Saturday, April 21, 2018

Come Away

"For lo, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; The time of singing has come, And the voice of the turtledove Is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth her green figs, And the vines with the tender grapes Give a good smell. Rise up, my love, my fair one, And come away!"  Song of Solomon 2:11-13  NKJV

After reading many articles in the news lately about the weather we are experiencing over most of this country, it would appear that I am not the only one feeling that this past winter is never going to end.  To say that I am anxiously waiting for warmer weather is a given, especially as most of my favorite activities are outdoor in nature.  This article is one that I have written in the past, and seem to repost nearly every year.  Although I posted this article last year about this time, I somehow feel it may be even more appropriate to share it again with you now, considering we have seen events occurring in the Middle East which many believe are definite signs of the end of this age approaching.  Considering that, and the arrival of the birthday of the Church on Pentecost in a few weeks which many see as a possible time for the Church to be taken, I thought I would share these thoughts on the Song of Solomon with you.

Did you look forward to your wedding?  Did you possibly get a little more impatient the closer you got to the actual date?  I think most of us have either participated in our own, or observed someone else in this position and understand the impatience and anticipation someone approaching their wedding day experiences.  This though, raises a question in my mind which I would like you to consider as well.  Since the Church is described as the bride of Christ, and the Word also tells us He is coming to take His bride home at a future date, do you think Jesus is experiencing those same feelings of anticipation and impatience that we do?

When is the last time you heard a sermon taught on the Songs of Solomon?  To be completely honest, I don't recall personally ever having heard one.  Which truthfully seems to be a shame because if you believe that all scripture is inspired by God, and all scripture is profitable for instruction, you are then left with the question as to why this book was included in the scripture and what is its message?  As Solomon wrote this song to a Shulamite woman who he had fallen in love with, it is in essence his love song to her as he is courting her with the intent of making her his bride.  You don't need to read very far at all to understand the depth of his love for her, and the anticipation he has for the day she will become his own.

Seen in this light, it appears to me that this song can easily be considered to be what Jesus is feeling as He looks forward to His wedding to His bride, the Church.  Although the Jews have always looked at this book as signifying God's love for the nation of Israel, and it easily could be, I can also certainly see Jesus' love for the Church and His anticipation for the coming wedding in it as well.  One of the many interesting things I found while reading this book was this description of his intended which Solomon gives us in chapter 4.

"You are all fair, my love, And there is no spot in you."  Song of Solomon 4:7  NKJV

The fact that he sees no spot in her immediately brought to mind the description of the Church Paul gives us in the book of Ephesians.

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish."   Ephesians 5:25-27  NKJV

For many reasons, I can read this book and picture Jesus writing these words in anticipation of His future wedding with the Church.  Yet as long as we are going to talk about a future wedding, it would also seem appropriate to consider the possible timing of it, and see if Solomon gives us any clue as to when that might take place.  Notice his description in the passage from the second chapter, and everything that he says there.  It is obvious that Solomon is talking about the season of Spring, and all of the things that occur in Israel during that particular time.

"For lo, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone."

Solomon tells us that the winter is past, as well as the early rains which normally fall in March and April.  It is these early rains which help start the growing season in Israel.

"The flowers appear on the earth;"

One of the things I and many others appreciate most about spring is watching all of the flowers reappear after hiding under the snow for the winter.

"the voice of the turtledove Is heard in our land"

Did you know that the turtledove is a migratory bird?  It normally leaves in the fall and returns to Israel in the spring. 

"The fig tree puts forth her green figs"

The fig tree normally produces its first crop in the spring, usually harvested in early June, and I am sure that I am not the only one to notice that the nation of Israel, described often as a fig tree in the Word, became a nation again in May of 1948.

"And the vines with the tender grapes Give a good smell"

The grapes are on the vine ripening in preparation for the coming harvest which normally occurs in July.

The late Ray Stedman had this to say about this passage from Song of Solomon;

“There is the springtime of life. But it doesn't lie in the past. It lies in the future. One day this whole world will experience a springtime like that. The Lord Jesus Christ, returning at last to claim his waiting bride, will greet her in words very much like those. The springtime will come, the time of singing, the time when earth shall blossom again and the curse will be lifted and the flowers will appear on the earth. This is a picture of what can take place in the heart of one who falls in love with Jesus Christ and enters into springtime. The cold winter of loneliness, misery, and selfishness is past and the time of singing has come.”

All things considered, I think it is safe to say that Solomon was anticipating a June wedding just like many others have.  Spring has certainly proven over time to be the season of choice when it comes to weddings, and the wedding stories in the Bible are no exception.  Many believe the Church is rapidly approaching its own wedding in Heaven, and a close look at the state of this world certainly seems to support that belief.  One day, very soon it would appear, the Church will hear the groom call out for it to "come away" just as Solomon wrote in this passage.  It is my prayer that you have made the decision to accept the gift of eternal life offered by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for your sin, and that you are part of the body, the bride of Christ which will live with Him forever in the place He is preparing for us.  If not, you can do that right now and receive the guarantee that you will spend eternity with the Father in Heaven, and escape the evil which is to come.  Simply pray a prayer like this;

Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner and I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for saving me. Amen.

Keep watching.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Where is Aroer?

The burden against Damascus. “Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap. The cities of Aroer are forsaken; They will be for flocks Which lie down, and no one will make them afraid.   Isaiah 17:1-2  NKJV

I am sure by now most everyone is aware of the events in Syria this past week, and the attack on Friday night by US, British, and French forces in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons.  In response, many have already begun to speculate that this may lead to the fulfillment of the prophecy we find in Isaiah 17 concerning the destruction of Damascus.  While this may well be the beginning of the process which brings these things about, one question many have asked over the years is just what occurs that provokes Israel to do what it does.

That too, was a question I considered at length when I first began my studies of the Isaiah prophecy and the conclusion I came to was the result of searching for the location of the “cities of Aroer” mentioned in the passage above.  Although some might disagree, I believe it is a very strong possibility that, as you can see from the two maps above, what Isaiah may be telling us is that Israel responds to an attack by Syria on the nuclear research facility at Dimona using chemical weapons.  While this is certainly speculation on my part, considering the events that have occurred recently, and Syria’s demonstrated willingness to use such weapons, I personally find it hard to believe it is coincidence that the location of Aroer and Dimona appear to be one in the same.

The area mentioned in the Isaiah 17 prophecy is described as "the cities of Aroer".  Unlike Damascus, Aroer no longer exists, so we are left to try to identify its location by studying past references, and looking for archeological evidence that might support a conclusion as to its whereabouts. Aroer is mentioned three times in the Bible, and all occur in the Old Testament.  Unfortunately for us, however, each describes a different location, so we are left to examine what the Bible says about each and see if we can decide which location Isaiah is attempting to describe.  The first mention of Aroer is found in the book of Deuteronomy where it says;

“From Aroer, which is on the bank of the River Arnon, and from the city that is in the ravine, as far as Gilead, there was not one city too strong for us; the LORD our God delivered all to us.”   Deuteronomy 2:36  NKJV

This site has been identified as being on the northern bank of the Arnon ravine located in the modern country of Jordan, just east of the Dead Sea.  The second mention of Aroer we find is in the book of Joshua, where Moses is allotting land to the twelve tribes and describing their boundaries.  In this verse he describes;

“Their territory was Jazer, and all the cities of Gilead, and half the land of the Ammonites as far as Aroer, which is before Rabbah,”   Joshua 13:25 NKJV

Joshua describes Aroer as being "before Rabbah".  This city or any ruins of it have never been located, but by the description we know it would need to be situated be some twenty miles or so north of Jerusalem.  The final time Aroer is mentioned before Isaiah’s prophecy is in the book of Samuel, where we find it listed among a group of cities that David is sharing spoil with from his defeat of the Amalekites.  We find when we read that;

“those who were in Aroer, those who were in Siphmoth, those who were in Eshtemoa,”    1 Samuel 30:28  NKJV

This location has been identified as being in the Negev, twelve miles southeast of Beer-sheba.  We also see from reading this passage that it was one of many cities located in the same area which helped and supported David in his battle with the Amalekites.  Ruins of this city have been found, and you can even locate it on a map if your Bible has maps in the back.  Simply look for a map of Israel in the time of David, and you should be able to see Aroer located in the south of Israel, southwest of Beer-sheba. So we have three different locations to choose from, and no help from the Isaiah passage to identify which one he is referring to.  Is it possible to find a way to know for sure exactly which one of these locations is the one that Isaiah describes as being "forsaken"?

First of all, I think it may be logical to assume that Isaiah is referring to the location southeast of Beer-sheba for several reasons.  The first is that if you compare the dates that these three books were written, you find that the Samuel passage was written closest to the time of Isaiah, as opposed to the others which were written much earlier in Israel’s history.   Also, if you look closely at these three locations, you see one of them is in Jordan, not Israel.  Since Isaiah is describing a conflict between Syria and Israel, I think we can dismiss the Jordan location as a possibility.

So we are left to choose between two locations, one which has never been positively located, and one which not only has been located, but may have some military significance as well.  If we look at a map of Israel during the time of the twelve tribes, we can easily see where Aroer is located.  Now compare that map with a map of Israel today and you may be surprised to find that a very significant complex has been constructed in the same approximate location of ancient Aroer, and that is the nuclear research facility known as Dimona.  Since Isaiah is describing a future conflict between Israel and Syria, obviously there must be a good reason that Israel chooses to completely destroy Damascus.  Is it possible that it is in response to an attack of some sort on Dimona? 

“The cities of Aroer are forsaken;”

The word "forsaken" in the Hebrew is "azab" which means "to depart, abandon, loose, relinquish, leave."  The first thing that crossed my mind when I read this was not what it does say, but what it doesn't say.  It doesn't say that Aroer is destroyed; only abandoned.  It also says “cities” which gives the impression of a very large area being affected.  This scenario seems best explained by the use of chemical weapons simply because the fallout is subject to the weather conditions at the time of use and cannot accurately be controlled.  Obviously the Syrian regime has no problem using chemical weapons on its own people, so the question seems to be will they be willing to use them on others?

Only time will tell if this is what Isaiah is telling us, but what we do know is that God has prophesied that Damascus “will cease from being a city.” 

Keep watching.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Surely it is Coming

“Surely it is coming, and it shall be done,” says the Lord GOD. “This is the day of which I have spoken.       Ezekiel 39:8  NKJV

I find it sad, yet understandable, that so many believers are disappointed to the point of becoming skeptical about prophecy because of the fact that the Church is still here.  One of the inherent problems that arises from watching for the rapture is that many have begun to set dates for our deliverance, which, while fueling interest and expectation, also creates disappointment and skepticism when the dates come and go.  While I certainly will admit to being disappointed to still be here, it goes without saying that the Word of God can, not only help, but answer our questions in regards to the prophecy of our future day of destiny meeting with Jesus in the air.

“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. “So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.   Matthew 24:32-35  NKJV

We will shortly arrive at the seventieth anniversary of when Israel became a nation once again in 1948, and many, myself included, feel this may prove to be a highly significant date.  Yet I for one am predicting nothing other than what God said in this passage; learn, watch, and trust.  God’s words will always come to pass for He does not lie.  We have His promises of what will be and what will come, and we can trust Him implicitly for the simple reason of so much He has prophesied in the past has already been fulfilled.  How hard can it be to trust in the future when the past occurred just as He foretold.

“Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’ Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it. “Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted, Who are far from righteousness: I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion, For Israel My glory.”     Isaiah 46:9-13  NKJV

Most scholars agree that the attempted invasion of Israel revealed to us by Ezekiel the prophet known as the Gog Magog War found in chapters 38-39 precedes the seven year tribulation period, and many of those same scholars believe it is not only preceded by, and probably initiated by the rapture of the Church.  The confederation of participant nations is probably one of the most studied and dissected subject of prophecy concerning the near future of Israel and their identity is well documented.  So considering that the three nations God mentions first as the instigators, Russia, Iran, and Turkey, met this past week to cement their alliance should give all of us pause for thought.

“Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, “and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. “I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords.”   Ezekiel 38:2-4  NKJV

“The above passage describes an invasion of Israel from the north. Later verses describe its destruction once they reach the area of the mountains of Israel. To fully understand the prophecy, one needs to identify the major players in this divine drama. In verses 1–4, Gog is first mentioned. He is described as the leader of the land of Magog. He is the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. This leader was as unknown to Ezekiel as he is to us today. We do know “Gog” is not a proper name but a title for the ruler of Magog, just as the terms “pharaoh,” “kaiser,” and “czar” were titles for rulers and not proper names. The tribes identified as Magog, Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal can be identified by Scripture and other ancient writings as peoples who once occupied the areas of modern-day Russia. Magog, Meshech, and Tubal were between the Black and Caspian Seas, which today include parts of Iran, Turkey and southern Russia.”
Russia; Looking for Spoil by Dr. Steve Elwart

I believe any believer familiar with Biblical prophecy can see and understand the times in which we find ourselves today.  The signs are all around us that point to the fulfillment of prophecy in our immediate future, including the rapture of the Church that we have all been waiting for.  While it may be disappointing to see certain dates come and go without hearing the trumpet blow and the voice calling us upwards, we still have God’s promise that it will be done.  How I personally deal with disappointment is to continually read the promises we have in His words to us that while we may not know the day, He has said it will be done.

“Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God. And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, Since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, Let them show these to them. Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.’ ”   Isaiah 44:6-8  NKJV

Every week we are treated to more and more signs that our deliverance is close at hand.  If you have never made the decision to accept the gift of eternal life offered by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ I urge you to do it today.  Simply tell God you accept His Son Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and turn your life over to His control.
Father, I know I am a sinner in need of salvation. I believe you sent your Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sin, and I ask you now to forgive me of my sins. I want to receive your gift of salvation so please come into my heart and help me to live and follow you as my Lord and Savior. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Keep watching.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

"So What?"

“Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!”              Matthew 27:3,4  NKJV

Something often overlooked in the narrative of the events that led to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is this response by the chief priests when Judas tried to return the thirty pieces of silver he was paid to betray our Lord.  While Judas felt guilty because he knew that Jesus was innocent of any crime, notice what the chief priests said when Judas said so.  “What is that to us?"  Or another way of saying, “So what?”  You see, they knew as well that Jesus had done nothing worthy of death yet they could care less that an innocent man had been condemned.  Their hatred of Jesus was such that they had no qualms at all with what they had done, and in fact, by this statement, admitted they knew He was innocent.

As opposed to Jesus, we are the guilty sinners deserving of death, but thanks to His sacrifice by dying in our place, we have the opportunity to join Him in heaven for all eternity.   We simply need to accept that sacrifice and believe that He rose again on the third day proving once and for all that He has the power to conquer death and to save us from our sins.  By the power of His shed blood, we are made sinless in His image and have His promise of spending eternity with Him.

“Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you." So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!" So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him.” Matthew 28:1-9 NKJV

Rejoice indeed. Because of the resurrection, we all have the opportunity to share in His power over death. It is a gift, freely given to anyone who chooses to believe. Have you ever considered the fact that as a believer in Christ, you are immortal? Death has no hold over us for we have the promise of eternal life, and to prove it, Jesus rose from the dead to show us He alone has the power.

“Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
John 11:25-26 NKJV

“Persistent unbelief in light of contrary evidence is willful ignorance!”

“Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.”   Mark 16:9-11  NKJV

“After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.”   Mark 16:12-13  NKJV

In the above passage from Mark we find that the disciples were presented with the testimony of at least three witnesses to the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead in Mary, and then two of their own.  Yet for some reason they still chose not to believe what was being told to them.  Now maybe, just maybe I could understand how difficult the fact of the resurrection might be to believe if it were not for the fact that Jesus Himself had told them that this was exactly what was going to occur before it ever happened!

“He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”                         Luke 9:20-22  NKJV

So what would your reaction be to someone who refused to believe even though the evidence presented to support a position met all the criteria necessary by established legal principles?  I daresay your thoughts would be less than kind, and truthfully mine would refer back to all of the passages in Proverbs which describe fools.  Does that seem harsh?  Maybe it would help to look at Jesus’ reaction to the disciples and their stubborn refusal to believe the evidence.

“Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.”   Mark 16:14  NKJV

Do you believe?  This is the most important question that anyone will ever be asked.  If you can answer yes, your place in eternity in the presence of our Lord and Savior is guaranteed.   We can know this because God has promised us that all who believe will have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16 NKJV

“And it shall come to pass [That] whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.”   Acts 2:21 NKJV

“And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."  Acts 16:30-31 NKJV

“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”   John 10:9 NKJV

My prayer is that if you have never made the decision to believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again for you, you would decide to do it today. Invite Jesus to come into your life and forgive your sins, and begin to experience the joy that comes from having a relationship with a living God, and the knowledge that He has promised us eternal life with Him in Heaven if we only believe.

Have you made the decision in your own life to know the power of His resurrection? If not, you can right now by praying this prayer and accepting the gift of eternal life God has offered you by the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.

Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner and I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for saving me. Amen.

He lives!

Keep watching.