A. I have experienced a heightened awareness of God’s love for Israel this week. As you know this is the time of year when Israel is approaching the Feast of Tabernacles. We are currently in the midst of Ten Days of Awe which began last Sunday with the Feast of Trumpets and will conclude this Wednesday with Yom Kippur/the Day of Atonement. Perhaps that helps explain the attention I feel toward the nation of Israel. I noticed in the news that our administration in the White House is giving Israel a hard time concerning their settlements in the West Bank.i Of course, they have been relatively quiet about the terrorist attacks against Israel.ii I hope we can get someone in the White House who will stand up for Israel rather than oppose this ally.iii Israel is God’s chosen nation, even if they are currently in a state of unbelief. God is working a plan in that nation and He will defend that plan. We saw that in the Six Day War and even in the daily survival of that tiny nation. I hope we can get somebody in the White House who will be a friend to Israel rather than condemn her. As a nation, we are currently treading on thin ice.
B. I want to begin this morning talking about God’s dealings with Israel; then make some applications for our own lives. 1 Cor. 10:11 tells us to do that. Paul says that Israel’s experience is recorded for our admonition. In principle, the way God dealt with Israel is the way He will deal with you.iv If He blessed their obedience, He will bless your obedience. If He chastens their disobedience, He will chasten your disobedience. When we look at God’s dealings with Israel, we’re not just studying history. We’re learning about God and how He works with people, and we’re applying those lessons to our own lives. The lesson today is about desperation. Have you experienced it? Are you experiencing it? Is it friend or foe? That depends on how we respond to it. Desperation is often the Precursor to Breakthrough! God often waits until we’re desperate enough to change, before He intervenes—the principle of desperation.
I. The Principle Observed in God’s Dealings with the Nation of Israel
A. Why did God wait 400 years before He delivered Israel out of Egyptian slavery?v Was it because of any weakness on His part? Was it because of any indifference on His part? No, it was because there were things that had to happen in the Hebrew hearts before they were ready for His deliverance. In the midst of all their afflictions He was increasing their numbers and preparing them for the deliverance.vi When God met with Moses at the burning bush, He said to him in Ex. 3:7-10 “…I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.vii I’m sent to tell you this morning, God sees the oppression or trouble you experience. The Hebrew word translated oppression comes from another Hebrew word that means depression.viii Whether it’s oppression or depression, God is aware of what you’re going through.
He also says two other things in that verse. (1) “I …have heard their cry.” Your prayers are not in vain, even when they are not being answered immediately. (2) “I know their sorrows.” At what level does God know your sorrows? It’s not just at an intellectual level. It’s not just that He knows what you’re going through. He feels it with you. He knows it as you know it! Isa 63:9 “In all their affliction He was afflicted [it’s not distant. It’s intimate and personal], And the Angel of His Presence saved them; In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; And He bore them and carried them All the days of old.” Look at verse 8 in Exodus 3 “So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites.” [God never just delivers us out of something. He is always delivering us into something as well. Out of Egypt, into the Promise Land. Out of despair into fulfillment ] Verse 9 “Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt."
There is a point in time when God says, “Enough is enough.” There is a point in time when God comes down into a situation and brings deliverance.” God wants somebody here to know that He knows—He knows what you’re going through. He knows what you need and when you need it. We think we need it immediately; but sometimes God is working change in us before He changes the circumstances. Isa 30:18 “Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him.” We understand the concept of us waiting on the Lord. We see things from that perspective.
But have you considered that God might be waiting on you? Giving you time to see things rightly and to turn your heart entirely to Him. A premature intervention can sabotage the whole process. A premature intervention in the prodigal son’s life would have kept him from reaching the point of desperation he needed to reach. His thinking needed to change first. He needed to “come to himself”ix before He could properly come to his father and get the help. “Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you.” His objective is to be gracious to you. The holdup is more likely us than Him. The delay is time and opportunity for us to change the way we see things.
Jonah’s’ testimony was "I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, And He answered me” (Jonah 2:2). He said that it was in the midst of all that trouble that he “remembered the Lord” and cried out to Him. Out of a place of desperation His cry was heard; and God delivered him. God was not just working on the storm and the fish. He was working on Jonah most of all. I went through a terrible distress this week, perplexed as to why God doesn’t answer prayers more quickly. It’s not because He can’t do it. It’s not because He doesn’t care. But very often He has to wait on us to be ready to receive the answer.
(Let’s jump much later into Israel’s history.)
B. Go with me to the end of Matthew 23.
Jesus has come to His own and His own received Him not.x As Israel’s Messiah, He has come to Jerusalem. But instead of receiving Him as their Messiah, they have rejected Him. That broke God’s heart.xi If you listen carefully you can hear Jesus’ pain in Matt. 23:37. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! [The one restriction God has placed upon Himself is our willingness]. 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!'" Israel’s opportunity to receive their Messiah at His first coming has passed. You won’t see me again until there is an attitude of heart that sincerely says, “'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!' Your house is left to you desolate!
Matt 24:1 “Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down." Jesus has been rejected as Messiah. Jesus is grieving over that reality. The disciples are looking at buildings. They are impressed with external things. They are pointing out the magnificence of the temple. And it was a magnificent building. It represented religion at its best. It was even religion initiated by God; but it had turned from the Lord to something under the control of men—something that served the purposes of men rather than the purposes of God. It looked good on the surface; but it was all about to come down. Jesus said there would not be one stone left upon another when God’s judgement hit it. Of course, that was literally fulfilled in 70 AD when Titus crushed and plundered Jerusalem.
Matt 24:3 “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’” The disciples erroneously thought the destruction of the temple would be directly linked with the end of the age. They did not have the revelation Paul later received concerning the mystery of the church. But Jesus’ answer does not make that mistake. Luke 21:20-24 records his answer to their first question. And His answer to their second question is recorded in the remainder of Matthew 24. Here he talks about the sign of His coming, and of the end of the age. We do not have time to expound all that; so jump down with me to Matt 24:29-31 "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” The tribulation period is designed to prepare the nation of Israel to receive her Messiah. Right now the regathering of Israel has begun, but as a nation they are still in unbelief (Rom. 9-11). The complete regathering will be a miracle done by angels at the end of the age. The context of Matthew 24 is the nation of Israel’s rejection of her Messiah.
Matthew 24 predicts a tribulation period that prepares the nation to receive Jesus as the Messiah at the end of the age. Turn with me to Zech. 14:1 “Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, And your spoil will be divided in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. 4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south.” I’ve got to tell somebody today, “Behold, [take note] the day of the LORD is coming” It may be coming sooner than you think. Notice the scene in verse 2.
There will come a point when all the nations (including the United States) will be gathered against Jerusalem.xii As we watch America turn her back on Israel, this prophecy becomes more and more in view. All it takes is one resolution from the UN; and it could happen. But we know from Scripture that the Antichrist must rise to power first, which could happen very quickly in today’s environment. The abomination that makes desolate must occur in Jerusalem as well.xiii So I am not saying all this will happen next week. But history is moving rapidly toward the end. “Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, And your spoil will be divided in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations.…”
Why would the Lord allow half of Jerusalem to be plundered before intervening? The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city will be captured—then the Lord will intervene. Why doesn’t Messiah intervene as soon as these nations surround Jerusalem? I think Derek Prince is right when he says God is waiting for the rest of the city to hit a point of desperation where they are truly humbled, repentant, and ready to receive their Messiah. Imagine the desperation in Jerusalem if all the nations have gathered against the city, half the city has been captured. The has broken through and is rifling through the houses, raping the women, and taking people as prisoners. It would feel like a hopeless situation. But that is the exact state of desperation that prepares them to receive their Messiah.
That is the point when they call upon the Lord and He intervenes! That is the moment when Matt 24:27 is fulfilled. “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” It will be devastating for the armies of those nations. Zech. 14:12 “And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, Their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, And their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths.” This will be an easy battle for Messiah. The glory of His presence will melt his enemies’ flesh.
C. The problem I have pondered all week is the question: why doesn’t the Lord display His power more quickly in behalf of His people. In Zechariah 14 things got to a desperate state before the Lord intervened. But it often happens that way. The Hebrews were delivered out of Egypt when their cry was desperate. Messiah will intervene and save Jerusalem when they reach the point of desperation that they are ready to receive Him. When Hannah was desperate for a child, then God heard her cry and gave her Samuel.xiv When Hagar and her son Ishmael were at the point of death in the dessert, she cried out to God and He heard her.xv
When King Jehoshaphat and King Ahab were fighting Syria, sly old Ahab heard that the enemy’s strategy was to kill the king and defeat them that way. So King Ahab disguised himself as a common soldier; but he talked Jehoshaphat into keeping his kingly robes on. With friends like that who needs enemies? During the battle the enemy thought Jehoshaphat was King Ahab so they concentrated their forces against him. He was in a desperate state when he cried out to the Lord and God saved him.xvi Blind Bartimaeus was so desperate that nobody could shut him up as he cried out to Jesus for help. His cry was heard and he was healed.xvii The woman with the issue of blood had tried everything; and it only got worse. She was desperate enough to press through the crowd against all social protocol and touch the hem of Jesus garment. Why couldn’t it have happened easier and sooner? I don’t have a complete answer to that question. I do know that there is something about desperation that gets God’s attention and gets answers.
II. The Principle Applied to Our Lives Today.
A. We are in a desperate situation in America. But I wonder if the Church feels that desperation enough to get the answer we want. A critical decision will be made in November. The news seems to make the election about one candidate’s personality verses the other candidate’s personality. Personal smears and name-calling seem to be the order of the day. All of that is a distraction from the real issues. In fact, when are they going to talk about the issues? I will not vote for a personality in November. I will look at the convention platform of each candidate and vote for righteousness. Neither one will line up perfectly with Scripture. But in my opinion one is much closer than the other. I will look at attitudes toward the nation of Israel. I will look at what kind of judges the candidate will endorse. With the selection of Supreme Court justices alone, there is much at stake. I will not throw my vote away since I will give an account to God as to how I use it. We ought to feel some desperation concerning what is going on in America right now. I’m not talking about fear. But I am talking about the seriousness of the situation.
Last Wednesday at prayer meeting we spent quite a bit of time praying for our nation. During that time, I was thinking about how good it is that so many Christians in America are praying about the outcome of the election. I thought this is a good sign. Then the Lord spoke to me that many are praying out of the wrong motives. The prayer is really, “God don’t let anything happen to disturb my selfish little life. I’ve got it the way I want it, and I don’t want the Federal government to upset that.” It may be that God will disturb some selfish Christian lives. He would never do it because He’s mad at us. He would only do it because it is in their best interest to be disturbed.
There are a lot of optimistic prophesies concerning the election and the future. I hope they’re right. But God disturbed the early church at Jerusalem. Acts 8:1 “At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem….” It upset the status quo and scattered people everywhere. On the surface, it seemed like a terrible thing. But it actually worked to further the gospel. God may very well disturb the comfort of the lukewarm American church. We may be in for a shaking! Brace yourself for it. The hurricane is coming. Board up the windows and prepare for the storm. The Devil may be involved; but God will oversee the whole thing. In the end, He will have a Church that is without spot or wrinkle.xviii He will have a people who are consecrated to Him. In the midst of all that, He will be a protection and supplier to those who abide under the shadow of His wing.xix Don’t assume personal comfort and convenience is at the top of God’s priority list. He has much bigger agenda in mind.
B. Desperation is often the harbinger to breakthrough. It is often the precursor to revival. It doesn’t feel so good, but if it drives to the answer perhaps it’s worth it. However, when we’re desperate there is a temptation to get angry at God. He is not the problem. He is “waiting to be gracious”. He is on His tiptoes looking for the time He can deliver us from the oppression. 2 Chron. 16:9 “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (NIV). God is for us; He is not against us. He is a very present help in time of trouble.xx
When David was in a desperate situation at Ziklag, he sought the Lord and got an answer (1 Sam. 30). In contrast, King Saul faced a desperate situation at Gilboa. He made some effort to seek God. But when that didn’t seem to work for him, he sought out a witch for the answer. He turned to the occult.xxi Two men in a similar crisis. One man drew closer to the Lord and got the answer he needed. The other man turned from the Lord to the wicked and it ended in his death.
Desperation does bring people to a decision. I want it to always bring me to the right decision. I want it to always drive me to my knees and to the Lord. Do you feel a measure of desperation? It could be a good thing. It could mean you’re getting close to the answer. It’s could mean breakthrough is just ahead. God’s ear is always attentive to a sincere cry of desperation. He has the answers we need.
i Korte, Gregory, “U.S. condemns Israeli settlements, ending thaw in once-frosty relationship” Oct. 5, 2016, USA Today, retrieved 10-8-16 from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/10/05/us-condemns-israeli-settlements-ending-thaw-once-frosty-relationship/91627276/.
ii Breitbart, Jerusalem, Oct. 6, 2016, “Israeli Arab Hezbollah Cell Plotted Terror Attacks but Misplaced Bombs,” retrieved 10-8-16 from http://www.breitbart.com/jerusalem/2016/10/06/israeli-arab-hezbollah-cell-plotted-terror-attacks-misplaced-bombs/.
iii Romans 11:23-25
iv Psalm 100:5; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8
v Genesis 15:13; Exodus 12:41
vi Exodus 1:7-12
vii All Scripture quotes are from the New King James Version unless indicated otherwise.
viii OT:6040 `oniy (on-ee'); from OT:6031; depression, i.e. misery. (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)
ix Luke 15:17
x John 1:11
xi Even though a parent might be able to foresee a child’s bad choices, it still breaks that parent’s heart when it happens.
xii Joel 3:1-3
xiii Dan. 12:11; Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14
xiv 1 Sam. 1:6-7, 10
xv Gen. 21:15-19
xvi 1 Kings 22:32
xvii Mark 10:46-52
xviii Eph. 5:27
xix Psalm 91
xx Psalm 46:1
xxi 1 Sam. 28:4-7