REVEALED

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187px-Hangmans_Noose 

HORRORS FOR HAMAN

The banquet of Esther came as the queen prepared to make a brave request.  The king had offered her half of his kingdom, but she waited until now to make her request.  Women in Persia were not treated better than they are today in modern Iran.  The previous queen had been banished for being rebellious.  As with any court of judgment one could not be sure of the outcome.  When men make decisions, they are not always righteous ones. 

So the king and Haman came to banquet with Esther the queen.  And the king said again unto Esther on the second day at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition, queen Esther? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? and it shall be performed, even to the half of the kingdom.  Then Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request:  For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king’s damage.  Esther 7:1-7

Esther doesn’t ask for favor, except that her life be spared.  Until now neither the king nor Haman knew that the queen was one of the condemned Jews.  She would have been quiet if only destined for slavery, but she made a petition only when her people were marked for extermination.  The king is about to learn that Esther was condemned with her people by Haman.

Then the king Ahasuerus answered and said unto Esther the queen, Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so?  And Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen.  And the king arising from the banquet of wine in his wrath went into the palace garden: and Haman stood up to make request for his life to Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king.  Esther 7:5-7

The king knows that Haman has used him and he is trapped by his own royal decree.  He is angered by the lie of omission and goes outside to vent a bit.  Haman makes another mistake that is misinterpreted by the king.

Then the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine; and Haman was fallen upon the bed whereon Esther was. Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house? As the word went out of king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face.  And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon.  So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified.  Esther 7:8-10

The king mistakenly believes that Haman is about to rape the queen at this point.  While Haman is not guilty, others cover his face as if he should be ashamed to show his face.  And when you are down, everyone steps up to point out all of your other sins.  Harbonah volunteers information about the gallows intended for the king’s friend Mordecai.  He included the detail that the gallows was 150 feet high, seemingly to show off Mordecai’s dead body in a public display.  That provided the convenient sentence for this extremely short trial and guilty verdict. 

Esther began with prayer, and only sought the lives of her people.  She entered a dangerous mission but did not set all of these events in motion herself.  God roused the king from his sleep to remember the good deed of Mordecai earlier.  Prayer moved other events so Mordecai would be honored to Haman’s horror.  And Haman’s own wife was moved to suggest building the gallows.  Mordecai had requested that Esther keep her nationality secret, to provide this last surprise.  God was working behind the scenes like a master chess player…CHECKMATE!

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JERUSALEM REBORN

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THE RESISTANCE OF DARKNESS

After prayer for Jerusalem and Israel, Nehemiah is still a bit down.  He is assured that God is faithful, but Israel has not been.  He is not feeling his usual joy in life.

And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.  Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,  And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?  Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.  Nehemiah 2:1-4

When the king of Persia notices that his servant is sad, it is unusual.  When he questions him, Nehemiah is fearful because of the size of his problem, and how the king may react.  Will the king view this as an imposition on his generosity?  Still, he lets honesty be his guide in revealing the plight of Israel.  When the king asks what he needs, he has the wisdom to seek God first.  Perhaps this request to pray first impresses the king, as our actions confirm our faith.  Now Nehemiah reveals the need of his people.

And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.  And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.  Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;  And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.  Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.  Nehemiah 2:5-9

Nehemiah asks to rebuild Jerusalem, and the king was willing to allow him to go, and to get materials as well.  He was escorted on his trip by military guards and met with the governors of the land.  There were a few who hated Israel, and they were unhappy to hear this news.

When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.  So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days.  And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon.  And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.  Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king’s pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass.  Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned.  Nehemiah 2:10-15

Knowing that there was opposition, Nehemiah decided to inspect Jerusalem quietly after dark.  In the shadows of night he found the city destroyed and blackened by fire.  The rubble was so strewn that his mount could not climb through the streets.  Building stones fallen haphazardly could break a horse’s leg.  Everyone in his party could see the size of the work ahead of them on that dark night.

And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work.  Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.  Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.  Nehemiah 2:16-18

In that dismal sight he encouraged the leaders of Israel with the testimony of how God had already helped him.  They were encouraged to be brave and to get started on the work.  They will need courage for more than just the reconstruction work ahead of them.

But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king?  Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.  Nehemiah 2:19-20

So now we again see the enemies that Ezra resisted.  At first they try mockery and scorn, but then suggest that Nehemiah is leading a rebellion against the king.  We read in Ezra that they had offered to help, intending only to hinder.  Their intentions were known and rejected.  They were being exiled from Jerusalem as they should have been when Israel first came to the Holy Land.

You know these spirits today.  They may join your church, but they are working for division and strife.  I have neighbors who greet me with smiles, and wear a Christian bumper sticker.  They also seem to be the source of anonymous complaints and have reported me to the building inspector.  I have not broken any laws, but false accusations have still come.  These are working for the accuser of the brethren, who is Satan.  Fear not; these have no portion, nor right, nor memorial in New Jerusalem.

THE CHALLENGER

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THE THREAT

After all the teaching, answered prayers, and assurances, are we ready to face a real threat?  For Judah the test was coming soon. 

After these things, and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah, and encamped against the fenced cities, and thought to win them for himself.  And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem, He took counsel with his princes and his mighty men to stop the waters of the fountains which were without the city: and they did help him.  So there was gathered much people together, who stopped all the fountains, and the brook that ran through the midst of the land, saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water?  Also he strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Millo in the city of David, and made darts and shields in abundance.  2 Chronicles 32:1-5

An enemy has come, and king Hezekiah considers normal prudent preparations.  He orders the water sources outside the city closed off to make the Assyrians life harder.  Judah repairs broken walls, builds additional walls, and prepares weapons for the siege.

And he set captains of war over the people, and gathered them together to him in the street of the gate of the city, and spake comfortably to them, saying,  Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him:  With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.  2 Chronicles 32:6-8

Hezekiah has not forgotten the supernatural preparations during the natural rearmament.  His people take comfort in this reminder that God is with them.

After this did Sennacherib king of Assyria send his servants to Jerusalem, (but he himself laid siege against Lachish, and all his power with him,) unto Hezekiah king of Judah, and unto all Judah that were at Jerusalem, saying,  Thus saith Sennacherib king of Assyria, Whereon do ye trust, that ye abide in the siege in Jerusalem?  Doth not Hezekiah persuade you to give over yourselves to die by famine and by thirst, saying, The LORD our God shall deliver us out of the hand of the king of Assyria?  Hath not the same Hezekiah taken away his high places and his altars, and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall worship before one altar, and burn incense upon it?  Know ye not what I and my fathers have done unto all the people of other lands? were the gods of the nations of those lands any ways able to deliver their lands out of mine hand?  Who was there among all the gods of those nations that my fathers utterly destroyed, that could deliver his people out of mine hand, that your God should be able to deliver you out of mine hand?  Now therefore let not Hezekiah deceive you, nor persuade you on this manner, neither yet believe him: for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people out of mine hand, and out of the hand of my fathers: how much less shall your God deliver you out of mine hand?  2 Chronicles 32:9-15

The king of Assyria is too busy with another battle to come to besiege Jerusalem in person.  His servants go directly to discrediting the Lord, pointing to the failures of other gods.  They go on to wage propaganda warfare against Judah.

And his servants spake yet more against the LORD God, and against his servant Hezekiah.17 He wrote also letters to rail on the LORD God of Israel, and to speak against him, saying, As the gods of the nations of other lands have not delivered their people out of mine hand, so shall not the God of Hezekiah deliver his people out of mine hand.  Then they cried with a loud voice in the Jews’ speech unto the people of Jerusalem that were on the wall, to affright them, and to trouble them; that they might take the city.  And they spake against the God of Jerusalem, as against the gods of the people of the earth, which were the work of the hands of man.  2 Chronicles 32:16-19

Here the purpose of the Assyrians is clear; to plant fear in the hearts of Judah.  Fear is the enemy of faith, and they use the Jew’s own language to reach the common people.  This is to no avail, as the people have an uncommon leader.

And for this cause Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven.  And the LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valor, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he was come into the house of his god, they that came forth of his own bowels slew him there with the sword.  Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all other, and guided them on every side.  And many brought gifts unto the LORD to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah: so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations from thenceforth.  2 Chronicles 32:20-23

Both the king, and the prophet Isaiah focused their prayers against the Assyrians.  This Isaiah had a relationship with God that revealed the nature of Messiah years before the birth of Jesus.  The message was received, and God sent deliverance.  An insult and a challenge to the God of Abraham bring results.  And this is no slow process, but immediate results.  The enemy learned who the God of Jacob is, and how different from the gods made of stone.

In those days Hezekiah was sick to the death, and prayed unto the LORD: and he spake unto him, and he gave him a sign.  But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem.  Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah.  2 Chronicles 32:24-26

King Hezekiah was aware of God’s healing power, but became lax in honoring God later.  The kingdom suffered for his shortcomings until he humbled himself again before God.  I have been like this myself, becoming quick to complain when pain or loss comes to me.  The wrath of God was turned during Hezekiah’s life, but it did come to his people later.  Perhaps our example of pride or complaining in unbelief is what others pick up, and that curses them long after we are gone.  May God allow us to remember the good example of humility that Hezekiah also left us.  May our community remember our godly examples more than our failures.

And Hezekiah had exceeding much riches and honor: and he made himself treasuries for silver, and for gold, and for precious stones, and for spices, and for shields, and for all manner of pleasant jewels;  Storehouses also for the increase of corn, and wine, and oil; and stalls for all manner of beasts, and cotes for flocks.  Moreover he provided him cities, and possessions of flocks and herds in abundance: for God had given him substance very much.  This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works. 2 Chronicles 32:27-30

Hezekiah had more temptation to be proud than most of us, being prosperous in all ways.  He engineered underground water supplies for the city against enemy siege warfare.  This pride led him to trouble as he showed his prosperity to others.

Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.  Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and his goodness, behold, they are written in the vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, and in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.  And Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the chiefest of the sepulchres of the sons of David: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honor at his death. And Manasseh his son reigned in his stead. 2 Chronicles 32:31-33

When Judah later continued to backslide from God, the Babylonian’s interest in the wealth of Jerusalem would lead to its fall.  Still Hezekiah left a mark of goodness on this part of Judah’s history.

MULTIPLICATION IN DIVISION

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OBEY AND TRUST

The son of Rehoboam is not willing to stray from the hope of David and Solomon.  Jeroboam faces a challenge from Israel, and he is outnumbered two to one.  He needs an ally of greater strength than their own.  Sometimes grandchildren correct the sins of their fathers.

Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam began Abijah to reign over Judah.  He reigned three years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Michaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah. And there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam.  And Abijah set the battle in array with an army of valiant men of war, even four hundred thousand chosen men: Jeroboam also set the battle in array against him with eight hundred thousand chosen men, being mighty men of valour.  2 Chronicles 13:1-3

Abijah delivers  sermon to Jeroboam of Israel, and pleads with them not to fight againxt God.  Rebellion will have its way though.

And Abijah stood up upon mount Zemaraim, which is in mount Ephraim, and said, Hear me, thou Jeroboam, and all Israel;  Ought ye not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?  Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, is risen up, and hath rebelled against his lord.  And there are gathered unto him vain men, the children of Belial, and have strengthened themselves against Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and tenderhearted, and could not withstand them.  And now ye think to withstand the kingdom of the LORD in the hand of the sons of David; and ye be a great multitude, and there are with your golden calves, which Jeroboam made you for gods.  Have ye not cast out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and have made you priests after the manner of the nations of other lands? so that whosoever cometh to consecrate himself with a young bullock and seven rams, the same may be a priest of them that are no gods.  But as for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken him; and the priests, which minister unto the LORD, are the sons of Aaron, and the Levites wait upon their business:  And they burn unto the LORD every morning and every evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense: the shewbread also set they in order upon the pure table; and the candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof, to burn every evening: for we keep the charge of the LORD our God; but ye have forsaken him.  And, behold, God himself is with us for our captain, and his priests with sounding trumpets to cry alarm against you. O children of Israel, fight ye not against the LORD God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper.  2 Chronicles 13:4-12

You shall not prosper…what part of “you lose” don’t you get?  Jeroboam has the wisdom of the world though, and executes a classic military maneuver.

But Jeroboam caused an ambushment to come about behind them: so they were before Judah, and the ambushment was behind them.  And when Judah looked back, behold, the battle was before and behind: and they cried unto the LORD, and the priests sounded with the trumpets.  Then the men of Judah gave a shout: and as the men of Judah shouted, it came to pass, that God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah.  And the children of Israel fled before Judah: and God delivered them into their hand.  And Abijah and his people slew them with a great slaughter: so there fell down slain of Israel five hundred thousand chosen men.  2 Chronicles 13:13-17

Judah had recent training in spiritual warfare; they regularly sacrificed in obedience to God.  As such they were empowered against the military wisdom of the world.  God fought for them.  Israel lost over half their army to their own rebellion.  Carnal warfare will not prevail over spiritual warfare.

Thus the children of Israel were brought under at that time, and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied upon the LORD God of their fathers.  And Abijah pursued after Jeroboam, and took cities from him, Bethel with the towns thereof, and Jeshanah with the towns thereof, and Ephraim with the towns thereof.  Neither did Jeroboam recover strength again in the days of Abijah: and the LORD struck him, and he died.  But Abijah waxed mighty, and married fourteen wives, and begat twenty and two sons, and sixteen daughters.  And the rest of the acts of Abijah, and his ways, and his sayings, are written in the story of the prophet Iddo.  2 Chronicles 13:18-22

Jeroboam lost thousands, and cities, and his health.  He did not prosper mentally, physically, spiritually, socially, or financially.  Abajah prospered in faith first, and in material later. 

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31

ACTION AND REACTION

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A REPLY

Prayer in the presence of God will bring the manifestation of power from God.  The modern church has witnessed waves of revival in which the testimony of miracles is real.  I don’t know how that power fades through the generations, but it is always available in revival to the repentant.  Solomon witnessed a powerful presence and manifestation of God in this dedication.

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.  Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the LORD.  And king Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty and two thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep: so the king and all the people dedicated the house of God.  2 Chronicles 7:1-5

When Israel saw the fire and God filled the house; then they worshipped God.  Don’t we look for the signs before we trust God?  This was so even in the times of Jesus. 

Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.  John 4:48

It was important for the people to see these signs to be motivated to make a commitment to obey God.  It had to be a sincere and total desire to be righteous to make a point about our inability to be good.  Israel would deliver the desired demonstration in due time.  Their worship for now included the Psalms David had written for the Lord.

And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of musick of the LORD, which David the king had made to praise the LORD, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood. Moreover Solomon hallowed the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD: for there he offered burnt offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings, because the brasen altar which Solomon had made was not able to receive the burnt offerings, and the meat offerings, and the fat.  Also at the same time Solomon kept the feast seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great congregation, from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt.  And in the eighth day they made a solemn assembly: for they kept the dedication of the altar seven days, and the feast seven days.  And on the three and twentieth day of the seventh month he sent the people away into their tents, glad and merry in heart for the goodness that the LORD had shewed unto David, and to Solomon, and to Israel his people.   Thus Solomon finished the house of the LORD, and the king’s house: and all that came into Solomon’s heart to make in the house of the LORD, and in his own house, he prosperously effected. 2 Chronicles 7:6-11

The offerings and feasting were a celebration for seven days.  It overwhelmed the capacity of the altars and probably left everyone filled with hope and good meat.  The guest of honor was God, and he made his appearance with drama.  There was a covenant in place now.  God was about to make one more appearance; he will respond to the request.

And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice.  If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people;  If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place.  For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.  And as for thee, if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shalt observe my statutes and my judgments;  Then will I stablish the throne of thy kingdom, according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man to be ruler in Israel.  But if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments, which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them;  Then will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations.  And this house, which is high, shall be an astonishment to every one that passeth by it; so that he shall say, Why hath the LORD done thus unto this land, and unto this house?  And it shall be answered, Because they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath he brought all this evil upon them. 2 Chronicles 7:12-22

The rise and fall of ministries and nations seems directly tied to the failures we are warned against in these scriptures.  Can we learn from the lessons we find here?  Solomon is warned that if he (or they, or we) departed from God and served idols, Israel would be doomed to fall.  Now we know that Solomon was turned to idolatry, and Israel did fall before their enemies.  Was this cruelty from God? 

When we tell our children not to play with matches, don’t we expect some children to get burned because they will not listen?  We don’t want that result, but we recognize the human capacity to fail.  We are creatures of free will.  The word “if” is still the catch in the contract.  Obedience will be the great test of Israel and the world.

SEPARATION FROM DEATH BY LIFE

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A NEW SACRIFICE

And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,  This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke:  And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, that he may bring her forth without the camp, and one shall slay her before his face:  And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times:  And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn:  And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer.  Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even.  And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even.  And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin.  And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: and it shall be unto the children of Israel, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute for ever.  Num 19:1-10 (KJV)

 After all the sacrificial ceremonies previously described, the Lord defines yet another one for the red heifer.   What makes a cow so special for this service?  It is still a focus of attention for the Jews to this day.  They watch for the birth of the right heifer to initiate this service again today.

He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days.  He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean.  Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him.  This is the law, when a man dieth in a tent: all that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days.  And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean.  And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.  And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of  purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel:  And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave:  And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even.  But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the LORD: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is unclean.  And it shall be a perpetual statute unto them, that he that sprinkleth the water of separation shall wash his clothes; and he that toucheth the water of separation shall be unclean until even.  And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even.  Num 19:11-22 (KJV)

The ashes are used to cleanse the guilt of sin associated with death.  Israel will be entering battle soon, and they will be in need of this cleansing often.  They will see much death in these wars.  Israel will face one last great war in the end times as well.  Perhaps it is a sign of the times that they are seeking the red heifer again. 

These Jews are ready to complain again, even after being warned about rebellion and murmuring.  After the death of Miriam they are ready to whine again.

Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.  And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.  And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!  And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?  And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink.  Num 20:1-5 (KJV)

Once again Israel lacks water, and they can only remember Egypt for food, and forget their bondage there.  We long to satisfy our lusts, even when we know that our desires can lead to sin and death.  We can look at our life in sin as being better than the kingdom of God.  Our protests can drive our leaders to error too.  Moses gets instructions for this crisis from God again.

And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them.  And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.  And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him.  Num 20:6-9 (KJV)

Moses was told to speak to the rock, and also that the water would come.  Perhaps their complaints pushed him, but Moses acted out of anger. 

And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?  And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.  Num 20:10-11 (KJV 

The water came, but Moses had not obeyed God’s command, hitting the rock instead of talking to it.  God saw, and cursed the life of Moses for this.  God takes from Moses the promise of entering the Holy Land.

And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.  This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them.  Num 20:12-13 (KJV)

Why was God so angered with Moses?  They had this previous experience with needing water to remember: 

And the LORD said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go.  Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.  Ex 17:5-6 (KJV) 

At that time God had told Moses to strike the rock.  We too struck the rock in another time: 

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  Isaiah 53:4-5 (KJV) 

We all partook of sin, and contributed the acts that Jesus was crucified for.  God allowed Jesus to be stricken that one time for our healing.  But we are not to “strike the rock” a second time.  How can we do that? 

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?  Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:  Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  For he that is dead is freed from sin.  Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:  Romans 6:1-8 (KJV) 

Once we accept the grace of the blood of Jesus, we are to sin no more.  If we continue in sin, it is as if we are putting him back on the cross, striking the rock a second time.   We need only to speak to him now.

And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us:  How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers:  And when we cried unto the LORD, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border:  Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king’s high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders.  And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.  And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing any thing else, go through on my feet.  And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand.  Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him.  Num 20:14-21 (KJV) 

Clearly they are not approaching a place of easy passage.  There will be resistance by war to their entrance into their inheritance.  They need to be free of sin, cleansed from all contact with the dead things of the past.  For us now, to turn back now would be to deny the miracles we have already witnessed.  It would be to deny the work of the cross, and return Jesus to the agony of crucifixion anew, without accepting his inheritance.  For Israel here, the past is dying, and their first generation is leaving them. 

And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh, and came unto mount Hor.  And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying,  Aaron shall be gathered unto his people: for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah.  Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor:  And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there.  And Moses did as the LORD commanded: and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation.  And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount.  And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.  Num 20:22-29 (KJV)

Israel has left Egypt, and before that the land of the Chaldeans, forever.  They are entering their own land and a new contract with God.  They will deal with death only if they are strong and free of sin.  Their children are leaving those who stumbled in sin behind.  The red heifer is their cleansing against the death they will contact in these coming battles, as Jesus cleansed us by his red blood.  Israel must remember to follow God’s instructions, and not undo his grace by continuing in sin.   

I am preparing to move to Oregon this week.  I leave behind 30 years of contract employment for a permanent job.  Our pastor here in Iowa reminded us that Abraham left his home for a better one.  In Christ we leave behind an old life for a better one.  We must not be weary enough to become short with people or to fall to temptation.  Moses missed the Promised Land in a moment of anger.  We must not slip back to old ways as we approach this great promise. 

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,  Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Heb 12:1-2 (KJV)