I recently had a friend visit from Colorado, and we decided to attempt to go through Hosea while she stayed here. These are the sessions… the Hosea files.
I recently had a friend visit from Colorado, and we decided to attempt to go through Hosea while she stayed here. These are the sessions… the Hosea files.
I recently had a friend visit from Colorado, and we decided to attempt to go through Hosea while she stayed here. These are the sessions… the Hosea files.
I recently made a video that traces the communion table from Genesis through Revelation, expressing the common theme behind it. It also looks at the table of demons, which instead of feasting upon Christ we feast upon our brethren. If you’re interested, check out the video, and here are the notes that go along with it:
Malachi 1:7, Ezekiel 41:22, 44:16
-Here in the prophets the altar is called “The table of hte LORD”.
-Here God calls the offerings “the food of God”
+This idea of food being provided by God comes up over and over again throughout the Bible.
-God gave every herb and tree for food – specifically anything bearing seed.
+There is an eternal provision, just like we previously learned of the eternal tabernacle. This “food” here is again made very apparent in other key places.
-If the altar = Table of the Lord and food of God, let us consider the first sacrifice recorded in Scripture.
-Cain brought from the cursed ground, by the sweat of his brow (Gen 3:17)
-Abel brought of the flock, which God had multiplied and blessed
+Abel brought from rest. It is in the wisdom and eternal pattern of God to bring a firstborn yearling lamb, for “God will provide tha lamb”, and even the meekness portrays God’s character.
Ezekiel 34:1-10, Micah 3:1-3, Zechariah 11:15-17, Jeremiah 10:25, Psalm 14:4
-Over and over again there are these people working by their own toil, according to their own knowledge. Just like with Cain, the result is to slay their brethren.
+God provided good food, and said to eat of every tree, but this one tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – do not eat. Don’t take in the food of your own toil and knowledge, leaving rest as you do so. There is no seed in that – only death.
Leviticus 6:26, Deuteronomy 18:2-3, Numbers 18:11-12
-The sacrifice was not intended to be “feeding God”, but rather as the allotment for the priests and Levites. In offering the sacrifice, you feed your brethren and give them provision.
+Malachi 1:7-14 – In bringing bad sacrifices, the people aren’t providing for their brethren. In this, they again show the mindset of the bad shepherds who feast themselves, while others go hungry.
-1 Corinthians 11:21-22 – Paul rebukes Corinth for this very thing.
Jacob and Esau
-Esau despised his birthright, even the blessing of all nation, and sold it for lentils.
-Jacob, perceiving the provision for many nations, inherited the birthright and blessing, while Esau sought it with many tears.
+Just like Cain, the response to his brother’s righteousness was murder (1 John 3:10-12)
Joseph and his brothers
-God gives Joseph dreams, which he then shares. There is a certain favor upon Joseph from his father.
+Just like God favored Abel’s offering, bringing what God blessed.
-Joseph’s brothers despised their brother because of his dreams and favor, and just like Cain they desired to kill their brother.
David and Eliab
-David brings bread to his brothers and cheese to the commanders, so they might look with favor upon the sons of Jesse.
+Just like the sacrifice is provision for priests and Levites
-Eliab, David’s oldest brother, shows hostility and accusation against David, even after witnessing him be chosen of God, and anointed, filled with the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 10:14-22
-The context before this is Israel being fed and provided for in the wilderness, and yet they served idols, committed sexual immorality, and tested God.
+Though they ate of the bread and cup, they showed in their actions which table they feast from.
-Manna from heaven was given – the bread of life
+Jesus is the bread from heaven (John 6)
-Drank from the spiritual rock
+1 Corinthians 10:4 – Jesus was the rock, water representing His blood (Jn 19:34, 1 Cor 10:16)
-In all these things, they partook of Christ as we. For them it was a tqable prepared in the wilderness (Ps 78:19-20), sacrifices offered upon an altar. For us, we see Jesus our high priest (Heb 3:1) offering Himself upon the heavenly altar (Heb 9:24).
-Do we not partake of one bread? Are we not that broken Body, divided of Jew and Gentile? Yet, we are divided, some feasting from the communion God provides, laying our lives down as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1), an offering of the Gentiles made holy by the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:16). Others take of the table of demons, despising their brethren, and biting and devouring one another (Gal 5:15), whether their brethren be Jews or Christians.
+You cannot eat of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. They who minister at an altar with sacrifices have no right to eat of the table we eat upon (Heb 13:10). They are within a system built on the wisdom of the principalities and powers. Though they minister at “God’s House”, they are not in Zion, the eternal City, whose builder and maker is God. So let us join Jesus, who suffered outside the gate, and leave the camp to find His provision in the wilderness.
Table in the Wilderness
-There are many end time passages that speak of God preparing a table in the wilderness. These are passages that hint at an end time “exodus”.
+Hosea 2:14-15, Amos 9:8-10, Micah 7:13-15, Revelation 12:6, 14
+”They should nourish/feed for her…”
+Psalm 102:13-14, Luke 12:42, Matthew 24:45
Matthew 25:31-46 – The Least of These My Brethren
-They are judged uppon how they treat Jesus’ brethren.
+To not act is to act. It is to repeat the sins of the wicked leaders/shepherds who save themselves at the expense of God’s flock. It is feasting upon the people of God for your own nourishment, rather than nourishing them. This shows your identification with the table of demons, for who else comes to steal, kill, and destroy?
Generation After Josiah (Parts of this section are not in the video)
-Daniel and his companions refused to eat of the defiled meat. Where did they gain the wisdom it was defiled? In eating from the Table of the Lord, they were granted wisdom and discernment.
+1 Corinthians 10:21, 1 Corinthians 6:12 – Everything is permissible, so why can’t we eat from this table? It is even more repulsive than not being beneficial. It is defiled.
-Who can bring them meat in due season? (Mat 24:45, Luke 12:42)
+Luke 15:29-30 – The youngest son in the parable of the prodigal is accused of “devouring your livelihood with harlots”. Yet, the “faithful and wise servant” in the parable brought the fatted calf for this son. He has passed from death unto life, and therefore again eats from the proper table.
+Matthew 24:45-51 – At the end of the age we will either feed others nourishment, or we will beat our fellow servants. There is no in between.
-Matthew 25:31-46 – “What did you do to the least of these my brethren?”
-Parable of prodigal, the eldest son complains because he isn’t given even a young goat. “Where’s my meat?”
+Exodus 16:2-3, “Oh that we died in Egypt, when we had meat to eat and we ate bread to the full…”
-Psalm 78:19-20, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?”
+The eldest son complains that the younger brother “devoured with harlots”. Jerusalem/Israel is often called a harlot in the prophets.
Revelation 17 – Babylon
-Revelation 17:15-18 – The description of the judgement upon this harlot fits many Old Testament prophecies concerning Jerusalem.
+Ezekiel 16:23, 37-42, Ezekiel 23:29, Jeremiah 22:20-22, 50:41-42, Hosea 2 describing Israel as a harlot
-They who call themselves God’s people, Israel, or Jerusalem go through this chastisement. However, they who are truly God’s people shall come out refined, purified, and made white (Daniel 11:35).
Revelation 12:6 – “They provide for her…”
-The woman is Israel, fleeing in the wilderness.
+Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?
+Who is the faithful and wise servant to provide meat in due season?
-They who are like Abel, but the Cain people/false shepherds feast upon Israel, beat their fellow servants, and despise their own inheritance/roots.
-The Abel people bring an “offering” to God to provide for thise woman. 1 John 1:9, Revelation 7:14, Daniel 11:33-35, Romans 15:16 (12:1)
-Revelation 17:6 – Cain (Daniel 11:32, Isa 25:18)
-Who is that wise and faithful servant who shall prepare the way, being an ambassador of that City, building the highway of holiness, so that they may say, “This isthe way, walk ye in it”?
-Psalm 102 – The Set Time to Favor Zion
+The psalm opens up to imagery of horrendous persecution. It describes an Israel in Holocaust-like scenario.
+Verses 12-14 then speak of a time that has come, a set time, where God now has mercy upon Israel. This set time to favor Zion is contingent upon one thing: God’s servants cherish Zion’s stones, and show favor to her dust.
-These servants cannot be a part of the persecuted and judged Israel, for they are bearing the mercy of God. They must then be something distinct, and yet still in God’s Household to be called “servants”.
-What does it mean to cherish her stones and show favor to her dust?
+Luke 12:42 – Who is that wise and faithful steward, whom is master will make ruler over his avadim, to give them their okhel (food)?
-For thy avadim cherish her stones…
-Psalm 145:15 – For the servants to give food in due season is for God to give food in due season (Ezekiel 22:33-35 – I will plead)
-Genesis 42:10 – Joseph provided food for his brothers without cost (Gen 42:25-26, Isa 55:1, Rev 22:17)
Cities of Refuge
-Revelation 12:6 – A place prepared in the wilderness, for refuge
+Numbers 35:6, 1 Timothy 2:2
-We don’t wait until “one day” to be this, for the saints have always lived like this in their own generations.
+Noah prepared an ark for the saving of his household (Heb 11:7)
+Shem expressed something of God in the covering of his father’s nakedness, and therfore received the greatest blessing (Gen 9)
+Abraham believed God, and in leaving nation, family, and father’s house he became God’s nation to bless all nations.
+Melchizedek brought unto Abram bread and wine (Gen 14:18)
+Abraham slaughters the fatted calf and bakes 70 pounds of bread for three strangers (Gen 18)
+Lot takes in the two strangers and protects them under the shadow of his roof (Gen 19)
+Joseph was used to provide food to his brethren and to all nations
+The sacrifices provided for the priests and Levites
+David brought bread to his brothers and cheese to the commanders
+Ziba, the servant of Saul, brought David’s men cakes and wine to feed the faint (2 Sam 16:1-4)
+Nabal denied David’s men food, but Abigail provided lavishly (1 Sam 25)
+The widow offered two mites, all that she had, and was honored above everyone else’s offering
+Jesus tells His disciples to feed the people, even in such a solitary place (Mark 8)
+The Shunamite woman provided for Elisha a room he could always call home
-As God’s people, we are called to be that solace in the wilderness in our own generation, If we won’t do it now, then we simply never will. All these died having not received the promise. Why do we think we shall receive with much less effort, and with much less willingness?
Hebrews 13:10-16 as benediction
These are notes that I used in a video with the same title.
The Bible cannot be about “salvation history”, as if all of the Bible describes only the means to redemption. God created in the beginning, and that creation was “good”. The degree to which creation was not fallen is the degree to which the Bible expresses something larger than salvation history alone.
Our Bible/Gospel doesn’t begin with Genesis 3 and end @ the cross
This verse expounds to us God’s purposes are larger than “salvation history” to envelop even the creation itself.
To the degree Genesis 1:1 is about a physical heaven and earth, this is also about a physical new heaven and new earth (resurrected)
1 Heaven and earth, light
2 Atmosphere and oceans (sea)
3 Land and vegetation
4 Sun, moon, and stars – separate light and dark as rulers
5 Birds and fish
6 Animals, reptiles/amphibians, humans
What God created on the first three days, He also made distinction and separation. What God created on the next set of three days, He used to fill what He made on the first three.
Genesis 2 – Revelation 21-22 comparison
2 trees (Gen 2:9) – 2 trees of life (Rev 22:2)
River (Gen 2:10) – River (Rev 22:1-2)
Beauty (Gen 2:11-14) – Beauty (Reve 21:10-21)
Purpose (Gen 2:15) – Purpose (Rev 22:5)
Marriage (Gen 2:18, 21-24) – Marriage (Rev 21:2, 9)
No shame (Gen 2:25) – No curse/shame (Rev 21:4, 22:3)
Sea (Gen 1:6-8) – No sea (Rev 21:1)
Darkness (Gen 1:2-5) – No darkness (Rev 21:23-24, 22:5)
God’s presence (Gen 3:8, 10) – God’s throne (Rev 21:22, 22:3)
The question is: How do we go from the Garden to the City? This gets at the heart of God’s purposes, the theme of the Bible, and eschatology.
Most people read the New Testament as the new covenant, and assume that we must look back at the Old Testament through our New Testament filter. The Old Testament is said to be looking forward to Jesus, and the New Testament looking backward to Jesus.
Hebrews 4:1-4 seems to indicate that the rest we enter into is not a New Testament thing, but established from the Garden. The Gospel itself is said to have been preached to they who came out of Egypt as well as to us. What Gospel is it that they heard, if Jesus had not yet been crucified to take away our sins?
The reality that God’s people of every generation live from is that eternal rest.
The earthly reflects the heavenly
When we read the Old Testament, we need to understand that they were at a different part of God’s plan, but that God had still revealed to them His ultimate intention.
Garden compared to Tabernacle/Temple
Sea (Gen 1:6-8) – Water from rock (Ex 17)
River (Gen 2:10) – River (Eze 47:1)
Precious stones (Gen 2:11-12) – Breastplate of High Priest 12 stones (Ex 28:15)
Sun, moon, stars – 3 Types of light (outer, inner, Most Holy)
Stars – Menorah (see Rev 1:20-21)
Mist (Gen 2:6) – Smoke (altar of incense)
Abad and samar (Gen 2:15) are the same words used for temple service (Num 3:7-8, 1 Chron 23:32)
I know some of these are a stretch, but notice the connection. The Old Testament sacrificial priesthood was about restoring unto Eden, which we’ve also seen is parallel to Zion, the New Jerusalem.
Tabernacle compared to Sinai
Washing basin – Water from rock
Altar – Altar at base (Ex 24:4)
Menorah – Lightning/fire (Ex 19:6/19)
Smoke of Incense – Smoke (Ex 19:16)
2 Trumpets (Num 10:2) – Trumpet blast (Ex 19:16, 19)
Showbread – Manna
Ark of Covenant – God enthrones (Ex 24:11)
The Tabernacle was a traveling Sinai
Exodus 25:9, Hebrews 8:5
Moses goes up the mount and beholds the heavenly/eternal Tabernacle. That is the pattern the earthly is based off of. The entirety of the Old Testament priesthood and sacrifice is a reflection of something eternal.
Tabernacle/Temple compared to Rev 21-21
Ark of the Covenant = God’s throne (1 Sam 4:4, 2 Sam 6:2, Isa 37:16)
24 priestly families (1 Chron 24) – 24 elders (Rev 4:4)
Menorah – Seven lamps (Rev 4:5)
The Sea (1 King 7:23) – Sea of glass (Rev 4:6)
4 Cherubim (Ex 25:18, 1 King 6:23) – 4 cherubim “in the midst of throne” (Rev 4:6)
4 Levites carry Ark (Ex 25:14, 37:4-5) – 4 cherubim carry throne (Eze 1:22, 26-28)
Tablets of Testimony (Ex 32:15) – Scroll w/writing on 2 sides (Eze 2:9-10, Rev 5:1-2)
2 Altars (offering/incense) – 2 Altars (Rev 6:9, Rev 8:3-4)
Ex 19:16 compared to Rev 4:5
The tabernacle on earth reflected the tabernacle in heaven
Sinai was a manifestation of heaven on earth, and the tabernacle was a traveling Sinai. But God did not choose Sinai; He chose Zion.
God tells Abraham to offer Isaac on a mountain in the land of Moriah. It doesn’t specify upon mount Moriah, but in the land of Moriah.
Abraham declares God will provide the lamb
God provides a ram
Exodus 12 – Passover requires a lamb, but God requires Israel to provide their own
John 1:29 – Jesus is called the Lamb of God (Gen 22:8)
Moriah has been identified as the area around Jerusalem
Notice Gen 22:14 – Mountain of the Lord
The Mountain of the Lord almost always refers to Zion, upon which the Temple sat (2 Sam 24:18-25, 2 Chron 3:1)
Ezekiel 28:13-14 – Eden was called the Mount of God
Would God be so specific to place Eden in a specific location upon the earth, which would later be called the region of Moriah, which would even later be called Jerusalem and Zion?
This isn’t replacement theology. This is the expression that we’re a part of the eternal reality, manifested in the earthly.
You have not come unto the reflection, finding the end in itself as the Tabernacle and priesthood of Aaron, but unto the eternal thing itself.
The whole Bible is attempting to explain and portray to us how God intends on making the eternal/heavenly unified and one with the earth. Eschatology (study of the end times) is the answer to that question.
If God chose Zion, then the physical Land is still important
If God chose Israel as His people, then they still matter
If God chose Jerusalem, then that Mountain is still the place where it shall be provided (Israel’s redemption, the Kingdom, nations’ redemption, judgment and mercy, etc).
God does not change His mind. Just because we don’t like it doesn’t mean that everything must now be ethereal and spiritual. The Kingdom is always spiritual and physical at the same time, ruled from one place, with one nation as God’s elect chosen people – Gentiles always having been grafted in.
There are a few things going on here that are cultural references, and a few things that are Scriptural. So, first lets deal with this first section. When the Pharisees and Sadducees come to John, he calls them a brood of vipers and asks them who told them to flee from the wrath to come. What’s happening here?
Go back to Genesis 3:15. There are two seeds. There is the seed of the woman, who shall be the deliverer, later expressed in the term Messiah. Then there is the seed of the serpent. When you read through Genesis, you have two seeds presented at all times. There is Cain, and Abel/Seth. There is the wicked generation, and Noah. There is the nations at Babel, and Abraham. There is Ishmael, and Isaac. There is Esau, and Jacob. The seed of the serpent isn’t specific to a people group, but rather a concept. There are a people who consistently oppress and persecute the people of God, and it doesn’t matter if they are called Philistines, Egyptians, Assyrians, or Chaldeans.
Something begins to shift in the history of Israel, though. Solomon uses slave labor to build his palace and some military bases. But God said to not have slaves, because you were once a slave in Egypt. Here is the topsy-turvy kingdom: Israel, the new Egypt. Under Rehoboam it gets worse. The northern kingdom of Israel doesn’t ever have one good king. The southern kingdom of Judah has a handful. Over and over again in the prophets, what we read is that they are in outrage over the fact that the leaders are mistreating the people. In fact, such strong language is used in certain places (Jer 10:25, Mic 3:1-3, Zeph 3:3, etc) that it says the leaders of Israel are actually eating and devouring the people.
The leaders have become the seed of the serpent, at enmity with the seed of the woman and with God. Therefore, they are a “brood of vipers”.
But let’s not be hasty. It is easy to point fingers. What exactly were the Pharisees, anyway? In the first century, you could call the Pharisees the conservatives, and the Sadducees were the liberals. They were the leaders of the people. The Pharisees, in their great learning and understanding, were the ones who helped the people to understand the Law, so that Israel might follow it and obey. According to the Pharisees’ belief, if they could only reform the people of God back unto holiness and righteousness, then the Messiah would come. The Sadducees, on the other hand, were hired Roman officials – Jews who betrayed their own people. Therefore, the high priests, priests, and the scribes were often Sadducees hired by Rome to keep the people in check.
I’m not going to point out what I find to be obvious. In our Christianity today, there are Pharisees and Sadducees. There is no point in me putting names with those titles, because the truth is that if you can’t discern it, then you probably fall into one of those two camps. And John the Baptist calls them a brood of vipers. The difference between much of what is called Christianity today and the Sadducees/Pharisees is that at least the Pharisees/Sadducees understood that John and Jesus were talking about them…
What about this wrath to come?
Again, when you read the prophets, any “wrath to come” that is mentioned is associated with the Day of the Lord. There might be prophecies against certain nations (I’m thinking of Isaiah 37-39 currently) that had an immediate expectation, but the vast majority were beyond the immediate. It’s as though the prophet was beholding the seed of the serpent within these rebellious nations, and wasn’t merely prophesying concerning Assyria, Babylon, or Moab (or any other nation), but beyond them to an ultimate “seed of the serpent”, which is the mystery of iniquity, which the New Testament calls “Antichrist”. It is this one, the Antichrist/False Prophet, that we read Jesus will destroy with the brightness of His coming.
What is the coming wrath? It is the return of Jesus, and the outpoured fury upon the nations who have gathered against Israel at Har Meggido (Armegeddon). We read in passages like Ezekiel 38-39, Zechariah 14, and Revelation 19:11-21 about the destruction of this army that gathers. We read in other passages, such as Zechariah 14:16-17, Isaiah 19:21, and Daniel 7:11-14, about how there are nations who are judged, but not condemned and cast into the pits of hell with Jesus’ return.
Thus, to get back to what John is saying to the Pharisees, I think that we need to be keen on the understanding of the apostles in that first century. Peter calls Jerusalem “Babylon” at the end of his first epistle. When you read Revelation 17, the language used in regard to the 10 nations attacking the woman comes straight from the prophets in regard to Israel and Judah’s judgment. In Zechariah 14:14, there is a subtle hint that even Jerusalem/Judah itself will fight with the Antichrist against the coming of the Lord. God alone knows, but what we can be truly certain of is that God has consistently spoken that the wicked of Israel shall not endure unto the end, but shall taste of the wrath of God during that final expulsion and sifting through the nations.
We can ask the question of why this is being said here. It makes sense to say it if we’re dealing with the Day of the Lord, but this is Jesus’ first coming. I would challenge you to go to Malachi 3 and read it. Couple that with Matthew 21:33-43. Even though this isn’t the final last days dealing of God, it is quite clear that Jesus has indeed taken the Kingdom from the leaders of Israel and given it to they who will produce it’s fruit (the tax collectors and sinners of Israel, and later in Acts even the Gentiles).
“Therefore bear fruit to repentance…” Again, the concept of bearing fruit is not foreign in the consciousness of the Jewish people. John isn’t being clever and inventing something new. Even Isaiah the prophet calls Israel God’s “vineyard” (Isaiah 5) – the Hebrew word gan. God planted Israel, He cultivated Israel, and yet He only found bad fruit. Tell Me, O Israel, what I did wrong! The answer, of course, is that God did nothing wrong. Therefore, John is telling these people, “Bear fruit to repentance.” You who have consistently been that barren vineyard, or, even worse, been the ones producing bad fruit, repent of your wickedness, and turn unto the Lord. They know what tshuva means (Hebrew word/concept of repentance).
In the book of John, Jesus is speaking to the Jews round about Him. And in chapter 8, the Jews respond that they have Abraham as their father. It’s as if being genetically Jewish is all they think they need to inherit the Kingdom. They don’t even realize that Abraham was called to be the father of many nations because of his character, and not simply because of God’s sovereign choosing. Certainly God’s sovereign choosing played into it, but don’t think that God would have chosen Nimrod instead. There is a character, a certain mindset and lifestyle that reflects who God is, and it was that very thing that was being chosen.
God can raise children of Abraham from the stones.
It wouldn’t be too much for God to do so, but I think we should understand that John was pointing to that hill outside Jerusalem, where it says that the Messiah will step foot upon (Zech 14:5).
What stones are upon that hill?
They are graves.
God can raise them up out of the graves, and you will completely miss it, because you have hardened yourself, and have refused to consider that God is an actual person, and not some concept that we fiddle with.
We come back to the concept of agriculture and producing fruit. What do you do when a tree refuses to bear fruit? You cut it down and use it as firewood. Therefore, John has no hesitation or timidity in pointing out that the ax is already at the root, just like it’s always been, and the fire of God is already upon you. This is the vision of the prophets. Everything is immanent; everything is life and death; everything is now, even while it yet might be millennia in the future. Eternity has no concept of time. Time cannot contain eternity. Eternal moments break the constraints of time, so that they who are eternal can perceive the reality of past, present, and future in a manner that affects all of past, present, and future. We’re affected by our past, and we also effect the past. We’re affected by the future, and we also effect the future.
In verse 11, John again brings up the issue of repentance. He says, “I baptize you with the water of repentance…” Baptism itself, as far as I can tell, comes from the concept of mikveh. A mikveh was the ritual of washing yourself with water to make yourself clean. You find this in Exodus 19, that God says to Moses that the people need to wash their clothes and be made clean before Him. You find it again in Psalm 51:2, that David asks to be washed in order to be made clean. Ezekiel 36:25 speaks of clean water being poured out upon the House of Israel to make it clean – again, a reference to mikvah. In Leviticus 17:15, we have the mikvah prescribed in regard of becoming clean again after eating something that has died of natural causes or by beasts (that which you didn’t kill).
For a mikveh, you would immerse yourself in moving water. The rabbis talk about how this takes you out of your regular mode (in the air), and puts you in a state less familiar (floating submerged in water). It’s like birth, and has deep significance tied to it from a baby that leaves the womb, and now therefore is coming forth into the air for the first time. You are no longer unclean, but now as clean as a baby, you enter again into the air and society in right standing with HaShem (God).
In this last segment, when John begins to express what the Messiah shall do, again we find that much of it goes back to the prophets. He isn’t saying anything new. John is building upon what has already been said, and what is already being believed. For example, look up these verses: Psalm 1:4, Isaiah 1:31, 27:4, Jeremiah 7:20, 15:7, Malachi 4:1, and Amos 9:8-10.
I think the “Holy Spirit and fire” is not two separate things, but one. It’s like when you say it is raining cats and dogs. It doesn’t mean that it rains cats in one spot, but dogs further up the street. It’s just a saying, for one, but we all understand that they go together. In fact, the whole point of the outpouring of the Spirit in the prophets (Jeremiah 31:31-37, Ezekiel 36:21-27, Joel 2:25-32, etc) was that there was both the outpouring of the Spirit and the cleansing of the House of Israel, but also the judgment and recompense upon the nations in the Day of the Lord. You cannot escape it. This outpouring is always placed at the end of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, at the threshold of the coming of Messiah, the Day of the Lord, when there shall be signs in the heavens, and fire and devastation. The Spirit of supplication and grace poured out upon Israel in Zechariah 12 is the same timeframe as the previous verses:
“And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem are my strength in the Lord of hosts, their God.’ In that day I will make the governors of Judah like a firepan in the woodpile, and like a fiery torch in the sheaves; they shall devour all the surrounding peoples on the right hand and on the left, but Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her one place – Jerusalem. The LORD will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the House of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall not become greater than that of Judah. In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them. It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”
Let us conclude, then. This passage is incredibly suggestive of end times events. That which John is speaking of cannot simply be constrained to the first coming of Jesus. And yet, there is a reality in which they were exactly constrained to the first coming of Jesus. The leaders really were cast off of their own tree – the ax already being at the root. They were cast off and wild branches were grafted in. But that isn’t for you to boast, but for you to tremble. Behold the goodness and severity of God. Goodness to you, should you continue in the ways that you have been taught by Christ, yet severity to those who harden themselves to become full of bad fruit. This is a now word, because many do neglect the most basic principles of the faith, and yet it is also a future word, because the King shall come, and when He does, we shall again see the outpouring of the Spirit and fire.
Matthew writes in a manner that packs a ton of information and references in just a few sentences. Remember, he’s writing to people who would have probably either met, or would have heard from second hand sources about this John the baptist fellow. First, we find that this man is in the wilderness of Judea preaching. This is important for two reasons.
We can notice verse 3, that Matthew quotes Isaiah 40. What do you find when you go back to Isaiah 40? This is the first chapter after speaking about Hezekiah being threatened by Assyria, becoming sick, getting well, and then entertaining Babylon. Isaiah prophesied to Hezekiah in chapter 39 that during the time of his children the Babylonians would come into Judah and ransack the land, the palace, and the Temple. Because this man showed them everything, they will come and devastate in order to take everything. Isaiah 40 starts by prophesying, “Comfort, yes, comfort my people…”
When we read the context of Isaiah 40, we find another one of those Matthew moments when he is saying that something is being fulfilled, but then the context of Isaiah 40 doesn’t grant this. We continue through Isaiah 40 to find that God redeems Israel, and that God comes and rules over Israel Himself. We find that the glory of God is revealed, and the nations are counted as nothing.
This is not a passage about Jesus’ first coming. This is a passage about the second coming. Yet, Matthew is saying that John the Baptist is the one preparing the way…
How can we explain this?
I would like to use timelines, charts, and other drawings to employ, but for this kind of revelation, it must be revealed by the Holy Spirit. It almost seems diminished to attempt another way of expressing it.
Time in the prophetic and apostolic mind is not linear. It cycles, and each cycle results in a deeper progression of God’s plan of cosmic redemption. So, for example, you have from the beginning the Kingdom established. When Adam and Eve took of the forbidden fruit, they were exiled from Eden, which we can liken unto that Kingdom. However, God didn’t cast them away without hope. There are progressions throughout history of how it is that God is bringing it all back together. You have two seeds spoken of in Genesis 3:15. Cain builds a city, but there is no mention of such a thing with the sons of Seth. It is with Seth’s birth that men started to call upon the name of the LORD. With Noah and the flood, we begin a new cycle, with an ‘everlasting covenant’. It is Shem who is most highly blessed at the end of Genesis 9, and Canaan/Ham that is least. Yet, when we read Genesis 10, it is the descendants of Japheth that brought about the second city mentioned in the Bible: Babel.
From Babel comes Babylon. Notice the peoples associated with this in Genesis 10:10-12. We have Assyria also mentioned, which is why in Isaiah the Assyrian often sounds like the Antichrist. As we progress in the narrative, we find Abraham being chosen. From Abraham we find Isaac is chosen. It continues to narrow down who this “seed of the woman” is, until you have twelve chosen – the twelve sons of Jacob. Israel is the firstborn son of God (Exodus 4:22), and is the seed of the woman. Egypt in Exodus represents the kingdom of darkness in flesh. Israel represents the Kingdom of God. God delivers Israel, thus establishing His Kingdom upon the earth with the conquest of Canaan.
There is the same story repeating over and over again. Enoch (the city) is destroyed through the flood, when God delivers a people for Himself (Noah and his sons). Babel is destroyed, and God chooses a people for Himself (Abraham and descendants). Egypt collapses, and God chooses a people for Himself (Israel). Canaan is conquered, and God establishes Israel and the Land as His physical Kingdom on this earth. Jerusalem is conquered, and God chooses David to rule from there. Here it is another step in the progression. Each time the Kingdom of God is revealed more deeply and exactly.
It is no longer a foreshadowing that is spoken of here. Now we have Christ Jesus, the physical incarnate God. With John the baptist, he is preparing the way for the Kingdom of God, because the actual, physical, real, tangible Kingdom is to be established through Jesus. Now, what many commentators miss is that this is not the final progression. There still will come a deeper expression of the Kingdom with the return of Jesus, and therefore another moment when this verse in Isaiah is applicable. The establishment of the Kingdom of God is progressing in deeper and deeper expressions, until you finally come to the end of the age, with the Millennial Kingdom, and God’s glory is beheld unto all the earth, the nations themselves are coming up to Jerusalem to behold that glory, and Jesus rules – God in the flesh – over all peoples.
Many times the New Testament writers show how with Jesus’ first coming there is a fulfillment of these Old Testament prophecies. But that doesn’t mean that those prophecies are now done away with and thrown to the side. There is a pattern in the Bible, which the prophecies are reiterating and expecting to continue. These patterns are not just there for us to call “dispensations”, but are instead cycles to help express the ultimate climax. There shall be an ultimate climax where history comes to a pinnacle. It won’t always be that we’ll find cycle after cycle, world without end. Time will come to a close, and there is “an age to come”. Matthew is pointing out that with Jesus’ first coming, we do have the actual Kingdom of God being manifest, a deeper expression than before, and yet at the same time it is the exact same expression as before.
Which brings me to another point.
There is this idea that what we have in the ‘new covenant’ (New Testament) is better than what they had in the ‘old covenant’ (Old Testament), and therefore the old is obsolete. What is not understood is that the old is an expression of the eternal, one progression further than where Abraham was, but not to the point where God Himself ruled over Israel and all nations. Here is why that is important: The same Spirit that has been poured out upon us is the same Spirit that the prophets had. What you see expressed throughout the Old Testament in the saints is the exact same thing that you and I have. Saul was converted after leaving Samuel to go back home, and it says that he “became another person”. That is the exact same conversion that Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 5:17. The prophets did say that the Spirit came upon them, but it also says that the Spirit was in them (Daniel 4:8, Genesis 41:38, Numbers 27:18, etc).
The second reason that the wilderness is important in verse 1 is for the sake of verse 4. To many Christians who are not familiar with their Old Testament, this seems like just an abnormal description of John the Baptist. However, when you cross reference 2 Kings 1:8, you find that this was the exact dress of Elijah. Why is that important? Malachi 3:1 says that before the Messiah comes, God shall send Elijah as the forerunner. Once again, this is the pattern being revealed, and Matthew is showing John the baptist to be Elijah. We don’t find Malachi 3:1 quoted here (unlike in Mark 1:2-3), but we do find Jesus insert this later in Matthew 11:10.
In Matthew’s Gospel, John’s message was, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” Matthew stresses the issue of repentance to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, where Mark stresses repentance for the remission of sins. Both Mark and Luke speak of that remission, but in Matthew’s Gospel, such words are strangely absent. Later in the passage, Matthew explains to us what “entering the Kingdom” is, by revealing that all Jerusalem (go back again to Matt 2:3), all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to John, confessing their sins. We then progress from that into verse 7, to speak on the unrepentant Pharisees, and verse 10 signifying the uprooting (casting off – Matt 2:6, Micah 5:2-3) of the of those without repentance.
This “all the region around the Jordan” practically quotes the same phrase from Genesis 13:10-11. This is the region that Sodom and Gomorrah was in. This only shows one more time the pattern of redemption, not only for individuals, nor even for nations, but for the land itself. The place that was inhabited by wickedness, and was left desolate through judgment, is the very place God chooses, and the very place of whose inhabitants come out in repentance before God through confession and the baptism of John the baptist. All the strings tie together somehow – even the strings we weren’t looking for.
When I spend time in prayer, it is a time of silence. I sit still before God, and I wait for His words, for His heart. His heart is almost always something that I’m not even considering. I’ll be thinking upon whatever Scripture I’ve been reading/wrestling, or I’ll be considering a life circumstance, or a theological question, but this is never what God seems to be considering…
He speaks to me about things that seem absolutely out of left field for everything that I would like to hear Him say. One of those times regarded this passage of Scripture. My mind went from Exodus 1, when Pharaoh slaughters the Hebrew children, to this passage, where Herod kills the children of Bethlehem, and unto Revelation 12, when Satan desires to devour the male-child. In that same instant, I hear the words of God, “Why does he always go after the children?”
In God’s eyes, children are not ‘mere’ necessities to perpetuate the human race. They aren’t annoyances that suffocate the patience of adults. Children are the innocent. They are the ultimate representation of the needy. God’s heart for those who are unable to speak for themselves, unable to take care of themselves, unable to fend for and protect themselves, unable to bring justice, etc is so juicing with compassion that if you glimpse it you’ll burst. God loves those who are unbearable and unlovable.
We find it a nuisance to have to take care of the elderly, infants, or the sick. I confess that I say “we”, because I am not altogether different. My grandmother who is wheelchair bound, and often gets hurt because she doesn’t want to use the wheelchair, I haven’t seen in months. The heck of it is that I don’t want to go see her. Of course, it should be said that the reason is more than just that she needs someone else to take care of her. It isn’t that I’m unwilling to help. Instead, it is because of the lifestyle and mentality that she has. It is at enmity with everything that I stand for.
Even so, this is often true of those who are in need. The point remains, though. Children are often spoken of as these ‘beasts’ who throw temper tantrums and drive their parents berserk. Too often I hear parents who speak about how much their children are annoying, or worse. My wife and I have both said, to each other and to parents, “If you don’t like your kids, then why did you have them?”
The point is that in God’s eyes, children are the pristine example of those who are unable to take care of themselves. God’s heart toward the poor, the oppressed, the helpless, and those who have no voice is one of compassion. He cannot tolerate when there is injustice against those who have no ability to defend themselves. I’m not sure there is anything that makes Him more angry…
Can you feel the sadness? When you see someone who is defenseless being persecuted or mistreated, can your heart break for them? These children, not even old enough to understand what is happening, are being slaughtered.
Why does Satan always go after the children?
It is interesting to me that when we think of biblical Egypt, we often think of the place of oppression and slavery. Yet, in the previous passage, the place where Joseph, Mary, and Jesus all found safety and freedom was in Egypt…
Behold Israel under Herod:
The New Egypt.
But how can this be? The City of God, the Holy City, the Place with God’s Name, where all nations shall one day come unto to find God, and to hear God, and to be atoned before God has become a place of every evil spirit and wicked practice.
Oh how the mighty have fallen! He has cast down from heaven to earth the beauty of Israel! She was once the princess of all the nations, the very apple of God’s eye, the very place of all that is perfect and true! But now, behold, now God has made her a public spectacle, and a shame and a curse! Why, O Israel, have you gone so astray? What has the LORD ever done that makes you wayward? Did He not find you as a youth, seeing you mistreated and naked before your adversaries, only to take you in, and cleanse your wounds, and heal them fully? Has He not clothed you with splendor and honor? Why, then, O Israel, do you now seek to reject Him, and to mourn at His coming, and to slay His children in the streets, until the blood runs, and the sound of lamentation and woe is all that is heard?
You are not Israel, though you call yourself Israel! You are not Jerusalem, though you claim that title and name! You are Egypt and Sodom! You are Babylon, playing the harlot with all nations, getting drunk from the blood of the saints, killing until there is none other to kill! Which of the prophets have you not slain, O Jerusalem? And which of the righteous saints have you not murdered, O Israel? You are Cain, and his prime city Enoch, O Israel and Jerusalem.
But let us not forget:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more…”
When we turn back to Jeremiah 31, where this statement is made, we find the context to be quite interesting. In fact, with both places, I’ve often asked why it is mentioned that Rachel weeps. Why not Leah? Why Rachel? The previous verses were just expressing how those who survive the sword shall find grace in the wilderness (verse 2), and how God will bring redemption unto Israel, so that there will be no more weeping, but instead rejoicing. It speaks of how the young men and old together will comfort one another, and will dance, and will rejoice rather than sorrow. It speaks of how the souls of the priests will satiate with abundance, and all of God’s people Israel will be satisfied with His goodness.
And then, after all this is said, we find “a voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping…” Why is there bitter tears? Why this lamentation? Why such sobs that are causing convulsions, and making it impossible to even stand? Notice the next verse in Jeremiah 31: “Thus says the LORD: Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says the LORD, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy…”
This is altogether a bizarre passage for Matthew to be quoting. It’s like when Matthew quoted Micah 5:2, to remind the readers of a time when the natural branches would be cast off for a season, but shall be grafted back in after “she who is in labor gives birth”. Interjected straight into the heart of the story, Matthew almost seems to change focus altogether in referencing Jeremiah.
Why does this segment end with this quotation? It is my opinion that we must comprehend something a bit more ethereal, which does translate into the physical. Follow me to Genesis 37:9.
“Then [Joseph] dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, ‘Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.’ So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, ‘What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?'”
When did that take place? When did it happen?
You cannot tell me that it took place at the time when Jacob and his sons came into Egypt. First of all, Joseph’s brothers bowed down to him before this. Second of all, there is no mention of Jacob/Israel bowing before Joseph. Instead, they embrace and weep upon one another’s neck. Third of all, Rachel had died while giving birth to Benjamin, so this dream seems somewhat absurd to begin with.
Then, when we come to Jeremiah 31:15, why is Rachel mentioned? We can see the context is for Ephraim, so it makes sense that it is Rachel and not Leah. However, I want to ask the question of possibility. Is it possible that Jeremiah was perceiving something beyond in Joseph’s dream? We can go to Revelation 12:1, and find the woman standing upon the sun, clothed with the moon, and having twelve stars upon her head. I believe this to be Israel, connecting it back to Joseph’s dream.
Move to Judges 5:7, “Villagers in Israel would not fight; they held back until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel.” Deborah was called “a mother in Israel”, or “the mother of Israel”. What is this? Go to Galatians 4:26, “But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” Now go to Hebrews 12:22, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…”
Notice this. Deborah is called the mother of Israel. Then, the “Jerusalem that is above” is called our mother. Then, we collect from Hebrews 12:24 that Zion is another name for “the Jerusalem that is above”. Go to Isaiah 49:14, “But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me. Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Your children hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you. Lift up your eyes and look around; all your children gather and come to you. As surely as I live,” declares the Lord, “you will wear them all as ornaments; you will put them on, like a bride.”
Do you see how similar this passage in Isaiah is with Jeremiah 31?
I think that there is a nuance here. There is something beyond just the obvious interpretation. Rachel was to come and bow before Joseph, along with Jacob. But, Jacob never bowed, and Rachel wasn’t alive to bow. So, there waits a future fulfillment of this, even if not with the exact people. Instead, there are ‘types’ (I truly hate that word, but I have no better alternative). Rachel is patterning Zion, just like Deborah was a type of Zion, the mother of us all.
Look at Isaiah 62:4-5, “No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”
God says that the land itself will be married at the marriage supper. This is the end of the age, when the Bride has made herself ready, and the wedding of the Lamb is at hand. We then come to Revelation 21, and the City is described, being called the Bride of the Lamb. But, why is it a City? I thought the Bride was the people…
We find the twelve foundations represent the apostles, which would represent “the Church” (I hesitate to say such a thing). Then, the twelve gates of pearl represent the twelve tribes of Israel. This is not two separate entities, or two separate “peoples of God”. This is one Body, unified by one Spirit, culminating together as one Bride of the Lamb, in one City called “New Jerusalem” and “Zion”.
What am I getting at?
There is a Jerusalem that is distressed at the coming of her King, who is ruled by men like Herod, who will slaughter children in order to destroy the threat of the true King. We find this to be the Babylon of Revelation, that the Antichrist finds his rule and epicenter in Jerusalem (see Revelation 11). Somehow, there is a Jerusalem that is ruled by the principalities and powers, a Jerusalem that looks more like Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon, where the Lord was crucified. But there is another Jerusalem, the eternal City, the heavenly City, the City whose builder and maker is God. That Jerusalem, which is above, is our true dwelling, and it is the true Jerusalem of God. But that heavenly dwelling is not the fullness, for the earthly Jerusalem is the physical counterpart. Just like the soul has the physical body as its counterpart, so too does the true inheritance of God have the physical land of Canaan, the true Holy City have the physical Jerusalem, the true heavenly Temple have the physical tabernacle and temple, and etc.
Rachel is weeping, even from beyond the grave, because Rachel is not simply a character in the Bible. She is an eternal reality, just like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not dead, but living. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Therefore, Rachel weeps, for her children are no more. They who are defenseless, who are the people of God, who are the eternal people, who are the very representation of the heaven upon the earth are being slaughtered.
Rachel weeps. Can you hear it?
In Exodus 11, God speaks to Moses regarding the death of the firstborn. It catches me interesting that Moses speaks this plague to Pharaoh, and doesn’t even allow Pharaoh to respond this time. He leaves in anger before he even gets to hear what Pharaoh might say. Why the anger, and why does this chapter have the sole purpose of warning Pharaoh, but nothing else? Previously, we’ve experienced that there is warning, and then the plague. But here, we find warning, and then with chapter 12, there is an interlude before the plague. This distinction that God is going to make is much different than the distinction between the Egyptian cattle and the Israelite cattle, or the fields, or the darkness.
This chapter consists of three declarations. The first and last are by God to Moses, and the middle declaration is Moses’ word unto Pharaoh. God’s speaking are no longer to Pharaoh – only indirectly. He now is addressing Moses on behalf of the Israelites. Everything is focused upon Israel being exodused, and upon the Israelites having favor enough to “despoil” the Egyptians. Moses’ words are charged with intensity, as if with every word attempting an offense.
Whereas it would seem logical that the Israelites were to leave Egypt in haste, being cast out from the face of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, it seems like God has another plan. They aren’t to leave as fugitives, but as kings and queens. Pharaoh will do what he has to do, and God will harden his heart to ensure it, but the Egyptians themselves give silver and gold unto the Israelites, almost in a begging attempt to have them leave. It is interesting to note this, because God seems to use this as the paradigm for the end times as well. Over and over again in the prophets, it is declared that when Israel returns to the Land of Israel the final time, after being sifted through the nations according to God’s judgment, they are brought back by kings and queens (Isa 49:22), and riches will be given them from even the most prestigious of the nations (Isa 60:5, 61:6).
Moses speaks unto Pharaoh the total judgment. No one will be exempt, for all have participated in Israel’s suffering. This is an utter devastation to the psyche of the Egyptians. In Exodus 2, the Israelites raised “a loud cry” unto God. Now, it is through Moses that God is saying unto Pharaoh that the Egyptians shall raise “a loud cry”. When the LORD heard the cry of His people, and came to rescue them from their oppression, and remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Egyptian gods do not hear the cry of the Egyptians, and they have no power to rescue them. This is a calculated offense.
The choosing of midnight is significant. It is often associated within Christendom with the return of Christ. Jesus returns at “midnight”, according to the parable of the 10 virgins. Here it is at midnight, while everyone would be at home, that this plague is to commence. Why not in the middle of the day, when people would be dropping in the fields, or the infants would be dying while sucking their mother’s breast? Why wait until midnight, when there is high likelihood that the Egyptians will be asleep? This is an affront to the mindset of the world, that looks for drastic measures in obvious places. God performs this at midnight, when those who do not keep watch will be sleeping. For this reason, we can parallel the words of Jesus with Passover. In Matthew 24, when He is warning His disciples to “keep watch”.
It was Moses who killed the Egyptian for being the “wicked servant” who beat the Israelites. And, it was Moses who stopped the Israelite, questioning why he beat his brother… Then you move to Jesus in Matthew 24 saying the “wicked servant” who beats his fellow servants shall be found not watching and taken by surprise. You have in Exodus the pattern that the Israelites must eat in haste with their sandals on and staff in hand. Then, Jesus speaks of the faithful servants who “keep watch”, and in Matthew 25, you have the wise and foolish virgins. Some of them had extra oil, and others had to ‘go to the merchants’. In this, some were prepared with sandals on and staff in hand, and others were unprepared.
In Moses’ words, we even have the servants of Pharaoh coming and bowing down to Moses. The declaration is made that they shall come down, and actually bow, in order to demand that the Israelites leave. Can you comprehend why this is such an offense? You mean these Israelites, who are but slaves and shamefully mistreated, shall have the Egyptians bow down to them? The people who are the least of all people shall have the greatest super-power bow down before them? There is not a chance. It is only possible when God has revealed His glory, and when the nations themselves, even while they have maintained a disbelief and utter rejection of God up to this point, acknowledge that the God of Israel is the true God, and that no other name under heaven or on earth is truly Lord.
Once again, as with in Moses’ generation, so with the end of the age. Do you comprehend what I’m getting at? It isn’t like Israel is deserving of this. The only reason that they shall have such treatment is because God has chosen them. If we balk against that, then we miss the genius of God. It is the scandal of specificity. To reject Israel as God’s chosen is to reject God Himself, because it refuses Him the privilege to choose whom He shall choose. Who are you, o man of little faith, to tell the potter that He is not allowed to choose that people, because they have been wayward since their inception? Doesn’t God know that the Church is where it is at, and that we have slaved for Him all these years, but that He hasn’t even given us so much as a goat?! Why the celebration and the grand fattened calf? Why does God cherish them so much more?
And here is the revelation of the heart. To carry on like that is to show that you have altogether rejected God. It is not up to you to decide who is truly God’s people, and who is actually just claiming it in name only. That is God’s prerogative, and to refuse Him that prerogative refuses Him as being God. The nations shall bow down to that people, and as Jesus says to the churches in Revelation, it shall be no different to we who have been grafted in. Don’t balk against the roots, for they are the very support by which you stand.
Here it is. We have finally seen the paradigm of God. This is what He effectually works toward for all generations. In Moses’ day, it was a display against Egypt and the principalities that ruled Egypt. In Jesus’ day, it was a display against Herod, the religious leaders, and Rome, and against the principalities that ruled and governed those systems of government and religion. In our own day, and in the future, it is a display unto the whole world, and the usurping powers of darkness that cannot comprehend the wisdom of God. He comes at midnight, because they think that they are the crafty ones, and yet they who walk in darkness shall not comprehend when the Master shall come. But you, oh children of God, are not in darkness, but walk according to the light, so that that Day shall not come like a thief to you. You have been warned, and told to keep watch, just as the Israelites in Exodus 12, and to you it is given the privilege of coming out from all nations to be established as God’s nation, through great miracles, signs, and wonders.
I’ve been attempting to put a post for each plague, but it was when I began to dread coming up with something to say that I realized I need to figure out a better tactic… So, I’m doubling this one, and hopefully I’ll have something to write. For those of you who don’t know, this blog is pretty well a platform for me to just write out my thoughts as they come, and so there is never a “second draft” that ends up coming up. Instead, all of the grammar or spelling mistakes are evidence of the “first draft”.
With the Ten Plagues, what has caught me is that these were all somehow related to battling one of the gods of Egypt (see this post). This morning I read of how the Philistines captured the ark of God (1 Sam 4), how they put it with their god Dagon (1 Sam 5), and other various cities, and the Philistines received plagues. Therefore, they sent the ark back to Israel (1 Sam 6). This got me wondering whether that might be another instance where God plagued the Philistines according to their gods, just like we find again with Elijah praying for there to be no rain…
Within the Bible, when we find hail as a plague, it is specific to devastating an entire empire. I think of Joshua 10-12, where they are fighting the five kings, and God sends the hailstones that kill more people than Israel did. The final time of hail is mentioned in Revelation, but not just once. We find in Revelation 6:12-17 that part of the sixth seal (which I believe is the return of Jesus) has hailstones. In Revelation 8:5, we find hail again. In Revelation 11:15-18 (which I believe to also be the return of Jesus), we have hail mentioned again. Again in Revelation 16:17-21, we find that part of the seventh bowl is hail. We trace the same description, thunderings, lightning, and hail, throughout the whole of Revelation. It is my understanding that these are not separate storms, but the same one, the events leading up to it being retold through different language and symbolism each time.
It is interesting with the hail in Exodus that God gives the command of warning. Moses tells the Egyptians to bring their animals inside, and don’t allow your family or servants to go outside. They who heed the warning are saved, but they who are foolish and don’t believe are killed. Is that not exactly how God does things? Even with the serpent on the pole, you had to look up to the serpent in order to be saved. Those who are unwilling, because of unbelief, don’t get healed of the plague of snakes. The truth is that the snakes (spiritually) were already there devouring the children of Israel in their unbelief. Similarly, the Egyptians were already devastated and destroyed, through the worship of these gods that are not God. The hail was only a physical “guerrilla theater” to make manifest the spiritual reality.
When we come unto the locusts, we have another instance where we find locusts having an end time significance. Of course, Deuteronomy 28 talks about the enemies of Israel swarming into the Land and eating the fruit of the children of Israel like locusts, and this is a plague for disobedience unto God. Joel picks that up in the first two chapters of his book, and so we find these “locusts” that come into Israel and have horses and destroy much more than just the crops. In fact, the “locusts” of Joel are said to be part and parcel of the Day of the LORD!
The prophetic mind sees these similarities. He intuits the plan of God, that these sorts of plagues and judgments are not simply “one time events”. It’s not, as the commentators suggest, a plague of locusts that invaded Israel during the time, or soon after the time, of Joel. And, to the other commentators who are smart enough to catch it, it is not as though Joel is prophesying the invasion of Babylon, and therefore it’s over and been fulfilled. The plague in Egypt is an eternal phenomenon. It resounds outward through history even unto the present age. The Israel, like modern Israel, that has become Egypt in all her practices shall face the same plagues – locusts not being excluded. There is an immanent storm coming, just as all the prophets foresaw, and that “immanency” doesn’t mean it has to happen within a certain timeframe. Imminence in the Bible is a matter of spiritual condition. Because you are spiritually already in this place, the physical outworking is only a matter of time.
Therefore, we can string together the Egyptian plague of locusts, realizing that it is the judgment of God upon a people who trust in their crops as their provision, the locusts of Joel 1-2, and the locusts of Revelation 9. They are interwoven, because God deals with His people in cycles and patterns. God sends judgment upon Sodom, and then in Ezekiel 16 tells Judah that they saw Sodom’s fate, and they saw northern Israel’s fate, and yet they persist in their disobedience as if God won’t judge them… Here it is that Israel has seen Egypt’s plague, they have seen the locusts in the time of the Old Testament prophets, they saw the significance of the locusts as being an invading army, and yet still they persist in their unbelief and iniquity. This is sadly the case of many Christians as well.
What other option is there, but to send again the plagues forewarned, but this time, as it says in Leviticus, seven times more fierce?
Notice Exodus 10:7. The servants ask Pharaoh, “Do you not yet know that Egypt is destroyed?” Is this true? Was Egypt already destroyed? Why, then, does God not relent? And why does Pharaoh not yet relent? I think that the servants were correct, but once again, it was not the physical statement yet being made. Something happened in Egypt, which history attests to, where it caused for the death of Pharaoh, his son, and the demise of Egypt altogether. When we consult the history books, we find that there was a time when the wife of Pharaoh actually sent to the Hittites looking for a husband to carry on the dynasty of Egypt. At that time, the Egyptians threw away their gods and started a whole new religious system. If interested, you can find the info here.
I suppose the question is now to turn toward ourselves, eh? Are we following the LORD in a manner distinct from the majority of Israel? Is our relationship with God much more paralleled with the saints of the Old and New Testament, or is it true that we are very much shallow and not even close to expressing the same faith? And, maybe the most pressing question, what are we going to do about it? Will it take plagues from God before we begin to reform our ways?
In the previous plague, there was the allusion to the sacred animals of Egypt – specifically the lambs. Now we find that the animals are plagued, receiving “pestilence”. We see that this plague comes from “the hand of the LORD”, in contrast with “the finger of God” (8:15). The hand is the symbol of power, and this is exactly the point. The plague is so severe that the Pharaoh must send to the Israelites to see if it reached them or not. This is obviously a sign of his lack in self-confidence at this point, but even so, he still is hardened and refuses to concede.
Within the plague upon Egypt, we have another parallel in the New Testament. Jesus Himself prophesied that at the end of the age there should be pestilence (Lk 21:11).
Again, though, I confess that I’m at a loss as to the deeper significance of pestilence. Just like with the frogs, when something is found toward the beginning and the end, I assume there is a greater significance. Why is the only mention of frogs in the whole Bible found in the plagues and in Revelation 16? Why, here with pestilence, is there such significance given of pestilence as a plague at the beginning and end?
It is not as though this word is uncommon, though. It occurs 49 times in the Old Testament, and every time it is something that is sent from God. This kind of ‘sickness’ or ‘disease’ is not brought about by improper living, like HIV or something. This disease comes from the hand of God, and from the hand of God alone. While HIV is transmitted even by birth, and so there are some who have the disease that are innocent, that is simply not the case with this ‘pestilence’. Over and over again, we find that God sends this as a judgment, first upon Egypt, and then as judgment upon Israel for her waywardness.
When Jesus speaks that there should be “pestilence”, the Greek word only shows up in one other place. We find it solely in Luke 21:11, and then again later (at least a derivative) in Acts 24:5. Paul is called a “pest”, or a “petulant man”, for stirring up against the Jews according to the sect of the Nazarene. This man Paul is being likened unto the pestilence that we would expect only saved for the most severe judgment of God against His people…
In the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the word chosen for “pestilence” is thanatos. Now, normally this word is translated as “death”. For example, in Revelation 6:8, we read that the fourth horseman will kill people with sword, famine, “death”, and wild beasts. It is the same Greek word. What is most likely is that John is pulling from the LXX in order to suggest that this fourth horseman is plaguing with pestilence, likening his vision with the story of the Exodus.
So, we’re still left with an impasse.
What are your thoughts? What is it about this ‘pestilence’ that has such deed significance?