Human enterprises can begin small and grow large. Google founded in 1998, Facebook in 2004 and Amazon in 1994 as examples. They can also, after expansion to many, shrink to fewer, one or none. Sears an example of the former, Blockbuster the latter Tower Records the last.
The kingdom of God on earth began with one man, Abram, Genesis 12:1-2. He alone carried that heritage 100 years before God added one to it in a baby called Isaac. He carried it in himself until, at age 60, his wife gave birth to twins Esau and Jacob.
Quietly, unobtrusively and privately, Jacob shared the heritage with Isaac for 75 years, outlasting his father’s personal disregard for God’s word and will. From an appetite for red stew Isaac would have forfeited the promise God made to Jacob before he was born Genesis 25:21-34.
Rebekah, because she didn’t forget the promise God made—what mother could?—outwitted her husband’s rejection of God and saved the birthright privileges God promised Jacob. She sent him away when Esau’s fit of rage determined to kill him. Rebekah sent him to her home country. If she had known how long Jacob would be gone, and she would never see him again, she may not have been so willing to part with him.
Jacob flourished numerically in Rebekah’s homeland by fathering through four women 12 sons and 1 girl in 20 years. For the first time in history God’s kingdom had multiple members.
Anointing Joseph as savior when the kingdom grew to 70 members seemed to exalt him to carry the kingdom’s torch into the future. But no, God separated Judah from the brothers when he insisted that Israel allow the brothers’ return to Egypt for provisions. However, some 20 years passed before Judah would be revealed as the progenitor of the Messiah Genesis 49:8-11.
From 12 men, fathering 12 tribes, God reduced leadership of the kingdom to one man and one tribe. The tribe of Judah would thereafter be the focus of messianic expectations. On one occasion the messianic line would be reduced to a single male as its repository II Kings 11:1-4.
Nevertheless, with one or many, that LINE remained intact, never collapsing into a shambles or vanishing. Nothing in history before then, at the time, or afterwards eliminated God’s kingdom. Nothing in history since, and certainly now, has or can. Anyone who endeavors to be the assassin of God’s kingdom finds himself instead under the STONE that crushes all enemies to dust Matthew 21:44.
A San Diego Union-Tribune story, 3/8/19, noted that only one of formerly 9000 Blockbuster Stores remains, and that in Bend, Oregon. Netflix K-O’d the company. Tower Records still has a brick and mortar presence in Japan, but none in America. One Howard Johnson’s exists in Lake George, New York, the last of what had once been the nation’s largest restaurant chain. Dollar Tree remains a strong presence, but has closed nearly 400 of Family Dollar Stores in 2019.
By mid-February, 2019, retailers had closed 2187 stores in the U.S. All of this has a spiritual application. The kingdom of God on earth began with one man, Abram, Genesis 12:1-2, but what exponential differences distinguished it from all other enterprises. End Part I
Jeremiah and Ezekiel shared with faithful men the hardship of preaching God’s word to faithless Israel. Balaam was among the first who resisted God but found himself subject to his sovereignty.
Isaac, son of Abraham, and father of twins Esau and Jacob, intentionally tried to resist God’s 75 year-old prediction that the elder Esau would serve the younger Jacob. Genesis 25:19-34, 27-28 have the accounts.
Apologists for Isaac say that the long period between the boys’ birth and his blessing could account for his negligence. Funny that Rebekah and Jacob remembered it and Isaac forgot it. Indeed, that God had to use Rebekah to preserve his prediction shames Isaac. Especially since he ignored God’s word simply by loving Esau’s kitchen skills. Isaac’s taste buds tried to trump God’s predictive will!
However, lest we condemn him too harshly, remember that MANY people compromise or dismiss God’s control of their lives by satisfying themselves with lesser goals! How like perverted Israelites are SO MANY today, not a few of them Christian, who reject God “for a few handfuls of barley and scraps of bread” Ezekiel 13:19a.
Wicked old Caiaphas joins this unholy alliance. John 11:45-53 has the account. When toadies rushed news of Lazarus’ resurrection to the Sanhedrin, a hand-wringing meeting followed. They obviously had no control of the Nazarene preacher. He was sure to bring Roman interference in Israel.
Note: none of the miracles Jesus performed in more than 3 years, including resurrections, HAD raised concern in Roman authorities. Why would Lazarus’? It wasn’t resurrection the Sanhedrin feared: it was resurrection in Jerusalem, their power base! But it would have brought only further estrangement of the people from the leaders, not the removal of those men by Rome.
Nevertheless...Caiaphas’ pronouncement that one man, not the nation, should die, fulfilled God’s intention to preach Christ beyond Jerusalem to capitals of the Empire. The Sanhedrin thought: kill Jesus and he’s gone. God said: kill Jesus and it will simply make salvation from sin possible for all people everywhere. Caiaphas didn’t know that, but what difference did that make? The intentional wicked, and the good but sinful believer, serve God’s purpose. The former may resent it, the believer may regret his role...but God’s Glory remains intact. Fini
Prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and apostles Peter and Paul, encountered opposition when preaching God’s word. By submitting to God’s call, and equally submissive to the rejection, persecution or imprisonment endemic to their preaching, they had the satisfaction of sharing with God in his work.
Consider the far greater cost to three men who fulfilled God’s will when speaking despite personal desires hostile to his purpose. The heathen diviner Balaam comes to mind. Numbers
22-24 has the account. As Egyptians came to dread a numerically-fecund enslaved Israel, Moab dreaded an Israelite army bivouacked on the Plains of Moab.
Undefeated in every conflict east of the Jordan, north from the Dead Sea to Bashan, northeast of Lake Galilee, King Balak saw no way to overcome it militarily. Knowing of Balaam’s reputation as a diviner, he hired him to put a curse on Israel.
Long story short, in four Oracles God instead filled Balaam’s mouth with blessings on Israel. Proving, first, when Satan challenges God’s predictive will, any attack on God’s people becomes support for them. Proving, second, however, while God wouldn’t let Israel be cursed by Satan, Israel allowed itself to be seduced into immorality by Balaam’s suggestion to Balak, Numbers 25. Satan cannot defeat Christians if we remain faithful to God. He can seduce Christians into spiritual neutrality or hostility to God by compromising Biblical standards—the curse of 21st century preaching. End Part II
With prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel as examples, even those desiring to proclaim God’s word struggle to heed his summons. He gave as his powerful commission to Jeremiah: “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them” 1:17. He gave an equally powerful commission to Ezekiel: “And you,
son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words...though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions....” 2:6.
God promised Jeremiah, “...I will make my words in your mouth a fire and these people the wood it consumes” 5:14. He promised Ezekiel that, while “the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate...I will make...your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint....13:7, 9.
Both prophets shared God’s righteous anger against their depraved people. Both paid the price their message of doom cost them. And both served under divine compulsion. When Jeremiah found rejection too much to bear, and felt God had made his work too hard, he decided to no longer speak for God. Only to find himself even more stressed. For God’s word was in his heart “like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” 20:9.
Ezekiel experienced a negative initial response when called to serve. “The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the LORD upon me: 3:14. End Part I
Concluding the arrival of King David at the very spot where Abraham had built his altar 1000 years before: who but God could bring a man and his son to that lonely ledge of rock 1000 years before, to build an altar as a prototype of a massive structure to be built a 1000 years later?
Who but God could use human inabilities as his opportunity? Could turn a King’s sin into salvation from sin for millions that after Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary would reach BILLIONS?
What would be the odds of that happening by CHANCE? But the amazing continuation of Bible history directed and controlled by God makes it all reasonable and expected.
So...whatever historian Page Smith and his ilk say, the question isn’t, “Who can be so presumptuous to think God KNOWS the future, sees the future from the beginning and can therefore PREDICT it?” The question is, “Who can be so ignorant of God’s omniscience and omnipotence as to DENY his plans for humanity?” And, by the way, this is but one of some 300 prophecies made hundreds before their fulfillment. But each one fulfilled as predicted.
Indeed, then, if anyone is silly, inconsistent, foolish, meaningless and irrelevant, it’s the skeptics and doubters, not GOD. However, don’t bother with the facts those who doubt, who refuse to believe, who anchor their life and future to mid-air uncertainties. They prefer to die in their sins to having to confess they need Christ’s forgiveness. They prefer to trust their limited, short-time-on earth humanity than be in debt to God’s eternal wisdom. Correct them. Challenge them. Upbraid them. But don’t pity them. They choose to live outside of God’s presence. They would never feel comfortable having to admit they NEED God in Christ. Fini
David’s assumption of blame offered the fifth event leading to the fulfillment of God’s 1000 year old promise through Abraham. When he watched the gigantic angel standing in the air above Jerusalem, sword in hand, ready to strike, the king and his counselors fell to their faces. Proving himself a true man of God, he took responsibility for the famine Saul caused—not his fault. He also honestly took blame for the concatenation of events caused by his sin with Bathsheba. Coupled with permissiveness to his sons and a sudden diminution of faith in God, he understood his fault in demanding a census. He also begged God to punish only him and his family, freeing the nation to receive blessings.
Instead, as is his wont where repentance is sincere, God authored the sixth event. His mercy prevented punishment for anyone else. But, as forgiveness necessarily followed repentance—can’t we see the conjunction in Christian teaching of baptism for forgiveness following repentance?—God ordered him to the very place the angel now stood on Araunah’s threshing floor.
There, on that spot, on the long, flat rock surface Abraham visited 1000 years before. Where he built his altar. Where the angel now stood. (Do not miss that point. To that very spot God directed David.) To it David went, perhaps not fully understanding. There he built his altar to God. There he offered his sacrifice. And when God sent fire from above to consume the sacrifice, David instantly understood and realized: the whole threshing floor would be the Temple Mount that we can see to this day—and the very place where the angel STOOD would be the altar of sacrifice in Solomon’s Temple. Which was exactly what we see in II Chronicles 3:1 End Part IV
The fourth event in achieving God’s 1000 year old purpose in having Abraham walk to Mt. Moriah is punishment. The death angel—the massive tower of splendor in light—passed through the villages and towns of Israel and, in his 3 day visitation, left 70,000 dead.
A lot of casualties...but consider...the Black Death, pneumonic and bubonic plague, killed 25 million in Europe between 1346-1352. In 18 months 1917-1919, Swine Flu killed 30-40 million world-wide and, in 10 months—550,000 Americans! When our population reached 105 million, that casualty rate killed one-fourth of Americans! Another 10 months like that would have given room to return half the country to the Indians.
And...just to warn us...dangers to vast populations still exist, the Ebola disease from Africa as but one example. A National Geographic report noted in July, 1994, page 70, even in ocean water. For a single teaspoon of salt water can contain a Billion virus particles. Another reason to prove that the Great White isn’t the only good reason to stay out of the water.
Not to discount 70,000 dead in Jerusalem in 3 days of plague. And not to discount the much larger number that would have died had God not silenced his gigantic messenger just as he raised his gigantic sword to strike the Holy City!
The important issue in the plague is that it led to the fifth event! End Part III
Abraham’s trip to Mt. Moriah, accompanied by Isaac, had a future result not seen for 1000 years. Part I emphasized the famine and plague that moved God’s chronology to his definitive end.
The third event, unexpected of King David, but perfectly understandable from a human perspective, was his sudden urge to know the size of his armed forces. Where scripture says, God tested, incited, moved or motivated David, he intentionally chose to live by numbers, not by faith in God. That brought the plague.
Let’s first cut him some slack. He had within the past 3-4 months violently suppressed two attacks on his throne. The ruthless, aggressive military action that saved his throne potentially alienated many previous supporters. How deep did disaffection with him extend?
Cutting him that slack, the fact remains: the census reflected a change in his priorities. While his faith in God hadn’t wavered through 30 tough years of military campaigns against foreign armies, unsettled conditions within Israel after Absalom and Sheba led him to ponder further domestic strife. Which led him from faith in God to fear of circumstances—and to the census.
That issues a warning when God tests us. Where patience in seeking his will is required, will we instead recklessly choose to act on our own initiative? If we show God the faith he demands, he’ll provide the blessing we need. But when we divert our gaze from God to ourselves, our fears, our weaknesses and our failures, to our own foresight, like David we’ll certainly make BAD choices. Few of us can say we never made bad choices. None of us can say we won’t lack faith in God when suddenly facing uncertainty. I Corinthians 10:12 warns us all: “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.” End Part II
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In one of his volumes on American history, Page Smith turned Bible critic and opined that it’s presumptuous to think we can understand God’s plans for humanity. Indeed, he said, some theologians thought God himself didn’t know what to do with humanity.
Pure nonsense, unworthy of a historian of Smith’s reputation. What theologians say doesn’t surprise any Bible believer.
This blog suggests a possible chronology by which God fulfilled the purpose of Abraham’s 1000 year old trip to Mt. Moriah; indeed, a purpose God never forgot.
First, a famine of three years duration occurred in Israel, perhaps early in David’s reign. God sent it due to Saul’s excess of zeal for Israel in killing many of the Gibeonites: people who had been promised sanctuary by Joshua, Joshua 9. As billions of people world-wide have discovered, Israel paid for the sins of her leaders. However, with restitution by executing seven of Saul’s male descendants, prosperity returned to the land. David initiated the recovery.
Second, a bruising visitation of divine wrath fell on Israel at the beginning of David’s 40th decade as king. Both II Samuel 24 and I Chronicles 21 agree that it came as an affliction on Israel.
Though the reason isn’t given, consider: the sin may have been the country’s wholesale defection from David to Absalom. Then, the defection of the 10 tribes to Sheba after Absalom’s rebellion failed. Remember that David repeatedly refused to overthrow Saul, though often given the chance. He held Saul’s OFFICE as sacred. An honor neither Absalom nor Sheba offered David. Each rebel considered himself a fit replacement. And it didn’t take much to steal “the hearts of the men of Israel” II Samuel 15:6. Especially if the idea was bad. End Part I