Monday, July 14, 2014

"The scepter will not depart from Judah ... until HE comes ..."

Day #199:  Daily Bible Reading - July 15th

Scripture Reading:  II Kings 11 - 15 ...

Why the Jews?  Why Israel?  Why do we hear about these people every day in the news?  Because God's purpose for mankind, for the entire human race, centers around promises that He made some 4,000 years ago to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ... and to Jacob's son, Judah ...  But why THESE people?  Because God chose them.  There was nothing special about them except for God's sovereign choice (Deuteronomy 7:7-9).  People today don't want to believe that, including many in the church, but in so doing they give up the only hope they have for themselves, because apart from God's sovereign choice NO ONE will be saved.  Like Israel and the descendants of Judah, we are sinners, "dead in our transgressions and sins" (Ephesians 2:1) ... and apart from the sovereign choice of God, we will remain that way unless or until HE makes us alive:  "For He chose us in Him (Christ) before the creation of the world"  ...  "because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 1:4, 2:4-5).

I know ... I know, you have heard that WE must choose and God does tell us to choose Christ.  But unless we are born again by the Spirit of God we will never make that choice.  Left to our own free will, we will choose death.  If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ it is solely because God chose you to be His, sent His Son to pay your debt on the cross, then used His Word and Spirit to give you new birth and THEN, and only then, did you choose to repent and believe in Jesus Christ.  So whom do you thank for your salvation?  Who receives the glory?  As it should be, it is all God ... the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - and Judah!

It was, then, to Judah that Jacob declared, "The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until HE comes to whom it belongs, and the obedience of the nations is HIS!"   (Genesis 49:10).  Reading through the books of the Kings is painful and at times frustrating.  Imagine what it was for God!  But all of this had a purpose.  Through the period of the kings and the prophets God was giving us pictures of the horrible consequences of sin and at the same time of His remarkable patience, mercy and grace.  And throughout the period of the kings and prophets God was preparing the world for the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, God's chosen King, who would be the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

The kings of Israel continued to follow in the ways of Jeroboam, the first king of the divided kingdom in the northern tribes of Israel.  He had established altars in the high places and introduced idolatry to the people.  God had said that they must worship Him at the temple in Jerusalem, but Jeroboam rejected God's Word, went his own way and brought judgment on a nation as king after king followed his example.   In Judah, however, the line of David, a descendant of Judah, continued throughout this period of history.  As you begin reading Chapter 11 you discover another of Satan's plots to interrupt the line of Judah by destroying the whole royal family.  He used Athaliah, the wife of King Jehoram and the mother of King Ahaziah to attempt to stop God's plan to bring the Messiah from the line of Judah.  Remember, the war between God and Satan is always going on behind the scenes ... and it sometimes boils to the surface to be seen by those who are aware of God's promises and of Satan's evil plans to stand against God and His chosen people.

Athaliah was the daughter of King Ahab, one of the most wicked kings of Israel, yet Jehoram, king of Judah, had taken her as his wife.  When her son, Ahaziah, was killed by Jehu, king of Israel, Athaliah was determined to kill the rest of the royal family (including her own children), so that SHE could reign.  Most certainly, Satan was behind her evil plot.  But God used one of her own daughters to hide one of her brothers ... Joash.  She took him to his nurse (he was just a small baby) and he was hidden with his nurse in the temple for six years!  When Joash was seven years old, Jehoida the priest brought the commanders of the army to the temple and revealed Joash, the son of the last king, from the line of Judah, and declared him King of Judah.  Athaliah was put to death and Joash began his forty-year reign.

It was evident from the beginning of his reign that this young man had been chosen by God to restore, at least in part, the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem.  Yet he, too, failed to remove the altars in the high places and Judah, like Israel, continued in their half-hearted devotion to the God of their fathers.  It is important to understand that the entire Old Testament period is a prelude to the coming of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Church.  And it is also important to remember that God never forgets a promise.  Even though these people rejected His Word as He sent the prophets, God always had a remnant, a small body of those who truly believed in Him and worshiped Him.  Not all who claimed to know God truly did, even as it is today.  God knows those who are His because He Himself is working in their hearts by His Spirit.

Speaking of Israel, the Apostle Paul, himself a Jew, writes to the Romans, "I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited:  Israel has experienced a hardening in part UNTIL the full number of the Gentiles has come in ... " (11:25).  God still has a remnant, saved by grace (11:5-6) ... and He always will, until the very time that Jesus returns ... and then, when all who have believed in Jesus Christ are taken to be with Him, when the Church is raptured and taken to celebrate with the Lord in heaven, God Himself will protect a remnant of those who remain from Israel and pour out His Spirit on them, opening their eyes to see Jesus when He comes in power as the Messiah, the King, the "Lion of Judah!"  Every promise will be fulfilled, just as God has said in His Word.

So what does this mean for you and me today?  It means that every promise God makes to us and to all who believe in Jesus Christ will also be fulfilled.  "No matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ.  And so through Him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God.  Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.  He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come!" (II Corinthians 1:20-22).

Read God's Word with anticipation, looking forward to the return of the King and know that through faith in Jesus Christ you are one of His chosen people, saved by grace and called to serve the King, forever!  Praise be to God for His power, wisdom and mercy.  Truly, He has done great things!!  And the best is yet to come, for His kingdom will come in all its glory and Jesus will reign as King!

"Heavenly Father, as I read Your Word I give You thanks for Your divine wisdom and providence over all the events of human history - past, present and future.  Apart from this truth, we who believe would not have the assurance that Your plan will be fulfilled as You have revealed it in Your Word.  Through faith in Your Son, Jesus Christ, I trust in Your power and rest in Your grace, knowing that I am safe from Your wrath and judgment and that one day I will be a part of Your eternal kingdom, where I will forever serve You, my God, and give You praise!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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