Introduction to The Prophets of IsraelPosted: Mon. Aug, 22 2016
Introduction to The Prophets of Israel.
Israel, under Joshua’s firm leadership, crippled the power of the entire land of Canaan in short order. Thirty-one kings dead and all their lands, very prosperous and lucrative lands, Israel had taken for their own, or rather, God had given it for their own. They rush into battle against superior numbers like men possessed, possessed of faith in the power of their God to deliver and to give all that He had promised. With the usual squabbling and complaining that exists amongst men, even men of faith, the tribes possess and settle their allotted lands and begin a nation in a Promised Land that would become the center of the world, and from which the Savior of the world would be born. It can’t be called a fairy tale since it is a reality. It is a dream come true. God made His own people and His own nation by calling Abram out of Ur, and through her, salvation would come to all mankind. But the story doesn’t smoothly unfold under the auspices of all goodness. Along the long road that culminates in its climax at Calvary, crater sized pot-holes yawn to swallow scores of unfaithful people of this chosen nation.
Israel is given strict commands to follow, the greatest of which is to love the Lord their God with all their heart, mind, and strength. In essence, they are to love Him above all else, including self. They must forego the pull that comes to all men from the passions and desires of the flesh, baring isolated sins for which animal sacrifices are given, and follow the commands of their gracious God. They do not do this, but this does not halt the fulfillment of God’s promise, but it does make for some clear and important lessons to be learned.
At the start, the Jews are to drive out all the Canaanites from the land. The foremost command to this end is execution. God has judged these pagans and His judgment is final and without question. He has been patient and forbearing with them for over four hundred years and not one kingdom has turned to Him, despite the fact that He has made Himself known to them, case in point - Melchizedek, but so many of the tribes, when they take possession of their gifted lands, refuse to eliminate the doomed people. In several cases they compromise, surely imagining to themselves that a partial fulfillment of a command is good enough and acceptable to Jehovah, as if He compromises His will. Instead of killing them, they make them slaves. JUD 1:27-28 But Manasseh did not take possession of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; so the Canaanites persisted in living in that land. And it came about when Israel became strong, that they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they did not drive them out completely.
The only reason for Israel to be sufficiently strong to subdue the pagans to slavery is the powerful right hand of Jehovah, which hand made them also able to eliminate them. They sinfully took the gift of God’s strength and used it to their own ends. Surely it was easier for them to use the Canaanites as slaves to do the work that they were to do. To clear a land and make it one’s own through sweat and aching muscles, knowing all the while that the land and the work is a gift, is what every man of God knows as soul cleansing and satisfying work.
They compromised God’s command and likely justified it with Joshua’s dealings with the Gibeonites years before, but self-justification is so very subtle. Joshua failed to check with Jehovah and discover the lie of Gibeon and he vowed to them in the name of Jehovah to leave them alive, and when their ruse was discovered, he decided to enslave them. This decision was honored by the Lord, but his situation at that time is not remotely the same as their present one, but their justifying minds probably used it to their own ends, like a lawyer quoting an old unrelated case in the hope that the judge will accept his argument. It’s not as if God didn’t clearly and repeatedly warn them about the consequences of doing this.JOS 23:12-13 For if you ever go back and cling to the rest of these nations, these which remain among you, and intermarry with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know with certainty that the Lord your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they shall be a snare and a trap to you, and a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you.
The same people who violated this command were the same who just a few years before, under the same command, had charged into battle with inferior numbers and killed tens of thousands in the name of Jehovah. A Christian can have vigor and love for the word of God and then find himself slowly compromising with the world. Soon enough his conscience downgrades the commands of God and the way of the Lord down to the storage basement of his priorities where his desirous conscious mind seldom trods, and his thoughts become intermingled with the way of the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. He was once a bright white garment that over time became duller and more yellow until it eventually turned into an opaque kind of brown. Initially, his compromise with the world brought him the friendship of the world, and like all bad courtships, it was quite rewarding in the beginning, but then turned to dullness, on its way towards misery - “a whip at your side and thorns in your eyes.” Bad relationships are often hard to get out of, even when every sinew in the body screams, “RUN!” The believer becomes enshrouded in darkness while he still and always remains a child of light. His position and his condition spell only tragic flaw and sadness.
God will never quit on him just like He did not and has not and will not ever quit on Israel. Discipline, severe as it needs to be, will come from the loving Father. Israel finds herself under terrible discipline and at the same time God provides judges to deliver them. The judges, isolated to certain parts of Israel, deliver those areas through the power of God and then their brief time draws to a close. After them comes the prophets who are men gifted with the power to see the future with God’s revelation. They are able to warn Israel and her kings of one or another future, in which one future is certain if they continue in defiance and another is certain if they repent and follow the Lord. Every one of the prophets carries this warning on his lips, and all the people have to do is to heed the message as not from a man, but from their Lord who breathes nothing but truth. Naturally, some of them do, there is always a remnant in every generation, but the majority of them do not. God will still fulfill His promise to Abraham and to the world through him, “all the nations of the world will be blessed in you,” but so many of them will fall into the depths of the pot-holes that they themselves have dug. Songs and poetry, tragic and gloomy, will be read and played in honor of Jehovah Elohim and as reminders and stern warnings to us who have come after them.
So many of the prophets are not as well known to us as others, but in a brief series of blogs I wish to make them all known to us. Not enough time or space is available in this format to come to know them in full detail, but a general knowledge of them will be fruitful to our souls. They confirm our beliefs and they are always a very timely and helpful warning. None of us, no matter what amount of growth we have been blessed to experience, are ever in a condition that requires no more warnings. Take heed lest you think you stand. Plus, we will receive the joy of learning more about our God and his dealings with His people. Dispensations change, but people do not. Next week we begin with Samuel, the first and, if it be possible to measure them, one of the greatest.
In the continued search of our unfathomable Lord,
Pastor Joe Sugrue
Grace and Truth Ministries