The Heavy Hand Of God, Plagues in the City and The Exile, The Restoration and Hope!

“Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the Lord, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin; who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection, to Egypt’s shade for refuge. But Pharaoh’s protection will be to your shame, Egypt’s shade will bring you disgrace. Though they have officials in Zoan and their envoys have arrived in Hanes, everyone will be put to shame because of a people useless to them, who bring neither help nor advantage, but only shame and disgrace. ” A prophecy concerning the animals of the Negev: Through a land of hardship and distress, of lions and lionesses, of adders and darting snakes, the envoys carry their riches on donkeys’ backs, their treasures on the humps of camels, to that unprofitable nation, to Egypt, whose help is utterly useless. Therefore I call her Rahab the Do-Nothing. Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness. For these are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” Therefore this is what the Holy One of Israel says: “Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit, this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant. It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern.” This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift! A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill.” Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

Isaiah 30:1-18 –

The people had been warned time and time by the prophets, like Isaiah and Jeremiah to turn from their ways and trust the Lord for their deliverance until finally God used even a sinful nation like Babylon to march out and defeat Israel, and God said they should surrender to the Babylonians because if they did it would go well with them, but if they did not, they would be forced to leave the city and surrender because he would afflict them with plagues and famine within the walls.

The Lord was angered by the ways of his people collectively from those prophesying false predictions of peace and prosperity when none of them wanted to do what God required to have that.

He was angered at the proud unrepentant attitudes of both men and women but in this passage we see that even the women were giving themselves over to corruption by seducing the people to sin and oppressing the poor. They were haughty as well and walked around in arrogance thinking they were untouchable and God would not do anything about it.

The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves. Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done. Youths oppress my people, women rule over them. My people, your guides lead you astray; they turn you from the path. The Lord takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people. The Lord enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: “It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?” declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty. The Lord says, “The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, strutting along with swaying hips, with ornaments jingling on their ankles. Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the Lord will make their scalps bald. ” In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery: the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and anklets and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings, the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls. Instead of fragrance there will be a stench; instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well-dressed hair, baldness; instead of fine clothing, sackcloth; instead of beauty, branding. Your men will fall by the sword, your warriors in battle. The gates of Zion will lament and mourn; destitute, she will sit on the ground.

(Isaiah 3:9-26 )

“Now, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people who prophesy out of their own imagination. Prophesy against them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the women who sew magic charms on all their wrists and make veils of various lengths for their heads in order to ensnare people. Will you ensnare the lives of my people but preserve your own? You have profaned me among my people for a few handfuls of barley and scraps of bread. By lying to my people, who listen to lies, you have killed those who should not have died and have spared those who should not live. “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against your magic charms with which you ensnare people like birds and I will tear them from your arms; I will set free the people that you ensnare like birds. I will tear off your veils and save my people from your hands, and they will no longer fall prey to your power. Then you will know that I am the Lord. Because you disheartened the righteous with your lies, when I had brought them no grief, and because you encouraged the wicked not to turn from their evil ways and so save their lives, therefore you will no longer see false visions or practice divination. I will save my people from your hands. And then you will know that I am the Lord. ’”Ezekiel 13:17-23

Finally God’s time came to bring to pass his words that if these people, men and women, young and old alike, would not turn away from sinning and seek to do His will then he would bring the Babylonians against them. This he eventually did but he tried to dissuade them from their course time and time again through his messengers.

“The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur son of Malkijah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah. They said: “Inquire now of the Lord for us because Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is attacking us. Perhaps the Lord will perform wonders for us as in times past so that he will withdraw from us.” But Jeremiah answered them, “Tell Zedekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I am about to turn against you the weapons of war that are in your hands, which you are using to fight the king of Babylon and the Babylonians who are outside the wall besieging you. And I will gather them inside this city. I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm in furious anger and in great wrath. I will strike down those who live in this city—both man and beast—and they will die of a terrible plague. After that, declares the Lord, I will give Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the people in this city who survive the plague, sword and famine, into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and to their enemies who want to kill them. He will put them to the sword; he will show them no mercy or pity or compassion.’ “Furthermore, tell the people, ‘This is what the Lord says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death. Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; they will escape with their lives. I have determined to do this city harm and not good, declares the Lord. It will be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will destroy it with fire.’ “Moreover, say to the royal house of Judah, ‘Hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Lord says to you, house of David: “‘Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done— burn with no one to quench it. I am against you, Jerusalem, you who live above this valley on the rocky plateau, declares the Lord — you who say, “Who can come against us? Who can enter our refuge?” I will punish you as your deeds deserve, declares the Lord. I will kindle a fire in your forests that will consume everything around you.’” (Jeremiah 21:1-14 )

These people expected God to work a miraculous deliverance on their behalf yet had no desire to change their ways, for many a man or woman will call on God in distress yet like Pharaoh in the time of Moses, “When Pharoah saw there was relief from the plagues he hardened his heart”

The human heart is stubborn and so capable of being self deceived as the Word says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, who can understand it it? Who can cure it?”

Other passages show God used various nuisances that were listed in the Law as curses for disobedience, [See Deuteronomy 28]

“Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years. Burn leavened bread as a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings — boast about them, you Israelites, for this is what you love to do,” declares the Sovereign Lord. “I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord. “I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away. I sent rain on one town, but withheld it from another. One field had rain; another had none and dried up. People staggered from town to town for water but did not get enough to drink, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord. “Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, destroying them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord. “I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord. “I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord. “Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, Israel, prepare to meet your God.” He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth — the Lord God Almighty is his name.

Amos 4:4-13 –

These people did play religion and give to God bur neglected what he truly was after, obedience, faithfulness and the love of God.

Jesus quotes the prophets when he says, “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me, they honor me in vain with rules and teachings of men.” And so often people decide what God wants and then if what he truly wants is too hard then they try to throw lip service or religious acts at him. Yet as it is written, “We have become as those unclean, our acts of righteousness are as filthy rags.”

And in Hebrew this meant “Menstrual cloths” and to give God what we assume he wants while disobeying him we insult him more than honor him. In my personal life, when I am not obeying wholeheartedly even if I pray all day, something still does not sit right inside me!

These people who were captured by the Babylonians and lived in a land not their own for 70 years refused to heed God’s many warnings then fell under the heavy hand of God! Yet we all to can be this way unless we to submit daily to The Lord and seek to surrender our will’s to his greater plan- yet none of us has this power in our own self and from the perspective of someone who has learned the hard way many times I too have been in a place where my stubborness caused more pain than necessary!

“For God does speak —now one way, now another — though no one perceives it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn them from wrongdoing and keep them from pride, to preserve them from the pit, their lives from perishing by the sword. “Or someone may be chastened on a bed of pain with constant distress in their bones, so that their body finds food repulsive and their soul loathes the choicest meal. Their flesh wastes away to nothing, and their bones, once hidden, now stick out. They draw near to the pit, and their life to the messengers of death. Yet if there is an angel at their side, a messenger, one out of a thousand, sent to tell them how to be upright, and he is gracious to that person and says to God, ‘Spare them from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom for them — let their flesh be renewed like a child’s; let them be restored as in the days of their youth’ — then that person can pray to God and find favor with him, they will see God’s face and shout for joy; he will restore them to full well-being.”

Job 33:14-26 –

I am convinced God uses a variety of ways to still communicate, dreams and visions, circumstances, closed doors and even illness-

Sometimes God uses our own bodies as ways to warn us of bad health decisions we are making or in other cases may directly send illness to avert death that is the result of a sinful course we may stubbornly persist in and pain is the only thing that can get us to see our ways are not working!

In the early church of Corinth, a man in the assembly was engaged in immorality and was sleeping with his step mother. The believers there were in error and were not calling that man out and he was proud of what he had done, so when the Apostle Paul heard of this, he was outraged!

“For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

1 Corinthians 5:3-8 –

In Paul’s 2nd letter to this church he planted, we see the man did repent and feel sorrow over his wrong actions and was welcomed back in total forgiveness. Yet God will use circumstances and even allow people to grow sick as he did later in 1 Corinthians where there was abuse of the Lord’s Communion and people instead of seeing what it symbolized got drunk and were disruptive and irreverent, As a result Paul said many are “sick and have fallen asleep as a result” meaning God allowed them to die, and he said, “When we are disciplined of the Lord, he does so that we may not be condemned with the world.”

In the time of Jeremiah and Isaiah we see the same concept, God’s chosen people became steeped in idol worship and oppression of each other, they were violent and deceptive and flatterer each other for personal advantage and with pretense made a show of being good neighbors but secretly plotted against one another.

“Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people. Oh, that I had in the desert a lodging place for travelers, so that I might leave my people and go away from them; for they are all adulterers, a crowd of unfaithful people. “They make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies; it is not by truth that they triumph in the land. They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge me,” declares the Lord. “Beware of your friends; do not trust anyone in your clan. For every one of them is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer. Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning. You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,” declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty says: “See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of my people? Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceitfully. With their mouths they all speak cordially to their neighbors, but in their hearts they set traps for them. Should I not punish them for this?” declares the Lord. “Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?” I will weep and wail for the mountains and take up a lament concerning the wilderness grasslands. They are desolate and untraveled, and the lowing of cattle is not heard. The birds have all fled and the animals are gone. “I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals; and I will lay waste the towns of Judah so no one can live there.” Who is wise enough to understand this? Who has been instructed by the Lord and can explain it? Why has the land been ruined and laid waste like a desert that no one can cross? The Lord said, “It is because they have forsaken my law, which I set before them; they have not obeyed me or followed my law. Instead, they have followed the stubbornness of their hearts; they have followed the Baals, as their ancestors taught them.” Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “See, I will make this people eat bitter food and drink poisoned water. I will scatter them among nations that neither they nor their ancestors have known, and I will pursue them with the sword until I have made an end of them.” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come; send for the most skillful of them. Let them come quickly and wail over us till our eyes overflow with tears and water streams from our eyelids. The sound of wailing is heard from Zion: ‘How ruined we are! How great is our shame! We must leave our land because our houses are in ruins.’” Now, you women, hear the word of the Lord; open your ears to the words of his mouth. Teach your daughters how to wail; teach one another a lament. Death has climbed in through our windows and has entered our fortresses; it has removed the children from the streets and the young men from the public squares. Say, “This is what the Lord declares: “‘Dead bodies will lie like dung on the open field, like cut grain behind the reaper, with no one to gather them.’” This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord . “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh — Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the wilderness in distant places. For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart. ”

Jeremiah 9:1-26 –

God longed to be good to his people but would not bless them in their ways! He sent prophets to warn them and also they prophesied a day where God himself would “Circumcise the hearts of your descendents” back in Deuteronomy.

“If you, Israel, will return, then return to me,” declares the Lord. “If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ then the nations will invoke blessings by him and in him they will boast. ” This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem: “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts, you people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, or my wrath will flare up and burn like fire because of the evil you have done— burn with no one to quench it. (Jeremiah 4:1-4)

What is this? Our hearts from the day of birth are self centered and given to sin, yet God made the way that the Law of Moses could not- the Law says,

“Cursed is anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

Deuteronomy 27:26 –

For example

“‘Do not steal. “‘Do not lie. “‘Do not deceive one another. “‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord. “‘Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. “‘Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight. “‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord. “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. “‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people. “‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord. “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Leviticus 19:11-18 –

Yet in our day most do not live consistently in these ways. We have people lie all the time and deceive, and our culture too takes advantage of those it can. When we by nature if one is like me, it is easy to hold a grudge if indeed I let anger go unaddressed in my heart but we see God is interested not only in our actions but motives and attitude of our hearts also! Otherwise malice concealed would not declare us guilty or a haughty estimation would not condemn us of sin.

So if God sets such high standards yet knows we are so given to do the opposite as a result of our inherited sinful dispositions, he created the way to for once and all forgive our sin and renew the attitude of our heart by putting His Spirit in us who have believed in Christ’s work to die for our sins and then by God’s very own power resurrect from the dead, this is God’s means receive by faith that cleanses our inward falleness and covers all our outward sins. Because promises in Scripture that he will “Write my laws on their hearts” yet when someone believes the Gospel and truly receives it as God’s greatest rescue plan to save a race condemned to die by nature and inclination, this should create a overflow of great gratitude that God in his mercy makes a way for us to be totally forgiven and He empowers us to live different, not sinless and perfect but faithful. “Through love and faithfulness sin are atoned for” Proverbs says, and “This is how we know what love is, Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” 1 John says, And when a person truly realizes how badly they owe God yet he pays a debt they could not, for a true convert of faith that is one facet that makes our hearts inclined to love God and faithfully follow. Jesus also promised the Holy Spirit to those who have believed, God’s power and Spirit working in them to strengthen them to make it possible to no longer live only for sin and self but for God!

Yet God makes the first move toward us, he came taking on human frailty and transcended to the level of those he came to save, born in poverty and willingly rejected by those he spoke his message to, suffered from temptation that comes on human beings without yielding in sin so he may experientially taste what human beings go through yet he overcame! For God who is totally removed from sin, entered into human skin to know from an experiential degree what temptation felt like!

So when we too understand the length God gave himself up we should if this truly sinks in be moved to no longer want to live for sin but the one who bore our weight of guilt and sin. As a kind king who under no obligation came down to the level of his subjects and peasants because in his royal authority and splendor he still valued those lives of his subjects- to the extent he leaves his palace and riches to sojourn to live among the ranks of common man.

Real repentance requires more then simple sorry and no change but the actual turning from sin that starts in the heart and then moves us to turn to the Lord acknowledging we were wrong and need to live different. Sorrow over sin itself is not enough but can only result in guilt, shame, despair or denial. People who know they are sinners often times may sit and a soak in guilt like a man who pukes from a hangover- if that man says “I did not puke on myself and crap my drawers” he is in denial when everyone else knows he smells. If he says, “Woe is me because I am a puky and poop stained individual, woe, woe, woe is me!” Then he still stinks and his problems not fixed- yet if he decides to take off the old clothes, shower, put on the new, then he is clean! So in the Just Judgement of God- we smell, and we finally get tired of our sins and then we turn to Christ, he washes them away as “Far as the east is from the west” and yet by God’s enablement we all must choose daily to put on new clothes of “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control” and “Clothe yourselves with compassion and humility since you have taken off the old self and its practices”

When a Christian even chooses to put on those old clothes, he or she won’t feel too good inside and others will smell the stench!

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