Category Archives: Religion

The Right to Assemble

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

The first of the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States, known as the Bill of Rights, says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (emphasis mine). Arguably, certain groups today are loudly exercising their “freedom of speech” (while prohibiting the speech of opposing views). These same groups, while adopting one part of the Constitution, ignore the part that allows them to “peaceably” assemble. Instead, they riot, vandalize, and destroy private property. These groups gather in large mobs in blatant violation of all “social distancing” recommendations put forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

There is another group that is ignoring the First Amendment by happily, quietly, and carefully adhering to all the dictates put forth from our beneficent government. Because the Government cares deeply about its citizens and because the Government wants to protect its citizens from the deadly Wuhan Bug, it issued strict stay-at-home orders. All mass gatherings were prohibited and gatherings were limited to 10 or less. Restaurants or any business where people come in close contact with one another were shut down. Such draconian measures affected many small businesses and severely damaged the national economy, but it also directly impacted houses of worship. Most churches fell right in step with Government demands without a peep. Oh, there were some outcries, but these drew immediate fire, not only from the media and local authorities but from other churches that readily complied with “the law.”

Please do not get me wrong. In many ways, I sympathize with pastors of these compliant churches. After all, the CDC painted a grim picture of the Wuhan Bug. It was stealthy. It struck out of nowhere. It was deadly. Pastors, who really care about their congregations, fear inviting a deadly, invisible guest into their congregations that could infect and possibly kill some of their members. If the Wuhan threat were as pernicious as represented by the CDC, pastors cautiously refused to take responsibility for infecting their members.

So, Churches across the country closed their doors. Of course, many churches found creative ways to keep “having church.” Live streaming of church services actually increased the number of church attendance, and many thousands have come to the Lord as a result. Bible study groups took advantage of Zoom ™ to conduct interactive Sunday School classes. So, all was not lost.

Churches have quietly complied with Government (local, state, and federal) demands. However, in doing so they have broken two greater laws – the Law of the Land (the Constitution), and the Law of God.

The stay-at-home orders violate the First Amendment in two ways. They prohibit “the free exercise” of religion and “the right of the people to peaceably assemble.” Some will argue that we have not lost “the free exercise” of religion because we continue to exercise our religion virtually through live stream. Perhaps. However, the second part of the amendment ensures that we can “peaceably assemble” and that is very much a part of our “religion” (see our beginning verse above). Unless I missed something in my high school civics studies, the Constitution supersedes all other laws (except the Law of God). Local and state governments cannot (legally) make laws that supplant the Law of the Land, nor can an unelected body like the CDC. So, by compliance with these unlawful laws, the Church is violating the law of the land.

By compliance with these unlawful edicts, the Church has unwittingly broken God’s law by “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25). One of the purposes for our assemblies is “to provoke [one another] unto love and to good works” (Hebrews 10:24). That is next to impossible to do “virtually.” That cannot be done over the internet or even in a Zoom meeting for Sunday School. We need each other. “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:14-16). We can best “edify” each other when “the whole body [is] fitly joined together.”

The last phrase of Hebrews 10:25 reminds us that we should assemble “so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Anyone paying attention can see that “day approaching.” And what is the Church doing? Staying at home watching their pastor on a computer monitor!

Things seem to be winding down with the Wuhan scamdemic, but the CDC warns that it may ramp up again in the Fall. So, will the Church go back into hiding again?

Another observation troubles me. It is the lack of faith in God’s provision and protection demonstrated by the Church’s submission to these unlawful directives. If Jesus has directed His Church to not forsake our assembling together, especially as we see the day approaching, will He not honor that and protect us from any harm? Or, is trusting in His provision just something we read in the Bible that is nice to talk about, but not to be taken seriously? Since the shutdown orders went into effect, I’ve heard many sermons encouraging listeners to take courage and not to be fearful, yet, the pews are empty and the preacher is speaking to a cold, unresponsive camera. Where is the courage in that!

Again, I do not mean to criticize pastors. They are doing what they feel is best for their flock. I understand. How about showing true courage and opening the doors to the church with no “social distancing”? How about behaving as if God will protect His people as He has promised? How about standing up against unlawful orders, and courageously affirming that “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)?

I think it’s about time we assert our right to assemble. If anyone is fearful they should stay home. If anyone suspects they might be contagious, they should stay home. Otherwise, let’s have church – real church!

3 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Current Events, End Times, Random Musings, Religion, Second Coming of Christ, Worship

How Soon They Forget!

Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: (Deuteronomy 8:11)

Forgetfulness gets us in trouble many times, like when you forget some special someone’s birthday or anniversary. Forgetfulness can be annoying, like when you walk into a room and wonder why you entered. Someone once said that “The only thing faster than the speed of thought is the speed of forgetfulness. Good thing we have other people to help us remember.”[1] Some kinds of forgetfulness are worse than others. When you forget a special day, you can always make it up and get forgiveness. When you walk into a room and forget why you entered, you can always walk back out and remember when you get busy doing something else. However, forgetting God and the blessings He has bestowed on us, well, that just makes us ingrates, but worse, it raises up a barrier to our relationship with Him.

Reading through the biblical history of Israel, the characteristic that stands out above all others is forgetfulness, which often manifests in the spirit of ingratitude. When God led them out of Egypt, they soon forgot the hardship of their bondage and started complaining about the manna God provided for them in the desert. After God audibly spoke to them at Mount Sinai and gave them His Ten Commandments, they soon forgot the first one and built a golden calf to worship.

That pattern followed them throughout their history until God finally had enough and sent the Assyrians first to punish Israel (the northern kingdom) then, 100 years later, He sent the Babylonians to punish Judah. The northern kingdom, Israel, was deported to the region that we know today as northeastern Iraq,[2] and they assimilated with the Assyrian culture gaining the moniker of the “Ten Lost Tribes.” Nebuchadnezzar carried off the Jews[3] in three waves, 597 BC, 586 BC, and finally 581 BC, but the Judah Jews retained their identity throughout their captivity (as they have to this day).

The Babylonian captivity for the Jews lasted only 70 years as God had determined for them.[4] Daniel records the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BC[5] by Cyrus as predicted by Isaiah the prophet.[6] After conquering Babylon, Cyrus issued a decree[7] that allowed the Jews to return to Judah and rebuild Jerusalem and their Temple. It took the Jews about 23 years to rebuild the Temple razed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. “And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king” (Ezra 6:15).[8]

Fifty-six years (by my calculations) after the completion of the Temple, Ezra, priest and scribe,[9] left Babylon to assess the Temple situation. This was during the seventh year of Artaxerxes I’s (465-425 BC) reign; this would have been around 458 BC. In the interim, between the completion of the Temple and Ezra’s arrival in Jerusalem, the enemies of the Jerusalem Jews had been carrying on a letter-writing campaign with the Persian kings to stop the rebuilding of Jerusalem.[10] Therefore, all building (except for the Temple which was completed) had ceased.

At about this same time, (20th year of Artaxerxes I, 445 BC) Nehemiah heard about the battered condition of Jerusalem and how the city walls were broken down. This caused him great grief and from his position as the “king’s cupbearer,” he requested permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. Ezra was already in Jerusalem. So Nehemiah took charge, and against much opposition, rebuilt the walls in just 52 days.[11]

I have a reason for providing all that detail. I began by reciting Israel’s forgetfulness and unfaithfulness to the LORD their God. Finally, after 70 years of captivity, God worked through pagan kings to allow them to return to their homeland. With the blessing of the Persian kings, beginning with Cyrus, God provided the way and the resources for them to rebuild their Temple and the walls of the city in record time. All of this was God’s doing, and God’s hand can be clearly seen over all of it. One would think that after all of that, they would remember their God.

They did, briefly. Once the walls were completed and Ezra had the priests and Levites all organized, they had a dedication for the Temple and the City walls. The scene recorded in Nehemiah 8 and 9 harkens back to a similar gathering when King Josiah read the Book of the Law that had been found in Solomon’s Temple.[12] On this occasion, Ezra stood on a “pulpit” and read Scripture from morning until noon. And the people stood and listened, and the Levites “taught the people” and they “read in the book of the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8, emphasis mine). The clarity given to God’s word was necessary because the people had been speaking Aramaic in their captivity and probably lost a lot of their use and understanding of Hebrew – the language of the Scripture.

As a result, there was a great “revival” among the people. They discovered that it displeased God for them to intermarry with pagans, so all those who married pagan wives divorced them. They committed to follow God completely. So, for the twelve years that Nehemiah governed,[13] they were faithful to their commitment. However, Nehemiah had to return to his post at the side of Artaxerxes[14] and was there for “certain days.” In his brief absence, things (spiritually) fell into disarray once again. Eliashib, the priest, arranged an apartment inside the Temple for Tobia the Ammonite, the mortal enemy of Nehemiah, violating the Law of God.[15] Nehemiah observed many Jews violating the Sabbath and foreign merchants peddling their goods inside the city gates on the Sabbath. All these things from which they “repented” were taking place as normal. They also started marrying pagan wives again. How soon they forget!

It is no wonder that God stopped speaking to them after this for the next 400 years. Then Jesus came, and they failed to recognize Him because they forgot what Scripture foretold about Him. We should not be too critical, though. We have the complete canon of God’s Word, and we still forget.

I have stated before, when I read the history of Israel, I see a striking parallel with our nation, the U.S.A. We have forgotten God too, and if God stopped dealing with His “chosen people” what makes us think that we should get preferential treatment? I think we have gone too far in our forgetfulness.

There is hope for the U.S.A., for Israel, and for the whole world. Soon, and very soon, Jesus will return and set up His kingdom on Earth, and all things will be made right. Are you prepared to meet Him? See my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration, (Norilana Books, http://www.norilana.com/, 2010).

[2]  2 Kings 17:6

[3]  Name derived from “Judah”

[4]  Jeremiah 25:11-12

[5]  Daniel 5:30

[6]  Isaiah 44:28; 45:1

[7]  Ezra 5:13

[8]  Darius reigned between 522-486 BC

[9]  Ezra 7:6

[10] Ezra 4:8-22 (is a “sample” letter that is out of sequence with the narrative)

[11] Nehemiah 6:15

[12]  “Too Good, Too Late” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/05/17/too-good-too-late/

[13]  Nehemiah 5:14-15

[14]  Nehemiah 13:6

[15]  Deuteronomy 23:3

1 Comment

Filed under Bible, Christianity, End Times, Religion, Second Coming of Christ, Theology

Too Good, Too Late

For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made. (Isaiah 57:16)

Of all of God’s attributes, one is that of patience or longsuffering. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God’s patience is infinite, as He is infinite. However, God sets a limit on His patience as our starting verse makes clear; He will not “contend” with us forever. The Hebrew word translated “contend” is rı̂yb and it means “to toss, that is, grapple; to wrangle, that is, hold a controversy; to debate.

The earliest example we find in the Bible appears in the account of the Global Flood.[1] For almost 1600 years following Creation, men grew progressively perverse even though God’s witnesses existed in abundance. Their original father, Adam, lived for more than half of that time.[2] The letter to the Hebrews records that “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5, emphasis mine). Jesus’ half-brother, Jude, noted, “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 1:14-15). Yet, with all these witnesses over the many years, the wickedness of humans only increased. “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (Genesis 6:5-6). God’s patience reached its limit, and He sent the Flood.

However, God’s plan for the redemption of man never deviated. God’s salvation would come through Abraham and through his “seed.”[3] Abraham’s seed went through his son, Isaac, and his grandson, Jacob/Israel. Israel, that is the descendants of Jacob, soon put God’s patience to the test shortly after He rescued them from Egyptian bondage.

Not long after their exit from Egypt, they fell into idolatry by worshipping the golden calf[4] even though God earlier gave them His Ten Commandments. Then, one generation after entering the Promised Land, they fell right back into their old idolatrous ways. God would punish them, they would repent, God forgave and they would do it over again. This remained true throughout their history.

After King Solomon died, his son, Rehoboam failed to keep the nation united and the northern ten tribes seceded and formed their own nation, Israel. The southern kingdom survived with two tribes, Benjamin and Judah and went by the name of the larger tribe, Judah.

Israel immediately fell into idolatry and all her kings “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.” God’s patience with Israel reached its limit after 200 years, and the Assyrians under the King Shalmaneser[5] invaded and expatriated the entire population of Israel and deported them to “Halah and in Harbor by the river of Gozan, and the cities of the Medes” (2 Kings 17:6), which is somewhere in present-day northeastern Iraq.

Judah fared somewhat better. Most of her kings “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD;” however, they tolerated idolatry in the land even though they themselves may not have practiced idolatry. It all began with Solomon who actually built temples to the gods of his many wives and even joined them in the practice while maintaining the worship of God. After Solomon, the kingdom of Judah survived for 333 years, about 100 years longer than Israel. Judah had many “good” kings, but the ones that were bad were very bad.

Manasseh probably ranked as the worst of Judah’s bad kings. Not only did he follow “after the abominations of the heathen” but “he reared up altars for Baal,” “worshipped the host of heaven, and served them,” “built altars in the house of the LORD … in the two courts of the house of the LORD,” “he made his son pass through the fire,” and “he set a graven image … that he had made in the house, of which the LORD said to David … I will put my name forever”[6] Manasseh “seduced [Judah] to do more evil than did the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the children of Israel” (2 Kings 21:9).

Judah encountered the limit of God’s patience with Manasseh. “Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations … Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle. … I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down. And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies; Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day” (2 Kings 21:11-15, emphasis mine).

Manasseh’s son, Amon, followed in his father’s footsteps, but his reign lasted only two years. However, his grandson, Josiah, was arguably Judah’s best king ever. He was only eight years old when he took the throne, but he did what his predecessors failed to do. He destroyed all the places of idol worship throughout the land and executed the pagan priests. He renovated and rededicated Solomon’s Temple that had fallen into disrepair and had been desecrated by Manasseh, Ahaz[7], and others. In the process of cleaning up the Temple, Hilkiah, the high priest, discovered “the book of the law in the house of the LORD.”[8] “And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes” (2 Kings 22:11). Of Josiah, Scripture records, “And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him” (2 Kings 23:25).

Judah made a great turn-around because of good King Josiah. It was almost too good, but it was too late. “Notwithstanding the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal. And the LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there” (2 Kings 23:26-27, emphasis mine). About eleven years later, Nebuchadnezzar came and subdued Judah and took her children off to Babylonian captivity. Josiah was too good, too late. God’s plan would not change.

When I read the history of Israel in the Bible I cannot help but draw a parallel between that nation and the United States of America. There are many comparisons that can be drawn. However, there is one major difference that we often overlook. Israel was chosen by God for a specific purpose that is yet to be fulfilled. The United States was not. As we see the “end of days” on the horizon, Israel is very much in the picture; the U.S. is not.

However, there are some similarities, especially in the spiritual sense. Both nations had a strong foundation on the Word of God, and both nations lost their moorings from that foundation. The founding of the U.S. started long before 1776 or the signing of the Constitution in 1787. It began with the arrival of the Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock in November 1620 “for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith.”[9] If the U.S. is chosen by God, it is chosen only because of His people who maintain and uphold the Christian Faith, but those numbers are diminishing. Israel was chosen by God with a non-conditional promise made to Abraham, and regardless of Israel’s lack of loyalty or devotion to God, God will not renege on His promise. The U.S. does not enjoy that kind of commitment from God. We are nothing special.

Truly God has blessed this nation because of His people that inhabit this land and because our nation has, for the most part, obeyed God’s word and maintained that “In God We Trust.” However, over the years, that loyalty to God has waned, and we have allowed pagan gods to influence and even to dominate our government and our society.

After World War II the moral state of our nation took a downward turn. We banned prayer and the Bible from public schools. Then we sanctioned abortions on demand. At first, abortions were limited to the first trimester, but now many states accept infanticide as “a woman’s right.” Homosexuality was once a shameful practice kept “in the closet,” but now every kind of sexual perversion is not only tolerated but encouraged.

The Obama Administration saw the morality of the nation cascade like going over Niagara Falls. The sins of the nation brought with it a sharp decline in the prosperity of the nation. Things looked grim. Then came Donald Trump. Perhaps not the perfect picture of a Christian, but he has done more to promote the Christian Faith than any president before him. He declared Jerusalem the rightful capital of Israel and moved our embassy there. He blessed Israel and God says, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee” (Genesis 12:3). President Trump has done more to turn this country around than any previous president.

Then the Wuhan Bug hit. Many economists believe that our country may never recover. This downturn in the economy affects the whole world, not just the U.S. Many of our leaders and leaders of other nations are calling for a one-world government to fix the mess in which we find ourselves. The Bible warned that such would be the end of days. So, for all the good President Trump has done, it may be too good, too late.

Christians everywhere claim 2 Chronicles 7:14 hoping for a turn-around. However, that verse was specifically for Israel. The U.S. is NOT Israel, and we, the Church, are not Israel. When God’s patience reached its limit and Nebuchadnezzar surrounded Jerusalem, Jeremiah prayed fervently for deliverance. God answered, “Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence” (Jeremiah 14:11-12, emphasis mine). If that was God’s attitude toward His “chosen people,” why should we expect better? Instead, “I the LORD have spoken it: it shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not go back, neither will I spare, neither will I repent; according to thy ways, and according to thy doings, shall they judge thee, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 24:14).

Since the “lockdown” went into effect, I hear that many are “seeking the Lord.” Online Bibles are being downloaded and read. Churches are seeing a rise in “virtual” attendees. I have seen this before – Y2K, 9-11. As soon as the crisis subsides, things go back to “normal” and society continues on its moral decline. I doubt this will be any different. Don’t get me wrong. I rejoice that some are truly turning to the Lord, but Jesus’ Word will not fail. “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14, emphasis mine). For all the good President Trump, like Josiah, has done, it may be too good, too late.

Reader, Jesus is coming very soon. Everything that is going on in the world today tells us that His coming is very near. Are you prepared to meet Him? If not, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life” and settle it once and for all.

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 6-9

[2]  Genesis 5:5

[3]  Genesis 12:3; Galatians 3:16

[4]  Exodus 32

[5]  2 Kings 17:3

[6]  2 Kings 21:1-7

[7]  “Trading Old For New” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/05/10/trading-old-for-new/

[8]  2 Kings 22:8

[9]  Mayflower Compact, November 21, 1620

1 Comment

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Current Events, End Times, Evangelism, Politics, Pro-life, Religion, Second Coming of Christ, Theology, Worship

Trading Old For New

Replica of the Arch to the entrance to the temple of Baal erected in Washington DC

For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8)

Things get old and lose the attraction we once held for them. Certainly, this is obvious with material things like cars, houses, stuff that goes in houses, jewelry, gadgets, etc. There are few things more exciting than getting a new car – the new-car smell, the sparkling paint, the way that it handles on the road. After a few years, though, the interior smells of stale hamburgers, wet dog or baby vomit. The shine fades and obscures the dings, dents, and scratches from parking too close to the entrance at Walmart. Driving then becomes just a thing you do to get from here to there. That car we fell in love with is just a thing now, and we take it pretty much for granted.

We do the same with traditions and relationships. It is bad enough when we take human traditions and relationships for granted, but it is worse when we treat God and the things of God the same way. We find a good example of this in the account of Ahaz, king of Judah.

No doubt Ahaz was brought up in the traditions and ways of God. He came from good stock, beginning with King David. His father Jotham, his grandfather, Azariah (a.k.a. Uzziah), great-grandfather Amaziah, and great-great-grandfather Jehoash (a.k.a. Joash) were all “good” kings and “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD.”[1] However, even though these kings faithfully obeyed God for themselves, they failed to lead the nation in that regard by not removing “the high places” where the people followed pagan practices. By allowing idolatry to continue, rather than stoning idolaters to death,[2] God’s commandments were largely ignored or followed only by rote. The recommended capital punishment for idolatry may seem extreme to our liberal ears, but God’s reasoning is impeccable. “And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you” (Deuteronomy 13:11).

So, even though Ahaz had good, Godly fathers, what he observed around him caused him to regard the things of God of little value. Perhaps the pagan practices he observed looked like a lot more fun. He could enjoy all the sex he wanted, and if his promiscuous acts produced offspring, he could sacrifice those to Molech[3] – all the fun and none of the responsibility! (Sound familiar?)

During his short reign of 16 years,[4] the Assyrian Empire was rising up. At that time, Pekah, king of Israel, and Rezin, king of Syria joined forces to come against Jerusalem,[5] but they could not overcome the fortified city. Ahaz needed help, so rather than turning to God, he sought help from Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria. In order to buy the help, Ahaz robbed the treasures of the Temple of God (which had been robbed in the past beginning with Rehoboam.[6]). When one reads the spare-no-expense details of the building of Solomon’s Temple, it is sad to think of what had become of the once “wonder of the world.” Now, it was just a rundown building useful only for buying alliances. It was of little value to Ahaz, and the LORD God was not better than any other god in Ahaz’s eyes.

After Tiglath-pileser defeated Rezin, king of Syria, and carried off all the Syrians, Ahaz paid a visit to Damascus, the capital of Syria. There he saw the temple of Baalshamin (Baal), and he was deeply impressed by the altar to Baal. Not having a cell phone with a camera, he sketched a drawing of the altar along with the exact dimensions and sent them to the Urijah the high priest with orders to build a replica in the Temple in Jerusalem.

When Ahaz returned from Damascus, he instructed Urijal to move the original brazen altar built by Solomon to the north side of the Temple. In its place on the east side before the entrance to the Temple, Ahaz erected the Baal altar and offered sacrifices to God on a pagan altar.[7] The brazen “sea” (it was a mikvah for the priests) that rested on the backs of twelve brass oxen was removed.[8] Ahaz was trading the old for the new. More than that, Ahaz erected other altars to pagan gods around the Temple. In his estimation, this new way of worship exceeded the way that had been around for hundreds of years.

Many churches these days follow Ahaz’s example. Oh, they don’t build altars to pagan gods. However, perhaps in some ways they do. Some “worship services” seem more like rock concerts. The house lights are dimmed while the “altar” is ablaze with stage lighting, spotlights, and strobe lights. As the “worship team” rocks out their worship tunes, the congregation stands with arms waving in the air swaying as if in a trance. This is new! The old way of singing hymns out hymn books accompanied by piano and organ is too old-school. We need something new and “vibrant” so that young people can “experience” worship. Too many sermons from such pulpits are designed to make the congregants “feel” encouraged. No need to talk about sin and hell, much less warn about Christ’s soon return. Talk like that might turn people off, and they might not come back, or worse, they may stop contributing to the church. Such churches sacrifice the Gospel (old) for the audience (new). The Laodicean Church[9] flourishes in our day.

Ahaz’s reign only lasted 16 years. His son Hezekiah, a “good” king, restored the Temple[10] and the Temple sacrifice. However, the Scripture does not record whether the altar Ahaz built was dismantled or not. We can assume that it was. We can be sure that sacrifices offered on a pagan altar would be unacceptable to God. Scripture notes that following the first Passover celebration in the restored Temple that “Then the priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to [God’s] holy dwelling place, even unto heaven” (2 Chronicles 30:27). That tells me the sacrifices were done properly and on the proper altar, the old fashioned way. Hezekiah did the opposite of his father; he traded the new for the old, and that pleased God.

I can only hope that we could learn that lesson before God “smites” our nation. Perhaps the smiting has begun. When governors boast that “we” have beaten this pandemic and chide that God had nothing to do with it, we may be beyond help. I hope not, but either way, my hope is in Christ. How about you?

Notes:


[1]  2 Kings 12:2; 14:3; 15:3,34

[2]  Deuteronomy 13:6-11

[3]  2 Kings 16:3

[4]  2 Kings 16:2

[5]  2 Kings 16:5

[6]  1 Kings 14:25-27

[7]  2 Kings 16:14-15

[8]  2 Kings 16:17

[9]  Revelation 3:14-22

[10]  2 Chronicles 29

1 Comment

Filed under Bible, Christianity, Current Events, Religion, Worship

A King In Israel

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9)

In my last article, I recounted the early history of Israel.[1] The period of the Judges lasted between 450 and 500 years (my estimation). The Book of Judges ends with this sad assessment: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Israel finally got a king to rule over them. By popular consent, God allowed them to choose a king for themselves, Saul, a Benjamite.[2] But Saul was not the king God had in mind for them. From the time Israel entered Egypt and prior to their enslavement, God had already determined that the king would come from the tribe of Judah.[3] This king’s reign would be eternal. “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Genesis 49:10).

Saul was a miserable failure as king. Only two years into his reign, he disobeyed God by doing things his own way rather than waiting on God’s direction. God took the kingdom away from Saul, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king” (1 Samuel 15:23).

Not long after, Samuel the prophet anointed God’s choice for Israel’s king, a young shepherd boy, a young man of the tribe of Judah and resident of Bethlehem, David, the son of Jesse.[4] During David’s reign, Israel followed the Lord and the Lord helped David conquer most of the land God had promised to Israel. After 40 years on the throne, David’s son Solomon became king, and the spiritual state of the nation slowly started to degenerate again, in part due to the king’s own practice of marrying pagan women and bringing their pagan worship into the land and even participating in their practices himself.[5] It is said of Solomon that he was the wisest man alive, but his behavior brings that into question. However, toward the end of his life, he finally did wise up. He wrote, “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity … Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:8, 13-14).

Regardless, the damage was done. The leaven already permeated the loaf. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, rejected the advice of his old advisors, listening rather to his young cronies. This ended up dividing the kingdom with ten tribes to the north and only Judah and Benjamin remaining of David’s kingdom.[6] Both kingdoms soon fell into idolatry once more, Israel (the Northern Kingdom) first followed by Judah (the Southern Kingdom) later. Israel was conquered by the Assyrians and displaced from the land never to return. Judah fell to the Babylonians and was carried away to Babylonian captivity. After 70 years in Babylonian captivity, the Medo-Persian Empire under Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their land to rebuild Jerusalem and their Temple.[7] However, Israel never really became an independent state again. They were always under some other nation’s thumb. For over 400 years, they longed for their promised Messiah of whom Daniel foretold, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times” (Daniel 9:25). The day would come when their king would come and throw off the oppressive yoke of Gentile nations and make Israel great again, as in the days of David and Solomon.

After 400 years, nothing had changed. Then one Sunday morning their long-awaited king made His entrance. However, they did not recognize Him. They were expecting a strong military general that would overthrow the Romans and set up a kingdom equal to or greater than that of Solomon. Perhaps the expected king would expand their borders to include all the lands God had promised.[8] But rather than ride in on a white stallion with a flashing sword and dazzling armor, Jesus rode in on an unbroken donkey’s colt.[9] Rather than the pomp and pageantry of a conqueror’s parade, Jesus was greeted by the cheers of the poor and downcast. “And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9); and “Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest” (Luke 19:38). The religious leaders, those who should have recognized His presentation, considering the specificity of Daniel’s prophecy,[10] despised the thought of this lowly Galilean being king and rejected His claims to deity. “The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him” (John 12:19). “And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples” (Luke 19:39). Had these kept silent, Jesus answered them, the very rocks would cry out in proclamation of His kingship.[11]

A few days later, their rejection would be complete as Pilate presented Jesus to them, “Behold your king!”[12] “But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15, emphasis mine). Rejecting their true King, they preferred rather to remain under the thumb of their oppressors.

This came as no surprise to Jesus. Earlier He confided in His disciples, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour” (John 12:27, emphasis mine). His kingdom, at this time, was not an earthly one. His kingdom was not for the Jews alone, but “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Before going to the cross, He made this promise. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine).

His disciples were naturally curious as to when that time would be. “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3, emphasis mine). Jesus gave many indicators of His return at “the end of the world,” but He cautioned, “All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). Jesus spoke of wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes in different places, famines, and pestilences.

All these things are taking place today. The naysayers point out that these things have occurred throughout history. Peter foresaw such “scoffers.” “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4). The truth is that these things have never occurred with such frequency and with such unity. The convergence of all of these signs is “unprecedented” (to borrow a term in frequent use these days). Consider the pestilence the world experiences today, the Wuhan virus. This bug has brought the world to a standstill and threatens not only the lives but the livelihoods of millions of people. The world’s economies are on the verge of collapse, and this is but one of the signs of which Jesus spoke.

The time is near. Soon there will be a King in Israel and His Kingdom is forever. Jesus will reign on earth for 1000 years.[13] The world seeks a one-world government ruled by fallible men. Jesus will bring a one-world government, “and he shall rule them with a rod of iron …” (Revelation 19:15). After that, in a recreated heaven and earth, He will reign forever in the “New Jerusalem.”[14]

Are you ready to live with King Jesus in His eternal kingdom? If you are not sure of your eternal destiny, read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “No King In Israel” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/04/01/no-king-in-israel/

[2]  1 Samuel 10

[3]  Genesis 49:8-12

[4]  1 Samuel 16

[5]  1 Kings 11:1-8

[6]  1 Kings 12

[7]  2 Chronicles 36:22-23

[8]  Genesis 15:18-21; Exodus 6:4; Numbers 34:1-15; Joshua 1:4

[9]  Mark 11:2

[10]  Daniel 9:24-26

[11]  Luke 19:40

[12]  John 19:14

[13]  Revelation 20

[14]  Revelation 21

Comments Off on A King In Israel

Filed under Christianity, Current Events, Easter, End Times, Gospel, Heaven, Holidays, Religion, Salvation, Second Coming of Christ, Theology