(Jeremiah 25:9-12). This seventy years began when Babylon conquered Assyria in 609 BC. It ended when Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylon in 539 BC.

After the fall of Babylon, there were three decrees given by the new occupiers of Judah that would allow for the Israelites to resettle the Promised Land:  Decrees from Cyrus, Darius1, and Artaxerxes.
Within the first year after Cyrus conquered Babylon, he gave the decree for the Israelites to return to Judah and rebuild the temple. This is the decree, which was proclaimed in about 538 BC:
“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,’Thussaith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.

“Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.’
 Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.”

- Ezra 1:1-5
A number of people who returned to Israel was 42,360 free people and 7337 servants (Nehemiah 7:66-67; Ezra 2:64-65). The people would begin to rebuild the temple according to the decree of Cyrus, but during the reign of his son Cambyses or Artaxerxes4 the enemies of Israel accused them of being a seditious people. They succeeded in getting an injunction to stop building that remained in force until the reign of Darius 1(Ezra 4).

During the reign of Darius1, Israel petitioned him to allow the rebuilding of the Temple to resume rebuilding. They appealed to the original decree by Cyrus authorizing the rebuilding. Darius authorized the building to resume and issued an injunction against the enemies of Israel barring them from interference.

Darius’ grandson, Artaxerxes, sent Ezra and Nehemiah to Israel and gave them authority (Ezra 7;Neh 1). These two would rebuild not only the city and the wall but the cultural and spiritual life of the nation. Nehemiah was the governor who supervised the building program and Ezra supervised the restoration of the worship.

After the temple was rebuilt, Ezra led a push to promote understanding the Laws of God. Ezra was accompanied by 13 other leaders, including Nehemiah, and a host of Levites. They called Israel to a solemn assembly (Nehemiah 7:73-8:18). The solemn assembly began with intensive teaching from the Scripture, followed by seeking God for seven days and solemn assembly on the eighth. Each day during this eight day festival there was public Scriptural teaching. This eight-day festival-solemn assembly occurred during the feast of tabernacles (Lev 23:34-36; Joel 1:14, 2:13-15; Acts 1-2 see chapter  26).

Ezra used a grammatical-historical hermeneutic to restore spiritual life. Nehemiah 8:8 reveals their task of not only telling the scripture, but also of explaining: “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.”  The prevalence of idolatry under Manasseh, the Israelites quick return to idolatry after the death of Josiah, and seventy years of living in a foreign, Pagan land all but destroyed any antebellum Israelite culture of devotion to Yahweh God. It is only be “reading distinctly, ” using a grammatical-historical method to recover information about the antebellum Israelite culture can the spiritual life of the Israelite community be reconstructed.

1 Another name for Satan
2 Today we know that phosphorus burns underwater, but this would not have been known to the Israelites of Elijah's time, neither would any charleton have known how to handle it to successfully pull off any kind of hoax. Phosphorus was discovered in  1669 by Hennig Brand. Prior to this time, no one alive could have faked the miracle God did for Elijah.
Weeks, Mary Elvira (1932). "The discovery of the elements. II. Elements known to the alchemists". Journal of Chemical Education. 9: 11. Bibcode:1932JChEd...9...11W. doi:10.1021/ed009p11.
Cited in Wikipedia
3 Ezra's sources included
(The Book of Samuel the seer, and in
The Book of Nathan the prophet, and in
The Book of Gad the seer,
Chronicles of the kings of Judah,
Chronicles of the kings of Israel;
The Vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz;
Book of the kings of Judah and Israel,
Book of Jehu the son of Hanani,
The Book of Nathan the prophet, and in
The Prophecy of Ahijaht heShilonite, and in
The Visions of Iddo the seer against Jeroboam the son of Nebat,
The Story of Iddo the seer)
4 The "Artaxerxes" that put an injunction against rebuilding the temple  in Ezra 4 was known to secular history as Cambyses

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Mystery Jerusalem Rising Ch 9 | True Prophets vs the Profitable Prophets- Part 1

The advent of kings in Israel proved to be a colossal failure in terms of faithfulness to the Covenant. While there were a few righteous monarchs, most were corrupt. The people reached unprecedented levels of corruption, becoming more corrupted than the nations God  had previously evicted from the Promised Land.

There were five paths that this corruption took: The monarchy corrupted the people, Monarchy was ineffective in keeping people just, the priesthood forgot God’s Laws and worshiped idols, pernicious priests and profitable prophets ruin the people, and Israel was corrupted by foreign alliances instead of trusting God. The end result of this was God’s just judgment in removing the people from the land He promised to Abraham.

The Monarchy corrupted the people.
Starting with Solomon, the kings of Israel re-introduced idolatry to the people. While Solomon started out with the right heart, asking God for wisdom rather than riches, he soon became corrupted by his power and wealth. 1 Kings 6:37-7:5 reveal that, while Solomon spent seven years building God’s house, he spent thirteen years building his own house.

While Solomon’s fall began with valuing his own interests more than God’s, it did not end there. He began to marry many foreign women. These women turned him away from the one true God to worship of false gods.

“King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites.2 They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.”   - 1 Kings 11:1-4 NIV

Solomon created shrines for idol worship for “all his wives” (11:7). As Solomon had 700 wives, this was a major project that was executed on a colossal scale. Two specific false gods are mentioned. These are Chemosh and Molek (sometimes spelled Molech, Moloch), which according to Easton are equivalent deities1. These gods are gods of child sacrifice and are an abomination to the Lord. (see also Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5). Solomon introduced large-scale child sacrifice, the equivalent an abortion holocaust, to Israel. For over 400 years, children were burned alive as sacrifices. Needless to say, this triggered the anger of the Lord.

Solomon’s affect on him was so profound that it permanently changed the course of the monarchy. The heir to his throne, Rehoboam, was only half-Israelite. His mother was Ammonitess (1 Kings 14:21). It was for Rehoboam’s mother that Solomon built the shrine for Molek where children were slaughtered.

God punished Solomon by splitting the kingdom during the reign of his son, Rehoboam, into two kingdoms. From Rehoboam onward, there would be two kingdoms: Israel and Judah. Israel revolted from the House of David to follow Jeroboam. The house of David, however, continued to rule over the tribe of Judah.

Jeroboam failed to trust God, but created his own schemes. He reasoned that, if the Israelites went to the temple in Jerusalem that they would revert to Rehoboam and that he would be killed. He set up two golden calves. Jereboam committed the same sin, even using the same proclamation that Aaron did when he set up the golden calf in the wilderness (Ex 32:8).

“And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David:  If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”  - 1 Kings12:26-28
The people of Israel who were led by Jeroboam flocked to idolatry. Jeroboam’s sin shaped cultural life on such a deep level that each successive monarch continued the idolatry. Jehu was the only possible exception to this rule. He destroyed the Baal worship of Ahab but continued the idolatry of Jeroboam (2 Kings 10:18-32).

The monarchy was intended to restrain evil by not letting everyone do “what was right in his own eyes.” The monarchy was to know the law and enforce the legal standard (Deuteronomy 17:14-19). Once the monarchy became corrupt, however, it became more dangerous to morals than anarchy. This is because Satan now had the opportunity to use state power to enforce wickedness. There are a number of examples of this in the books of the Kings, with three that are particularly relevant: Jezebel, Athaliah, and Manasseh.

Jezebel was the daughter of the King of Tyre who married Ahab, King of Israel. She sought to eradicate the true religion of Yahweh God and replace it with a Phoenician version of Mystery Babylon Paganism. To this end she tried to kill off all of the prophets of Yahweh God. Things got so bad that Obadiah, a prophet himself, hid 100 of the Lord’s prophets in a cave and fed them (1 Kings 18:3-14). She then proceeded to hire 850 Pagan prophets who were paid from the royal treasury (1 Kings 18:19).

Athaliah was a relative of Ahab and granddaughter of Omri (2 Kings 8:25-27). She sought to destroy the Davidic covenant from within. When her son Ahaziah was dead, she proceeded to wipe out the entire royal line (2 Kings 11). But Jehosheba, sister of Ahaziah, took his infant son and hid them from Athaliah as the royal family was about to be murdered. The infant son, named Joash, was hidden with Jehioada the High Priest for six years. During the seventh year, Jehioada arranged for Joash to be crowned King and Athaliah to be executed.

Manasseh did the most harm to Israel of anyone in the monarchy. His father, Hezekiah, was considered the most righteous king out of “all the Kings of Judah (2 Kings 18:5).” The son does not follow the father in this case, but rebels against both his father and the Lord. Manasseh’s twofold program of evil succeeded where Jezebel and Athaliah failed. He almost completely annihilates Judaism as a living religion. Manasseh goes where no one has gone before: He desecrates the Temple.

“And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the Lord said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever:Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them.But they hearkened not: and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel.” - 2 Kings 21:7-9

Manasseh was so successful that Israel, even the priests forgot that the books of the law even existed until they were rediscovered in the 18th year of Josiah (2 King 22:8-11). Judaism was extinguished from public life and the temple services  were subverted into Pagan worship and child sacrifice.

Manasseh caused Israel to sin more than the nations that God evicted. Divine justice required that God evict the Israelites from the land. God would, however, initiate one more revival so that His light would not be extinguished from the earth.

“And the Lordspake by his servants the prophets, saying, Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols: Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle.And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down. And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies; Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day.

Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; beside his sin wherewith he made Judah to sin, in doing that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.” 1 Kings 21:10-16

Monarchy was ineffective in keeping the people just.
Once Solomon and Jeroboam re-introduced the people to idolatry and murder, the people never quit. For the next 400 years, they pursued idolatry, sexual immorality and child sacrifice. In post-Solomon Israel, 19 out of 19 kings were wicked pursuers of idolatry, sexual immorality, and child murder. In Judah, about 12 of 24 were wicked pursuers of idolatry, sexual immorality, and child murder. Of the 12 good kings of Judah, 10 allowed the people to pursue their villainy. Only two of these kings made proactive efforts to systematically eradicate the practice of idolatry and child murder on the part of the people: Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1-6) and Josiah (2 Kings 23:1-20).

Priesthood forgot God’s Laws, but worshiped idols.
Where was the priesthood while the kings were leading the people into oblivion? With just a few exceptions, they were joining the kings in leading the people down the pathway to Hell.

Pernicious Priests and Profitable Prophets ruin the people.
“Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it.And though they say, The Lordliveth; surely they swear falsely. O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return.
Therefore I said, Surely these are poor; they are foolish: for they know not the way of the Lord, nor the judgment of their God. I will get me unto the great men, and will speak unto them; for they have known the way of the Lord, and the judgment of their God: but these have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds.
Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them, and a wolf of the evenings shall spoil them, a leopard shall watch over their cities: every one that goeth out thence shall be torn in pieces: because their transgressions are many, and their backslidings are increased.” - Jeremiah 5:1-6

In one instance, Jeremiah came into direct conflict with the Deputy High Priest, which was second only to High Priest in authority in the priesthood3  When Pashur heard  that Jeremiah was prophesying judgment upon Israel, he hit him and had him arrested. Jeremiah responded by pronouncing God’s judgment on Pashur.

“Now Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the house of the Lord, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the Lord.And it came to pass on the morrow, that Pashur brought forth Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then said Jeremiah unto him, The Lord hath not called thy name Pashur, but Magormissabib.

For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will make thee a terror to thyself, and to all thy friends: and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and thine eyes shall behold it: and I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive into Babylon, and shall slay them with the sword. Moreover I will deliver all the strength of this city, and all the labours thereof, and all the precious things thereof, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah will I give into the hand of their enemies, which shall spoil them, and take them, and carry them to Babylon. And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thine house shall go into captivity: and thou shalt come to Babylon, and there thou shalt die, and shalt be buried there, thou, and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied lies.”  - Jeremiah 20:1-6

The Priesthood not only deceived the people through corrupt theology, but conducted schemes of treachery to manipulate people. People would be manipulated into transgressing the law so that the law could then be used as a weapon to control or annihilate them. On numerous occasions, the Pharisees tried unsuccessfully to use this tactic frequently against Jesus. (Matt 12:10;19:3;22:15-46;Mark 3:2;8:11;10:2;12:13-15; Luke 10:25;11:16;11:54;20:23; John 8:6)

“O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived; thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me.For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the Lord was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily.Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.
“For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting[Stumbling or moral failure], saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him.
“But the Lord is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten. But, O Lord of hosts, thattriest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I opened my cause. Sing unto the Lord, praise ye the Lord: for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers.” - Jeremiah 20:7-13

Profane Prophets and Priests have scattered the people of God as a consequences of their false teaching and treachery. They have fed on the flock rather than feeding the flock. God promises that he will remove the bad shepherds and replace them with faithful shepherds. As we shall see in chapter **, he replaced apostate Judaism with the Gospel of Christ, He has also displaced religious authorities on several occasions during “the church age” when they became too corrupt*.

“Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord. Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord. And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the Lord.
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The Lordliveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The Lordliveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.
“Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the Lord, and because of the words of his holiness. For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right. For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the Lord.

“Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the Lord. And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err. I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness; they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.”
- Jeremiah 23:1-14 see also Ezekiel 34

Israel trusted foreign alliances instead of trusting God.
This was really where a lot of the corruption started. Solomon’s many marriages to foreign wives likely started as statecraft marriages, but over time his wives corrupted his heart away from the true God towards the false gods they served. On several occasions, foreign alliances brought forth rebuke from the Lord.

On one occasion, while Asa was king of Judah, Israel waged war against Judah (2 Chr 16:1). Asa, instead of trusting God like he did when he fought against the Ethiopians, decided to trust in foreign alliances (2 Chr 16:2-6). The scheme was successful in getting Israel to back off from warfare with Judah.

This, however, did not please God. He sent a prophet to Asa to rebuke him for failing to trust God (2 Chr 16:7-9). Because Asa failed to trust God, he lost an opportunity to defeat Syria. Judah could have both greatly strengthened her political position in the balance of power in the region and achieve peace through a stable balance of power. The political reality Asa created was to weaken Israel by strengthening Syria. Asa’s actions altered the balance of power in the region,leading to Syrian aggression that weakened both Israel and Judah, making that entire region ultimately more vulnerable to Assyrian domination.

There is a promise in 2 Chronicles 16:9 : “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.”  God is looking for people who trust Him so that He can show His power. God wants us to trust Him, not corrupting political alliances.

Asa’s foolishness did indeed lead to Syrian aggression in the region, resulting in war. His 7th-great-grandson, Ahaz, was invaded by a joint force of Syria and Israel. Ahaz was given explicit opportunity to call upon God, but he refused (Isaiah 7). When Ahaz refused a sign that God was going to deliver, Isaiah warned that Assyria would end up devastating Judah.

2 Kings 16 records what Ahaz actually did. It was the worst possible action from a foreign policy perspective, as it removed the buffers between Judah and the most powerful and aggressive nation in the region at that time – Assyria. Ahaz set the stage for the fulfillment of Isaiah’s chapter 7 prophecy when Assyria sacks Judah.

Ahaz puts his trust in Assyria to solve his problems. He show an eagerness to make whatever compromises necessary to get Assyria’s help. He makes Judah a vassal state to Assyria (2 Kings 16:7-8).  Assyria then conquers Syria and deport the Syrians. A few years later he wipes Israel as well, leaving only Judah.

In addition to making Judah a vassal state, he takes gold and silver from the house of the Lord and has Urijah the priest fashion them into an alter patterned after an altar in Damascus; this was done as an act of appeasement to the king of Assyria. Ahaz rejected  trust in God and gave both political worship to the king of Assyria and spiritual worship to a false god.

Yet another instance of Judah trusting in political alliances to their shame occurred when Babylon deported the Israelites to Babylon. The remnant that remained in the land asked Jeremiah to inquire of God for direction (Jeremiah 42). Jeremiah came back with God’s command to stay in Judah under the rule of the Babylonians, saying that it would be well for them in Judah but disastrous to them if they went to Egypt.

The remnant of Judah, however, rebelled against the Lord’s command and decided to go to Egypt in spite of the warning of disaster. They forcibly took Jeremiah and Baruch with them (Jeremiah 43). It ended up a colossal, three-fold disaster for the remnant of Judah. They suffered apostasy, destruction, and infamy.

Their backsliding went full course to full blown apostasy: They had become fully committed pagans. They totally rejected the worship of God to worship “The Queen of Heaven.” They began to argue with Jeremiah, saying it was faithlessness to the Queen of Heaven rather than faithlessness to God that brought on them the disaster they were experiencing. Jeremiah boldly proclaimed that it was faithlessness to the one True God that resulted in the disaster.

Jeremiah then offered up another word from the Lord as proof of his first word: he proclaimed that God was going to send Nebuchadnezzar to Egypt to enslave the Egyptians and destroy them. They had brought judgment on themselves and the Egyptians. The few who survive this judgment would know that the Lord had truly spoken to Jeremiah.

The dragging up of Egypt into God’s judgment on Judah would result in Judah living in infamy:”They will become a curse and an object of horror, a curse and an object of reproach (Jeremiah 44:12)”.

We are admonished to trust God rather than political alliances (Psalm 20; 44:6; 118:8-10; 146:3; Isaiah 30:1-9; Jeremiah17). Politics had a way of corrupting itself into everything it touches. Jeremiah 17:5-10 contrasts the person who trusts in God to the one who trusts in man.

“Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”- Jeremiah 17:5-10

The one who trusts in man or in social or political alliances is cursed: he will wither even in times of prosperity. The one who trust in God, however, is blessed: he will bear abundant fruit even during times of famine.

Verse 9-10 address the heart condition that determines where one places his trust. The Lord searches the “reins’ of the heart. God both sees past the outward appearance and ignores beliefs that are merely creedal. He searches for those beliefs that shape our destiny, and rewards accordingly.

Jeremiah 17:10 is a cross references to Rev 2:23, which is a part of the letter to the church of Thyatira. In this letter Jesus threatens judgment the church for tolerating Jezebel; He is about to cast her and those who commit “sexual immorality” with her into a “bed of tribulation” (Rev 2:22). Jezebel in this passage is, without doubt, a cross reference to the historical Jezebel who was married to Ahab king of Israel. She was a schemer who stole Naboth’s vineyard through craftiness (1 Kings 21). Those who trust in schemes are cursed, but those who trust in God are blessed.

2 Literally eat at Jezebel's table

Gender politics and social contructivism at the Olympics

South African Caster Semenya won the women’s 800 meter final, bringing once again to the fore front the  controversy over gender identity politics.

Semenya’s win is not without controversy as last summer, the Court of Arbitration for Sport suspended the "female hyperandrogenism" policy, which was adopted in 2011 by the International Association of Athletics Federations (track and field's governing body) and deemed high levels of natural testosterone as a competitive advantage. Semenya is believed to be one of the athletes who benefits from the genetic condition yet she has never confirmed her condition. 

This underscores the problem of the gender-is-nothing-but-a-construct argument, also known as social contructivism. Biology determines success at the Olympic level, and does so in a discriminatory way. In the case of Semenya, he has testosterone levels of a male. This is typical of those with a Y chromosome like Semenya has. Testosterone levels heavily influence such fundamentals of physicality as muscle mass and muscle density. Having the testosterone levels of a male means he is competing with the physique of a biological male regardless of other non-conformities that may be at play here. He should either competed with male competitors. The only way to justify him competing with females is to argue for the elimination of gender classification in athletics. Keep in mind that this would all nut eliminate female athletics, as the best females generally cannot compete with the best males.

Patterns for the church among the nations - The law as schoolmaster

Many Christians today make the mistake that, since we are no longer bound by the covenantal construct of the Mosaic Covenant, that the Old Testament is no longer of value to the New Testament Church. Nothing can be further from the truth. In several places in the New Testament we are instructed that the Old Testament contains patterns that have fulfillment in the New Testament. It is through understanding these patterns that your faith can be transformed from a merely personal religion to the faith of a king who is advancing the Kingdom of the King of kings.

In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul is warning the Corinthian church against idolatry. He writes of the pattern of events in the Mosaic narrative, showing how swift judgments came from God upon those who did not follow the law and who did not follow Moses' lead. He writes in vs 6 that " Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted." Paul was specifically referring to the events of the Exodus and wanderings in the wilderness, but the Mosaic Covenant expands this pattern to include the whole pattern of events that happen to the Israelites the whole time they are under the Mosaic Covenant. Deuteronomy 28 gives a list of blessings to those who follow the Covenant and curses to those who fail to follow the Covenant. In Colossians 2:16-17 Paul quite explicitly says that the entirety of the law and prophets is a type and shadow that is fulfilled in Christ. Everything in the Old Testament, including those things that are not legally binding today, has an application in Christ.

In Galatians 3:23-24 we are instructed that the law is a schoolmaster:

But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. - Galatians 3:23-24

What does a schoolmaster or school teacher do. They do two things. They impart knowledge and principles. They also train by examples which involves discipline. "Discipline" comes from "disciple- ling." Such teaching often involves hard lessons that involve "making an example." these examples embed principles. The mature, just person - the one who bases his life on faith (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38), draws out the correct inferences and make correct decisions based on these exemplars.

God ordained Israel to be the body politic for God's people; Making correct inferences from the exemplars of the Old Testament transforms one's faith into faith that advances the Kingdom of God on earth. This does not mean that we are to promote the Mosaic law as legally binding on gentile nations today. Christ has done away with that application. What it does mean is that that child of God will apply these principles within the current cultural and political contexts in which we find ourselves.  As we do this we will find that the Kingdom of God moves forward in our own communities and nations. We will also find that we gain insight into the heart of  God.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Donald Trump and the reign of Cyrus.

There are many sophistries about the World Wide Web offering justifications of an unjustifiable candidate for President of the United States. In Evangelical circles there is a particular temptation to paint dubious Biblical analogies to prop up support for him. 

One popular analogy is to liken him to Cyrus king of Persia. Cyrus was prophesied about 400 years before his reign in Isaiah 44:28. He is introduced in the narrative of Scripture in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, where it recorded Cyrus making the decree to restore Israel and rebuild the temple. The book of Ezra records this chapter in the history of Israel.
One fact that stands out that is germane to this discussion is that Cyrus does not appear in the story until after the national apocalypse of Israel has run its course. Cyrus played the role of a post-apocalyptic restorer. If Cyrus is a Biblical type, it is the type of post-apocalyptic restorer.  Those who would fulfill the role of an antitype of Cyrus for America cannot appear until after America's national apocalypse has run its course. As America is at the eve of such judgement, Trump cannot at this time fulfill the type of Cyrus.