EXHORTATION

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UNENDING ENCOURAGEMENT

Here are two Psalms that again reach out to the sons of Korah.  Their ancestor had caused trouble by attempting self promotion in service to God.  If the sins of the fathers may be passed down through generations, the mercy of God continues to invite them home.  We all encounter the soil on the road of life, and so Jesus ordained a spiritual foot washing.  God cares about those of us who as believers are experiencing temptation to fail.

(A Psalm or Song for the sons of Korah.)

His foundation is in the holy mountains.  The LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.  Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Selah.  I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man was born there.  And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her.  The LORD shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there. Selah.  As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there: all my springs are in thee.  Psalm 87:1-7

Mount Zion and Jerusalem are established as a focal point for the attention of God.  He will honor good men from many places.  He has promised salvation to whosoever is willing to obey Him.  For those who are born in Zion God has promised salvation and some special attention.  While the sons of Korah may be drawn to manmade religions, their heritage of Jerusalem gives them a special promise.  Those designated to serve in the temple as musicians and singers are also more honored in Israel.

Christians of gentile heritage may be proud to be grafted into Zion through faith in Yeshua.  Still a promise of salvation remains for Israel, even if they may not yet acknowledge the grace being offered to them.  It was natural for many of Israel to be conservative about such an ancient God.  If some human traditions tempt them away from a revelation of grace, they are not deprived of the promise of the prophets.  So could we be in danger of the same spiritual pride by presuming to be better than the Sons of Korah?  Jesus showed us that Jews are the source of salvation, because he was Jewish.

Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.  But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.  God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.  John 4: 22-24

As God continues to encourage the Sons of Korah to stay near him are we Christians even more guilty of man made doctrines that can separate us from God?  The other sons of Korah perished in the wilderness, and gentiles too are being removed from the tree of life.

And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;  Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.  Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.  Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:  For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.  Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.  And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.  For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?  For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.  And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:  For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.  Romans 11:17-27

Today Israel is under a siege of rocket fire.  It seems the aggressor because Hamas is using civilians as shields against air strikes.  The rockets of Gaza seem crude but they have a real mission.  First they turn public opinion against Israel, while forcing their hand.  Secondly they allow technicians to discover the weaknesses of the Iron Dome anti-missile shield.  Dumb rockets are cheap, and the interceptor missiles cost about $60,000 apiece.  But the technology loss could turn the tide of battle.  Fortunately the nations of the world do not understand who the real shield of Israel is.  One day Israel will fully understand who that shield is too.  Those born of Jerusalem will be the first to see.

The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah.  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.  And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.  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.  In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.Zechariah 12:7-11

As Joseph was presumed dead, so Yeshua was also presumed to be pierced and dead also.  Yet as Joseph, Yeshua will return as the Messiah of Israel, with deliverance and salvation for the Sons of Korah.  They will have time to mourn, and to be forgiven as well.

For the sons of Korah there may be mourning as they identify the temptations that try to remove them from the grace of God.  For the brethren of Yeshua our hope is in daily repentance.  We have entered the house of the Lord by faith in Yeshua.  Are we given a place of honorable service only to consider our own religious rituals more important?  Do we “help” God by gossiping about our neighbors?  Do we leave the house to make an offering at the house of the Accuser of the Brethren?  God wants us to pull back to the safety of his sanctuary.

(A Song or Psalm for the sons of Korah, to the chief Musician upon Mahalath Leannoth, Maschil of Heman the Ezrahite.)

O LORD God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee:  Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry;  For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave.  I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength:  Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand.  Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.  Psalm 88:1-6

The unidentified psalmist sings to God, not just about him.  This is the prayer of one who is full of troubles.  This is a bitter lament, not a celebration of life.  The singer is deeply into the blues as he finds himself in the lowest pit of despair.  He  is separated from the source of life, our God.

Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah.  Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me; thou hast made me an abomination unto them: I am shut up, and I cannot come forth.  Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: LORD, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee.  Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah.  Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction?  Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?  Psalm 88:7-12

God doesn’t need to strike us for punishment; merely turning from us takes away our hope.  When I was in Scouts our scoutmaster was an imposing and dignified figure.  One night a boy had a nightmare and awakened crying out “Slim won’t look at me!”  How much more do we need affirmation from the creator who breathed life into our world?

This psalmist is expecting death and asks how God would be glorified in a dead world.

But unto thee have I cried, O LORD; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee.  LORD, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me?  I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted.  Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off.  They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together.  Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.  Psalm 88:13-18

I have known elderly men who passed from life both with and without faith in God.  The man of faith seemed demented to some but his scripture and his joy remained intact as he passed through the veil of death.  He had already seed what was awaiting him and he was at peace.  The man who was educated in the world seemed sharp and competent, but his nights and dreams were filled with terrors.  To live in your own strength is the ultimate weakness.

This Psalmist has felt lost, separated from one he esteemed to be a friend and a lover.  The Lord he has cried out to is not without hearing or feeling.  He will not die in despair, for our God is faithful.

So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.  And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD.  As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.  Isiah 59:19-21

RESTORATION

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FALLEN WARRIORS

Asaph is contributes Psalm 85 and David returns with a prayer in Psalm 86.  For Asaph to write a Psalm for the sons of Korah, he addresses descendants of the survivors of the rebellion in Moses time.  The sons of Korah still served in the temple, in positions of honorable ministry.  They also still possessed free will, and the temptation to stray as their fathers had.

(To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.)

LORD, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob.   Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah.  Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.  Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease.  Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations?  Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?  Psalm 85:1-6

Asaph acknowledges the gifts of God and the good history of Israel in his care.  Even as he praises God for past help he is asking that the people be turned back to their old faith.  He sees some anger from God for their ways, and looks for mercy.  Does he hold out hope for the Sons of Korah to turn from their sin?  It seems they retained a few bad ways from the old days.  Still, Asaph does not expect God to hold a grudge forever.

Shew us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation.  I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.  Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.  Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.  Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.  Yea, the LORD shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase.  Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.  Psalm 85:7-13

Asaph offers intercessory prayer for God’s peace to his people and his saints; the masses and the righteous few.  The sons of Korah had been forgiven and he prays they will not return to errors of their elders.  All need to stay on the straight path, forgiven and forgiving.  Prosperity will follow those who follow God.  There is hope for all of us, no matter how our fathers may have failed.

While Asaph offers intercession for others, David is seeking mercy for his own failings.  In both cases we can see that people can have a high place in serving God and still be tempted to fall away.  God’s own people fail daily and need to make the repairs of repentance daily.

(A Prayer of David.)

Bow down thine ear, O LORD, hear me: for I am poor and needy.  Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee.  Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily.  Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.  For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.   Give ear, O LORD, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications.  Psalm 86: 1-6

David submits his personal need and comes humbly to petition God for his needs.  David joins in a relationship with God daily for forgiveness and mercy.  David asks God to hear out his request.

In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.   Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works.  All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.  For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.  Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.  I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore.  Psalm 86: 7-12

Psalms often come with news of trouble, but God is acknowledged as the cure for all of these.  As the psalmist promises to continue praising God to the world the psalm, or song, gathers energy.  Here David is looking forward to more praise and awareness of the great works has and will do.

For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.  O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them.  But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.  O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid.  Shew me a token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, LORD, hast holpen me, and comforted me.  Psalm 86: 13-17

David already knows that God is merciful because of past victories so he can face the challengers.  The psalm is showing the confidence of the often confirmed compassion of God.  David knows that he needs grace for his failures but he is expecting that help.  He asks for a token, a sign of God’s deliverance which his enemies too can see.  When the world sees the evidence that God’s people are really being favored by God a few are prepared to accept.  This is a token, a warning to the violent and corrupt of the world.  The psalms again move beyond threats to the excitement of God’s personal answer.  This kind of intercession and repentance still works today.

God is more concerned about the righteous falling away, and a few unrighteous may still turn to join us as well.  To praise God produces his intervention and the victories that carry momentum towards our victory.  Let us not forget our own behavior and the warriors on our left and right.  Remember the rewards of serving in the house of God and call our own to follow the banner, the cross.

WORKS OF DARKNESS

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LURKERS

When David tended his flocks he faced the darkness and the dangers of predators.  Once he began to serve King Saul he was introduced to a darker danger.  Perhaps he may have faced the night wondering where God was hiding his hope.  He was becoming aware that outside his family there were men who plotted evil in the night.

Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?  The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined.  For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth.  The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.  His ways are always grievous; thy judgments are far above out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffeth at them.  He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity.  His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity.  He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent: his eyes are privily set against the poor.  He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den: he lieth in wait to catch the poor: he doth catch the poor, when he draweth him into his net.  He croucheth, and humbleth himself, that the poor may fall by his strong ones.  He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it.  Psalm 10:1-11

David is young and is appalled at the evil he sees in the world around us.  He may wonder why God allows so many to be contrary to his will.  Evil men take advantage of the weak and scorn their enemies.  Their self confidence leaves them in denial of the waiting wrath of God.  Don’t they still do that today?

Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the humble.  Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God? he hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it.  Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with thy hand: the poor committeth himself unto thee; thou art the helper of the fatherless.  Break thou the arm of the wicked and the evil man: seek out his wickedness till thou find none.  The LORD is King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of his land.  LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear:  To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress.  Psalm 10:12-18

While evil men lose their fear of God, the humble have confidence in him.  We all have sin, but daily repentance returns us to the fear of the Lord.  The day will come when evil will no longer be found.

In the LORD put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?  For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart.  If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?  The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men.  The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.  Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.  For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.  Psalm 11: 1-7

Why should I run away at the threats of evil men?  I trust in God against the weapons of evil.  The arrows and sword are not the only works of evil either.  The words of gossip and divisive cliques are just as destructive as violence.  All conspiracy is known by God, and evil will meet destruction from God.

Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.  They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.  The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things:  Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?  For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.  The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.  Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.  The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.  Psalm 12: 1-8

Help Lord; this is the key when we see that even the godly man ceases.  The faithful fail:  if there were no sinners there would be no church.  We all need grace.  Christians speak vanity, polite in public and critical in private.  We do need to repent daily, but in Christ we find the door open for us to do so.  Without that opportunity, we who are just beginning to become righteous will backslide right off the path.  The temptation that makes our feet slide is not our downfall; the temptation to omit repentance is.  Some turn away from life and their neighbors need deliverance from them.  God will keep those who are humble enough to maintain a relationship with him.

David will go on to fall into sin, to recover, and to confront the proud workers of evil.  He will have no reason to fear the works of the night because he will walk in the light of relationship with God.  He is not destined to be a perfect man, but he is to become a man after God’s own heart.

SELF EXAMINATION

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SEEK THE LEAK

We know that an often repeated lie may cause us to consider it to be possibly true.  Our enemy uses people to drag us down.  Job has heard his friends challenge his righteousness until he too may be looking for the sin in his life.  He seeks something that he might be able to fix, he indulges some self examination.  Who wants to face the perfect storm in a leaky boat?

I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?  For what portion of God is there from above? and what inheritance of the Almighty from on high?  Is not destruction to the wicked? and a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity?  Doth not he see my ways, and count all my steps?  If I have walked with vanity, or if my foot hath hasted to deceit; Let me be weighed in an even balance that God may know mine integrity.   Job 31: 1-6

Job has no plans to leave his wife, even if she suggested that he curse God and die.  He made one commitment and will not admire the other girls.  The covenant is with her and with God, so the judgment is of God.  Job is willing to have his trespass revealed to him.

If my step hath turned out of the way, and mine heart walked after mine eyes, and if any blot hath cleaved to mine hands;  Then let me sow, and let another eat; yea, let my offspring be rooted out.  If mine heart have been deceived by a woman, or if I have laid wait at my neighbour’s door;  Then let my wife grind unto another, and let others bow down upon her.  Job 31: 7-10

If he pursued what his eyes desired he is willing to surrender his rewards.  If he has considered adultery then he will allow his wife the same release.  He knows how bad this crime would be.

For this is an heinous crime; yea, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges.  For it is a fire that consumeth to destruction, and would root out all mine increase.  If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me;  What then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him?  Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb? Job 31: 11-15

Job knows that if he defrauds his wife or servants his own prosperity will be gone in judgment.  The same God who created Job and his neighbors will hold him accountable.

If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail;  Or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof;  (For from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my mother’s womb;)  If I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering;  If his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate:  Then let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone.  Job 31: 16-22

Job considers the needs of the poor as if they were family.  If he had deprived them of their needs.  He will accept painful judgment for any such sins.

For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure.  If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence;  Job 31: 23-25

The fear of God has motivated Job and he could not live out of the will of God.  He cannot replace righteousness with the love of gold.  He changes gears from talking about God, and now he talks to God.  He is seeing the light with the eyes of faith again.

If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness;  And my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand:  This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above.  If I rejoice at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him.  Job 26-30

Job is not seeing the lights in the heaven as being gods though.  Nor has he fallen in love with his own person or works as one who loves himself above God.  He knows that only God is above, and that only God can judge his enemy.

If the men of my tabernacle said not, Oh that we had of his flesh! we cannot be satisfied.  The stranger did not lodge in the street: but I opened my doors to the traveller.  If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom:  Did I fear a great multitude, or did the contempt of families terrify me, that I kept silence, and went not out of the door?  Oh that one would hear me! behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book.  Job 31-35

The people of the community would not say that they were denied meat for their needs by Job, they were not left hungry.  Job welcomed visitors into this house, and kept any bad thoughts to himself.  Peer pressure would not drive him to avoid truth or to hide from his responsibilities.  Job would welcome God’s answer to the book of charges made against him.

Surely I would take it upon my shoulder, and bind it as a crown to me.  I would declare unto him the number of my steps; as a prince would I go near unto him.  If my land cry against me, or that the furrows likewise thereof complain; If I have eaten the fruits thereof without money, or have caused the owners thereof to lose their life:  Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley. The words of Job are ended.  Job 31:36-40

If Job’s enemies had written a book of accusations, Job would wear them as a badge of honor.  The earth will not reveal blood that Job has spilled, or report that he has withheld its fruit from the poor.  He boldly dares fate to ruin the produce of his life if he is found guilty.  He rests his case.

I feel really good after cleaning my house and catching up on my personal grooming.  New clothes and fresh paint on the house lift my spirits.  How much better would I feel if I had Job’s confidence about my righteousness?  The car seems to run better when it is waxed, but I have a good many bugs splattered on the finish of my flesh.  We are fortunate to have the daily washing of repentance available.

TURNING BACK

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RECOLLECTION

After hearing the law Israel has recovered from their initial grief.  They have joy to know that they are forgiven, but aim to avoid sinning again now.  They confess and remember the sins of their past. 

Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.  And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.  And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.  Then stood up upon the stairs, of the Levites, Jeshua, and Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani, and cried with a loud voice unto the LORD their God.  Then the Levites, Jeshua, and Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, Stand up and bless the LORD your God for ever and ever: and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.  Nehemiah 9:1-5

The Levites lead Israel in a prayer of repentance for their past ways.  They stand on the steps of the temple to be heard by all.  They remember Genesis and the promises God made to Abraham.

Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.  Thou art the LORD the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham;  And foundest his heart faithful before thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites, to give it, I say, to his seed, and hast performed thy words; for thou art righteous:  And didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red sea;  And shewedst signs and wonders upon Pharaoh, and on all his servants, and on all the people of his land: for thou knewest that they dealt proudly against them. So didst thou get thee a name, as it is this day. Nehemiah 9:6-10

Now the Exodus and Moses are remembered in this continuing prayer.  They have preserved the writings and traditions of their faith well.  The captivity was a time to regroup, reflect, and preserve their experience.

And thou didst divide the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land; and their persecutors thou threwest into the deeps, as a stone into the mighty waters.  Moreover thou leddest them in the day by a cloudy pillar; and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go.  Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments:  And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:  And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them. Nehemiah 9:11-15

The priests relate the journey in the wilderness and all the deliverance God had provided.  They know the details and share all this with the people.  Israel did not have many copies of the word, and the common people were dependant on the priests for this knowledge of the Torah.

Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, so that they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not.  Moreover thou gavest them kingdoms and nations, and didst divide them into corners: so they possessed the land of Sihon, and the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og king of Bashan.  Their children also multipliedst thou as the stars of heaven, and broughtest them into the land, concerning which thou hadst promised to their fathers, that they should go in to possess it.  So the children went in and possessed the land, and thou subduedst before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gavest them into their hands, with their kings, and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they would.  And they took strong cities, and a fat land, and possessed houses full of all goods, wells digged, vineyards, and oliveyards, and fruit trees in abundance: so they did eat, and were filled, and became fat, and delighted themselves in thy great goodness.  Nehemiah 9:21-25

They observe their success in conquering Canaan and observe how they prospered in the land.  In prospering they also became fat and rebellious.  Do the ways of ancient Israel remind us of any modern nations?

Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations.  Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies, who vexed them: and in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies.  But after they had rest, they did evil again before thee: therefore leftest thou them in the land of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them: yet when they returned, and cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and many times didst thou deliver them according to thy mercies;  And testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (which if a man do, he shall live in them;) and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear.  Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands.  Nehemiah 9:26-30

Nehemiah looks back on the generations that rebelled against God and acknowledges the suffering that resulted.  He also recognizes the mercy of God for those who remember to repent.  The chosen sons of Abraham faced the perfect law of god with imperfect flesh.  In the end they still failed to produce salvation by good works of obedience.  It isn’t in our human nature to overcome sin.  We need God’s help to gain a supernatural nat

Nevertheless for thy great mercies’ sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.  Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble seem little before thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria unto this day.  Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly:  Neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments and thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them.  For they have not served thee in their kingdom, and in thy great goodness that thou gavest them, and in the large and fat land which thou gavest before them, neither turned they from their wicked works.  Nehemiah 9:31-35

Looking back at the faithful forgiveness of God, Nehemiah asks for help with their latest troubles.  He admits that God is justified to ignore their troubles because of their past sins.  He is counting on God’s just record to indicate that he will not condemn them in this time though.

Behold, we are servants this day, and for the land that thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it:  And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins: also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress.  And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.  Nehemiah 9:36-38

Other kings are eating the fat of the land of Israel.  They are slaves in their own home.  To assure the faithfulness of Israel their leaders will sign a contract with God.  They return to a covenant with God

Our prophets can turn our nation, but they need the participation of our leadership.  Enlightened leadership must be free of the confusion of Baal or his modern counterparts of religious confusion.  They must have a relationship with Yeshua, Jesus, the Messiah.

UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER

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IDOLATRY DESTROYED

All idolatry had to be surrendered before Judah (and parts of Israel) could be ready for battle.  King Hezekiah was up to the task.

Now when all this was finished, all Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all. Then all the children of Israel returned, every man to his possession, into their own cities.  And Hezekiah appointed the courses of the priests and the Levites after their courses, every man according to his service, the priests and Levites for burnt offerings and for peace offerings, to minister, and to give thanks, and to praise in the gates of the tents of the LORD.  He appointed also the king’s portion of his substance for the burnt offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the sabbaths, and for the new moons, and for the set feasts, as it is written in the law of the LORD.  Moreover he commanded the people that dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might be encouraged in the law of the LORD.  2 Chronicles 31:1-4

Everything was done to restore the belief in the God of Abraham, and in the Law of Moses.  All the ordinances were obeyed to build faith in God above all else.

And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly.  And concerning the children of Israel and Judah, that dwelt in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of holy things which were consecrated unto the LORD their God, and laid them by heaps.  In the third month they began to lay the foundation of the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month.  And when Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed the LORD, and his people Israel.  Then Hezekiah questioned with the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps.  And Azariah the chief priest of the house of Zadok answered him, and said, Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat, and have left plenty: for the LORD hath blessed his people; and that which is left is this great store.  2 Chronicles 31:5-10

When the people abandoned their false religions they also surrendered the appropriate offerings to the sacrifice.  Yet they suffered no shortages, and prospered more when they had given.  Even the leaders were impressed with their generous giving.

Then Hezekiah commanded to prepare chambers in the house of the LORD; and they prepared them,  And brought in the offerings and the tithes and the dedicated things faithfully: over which Cononiah the Levite was ruler, and Shimei his brother was the next.  And Jehiel, and Azaziah, and Nahath, and Asahel, and Jerimoth, and Jozabad, and Eliel, and Ismachiah, and Mahath, and Benaiah, were overseers under the hand of Cononiah and Shimei his brother, at the commandment of Hezekiah the king, and Azariah the ruler of the house of God.  And Kore the son of Imnah the Levite, the porter toward the east, was over the freewill offerings of God, to distribute the oblations of the LORD, and the most holy things.  And next him were Eden, and Miniamin, and Jeshua, and Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah, in the cities of the priests, in their set office, to give to their brethren by courses, as well to the great as to the small.  2 Chronicles 31:11-15

As the people had given faithfully, the priests also conformed to their assigned roles according to the Law.  The offerings were prepared appropriately.

Beside their genealogy of males, from three years old and upward, even unto every one that entereth into the house of the LORD, his daily portion for their service in their charges according to their courses;  Both to the genealogy of the priests by the house of their fathers, and the Levites from twenty years old and upward, in their charges by their courses;  And to the genealogy of all their little ones, their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, through all the congregation: for in their set office they sanctified themselves in holiness:  Also of the sons of Aaron the priests, which were in the fields of the suburbs of their cities, in every several city, the men that were expressed by name, to give portions to all the males among the priests, and to all that were reckoned by genealogies among the Levites.  And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God.  And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.  2 Chronicles 31:16-21

Every one of the families of god’s servants received their portions.  Hezekiah submitted himself to God in everything he did, and God gave him his prosperity.  This is a pattern that remains valid today.  We will fail to stay on this path, but we will be reminded by scriptures to turn back when we stray.  We can turn to God the Father as Jesus taught us,  to repent and to let him help us to come back. 

Isn’t it good to have the New Testament with all its letters of instruction to teach us?  We can go straight to the proper source for help when we fall.  Hezekiah was teaching Judah this same lesson of repentance and correction.  They needed a teacher like him until the Lord himself came to teach us.  Now we will see if Judah is prepared to stand in the face of a challenge.

PARTING LIGHT

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A LIGHT FOR THE NIGHT

 

DISCOVERY

The son of king Amon takes the throne in Jerusalem.  God has no humor for kings that miss the mark in this time.  Amon reigned only two years before his servants slew him.  As Israel is sliding down the slippery slope, it doesn’t pay to ignore God’s warnings.  Amon’s son Josiah is made king and he takes a different path.

Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath.  And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.  And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, the scribe, to the house of the LORD, saying,  Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of the LORD, which the keepers of the door have gathered of the people:  And let them deliver it into the hand of the doers of the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD: and let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the LORD, to repair the breaches of the house,  Unto carpenters, and builders, and masons, and to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the house.   2 Kings 22:1-6

Josiah isn’t branded as the son of Amon, but honored as a son of David.  He commissions the repair of the temple from the money in the care of the priests.

Howbeit there was no reckoning made with them of the money that was delivered into their hand, because they dealt faithfully.  And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.  And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD.  And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.  2 Kings 22:7-10

There was trust, and no larceny in the finances of the building program.  They were rewarded with a discovery, that the law was not lost after all the conquerors had taken the gold before.  Reading the word had a great effect on the king.

And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes.  And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king’s, saying,  Go ye, enquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.  So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the  prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college;) and they communed with her.  2 Kings 22:11-14

Josiah recognized the many transgressions of Israel and sent for the word of the prophets about their condition.   The prophetess Huldah lived at a college; defined as (Christianity / Ecclesiastical Terms) a body of clerics living in community and supported by endowment.  http://www.thefreedictionary.com/college

They sought one who was recognized and supported by the community as being worthy.  She confirms the words of previous prophets but gives Josiah some hope.

And she said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me,  Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read:  Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched.  But to the king of Judah which sent you to enquire of the LORD, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard;  Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the LORD, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the LORD.  Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again. 2 Kings 22:15-20

Josiah will not see all of the coming evil, but he will have a taste of it in time.  For now he has a direction and encouragement.  He will set about making changes in Judah. 

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