Sunday September 20 2020

A RETURN TO ‘THERE’

Part Three of Ravens and the Widow

This is the third part of the series based upon the concept of “there.”

Two weeks ago we studied 1 Kings 17 where God instructed the prophet Elijah, “Go to the Brook Cherith, I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”

We learned that God had called Elijah to a ministry and that He had already provided provision for Elijah at a specific place – at a ‘THERE’. God’s provision for Elijah was being delivered at this specific geographical spot, even as He gave instruction to Elijah. In order to benefit from said provisions Elijah simply had to journey to this place – his ‘there’.

We learned that faith was not the initiator of the provision – God had already provided. Elijah’s faith allowed him to access this provision. The ravens piled the food high and the brook gurgled with fresh water ‘there’.

We saw that we have a tendency to wait where we are for God’s promised provision whereas we should be going to where the provision has already been established – we need to go to our ‘there.’

And, we know we are in the right place, in the will of God, at our ‘there’ when we see the provision.

Then last week we focused upon the fact that when God establishes ‘things’ He does so at specific ‘spots’ – specific ‘there’s. We mentioned the family of Jacob nourished and provided for within Egypt – Jacob’s ‘there’. We mentioned the garden and the burning bush as specific spots chosen by God to provide sustenance. We concluded with the most critical ‘there’ that being Mount Moriah – the anointed ‘there’ for Abraham and Isaac and later for the cross of Jesus. God provides provision and refreshing at specific ‘there’s, and as we have said, the provision is already established firmly even before we arrive!

This message concerns A Return To ‘There’.

Have you ever cried out, “Oh LORD, why do I have to go around this mountain again?” I’m certain you have, in fact, I’m sure all of us have at one time or another. You see, the LORD GOD calls the sinner to return, as He does all who are disobedient – all to come back to Him. And just as He has specific spots where provision is already piled high, so too there are identifiable spots to where the wayfarers need return.

In Jeremiah 35:15 we read, “I have sent also unto you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, ‘Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and your fathers: but you have not inclined your ear, nor harkened unto me.’”

This passage is, of course, spoken to the people of Israel, and this is the primary surface meaning of the verse. However, we are correct in our applying this entreaty to all of us. It is a fundamental spiritual truth that applies to every person on the planet explained for us here through the example of Israel. We are all called to, “Return To Me.” This cry, out of the heart of the Most High God, reverberates throughout Scripture. His great desire is for our returning to Him; to turn away from our evil ways; to amend our doings; to refrain from going after other gods. We all have, be we saint or sinner, the pull of altars of worship in our lives.

Jeremiah 29:13 reads, “And you will seek me, and find me, when you will search for me with all your heart.”

Many of us within the church need to have a heart adjustment. We need to turn back to Him, as our First Love, and to seek Him with our whole heart. As a deer panting for the water of life in a dry and thirsty land,we need to cling onto Him as if our very life depends upon it. (By the way, it does.) We must return to Him, return to ‘there’. For it is ‘there’ where we find nourishment and provision for every iota of our life.

And for those outside of the body of Christ they too will undergo a journey of return, the outcome of which still hangs in the balance.

I began this message with a question concerning our ‘going around mountains again.’ God will always cause us to return to the place of our sin and rebellion where we either repent and experience forgiveness, or we continue to rebel and garner judgment. Just as God has a ‘there’ for provision and nourishment and forgiveness so too He has a ‘there’ for justice and judgment.

Numbers 14:2 “And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, ‘Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would God that we had died in this wilderness!’”

It would be of great benefit for you the reader to check out the entire testimony of Numbers 13 and 14. I will be referencing a few selected verses. It has always startled me to read that the twelve spies sent across the Jordon spent 40 days to ‘check out’ the provision of God! There were two faithful witnesses, as there always are, Caleb and Joshua, there to affirm the goodness of God, and ten others who returned with “a bad report.”

Just as with Elijah, God had piled up provision just across a river. This provision was already ‘there’, was already waiting to bless and nourish His chosen people. The LORD had been busy preparing the promised land ‘there’. All that the people needed to do was to go ‘there’. Of course, you are familiar with the history.

Numbers 14:4, “And they said one to another, ‘Let us make us a captain, and let us return into Egypt.’”

Let’s choose a new leader, a wishy-washy one, one who does not have a heart after God; one who is swayed by the world; one who is open to bribes; one who is desirous of things, and power, and public opinion, rather than the word of the LORD. And let us return there.

Let us step back down under the task-master’s whip; let us sink our feet deep into the mud once again; let us watch our wives and children suffer abuse, for we are afraid of what lies beyond the river; we are afraid of going ‘there’.

Numbers 14:33, “And your children will wander in the wilderness 40 years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcasses be wasted in the wilderness.”

Numbers 14:34, “After the number of the days in which you searched the land, even 40 days, each day for a year, will you bear your iniquities, even 40 years, and you will know my breach of promise.”

Instead of choosing to follow the loving God into the ‘there’ of the promised land, they desired to return to the there of Egypt!

Forty is the number of judgment in Scripture. So, in essence, the people judged GOD for 40 days searching out all of His provisions whether they be good or ill, so GOD returned the favour and gave them a year for each day in the wilderness. They declared they would rather die in Egypt than cross the river, or die in the wilderness than cross the river. Out of their mouths they called down their own judgment! One more verse from Numbers.

Numbers 14:18, “The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.”

Even though the LORD is longsuffering and merciful, justice and holiness are essential ingredients of His character as well. The guilty must be brought to justice and sin and disobedience must be judged. And, as we can see, consequences for sin and disobedience reach far beyond the offending individual.

So, an entire generation trudged around their mountain for 40 years before returning to ‘there’ once again. God brought them back ‘there’ a second time to see what it would be – repentance or continued disobedience – forgiveness or judgment. And just as there is a place, a specific spot a prearranged ‘there’ for repentance and forgiveness so too there is a place, a specific spot a prearranged ‘there’ for judgment.

This truth also applies to you and me. God will always return us to the place of our disobedience, the specific spot of our sin, the prearranged ‘there’ of our failure to see what it will be. Will it be repentance and forgiveness or will it be continued disobedience and judgment.

For many in our world, their circumvention about their mountains of sin does not result in repentance and all they have to look forward to, consequently,  is justifiable judgment. I pray that will not be so for us in the body of Christ, where repentance is so freely offered.

This world system must face the fact that there will be a ‘there’ awaiting them. A specific spot, a prearranged place, a ‘there’ that has already been established.  

Two specific spots, two specific ‘there’s already established and in place for judgment are presented here. The first is given in Zechariah 5 where various images are presented. One involves a woman which represents wickedness being carried north to Shinar to await judgment. This representation of spiritual pollution and civil disobedience is being returned to a specific spot where all spiritual wickedness began – the plane of Shinar – the place of the tower of Babel. It will be ‘there’ where the sin first occurred that it will eventually be fully judged.

The second example is of course the White Throne Judgment. This is outlined in Revelation and this is a specific place, a final ‘there’ for the Christ rejecting among us. It is established and fixed, but offers neither forgiveness nor refreshing. Again, just as there are already established specific places for repentance and forgiveness, with multiple blessing piled high, so too there are these established places of judgment.

Let’s us consider some additional examples.

Zechariah 14:1-4, selected passages.

“Behold, the day of the LORD comes . . .For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle . . .Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations . . and His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east . . .”

There is the specific spot to which Jesus will return. The very place from which He ascended to heaven 40 days after His resurrection. The very place where the religious leadership of Israel rejected Him. He returns Himself and returns them to this specific ‘there’. Will it be repentance and forgiveness or continued rejection and judgment? Hear Hosea 5:15.

“I will go and return to my place, [at the right hand of the Father in heaven] till they acknowledge their offence, [a singular and specific offence – their rejection of Messiah] and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me earnestly.”

Then in Zechariah 12:9-10, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and of supplications and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”

And again, Romans 11:25-27.

“For I would not brethren that you should be ignorant of this mystery, less you be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”

From these passages we learn that Israel will return, they will be brought back to the ‘there’ of their rejection of Messiah. And on the specific spot of their rejection – Mount Olives – they will again face the choice.  Just as they did on their return to the river Jordon of Joshua’s day at the end of their wanderings in the wilderness for 40 years, Israel will again repent and return to their LORD. The provision has already been established for them. It has been ‘piled up’ upon mount Olives and when they see Him, when they look upon Him whom they pierced, their sorrow and repentance will run deep. When they see the provision of God for sin in Him their Messiah, repentance and forgiveness will flow throughout the land, and all Israel will be saved as God pours out the spirit of grace and supplications.

In contrast, the nations of the world will also be brought back to a spot. They too will return. They too will face the same choice. Not only do we read this in Zechariah 14:1 given above but also in Zephaniah 3:8.

“Therefore wait ye upon me says the LORD, until the day I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them my indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.”

The world has forever and continually opposed the will of God concerning His possession. The land of Israel belongs to Him and the city of Jerusalem has His name inscribed upon it. And the world has never accepted this or bowed to His holy will. Apart from all the conflicts of this present generation, there have been 34 battles upon the plains of Megiddo! Thirty-four! Psalm 83 and Ezekiel 39 outline two additional future wars that will rage over these fields. And as a result, the LORD will bring the world’s armies back to this specific spot, this particular parcel of land for one final testing. He says “It is my determination to gather the nations.” But instead of repentance and forgiveness they will experience judgment. Judgment for refusing to honour the goodness and holiness of the LORD GOD. Judgment for refusing the provision for sin erected and established on Mount Olivet. Their place of ‘return’ is to the spot of the Valley of Jezreel. And a final Armageddon will be their lot.

One needs wonder at the blindness of sin and rebellion. There is so much goodness at the foot of the cross. And yet so many refuse. And as the world returns to their various ‘theres’ yet without repentance, it causes us pause. I am reminded of two verses.

Proverbs 26:11 which states, “As a dog returns to his vomit so a fool returns to his folly.”

And 2 Peter 2:22, “But it has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in mire.”

Let us learn and be diligent. When God implores us to return to Him, and takes us back to the place of our failings, let us not harden our hearts. For the place of our sin is the holy ground for our repentance. Let us return and repent and receive forgiveness –  the alternative is too terrifying. May the Lord grant us mercy and grace as we return, making the journey back to our various ‘there’s.

1  Psalm 42

Pastoral Prayer September20, 2020

Heavenly Father, You are the Lord God Almighty, El Shaddai, the Lord of Hosts, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You are Sovereign, You are Majesty, You are Lord. You are the God of Creation. You spoke and the worlds were formed –  the stars were set in place by Your Word. It is amazing and wonderful to us that You care about us so much, that You are always thinking about us and looking to find ways to pour out Your Love, Grace and Blessing upon us. We are so grateful Lord that You are a God of Justice, that when we earnestly seek You, You pour Your Love, Joy, Peace, Favour and Blessing out upon us. And not only that but You bless us with Your constant companionship which is beyond compare. (Isaiah 30:18 AMPC) Hallelujah!

Lord, thank You for Your amazing plan of salvation and how You so carefully unfolded it over thousands of years. Thank You for the Jewish people, for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all of their descendents up to our present day. Without them and their great suffering we would not have the Holy Scriptures today. Father, it is with sorrow that we look at their suffering as a nation and a people of unique culture, but we know Lord that You chose them for Your plans and purposes and You have not forgotten about them. The Bible tells us that You are Faithful and You will restore them to their promised land in full, pushing back all of Israel’s borders, in time. Thank You for how You returned them to the land and how You have been fighting for them since their arrival. Thank You Lord that the day will come when all of the enemies of Your Chosen People will be annihilated. The Bible is very clear about that. Father we pray for peace in the middle east for Israel and all of Your Chosen People. We pray for continued release of Jews around the world to be able to return to their homeland. We pray for finances to be poured into and over Your people to make this happen and we thank You, Almighty God, for the great provision that has already brought many exiles home in recent years.  Father we pray for the provisions of food and shelter for all of Your people in Israel. And Father, we pray for the Peace of Jerusalem and the cleansing of the Temple Mount. In Jesus’ name. To God be the Glory!

Thank You Father that as Believers in Jesus Christ as Lord, we have been grafted into the olive tree that is Israel. (Romans 11:11-31)  Help us to remember Lord that the calling and gifts of God are irrevocable. Hallelujah! Help us to love Israel as a nation and as a people – by supporting them financially, by supporting missionaries who are bringing the Gospel to them regularly, by praying for the peace of Jerusalem, and by treating Jews we meet with kindness and respect.

Father it is so incredible how You direct our paths to the degree of returning us to places of decision, our ‘there’. We repent Lord, of having rebellious hearts, proud hearts, fearful hearts, know it all hearts, selfish hearts, and couldn’t care less hearts – for these bad heart attitudes have caused us to miss the wonderful provision, plan and purpose You had for us ‘there’. Help us Father, at the point of return, to humble ourselves, repent of our sins, and seek Your forgiveness. It is our heart’s desire Lord to walk in the good plan that You have ordained for us, and to enjoy our lives as we do that. To God be the glory! Amen.

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