The Zenith of Solomon and of Israel…Solomon pt 8

… the Lord appeared to Solomon the second time, as he had appeared unto him at Gibeon. And the Lord said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.  And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments:  Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel.  But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people:And at this house, which is high, every one that passeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss; and they shall say, Why hath the Lord done thus unto this land, and to this house? And they shall answer, Because they forsook the Lord their God, who brought forth their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and have taken hold upon other gods, and have worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath the Lord brought upon them all this evil. ( I Kings 9:2-9)

The building of the permanent temple, and the Divine inhabitation of it, were the partial culmination of all that the LORD had been doing since He called Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, promised them a people and a Land, brought them out of Egypt and through the wilderness, as well as the bestowal of various Judges, Saviors and eventually to KINGS.

Now the Kingdom of God on earth was established, and God’s King was the Shepherd of God’s people from the city where he had placed his name. There was now a city on earth which had a Temple where true worship, prayer, intercession and sacrifice were regularly performed. The Priestly apparatus and the ministry of mercy were functioning. The Law was pouring forth out of Zion, the Truth was being taught, and people were streaming to the Holy City from the ends of the earth to participate.

At this point God gave Solomon a second dream in which he appeared and spoke to Him.He assured Solomon that he had indeed heard and would answer the prayer in the temple, and that his “name, …eyes…amd heart…” would be there perpetually.

The LORD also warned him that should he or his children defect from following and walking with God, (David being the standard), He would expel Israel from the Land and that He would “cast this house out of my sight”, in such a way as to make all of the house of Israel an object lesson, an astonishment to all and a living parable of Divine judgement for all to see.

We are then given two portents of possible trouble already brewing, slight diminishment’s of all that Solomon was allowed to accomplish.

First we are told that Hiram was displeased with the cities Solomon had given his partner in business and construction.

(Now Hiram the king of Tyre had furnished Solomon with cedar trees and fir trees, and with gold, according to all his desire,) that then king Solomon gave Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee.And Hiram came out from Tyre to see the cities which Solomon had given him; and they pleased him not.  And he said, What cities are these which thou hast given me, my brother? And he called them the land of Cabul unto this day. ( I Kings 9:11-13)

Either Solomon had taken for granted his partner and truly gave him useless cities, (which would be a terrible witness to God), or it could be the same problem we are seeing now in Israel. It is impossible to give the land away and be blessed for the Land belongs to God, and is not Israel’s to give away. Such transactions are not blessed.

Secondly we see that Pharaoh , Solomon’s Father-in-law took the city of Gezer, slew the Canaanites who lived there and gave the city to his daughter as a gift. The problem this presents is that Gezer was given to Ephraim, but they did not have the faith to drive the Canaanites out, as recorded in Judges 1:29.

A Pagan King did in the promised land what the children of Israel had been unable to do in the case of Gezer!

Solomon set about fortifying Gezer ,as well as the other cities of Israel. He built storage cities, chariot cities, military bases, Cavalry cities and a vast infrastructure.

Solomon and Hiram united in business, an international import and export company. For this Solomon constructed a navy for Israel. Gold, spices, exotic animals began pouring into Israel under Solomon’s leadership.

It was at this point in time that Solomon received a State visit by the Queen of Sheba, (Yemen), with her huge escort caravan loaded with spices, gold and silver, precious stones and goods. The Queen had come because she had heard of the magnificence of Solomon’s reign and of his Wisdom. She had come primarily to test and possibly learn, and perhaps to trade.

The Queen had heard of the famed Wisdom of Solomon and wanted to see for herself.

And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to prove him with hard questions.And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart. And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not any thing hid from the king, which he told her not. ( I Kings 10:1-3)

She initially came as a skeptic, (she was going to test him with hard questions), but was soon overwhelmed with the Wisdom which poured out of his mouth. It was as though when Solomon spoke, the secrets of her heart were revealed. She had heard of Solomon’s wisdom from afar, but now she saw it first hand.

What was it that she “saw” in Solomon’s house and Kingdom?

She saw the beauty, order and prosperity of a society based upon God’s Wisdom.

Every society is based upon some kind of wisdom, for example there is a ‘wisdom of the Egyptians’ or the Wisdom of Babylon or Persia. There is the “Wisdom of the Greeks” also, for man is made in the Image of God and even fallen man is always led to develop some kind of ‘Wisdom’. Man was made for Wisdom, but the fall corrupted our capacity for Wisdom.

Solomon’s Wisdom was not given to him to make him a uniquely clever or wise King. Solomon, as King represented an entire civilization. Nor did this Wisdom accrue, over long centuries of experience and observation. It was and is a gift of the Creator himself, “For the LORD gives Wisdom…” (Proverbs 2).

What Solomon received and showcased was a societal , civilizational wisdom, an example of what people can have when restored to fellowship with the only true God. This was a kingdom based on the kind of Wisdom, justice, equity, love that we were originally meant to operate in.

As she beheld the beauty and interaction of these around Solomon’s table, and entered into the discussion and conversation, she was stunned. It was all so wholesome, intellectually edifying and soul satisfying…She could see that even Solomon’s servants and the attendants at his house were elevated by it.

When they proceeded from Solomon’s house up the “ascent” to the Temple next door, and she saw the same wisdom realized liturgically, and noted the parallel to Solomon’s servants and attendants, which were God’s priests, and ultimately to God’s table, The Queen of Sheba passed out. It was overwhelming. But when she came through this foreign Queen made a remarkable confession of faith in Israel’s God.

And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard.  Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.  Blessed be the Lord thy God, which delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the Lord loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, to do judgment and justice. ( I Kings 10:6-9)

The visit of the Queen of Sheba portends the bright and glorious future God has in store for Israel, after her long night of exile and punishment. Once again the Law shall go forth out of Zion and the Gentiles will come to see the brightness of the Kingdom of God, and once again they shall bring their glory and riches as presents to the restored prodigal nation,

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord. ( Isaiah 60:1-6)

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Solomon’s Prayer…Solomon 7

Solomon the King is in the temple at it’s dedication, in front of a great congregation of Elders, Priests, Levites and Israelites, alternately kneeling or standing upon a brass platform. His arms are outstretched towards God, and He is praying.

The prayer consists of an acknowledgement of the Faithfulness and Omnipresence of God, and that no man made temple could ever truly contain Him. He then supplicates that the House He had built for God’s Name, be one of prayer, that God would ever be attentive to it or to anyone who ever turns toward the temple to pray.

Next Solomon requests that God would hear prayers in seven different circumstances.

  1. If any man trespass against his neighbour, and an oath be laid upon him to cause him to swear, and the oath come before thine altar in this house:Then hear thou in heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, condemning the wicked, to bring his way upon his head; and justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness. (1 Kings 8:31-32)

This is a request by Solomon that God protect the sanctity of every oath sworn before the altar, that all who swear falsely would be exposed and punished, and that those who do swear oaths in good faith would be vindicated. Kiel and Delitsch say that this applies to situations such as in Exodus 22;6-12.

2. When thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee, and shall turn again to thee, and confess thy name, and pray, and make supplication unto thee in this house: Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest unto their fathers. ( 1Kings 8:33-34)

This is a direct prayer for the reversal of the curse of the Law of God as recorded in Deuteronomy 28:25, and 28:48.

The Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth… (Deuteronomy 28:25)

Solomon prays that in the future occasions, “When…”, (not “if”) Israel is slain before the enemy, if she turns back to God and prays for forgiveness, that God would hear, and forgive the sin of Israel. Notice he even anticipated the future exiles in this prayer, because He prays that Israel would be brought again back into the land.

3. When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them: Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance.( I Kings 8 :35-36)

Solomon knew that the Holy Land was morally sensitive, due to the Covenant of God. When the people went into idolatry, the curses of the Law would come upon them, one of those curses being drought. (Deuteronomy 28:24) The heavens would be shut up, not giving rain, as a sign of the Divine displeasure.

Notice , He makes the temple itself the focal point, “…if they pray towards this place…”. Solomon prayed that the people would turn towards the Temple, the place where God has set his name, the focal point on earth of all prayers, the place of mercy, atonement, sacrifice, the forgiveness of sin, and of intercession. God would be attentive , and forgive sin and even teach them the right way there.

4. If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpiller; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be;  What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house:  Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;) That they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers. (1 Kings 8:37-40)

Here also the curses of Deuteronomy become the burden of Solomon’s heart, as if He knew they were inevitable because surely the people would defect from God and suffer them. The Plagues are called “strokes upon the heart” in the prayer for they would be divine chastisement.

He prays that whether it be an individual or the whole nation united in prayer, that all would realize that these plagues which came upon them are reflections of the inner plague of the heart, which everyman shares in, ie sin, and that that very realization would turn each one towards the Holy House in prayer and supplication.

5. Moreover concerning a stranger, that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for thy name’s sake; (For they shall hear of thy great name, and of thy strong hand, and of thy stretched out arm;) when he shall come and pray toward this house;  Hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for: that all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel; and that they may know that this house, which I have builded, is called by thy name. (I Kings 8:41-43)

In this fifth request Solomon prays that foreigners would come and pray and that the God of Israel would hear and answer their prayers. The fulfillment of the original promise that the seed of Abraham would one day bless every family on the earth is anticipated here. This house would be a house of prayer for all nations. Solomon asks that God would hear foreigners , so that they might come to know him, and to fear Him.

6) If thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the Lord toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house that I have built for thy name:  Then hear thou in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.  ;( I Kings 8:44-45)

This prayer request anticipates times when the armies of Israel are sent out away from home, on military expeditions ordained of God. Let those far from home who turn in prayer towards the city Jerusalem and towards the Holy House, be heard, and let their cause be blessed of the LORD.

7) If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near; Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness;  And so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto thee toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name:  Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause, (I Kings 8:46-49)

This is a different situation , for here Solomon anticipates that because of sin, God would deliver the covenant people into captivity and far, far away from Jerusalem and the Holy House. This is a prayer that even in exile, those captives who turn towards the city and the Holy House and pray from the heart, supplications and prayers of repentance, May God hear from heaven and respect those prayers and supplications.

Notice that Solomon here, by the Holy Spirit anticipates the very words of the prayers, “We have sinned, done perversely, and committed wickedness…”. Here we have them praying about the whole range of human evil, Sin(missing the mark), Perversion( (distortion of the rightful use), and wickedness, which is transgression and rebellion against the LORD. Even from a far land, let them turn and pray and May God hear them!

Solomon is again drawing much from Moses and particularly the covenant curses and promises, in this scenario. The last request is almost an echo in prayer of Deuteronomy 4:27-30;

And the Lord shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the Lord shall lead you.  And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.  But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.  When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (Deuteronomy 4:27-30)

This prayer is more than a prayer, for as in the later chapters of Deuteronomy, it is a prophecy of the future of Israel. Everyone of these scenarios would play out before the end of the books of Kings, and Israel would have been given hope in advance, as long as she remembered these supplications and the instruction which they contained, that in those circumstances of they turn towards the House and all it stands for and truly seek the LORD, would find mercy, and help in the name of the LORD.

2 Chronicles tells us that the prayer that day was dramatically affirmed by the LORD, before Solomon and all of the people, in a demonstration comparable to Sinai, or to Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal.

Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house.And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.( 2 Chronicles 7:1-3)

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The Filling of The Temple… Solomon pt 6

And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark. And they brought up the ark of the Lord, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle, even those did the priests and the Levites bring up. And king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel, that were assembled unto him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, that could not be told nor numbered for multitude. And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto his place, into the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims. For the cherubims spread forth their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above.  And they drew out the staves, that the ends of the staves were seen out in the holy place before the oracle, and they were not seen without: and there they are unto this day.  There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.( I Kings 8:3-9)

It had been twenty years since Solomon had commenced building the temple, and furnishing it.The time had come for the great dedication. In all of that time since the days Eli the Priest and Samuel, when the Ark was captured and recovered, the Ark had been in a separate location from the altar and the remains of the tabernacle. There were two holy shrines, one at Gibeah and one in the “tent of David” in Jerusalem.

The time had come for the Ark, the visible throne of God on earth, to come into the Holy Temple,. With great procession and much sacrifice, Elders, Priests in holy array, and Levites, and the King Solomon, accompanied the ark, carried on staves by Priests, up the steps of the temple, into the courts of worship, and into the holy place and finally into the”oracle” , the Solomonic name for the Holy of Holies. the Ark entered into its rest before the two great, gilded Cherubim, each fifteen feet in height.

As soon as the [priests departed from the oracle, The cloud of Glory filled the temple, so completely, the Priests were unable to stand and minister.

And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord. (1 Kings 8:10-11)

Solomon, the anointed, Israel’s Messiah, is in the Spirit, and can only utter, in awe, “The LORD said He would dwell in thick darkness..But I have built an house of habitation for thee, and a place for thy dwelling for ever..”

Solomon had made for himself a brass platform to stand, kneel and sit upon for the dedication, in the midst of the great congregation. From there He blessed the congregation, reminding them of the faithfulness of God, in choosing Jerusalem as the place for his name, calling David and promising that he would have Son who would reign forever, and for choosing Solomon to build the Holy house for his name.

The placing of that Ark into the oracle, represents the culmination and continuity of all that God had promised to do since he brought Israel out of the wilderness in the days of Moses. No longer would there be a tabernacle, (a temporary dwelling place) . The Ark would enter into the place which God had established as a dwelling place for his name.

Then Solomon spread out his hands and uttered the prayer of dedication,

…Lord God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart: Who hast kept with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him: thou spakest also with thy mouth, and hast fulfilled it with thine hand, as it is this day. Therefore now, Lord God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him, saying, There shall not fail thee a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel; so that thy children take heed to their way, that they walk before me as thou hast walked before me. And now, O God of Israel, let thy word, I pray thee, be verified, which thou spakest unto thy servant David my father. (1 Kings 8:23-26)

Solomon blesses the faithfulness of God to his servants and especially to David his father. But Solomon asks the LORD to keep the promise of an everlasting reign of one of the sons of David, and to confirm it.

…But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded? ...Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O Lord my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer, which thy servant prayeth before thee to day vs 27-28

This is the wisest man who ever lived up to that time, endowed with Wisdom as a gracious gift of God himself. He knew that no man made structure could ever contain the Most High God, who is omnipresent, and self existent. He is acknowledging that for God to inhabit this house is an act of Divine condescension, God is humbling himself to dwell among the congregation, and in no way could he ever truly be limited to time, space or matter.

That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place.And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive. ( vs 29-30)

This great dedicatory prayer of the temple, is a prayer about prayer.

The house of God is a house of prayer for all nations, a place of contact where all people would present prayers, to be received in the person called “thy name” , ( A pre-incarnate reference to the second person of the Godhead). He would gather those prayers and direct them to heaven, the dwelling place of the most High.

So He prayed that God’s eyes would be towards this place, day and night, and that he would be attentive to anyone who prays toward it, ( not necessarily always in it, but even towards it).

The primary prayer must of necessity be prayers for forgiveness. One of the emphasis of this prayer is the reality that men are weak, sinful and prone to wonder. One of the functions of the house would be the constant priestly task of atonement, intercession and the ministry of the mercy of God.

Solomon then sets out seven different scenarios, supplicating that in all of them God would hear and answer prayers directed towards the Holy House of God.

we will look at each of them in the next message.

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The Victor’s Portion….Servant Songs pt 15

Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.(Isaiah 53:12)

The Last verse of this fourth Servant Song has always struck me as anti-climatic. But this is because I believe the King James version confuses the meaning somewhat, for it reads as though the Servant takes his place among other great and strong ones.

But the according to evangelical scholar Alec Motyer, Hebrew text reads, “I will allocate to Him the many, and the strong will be apportioned as a spoil”. Thus, the Servant receives as his own possession, the many for whom he died to save.

As for his possession of the strong, the prophet has already sung about the reactions of the “princes” of the earth to the Servant,

So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.(Isaiah 52:15)

Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.(Isaiah 49:7)

The song closes by listing the grounds for which the Servant receives ‘the many’, as his own, and why the “strong'(Kings of the earth), as His possession,

“Because…” Young points out in his commentary,that this word,‘tahat aser’, is the strongest causitive in Hebrew, and is the equivalent of “Because of the fact that…”.

…he hath poured out his soul unto death… He will receive the many and the strong for his possession, because He gave His life as a drink offering to God. Notice that the Servant is not said to have been murdered, He himself was the agent of his own death, He poured out his own life!

…and he was numbered with the transgressors… The word ‘numbered’, niphal, is in a ‘tolerative ‘ tense, “He let himself be numbered…”The Servant receives the reward because He voluntarily identified with the people He came to save. He allowed himself to be so identified with us, He actually became liable before God for our guilt! Paul proclaims,

“He made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the Righteousness of God in him”(2 Cor 5:21)

…and he bare the sin of many…As a substitute, the Servant ‘lifted up and took away’ the transgression of the rebels, bearing our sins to judgment on the cross. Like the scapegoat of Leviticus, he was banished for us, carrying away the guilt of our defection from God.

…and made intercession for the transgressors. Finally, because he became a mediator, standing between we who deserved nothing but wrath and judgment, and the Holy God, against whom we have sinned. He made His own life our sin offering. His sinless life , perfectly pleasing to God, becomes our only plea for pardon and favor.

The cross itself, which fixed him between heaven and earth, is the ultimate intercession, the final and complete act of interposition. He put himself between sinful man, and the Holy God! He took upon himself our judgment, our guilt and the sorrows that accompany our rebellion!

He still pleads for us at the Right hand of God, as the ever faithful High Priest, constantly bringing us to God, and maintaining our life before Him, in spite of our sins, flaws and periodic defections.

The Servant himself is our peace, for He has accomplished the task, He has pleased the LORD, who has ordained Him to bring this reconciliation without. Small wonder that in the end, all shall sing with trembling adoration, “Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is LORD”.

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Gaza Shall Be Forsaken…

In view of the rocketing of Israel by Hamas in the Gaza, I thought I would offer this message which I originally ran in 2011.

The Gaza Strip, was originally part of the inheritance the LORD allotted to the tribe of Judah. But Philistines invaded and built their five cities in the area, Gaza, Ashdod, Gath, Akron, and Askelon. Eventually King David defeated the Philistines and Judah possessed the land until the Babylonian captivity, the return and finally the Roman diaspora. 
Nearly 20 centuries later, once again the Gaza is occupied, this time by Arabs who call themselves Philistines (ie Palestinians), and whose dubious claim to the land God gave the tribe of Juda, is supported by the ‘world community’. As Israel resists the provocative rain of missiles from Gaza upon her own citizens, I believe it fitting to re publish an article (and an excerpt from an upcoming book I am writing about the Muslim nations in Bible prophecy. 

Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD’s anger come upon you. Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’s anger. For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up. Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant. And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks.(Zephaniah 2:1-5)

The eyes of the world were riveted upon two events in late August of 2005. On August 22 The Gaza eviction was accomplished, in which the Government of Israel, pressured by the United States forcibly removed the remaining Jewish presence in the Gaza strip and in four settlements of the West Bank. In some cases bodies were disinterred from graves, to be reburied in Israeli occupied land.
The world watched a self-imposed Jewish exile, over the tearful protests of Jewish home and business owners, to make room for a Palestinian state as dictated by the U.N.. Thriving businesses were left behind, only to completely trashed by the “Palestinian” occupants of the vacated towns and cities, as were the remaining Jewish cemeteries.The Gaza is now being used as a staging area for rocket attacks on the rest of Israel.

One week to the day later, August 29, 2005,  hurricane Katrina made landfall in and on America’s Gulf coast,  rendering tens of thousands of Americans homeless, and the disinterment of bodies out of cemeteries. Katrina wreaked havoc on the Presidency of George Bush that up to then was considered successful.

Although  the U.N., The European Union, the United States Government, and Russia, all insist on the creation of a Palestinian state in the midst of the Holy land that God gave to the seed of Abraham,Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Bible doesn’t desire one.
Could the Gaza/West Bank,  artificially imposed “Palestinian state”, be the “nation not desired” in Zephaniah?

Commentaries say no, for the most part, they claim that the “nation not desired” is Judah, but the Hebrew word for nation, in the Zephaniah passage  is e-Gui, the word transliterated as Goy, that is  the word ‘gentile”, or  nation.
The word of God has much to say about the future of Gaza, the nation currently run by a popularly elected terrorist group, Hamas, and the focal point of the world’s attempt to divide the Holy Land into a “two state solution’ to the Middle East conflict.
Gaza has been designated by the U.N. as part of the homeland of the new Palestinian state. So also has the so-called “west Bank” of the Jordan River, biblically called Judea and Samaria. Since the Israeli Government has forced the Jews who lived and traded there to leave, Gaza has been turned into a complete terrorist enclave, a staging place for terror raids, a persecutor of Jews and Christians.

Gaza  was recently in the news for the grisly street celebration held in the streets of her towns after an armed terror cell broke into a Jewish settler home in the West bank and slit the throats of a Father, an eleven year old boy a three-year old and an infant as they slept in their own beds. They then surprised the families mother, as she emerged from the bathroom, and murdered her in cold blood.
The response? Wild celebrations in the streets, passing out sweets and candies to neighbors, prayers and gunfire, a festive celebration! What sane nation would celebrate such atrocities?
Zechariah tells us that the celebration will one day be turned to agonizing fear for Gaza, after something happens to Syria, and to southern Lebanon, in the day when all eyes of men are turned to the LORD,

The burden of the word of the LORD in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the LORD. And Hamath also shall border thereby; Tyrus, and Zidon, though it be very wise. And Tyrus did build herself a strong hold, and heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets.Behold, the LORD will cast her out, and he will smite her power in the sea; and she shall be devoured with fire.Ashkelon shall see it, and fear; Gaza also shall see it, and be very sorrowful, and Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed; and the king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited.(Zechariah 9:1-5)

Something happens to Syria, particularly Damascus, which terrifies the hopes of Gaza, turning her citizens into streams of refugees. It involves southern Lebanon as well, which today is the stronghold of the Hezbollah terror group, and is also being used as a staging ground to rain rockets upon Israel.
There is no future for a Palestinian state in Gaza or the West banks in spite of the world’s desire. The world will soon see that the God of the Bible’s desire is all that really matters.

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My Servant Shall Justify The Many…servant songs pt 14

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.(Isaiah 53:10-12)

It was the LORD himself who crushed the Servant, it pleased Him to do so. The plight of sinful man required this self offering as a substitution, for a righteous God can only receive sinners on righteous terms. Sin must be paid for, Holiness must be satisfied, the punishment must be carried out.

The LORD  appointed the Servant,  that He might take our place in the judgment of our sin. All of the humiliation, pain, perplexity and estrangement that He experienced, is summed up in this terse, “He(the LORD) hath put him (the Servant) to grief“. It can also read, “He hath made him sick”. 

The death of the Servant was an offering of propitiation for our sins, that is a satisfaction offering. All of the demands of the broken law of God, and the offended holiness of God against sinners, have been satisfied by the offering of the Servant.

…when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin…This is addressed to the reader or hearer of this prophecy, “… When You make His life your sin offering…”. We are to approach God solely by the offering of this life, for this is the only sacrifice acceptable to God.

…he shall see his seed… Death will not be the last word for the Servant, for the Servant will see the outcome of his agony,  a believing seed will arise out of his work. He will be the source of a congregation , redeemed by His blood. They will be  faithful and true believers in Him, and in the God whom He came to reveal.

…he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand… The Servant will live forever.  This  refers to the promise given in Psalms to David’s seed,

He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever. His glory is great in thy salvation: honour and majesty hast thou laid upon him. For thou hast made him most blessed for ever: thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy countenance.(Psalm 21:4-6)

God’s pleasure, (to redeem sinful men unto Himself), will succeed by the hand of the willing Servant. There will be many of every tribe and tongue who shall come to know the “only true God” through the work of the servant. The good purposes of the Lord shall flourish by the suffering of this one.

…He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied… This too is a reference to the resurrection of the Servant, and the satisfactory outcome of his work. He will see the result of what he suffered for, and will be satisfied. It will have been worth pouring out his very soul to death, when He sees the redeemed company, knowing and loving God.

…by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities… Accepting in humble faith, the report of what the Servant has done for us; with all of it’s implications as to our persons, (that we are sinners in need of redemption, utterly separated from God by our sins), amounts to saving faith.

Knowing and receiving the risen Servant of the LORD, and his work of sin bearing, taking upon himself the guilt for our sins,  is the only way sinful man can be justified before a holy God. It is the God appointed way to be saved.

As “Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness“, even so themany, who simply believe the report of the Servant, shall receive as a free gift right standing with God. This is only possible because the offering of the Servant has satisfied the claims against us, and given the LORD a Righteous way to justify us.

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He Was Numbered With The Sinners…servant songs 13

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.  He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.(Isaiah 53:7-9)

The Servant Songs of Isaiah, are an increasingly detailed unveiling of the task assigned to the one God chose to “bring Jacob back to God“, and to “reveal God’s splendor to the ends of the earth”. How would this be accomplished?

The Servant will live close to God, he will be his disciple, listening daily for his word. His devotion to God will bring upon him the hatred and reproach of a world which has rejected God. He will even be tempted to be weary, and made to think that all has been in vain, for the Servant will be fully human.

Isaiah predicts that the Servant would have a ministry of the Word. He is called to  establish truth in the earth, to a world which has long since rejected truth.His bearing with people will be gentle, he throws no one away, not even a “dimly burning flax“, or “a bruised reed“. He will speak the Father’s Word to the weary ones, refreshing them, restoring them to God. The broken, ruined and stained will be revived by the ministry of God’s servant.

But we realize as these songs unfold, that the task of worldwide reconciliation to God demands something much more of the Servant than teaching people, and bearing long with difficult ones. It becomes obvious that the task assigned to the Servant to  “establish truth”and righteousness in the earth, and “to bring Jacob back to God“, demands an ultimate service; the laying down of His life as a substitutionary sacrifice. The Servant takes our place in Judgment. He pours out his own life for ours.

He was oppressed and afflicted yet opened not his mouth… This is a reference to the trial of the servant before human judgment. The Servant is silent when all of his “rights” are denied him, He offers no self-defense, no argument in his favor.He is like a lamb, led to the slaughter, completely compliant, in the face of outrageous injustice to his person.

He was taken from prison and from judgment:…the emphasis again is on the injustice of his trial and imprisonment. He was stripped of all of his rights and denied “due process”when He was led out to die an unjust death.

…who shall declare his generation? – The sense is ‘Who among his contemporaries even gave it a thought?’ Or, an alternative understanding is,’Who among his contemporaries spoke out for him?’. The idea is that his own generation did not recognize the Servant, they were indifferent to what happened to him, not seeing the significance of his actions.

…for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken… The Word “Cut off” , gazar, always has a violent meaning in the Hebrew bible. He was slain, he died a violent death, He was taken out at a relatively young age.

Why must the Servant die such a violent death?  The answering phrase literally continues, “…Because of the rebellion of my people, the blow to Him/to them”. Motyer has it in his commentary, “…my people whose was the blow/to whom the blow belonged.”* The blow that should have landed on we, his redeemed people, instead landed on God’s servant.

… And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death… The text says literally, that “He was assigned a grave with the wicked ones…” . This was startlingly fulfilled in the gospel account of Jesus hanging on a cross between two thieves. Jesus warned his disciples the night he was betrayed that the scripture in Isaiah must be fulfilled, that in him,  “He was numbered with the transgressors”.

We are also startled and amazed, by the next clause, that the Servant would be assigned a tomb,  “…with the Rich one in his deaths…”. Note that the “wicked ones” are plural, but the “Rich one is singular”. He is talking about specific details, actual people. Jesus was executed between two malefactors, but buried in a rich Senator’s personal tomb. Isaiah saw that detail, 700 years earlier.

…because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Either this is saying, that the Servant was tried, and executed as a sinner, “Even though he had done no violence…”, or it is saying that the Servant was given an honorable burial after these outrages, “because he had done no violence…”. It could be both are true, and that like other prophecies, it has a dual meaning.

* Inter Varsity Press, The Prophecy of Isaiah Motyer, Alec

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