Allen Jackson - Israel, Lessons In Restoration and Judgment - Part 1
It's good to be with you today. Our topic is "Israel Lessons And Restoration And Judgment". They go together. God's a God who restores, he redeems, he renews. But typically the reason there's a need for that is we've experienced God's judgment. God's judgment take place both in time, in history, and they'll take place in eternity. We wanna be prepared for both. We don't have to be frightened for it. Judgment can be in our favor but we need to understand the God perspective. Grab your Bible and a notepad but most importantly, open your heart.
We just returned from Israel, and Israel has been a part of my spiritual journey since I was a boy. My parents took me when I was still in elementary school, and I have been in and out of the country on a regular basis since then. So, both the land of Israel and the Jewish people have been a very important part of my own spiritual formation. And we just returned last week from a tour, and I always find that God stirs my heart and awakens something within me. If you've never been, I would encourage you to make the effort to do that. Whether you go with us or not is secondary but if you have the opportunity to visit the land of Israel, it will change your Bible and your faith in ways that are beyond my description.
And you know, people say to me, "Well, I've been once". And I smile, you know, I've been more than once and it continues to change my life when I go. So this is the last I think the last of the lessons I've done since I've come home but I wanna come back to that Israel topic and focus on some "Lessons In Restoration and Judgment". And I wanna start with a passage from Deuteronomy. We're working our way through Deuteronomy right now and I wanna add a little momentum if I can. Before we read the passage, a bit more history if you can stand it. The book of Deuteronomy is Moses preparing the former slaves of Egypt to enter the Promised Land. And it's gonna be a different way of life.
In Egypt, they have a constant source of water, it's the Nile River. And the utilization of the water for the most part is under the individual's control. You can dig a channel and you can move the water from the river to your fields so that it's more about effort and opportunity, but there is water available. Egypt for the most part, is a flat nation. Israel's very different. It's a hilly country and there is no permanent source of water. The Israelites today say that the Jordan River is a creek with a good PR firm. It's pretty underwhelming that Israel is dependent upon rainfall. With no rain, there are no crops and when there are no crops, you starve. It destroys your economy, the water is not under the control of the people.
And the promise of scripture as Moses is preparing the people, is that faithfulness to God will bring abundant rain. Perhaps more importantly is the idea that associated with the rain is the harvest. The goal isn't the rain, the goal is the harvest. The purpose of abundant rain is to ensure an abundant harvest. And that's consistent until today. You know, there's really no rain in the land of Israel in any significant proportion from April until October. And usually somewhere in October about the time of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, the first rain will come, the early rain or the former rain and it'll be a rain, often times it will eventually rain throughout the country.
And then after two or three weeks of that the rain will become more localized, and it'll rain throughout the winter months sporadically around the nation, and then about the time of Passover which would typically be March or April, there'll be another season of general rain across the nation, the latter rain. And if those rainy seasons are good, it makes those dry months from April until October sustainable, you can survive, but without that they're devastating. And that latter rain really prepares everybody for the harvest. And the three primary crops or the wheat harvest, the grape harvest, or the new wine, and the olive harvest or really for olive oil and it's in that context we can read Deuteronomy 11. This is Moses' instruction to the people.
"If you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today: to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all of your heart and with all of your soul, then I'll send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your new grain, your new wine and your oil. I will provide the grass and the fields for your cattle, and you'll eat and be satisfied". That's the promise. God said I will provide, it's worth noting. He said, "I will send the rain, and I will provide what your cattle need. You don't have a Nile River, you don't have the Mississippi, you don't have the Tigris or the Euphrates, but I will send the rain, I will make provision".
And then verse 16, he gives us a warning. He says, "Be careful, you will be enticed to turn away and to worship other gods and to bow down to them. If you do that the Lord's anger will burn against you and he'll shut the heaven so that it will not rain and the ground will not yield, and you'll soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you". It's a pretty stark contrast. He said, "If you'll faithfully obey the commands I'm giving you, you'll have a harvest. But you'll be enticed away". The wording intrigues me, he didn't say, "You'll wander away," he said, "There'll be something enticing, you'll be tempted away from me".
You know, our circumstances have changed a great deal since those former slaves were making their way towards the Promised Land, but we still face things that entice us away from godliness. So understanding restoration and judgment are essential for us to fulfill our role in participating in this ultimate harvest And I wanna start in 2 Kings 22. This is really a part of my lesson from my most recent trip to Israel. So if you'll bear with me a minute, I think it'll come together before we're done. Josiah is king in Israel. He comes to the throne while he's still a boy. And the king before him was wicked and then his son who follows him will be wicked and we really have no explanation but Josiah has a heart for the Lord with an amazing boldness and tenacity and determination. And he brings about reforms in the land of Israel that no one before him or after him was able to achieve.
And God responds to him, in your notes in 2 Kings 22 and 19 this is God's response. He said, "Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard what I'd spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place".
Some of you know the larger context you have read it and might remember it. Josiah initiates a whole series of reforms. They had lost sight of the Word of God and the principles of godliness and holiness and next to the temple on the Temple Mount, there were shrines to pagan fertility gods. They had built shrines for prostitution, male and female on the Temple Mount, which means there was a whole infrastructure to support those things. I mean, they had lost their way. They didn't stop worshiping God, but they had just totally given themselves over to immorality. Immorality for the sake of pleasure, immorality for the sake of prosperity, and when Josiah recognized how far they had deviated, he began to systematically destroy those places because with the blessings of God, and the call of God, and the promises of God come the responsibilities of God, amen.
And it's true in the church as well. And it's unfortunate to have the imagination that with a new birth, or conversion, or salvation that we are simply entitled to gobble up the blessings of God. With that comes a responsibility to be the people of God. And it's not simply to hand God a to-do list of the upgrades we would like in our lives in the upcoming season, God also hands us expectations. Not that we earn our way into his kingdom, or through our diligence we qualify, but there is a responsibility to being the people of God. The very next chapter 2 Kings 23, God says, "Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did with all of his heart and with all of his soul and with all of his strength, in accordance with all the law of Moses".
Can you imagine making the book and that being your epitaph from the Lord? Forget all of the kings of Israel. Suppose God said that about you just in Middle Tennessee. In Middle Tennessee, there was nobody like you. There just wasn't anybody like John, he was the best. Nobody had a heart like him, nobody even in the neighborhood. I mean, that's an amazing statement, wouldn't you agree? It's not hyperbole, it's not overdramatized. I know what the secularists would say but I don't believe that. But look at the next sentence; "Nevertheless, the Lord didn't turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against the land because of all that Manasseh, his predecessor, had done to provoke him to anger. So the Lord said, 'I'll remove Judah from my presence as I removed Israel, and I will reject Jerusalem, the city I chose, and this temple.'"
That's pretty sobering to me. And if that was all we had you could think, "Well, maybe it's the Old Testament". Thank God we got to the grace of the New Testament. But last week I stood on the Mount of Olives, and I read Luke 19 to the group that was with us. If you stand on the Mount of Olives today, it's to the east of Jerusalem and the city is spread out before you and the wall of the temple mount is right there. That's the same retaining wall that Herod the Great built in the first century. And you can still see along that retaining wall of the Temple Mount, part of the dirt from the embankment that the Romans built when they laid siege to the city of Jerusalem in 70.
There's a Muslim cemetery there now that's a different discussion but you could still see the remains of the siege ramp. They would build an earth and ramp up against the walls of the city so they could bring their siege engines, and they could pound the wall to either to breach the wall or to breach the gates and the wall. And if the topography was such that you could build a broad earthen ramp that you'd never know exactly where they were gonna attack, so you wouldn't fortify any single portion of the wall. Today you can stand on the Mount of Olives and see the dirt that the Romans piled against that wall.
Well in Luke 19, it's the day of the triumphal entry. Jesus is coming into the city and there's a tremendous celebration. The children are crying out, the palm branches. It's what we celebrate on Palm Sunday. It says, "As he approached Jerusalem and he saw the city, he wept over it". He's out of sync with the emotion of the day. And he said, "If you'd only known on this day what would bring you peace, but now it's hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you". Now, he's the greatest of the Hebrew prophets. "The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you, and they'll encircle you and hem you in on every side. And they'll dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. And they won't leave one stone on another, because you didn't recognize the time of God's coming to you".
Jesus pronounces judgment on the city of Jerusalem. It's a very sobering moment, the incarnate Son of God. This is before his betrayal, before his passion. Luke gives us a little more insight in Luke 21. "The disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God". Herod's temple. Herod remodeled the temple. In Jewish history there have been two temples. Solomon built the first one, do you know who built the second temple? It's a trick question, Zerubbabel. I can't spell it but he did it. Herod technically wasn't completely Jewish so the Jewish people didn't really trust him to let him take down that temple even though he was going to rebuild it so he built a temple over it.
It was one of the most remarkable remodeling projects in history. And Herod's temple, that second temple remodel was one of the wonders of the ancient world, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims came from all over the Roman world to see Herod's temple. So the disciples quite understandably were proud of it and they're pointing out the beauty of the temple to Jesus. And he said, "As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another: every one of them will be thrown down". And when they got done in 70, the only thing that was left was the retaining wall for the platform. They literally tore the temple apart, stoned by stone. And some of the stones were as big as a school bus. It took some significant effort to destroy it.
Now Matthew gives us a parallel passage. Matthew 24 is the parallel passage to Luke 21. And after Jesus said that the disciples said, "Tell us what would be the sign of your coming in the end of the age". They couldn't imagine the temple being destroyed unless it was the end of the age. What I wanna draw your attention to is Jesus's pronouncement of judgment upon the city of Jerusalem. See, I tend to think my default reaction is to imagine that God's judgment is immediate. That if I shoplift M&M's at the grocery store and I eat them that I'll get sick. I think all of us tend to have this sense that if we do something wrong judgment will be imminent.
Now the weakness, and it can be but most frequently because of God's grace and mercy, it isn't. The weakness in that imagination is if you do something that you know to be ungodly or wrong and you're convicted of it, and there doesn't seem to be an immediate consequence, it tends to embolden you to double down and you continue on your path. Until you arrive at a point where even if you have a King Josiah that deconstructs all the expressions of ungodliness, and wickedness, and immorality, that God will look upon you and say, "I'll spare Josiah the problem, but the destruction is still coming".
Now Jesus pronounces judgment upon the city of Jerusalem and then after that he himself goes to the cross to pay for our sin, the redemptive work of God. A sacrifice for all humanity for all time that we might be welcomed into the kingdom of God. So the redemptive work of Jesus stands between the pronouncement of Luke 19, and the history of Jerusalem's destruction some 40 years later. So the full expression of redemption is included in this pronouncement of judgment. It's a very important lesson for us.
Now I wanna go to John's gospel. I gave you several passages of scripture, I'm gonna read through 'em pretty quickly. I would point out that chronologically all the things Jesus is saying in these chapters that I've chosen, John 14 through 16 have taken place after that triumphal entry. So everything we're about to read that Jesus said to his disciples, he says to them after they've heard him say, "You're gonna be destroyed and there won't be a stone left upon another".
Now listen to what he has to say to the disciples. John 14, Jesus said, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I'll come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I'm going. Then Thomas said, 'Lord, we don't know where you're going, so how can we know the way?'" God bless Thomas. I mean, Jesus goes on to say, "Thomas, don't you understand yet"? And the answer's, "No I really don't". You see, at this point, they feel like Jesus is breaking faith with the agreement they had. When he recruited them almost three years ago in the shores of Galilee. He said, "Follow me and I'll make you fishers of men". And they went all in. I mean, they left their businesses and their friends, and they've been identified with him, they understand what's happened.
I'm confident that they imagined that that was a lifelong commitment to follow this young itinerant rabbi. And now just three years into it, they're just kinda getting their legs beneath 'em and Jesus said, "I'm leaving and where I'm going you can't come". And Thomas said, "Lord, we'll go anywhere, I just don't know how to get to what you're talking about". Next chapter, John 15 Jesus said, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belong to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you don't belong to the world, but I've chosen you out of the world. That's why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they'll persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they'll obey yours also".
That's an important I think passage for us in this season. We would like to be embraced by the secular culture. We would like them to listen to us as we read from the scripture and describe a biblical worldview or a Judeo-Christian worldview, and the morality that comes with that, and the definition of family that comes with that, or marriage that comes with that. We would like the culture to applaud. But I think we need to remember what Jesus said to his closest friends, "The world is gonna hate you, but you need to remember they hated me first. If they would've listened to me, they would listen to you".
You see, if our desire is to be applauded by a secular culture, it will require us to compromise and abandon the principles of our faith. So we're gonna have to cultivate the courage and the willingness and the boldness to say, "We will honor the Lord". When it brings applause and when it brings derision, when it means we're included, and when it means we're excluded. We don't have to be angry, we don't wanna be arrogant. It's not about self-righteousness, we're not asserting that we are better than or wiser than, or that we always get it right, what we are asserting is we choose to yield ourselves to the authority of scripture. And in all of our brokenness, in all of our inadequacy, in all of our failures and weaknesses, we will do our best to attain to those principles that are held out to us. Accommodating evil will not bring the blessings of God.
John 16 Jesus said, "All of this I've told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he's offering a service to God. And they'll do such things because they haven't known the Father or me. I've told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I didn't tell you this at first because I was with you". "I was with you to help you up to this point. When we were in Nazareth and they got so angry at me that they wanted to kill me, I walked through the crowd. It wasn't you they were angry with," he said, "It was me, but I'm not gonna be with you the next time and they're gonna take their anger out on you, they're gonna hate you because they've hated me".
We have it in the American community for the most part, we haven't had to live with that kind of antagonism. That hasn't described our lives, it has described the existence of the church in much of the world. It describes the existence of the church in the Muslim world today. It's described the existence of the church in places where communism and socialism is ruled for several decades. But now we find it coming to us. They say our faith isn't welcome in the schools or the hospitals. They don't want us to pray in public settings, they don't want our Bibles there, they don't want the Ten Commandments in our schools. They don't want the nativity scenes on the public lawn.
Recent court rulings have suggested that none of those things were legal but if we're gonna see them reasserted, it's gonna take a kind of courage, and boldness, and determination that we haven't had to cultivate in our lifetime. We've conceded the field one decision after another. We stayed silent for the most part while 60 million children lost their lives. We said "It was the law of the land what can we do"? Until it wasn't the law of the land, and we've been strangely silent since then.
Look at John 16:5. Jesus said, "Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' Because I've said these things, you're filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: it's for your good that I'm going away". Do you think they believe that? Heck no, absolutely not. "Whatever your plan B is, you just stay with us. We've seen you walk on the water, we've watched you raise the dead, we've heard you refute their scholars. If you're here, we're golden". Jesus said, "It's better for you because when he comes, the spirit of truth will guide you into all truth. He'll not speak on his own; he'll speak only what he learns, and he'll tell you what is yet to come". He said, "I'm gonna send you a helper that will keep you informed about next so that you don't have to live your life in fear". John 16:33, "I've told you these things, so that in me you may have peace, in this world you'll have trouble. But take heart! I've overcome the world".
Now remember, they've heard him pronounce judgment on the city of Jerusalem. And then he begins to talk to them about his departure, and the arrival of the Holy Spirit. And he said, "It'll be better for you". There's a better opportunity, he'll teach you what you need to know. He said, "I've got a lot to say to you, but you can't hear anymore right now. You're full, you're emotionally full, you can't take anymore. All the stress you can carry, you've got. But when the Holy Spirit comes he will guide you into all truth. He'll show you what's still ahead". May I humbly suggest we would all be strengthened by increasing our awareness, our relationship and our dependence upon the person and the work of the Holy Spirit. We have left him out of the equation for far too long.
And Jesus made a special effort to prepare his disciples for his ascension and his return to heaven. He promised them and us that he would send his Holy Spirit to help prepare us for what's ahead. That promise still stands. Let's extend an invitation:
Heavenly Father I pray you would give us an understanding heart to recognize the directions from your Spirit in our lives in this unique season. In Jesus's name, amen.