By Pastor Max Solbrekken, D.D.
The Bible clearly outlines the sins of Israel, which at one time held a special relationship with God. In this article I compare Israel's backsliding to the Church of Jesus Christ's seemingly constant drift from our amazing spiritual beginning until the present!
In the same manner, I parallel the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden from purity, honesty and worship of their Creator to the corrupt, jaded and perverted world system of today!
God's Word states: "Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." (Proverbs 14:34 ); "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord." (Psalms 33:12)
CANADA IS IN A FALLEN STATE!
According to these Scriptures, Canada is in a fallen state! The Church is in desperate need of a genuine Holy Ghost, heaven-sent, apostolic revival of mammoth proportions! Without a visitation from God, the Church will not be able survive the awful onslaught of Satanic invention and intrigue!
The Evil One is working overtime to minimize, decimate and destroy the effectiveness of the Body of Christ around the world! He has employed many and varied agencies and emissaries to do his bidding ever since 'The Fall', which has caused great confusion and suffering to the Church.
The greatest problem suffered by the Body of Christ down though the centuries, however, has been self- inflicted! Discord among brethren, jealousy, envy, backbiting, lust, greed, pride and control, have been some of the sins that have seriously hampered the sanctity and the growth of the Church!
Other major problems have been that of deception, laziness and indifference! Power hungry men have often been willing to compromise the Word of God, to maintain their position of prominence in society and authority in the Church.
What has been the result of these actions? A loss of real spiritual power, a vacuum of moral leadership in the Church and community, and a blurred vision of the purpose and goals of the Ministry. It has also generated a lukewarmness toward the needs of the people, a lack of compassion to reach a lost world and a loss of the Holy Spirit's fire in praise and worship.
Here are some key Scriptures that relate to our situation today and their ramifications as it applies to our individual lives and the Church body as a whole. In this message I seek to show the similarities that existed in various times in Israel's history of backsliding to what is happening in the Church presently.
1. NEHEMIAH 1:1-5
"The words of Nehemiah the son of Hach-a-liah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in the palace, That Ha-na-ni, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning Jerusalem.
And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, And said, I beseech Thee, O' Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love Him and observe His commandments."
It seems clear to me that the report given to Hezekiah about the awful condition of Jerusalem - the City of God - and the sad plight of the inhabitants therein, closely resemble the plight of the Christian Church in many parts of the world today.
Jesus said: "I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16: 18). It is true that Jesus is building His Church and it is also true that the gates of hell cannot and will not prevail against it. During the time of Christ, City Hall (as we call it), where plans of war were hammered out, was directly behind the gate, and consequently was referred to as the Gates of the City! The words, 'the gates of hell', refer to the opinions, plans, strategy and agenda of Satan. They cannot succeed in the long term! They will be defeated.
Our Lord gave us the Great Commission, which states: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe: In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay their hands on the sick and they shall recover." (Mark 16:15, 18)
IS THE CHURCH A REPROACH TODAY?
We must ask ourselves the questions: "Are we fulfilling the Great Commission of our Lord, or are we just playing Church? Are we casting out devils, healing the sick, setting the captives free, and preaching the good news to those who haven't yet heard?”
Even a casual reading of the Epistles teaches us how graciously, unselfishly and righteously God desires us to live, after receiving Jesus Christ as Lord. Do we love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind, and our neighbour as ourselves? Do we love others, as Christ loved us or do we hold onto grudges and unforgiveness? It is difficult to believe that we are not "missing the mark" in these areas.
The Lord's Prayer, which our Master taught His disciples to pray, states in part: "Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." Have our lives helped to cause that to happen? Is His will being done in our earth (body) as well as on the earth? Are we a part of the solution or a part of the problem?
Hezekiah was confronted with a pitiful sight! The walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the gates had been burned with fire! And the remnant that were left in God's Holy City were in great affliction (poverty, despair, sickness) and reproach (persecuted, maligned, ridiculed). If we are honest with ourselves and God, we must admit that this is a picture of the Church world-wide.
Never before, has the Roman Catholic Church been so publicly disgraced and sued in the courts, because of the demonic homosexual practices of their many pervert pedophile priests! And when you see Protestant denominations in the Western World caving in to the demands of homosexuals and lesbians for ordination and same-sex marriages for their clergy, doesn't it make you sick?
The first time I saw two men kissing on TV, I felt nauseated! I uttered the U-word 'uff-ta' in Norwegian. Someone explains: While milking, a cow swats the farmer across the face with her tail, his false teeth fall into a cow pie. He puts them back in his mouth and says, Uff-ta. What a reproach. What an unnatural, disgusting image for little children to absorb!
The disastrous fall into almost comatose formalism, and a rejection of the Virgin birth of Christ, the Born Again experience and the Doctrine of Hell of many Protestant Churches makes one wonder how bad it can get. The only answer is a red-hot, Holy Spirit led revival of righteousness.
2. Joel 1:9-14, Joel 2:15
"The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth. Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye wine dressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished.
"The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men. Gird yourselves and lament ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God.
"Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord. Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come."
I believe that there is a parallel between the crises in the Church today, and the vision that the prophet Joel had of Israel facing the day of judgment, called in the Old testament, 'the Day of the Lord'! Using this Scripture as a pre-picture of the Church in the time of the end, allow me to share some pertinent and very important truths:
Why was Israel asked to call a solemn assembly? Why must the priests lie all night in sackcloth, crying unto God? Why must all the inhabitants of the land fast, mourn, weep and repent? Judgment was coming! The terrible 'Day of the Lord' was about to take place, when the Almighty's wrath will fall upon the world at the very end of time.
THE BIBLE ISSUES A WARNING!
St. Peter wrote about it with great solemnity and warning: "But the day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?
"Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
"Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless." (2 Peter 3: 10, 14). Why should we call a solemn assembly and sanctify a fast? Why should the Church spend much, much more time in prayer? Here are three reasons:
1. WE HAVE LOST THE HARVEST - VERSE 11
For the Church, the harvest is the youth of our nation! Our young people who have drifted away from the faith of their fathers and mothers! Young people who take drugs, smoke marijuana, fornicate, drink alcoholic beverages and gamble at the casinos and video lottery terminals! Young people who are carnally minded and live only for pleasure, instead of being consecrated and dedicated to God and His program.
2. WE HAVE LOST THE JOY - VERSE 12
The reason that there is so little joy in the hearts of Christians is because we have lost the harvest. It is because we are not winning souls to Christ! The Bible says: "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." (Psalm 126: 5, 6).
I have never met an unhappy soul winner! People who witness for Christ and are engaged in Church and Missionary work are the happiest people that I have been privileged to meet, because they are involved with eternal souls. A soul winner's joy is sweet and his reward is great.
The Bible says: "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." (Daniel 12: 2, 3)
3. THERE IS NO MEAT & DRINK OFFERING - VERSE 13
The priests and their families lived off some of the offerings that were brought to the temple. People had stopped bringing in their offerings, so therefore there was very little for the ministering priests to live on. How can the Church survive when people lose interest, backslide, stop paying their tithes?
How can the work of God grow if people stop serving Him, and discontinue giving missionary offerings? Only a revival, an awakening, a visitation from God Almighty will shake us into action, so that our hearts will be right with Him and open to the call of God upon our lives. Let us call a solemn assembly and get people involved in fasting and praying for a genuine revival from Heaven.
3. HABAKKUK 3: 1, 2
"A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth. O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy."
This is one of the most powerful Scriptures in the Bible, to convince the Church to call upon God for mercy, forgiveness and help! The prophet had apparently been in prayer and God had spoken to him. Prayer is a two-way street. It is important to let God speak to us during our times of seeking Him! What God told the prophet shook him to the core, and made him afraid.
What did God tell Habakkuk? It seems that God must have given him a message, that impending judgment was about to fall. Gripped by a holy reverence andr godly fear, the prophet cried out:
"Instead of judgment, send a revival. Revive Thy work O Lord, in the midst of the years. Don't let your cup of judgment get filled up! Rather make yourself known unto us NOW by forgiving our sins and showing mercy. And if You must judge us, in Your great wrath remember to be merciful!
4. JEREMIAH 2: 13; 6: 16
"For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein."
There are some sad stories in the Bible of hardhearted people who refused to turn to the Lord, even after He called them repeatedly! Here He speaks to Jeremiah - the weeping prophet - about His feelings regarding Israel , His chosen people! He asks: "Hath a nation changed their gods, which are no gods? but My people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit." (v. 11).
He indicts Israel on two counts: Forsaking Him, the fountain of living water and exchanging Him for counterfeits - broken cisterns which can hold no water.
Then, He challenges them to take a good hard look at all the alternatives: "Stand at the crossroads of life and have a good look at the alternatives. Then, return to the good ways and walk in them." What does He offer? Peace and rest for our souls! yet, there are many who enter the wide gate and take the broad road which leads to death and destruction.
THE BIBLE GIVES THE KEY TO REVIVAL!
Here is the KEY to revival: "If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (2 Chron. 7: 14).
There are four things that God's people must do in order for the Almighty to rend the heavens and come down in Revival Power in our midst!
First, we must humble ourselves, getting rid of the sin of pride. Second, we must begin to pray earnestly for His intervention. Third, we must seek His face in protracted times of intimate fellowship with our Heavenly Father! We must get close enough so that we can walk with Him like Enoch, Abraham and Moses! And Four, we must "lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily besets us" (Heb.12: 1, 2), and turn from every wicked way.
5. MALACHI 1: 6 - 9; 3: 8 - 10
"A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a Father, where is Mine honour? and if I be a Master, where is My fear? saith the Lord of hosts unto you. O priests, that despise My name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised Thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon Mine altar, and ye say, Wherein have we polluted Thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible.
"And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil" and if ye offer the lame and the blind, is it not evil? offer it now to thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts. And now, I pray you, beseech God that He will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your person saith the Lord of hosts.
God was displeased with the priests who were indifferent to their holy tasks in the temple. They were only going through the motions instead of reverently ministering to the Lord! Are we also guilty of only going through the motions without real conviction and love for our Lord?
May God help us to give Him our very best, instead of the cull, the left- overs in our life. He is not content to play second fiddle or be the fifth wheel. He wants to be Number One in our heart and life! Let us give Jesus Christ centre stage.
In verse 11 through 14, we read: "For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same MY name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto My name, and a pure offering: for My name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts."
What were they doing? They were offering animals that were blind and lame and sick unto the eternal God! He asks: "Should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and My name is dreadful among the heathen."
A SIN AND A SHAME!
It is scandalous when you consider the very little we give to God and His cause in the so-called Christian nations, relative to what we spend on cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling and amusement. It is a Sin and a Shame! We spend more money on chewing gum in our respective countries than we give to Almighty God. That has to change.
In Chapter 3, we read: "Will a man rob God? yet ye have robbed Me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed Thee. In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed Me, even this whole nation.
"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, and Prove Me now herewith saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there will not be room enough to receive it.
And I will REBUKE THE DEVOURER FOR YOUR SAKES and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts."
Upon the authority of God's Word, I declare that you will never sorry if you give God His share in tithes and offerings. He is no man's debtor and He will prosper and bless you as He has promised. His Word cannot fail and He will not fail you.
Isaiah's life was changed when he had a vision of God in the temple. He became one of the greatest Prophets of all times! He cried out: "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear." (Isaiah 59: 1,2)
Here he gives us the key to forgiveness and peace: "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55: 6, 7)
6. REVELATION 3: 14 - 20
"And unto the angel of the church of the La-od-i-ce'ans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would that thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth.
"Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear, and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me."
The La-od-i-ce'an Church had drifted so far from the truth that Jesus is standing on the outside seeking entrance to His own Church. How very, very sad! He wants us to be red hot for Him and His Gospel. Please make room for Jesus Christ in your heart and life today! Only then, do we really begin living. In his great love and mercy, Jesus will wash away every sin and fill our hearts with contentment and contagious joy!
What a reproach to be left on the outside, because you have left Him on the outside of your life! He urges, "Behold, I stand at the Door and knock, if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with Me.
"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, ans am set down with My Father in His throne." (Revelation 3: 20,21)
7. JONAH 1:1-6
"Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before Me. But Jonah rose up to flee from the presence of the Lord; and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them.. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship, and he lay, and was fast asleep.
So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him. What meanest thou O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God, if so be it that God will think upon us, that we perish not. And they said everyone to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.
Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? What is thy country? and of what people art thou? And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of Heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.
Then, were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he had fled from the presence of God, because he had told them. Then said they unto him, what shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us: for the sea wrought and was tempestuous unto them.
Then said he, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring it to land.; but they could not; for the sea wrought and was tempestuous unto against them.
Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, we beseech Thee O Lord, we beseech Thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for Thou O Lord, hast done as it pleased Thee. So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea, and the sea ceased from her raging.
Then the men feared exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows. Now the Lord had prepared a GREAT FISH to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights."
What a wake-up call Jonah received from Almighty God and what tremendous measures He takes, so that a heathen city could hear God's voice and be saved. It was an unusual and awesome way to reach that entire city for Him.
WHEN GOD BECAME A MAN!
It pales, however, when one considers the Salvation plan that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled through His Virgin birth, pure and righteous life, vicarious death and glorious resurrection. The Sovereignty of God demanded punishment for sin and the CROSS provided the Final solution!
For a time, God overlooked or winked at our sins in His great mercy and kindness by allowing the sacrificing of innocent lambs, goats and bullocks (occasionally a red heifer) to suffice.
When the fullness of time had come, however, Almighty God our Heavenly Father, gave Himself in His Son to be the propitiation for our sins and those of the whole world. The word propitiation means the covering, satisfaction and the expiation. Jesus of Nazareth, true God from eternity and true man by His virgin birth, had to die so that He could cover us and remove our sins to SATISFY the Righteous Demands of Divine Justice.
While in the belly of the GREAT FISH, Jonah repented of his rebellion and disobedience. God forgave him and gave him another opportunity to reach the wicked city of Nineveh with God's message of repentance and judgment. Praise the Lord!
"And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry ground. And the Word of the Lord came unto Jonah the Second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the Word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days journey.
“So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest one even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes...
“When God saw their works, that they turned from their Evil way; and God repented of the evil that He had said that He would do unto them, and He did did it not." (Job 2:10; Job 3:1-10)
The total repentance of the entire city of Nineveh moved Almighty God to change His mind about His judgment toward them. He freely forgave them all by extending His mercy toward them. Jonah's change of heart in obeying God's directive after a long and hard lesson, brought our Heavenly Father's great love into focus for all to see and experience.
IMPORTANT LESSONS FOR US ALL!
There are a number of lessons for us to learn from this ancient happening: First, God loves the heathen and will use every possible means to rescue them. Secondly, the work of a true 'Man of God' isn't a soft touch. It may involve tough times and very hard work. The importance is to be obedient to the Holy Spirit and answer 'yes' when He calls!
My prayer is that everyone of us will be willing to carry the message of Christ's salvation to our relatives, friends, neighbours and others as often as possible whenever possible to as many as possible, for as long as possible!
WILLIAM BOOTH and his wife Catherine founded the Salvation Army in 1865. They chose as their slogan, 'Blood and Fire', referring to Jesus Christ's BLOOD shed for the remission of sins and the Fire referring to the FIRE of the Holy Spirit. He stated, "The tendency of fire is to go out; watch the fire on the altar of your heart. Anyone who has tended a fireplace, knows that it needs to be stirred up occasionally.
In 1892, William Booth wrote the well-known hymn, Send the Fire. It is filled with Gospel truth, Biblical Doctrine and Great Commission Admonition. You can sense the presence of God by reading the words, and the Holy Spirit burns when it is sung.
Jesus Christ said, "But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost shall come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of earth." (Acts 1:8)
There is no-one as unhappy as a person who has been called of God to preach Christ's Gospel, but has stifled that call. For some people it will be too late to answer that call, but for others the Holy Spirit may still be calling for you to do His bidding. May He help you to answer that call. Amen.
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