BREAK UP YOUR FALLOW GROUND FOR IT IS TIME TO SEEK THE LORD
- (HOSEA 10:12)
IN this third year of the twenty-first century, there is a growing conviction among those of us who look for it, that the promise of God of the second coming of Jesus the Christ to this world, is soon to occur. Remember, God’s promises are absolutely certain to be performed.
How many people are aware of this, let alone even being ready and prepared for what will be by far the most momentous and important event in the history of mankind. It will dramatically affect us all. When Jesus returned to heaven after his crucifixion, some 1970 years ago, two men (angels) in white apparel spoke to the apostles who had watched Jesus depart, saying to them as recorded in Acts 1:11
"Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."
Jesus, speaking in Luke 21:27 also forecast his own second advent:
"And then shall they see the Son of Man (Jesus) coming in a cloud with power and great glory."
Hebrews 9:28 tells the same story:
"So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many: and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
One of the many prophecies in the Bible concerning the times immediately before the second advent, is the prediction of a time of severe strife and evil. Luke 21:25, 26 referring to this time tells us:
"And there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring: Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken."
In Biblical prophecy, the expression ‘sea and waves roaring’ refers to severe unrest and disorder in the broad masses of mankind. This surely reminds us of the present times. The world is lacking in truth, honesty, respect for law and order, justice, and compassion and the many virtues listed in the Bible.
The title words come from Hosea 10:12 and were spoken to the ten-tribe house of Israel who were taken into captivity from Samaria by King Shalmaneser of Assyria c720 B.C. Hosea was calling them to repent and to return to the Lord. About a 100 years later, Jeremiah in chapter four verse three uses a similar plea to the two tribe house of Judah:
"Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns."
Both prophets saw their words ignored. The house of Judah was taken into captivity this time, by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. So all of Israel were now exiled from their homelands. Today, are we not also concentrating our activities in ‘sowing among thorns’ to the destruction of the good seed - the principles of righteousness and truth - which are being choked into oblivion!
Most people today register a lack of knowledge and/or indifference concerning the principles of God’s truth in the Bible. Even among some of those professing belief in God and/or some sort of Christian belief, there appears to be an appalling lack of understanding, especially about the gospel of salvation. With Israel in past times, lack of faith and universal sin were always a problem, as indeed they still are. The easiest way to understand this salvation of Jesus Christ, is perhaps in considering a. hypothetical case in a court of law, where a person is convicted of a crime. The judge then passes sentence, the maximum allowed by law in this case, and it is a heavy fine. The judge then proceeds to pay that fine himself. The ‘person’ is now forgiven and set free. Each one of us is that ‘person’ and our judge is Jesus the Christ. But the penalty in our case would have been death!
Our time on this earth could be regarded as if we are attending a ‘University of Life’, in order to learn how to live our lives for our own and other’s benefit, in accordance with God’s laws, ordinances and precepts. We would also learn to prepare ourselves for the promised future eternal life, which would follow this mortal life if we truly believe and accept the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. We live in a world of sin and cannot avoid its contamination. Only Jesus the Christ can rescue us from Satan, the originator and producer of all sin. Therefore failure to ‘graduate’ in this University of Life, that is to ignore God’s truth, means, as it were no ‘passing out degree’ resulting in personal disaster.
Salvation is freely available to everybody. Paul in Galatians 3:28 says:
"There is neither Jew (Judahite) nor Greek, (Israelite) neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."
Peter tells us in Acts 10:34:
"Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons."
We are to understand then that God treats us all the same.
Let us now turn to the Book of Job, where consideration is given to the question, why do the Godly or righteous suffer? First, we turn to Hebrews 12:5, 6:
"My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint not when thou art rebuked of him. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."
Divine chastening is NOT punishment in any way, but rather the application of physical and/or mental persuasion to correct man’s ways, to make them in accordance with God’s precepts. The story of Job, is his chastening by God to achieve a further step or steps up what may be called the ‘ladder to the perfection in righteousness’. Such a ladder is endless for us all.
In Job 1:8-12 a conversation is recorded between God and Satan. In verse 8 God says:
"Hast thou considered my sewant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?"
Satan answers God in verses 9-11:
"Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face."
In verse 12 the Lord replies:
"Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand."
So Satan did his ‘worst’ (the rest of the chapter should be read) but Job remained faithful to God as verse 22 tells us:
"In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly."
In chapter two of Job, Satan has another try. In verse five he says to God:
"But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face"
In verse 6 the Lord replies:
"Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life."
Again Satan did his ‘worst’, but in verse 10 we read:
"In all this did not Job sin with his lips."
Note the following two important points
(1) Satan is very sly. In chapter 1:11 he says to God ‘but put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath’. Again, in chapter 2:5 Satan says ‘but put forth thine hand now and touch his bone and his flesh.’ In both cases Satan, in using the word ‘thine’ is inferring that God himself would ‘touch’ Job. Scripture tells us quite definitely that Satan, not God, is responsible for all our sufferings, as in this case where he (Satan) caused Job’s terrible losses and injuries. The Bible confirms this elsewhere. Luke 13:11-16 tells of Jesus healing a woman who probably had had osteoporosis for 18 years. In verse 16 Jesus says:
"And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these 18 years, be loosed from this bond."
Acts 10:38 also tells us:
"Who (Jesus) went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil(Satan)"
I Corinthians 5:5 in Paul’s words says:
"To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved."
Hebrews 2:14 provides more confirmation:
"That through death (on the cross) he (Jesus) might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil (Satan)."
(2) The Lord applied a restriction on Satan’s activities - to re-quote ‘upon himself put not forth thine hand’, again - ‘but save his (Job’s) life.’
Thus the Bible tells us that Satan is responsible for all illness, accidents, mortal death and of course all evil. However, we saw how God restricts his (Satan’s) activities against Job, as he does for all of us as he sees necessary.
God’s restrictions on Satan’s activities have a direct bearing on the time of the Second Advent. Paul speaking in 2 Thessalonians verses three and seven gives two clues. Verse three sees a ‘falling away’ that is forsaking God and his precepts. Verse seven is more obscure, it may well imply that God’s restrictions on Satan’s activities will be curtailed. If this is so, our present world-wide situation is perilously close to such a scenario. The word ‘let’ in verse seven means ‘hinder’ or ‘restrain’. At any case we have a further reason to anticipate an early Second Advent.
What sort of image of Almighty God do most people have? It is incredible that so many believe that God punishes us now for our transgressions. Scripture is clear, that all of us will be judged later on at the return of Christ to this earth, not now. 2 Timothy 4: 1 tells us:
"The Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick (the living) and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom."
Our Lord God is a kindly, merciful, generous being, with infinite love and compassion towards us all, and also the only hope and saviour of mankind, through and by the virtue of Jesus the Christ. The whole of mankind desperately needs to learn and understand this important truth, for their own well-being, before it is too late.
Continuing to consider the book of Job, the three so called comforters, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were wrong in their opinion that Job was being punished by God for some bad sin. The young man Elihu comes into the discourse in Chapter 32 and is little better. In the discourse of chapter 38, verse 2 God comments on Elihu:
"Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge,"
An aptly worded, gentle rebuff, that perhaps persuades us to consider the context of verse two further. Chapters 38-42 provide a most wonderful picture in the discourse between God and Job and must be read. Job’s conclusion in chapter 40 verse four is very significant:
"Behold I am vile."
God’s words in verse seven need no explanation:
"Gird up thy loins like a man".
In spite of God’s good description of Job in chapter one verse eight and chapter two verse three above, compared to God, Job recognises himself as being vile. This condition has been described elsewhere - that even the most righteous among mankind, are as filthy rags in the presence of God, and in this context we should constantly remember that God is always with us - he is omnipresent. In chapter 19:25-27 Job reveals by inspiration of God, the final condition - the resurrection - of all true believers at the time of the Second Advent, when their eternal life commences:
"For I know that my redeemer (Jesus) liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins (heart) be consumed within me."
Until that time, we will still live in this sinful world and need to remember Job’s words ‘behold I am vile’. We have to trust that God will cleanse us through his salvation. We cannot rely on our own efforts to gain righteousness, we can only fail. Self reformation is not possible. We must of course try to follow God’s rules. We can be certain of his help. When evil or temptation arises, God will provide a Way out, though we may not recognise it. We must like Job endeavour to climb the ladder to the perfection of righteousness. Constant progress is vital - we must not stand still.
How then can we persuade the indifferent and those without knowledge of God’s truth to believe and return to God? The Churches preach the gospel of salvation. Fine, this is their job. But the general indifference etc. of mankind indicates a lack of success. What then is wrong? The answer must be in God’s word - the Bible. The first important point to follow is explained in Mark 10:15 where Jesus tells us:
"Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter therein."
This does not mean that we cannot receive the kingdom of God (God’s truth) as adults, of course not. Even as a small child accepts the mother’s guidance and believes her, so we must accept and believe God’s word. A large portion of bias in favour of God’s truth is a great help. The Bible itself advocates truth, honesty, righteousness, love and compassion etc. It is therefore hardly going to advocate anything evil! Logic alone verifies this point. The Bible does not lie - all of it advocates righteousness and must be trusted and believed. We must explain Bible passages where necessary. It is no good quoting passages that are not understood.
The excess of modern translations of the Bible are not a great help in understanding. The Authorised Version of the Bible, sometimes known as the King James version, is probably the best source of God’s word. It would have been a very small thing for the Almighty God to ensure that this Bible produced in the 16th Century in England, should remain a true inviolate expression of his Word. There are many mysteries in this treatise, but God does provide understanding as and when he sees right. Further, we must use and teach the whole Bible, not just bits here and there. After all, the whole Bible is God’s Word.
In seeking further guidance we turn to Matthew 21:43 where Jesus says to the Jews:
"Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof."
That nation, was and still is true Israel which has been steadily spreading the gospel a long while. It is significant in this connection, to note that the larger part of true missionary work carried out in the last few centuries, has been by British, American and other descendants of Israel. More recently also, by believers of other nations. The disciples under Jesus’ instruction, set out first to preach the gospel to the lost tribes of Israel. Matthew 10:6 records Jesus’ words:
"But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel"
Jesus could not have been referring to the Jews, they were not ‘lost’ and in any case the few true descendants from Israel among the Jews were from the house of Judah. After the Jews rejected Jesus and after the crucifixion, Jesus says to the disciples in Matthew 28:19:
"Go ye therefore and teach all nations."
‘All nations’ would of course include Israel. Jesus was not excluding them. Luke 24:47 also relates Jesus’ words:
"Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his (Jesus’) name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."
Speaking to Peter in John 21:15-17 Jesus says in verse 15 ‘feed my lambs’ and in verse 16 ‘feed my sheep’ and in verse 17 ‘feed my sheep’. Peter, being an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin, would have understood when Jesus said ‘lambs’ and ‘sheep’ that he was referring to the Children of Israel.
Although the bulk of the Jews had rejected Jesus, a small number had become believers. However the vast majority of the Jewish people in the Israel homelands had long before come from other non-Israelite nations. There is some evidence that emigration had been going on for a long time from the twelve tribes before their exile. But exile resulted in all the Children of Israel remaining being banished from their homeland. The ten tribed House of Israel in c720 and the two tribed House of Judah in c600 BC. Probably about 50,000 (now called Jews) came back to Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah between c530 and c430 BC and found people from non-Israelite nations occupying Israel’s land. Jeremiah in Lamentations 5:2 says:
"Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens."
These people were from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, Sepharvaim in Samaria (see 2 Kings 17:23,24). The Edomites (Idumea), Moabites, Hagarenes, Philistines, and people from Gebal, Ammon, Amalek, Tyre, Assur and the children of Lot were in Judea (see Ezekiel 35:10 and 36:5: Psalm 83: and Obadiah verse 13) Intermarriage, which was unlawful for Israelites, was occurring in Nehemiah’s time (Nehemiah 13:23), and probably continued in later years. The term Jew does not identify a nation, but rather a religion, which in Jesus’ time, had strayed away from God’s precepts, as Jesus himself declared in the gospels. From all this Biblical evidence, it can be seen that the Jews, including the present Israelis, save possibly a small minority, are not the Children of Israel.
The belief that the Church has taken over the mantle of Israel, is not confirmed in scripture. According to Ephesians 1:22,23 the Church is the body of Christ. But it is present in all nations including Israel. True Israel is God’s servant nation as Isaiah records in chapter 41:8:
"But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend."
Israel has its job to do as defined in Scripture:
(1) To be a witness to the unity of the one and only God. (Isaiah 43:10-12)
(2) To show the blessedness of serving God. (Deuteronomy 32:26-29)
(3) To receive, preserve, and transmit divine revelation. (Deuteronomy 4:5-8 Romans 3:1, 2)
(4) Through God to receive the Messiah. (Micah 5:2; Jeremiah 23:5; Matthew 1:1)
(5) To be God’s battleaxe. (Jeremiah 51:20)
To confirm the present existence of Israel as a nations Jeremiah 31:35, 36 records a message that cannot be ignored because it is a clear statement of God’s will and impossible to misunderstand.
"Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is his name: if those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever."
God has also provided an absolutely undeniable proof that cannot be contested. The sun, moon, and the stars ARE STILL HERE: and so is Israel. See and read the following passages of scriptures which are but a few of many more: Isaiah 54; Jeremiah 32:37-42; Deuteronomy 30:1-8; Jeremiah 33:20-26; Ezekiel 37:21-28 and Hosea chapter 2. All are about Israel.
Jeremiah records in chapter 31 verse 32 that Israel constantly broke the covenants with God. The curses promised in that event took place including the final scattering throughout the world. Moses had warned in Deuteronomy 28:64:
"And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers hath known, even wood and stone."
That scattering was not to be permanent. Leviticus 26 records four instances in the four verses 18, 21, 24 and 28 that such punishment would be for ‘seven times’. When an item, as in this case, is repeated several times, it stresses importance and should draw our attention. What then is a time? Using other Biblical references it is generally agreed that a ‘time’ is 360 years. Therefore ‘seven times’ represents 2520 years. The house of Israel - the ‘lost’ ten tribes from Samaria - according to Strong went into exile in 722 B.C. Therefore Israel should have been emerging from their exile 2520 years later, about 1800 A.D. History tells us that the British, American and Scandinavian countries were being established about that time as were their descendants throughout the world.
Throughout the Bible God has clearly stated, that even during exile, a faithful remnant would always be present in Israel. The word remnant occurs some 50 times in relation to Israel. Elijah in I Kings 19:14 thought that he was the only one left who was faithful to God. But God reassured Elijah in a later verse 19:
"Yet I(God) have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal"
We can therefore conclude that the presence of a remnant must always indicate the existence of Israel. In the New Testament Paul tells us in Romans 11:1:
"Hath God cast away his people? (Israel) God forbid. For I am also an Israelite of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin."
Also in Romans 11, Paul confirms Elijah’s problem as above, and in verse 5 goes on to say:
"Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace."
Note the words ‘election of grace’. This identifies the New Covenant which provides for the gospel of salvation and which had already taken effect in Paul’s time. Jesus the Christ had been crucified and had risen from the dead. So all true believers in time and space were now justified.
As was shown above, Job finally realized that however righteous we may be, we are still ‘vile’ in comparison to God’s perfect purity. When Job saw God’s perfection, he was overwhelmed in spirit and desperately cried:
"Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes." - (Job 42:6)
Such humility is an example for us all, and indicates how much we all need the salvation of Jesus the Christ. Re-quoting Hosea 10:12 again:
"Break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord."
These words are as poignant and very necessary today, as they were about 2750 years ago. Then Israel was facing war and exile. Today the ‘Church’ age is rapidly drawing to its close to be replaced by the kingdom age ruled by King Jesus. We must get the messages of God’s word to this indifferent and sin vulnerable generation of our nation, ‘God’s people’ this part of Israel. To do this let us briefly consider the sequence in which God revealed his Word in his Bible.
(I) The creation.
(2) The Children of Israel.
(3) God’s precepts.
(4) The truth and proof of the existence of the Deity, through prophecy.
(5) The First Advent of the Messiah and the gospel of salvation.
(6) The now imminent Second Advent of the Messiah - Jesus the King.
Some of these titles and many of the numerous subheadings that could be attached to them seem to be missing in many of our churches. The whole of the Bible is God’s word, our duty is to proclaim the whole, not bits and pieces here and there. Remember Mark 10:15 and its ‘little child’ instructions by Jesus. It is not suggested that the above sequence be rigidly followed, but as Paul commented we must start with the milk before we progress to the meat. However, the gospel of salvation must be proclaimed, self reformation is not possible, but obedience to God’s precepts is necessaiy The story of the Children of Israel - our ancestors - is important, if only to show how God’s infinite mercy has been extended to what was and still is a most ungratefully disobedient and sinful nation. It may be that where the belief and identity of the present Children of Israel is pronounced, that an understandable, broad, shining path to the gospel of salvation will appear for many more to tread. Hosea’s above words could be explained as: get out that unused, dusty Bible, and read it from start to finish as with any other book. Then re-read it again and again. Preferably use the authorised version with references. There is no better version of the Word of God. Learn its language its words and phraseology, they cannot be improved upon. Isaiah 40:31 gives us a vision of believers at the resurrection:
"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary and they shall walk and not faint."
And Jude 24 & 25:
"And now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever Amen."
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