A People Apart

A People Apart

2019 Devotional 2019Devotional Weekly Devotional

 

“How shall I curse whom God has not cursed?
And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has
not denounced? For from the top of the rocks
I see him, and from the hills I behold him; There!
A people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself
among the nations.”
Numbers 23:8-9

“For I will restore health to you and heal you of
your wounds, says the Lord, ‘Because they called
you at outcast saying; “This is Zion; no one seeks
her.”
Jeremiah 30:17

The scriptures declare that Israel is a nation set apart and living alone. This has indeed been the story of Israel but this “apartness” has also not been understood by the wider world or, for that matter, by the Church. The consequences have been all too evident! Israel is a lonely nation and even this week we learned this afresh as anti-Semitic Congresswomen in America repeatedly attacked Israel and the Jews. As I watched Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians and leaders responding to this evil I caught a sense of the anguish and loneliness that grips this people. What really caught my attention was a headline on a local news channel that stated; “Israel, the lonely people.” The Jews face hatred and even annihilation again and very few nations stand with them which is highly troubling because all of this is taking place just seventy-five years after the “Final Solution” was agreed upon and implemented by the Nazis at the Wannsee Conference near Berlin in 1942.

Israel’s lonely station in history has been for the blessing of the world. This was indeed the calling that God Himself placed over her national destiny when he encountered Abraham some 4000 years ago and said, “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). He brought her to Himself so that He could reveal Himself to humankind through her. It was not because she was or is better than any other people or even superior to them (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). No, it was so that He could bless the nations through her and thereby save them. How amazing is this? In this endeavor God’s purpose has succeeded, but at great cost to the Jewish people and yet a day is coming when all nations will acknowledge the unique role she has played out in history for their joy, blessing and benefit (Isaiah 66:5-21).

Heavenly things are not well understood by the carnal heart (Romans 8:7) and therefore Israel has been misunderstood, mishandled and abused through the centuries. This continues today! It is true that Israel has failed God and has paid the price for it but this in no way absolves us from our responsibility to stand with her and bless her and it will not stop God from fulfilling His purpose through her. The God of the Bible always fulfills His purpose through the broken and weak people of this world for thereby He gets all the glory (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). Israel’s modern day restoration then is not a political accident or coincidence because, as Romans eleven and verse twenty-nine teaches us, the Lord God of Heaven has never changed His mind about Israel’s calling, possession of the land of Canaan and destiny. Those who oppose these things are in fact in conflict with God. It is this God that warns that a judgment is coming to the nations because they have repeatedly, with evil intent, attempted to disinvest the people of Israel of their inheritance by dividing their land (Joel 3:1-2). God alone is the judge and we should fear Him because He will apply the same standard of judgment to the nations and the Church as He has applied to Israel in her two historical exiles. Our biblical responsibility is to pray for her, bless her, comfort her and declare His word to her.

I sometimes get the feeling that the Church takes very lightly the warnings of Romans eleven. Here in this passage Paul states that arrogance toward the “fallen Jewish branches” coupled with boasting about their failure to accept Jesus’ Messianic credentials will have dire consequences. That is, God is not pleased with Gentile believers who do this and threatens to cut them out of the redemptive Olive Tree if they persist in this arrogance.

“And if some branches were broken off, and you, being a wild
Olive Tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became
a partaker of the root and fatness of the Olive Tree, do not boast
against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do
not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then,
“Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said.
Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith.
Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural
branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider
the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity;
but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness.
otherwise you also will be cut off.”
Romans 11:17-22

Note the words of verse twenty-two, “….you also will be cut off.” Is this just theoretical or does God mean it? I think that the answer is the latter! No wonder Paul said, “Do not be haughty but fear.”

So, as Israel faces a renewed wave of anti-Semitism worldwide coupled with continuous threats of genocide from Iran and other terrorist organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine we sadly recognize that she is isolated and alone but, thank God, does have the unswerving support of the United States of America. Most nations would far rather do nothing and, as we have seen in Europe, would prefer to continue to do business with the radical Islamic Mullahs of Iran. The same spirit of appeasement that took hold of the western world seventy-five years ago has returned. Netanyahu said that Israel will nevertheless defend herself and not let Iran acquire nuclear weapons. She will also reserve the right not to tell anyone when and how she proposes to strike Iran; should there be no options left and the need to do so.

In the end Israel is really not alone because she only exists because of a God who guarantees her perpetual nationhood (Jeremiah 31:35-36) and Who has faithfully brought her home to Zion never to be plucked up again (Amos 9:14-15). In her modern day restoration the God of the Bible has displayed His mighty hand of power and the veracity of His word. Actually Israel is in the majority because God is with her and will not abandon her. Do you doubt it? Just wait and see! This God has already stated that He neither slumbers nor sleeps as He watches over Israel (Psalm 121:4). He will of course correct and discipline her but He will also arise and defend her just as He did in 1948, 1967, and 1973 and thereafter.

His eye is also upon His Church as she is challenged to respond to all of these things. The truth is; evangelical Christianity that is true to God’s word, is also being isolated and denounced as radical everywhere. We too are becoming a lonely people and even more so if we defend Zion! Jesus said, “If they hated Me they will also hate you” (John 15:18). He also said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Malcolm Hedding

Jerusalem

Jerusalem

2019 Devotional

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who
Love you.”
Palm 122:6

“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord
surrounds His people from this time forth and
forever.”
Psalm 125:2

Jerusalem is the most contested city on earth even though it has no natural resources, partially straddles a desert and, when the Jews are not in control of it, has descended into a forgotten broken down village. So, the question is; why is it so important to the world and the Jewish people or; wherein lies its significance? Consider the following:

1. Jerusalem the sacred city
God Himself is zealous for it and this means that He is supportive of its Jewish identity and character.
“I am zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great zeal. I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease; for I was a little angry, and they helped-but with evil intent”. (Zechariah 1:14-15)

The city is sacred to God because it is the platform chiefly from which His redemptive purpose for the world has been accomplished. This purpose is intertwined with the historical calling and journey of the Jewish people. God is not a respecter of persons and yet He, when a Jewish Jerusalem is under threat, will be aroused in His anger as a man awakened by bad news from a sleep!

“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst, “says the Lord. Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord has sent me to you. And the Lord will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem. Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for He is aroused from His holy habitation.” (Zechariah 2:10-13)

2. Jerusalem a glorious city
Just as God in Christ imputes perfection/righteousness to us so He sees Jerusalem as something glorious and perfect that, if we have the spiritual eyes to see, will speak to us of God Himself!

“Walk about Zion, and go all around her. Count all he towers; mark well her bulwarks; consider her palaces; that you may tell it to the generation following. For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.” (Psalm 48:12-14)
And,
“For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place: This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” (Psalm 132:13-14)
And,

“The Mighty One, God the Lord, has spoken and called the earth from the rising of the sun to its going down. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth.” (Psalm 50:1-2)

Yes indeed, Jerusalem speaks of things glorious and yet to come as it will one day give its name to an eternal city, “The New Jerusalem”, that will descend from heaven and be the home of God’s redeemed people.
“Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation 21:2)

3. Jerusalem a contested city
The hatred of the nations against a Jewish Jerusalem, as we see now embodied in the UNESCO decision to disinvest the Jewish people of it, is an attempt to vanquish God from their consciences and a strategy by the Devil, and those who work with him to resist and frustrate God’s plan of global redemption.

The Bible warns that in the latter time, when the Jews have been restored to the city (Luke 21:24) an international attempt will be made to disinvest the Jews of the city. We are living in this time and our understanding of the significance of the city to God and to the Jewish people constitutes a test as to where our hearts are on this issue. Are we with God or with the nations and the powers of darkness on this issue? The Prophet Zechariah foresaw this battle over the city and wrote of it in these terms:

“Behold I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth will be gathered against it.” (Zechariah 12:2-3)

This quite honestly constitutes a very serious warning to the nations and no doubt even to parts of the global Church that are joining with the nations to wrest Jerusalem from Israeli sovereignty. They will all rupture themselves and be broken beyond repair. Indeed, we have all been warned!

4. Jerusalem a triumphant city
The battle for Jerusalem and thus for the consummation of God’s redemptive plan for all peoples has begun. Jesus is returning triumphantly to a Jewish Jerusalem because it is this city out which God’s salvation plan for the world has arisen (Acts 1:11)(Zechariah 14:3-4). God’s plan will succeed because He will find us faithful and therefore we are called to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6) and give Him no rest “until He established Jerusalem as a praise in the earth” (Isaiah 62:7). This peace and blessing over Jerusalem is nothing short of salvation peace that God has promised to the city. Our commitment to Jerusalem is ultimately proof of our commitment to God. This is not about the Jewish people ultimately; no it’s about our understanding of God’s purpose for the world through them.

The second Psalm reflects the battle before us but also the triumph of God by it:

“Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take
Counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed
Saying, “Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast Their cords
from us.”

“He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them
in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and
distress them in His deep displeasure: Yet I have set My King on
My holy hill of Zion.”

“I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, You are My
Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for
Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You
shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

It is then with joy that we celebrated in 2017, not only the centenary of the Balfour Declaration that paved the way for the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, but also the partial deliverance of the city in 1917 by General Allenby and then its full deliverance in 1967 by virtue of the Six Days War. When we add to this that the American people, representing the most powerful nation on the earth, voted to relocate their Embassy to Jerusalem and actually did so in 2018 under the Trump Administration then we recognize that these are all important biblical milestones and they remind us that the God we serve is engaged with His world, is true to His Word and faithful to His promises made to Israel in Abraham 4000 years ago!

Malcolm Hedding

David’s Triumphs and Failures

David’s Triumphs and Failures

2019 Devotional Weekly Devotional

“And when He had removed him. He raised up

for them David as King, to whom also He gave

testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son

of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do

all My will.”

Acts 13:22

Spiritual growth

There is no doubt that David was a great leader with a heart after God. In his younger years He was “dashing and daring” and thus had a capacity to trust God but before he became famous as a great warrior he was considered insignificant and forgettable by his father Jesse.  When Samuel was instructed by God to go to the house of Jesse, in order to anoint a new king, Jesse paraded all his sons before Samuel but he left David out in the fields watching over his sheep (1 Samuel 16:1-13). For Jesse David was definitely not in the running as there was nothing in him, as far as Jesse was concerned, that gave him the qualities to become King of Israel. Jesse was wrong because God saw David’s heart and knew that out in the fields he not only watched over the sheep but he also thirsted for God and got to know Him personally. He grew in faith and his contest with the giant Goliath certainly proved this but he was trained for it and we should never forget it. Faith is like a muscle that we have to exercise and build (Romans 12:3) and so David took down a lion and a bear before he took down Goliath (1 Samuel 16:31-36). We too may think that we are insignificant and forgettable, and even others may think so too, but if we submit to God, expose our hearts to Him and long for Him we too, like David, can make a huge difference in the Kingdom of God.

Spiritual discernment

David was also a faithful and compassionate man and this is reflected in his dealings with Saul and his son Jonathan. When David found Saul sleeping in a cave down at the Dead Sea he could have killed him and taken the crown since Samuel had already crowned him King of Israel, but he didn’t. In short David feared God and knew His boundaries. David stayed away from anger, vengeance and hatred. Rather he made place for God to deal with his enemies (1 Samuel 24:10-11) (Romans 12:17-21). We too must embrace the counter culture of the Kingdom of God and thus love our enemies, go the second mile and go out of the way to bless those hurt us. This appears to be weakness but it makes place for God to come to our side and defend us and He will in time. This is exactly what Jesus did since with quietness and meekness He went to His death, as a sheep goes to the slaughter, but what appeared to be weak was in fact strength as by His death He saved the world and God his Father exalted Him to His right hand in glory.

Spiritual neglect

David became negligent, idle and unfocused spiritually and consequently, and sadly, he fell into immorality (2 Samuel 11:1-5). His wicked behavior in terms of his affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband are evidence of this and a warning to all of us. We need to keep our relationship with Jesus “hot” and real as this alone will help us to get our bodily drives for sex, food, pleasure and status under control (Revelation 3:15). If we do not attend to our spiritual lives properly and consistently then our “old man” will re-assert itself and even overtake us as it did David (2 Samuel 11). Many Christians have been ensnared in this way and have paid an awful price for it (Philippians 3:17-20). Our spiritual lives are fragile and we must take heed all the time lest thinking we stand we also fall (1 Corinthians 10:12). It is true that we have put to death many carnal aspects of our lives by walking daily in the Spirit but there are some carnal habits that are not dead by any means. In fact they are just sleeping and when the right opportunity comes they awaken as they did with David and overcome us. Paul warns about this in his epistles and encourages us to draw near to Jesus every day (Galatians 6:1-6).

David then reaped the consequences of this wickedness in that his household was thereafter greatly troubled. God forgave him but did not exonerate him or free him from the consequences of his failure-he paid an awful price that brought much heartache to his life. Think very carefully before you betray your covenant relationships with Jesus, your spouse and with the Body of Christ (2 Samuel 12:14; 2 Samuel 12:10-12)(Psalm 103:15-18).

Spiritual deception

David’s failure to honor his people in the light of his son’s betrayal and treason was another problem in his life from which he suffered greatly (2 Samuel 18:33-9:1-8).  David’s faithful and loyal soldiers paid a huge price to save David’s life and get him installed as King again but David snubbed them and treated them with disrespect. Our blood ties should never compromise our commitment to the word of God and to the people of God. We will not fair well if we stray into this deception and you can be sure of this; God will test you in this regard. The best way to bless your family, especially those who do not follow Christ, is to be fully committed to Christ and His kingdom. Even Jesus’ family, including Mary, felt that He was going overboard “on this religious thing” and came to get Him. When He was told, while preaching to the crowds, that His mother and brothers had arrived to see Him and persuade Him to return home Jesus looked at the multitudes and declared that they who did the will of God were in fact His mother and brothers (Mark 3:31-35).

Spiritual blessing

David’s heart after God unleashed a life of devotion reflected in his Psalms that have blessed the people of God down through the centuries. A life though weak, but surrendered to God can have great significance and can change the world. At no time are you worthless and of no use to God! If we turn from our failures and genuinely seek God with all our hearts God will raise us up and make us a blessing to our world. Remember, Jesus came to heal and make whole the broken-hearted (Luke 4:18). David by virtue of all his triumphs and great trials nevertheless loved God and thirsted after Him. His Psalms are a testimony to the amazing depth of His spiritual life and they have continued to bless millions of people down through the centuries. David was often broken-hearted but God made him stand and through him left a legacy for all generations. What legacy will we leave our children and grandchildren?

Spiritual reward

In the end David endured and finished well and his reign will forever be known as “The Golden Era” in Israel’s long history. Indeed by his love of God, deep devotional life and his inspiring leadership he became a type or picture of the Messiah Himself. It is not a coincidence that Jesus took as one of His names the title, “Son of David” (Matthew 21:9) and when He comes again He will reign over the world as the, “Root and Offspring of David” (Revelation 22:16).

David’s life was in the end crowned with glory but all of this because of his repentant heart (Psalm 51) and the grace of God that forgave and covered his sins. Herein lies our encouragement as we too can end well and receive a Crown of Glory (2 Timothy 4:8). May it be so, Amen.

Malcolm Hedding