Here’s why I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog all spring. So many haunting parallels between the events of our day and one of the greatest tragedies in Scripture!
At the end of the day, everyone WILL bow to one of two coming kingdoms–Christ’s millennial reign, or Satan’s totalitarian one-world regime. Like Jeremiah, Daniel, and Esther, we must refuse to bow the knee to the “god of this world.” (2 Cor 4:4). And it will cost us something.
This has been a very, very hard post to write.
Starting late last year, I felt led to focus my Bible study on one of the greatest tragedies in the Bible–Israel’s journey back into captivity and loss of Solomon’s Temple. I’m not sure what moved me, other than a desire to explore some iconic voices in scripture I didn’t know well. But honestly, the parallels between the haunting words from the ancient pens of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc., and what I was seeing unfold around me stunned me into silence. I pretty much wasn’t able to blog all spring.
But with the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, the fast of Tish’ah B’Av (תשעה באב), taking place this past weekend, I thought maybe it was time to try to fit words to what I’ve seen in God’s Word concerning the tragedy that fast day commemorates–and how we can avoid the path to repeating it.
Tish’ah B’Av recognizes the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, which is the day both the First and Second Temples were destroyed, along with a number of other notable disasters in Jewish history. That first event is exactly what I spent several months reliving through scripture.
So… at the risk of coming off as a Debbie Downer, here goes… 🙁 🙁
Johnathan Cahn captures the big idea brilliantly in his seminal book, The Harbinger.
“…[America’s founders] dedicated America to God, and what they foretold came true. America became the most blessed nation on earth…. [But as] in the case of ancient Israel, there was always another side.”
“If they stopped following Him…”
“And turned against Him, then their blessings would be withdrawn and replaced with curses…. The same nation that was formed after the pattern of Israel now follows after the pattern of its moral descent, its spiritual departure from God.”
Cahn has his own remarkable way of laying out the steps that led Israel to judgment and tragedy, the “harbingers” that marked that path, and their startling parallels to our day. His book is an eye-opener if you haven’t read it.
I won’t steal his thunder by attempting to summarize his thoughts for you. But as I looked at the events that led up to both Israelite kingdoms being taken into captivity, a few striking parallels that deliver key messages for our day jumped out from my own study.
Isaiah had a decades-long ministry to the southern kingdom of Judah, largely under the reign of kings the Bible labels “good.” However, “the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” (2 Kings 15:4, 35)
Innocuous bit of compromise? Hardly. Even during these relatively righteous regimes, Isaiah’s book kicks off with shocking words of condemnation. He likens God’s people to Sodom and Gomorrah (Is 1:10), and God accuses them of trampling His courts with meaningless sacrifices (Is 1:12-15).
“So when you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Yes, even though you offer many prayers,
I will not be listening.
Your hands are covered with blood.”
Whose blood? Their own children’s, apparently!
This compromise on the part of righteous kings Azariah and Jotham paved the way for much more brazen idolatry under Manasseh.
He did evil in the sight of the Lord, in accordance with the abominations of the nations whom the Lord dispossessed before the sons of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places which his father Hezekiah had destroyed; and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, just as Ahab king of Israel had done, and he worshiped all the heavenly lights and served them. And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem I will put My name.” He built altars for all the heavenly lights in the two courtyards of the house of the Lord. And he made his son pass through the fire, interpreted signs, practiced divination, and used mediums and spiritists. He did great evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger. Then he put the carved image of Asherah that he had made in the house of … the Lord… (2 Kings 21:2-7)
We can look to Josiah’s reign, a few decades later, for a fuller description of the sins Judah was occupied with. Here’s a partial list of the shocking practices righteous King Josiah abolished:
And the list goes on with more disgusting detail on the myriad ways God’s own people innovated to prostitute themselves to idols.
“For the sons of Judah have done that which is evil in My sight,” declares the Lord. “They have put their detestable things in the house which is called by My name, to defile it. They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of Ben-hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.” (Jer 7:30-31)
Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising early and sending them. Yet they did not listen to Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck; they did more evil than their fathers. You shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you; and you shall call to them, but they will not answer you. (Jer 7:25-27)
Perhaps the most astonishing thing is this. In spite of the evident weight of their sin and their undeniable departure from God’s law, the people are somehow able to justify themselves by “calling evil good.” (Is 5:20)
They do not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord,
Nor do they consider the work of His hands.
Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge;
And their nobles are famished,
And their multitude is parched with thirst.
Therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth beyond measure;
And Jerusalem’s splendor, her multitude, her noise of revelry, and the jubilant within her, descend into it….
For they have rejected the Law of the Lord of armies,
And discarded the word of the Holy One of Israel.
For this reason the anger of the Lord has burned against His people,
And He has stretched out His hand against them and struck them. (Is 5:12-14, 24-25)
“Because this people approaches Me with their words
And honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me,
And their reverence for Me consists of the commandment of men that is taught…”
(Is 29:13. Yeshua echoed this timeless accusation against the people of his day in Matt 15:8-9.)
Indeed, Jonathan Cahn highlights the following steps on the progression to judgment and captivity:
Does this map to our day? In terms of growing spiritual confusion, The Barna Group has produced compelling evidence of the degree to which non-Biblical thinking has invaded modern Churchianity. Here’s just one example–the influence of Eastern mystical ideas on today’s church.
Spiritual confusion: Examples of the influence of Eastern mysticism on “practicing Christians” *. Source: Barna Group.
(*Definition: attend church at least monthly and consider their faith very important in their life.)
Note the greater prevalence of such tenets among younger, urban church-goers. More than one-third “strongly agree” with these non-Biblical teachings.
Is this “progression” in our thinking opening the doors to sin? Contemplate this, from the Western Journal:
Drag queens reading to children in church, pastors denouncing sexual purity, congregants being told to apologize for the color of their skin. The past few years have seen churches across the country take a dramatic theological turn, abandoning traditional Christian values in favor of progressive secular ones.
In 2018, Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber melted down a large collection of purity rings so that they could be recast into a sculpture of a “golden vagina.” According to HuffPost, the rings were “symbols of a patriarchal theology” that has historically evinced a “need to control women’s sexuality.”
Modern-day asherah, much??
Ancient Judah’s arrogance gave them a false assurance that God would overlook their flagrant sin.
“Also on your skirts is found
The lifeblood of the innocent poor;
You did not find them breaking in.
But in spite of all these things,
You said, ‘I am innocent;
Surely His anger is turned away from me.’
Behold, I will enter into judgment with you
Because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’“(Jer 2:34-35)
“Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’…” (Jer 7:4)
In other words, they told themselves that because God had deigned to place His temple on the heights of their city, they were immune from His judgment. Not so!
I’m afraid I see another parallel to our day here. I have heard Christians with big followings intimate that America is too important a light to the world for God to forsake.
Please don’t hear me wrong! I am a patriot who believes strongly in the ideals that underpin our democratic republic. While our legacy is far from perfect–and we need to own that unflinchingly–I am grateful to be a citizen of the most generous nation on earth, and proud of all it has accomplished.
Yet here’s the assurance God gave Israel:
He who gives the sun for light by day
And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
The Lord of armies is His name:
“If this fixed order departs
From Me,” declares the Lord,
“Then the descendants of Israel also will cease
To be a nation before Me forever.”
This is what the Lord says:
“If the heavens above can be measured
And the foundations of the earth searched out below,
Then I will also reject all the descendants of Israel
For everything that they have done,” declares the Lord. (Jer 31:35-37)
Our United States does not enjoy an eternal covenant like that! If Israel was not beyond His judgment when they departed from His ways, then why would we think our self-declared “One nation, under God…” would be?
God’s people rejected the sound teaching from His appointed prophets. They found ministers who would tickle their ears, feeding their mistaken belief that God would give their sins a pass.
The priest and the prophet reel with strong drink,
They are confused by wine, they stagger from strong drink;
They reel while having visions,
They totter when rendering judgment. (Is 28:7)
For this is a rebellious people, false sons,
Sons who refuse to listen
To the instruction of the Lord;
Who say to the seers, “You must not see visions”;
And to the prophets, “You must not prophesy to us what is right,
Speak to us pleasant words,
“Get out of the way, turn aside from the path,
Let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.” (Is 30:9-11)
“Woe to the rebellious children,” declares the Lord,
“Who execute a plan, but not Mine,
And make an alliance, but not of My Spirit,
In order to add sin to sin;
Who proceed down to Egypt
Without consulting Me,
To take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh
And to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!
Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame
And the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation.” (Is 30:1-3)
They looked to alliances with godless Egypt and Assyria to save them, rather than trusting in the blessings God had promised if they kept faith with His covenant. Even when Nebuchadnezzar’s army had Jerusalem under siege, false prophets assured them all would still be well.
From the prophet even to the priest
Everyone practices deceit.
They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially,
Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
But there is no peace. (Jer 8:10-11)
Or see Jeremiah 28 for Jeremiah’s pointed confrontation with the false prophet Hananiah.
And when God’s word through His actual prophet, Jeremiah, didn’t line up with what those in power wanted to hear? Easily handled. “Cancel” it.
Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll [documenting Jeremiah’s prophecies], and he took it out of the chamber of Elishama the scribe. And Jehudi read it to the king as well as to all the officials who stood beside the king. Now the king was sitting in the winter house in the ninth month, with a fire burning in the brazier before him. When Jehudi had read three or four columns, the king cut it with a scribe’s knife and threw it into the fire that was in the brazier, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier. (Jer 36:21-23)
God’s covenant people lost literally everything–except His covenant. They had to endure generations of slavery and exile in Babylon.
But that wasn’t the end. Because God said it would not be. He continued to send powerful prophets such as Daniel and Ezekiel to assure them that even in captivity and disgrace, it wasn’t over. They were not forgotten.
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.” (Lam 3:22-24)
So circling back to Tish’ah B’av, it’s worth noting that Jeremiah’s Book of Lamentations is read each year in the synagogues as part of the traditional observance.
From Israel365new.com yesterday:
Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister of Israel and current head of the Likud-led opposition in the Knesset, posted a sentiment for Tisha B’Av on Facebook on Sunday night.
“Tonight we all commemorate the fast of Tisha B’Av. We remember the destruction of our temple and the tragedies that commanded our nation.”
Tisha B’Av (the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av) is a fast day commemorating the destruction of both Jewish Temples in Jerusalem.
It’s all a sad and cautionary tale. But for me, all the focus on the prophetic warnings about the First Temple has always begged a question.
After all, the Second Temple was also destroyed on the Ninth of Av! Where’s the mourning for that tragedy?
Titus’ soldiers in a victory parade, carrying spoils from the decimated Second Temple. Depiction from a first-century frieze on Titus’ Arch in Rome.
“Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)
Yet prior to the destruction of the Second Temple, you have to go all the way back to Malachi to find a word of reproof and warning from the Lord in the Hebrew scriptures. An awful lot happened between ~400 BC, when Malachi brought God’s message, and the destruction of the Second Temple.
Where was the prophetic warning concerning destruction of the Second Temple? And the horrific Roman siege that preceded it? Why don’t they read that one in the synagogues?
The answer is clear.
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. Heb 1:1-2
In around 33 A.D., Yeshua stunned his disciples by telling them that Herod’s towering Temple would be destroyed so that not one stone would be left upon another. Our Savior also accurately predicted the horror and ferocity of the Roman siege and conquest. (Matt 24, Luke 19)
When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44
History confirms these prophecies were literally (and terribly 🙁 ) fulfilled.
The Romans brutally slaughtered an estimated 600,000 people in Jerusalem including many of the Passover visitors who had been trapped there for the 143 days during the Roman siege. Many of the people who were not killed by Roman soldiers were shipped off to the gladiatorial games, Roman mines, and otherwise exiled from Judea and scattered throughout the Roman empire and other nations. By the year 73 A.D., all traces of a self-ruling Jewish nation had completely disappeared.
Josephus records that the Romans put the city and the Temple to the torch and that these fires were still burning a month later… The magnificent Temple that Herod had built was completely destroyed as the fires raged inside and out. These fires were so hot that the gold fittings, and the gold gilding inside and on its outside walls melted and ran into the cracks between and in the stones. During the pillaging of the Temple these stones were broken up to get at the gold. Therefore, fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy that no stone would be left on another—the destruction was total, just as Jesus foretold.
Model of Herod’s magnificent Temple at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem. After about 30 A.D., the Jewish Talmud records that the massive bronze doors to the tall building would swing open on their own—every night—revealing the Holy Place. One of several signs and portents that should have put everyone on notice, as Yeshua warned them, that the the New Covenant had been put in effect. Photo by Berthold Werner, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Jewish tradition fails to mark the Second Temple’s destruction to the same degree as the First. It’s an effort to cancel Jesus!
Freedom from captivity can’t be won through compromise. That didn’t work for ancient Israel. It won’t work today. Like Jeremiah, Daniel and Esther, we must refuse to bow the knee to the “god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4). And in the short term, it will cost something.
“Social gospel” courtesy of a local congregation. “Love God” is eighth on their list.
As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (Gal 1:9)
The Greek verb “to repent” is μετάνοια (metánoia). From metá (transform) plus noús (mind). Change your way of thinking to line up with God’s view of sin.
In Hebrew, the verb is שׁוּב (shuv), a primitive root. To turn back (hence, away), not necessarily with the idea of returning to the starting point. To retreat. (Related to the word teshuvah—repentance—mentioned above.
Someone can show up on Sunday morning and pay God lip service. They can even grieve over the consequences of their sin. But until they change their mind to line up with God’s view of it (“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” Rom 12:2) and turn back from the path they’re on, they haven’t reached a point of Biblical repentance.
We don’t like to be told to repent, do we? They crucified the Lord of Glory. Stoned Stephen. Martyred eleven of twelve apostles. Exposed Jeremiah in a cistern.
Brothers and sisters, we need to take courage and stand for God all the same. I’m talking to myself as much as anyone here!
Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation…. Be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Pet 3:14-15, 17-18.
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 20-25
I read something recently that stuck with me. At the end of the day, everyone will submit to a one-world government–either Satan’s totalitarian one-world regime, or the Messianic Kingdom of God. There is no third choice.
Satan’s kingdom is the default choice–the “broad road” which leads to destruction. And tragically, too many are on it (Matt 7:13-14)…. even some who give vehement lip service to Jesus as Lord (Matt 7:21).
We live in perilous days filled with deception (Matt 24:24). Each of us must test ourselves to make sure we’re lined up with the right coming kingdom!
If you’ve never opened God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus (Rom 3:23, 6:23), please please please be persuaded to do it now! It’s simple. Just tell God from your heart that you admit you’re a sinner that needs a Savior (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23) that you’re done running your own life, and that you’re ready to truly make Jesus Lord of your life.
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Rom 10:9-11)
The decision that saves you is that simple!
Simple… But no one said living it out will be easy. Especially now.
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A WWII Japanese naval officer. The teenage daughter of a legendary Christian samurai. Three centuries separate them, but a crucial question binds their destinies together.
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1587. Bartered off in a peace agreement to the ancient enemies of her illustrious house, is Sono a war prize, a hostage, or a bride? One hope sustains her. If she can provide an heir to the dashing husband she just met, she’ll ensure decades of peace for the beloved family she was forced to leave behind. But when a dark secret threatens her desperate bid to purchase their security, she must rise to a battle she never dreamed she’d fight.
1942. Akira Matsuura’s naval vessel explodes under enemy fire. Everything he has lived for disappears in flames with it. His command, his crew, his future—all lost. Worse, his honor is eternally decimated. A prisoner’s life is of value to no one. Least of all to himself. But a stunning twist reveals his family’s secret shame. Can a long-buried truth provide the vital spark that reignites his will to live?
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