A New Season Begins for God’s People in God’s Land

At the ICEJ/ACLI Conference this week, we were reminded of the significance of “jubilee years” throughout Israel’s modern history.  To place it in Biblical context, read Leviticus 25 (particularly verses 8-10)to discover the Lord’s plan to designate years of jubilee every 50 years.   Those years were established as years of redemption for those who gave up land they could no longer afford, or who went into slavery because they had no other way to live.

Over the course of recent history, we have seen the Lord remain faithful to implement jubilee years for the Jewish people.  For example, in the 1860’s, Charles Warren, an officer in the British Royal Engineers, was prohibited from excavating areas beneath Temple Mount.  Thus, he moved his operation south, where he discovered the ancient City of David in 1867.  This was historic because it put King David’s kingdom on the map, verifying a critical part of Jewish history.  More importantly, it became the first season of aliyah (returning to the homeland) for the Jewish people.  Jubilee!

Fifty years later (1917), British General Edmund Allenby liberated the city of Jerusalem from Arab oppression.  British forces not only captured Jerusalem, but established a strong fortified line to ward off Israel’s enemies.  On December 11 of that year, Allenby refused to ride into the city on horseback (as victorious leaders were prone to do), but instead dismounted and walked through the Jaffa Gate because he believed that no conquering king other than Jesus should ride into the city!  Again, property was returned to its rightful owner (Israel) in a jubilee year…50 years after Warren’s discover brought aliyah.

Fast forward another 50 years to 1967 and Israel prevailed in one of the most critical battles of all time.  Egypt’s President Gamal Abdul Nasser, having been fully embarrassed by failed attempts to conquer Israel in 1948 (War of Independence) and 1956 (Suez War), concocted a plan to cut off shipping to Israel, thus choking off their livelihood.  Not only that, he enlisted the backing and military support of Syria and Jordan.  But, knowing of the plan, Israel launched a preemptive strike that caught Egypt and her allies totally off-guard.  Not only did Israel soundly defeat the Arab aggressors, but in so doing, they regained control of the Old City of Jerusalem (held by the Jordanians)!  It was a miraculous victory, only possible through the hand of God who was faithful to His promises!  Jubilee!

Fifty years later (2017) another jubilee year occurred.  Donald Trump surprisingly won the US presidential election and one of his campaign promises was to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, per the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995.  The law mandated the move be made no later than May 31, 1999, but it had one caveat: the President could sign a 6-month waiver if it was a security risk.  Every US president since that time promised to move the embassy, yet signed waivers every 6 months, delaying the move.  Yet, in December 2017, President Trump made a surprising announcement containing two very key points: he recognized Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel and he officially decreed that the US Embassy would move to Jerusalem!  Jubilee!

Well, on May 14, 2018, Israel’s 70th birthday (on the Gregorian calendar), the US officially opened that embassy in Jerusalem…and the celebration continues.  Israelis are rejoicing in the streets as they celebrate yet another jubilee!

So, you may have known all that, so what’s the point?  Great question!  It is now a new season in Israel.  Things will be different there, as they are each time a jubilee year occurs.  Once possessions are returned to a poor man, life changes!  Moreover, Israel has now been a reborn nation for the same number of years she was once in Babylonian exile.  Not that the two events are linked in many ways, but it seems somewhat interesting that, just as Cyrus helped restore the land to the Jews after 70 years, so the US has helped to restore the land to the Jews.

My point is this: the US remains a critical vessel in God’s plan for Israel.  Our nation has been abundantly blessed, because we have chosen to bless Israel.  Biblically speaking, we know that, one day, the US will cease to be the strong ally that partners with Israel today.  Israel will stand alone.  But until that time, dear friends, it is vitally important that we continue to bless Israel individually, corporately through our churches and nationally through diplomacy, military coordination and assistance.

Rejoice, for the jubilee year has brought a new season to Israel!  (And stay tuned…I’ve got lots more good stuff to share from the conference!)

Praise God for America’s “Cyrus Moments”

Ok Bible scholars, who recalls King Cyrus and what he did on behalf of the Jews?  If you said he was a Persian king who conquered Babylon, then gave a decree allowing the Jews to return to their land and rebuild the Temple, you are right!  God used a foreign ruler to accomplish His purpose with His people.

It is not often that God works multiple times in the same way, but we see evidence of His use of American presidents to accomplish His purposes with His people as well.  Three presidents come to mind:

  • Harry Truman – In 1948, when Israel seemingly had no backing in their quest to become a state, they found a friend in Harry Truman.  On May 12, 1948, against the will of his Secretary of State who opposed recognizing the new Jewish state, Truman stuck to his guns:

“In an area as unstable as the Middle East, where there is not now and never has been any tradition of democratic govern­ment, it is important for the long-range security of our country, and indeed the world, that a nation committed to the democratic system be established there, one on which we can rely. The new Jewish state can be such a place. We should strengthen it in its infancy by prompt recognition.”

The US was the first to recognize the re-born state of Israel on May 14, 1948.

  • Richard Nixon – Nixon’s mother was a Quaker who told her son that if he was ever in a position of power and a situation arose in which the Jews needed help, to do so.  Apparently, that directive was not lost on young Richard.  Despite tendencies toward anti-semitism, his mother’s words rang in his ears when he got a call in the middle of the night from Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in October 1973.  Israel was under siege from Egypt and Syria and defeat was almost certain.  Nixon had not been reactive to previous requests for help, prompting Meir to state that if the US didn’t help soon, there would be no more Israel.  The advice of his mother prevailed and Nixon ordered equipment to be sent immediately to Israel…against the advice of Henry Kissinger and his other advisors.
  • Donald Trump – Following passage of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, the policy of the US was that 1.) Jerusalem was to be an undivided city, 2.) it should be recognized as the capital of Israel, and 3.) the US Embassy should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.  However, there was one caveat: Section 7 of the act allowed Presidential waivers if there was a security threat to the US.  Based on that waiver, every American president since 1999 exercised their right to the waiver every six months!  Under constant threat from Palestinians and other Arab nations, not one president had the gumption to do what was required by law…until President Donald Trump announced in December 2017 that the US not only recognizes Jerusalem as the capital, but would move its embassy there!

Yesterday, the American Embassy was officially opened in Jerusalem!

America has capitalized on three “Cyrus moments,” culminating with the most pro-Israel administration ever fulfilling the promise to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and move the embassy.

And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.
~Genesis 12:3

May the US continue blessing Israel, so that Israel may bless all the families of the earth!

Bad News for Babylon in the Last Days

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Aren’t you blessed by God’s grace!  We’ve seen this week that God’s grace extends not only to His people, but even to Israel’s enemies.  Such is God’s grace to us.  While we were yet sinners (enemies of God), Christ died for us!  (Romans 5:8)

As we’ve seen this week, many prophecies are partially fulfilled, awaiting their final fulfillment in the last days.  Let’s finish this week’s study with another prophecy that has found partial fulfillment, but will one day soon be fully fulfilled.

We’re going to take a wild ride through Scripture today, so buckle your seat belts and hang on!  Our goal is not only to study an incredible prophecy about Babylon, but to also solidify the fact that the Bible validates itself through prophecy.  You’re going to be amazed by our study today!

Babylon is mentioned more times in Scripture than any other city besides Jerusalem.  (Want to see for yourself?  Logon to the Bible Gateway search page and conduct a word search for “Babylon” and for “Jerusalem,” then any other city you can think of!)

Indeed, Babylon is mentioned a lot!  Why do you suppose it is mentioned so many times?

Babylon is referenced more in Jeremiah (a book of prophecy) than anywhere else in Scripture.  Indeed, Babylon has and will play a very critical part in end times, particularly during The Tribulation.  We will look more about those prophecies next week, so today’s lesson will segway nicely into next week’s study.

Our run through Scripture today will take us through a small portion of Isaiah 41, a brief dip into Isaiah 13, a full plunge into Jeremiah 51 and Daniel 5, then a crowning point in Isaiah 44.  If you are one who likes to be prepared, go ahead and place markers there!  If you’re using the online links, you shouldn’t have any problems navigating as the time comes.  If you simply prefer to watch or listen to the message, click on Prophecy Concerning Babylon  and follow along with Pastor Mark Martin.  So hang on and let’s go for a ride!

Babylon was once the world’s greatest empire.  It was huge and it was prosperous.  It was also well-fortified.  But nonetheless, we know that Babylon is little of nothing today.  But what will it be like in the future?  We’ll study more about that in in next week’s lesson, but today let’s consider a prophecy of Babylon that has already been fulfilled.

Recall that, in Isaiah 41:21-23, God issued a challenge to all other gods to present their case by declaring what is going to take place in the future.  The Creator God of the Universe is the only God capable of predicting the future with 100% accuracy, and as we’ve seen, He makes many prophecies about various nations and people groups.  He has much to say about Babylon, and we are about to dive in!

To briefly paint a mental picture of ancient Babylon, imagine a city 196 square miles in size (slightly larger than Albuquerque NM), and entirely enclosed with double walls 20 stories high and 87’ wide at the base.  Eight chariots could race side-by-side on top of the walls.  Inside were large fields as well as the Temple of Marduke which was the size of about 30 football fields and featured a tower 60 stories high.  Gold and silver adorned most of the city.  King Nebuchadnezzar’s palace was 100 miles around, and contained hanging gardens, which ultimately became one of the ancient wonders of the world.  Water was pumped from the Euphrates and fountains flowed freely in this desert place.

Babylon was magnificent and was deemed impregnable, yet God predicted its destruction 174 years before it occurred!  Turn in your Bible to Isaiah 13:17-21.  Who did God stir up to overtake Babylon?  According to verse 20, how would you describe the destruction?

Isaiah indicates that Babylon will be destroyed, never to be inhabited again!  That prophecy doesn’t sound good for Babylon, does it?  Well, the prophets Jeremiah and Daniel fill in the blanks for us.  First let’s check out Jeremiah’s prophecy in Jeremiah 51.

The first ten verses lay out God’s plan to destroy Babylon and reiterate that, despite their guilt, neither Israel nor Judah were being forsaken by their God and He was acting with vengeance.  Verse 11 confirms that it is the Medes who will be stirred up by the Lord.  God, through the prophet Isaiah, predicted Babylon’s demise 174 years beforehand, and then re-iterated it through Jeremiah’s prophecy 62 years before it happened!  It’s important to know, though, that the Medes were “nobodies” at that time!

Jeremiah goes on to detail the destruction, including the fact that Babylon would become a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals, an object of horror and hissing, without inhabitants (verse 37).

Keep in mind that many prophecies are partially fulfilled before final fulfillment, and all that is predicted here occurred just as the Lord said it would!  Today, archaeologists are wary of excavation, because not only was Babylon left a heap of ruins, but evil spirits surrounded Babylon, and researchers often come down with incurable diseases when trying to excavate there!  Indeed, as verse 43 indicates, Babylon became a place of horror!

Let’s focus now on a very key passage that will transition us to Daniel’s prophecy.  Jeremiah 51:56-58 is that passage, so take a moment to read it.  What seems to be happening during this siege by the Medes?

Yes, the Babylonian leaders would be drunk and passed out when the Medes attacked, and Daniel’s prophecy provides details of that very episode which occurred years later, in 538 BC!  Turn to Daniel 5.

Verses 1-3 tell us that Belshazzar, king of Babylon, was hosting a great feast, drinking wine from the gold and silver vessels that were taken from the temple in Jerusalem.  In the midst of the drunken festival, there suddenly appeared “handwriting on the wall” and the king was alarmed (verses 5-6).  Belshazzar’s wise men could not decipher the meaning, so once more Daniel was called in to interpret for the king.

Read verses 25-28.  What was the message Daniel interpreted?  What happened to King Belshazzar that same night (verse 30), and who received the kingdom (verse 31)?

Just as God predicted, not once but twice…the Medes took over Babylon!  The leader of the Medo-Persian army was a man by the name of Cyrus.

The fact that the Bible weaves together perfectly is absolutely astounding!  Not only did Jeremiah and Daniel record details of Babylon’s destruction at the hands of the Medes, but another prophet, Isaiah, accurately recorded the identity of Cyrus 186 years before he was born!

Interestingly, God had prepared the pagan Cyrus for this very victory, as he had once come to a big river he could not cross.  In fact, many of his horses had been swept away trying to cross a river and he was mad!  As a result, he had his men make 260 canals on each side of the river and it was diverted.  So, when it came time to take Babylon, Cyrus knew how to divert the great Euphrates River!  Indeed, that was a key to his victory over Babylon.  The second key was that the iron gates where the river flowed under the walls were left open!  Drunkenness make wise men forget important things!

But let’s get back to Cyrus’ place in history, revealed 186 years before he was even born!  Read Isaiah 44:24-28.  Here, we find God predicting that Jerusalem would be inhabited and her ruins raised up.  According to this passage, who did God appoint as “shepherd” to perform His desires?

Yes…Cyrus…the pagan army commander who conquered Babylon!  Scripture tells us that it is this Cyrus who ultimately makes a decree to restore Jerusalem.  Yet Jerusalem was not even destroyed yet!  Jerusalem was strong, the temple stood and Cyrus was not even born yet!  In fact, the Lord had to place His supernatural protection upon Cyrus to preserve his life, as a decree was made to kill him as a child.  He was raised by a servant of his father.

As we’ve already studied, Ezra 1:1-4 identifies Cyrus, king of Persia, as the one the Lord stirred up to declare a decree to re-build the Temple.  However, let’s mine the golden nugget for today!

Turn to Isaiah 45:1-7.  The Lord calls Cyrus His anointed in verse 1!  His anointed?  This pagan king…anointed?  Only God could do that!  But notice the nuances in this passage.

  • Verse 1 says Cyrus would subdue nations. He subdued Babylon, the greatest nation on earth at the time.
  • Verse 1 refers to gates that would not be shut. The river gates of Babylon were left open that fateful night!
  • God said He would shatter doors of bronze and cut through iron bars (verse 2), which He did in the conquest of Babylon.
  • He gave Cyrus the treasure of darkness in the victory over Babylon.
  • God called Cyrus by name…almost two centuries before he was born.
  • Cyrus performed God’s bidding for the sake of Israel (verse 4).
  • Cyrus did it, though he did not know the Lord (verse 4).

Indeed…

“I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God.  I will gird you, though you have not known Me; that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me.  I am the LORD, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.  – Isaiah 45:5-7

Are you amazed, saints?  The God of Israel is faithful.  His Word rings true, and prophecy validates it!  Dear ones, let’s never lose sight of the Blessed Hope who promises to come again.

Well, this is only a warm up, my friends!  Next week we’ll look more closely at what Babylon will be up to during The Tribulation, and we’ll discover the final fulfillment of the prophecies of Babylon.  So prepare to leave the cruise ship and jump on the speed boat!  We’ve got lots more territory to explore.  See you next week!

Bad News for Babylon!

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Aren’t you blessed by God’s grace!  We’ve seen this week that God’s grace extends not only to His people, but even to Israel’s enemies.  Such is God’s grace to us.  While we were yet sinners (enemies of God), Christ died for us!  (Romans 5:8)

As we’ve seen this week, many prophecies are partially fulfilled, awaiting their final fulfillment in the last days.  Let’s finish this week’s study with another prophecy that has found partial fulfillment, but will one day soon be fully fulfilled.

We’re going to take a wild ride through Scripture today, so buckle your seat belts and hang on!  Our goal is not only to study an incredible prophecy about Babylon, but to also solidify the fact that the Bible validates itself through prophecy.  You’re going to be amazed by our study today!

Babylon is mentioned more times in Scripture than any other city besides Jerusalem.  (Want to see for yourself?  Logon to the Bible Gateway search page and conduct a word search for “Babylon” and for “Jerusalem,” then any other city you can think of!)

Indeed, Babylon is mentioned a lot!  Why do you suppose it is mentioned so many times?

Babylon is referenced more in Jeremiah (a book of prophecy) than anywhere else in Scripture.  Indeed, Babylon has and will play a very critical part in end times, particularly during The Tribulation.  We will look more about those prophecies next week, so today’s lesson will segway nicely into next week’s study.

Our run through Scripture today will take us through a small portion of Isaiah 41, a brief dip into Isaiah 13, a full plunge into Jeremiah 51 and Daniel 5, then a crowning point in Isaiah 44.  If you are one who likes to be prepared, go ahead and place markers there!  If you’re using the online links, you shouldn’t have any problems navigating as the time comes.  If you simply prefer to watch or listen to the message, click on Prophecy Concerning Babylon  and follow along with Pastor Mark Martin.  So hang on and let’s go for a ride!

Babylon was once the world’s greatest empire.  It was huge and it was prosperous.  It was also well-fortified.  But nonetheless, we know that Babylon is little of nothing today.  But what will it be like in the future?  We’ll study more about that in in next week’s lesson, but today let’s consider a prophecy of Babylon that has already been fulfilled.

Recall that, in Isaiah 41:21-23, God issued a challenge to all other gods to present their case by declaring what is going to take place in the future.  The Creator God of the Universe is the only God capable of predicting the future with 100% accuracy, and as we’ve seen, He makes many prophecies about various nations and people groups.  He has much to say about Babylon, and we are about to dive in!

To briefly paint a mental picture of ancient Babylon, imagine a city 196 square miles in size (slightly larger than Albuquerque NM), and entirely enclosed with double walls 20 stories high and 87’ wide at the base.  Eight chariots could race side-by-side on top of the walls.  Inside were large fields as well as the Temple of Marduke which was the size of about 30 football fields and featured a tower 60 stories high.  Gold and silver adorned most of the city.  King Nebuchadnezzar’s palace was 100 miles around, and contained hanging gardens, which ultimately became one of the ancient wonders of the world.  Water was pumped from the Euphrates and fountains flowed freely in this desert place.

Babylon was magnificent and was deemed impregnable, yet God predicted its destruction 174 years before it occurred!  Turn in your Bible to Isaiah 13:17-21.  Who did God stir up to overtake Babylon?  According to verse 20, how would you describe the destruction?

Isaiah indicates that Babylon will be destroyed, never to be inhabited again!  That prophecy doesn’t sound good for Babylon, does it?  Well, the prophets Jeremiah and Daniel fill in the blanks for us.  First let’s check out Jeremiah’s prophecy in Jeremiah 51.

The first ten verses lay out God’s plan to destroy Babylon and reiterate that, despite their guilt, neither Israel nor Judah were being forsaken by their God and He was acting with vengeance.  Verse 11 confirms that it is the Medes who will be stirred up by the Lord.  God, through the prophet Isaiah, predicted Babylon’s demise 174 years beforehand, and then re-iterated it through Jeremiah’s prophecy 62 years before it happened!  It’s important to know, though, that the Medes were “nobodies” at that time!

Jeremiah goes on to detail the destruction, including the fact that Babylon would become a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals, an object of horror and hissing, without inhabitants (verse 37).

Keep in mind that many prophecies are partially fulfilled before final fulfillment, and all that is predicted here occurred just as the Lord said it would!  Today, archaeologists are wary of excavation, because not only was Babylon left a heap of ruins, but evil spirits surrounded Babylon, and researchers often come down with incurable diseases when trying to excavate there!  Indeed, as verse 43 indicates, Babylon became a place of horror!

Let’s focus now on a very key passage that will transition us to Daniel’s prophecy.  Jeremiah 51:56-58 is that passage, so take a moment to read it.  What seems to be happening during this siege by the Medes?

Yes, the Babylonian leaders would be drunk and passed out when the Medes attacked, and Daniel’s prophecy provides details of that very episode which occurred years later, in 538 BC!  Turn to Daniel 5.

Verses 1-3 tell us that Belshazzar, king of Babylon, was hosting a great feast, drinking wine from the gold and silver vessels that were taken from the temple in Jerusalem.  In the midst of the drunken festival, there suddenly appeared “handwriting on the wall” and the king was alarmed (verses 5-6).  Belshazzar’s wise men could not decipher the meaning, so once more Daniel was called in to interpret for the king.

Read verses 25-28.  What was the message Daniel interpreted?  What happened to King Belshazzar that same night (verse 30), and who received the kingdom (verse 31)?

Just as God predicted, not once but twice…the Medes took over Babylon!  The leader of the Medo-Persian army was a man by the name of Cyrus.

The fact that the Bible weaves together perfectly is absolutely astounding!  Not only did Jeremiah and Daniel record details of Babylon’s destruction at the hands of the Medes, but another prophet, Isaiah, accurately recorded the identity of Cyrus 186 years before he was born!

Interestingly, God had prepared the pagan Cyrus for this very victory, as he had once come to a big river he could not cross.  In fact, many of his horses had been swept away trying to cross a river and he was mad!  As a result, he had his men make 260 canals on each side of the river and it was diverted.  So, when it came time to take Babylon, Cyrus knew how to divert the great Euphrates River!  Indeed, that was a key to his victory over Babylon.  The second key was that the iron gates where the river flowed under the walls were left open!  Drunkenness make wise men forget important things!

But let’s get back to Cyrus’ place in history, revealed 186 years before he was even born!  Read Isaiah 44:24-28.  Here, we find God predicting that Jerusalem would be inhabited and her ruins raised up.  According to this passage, who did God appoint as “shepherd” to perform His desires?

Yes…Cyrus…the pagan army commander who conquered Babylon!  Scripture tells us that it is this Cyrus who ultimately makes a decree to restore Jerusalem.  Yet Jerusalem was not even destroyed yet!  Jerusalem was strong, the temple stood and Cyrus was not even born yet!  In fact, the Lord had to place His supernatural protection upon Cyrus to preserve his life, as a decree was made to kill him as a child.  He was raised by a servant of his father.

As we’ve already studied, Ezra 1:1-4 identifies Cyrus, king of Persia, as the one the Lord stirred up to declare a decree to re-build the Temple.  However, let’s mine the golden nugget for today!

Turn to Isaiah 45:1-7.  The Lord calls Cyrus His anointed in verse 1!  His anointed?  This pagan king…anointed?  Only God could do that!  But notice the nuances in this passage.

  • Verse 1 says Cyrus would subdue nations. He subdued Babylon, the greatest nation on earth at the time.
  • Verse 1 refers to gates that would not be shut. The river gates of Babylon were left open that fateful night!
  • God said He would shatter doors of bronze and cut through iron bars (verse 2), which He did in the conquest of Babylon.
  • He gave Cyrus the treasure of darkness in the victory over Babylon.
  • God called Cyrus by name…almost two centuries before he was born.
  • Cyrus performed God’s bidding for the sake of Israel (verse 4).
  • Cyrus did it, though he did not know the Lord (verse 4).

Indeed…

“I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God.  I will gird you, though you have not known Me; that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me.  I am the LORD, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.  – Isaiah 45:5-7

Are you amazed, saints?  The God of Israel is faithful.  His Word rings true, and prophecy validates it!  Dear ones, let’s never lose sight of the Blessed Hope who promises to come again.

Well, this is only a warm up, my friends!  Next week we’ll look more closely at what Babylon will be up to during The Tribulation, and we’ll discover the final fulfillment of the prophecies of Babylon.  So prepare to leave the cruise ship and jump on the speed boat!  We’ve got lots more territory to explore.  See you next week!