HAPPY NEW YEAR OF RENEWAL-PART I
First things first. What is the chief and highest end of man? Let the revered Christian Book namely the Westminster catechism give the answer. Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify (worship) God, and fully to enjoy him forever. When it comes to glorifying Him and fully enjoying Him, let it be said that the entire exercise ought to be "absolutely genuine emanating right from the innermost core of one’s being (read spirit)". This would lead to the next question, how could the process of glorifying Him originate right from the depths of one’s heart? It is only possible, when a person is truly fascinated by His unique traits. Remember, worshipping God for WHAT HE IS, is the highest form of worship, standing head and shoulders above other forms of worship, which come with strings attached, such as worshipping Him for the blessings, He showers upon us. While on the subject, at this stage, it would serve us well to look at the synonym of the word "Glorify", which is "Magnify". When, one magnifies Him, that is to say, when one keenly observes His Divine nature, with a magnifying glass, as it were, the "spiritual explorer" (if you permit me to use this expression) in you is bound to come across several unique attributes of the Almighty, which would at once evoke awe, and in turn lead to spontaneous, heart-felt worship and praise.
In this New Year message of five sub-headings punctuated with...what else... "Hallelujahs" (incidentally Hallel in Hebrew language means To praise and Yah means God) I would like to bring before my readership, one definite attribute in the Almighty, which at once fills me with a spirit of adoration that is ...He is not only a Master of Creation, He is equally adept in the work of RENEWAL. Scriptures stand as a testimony to the fact that He can RENEW an individual, a family, a Nation and even His Creation. Let us go step by step in this message firstly focusing on His act of renewal in the life of an individual
ACTION: Display of pictures of
a) Stock-broker bemoaning loss
b) Lightning strike (Animation)
Down in the dumbs financially as you stand at the threshold of a New Year? Gone broke in the Stock broking business? Now no one would have known better about financial upheavals than one Mr. Job, the resident of Uz (Job 1:13-22) who did not go broke gradually but lost it ALL in a space of few hours of a dreadful day. Worse was to follow. Anyway, in this message I would stick to the collapse of "Job Corp", as it existed thousands of years back. What was its C.E.O’s response? Let the Scripture take over...light shines through his spiritual maturity...
"...Then he fell to the ground in WORSHIP and said:"Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."" --Job 1:20-21
Well, how did the Job story end? For the one who reposed his faith on the Almighty’s goodness even at the time of severe provocation (Job 2:9)......
"... the LORD RESTORED his fortunes and gave him TWICE as much as he had before."- Job 42:10. Talk of Biblical boom-doom-boom trade cycle...
Surely for those of us, caught in financial troubles, the moral of Job’s troubles comes booming "cast all your burdens on Him". A breakthrough is just around the corner (I Peter 5:7/10). God can breathe life into any "dead and buried" financial situation and quicken it up.
ACTION: Display of "reverse aging" pictures'
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him.....No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be AbraHam, for I have made you a father of many Nations.-Genesis 17:5
God also said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be SaraH.-Genesis 17:15
From the case of individual Job, let’s move onto a family. The one of Abram and Sarai. Well, the aged couple representing the "Biblical first family of Faith" had long given-up hope of becoming parents, so much so they had used debatable surrogacy to have a child thirteen years earlier (Genesis 16). Lo and behold suddenly at a grim period in their lives when all of vim, vigour and vitality had ebbed out of their ageing bodies, there comes a renewal (Genesis 17:16-17) of Divine promise made earlier (Genesis 15:4) that they would have a son. Quite justifiably Father Abraham being well aware of the effects of Father Time had had on his and his wives body (all of 90 years old) initially laughed at the prospect of begetting a son at that age. However, he took the omnipotent God at His Word (for the word "impossible" does not figure in the Creator’s dictionary). And the result? Boy, there were such metabolic, physical changes in the bodies of this aged couple that Grammy (of that age) Sarah acquires a new a glowing look which even modern-day rejuvenating beauty creams simply cannot bring about. Some time later, awed by her beauty a pagan King takes her into his harem and it is another story altogether that God delivers this Blessed Couple from this messy situation (Genesis 20). Shortly afterwards, arrives Baby Issac (in Hebrew means Laughter) bringing joyous laughter in the lives of now youthful Abraham and Sarah. Talk of 30 year olds "living inside" 90 year old bodies...
Now for some semantic study of the Scriptures. Raise your hands those who know that "H" is an aspirate word (cannot pronounce it without inhaling revitalizing oxygen). Notice in the above-captioned Scripture portion the good Lord added "H" into the names of this epochal couple, so as to say, He was breathing new life into their bodies (a la Creation account of Adam -Genesis 2:7) which were well past the age of child-bearing.
Feeling down and out physically at the dawn of a New Year? Take heart, if EL-SHADDAI God (in Hebrew meaning of the word "אל שדי" is ALMIGHTY-Genesis 17:1) could regenerate the bodies of two nonagenarians’, it wouldn’t take him long to renew you physically too, once you look unto Him prayerfully seeking the same. In God’s scheme of things, whenever it comes to recovering from physical, incurable, chronic ailments, it is always RIGHT to do our part (whatever is within our means) and leave the remainder to Him (2 Kings 20:7).
ACTION: Display of animation of Israel National Flag
Well, the good Lord can not only be the Master of renewal in the life of an individual and a family but that of one whole Nation. Permit me to hit the rewind button here. Let me also plead for some patience on the part of my committed readership even as I go on a flash back mode here.
Four years ago, the International media was agog with the News of Israel celebrating its 60th formation day. In my own favorite Newspaper The Hindu (now they have their own ideological stance on West Asian crisis, to which they are perfectly entitled) I remember reading an article "Israel at 60" on May 8th, 2008. Now what is that about Israel that interests all keen Bible students? The reason is as simple as it is profound. The World’s future events are not so much linked as inter-twined with Israel’s II birth, as it were. Take the Biblical prophecy for instance in Isaiah 11:11, which clearly foretold the formation or re-formation of Israel way back in 7th century BC- with its attendant implications (we shall attempt to study these "attendant implications" in light of other Biblical prophecies, later on in this message) but first things first.
"In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to bring back the remnant of his people--those who remain in Assyria and northern Egypt; in southern Egypt, Ethiopia,and Elam; in Babylonia, Hamath, and all the distant coastlands." -- Isaiah 11:11 (NLV)
When I ponder on this prophecy especially on the light of what all happened just before the UN approved "Mandate of Palestine" in 1947 came to pass, I cannot but cry like a little child holding my Bible in my hands. At this stage, let me give an historical overview to the original creation of Nation of Israel and their subsequent "Blow hot, blow cold" relationship with their redeemer God . This is needed for us to understand the main reason behind their dispersion from the Land flowing with "milk and honey", after having lived in it for nearly 1500 years.
According to the Bible, the great Patriarch Saint Abraham (revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike the world over) was brought by God from Mesopotamia to the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:1-4). This is thought to have occurred around 2000 BC. To his descendents who would be oppressed in A FOREIGN LAND for 400 years, the same God promised to give the Land of Canaan-the modern day Land of Palestine (Genesis 15:13-16). Note here that this Canaan, was promised to only those Abraham’s descendants, who would be oppressed in foreign land (both Canaan and Egypt) for 400 years. Yes, while Abraham’s direct tent-dwelling descendents (with no land of their own) Issac and Jacob had to endure their share of oppression from local Canaanite residents-Genesis 26:12-22/Genesis 34:1-2-during their stay in Canaan, their offspring in Egypt after Jacob’s migration thereto, suffered miserably under Pharoah’s oppressive rule (Exodus 1). Now for a subject within a subject, permit to take a loopline. Please come out of the myth that people stayed in Egypt ALONE FOR 430 YEARS. Look at the Graph below for better understanding of this subject. Well, they stayed in Egypt for 215 years only. Only three generations were born from the time they came to Egypt to the time, they departed from it. Jacob-Levi-Kohath (original settlers as per Genesis 46:11) to Amram-Aaron (first High Priest)-Eliezer (Son who succeeded him --I Chro 6:1-3).
ACTION: Display of a Graph based on Galatians 3:14-17 replete with milestones proving that stay of the people of Israel in Egypt did not last beyond 215 years.
Now you can trust Paul the author of Galatians 3:14-17, to know the Jewish history trained as he was methodically by Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Coming back to the main track...the subject of Israel settling in the Land of Canaan, just as it was prophesied to Abraham 430 years before, the twelve tribes of Israel under the leadership of that great leader Joshua completed the Conquest of Canaan round about 1400-1450 BC (reading of the Book of Joshua would certainly help). Even before the Conquest, the good Lord through Moses had clearly spelt out His conditions of obedience to the nation chosen by His grace alone (Deuteronmy 7:7-8/28).
Did the people of Israel obey the Law whole-heartedly? Their obedience if plotted in a graph would reveal wild swings. Assuredly the reign of King David (II Samuel) and to some extent that of King Solomon (I Kings 1-10) would constitute the "Golden age" of Israel’s history (approx 1000-900 BC), as the devotion of Jews to their redeemer God touched its peak, at that point of time in their poignant history. However after that "Golden age" came the "Dark age" (around 900 BC-600BC) beginning with the splitting of the Nation of Israel into 2 Kingdoms (10 tribes banded together to form the Northern kingdom of Israel and 2 tribes cohered to form the Southern Kingdom of Judah). This age witnessed the coming to power of Regents "whose hearts were not like their ancestor David". While the Judean Kingdom, had at least in its ranks some God-fearing Kings like Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah, the Kingdom of Israel could not boast of a single King with a heart like David, who would lead the people properly in the ways of the Lord.
With sin rampant, warnings of imminent exile from the "Land of Milk and honey" trumpeted by diligent Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos, Ezekiel and Joel followed but sadly they fell on deaf ears. The chosen people chose their own sinful pathway of worshipping the created things, instead of their glorious Creator God (Ezekiel 8:8-18).
Through Prophet (Joel 1:4) for instance, the Almighty graphically (using the imagery of locusts invasion with each locust being symbolic of a ravaging army stripping the pleasant land bare) announced the coming judgment on His disobedient, stubborn people. This warning, which went unheeded, can be better understood by having a look at this picture below...
ACTION: Display of pictures of
a) 4 types of Locusts
b) Graph of different times of rule over the Promised Land took place by 4 World powers i,e... Babylon, Medo-Persians, Greeks and Romans
The picture above depicts the veracity of fulfillment of prophecy (with historical proofs, may I add) recorded in Joel 1:4. While their punishment from 588 BC (resulting in exile to Babylon and subsequent return back to Palestine in 518 BC in batches) till 70 AD, can be termed as MILD (despite paying stifling taxes to their human conquerors, nevertheless by being in the Land of Palestine, they continued to enjoy the fruits of the Promised Land) that of dispersion from Jerusalem after the destruction of Temple in 70 AD, can be described as SEVERE (as they roamed around as landless, homeless people for nearly two thousand years). Before the devastating punishment arrived, did they not also brazenly call upon the fair God to judge them for spilling the innocent blood of Jesus (Matt 27:1-25), thus adding one more hideous sin to all of their other sins? Divine comeuppance was going to catch-up with them, sooner or later and it did in 70 AD, decimating them in the process. Need any further proof that God can be love (I John 4:8) as well as a consuming fire in His judgment (Heb 10:31/ 12:29)?
Now, after 2000 years of Divine indictment, if the Sovereign God in His Sovereign plan "FOR A SPECIAL PURPOSE" (I would focus upon it soon) forgives them and eventually brings them back to the Promised Land (in accordance with His promise to their ancestors) in perfect fulfillment of Isaiah 11:11, (permit me to quote it again)
"In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a SECOND TIME to bring back the remnant of his people--those who remain in Assyria and northern Egypt; in southern Egypt, Ethiopia,and Elam; in Babylonia, Hamath, and all the distant coastlands." -
should we not all be excited? The basic point that one more prophecy of the Bible has been fulfilled with pin-point precision should excite us, for it simply means, other unfulfilled prophecies are also soon going to be fulfilled. If a friend of ours, with a proven track record of always fulfilling his promises, gives his word on giving us a gift after a week, would we not take him at his word? Ditto this with our Promise-keeping God. Countless times, He has brought the Biblical prophecies to fruition. This begs a question. Now should we not believe Him, with regard to some prophecies, which are not yet fulfilled but would be fulfilled soon in His own perfect timing like the birth of His son Jesus was (Gal 4:4)?
I reiterate that when I ponder on this prophecy (Isaiah 11:11) especially on the light of what all happened just before UN approved "Mandate of Palestine" in 1947, I cannot but cry like a little child holding my Bible in my hands. How true is this Grand ole’ Book! It leaves absolutely no room for speculation! Now this prophecy recorded eons back, is certainly not about the return of Jewish exiles from Babylon or for that matter from Assyria (Jews of Northern Kingdom of Israel were exiled to Assyria in 742 BC approx- II Kings 17:18). Kindly underscore the point that the above-captioned Scripture portion, while listing the names of Nations from which the Jews would return does not limit itself to merely mentioning Assyria or Babylon, but rather it even goes on mention somberly "DISTANT COAST LANDS", as though to reserve the best for the last. Dear readers, do you know the process of formation of Modern-day Israel was triggered amongst others by initial settling of 4000 Jews brought by the Ship Knesset Israel from Yugoslavia (a country with a with a huge coast line) in November 1946? Then what about that Ship "EXODUS" captained by its legendary Captain Harel that captured International imagination in its epochal attempt to bring 4500 Jewish families in 1947 from the coastal city of Marseilles, France? In fact, Captain Harel in toto commanded four expeditions that took thousands of refugees to the shores of Palestine. Many of the Ship Exodus who were originally refused entry into Palestine, latter arrived there...from...you guessed it... yet another Island country...CYPRUS! As the import of these historical events register, oh Boy...oh Boy...I cannot help falling in love one more time with my oh-so-sweet, oh-so-perfectly prophetic Bible!!! For those of us, who feel that it would have been terrific to see some awe-inspiring Biblical miracles like parting of Red Sea captured in camera, how about this? Now have a look at some of the TRUE relevant pictures comprising Ship Exodus in 1947, along with the Map depicting Yugoslavia, Marseilles, Cyprus and Israel.
ACTION: Display of pictures of
a) The Historic Ship Exodus berthed at Haifa port in 1947
b) Map showing Yugoslavia, Marseilles, Cyprus and Israel/the travel route of the Ship Exodus to Israel
Hey, the Almighty can regenerate not only one’s physical body but he regenerate one complete nation. Well, He has regenerated the Nation of Israel with a purpose. To trumpet the truth about the Redeemer Christ’s imminent return!!! Consider the words of the Master recorded here...
"Now learn a lesson from the FIG TREE. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door.-Matt 24:32-33
The proverbial Fig tree is the Nation of Israel (Jeremiah 24) which had withered in 70 AD but is now green and budding once again.
ACTION: Display of two pictures side by side of a withered Fig tree and green and budding Fig tree
Mouth a loud Hallelujah for the God of regeneration. In the next message of the same series, let’s focus on other areas’ where the good Lord can bring about regeneration.
ps...this message replete with pics/animations is also available on the following URL...