Thursday, July 17, 2014

"The future of Israel and the Middle East …"

Day #202:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - July 18th

Scripture Reading:  Ezekiel 31 - 36 …

The prophets of the Old Testament were sent to the people of God … Israel and Judah.  They spoke of events that were going on at that time and their implications for the future.  Israel had been defeated by the Assyrians, their land destroyed and conquered and the people spread throughout the nations.  Judah was now in captivity and the temple and city were now being destroyed by the Babylonians.  All of this was judgment upon Israel and Judah for their idolatry.  As Ezekiel and the other prophets speak to God's people in captivity in Babylon, God promises to bring back a remnant to the land and to Jerusalem, for the promised Messiah must come from the line of Judah.  And so it happened.  But there is more to Ezekiel's prophecy.

As God pronounces judgment upon the Pharaoh and Egypt in Chapters 31-32, He speaks through Ezekiel not only about the near future, but about what lies in the distant future … in OUR time.  For instance, in Chapter 32, verses 7-8, God says to Egypt, "When I snuff you out, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light.  All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you; I will bring darkness over your land."  So when has that happened?  It hasn't … but it will.  God is speaking of the coming judgment during the time of His wrath, during the "day of the Lord."  (Read Isaiah 13:9-10; Matthew 24:29-30 and Revelation 6:12-14 …)  God will deal not only with Egypt, but with all the nations that come against Israel.

And speaking of Israel and Judah, what is their future?  In Chapter 33, God speaks of the "watchman," whose responsibility it is to warn people of coming judgment.  God says, "Hear the word I speak and give them warning from me" (33:7).  Ezekiel was a watchman for Judah.  He was to warn the people that Jerusalem would be destroyed and the temple burned.  If he failed to do so, their blood would be on his head.  Even as Ezekiel remained in captivity with many others from Judah, word came that Jerusalem had fallen (33:21).  God said that He would "make the land a desolate waste" (33:28), and that is what He did.

God has appointed watchmen today … people who read His Word and who claim to know Him and to speak for Him to His people.  But today most of these - pastors, theologians, leaders in the church and others, are failing to warn of God's coming judgment and to call people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  Their blood will be mixed with the blood of those who face God's coming judgment because they have failed to speak truth and to sound the warning.  What God says against the "shepherds of Israel" (34:1) applies at least indirectly to those who are called to be "shepherds of the flock" today.

The Apostle Paul spoke to the elders from the church in Ephesus in Acts 20:28:  "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.  Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood."  And then he warns of savage wolves who will come into the fold to devour the sheep.  What a vivid description of what is happening throughout the church today.  God says to them, as He did to the shepherds of Israel, "Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves!  Should not shepherds take care of the flock?" (34:2).  "I am against the shepherds and I will hold them accountable for my flock" (34:10).

But what is going to happen to Israel and Judah in the future?  God says, "I myself will search for my sheep and look after them" (34:11).  God knows those who are His.  While it is true that not all who are descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are part of the remnant, God's chosen ones, God says, "I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land" (34:13) … DONE!  But there's more:  "I will judge between one sheep and another.  I will place over them one Shepherd, my servant David (Jesus), and HE will tend them; He will tend them and be their Shepherd.  I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them.  I the LORD have spoken" (34:22-24).  "Then they will know that I, the LORD, their God, am with them and that they, the house of Israel, are my people" (34:30).

Remember that at this time Israel was no more and Judah was in captivity in Babylon.  But this is the sovereign LORD that is speaking.  He rules over the nations and no one can stand against Him.  As for the nations that today boast against Israel (Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine, Russia …) …  "You boasted against me and spoke against me without restraint, and I heard it" (35:13).  The Sovereign God who reveals Himself in the Bible is the God of Israel.  The nations of the world and the supposed shepherds of the flock in the church today declare their condemnation of Israel and ignore God's Word … I would not want to be in their shoes!  Listen to what God says:

"This is what the Sovereign LORD says:  'I speak in my jealous wrath because you have suffered the scorn of the nations.'  Therefore, this is what the Sovereign LORD says:  'I swear with uplifted hand (a hand ready to execute judgment) that the nations around you will also suffer scorn'" (36:6-7).  God says to the nations around Israel in OUR day:  "I AM Israel's God … deal with it!"  And so many in the church say, "We have taken Israel's place.  God is OUR God, now!"  STOP!!  READ YOUR BIBLE!!!  Read Romans 11:11-32 and then 11:33-36.  God has NOT rejected Israel as His people.  This is not about Israel deserving to be God's people … they don't deserve to be God's people … but neither do you or I!

God says, "I WILL take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your land.  I WILL sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I WILL cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I WILL give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I WILL remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I WILL put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws" (36:24-27).  All this God promises to do for Israel in the future and all this He is doing by His grace in those whom He has chosen from the Jews AND the Gentiles today in the true Church, the remnant.  Why?  "I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign LORD" … "but for the sake of my holy name …" (36:32, 22).

There will come a time in future days when God will do something amazing in Israel:  "I will cleanse you from all your sins … "  Hard times lie ahead.  There WILL be a peace treaty between Israel and the surrounding nations … perhaps soon … made by none other than the Antichrist and those who long for peace in the Middle East.  But the Antichrist will break the peace after 3 1/2 years and profane the rebuilt temple, claiming to BE God (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15; II Thessalonians 2:3-4).  There will be a time of great distress (Matthew 24:21-22) and many will fall away (Matthew 24:10; II Thessalonians 2:3) … then, and only then, will those who believe in Jesus Christ be raptured as God pours out His wrath upon those who remain, and a remnant from Israel will be supernaturally protected by God during the "day of the Lord."  Finally, Jesus will return in glory and Zechariah 12:10-13, 13:1 will take place:  "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication.  They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child … On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity."

"Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate.  I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it" (36:36).  This is the future of Israel and the Middle East.  Jesus Christ Himself will reign in Jerusalem over the nations of the world (Zechariah 14:9-21) and all the world will know that the Sovereign LORD, the God of Israel, is God, and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  You can do that today!  As world events lead us inevitably closer to all that God has promised will happen, where is your hope?  If it is in anyone or anything other than the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, you are in danger of facing His judgment, sooner or later (or both!).  TURN … believe … and LIVE!!

"Our Father in heaven, to You I come in the name of Jesus Christ, praising You for Your grace and mercy in gathering a remnant to belong to You.  Give us strength and wisdom in these days to proclaim Your name, to declare Your praise, to preach the good news of the Gospel and to persevere amidst the growing turmoil in our world.  I pray for the peace of Jerusalem, knowing what You have said lies ahead … May Your true Church stand firmly on Your Word in these days.  Raise up watchmen to warn Your people of the coming judgment and send forth Your Spirit to save those whom You have chosen for Yourself.  For the sake of Your great Name I ask these things in Jesus' name, Amen"

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