Door of Faith – Lesson Ten

God’s Use of Prophets for His Sovereignty

Introduction

The historical context for this lesson is the Levitical Priesthood age.  The comprehensive aim is to understand how God maintained a dimension of His eternal kingdom in the lives of people on earth from Moses until the Messiah.  Lessons Four through Nine were theological topics presented in a sequential order of thought with the same overall aim as this lesson; however, the aim of each lesson is about a specific tool God used to have children in His Heavenly family.  The aim of this lesson is to show how God used the prophets to preserve His Sovereign rule; even though, He granted Israel their request to have a king, “such as all the other nations.”  I Sam. 8:5.  God is king over all rulers on earth, including those He appointed for Israel.  He is also Lord of lords, even over our Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor. 15:27; I Tim. 1:17; 6:13-16).

Jesus was the prophet God raised up like Moses.  Jesus lived and died under the Levitical Priesthood period.  His message and task was not to abolish, but to fulfill the Law God gave Moses and the Israelites in Christians.   Please read Matt. 5:17-20; Rom. 8:3, 4.  God used both Moses and Jesus Christ as His prophets to attain and maintain His kingdom in the minds and hearts of the Israelites.  The tasks of these prophets were to persuade the people to humble themselves to God’s will.  Peter told the Israelites the sin they committed in ignorance fulfilled what God had foretold through the prophets (Acts 3:17, 18).  He then recalled the following prophecy Moses made about the Christ just before he died on Mt. Nebo (Deut 18:15, 16; 34:5-8).

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything He tells you.  Anyone who does not listen to Him will be completely cut off from among His people.  Indeed all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold of these days.  And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers.  He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’  When God raised up His servant, He sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.  Acts 3:22-26

Moses had prophesied to the Israelites about Jesus Christ.  Jesus also prophesied about the message God had given to the prophet Joel.  This message from God was about the wonderful work of His Holy Spirit in the last days of time (Joel 2:28; John 7:37-39; Acts 2:17).   In order for God to accomplish His goal of maintaining His kingdom in His people on the level He desired, He sent His Son to physical Israel to prepare the way for the Holy Spirit to lead in the sanctification of “spiritual Israel,” – “God’s elect.” I Pet. 1:1, 2; Jas. 1:2.  This study will be presented in a future lesson.

Moses was the first prophet to speak for God to Israel and Jesus Christ was the last prophet during the Levitical Priesthood era.  God called Moses to be His prophet to Israel from a “burning bush” in Midian.  His message to Moses was for the Israelites.  This is one principle we need to keep in mind as we read God’s story about the Israelites.  God used the prophets to speak to the people.  The prophet was one of the people; therefore, the message was also for the prophet.  We want to hear God give His understanding of the situation to which the prophet speaks.  By the use of this exegetical approach, we hear God speak to the Israelites as they really were and not as they thought they were.

Bible students often appear to become enchanted by God’s prophets, priests, kings or even the preacher and forget God.  We may have the same problem the Israelites had when they “said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen.  But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’”  Ex. 20:19.  People appear to be more prone to listen to a person who claims to be speaking for God, rather than God.  Why should this be so?

The God of Abraham is Christians’ One and only God.  He is also our Father.  He wants to speak to us and we must learn to listen.  Christians hope to inherit eternal life.  Our hope must be based on “knowing God” for this is a key definition of eternal life (John 17:3; I Cor. 1:21).  We cannot know Him as a Person by only listening to another human being.  He speaks to us through the literature the Holy Spirit inspired certain people to write.  The overall aim of this series of lessons is to encourage Christians to read the Bible for themselves.  We have the ability to read, think, believe and decide to have faith in what we understand.  We can learn much about God by listening to Him speak to Israel through the prophets.

The devil takes advantage of people, who do not possess their an open “door of faith” into God’s kingdom of heaven.   Satan has closed the door to God’s kingdom and developed many and various forms of religion.  Israel’s closed “door of faith” gave birth to idolatry.  Idolatry was their chronic sickness (Ex. 32:22).  God had provided a way for the people to approach Him through the Levitical Priesthood in order to bless them.  When the Israelites turned to idols, He used the prophets to keep “in touch” with them and their leaders.  Some prophets were allowed to approach God as if they were more than priests.  Moses often spoke to the people for God but he also appealed to God on behalf of the people.  See Ex. 32:15-35.

Lesson

Samuel served God in the capacity of the last judge and also an active prophet even from his childhood (I Sam. 7:5, 6).  “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt,” Solomon began to build the temple in the fourth year of his reign as king over God’s kingdom (I Kgs. 6:1; I Chron. 28:5).  By deducting the 40 years God kept Israel in the wilderness and the 40 year reign of each, Saul and David, this would allot approximately three hundred years for the period from the time Joshua led Israel across the Jordan River until Samuel served as a prophet.  We can learn much about God from His story in this period of history about Him and Israel.  We must keep the antagonist, Satan, in mind as we read Joshua and Judges.  In this first three hundred years of the nation of Israel we find a re-occurring pattern of life for Israel.  God would guide and help them, as He had done with Joshua and the judges.  This assistance would serve to get them in a position to have secure homes, fields and the secure autonomy as a nation.  He had already provided them with a functional priesthood designed to give them both spiritual and national guidance.  The law served as their spiritual and national law (Num. 1:16; 3:11; 18:1-32; Josh. 21:1-3).  These laws served somewhat like present day national constitutions: For instance, what and how to do in the case of war.  See Deut.  20:1-4.

“The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli.  In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.”  I Sam. 3:1.  Samuel’s first assignment as God’s prophet was to speak to God’s high priest, Eli.  Eli had failed to discipline his sons.  Please read I Sam. 3:10-21.  The, quote, “Christian community” has failed to abide by Jesus’ instruction to remove lawless people from their fellowship.  So Israel had become corrupted because Eli, the high priest, did not discipline his sons; even though they were selfish and brutal, Eli did not remove them from serving as priest.  The Lord did for Israel according to all He had promised in His covenants.  He had left them alone for a considerable period of time to manage the nation and their lives according to those covenants.  However, when the spiritual and national leadership became corrupt, God interposed His sovereignty by the use of the prophet Samuel.  He served God all his long life “under the sun.”

God used Samuel in several ways as He had Moses.  It was an intimate relationship but not on the “face to face” level.  Note the drama between God and Samuel when Israel asked for a king like every other nation.  See I Sam. 8:6-9.  God also used Samuel to lead His battle against the Philistines; in the same manner He had used Joshua (I Sam. 7:5-13).  Samuel made an error in judgment when He used the “dynasty system” for appointing leaders.  His appointment of his two wayward sons as judges induced Israel to add to all their “other sins the evil of asking for a king.”  I Sam. 8:1-5; 12:19.

Although God gave Israel a strong and courageous man as their king, Saul did not have enough faith in God to trust Him to direct the affairs of the state.  This type of problem also became another re-occurring pattern in the history of Israel.  The king, with a standing army, became a dominating power over even the priesthood.  In times where both the king and the high priest were self-willed, the people suffered mightily.

God chose the best man available for the next king, but David, at times would disregard God’s sovereignty.  God rebuked David by His use of Nathan the prophet, just as He had Saul by Samuel (I Sam. 15:16, 22, 23; II Sam. 12:7-13).  The scenario in I Kgs. 1:28-34 reveals the three entities God used to maintain the physical dimension of His kingdom.  David was the king over God’s nation; Zadok was the high priest in the Levitical Priesthood and Nathan was the prophet God used for His rule from heaven.  God used the Israelite nation, the Levitical Priesthood and the prophets as His tools to protect and guide Jacob’s offspring until the time was right for the Messiah to come.  In this same scenario God maintained the “children of promise” as His sons and daughters for His eternal spiritual kingdom.  See Rom. 2:28, 29; 9:6-8; 11:1-6. The remainder of God’s story recorded in II Samuel, I and II kings and I and II Chronicles is about the kings and their activities.

The aim of this lesson is not to reveal the history of the kings; however, it is in the historical context of the kings, we can understand God’s use of the prophets.   God was king of these kings, He, Himself, appointed.  It would have been a simple task for God to rule in the manner He intervened to exert His “God Almighty” power in Egypt: Or how He displayed His power over Israel at different times during their forty years in the wilderness.  However, this would not have served His purpose to have the “children of promise” as His eternal children.  To understand how God maintained His sovereignty over the Israelite nation for maintaining His kingdom in the minds and hearts of the people is the comprehensive aim of all the Old Testament studies in this series.

This is the point we want to keep in mind as we read the stories.  While reading the individual narratives, we ask, “What was God doing with Saul, David and all of the other kings?”  And then we ask, “How did what He was doing serve His purpose in our creation to be His children?”  In the remainder of this lesson several prophets will be considered to show, “God is Almighty.”  Christians need to remember the same God, who spoke through the prophets, is our Father.  He is kind, patient and loving but there is a “line in the sand” over which we must not step (Heb. 12:28, 29).  Let us try to “bracket” the prophets in our thoughts and listen to God, Almighty, speak to the following situations.  Bracketing is a tool the Apostle Paul used while evangelizing different categories of people.  See I Cor. 9:19-23.  He bracketed; that is, he set aside his true beliefs to engage in conversation with people with different beliefs.  Evangelists use this tool to avoid arguments.

  1. “The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.”  I Kgs. 11:9.  God sent Ahijah, the prophet, to Jeroboam with this message; “See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand and give you ten tribes.  But for the sake of David and the city of Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of the tribes of Israel, he will have one tribe.”  I Kgs. 11:31, 32.  This did not happen during Solomon’s reign; however, when he died God developed two nations.  Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, was king of Judah, which included the tribe of Benjamin (I Kgs. 12:22).
  2. God made Jeroboam king of Israel, who immediately set up idols to serve as the gods of the ten tribes (I Kgs. 12:25-33).  God was not ready to give up these descendants of Abraham through Jacob to Satan’s complete rule.  The challenge God faced was to convince the people He was the One who controlled the elements that provided for their food: It was not the idols.  He sent Elijah to give Ahab, king of Israel, this message: “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”  I Kgs. 17:1.  God used Elijah as His tool to reveal His power over the prophets of Baal to let the people know; “The Lord – He is God!  The Lord – He is God!  I Kgs. 18:39.
  3. God passed on to Elisha all the powers of Elijah to do miracles and inform Israel’s kings about the moves God would make to maintain His sovereignty (II Kgs. 2:9-12).  Both prophets carried messages from God to foreign powers to discipline and finally destroy Israel (I Kgs. 19:15-18; II Kgs. 8:7-15).  God’s final use of Elisha was to prolong the existence of the ten tribes of Israel with a message to king Jehoash (II Kgs. 13:14-20).  The ten tribes were carried into captivity by Assyria just over 100 years after Elisha died.
  4. All the foregoing prophets are often referred to as oral prophets; however, “After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord.  Take this Book of Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God.  There it will remain as a witness against you.” Deut. 31:24-26.  “Samuel explained to the people the regulations of the kingship.  He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the Lord.”  I Sam. 10:25.
  5. Other prophets carefully wrote down the words of the Lord they received for the people.  For instance, Hosea prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II, the son of Jehoash.  God’s words were directed to all the people; whereas, the messages of the oral prophets were directed, mainly, to the kings.  His message through Hosea’s writings was for both Israel and Judah; however, the ten tribe’s spiritual condition was the main focus (Hos. 1:7; 5:5; 6:11).  The tribe of Ephraim was singled out for their lies, violence and mixing with the foreign nations (Hos. 7:8, 11; 9:16; 10:11; 12:1; 13:1).

God’s message was presented within the story of Hosea taking “an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord.” Hos. 1:2.  God’s charge against Israel:  “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land.”  4:1.  “Like Adam, they have broken the covenant.”  6:7.  The priests were ignorant sinners (4:6-8).  “On the day of the festival of our king the princes become inflamed with wine, and join hands with the mockers.” 7:5.  God’s story of Israel had not changed; “When I fed them, they were satisfied, when they became satisfied, they became proud; they forgot Me.” 13:6.  “But the more I called Israel, the further they went from Me.  They sacrificed to the Baals and they burned incense to images.”  11:2.

The ten tribes were destined for Assyrian captivity because the Lord decided, as He had in the days of Noah, their quality of life was not conducive for developing healthy families.  God knew the children would never be freed from their “boxes of life,” boxes that had been created by the circumstances of their births, because of the culture of the nation.  See the Introduction to this series of lessons.  “So in My anger I gave you a king, and in My wrath I took him away.”  13:11.

6.   “The word of the Lord that came to Joel son of Pethuel” was a “wake up call.”  Joel 1:1.  God had allowed drought, pestilence and foreigners to threaten the people’s need for security.  Joel’s message: “Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.”  Joel 2:15.  “Who knows?  He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing.”  2:14.

The blessing Israel needed for the satisfaction of all their “inner/outer man” innate needs was offered in the form of a promise; “And afterwards, I will pour out My Spirit on all people.”  2:28.  See Acts 2:17-21.  This promised was fulfilled after the Messiah came.  He preached the kingdom of God; revealed the law of life for the new covenant; gave His life as an atoning sacrifice for all people and was glorified by the Father.  The promise was the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-40).  It was at this point in God’s recorded history all three Persons of Deity became “minute by minute” involved with God’s people “in Christ.”  See II Cor. 13:14; I Pet. 1:2.  Deity is still serving faithful Christians every minute of the day or night.  Praise the Lord!

7.    God sent this message to the ten tribes by Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa.  “Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword.  Your land will be measured up, and you yourself will die in a pagan country, and Israel will certainly go into exile away from their native land.”  Amos 7:16, 17.  The Israelite’s sins were embedded in the culture of their nation.  Sin dominated their value system; therefore, death, not life, was their culture.  See Amos 8:4-6; Rom. 5:21.

8.    Obadiah received a vision from the Lord about the descendants of Jacob’s brother, Esau.  God warned the Edomites about their treatment of their cousins, the descendants of Israel (Obad. 12).  Amos also had a message from God for Israel’s neighbors who had been allowed by God to trample on His people (Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 13; 2:1).  God was the Lord over all nations.  He loved all people in all nations.  He had a long range plan to offer them a new covenant according to His promise to Abraham.  He used these evil nations to discipline His people (Rom. 9:16—24).

9.    God commissioned Jonah to “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before Me.” Jonah 1:1.  “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.”  3:10.

10.  Nineveh’s repentance did not last.  God sent “An oracle concerning Nineveh” by Nahum, still another prophet.  The oracle contained this observation: “The Lord is good, a refuge in time of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in Him, but with an overwhelming flood, He will make an end of Nineveh; He will pursue His foes into darkness.” Nahum 1:7, 8.  We learn about the full nature of God from His encounters in the Old Testament.  Because Christians enjoy “all spiritual blessing in Christ” and freedom from “law” like the Law of Moses, some people have come to believe “saved by grace” refers to Judgment Day.  We need to learn about God, our Father, from our study of the Old Testament (Rom. 15:4; Heb. 12:28; 29).   There will be grace for God’s people when Jesus is revealed but the subject on Judgment Day will be “our deeds.”  II Cor. 5:10; I Pet. 1:13.  This is indeed a paradoxical thought, but God and Jesus will know just how to work out the variables for each living soul.  See Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27; John 5:28-30.

11.  Micah’s vision was about what was wrong with the culture in Samaria, the chief city in Israel, and in Jerusalem of Judea.  The sin of “business as usual” at the expense of justice was God’s complaint.  God declared, “You who hate good and love evil.”  Micah 3:2.  They robbed the poor “because it is (was) in their power to do it.”  2:1.  They had decided evil was good.  They had hardened their hearts against the function of their consciences to feel guilty about their evil deeds.  They had legalized evil, a chronic malady where “big business” chooses the political leaders.

12.  Isaiah received his visions concerning Judah and Jerusalem during the time God warned Israel through Micah’s vision to; “Heed the rod and the One who appointed it.”  Micah 6:9.  Isaiah’s message from God to Judah, Israel and a host of other nations, reveals His awesome sovereign power.  “This is what the Lord says – Israel’s King and Redeemer, The Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from Me there is no God.”  Isa. 44:6.  Even though God’s nation, who was populated by Abraham’s offspring through Jacob, had rejected God as their king He was “Israel’s King.”  Isaiah’s visions projected God as “king of kings” by revealing, in the first thirty nine chapters of Isaiah, how He would use the neighboring nation to punish His people.  Afterwards, He would show His power over them as He did Assyria.

For instance, God sent Isaiah to authorize the king of Assyria to take away “the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria.”  Isa. 8:4.  When, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, prepared to attack King Hezekiah in Jerusalem, Isaiah was present with a long message from God against Assyria.  See Isa. 37:22-35.  “Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty five thousand men in the Assyrian camp.”  Isa. 37:36.

God is transcendent and immanent. “For this is what the high and lofty One says – He who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”  Isa. 57:15.  God’s kingdom can be found in the “contrite and lowly in spirit” of a “child of promise” who has been revived by God.  Starting in chapter forty, the theme of God’s message is one of comfort and hope.  This message is also dispersed though out the first part where hope lies in the coming of the “Messiah.”  Brief statements will be chosen from Jeremiah and Ezekiel to conclude this lesson.

13.  Jeremiah and Zephaniah began to speak the word of God to Judah during the thirty-one year reign of Josiah, who, “Did what was right in the sight of the Lord.”  II Chron. 34:2.  It was during his reign “Hilkiah found the Book of the Law of the Lord that had been given through Moses.” II Chron. 34:14.  “When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes.”  34:19.  His father, Amon, and his grandfather, Manasseh, had aroused God’s wrath against Jerusalem and Judea to the point of no return.  God’s word by Zephaniah: “Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled!  She obeys no one, she accepts no correction.  She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God.”  Zeph. 3:1, 2.  Josiah learned from the prophetess Huldah, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says, I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people – all the curses written in the book that has been read in the presence of the king of Judah.”  34:24.  Josiah had read what Moses had written in Deuteronomy 28:15-68.

Habakkuk, the prophet, complained to God about the violence, injustice and conflict that paralyzed the law (Hab. 1:2-4).  God’s response; “Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed.  For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.  I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own.” Hab. 1:5, 6.

God had set Jeremiah apart “as a prophet to the nations” while he was still in his mother’s womb (Jer. 1:5).  Jeremiah, himself, represented God as a “fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land – against kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land.  They will fight against you but will not overcome you, says the Lord.”  Jer. 1:18, 19.  Jeremiah was courageous through beatings, imprisonment and insults until God’s word to Habakkuk was fulfilled.

The question we need to ask, “What is the last straw that causes God to eliminate the people He created to be His children?”  The following are a few of God’s descriptions of how He viewed Judea before He let the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem and carry a remnant of the people into captivity.

Jer. 2:11-13.  “Has a nation ever changed its gods?  (Yet they are no gods at all.) But My people have exchanged their glory for worthless idols.  Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror, declares the Lord.

My people have committed two sins:  They have forsaken Me and the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

4:22.              “My people are fools: they do not know Me.  They are senseless children; they have no understanding.  They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good.”

5:27-29.        “Like cages full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; they have become rich and powerful and have grown fat and sleek.  Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it, they do not defend the rights of the poor.  Should I not punish them for this?”

6:15.              “Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct?  No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush.”

11:10, 11.     “Both the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken My covenant I made with their forefathers.  Therefore this is what the Lord says:  I will bring a disaster they cannot escape.  Although they cry out to Me, I will not listen.”

“On the tenth day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, who served the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem.  He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and the houses of Jerusalem.  Every important building he burned down.”  Jer. 52:12, 13.  God had told Moses to write a song for the Israelites to sing, so when this happened they would remember what He had foretold them almost one thousand years before.  Christians will want to know this about our Heavenly Father; “The Lord saw this and rejected them because He was angered by His sons and daughters.  ‘I will hide my face from them,’ He said, ‘and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful.’”  Deut. 32:19, 20.

God’s plan for the people of Judea was different from His treatment of the ten tribes who were taken into captivity by the Assyrians.  Israel had no promise of a return to their homeland (Amos 9:8).  They only had the same hope as people in the Gentile nations (Hos. 3:4, 5).  Their hope was in God’s promise to David; “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before Me; your throne will be established forever.”  II Sam. 7:16.  Daniel, one of the Judean captives, prophesied while interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream: “In the time of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people.  It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will endure forever.”  Dan. 2:44.  This would happen, according to the interpretation of Daniel’s dream, during the reign of a fourth kingdom (Dan. 7:17).  Babylon was the first kingdom, Persia the next, followed by Alexander the Great (Dan. 8:17-22).  Rome was the fourth kingdom in which God would fulfill the promise to David by sending the Christ (Dan. 7:13, 14; Luke 1:30-33; Acts 2:36).

Ezekiel was God’s prophet for Judean people in exile; however, he was a young man in Judea when Nebuchadnezzar carried the first batch of Jews to Babylon – 605 B. C.  Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachan, the king of Judea, captive with the second group in 597 B. C.  See II Kings 24:14, 15.  Ezekiel was among them.  Zedekiah was left as king over the less fortunate Jews for eleven years; however, they finally rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar.  Even through God had authorized the Judean’s captivity and the destruction of Jerusalem He was still their king; therefore, after Ezekiel had been in captivity five years, God continually gave him prophesies to speak to those who remained in Jerusalem.

The word of the Lord came to me (Ezekiel):  ‘Son of man, this is what the Sovereign Lord says to the land of Israel: The end!  The end has come upon the four corners of the land.  The end is now upon you and I will unleash My anger against you.  I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices among you.  Then you will know I am the Lord.  Ezek. 7:1-4

This is what the Sovereign Lord says, ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves!  Should not the shepherds take care of the flock?’  Ezek. 34:2

For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I Myself will search for My sheep and look after them. …  I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land.  Ezek. 34:11, 13

God did bring captives from Judah back to Jerusalem after seventy years (Jer. 25:11-13; Ezekiel 11:17, 18).  He knew it would take seventy years for the evil culture that had developed in Judea to release its satanic hold on the “box of life” of children born to the Jews in captivity.  (Dan. 9:1, 2).

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:  This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build a temple for Him at Jerusalem in Judah.’  Ezra 1:1, 2

God continued to use the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to “build a temple in Jerusalem” for Him (Ezra 5:1, 2).  God did bring a remnant of the descendants of Jacob back to Jerusalem in Judea.  He authorized the people to build another temple in which they could approach Him in worship under the Levitical Priesthood.   They had overcome their tendency to worship idols; however, God sent Malachi with serious accusations about several unethical practices:

You have worried the Lord with your words.  ‘How have we wearied Him?’ you ask.  By saying, ‘All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and He is pleased with them’ or ‘Where is God’s justice?’  Mal. 2:17

‘I the Lord do not change.  So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.  Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from My decrees and have not kept them.  Return to Me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.  Mal. 3:6

God is “King of kings and Lord of lords.”  He is God Almighty.  How wonderful it is to have witnessed His love and patience as it was revealed in these stories about how He maintained His kingdom by the use of the prophets.  Christians are now in His kingdom with the status of sons of God; “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”  Heb. 12:28, 29.  We have, indeed, understood from these Old Testament studies God is a “consuming fire” when He knows a certain group of people will not have faith in Him or His covenants.  In our personal studies, we will want to dismiss the people God used as prophets from our minds and listen to God speak to these situations.

In most cases, God is saying the same things to Christians He said to Israel.  He speaks to us through Jesus Christ by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit via the writers of the New Testament.  God does not change.  Evil is still evil and good is good.  All people have received the capacity to discern good and evil “in Adam;” consequently, all mature people are responsible for choosing to do good.  Nothing has changed in the relationship between God and mankind since Adam and Eve were expelled from God’s fellowship.  God desires to restore the level of fellowship He had with mankind in the Garden of Eden, but people must learn to “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”  Rom. 12:9.

The time of the prophets have past.  Jesus Christ, the last prophet, for Israel is now serving God, His Father, as king and high priest for “the Israel of God,” the church (Gal. 6:16).  The church Jesus is building for His Father has been called out of the world.  We are an assembly of the firstborn (Heb. 12:22-24).  The Christians who received the Hebrew epistle understood the significance of the Hebrew writer’s usage of the word “firstborn.”  See Ex. 4:22; 13:11-13; Num. 3:11-13, 40, 41.

God used prophets to speak to the church members while the New Testament was being prepared and until the church reached a certain level of maturity (I Cor. 14:1-5; Eph. 4:10-16).  The leadership of the church was being transferred from the apostles to elders over a period of time (Acts 4:36, 37; 11:30; 14:23; 15:22; Phil. 1:1).

Our next lesson will be a summary of God’s use of the Levitical Priesthood, the nation of Israel, the kings and the prophets.  These were His tools to maintain His kingdom on earth in His remnant of people from the time He sent Moses back to Egypt to bring Jacob’s children out of bondage until the Messiah came to fulfill all that God had promised in His covenants.  The main aim of the next lesson will be to hear God tell us the quality of life He desired to see in Abraham’s offspring through Isaac and then Jacob.  A connection will be made to what Jesus taught the Jews and what the apostles preached about the kingdom of God for the church.      Where this quality of life is found in people is where God’s will is being done; therefore, it is where we will find His kingdom in the Old Testament.

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