“FOR YOU SHALL GO OUT WITH JOY…”

By Jim Jordal

For you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace. For the mountains and the hills shall go before you with singing, and the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”                                                                                              Isaiah 55:12 WEB

This Bible verse is probably better sung than read. In music its joyful lilt transfers the overwhelming joy present as the great prophesies of Isaiah bring the wayward sons of God out of their well-deserved bondage and oppression.

As you perhaps know, the history of God’s people is cratered with disaster and suffering, almost always connected to their forgetting of God’s law. This time it was deliverance from the Babylonian captivity. Several thousand years earlier it was from slavery in Egypt, and in several intervening accounts it was from many of their host of enemies. But the principle remains: God’s people lurch from egregious sin, through punishment, then deliverance, usually by some great leader like Jehoshaphat, then God’s favored people, then back to sin again.

The first 39 chapters of the Book of Isaiah constitute a sad rendition of Israel’s sins and God’s anger at their perfidy. From the 40th chapter onward, Isaiah becomes a beacon of hope as God’s people march forward into the deliverance promised for centuries.

Israel’s first and perhaps most notable experience with divine deliverance was its miraculous journey out of 400 years of slavery in Egypt. Later God shared his intent for this anguish by revealing its purpose to create a national memory so graphic that they would never again ignore the cries of sufferers under political, economic, or social oppression.

But the hundreds of biblical references concerning suffering and deliverance can be misapplied in many ways. For example, although the deliverance was national, its principles can also be applied to individual predicaments. As we see every day, individuals also move from sin through punishment through deliverance and back again to sin. It seems to be the nature of the human race. We find deliverance from sin through faith, but then as trials and tribulation arise we sometimes lose confidence in the power of God to keep us on track, so we begin anew on the path of waywardness.

People of faith can be sidetracked in their Christian journey by giving too much attention to the cascade of disaster and human failing revealing itself daily in the news media. Scripture shows that God has reasons for what he does, although we do not often perceive what these reasons are.

Today we see revelations of all sorts of chicanery by public figures prominent in entertainment and politics. We tend to react to these revelations with the faulty view that God has somehow lost control over an immoral, lost world. We forget the promises that I’ve quoted before where God says that “nothing will be hidden that shall not be revealed” as the end times approach and the millennial kingdom of God on earth gains traction.

Deliverance is the message of the hour. As Isaiah says so plaintively, “For you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace…” That’s why all the evil and turmoil exists---to identify the many violations of God’s law and to prepare us for the joy and peace soon to follow as God deals once and for all with human waywardness.

The text ends with the beautiful phrase, “the mountains and the hills shall go before you with singing, and the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” In biblical symbolism, “mountains” usually are nations and “hills” are smaller governmental units, while “trees” symbolize nature. Imagine if you will the awesome scene of forests of trees literally waving their branches in joy as Christ’s kingdom moves in with Christ sitting on his throne. Imagine the peace and joy that will replace the turmoil and suffering of the present age.

Consider again the deliverance from financial, legal, moral, environmental and political oppression that will occur as God’s people (that’s us) at long last discover the full meaning of the historic Exodus---the development of a national vision and ethic of creating peace and joy through deliverance and healing.

This isn’t mythology, folks, because it’s really on the way.

AMERICA NEEDS A DICTATOR

By Jim Jordal

 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who lived in the land of the shadow of death, on them the light has shined…You have increased their joy. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as in the day of Midian… For to us a child is born. To us a son is given; and the government will be on his shoulders. His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David, and on his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from that time on, even forever. The zeal of Yahweh of Armies will perform this.                                                                                                  Isa. 9:2-7 WEB

We don’t have to wait for Christmas to consider this literally earth-shaking prophecy of the reign of Jesus Christ of Nazareth over, first his own people, and finally the nations of the earth.

No, the Great King is not Donald Trump, even though he may have certain delusions about his being one. Nor is it a political party or a movement or an established creed. It is the person of the Christ who assumes rule over the nations. It is to Him we bow in adoration over the advent of righteousness upon the earth, and the awesome release and relief we feel when we realize that finally we receive that which has been promised for centuries.

We’ve has great leaders before, some of whom also promised the earth to their followers. Remember the Roman Empire and its many Caesars who promised great things. And Napoleon Bonaparte and his hopes. And Queen Victoria and the building of the British Empire. But none ever achieved what the prophets foretold for Jesus Christ. They all failed amid military defeat, empire-wide collapse from corruption within, or just changes in the times.

But one whose voice is still heard amid the philosophers and dreamers was Karl Marx, who back in 1848 penned the Communist Manifesto, clearly one of the most successful attempts to bend humanity will that has been written. It turned out to be a devastating critique of unrestrained capitalism, pointing out in persuasive detail the abusive reins of predatory capitalism. That it lasted about 150 years and ruled over almost half the world is testament, not to its accurate philosophy, but to the strength of dictatorial rule built around an ideal of human perfection and selflessness that will never succeed upon earth unless it is under the rule of a returned Christ. But it is a person who will rule the earth and his name is Jesus Christ.

Dictators always claim what they do is for the people, and a few of them even mean it and succeed for a limited time. But none, however lauded by historians, could ever replace the earthly rule of Jesus that actually began with his first advent.

America today is a textbook example of how hard-earned and highly- valued political, social and economic systems slide from success into failure, largely because no matter how thoughtfully conceived and carefully tended, they fall victim to the idiosyncrasies of human nature.

J. Rufus Fears, whom I quote from time to time, said that the difference between a politician and a statesperson is that the statesperson has rock-solid values, an accurate moral compass, a vision as to what is possible, and the ability to form a consensus around the vision. Can you think of anybody today in a position of political authority who can match that standard?

Many will claim to rule justly and with moral authority, but they always end with some great flaw limiting their success. Jesus Christ is the only perfect ruler I know of, and when we consider the present state of the earth I wonder how much longer we can survive without strong, just leadership sent from God. That’s Jesus Christ, and he is the only dictator I’m willing to follow.

 

 MOSES ADVOCATES FOR HIS PEOPLE

By Jim Jordal

 Yahweh spoke to Moses, "Go, get down; for your people, who you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it, and have sacrificed to it, and said, 'These are your gods, Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt.'" Yahweh said to Moses, "I have seen these people, and behold, they are a stiff-necked people.  Now therefore leave me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of you a great nation." Moses begged Yahweh his God, and said, "Yahweh, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, that you have brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, 'He brought them forth for evil, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the surface of the earth?' Turn from your fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your seed as the stars of the sky, and all this land that I have spoken of I will give to your seed, and they shall inherit it forever.'" Yahweh repented of the evil which he said he would do to his people.      Exodus 32:7-14 WEB

Romans 15:4 and I Corinthians 10:11 both tell us that Old Testament scenarios or historical accounts were written for our learning and admonition. They become especially valuable during difficult times such as today so that we might have hope and ability to deal effectively with whatever issues intrude upon our safety and peace of mind.

Today this country has many such issues, all of which pose serious threats to our people and the earth itself. In the example above, the first threat to national well-being lay in the penchant of the people to quickly corrupt themselves by turning aside from God and his ways taught by his The graphic evidence of their religious corruption was the golden calf commissioned by Aaron in response to public pressure for something visible to worship and to credit for their deliverance from Egypt.

This arrogant, stubborn faithlessness angered God to the extent that he determined to destroy them. Notice though that God did not hide his destructive will from Moses, but shared with him his desire to destroy the corrupt and malicious people. This sharing of Divine intent is explained by the prophet Amos in this manner: “Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless he reveals his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

So the people of God faced destruction in the wilderness due to their perfidy in obeying his commandments. The fearsome task of directly confronting God concerning his anger and petulance at his erring people fell to Moses, who evidently was the only Israelite with enough standing before God to be accepted.

The prayer of Moses consisted of several parts---all of them necessary to its success. First, Moses simply asked why this had happened. It would have been a factious question had not Moses already determined to act as God directed to end the problem. Next, Moses reminded God concerning his past relationship with the people when he mysteriously and miraculously brought them out of Egypt. Then Moses asked what would be the effect upon God’s sovereignty should he now destroy his people, thus allowing arrogant Egyptian leaders to  claim that God’s Egypt deliverance was only so he could destroy them later.

Moses then petitioned God to “turn from your fierce wrath and repent of this evil against your people.” He beseeched God to remember the promises he had made to the patriarchs concerning their eternal inheritance of the land and future blessings. And God repented of the evil he had thought to bring upon the people.

Will things ever again come to a situation as fraught with danger as this? It could, and if it does God will need followers like Moses, ready to “stand in the gap” for the salvation of the nation.

Are you ready to be one of them?

V

SOME THOUGHTS ON PROPHECY

BY Jim Jordal

Surely the Lord Yahweh does nothing; unless he reveals his secret to his servants the prophets.” Amos 3:7 WEB

 He said to me, "Write, 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'" He said to me, "These are true words of God." I fell down before his feet to worship him. He said to me, "Look! Don't do it! I am a fellow bondservant with you and with your brothers who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy." Rev. 19:9-10 WEB

 We have the more sure word of prophecy; whereunto you do well that you take heed, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns, and the morning star arises in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke, being moved by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:19-21 WEB

 Do you wince when you hear the word “prophecy” mentioned in a sermon or written account? Do you think prophets do nothing but predict the future? Or are they merely weirdos sitting atop some mountain calling down the vengeance of God upon an apostate world? Whatever you think about prophets, there is some cause for serious consideration, not so much of their personal lives, but of their continuous calling upon people to wake up to God’s call and to follow the Lord’s directions made clear in Scripture.

 I have my doubts concerning what many modern-day prophets proclaim, mostly because I see much of it, not urging us toward a sincere following of the Lord, but in reflecting the many alternate belief systems representing more the dictates of some national church organization than the clear word of God.

Does the danger of being seduced by false prophets (which really do exist) mean we should discount prophecy entirely?  No, for the same reason we don’t abandon politics because there are some bad and perhaps false politicians. There is still value in hearing them if we run their beliefs and comments through some sort of filter. In the case of religious prophets, that filter is mainly the word of God and the likelihood that what they say either has, or will, happen.

Unger’s Bible Dictionary defines a prophet as “one who is divinely inspired to communicate God’s will to his people, and to disclose the future to them.” In other words, they connect the presently known will of God with the future in a cause and effect manner. For example, is there any connection between the multitude of planetary disasters in the form of storms, floods, fires, earthquakes, wars, revolutions, the rise of oppressive political, economic, and social systems, and the general chaos now shaking the earth?

If you doubt that connection, read Deuteronomy 28, a lengthy chapter devoted to pointing out clearly the benefits accruing to nations heeding God’s word and way, and the many troubles and human disasters awaiting those ignoring and breaking God’s law. In scores of references Scripture clearly makes the cause-and-effect relationship between national obedience to God’s law producing peace and tranquility, or disobedience followed by destructive adverse consequences.

If this cause-and-effect connection really exists, why don’t religious institutions teach it more thoroughly? Partly, it’s the so-called “feel good gospel” that pictures God as an eternally tolerant old man with long white hair who mostly smiles at the questionable antics of his people. This viewpoint often smothers and even denies what Scripture so clearly says. We envision religion to be, not a warning of Divine displeasure or anger, but a comfortable place where we can fellowship around the more pleasing aspects of faith, like friendship, companionship, helping others, sharing our communal lives, and in general feel good about our spirituality and how it is pleasing to God.

Somewhere in the religious literature there is a good quote that fits well here: “A good sermon should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted.” Both truths are necessary, and, as I've said before, time is on our side because the world situation is very obviously heading toward calamity and disruption, during which our cold, hard hearts will much more readily hear and heed what God says.

Developing events plus God’s grace will make the difference.

GOD RULES IN HUMAN AFFAIRS

By Jim Jordal

 Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held, to subdue nations before him…I will go before you, and make the rough places smooth…and I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, who call you by your name, even the God of Israel.  For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel my chosen, I have called you by your name: I have surnamed you, though you have not known me.  I am the Lord, and there is none else; besides me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known me; that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none besides me: I am Yahweh, and there is no one else. I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil.

                                                                                                         Isa. 45:1-7 WEB, edited

This passage of Scripture is often used to express the sovereignty of God in human affairs. At this time the tribe of Judah endured a 70-year captivity in the powerful Babylonian kingdom. God had promised deliverance, and he chose as his instrument Cyrus the Great, head of the new Persian Empire, who soon conquered Babylon. The result was the freeing of Judah and its return to Jerusalem, where Cyrus even aided in rebuilding the Jewish temple.

God used Cyrus to free Judah, God’s Holy People, from slavery and eventual disappearance from history. The above reference is the only place in Scripture where God calls a Gentile his “anointed.” With the anointing go the promises that God will hold Cyrus’ right hand, subdue nations before him, make rough places smooth, and give Cyrus many hidden treasures, probably of understanding and wisdom in carrying out his commission.

It’s intriguing the way God deals with this heathen king whom he calls his anointed. Several places God says refers to the fact that although Cyrus doesn’t know him, he knows Cyrus. It’s like “you don’t know me, but I know you, and will use you to bring about my wishes.” All this to a heathen king!

It’s sad that today more people can’t understand that God can use anybody, great or small, hostile or friendly, for his own purposes. This includes Donald Trump and all the others running our government. Things may appear to be out of control if we use human reasoning, but our sovereign God uses even the worst of circumstances to bring about his will. The seeming disorganization in government is part of the Great Shaking promised in Hebrews 12. The systems of the present world order are being shaken so as to remove all parts not fit for God’s Earthly Kingdom, and to protect and continue whatever is acceptable.

The initial passage quotes God saying: “I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil.” That God could create evil presents a serious question, “How can a good God create evil?” But the evil is not in God, but in our limited understanding and inability to grasp the size and scope of God’s wisdom. In our limited understandings of God’s ways, we often mislabel his good intentions and the methods he uses to bring about his will as evil. To us, violence is always bad, but according to Scripture God often uses it as a method for securing our attention. The same for many other things that we mistakenly label as evil.

Through the same process we often label as “good” many things offensive to God. I think of the many ways in which we view as good many human financial creations like usury and its role in obstructing justice and enslaving millions, including the most vulnerable among us. We also do this with many creations of the entertainment world that in reality can only be cited as offensive to God and harmful to men.

If God could use a Gentile, pagan ruler like Cyrus to achieve his ends, then perhaps he can also use the multitude of chaotic and seemingly evil things now occurring in the political and economic worlds. You don’t have to like everything that happens, but do try to accept that at least some of it is related to God’s attempt to get our attention and turn us back to himself.