Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Valley of Jehoshaphat and Armageddon

As we come to chapter 3 of Joel the focus centers on the battle of Armageddon. Verse 2 is specific in stating that all is happening according to God’s sovereign purpose.

Joel 3:2 “I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.”

Never in history have all the nations gathered together for war against the LORD. John also records prophecy of this time in Revelation.

Revelation 16:14-16 “For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”

Armageddon is the staging ground, but the heat of battle will be focused in the valley of Jehoshaphat, also known as the Hinnon Valley and the Kidron Valley according to Easton’s Dictionary. It is the valley between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives.

The wording of the KJV is a bit confusing. God isn’t going to plead with the nations as in trying to reason with them; He is going to exact judgment. Context of the chapter clearly states that this judgment will be in vengeance on behalf of “my people…my heritage Israel.” Again, I will quote from my journal.

Scripture tells us that God specifically singled out the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob as His unique possession among the nations and the land of Israel as His special allocation on planet earth.

Deuteronomy 14:2 “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.”

Numbers 35:34 “Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the LORD dwell among the children of Israel.”

Leviticus 25:17-18 & 23 “Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the LORD your God. Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety….The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.”

“They” (verse 2) refers back to “all nations.” God holds all the nations accountable for the dispersal of the Jews throughout the nations. As you follow the history of Israel, it is clear that they were driven from land to land due to greed for their wealth, refusal to renounce their faith, and/or unjustified fears or blame for plague, etc. The land of Israel has passed under the rule of empire to empire. However, since the reestablishment of the nation of Israel in 1948, this verse has taken on more obvious application. The predominant news in the Middle East since that time has focused on dividing the land of Israel to make way for another Palestinian state in addition to Jordan. Israel’s borders were initially established by UN mandate and miraculously defended by the fledgling nation. They have since withstood major attacks from surrounding countries in 1967 and 1973 that resulted in their conquering more land. Since that time, the calls for dividing the land have continued nonstop.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Promise of Future Blessing for Israel

Verses 21-29 continue to focus on the future blessings that the nation of Israel will experience due to their restored relationship to the LORD. In fact, verse 25 states that the blessings of that time will far exceed the suffering endured from past judgment.

Joel 2:25 “And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.”

Double emphasis is given in verses 26-27 that the people of Israel will never again experience shame or disappointment. Why? YHWH will be dwelling in their midst, and they will worship Him as LORD. No thought of false gods will ever tempt them again.

Joel 2:26-27 “And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed. And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed.”

Not only will the LORD be ruling on the throne of David in Jerusalem, He is also going to pour out His Spirit upon His people to empower them.

Joel 2:28-29 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.”

At verse 30 the message of the prophet tempers their expectation of future blessing with the reminder of the judgment that will precede it. The Father has declared His word, and His character demands that He does what He says. His character also allows for restoration of His people after judgment.

Verses 30-31 again reference physical phenomena in the heavens and on earth that will be associated with this judgment.

Joel 2:30-31 “And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.”

These verses affirm that this judgment will impact the whole earth—not just Israel—and tie directly back to verse 2. I couldn’t help but think back to the fact that God used signs and wonders to declare Himself to Pharaoh, and He will do the same again in declaring Himself not only to His own people, but to the nations as well during the coming “great and terrible day of the LORD.” The same Hebrew word for wonders is used in verse 30 as is used in Deuteronomy below.

Deuteronomy 6:22 “And the LORD shewed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes:”

The book of Revelation is full of descriptions of the wonders that God will do in heaven and earth using blood, fire and smoke. Only in Acts and Revelation do we find companion verses for verse 31.

Acts 2:20 “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:”

Revelation 6:12 “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;”

The verse in Revelation is a result of the opening of the 6th seal that is specifically identified as the beginning of the day of God’s wrath (in anger and vengeance against His enemies).

Revelation 6:16-17 “And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”

Verse 20 in Acts and the verse that follows indicate that Peter is also prophesying about the coming time of God’s judgment with the intent of producing repentance in the heart of those who hear the message.

Acts 2:21 “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

This ties directly to the next verse in Joel.

Joel 2:32 “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered….”

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Dark Time of Judgment

Continuing with our look at the book of Joel--Verse 10 goes on to include a description of some of the physical phenomena of nature that will accompany this struggle. Again, Revelation passages have corresponding descriptions of the same.

Joel 2:10 “The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining:”

Revelation 9:2 “And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.”

Isaiah’s prophecy also includes similar descriptions concerning this time of judgment.

Isaiah 13:9-13 “Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.”

One of the hurdles to jump in helping to understanding prophecy is to avoid the blindness caused by preconceived ideas. The fact that Joel is prophesying to Israel and events in Revelation are impacting the world is not exclusionary to their applying to the same events. God can and will utilize His judgments in that 7-year period to accomplish both his purification of Israel as a refining fire and in exacting His vengeance upon His enemies in the Gentile nations—two entirely different things.

In verse 18 the message turns from one of judgment to one of promise. Though He has had to exact punishment in accordance with His righteousness, God will also show mercy and compassion toward His people when that judgment is over.

Joel 2:18-19 “Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people. Yea, the LORD will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen:”

Though almost impossible to imagine at this time, the time is coming when the LORD is going to abundantly bless the nation of Israel—not only with material prosperity, but by establishing them in a place of honor among the Gentile nations.

I did get an interesting idea when I got to verse 20.

Joel 2:20 “But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things.”

I’ll quote directly from my journal at this point. In looking at the Hebrew for the word northern, it was interesting to note that the reference was to a root word defined as “hidden, dark, used only of the north as a quarter (gloomy and unknown).” Many of the enemies of Israel are described in scripture as coming from the north. In this verse, however, I wonder if the emphasis is more on the connection to verse 2 (“a day of darkness and gloominess”) and the unfamiliar army described in verses 4-9.

I have to keep reminding myself how the messages of the prophets often seem to be jumbled so to speak. He can be speaking of something current, then jump forward in time, then jump back in time, etc.

Maybe this is a reference to how the Lord destroys the demon locusts of Revelation 9 that are only allowed to operate for a 5-month period. I am reminded of the time Jesus healed the possessed man in the land of the Gadarenes. The expelled demons were given permission to enter the swine, and the demon-possessed swine jumped into the lake and were drowned.

Luke 8:30-33 “And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.”

Note that the “devils” in Luke did not want to go to the deep, the abussos, the place from which the demon locusts of Revelation 9 ascended. The locusts from Revelation 9 will inhabit some type of body. When their reign of terror ends, maybe the Lord is going to drive them into the Dead Sea [the east sea] and the Mediterranean Sea [the utmost sea]. Maybe the stink will be so great because there will be so many and their the stink will be increased due to the utter wickedness of their being.

Oh well, I hadn’t thought of that possible connection before.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Locust Army of Joel

I actually interrupted other studies to complete a study of this book so I could include it in this series of blogs. I had been putting it off because making specific application is difficult, and I’m still not sure how helpful my understanding will be. I’m pretty convinced that the first chapter had pretty specific application to the people of Joel’s day. I thought it was significant to note how closely the events described corresponded to the words of warning for disobedience recorded by Moses in Deuteronomy 28.

I’m also pretty convinced that, not discounting application to past events, the main thrust of the message beginning with chapter two is concerning future events. In verse 2 the reference is to a time so unique in Israel’s history that there will never be another like it.

Joel 2:1-2 “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.”

This thought also seems to have a direct connection to the words of Jesus regarding the tribulation period that immediately precedes His second coming to earth as King.

Matthew 24:21 “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”

This coming judgment is also described as a time of great darkness and gloom. I think this gives emphasis to the fact that evil and wickedness will be in full reign over planet earth at that time. Revelation tells us that Satan and His hosts will no longer have access to the heavens and will be furious; that fury will be directed in persecution of the people of Israel.

Revelation 12:9, 12-13 “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him….“Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.”

My struggle comes with determining specific application; but after considering the possibilities, I think it connects with both Revelation 9 and the final battle of Armageddon. Verses 4-5 seem to connect with both Ezekiel 38 and Revelation 9.

Joel 2:4-5 “The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array.”

Ezekiel 38:4 &9 “And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords…. Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee.”

Revelation 9:7-9 “And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.”

With verse 6 I only found a specific connection with the passage in Revelation.

Joel 2:6 “Before their face the people shall be much pained: all faces shall gather blackness.”

Revelation 9:4-6 “And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.”

Once I got to verses 7-9, the passage in Ezekiel seemed to be eliminated. The verses in Joel indicate that this mighty locust army will not break ranks and will be indestructible. The enemy armies of the Ezekiel passage will turn on one another and will be killed.

Joel 2:7-8 “They shall run like mighty men; they shall climb the wall like men of war; and they shall march every one on his ways, and they shall not break their ranks: Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded.”

Ezekiel 38:21 “And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord GOD: every man’s sword shall be against his brother.”

Ezekiel 39:3-4 “And I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand. Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the people that is with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Dead Sea Lives

As is usual with the prophets, the message does not maintain chronological continuity. Zechariah 14 begins with reference to the time in Jerusalem prior to the Lord’s return. Again the statement is made that the Lord is in sovereign control of the events taking place.

Zechariah 14:2-3 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle….Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.

I had always interpreted verse 4 in connection with Acts 1:11-12 to mean that Jesus’ initial return would be on the Mount of Olives.

Zechariah 14:4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.

Acts 1:11-12 “Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.”

In my study of Isaiah, I searched for reconciliation of these sections of scripture and those describing Jesus as being clothed in a garment stained red and coming from Edom.

Revelation 19:13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood:

Isaiah 63:1-3 Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.

During that study I came across Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s article, “Campaign of Armageddon” at www.raptureready.com. He made much more sense in explaining that the Lord would begin at Bozrah/Edom if, as is believed by many, a remnant of Israel is being preserved there at Petra, and end up at the Mount of Olives for the final defeat of Antichrist and his armies.

At some point the Mount will split, half moving north and half moving south, and form a valley running east to west between the Mediterranean and Dead Seas. Verse 8 tells us that there will be a river that flows from Jerusalem toward both seas. Ezekiel tells us that this river will flow from the temple and will provide healing wherever it flows. The Dead Sea will come to life.

Ezekiel 47:1-9 “Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar. Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the utter gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side….These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.”

Again, emphasis is made that the Lord will rule over the whole earth and Israel will dwell in safety.

Zechariah 14:9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.

Zechariah 14:11 And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.

I couldn’t help but think of the words from Isaiah describing this time.

Isaiah 11:6-9 “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”

Isaiah 65:21-25 “And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.”

Monday, March 16, 2009

Refined as Silver and Tried as Gold

Chapter 13 begins with a statement that describes the contrast of the Jewish people in the millennium to the Jews of the last centuries.
• They will never again be tempted to worship idols.
• They will never again be deceived by false prophets with unclean spirits.

Zechariah 13:2 And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.

Verses 8-9 indicate that 1/3 of the Jewish people will survive the tribulation period and emerge as the believing remnant that God has promised to preserve throughout the ages.

Zechariah 13:8-9 And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.

The Lord compares the refining process to that of refining silver. During my study of Isaiah I found a wonderful illustration of the significance of that comparison. It’s found in many places on the internet.

Malachi 3:3 says: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. "This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study. That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot then she thought again about the verse that says: "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver." She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy - when I see my image in it."

So I decided to do a search to determine how gold was tested and found the following at www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/roadshow/tips/gold_diamonds/index.html

"You've heard the expression, 'Give it the acid test,'" Barry says. "Well this is literally giving gold the acid test." The process begins by rubbing some of the metal from the jewelry against a slate (or sometimes a special piece of glass). "It scrapes off the gold like chalk on a board," Barry says, yet so little gold rubs off that it doesn't damage the jewelry. Then, acid is poured on the metal residue that was rubbed onto the slate…. "It's dangerous," Barry says. "The acid can damage your clothing and your skin."….If the metal rubbed onto the slate completely disappears under the acid, the piece is not gold.

I would assume that the acid could be compared to the trials of faith that these Jewish believers will endure through the terrible tribulation of that 70th week. It they emerge with their faith intact, they will have been tested as gold. I couldn’t help but think of these verses in 1John in connection with this thought.

1John 2:17-19 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

The last part of verse 9 is a glorious promise. In contrast to so much of their existence, the people of Israel will call on YHWH as their LORD God. They will love Him and obey Him. He will delight to hear them, in direct contrast to their time of rebellion and rejection when He refused to hear them. He will delight in responding to their call.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Israel Mourns for the Messiah

Continuing with our look at the prophecies of Zechariah 12--Verse 8 also makes reference to the military might of the nation of Israel.

Zechariah 12:8 In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them.

This verse tells us that the warriors of Israel will be mighty, but it is God who is the force behind their power.

In verse 9 the Lord declares that Israel will be indestructible when He intervenes on their behalf.

Zechariah 12:9 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.

I think this has double reference—to the attack of the armies of Gog and the attack of the forces of Antichrist at Armageddon. We may fear for Israel’s safety and wonder how she can possibly survive the combined forces of the Islamic world backed by the military might of Russia, but she will survive. She will survive to eventually face the combined military might of the forces of all the nations on planet earth at Armageddon. “In that day” the Lord will destroy those armies by the sword of His mouth as recorded in Revelation.

Revelation 19:13-15 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

Revelation 19:21 And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

I was very interested to see the Hebrew definition for seek in verse 9, “to search out (by any method, specifically in worship or prayer).” I think the speaker in this verse is the Lord Jesus, and I believe the words that go forth from His mouth to destroy the nations are a prayer to the Father that is immediately answered in the destruction of the armies of Antichrist.

Though the people of Israel currently reject Jesus as their Messiah, the day is coming when they will mourn in bitterness because of this rejection.

Zechariah 12:10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.

The Jewish people will finally realize that they crucified their Messiah. What produces the wonderful change of heart in the Jewish people? It is the pouring out of the Spirit of God in grace upon His people in establishment of the New Covenant. He will replace their hearts of stone with hearts of flesh.

Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

This repentance will be expressed in their prayer to God for deliverance.

Matthew 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

The Greek for the word say in verse 37 above includes “bid…call.” In other words, the pouring out of God’s Spirit on His people will result in repentance of their sin and recognition of their need for Jesus the Messiah to return. When they call out for Him to return in faith and repentance, Jesus will return as their King.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jerusalem – A Cup of Trembling and a Burdensome Stone

Zechariah 12 contains some of the most often quoted verses by prophecy teachers today.

Zechariah 12:2-3 Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.

The Lord is declaring His intent to make Jerusalem “a cup of trembling” to ALL the people round about and a “burdensome stone” for ALL people; and just to clarify “all people,” He states “all the people of the earth.” At the time that Zechariah is prophesying, Jerusalem is widely known as the capital of Israel and intimately connected to the glory of the God of Israel. The Hebrew for “a cup of trembling” is a reference to reeling and shaking from intoxication. The Hebrew for “a burdensome stone” is reference to a weight that is troublesome, painful and hard to bear.

This prophecy, as well as the many others that speak of the establishment of Israel as a nation of prominence among the nations, seemed impossible to believe for hundreds of years. Headlines today, however, scream loud and clear the truth of God’s word. Jerusalem today is surely “a cup of trembling unto all the people round about” and “a burdensome stone for all people.” Point is made that it is the Lord Who is going to put Israel in this position among the nations.

It’s interesting to me that Jerusalem and Judah are singled out. Much of the rest of Israel today is occupied by the “Palestinians,” but they aren’t satisfied with that; they want all of Israel. Chunk by precious chunk the Jewish people are ceding their God-given land in hopes of a peace that they will never have until Jesus the Messiah returns to establish His Kingdom. They’ve even been deceived into referencing themselves as occupiers.

The Lord is very clear; it doesn’t matter how large a group of multi-national forces may gather against Israel. Those nations/forces will end up being “cut in pieces,” and haven’t Israel’s victories in face of overwhelming odds proven this truth over and over again. Frankly, I think this truth will also continue to be proven regarding those nations that may not be participating in direct battle with Israel, but are acting with disregard to Israel’s well being in other ways.

It’s interesting to have the present day perspective of how Jerusalem and the nation of Israel have been positioned exactly as prophesied by Zechariah. The Jewish people are more secular than religious, and the Islamic world is determined to destroy the nation. I’m sure Satan thinks he has been very clever in his game of deceit and in assisting in the establishment of the Islam. Prophecy declares the truth of Who has been in control all along. Our amazing God has sovereignly used the actions of evil men (and spirits) to bring about His purposes—and will continue to do so until He has determined it is time for sin to be no more and His kingdom established for eternity.

Verse 4 is another seemingly impossible prophecy.

Zechariah 12:4 In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness.

“that day” – The day when the nations are gathered together against Jerusalem and Judah

I don’t see how one can make application of this verse to the siege of the Romans in the first century; Israel was overwhelmingly defeated. This seems to be much more descriptive of miraculous military victories in our day and in the days yet to come in connection with the forces of Gog and again with the forces of Antichrist at Armageddon. I wouldn’t even have made the connection to current times, except that I’ve heard accounts of miracles on the battlefield beginning with the War of Independence that seem to be directly connected to this verse.

The following in reference to the War of Independence in 1948 is from www.christiantrumpetsounding.com/nation_of_miracles.htm.

“To liberate the airport at Lydda the tactics of Gideon were employed. Seven thousand Arab troops were ready to attack. Sixteen Israelis dressed as Arabs infiltrated into the city of Lydda. Like Gideon’s band of 300 they made such a commotion during the night that the Arabs, totally confused, fired upon each other. Finally the majority fled back across the border.”

Regarding the 6-Day War in 1967 at www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/122435.

“The Israeli soldiers didn’t have to parachute out of the Nord airplanes which took them to the Tiran Straits. They landed like spoiled tourists in the airport, because the Egyptian regiment which was on guard there fled before the Israeli troops were visible on the horizon. After landing, I was sent with another reserves soldier, an electrician, to patrol the area. When we had distanced ourselves two kilometers, an Egyptian half track appeared before us filled with soldiers and mounted with machine guns on every side. We had only light weapons with a few bullets that couldn’t stop the half track for a second. We couldn’t turn back, so we stood there in despair, waited for the first shot, and for lack of a better idea, aimed our guns at them. 

But the shots didn’t come. 

The half track came to a halt, and we decided to cautiously approach it. We found 18 armed soldiers inside sitting with guns in hand, with a petrified look on their faces. They looked at us with great fear as though begging for mercy. I shouted ‘Hands up!’ As we were marching them and I had returned to a state of calm, I asked the Egyptian sergeant next to me, ‘Tell me, why didn’t you shoot at us?’ He answered, ‘I don’t know. My arms froze – they became paralyzed. My whole body was paralyzed, and I don’t know why.’ 
It turned out that these soldiers didn’t know that the Straits of Tiran were already in Israeli hands; why didn’t they eliminate us? I don’t have an answer. How can one say that G-d didn’t help us.”

These are just two of many more such as those reported by Michael Greenspan in his series, “Against All Odds: In Search of a Miracle.”

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Foolish Idol Shepherd

Chapter ten in Zechariah again confirms God’s plan to restore the nation of Israel to a place of blessing “as though I had not cast them off.”

Zechariah 10:5-6 And they shall be as mighty men, which tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets in the battle: and they shall fight, because the LORD is with them, and the riders on horses shall be confounded. And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them: and they shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am the LORD their God, and will hear them.

Since the reestablishment of the nation of Israel in 1948, they eventually grew to the point of at least earning respect for the actions of their military. Though that reputation has suffered in recent years, God intends to empower them supernaturally to defeat their enemies as He did when they first conquered the inhabitants of Canaan in taking possession of the land. Though they rebelled to the point that God chose to shut his ears to their cries, the day is coming when He will once again hear them because they are following Him in faith and obedience. Point is also made that the whole house of Israel—Judah (the Southern Kingdom) and Joseph (the Northern Kingdom)—will be unified in that restoration.

In verses 9-10 God declares that the population of Israel will grow to the point that they will need more land.

Zechariah 10:9-10 And I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and turn again. I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon; and place shall not be found for them.

The prophet Isaiah makes this same declaration.

Isaiah 49:19-20 “For thy waste and thy desolate places, and the land of thy destruction, shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants, and they that swallowed thee up shall be far away. The children which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other, shall say again in thine ears, The place is too strait for me: give place to me that I may dwell.”

Before the Lord establishes His Kingdom, however, He reveals through Zechariah that He will raise to power an idol shepherd that cares nothing about the people of Israel.

Zechariah 11:16 For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces.

This is a hard truth to process. We forget that the Lord often utilizes wicked people to accomplish His purposes. In the last days He will be focused on producing a believing remnant of the nation of Israel with whom He will establish His kingdom to begin a 1000-year reign over His earthly kingdom before allowing Satan one final opportunity to deceive the masses. These purposes are clearly stated in the scripture.

Daniel 9:24 “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”

Revelation 20:7-10 “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”

The rise of the “idol shepherd,” better known as the Antichrist, is necessary to this refining process. Note also that this “idol shepherd” is described as foolish.

Zechariah 11:15 And the LORD said unto me, Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd.

The Hebrew defines this word as “impious,” which Webster defines as “not pious…irreligious; irreverent; ungodly; profane; wanting in reverence for the Supreme Being.”

In direct contrast to the loving shepherd that scripture declares the Lord to be (see Psalm 23), this shepherd will care nothing for the people; in fact, he will do them harm as declared in verse 6, “he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces.”

Verse 17 is interesting; it indicates that the idol shepherd will sustain injury to his arm and his right eye such that his arm will be withered and he will be blind in his right eye.

Zechariah 11:17 Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.

This description of the idol shepherd seems to be connected to John’s prophecy of the Antichrist in Revelation.

Revelation 13:12-14 “And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.”

Verse 17 also states that the shepherd will “leave the flock.” I can’t help but think that this is a reference to a Jewish man who forsakes his own people for personal power and glory. I personally believe that he sells his soul to Satan.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Jesus Reigns as King in Jerusalem

As we come to chapter nine, we encounter God’s declaration to establish His King in Jerusalem to rule over the whole world.

Zechariah 9:9-10 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.

Matthew records that the first part of this prophecy was fulfilled by Jesus when He road into Jerusalem on what we commemorate as “Palm Sunday.”

Matthew 21:1-5 And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.

This is a declaration of the truth that it is Jesus who will rule as King in Jerusalem over a worldwide kingdom. This is the same kingdom that was prophesied by Daniel that would obliterate all other earthly kingdoms; he pictured it as a great stone the size of a mountain destroying a huge image that depicted the ruling kingdoms that came before Him.

Daniel 2:44-45 “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.”

God is declaring that He will eliminate the need for implements of war from Israel. He is going to declare peace with the Gentile nations, and establish His rule throughout the earth. Again, this is obviously yet future; the LORD will establish His throne in Jerusalem as the center of world government when He returns as the King of kings as described in Revelation 19.

Revelation 19:11-16 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

Both Isaiah and Micah make similar prophecies.

Isaiah 2:2-4 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Micah 4:1-3 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Israel – A Blessing to the Nations

Continuing with our look at the prophecies of Zechariah.

Zechariah 8:11-13 But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the LORD of hosts. For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.

Throughout Israel’s history they have had more sorrow than joy and more trouble than prosperity. When Messiah establishes His kingdom, Israel will truly become as numerous as the sands of the sea, the produce of the land will be abundant, and the nation will experience joy, prosperity and security as never before. Though they have always been cursed and despised among the nations, God will cause them to be blessed and desired among the nations. Can anyone deny that this has to be a reference to a time yet future? It has certainly not been true in the past.

The chapter closes with an emphasis to this prophesy of future blessing.

Zechariah 8:20-22 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.

These verses are speaking of a time when the people of many nations will come to seek the LORD in Jerusalem, and to pray before Him. Other prophets also speak of this time, and it is obviously yet future. It is descriptive of the Messiah’s Kingdom.

Isaiah 2:2-4 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Jeremiah 3:17 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.

Micah 4:1-2 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Zechariah 8:23 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.

Though despised throughout the last 2000+ years, Israel will one day be blessed and valued among the nations. During Messiah’s Kingdom the people of other nations will seek friends among the Jews. God’s blessing upon the Jews will be so obvious, that other peoples will conclude that there is blessing in just being near them. This pictures how the peoples of the nations will feel about their association with the Jews—not because of who they are, but because of the fact that “God is with you.”