Friday, October 15, 2010

The 21st Century and God’s “Cup of Trembling.”

If you know anything about the history of Ancient Israel, you know that all too often she forgot the Lord and syncretized her faith with that of the other surrounding nations. In short, they committed spiritual adultery against the Lord. From 740 B.C. to 721 B.C., the once thriving 10 Northern tribes of Israel (the Northern Kingdom), were incrementally defeated by the Assyrians and forced out of their homeland. In addition, from 601B.C. to 586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, carried the Southern Kingdom of Judah, including Jerusalem, away into captivity to Babylon. Never again would Israel or Judah have a legitimate ruling King sitting on their throne, that is until the future return of Messiah Jesus. Isaiah the prophet trumpets before us the message of the Lord concerning their physical and spiritual state in his day and beyond that, until the final days before that heralded return. In chapter 51:21-23 he describes a transfer of the "Cup of Trembling" from the nation of Judah and into the hands of her oppressors. The passage states:

    Therefore please hear this, you afflicted,
    And drunk but not with wine.
    Thus says your Lord,
    The LORD and your God,
    Who pleads the cause of His people:

    “See, I have taken out of your hand
    The cup of trembling,
    the dregs of the cup of My fury;
    You shall no longer drink it.
    But I will put it into the hand of those who afflict you,
    Who have said to you,

    ‘Lie down, that we may walk over you.’
    And you have laid your body like the ground,
    And as the street, for those who walk over.”

The captivity to Babylon was actually another act of God’s limitless “Grace” for many of the deportees. Many will say, “What are you talking about?” If you notice in the passage above, the transfer of the “Cup of Trembling” moves from the hand of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar; his armies had kept the people of Judah in tumultuous turmoil for 15 years. Over that period, there were four deportations of Jews to Babylon (Dan. 1:1-5; Jer. 52:27-30). God had kept Jerusalem trembling in fear for fifteen years because of their sin. His wrath was upon them. But now, it would switch to the oppressor. God would use the Babylonian armies as His utility to bring Judah to repentance.

Why then would I consider this deportation into captivity an act of grace? Because it is part of God’s nature. God loves His people. Something had to be done to bring them back into His fold. They had gone too far in their spiritual adultery and were showing no signs of repentance in response to the messages of Jeremiah the prophet. He never lets His children stray forever. A cursory reading of his book tells all (see Jer. 3:12-13). Captivity would be the answer to the dilemma. In Jeremiah 24 this point is illustrated. The Lord shows Jeremiah two baskets of figs, one having bad figs, and one having good ones. We pick up the story in 24:3:

Then the LORD said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”
And I said, “Figs, the good figs, very good; and the bad, very bad, which cannot be eaten, they are so bad.”

Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: ‘Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge those who are carried away captive from Judah, whom I have sent out of this place for their own good, into the land of the Chaldeans. For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; I will build them and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the LORD; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.

‘And as the bad figs which cannot be eaten, they are so bad’—surely thus says the LORD—‘so will I give up Zedekiah the king of Judah, his princes, the residue of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and those who dwell in the land of Egypt. I will deliver them to trouble into all the kingdoms of the earth, for their harm, to be a reproach and a byword, a taunt and a curse, in all places where I shall drive them. And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence among them, till they are consumed from the land that I gave to them and their fathers’” (Jer.24:3-10).

So what was God telling Jeremiah and thus, Judah? Those who caused and promoted their backslidings and whoredom would be judged (the bad figs), and those who were led astray by the deception (the good figs), He would have grace upon. You see God’s love for His people and His never-ending desire to redeem the world are the two major purposes that are always on God’s mind. Throughout the Bible, you will see the same cyclical pattern—sin, a call to repentance, judgment, and then grace. It is God's way of perpetuating His plan of redemption.

What about today? What about the 21st century? Two things. One, whenever we as Christians begin to backslide, be sure that God will do His best to bring us back. We will drink His “Cup of Trembling” and if we do not heed His call to repentance, we too will fall. But in the fall, we can see His grace. He uses the trial, the aloneness, the helplessness, to open our eyes to the heights from which we have fallen. The pride of our sin always goes before our fall (see Prov. 16:18). “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).

Secondly, Israel is currently drinking the dregs of God’s “Cup of Trembling.” For the last 1,940 years she has been drinking and the cup is about empty. On the horizon, is the Lord’s judgment against the sin of the world and his chosen nation of old. Soon, during the coming Tribulation period (Jacob’s time of trouble, Jer. 30:7) a period of seven years (Dan. 9:24-27), He will call them back into repentance. Already the nations are raging around them and they live in fear. The Church will be taken to heaven in the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-17), and God’s eyes will turn to Jacob. He will then call His remnant back to Him and salvation and righteousness will ensue.

My question to you is which side will you be on?  God's love is limitless and He has a place for you in His eternal plan.  Turning to Him for salvation will place your name in the "Lambs Book of Life." Revelation 21:27 states, "But there shall by no means enter it [our eternal home] anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life." Turn your heart to Him today.  Rom 10:8-11 says:

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”(that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

God Bless!

Mike H.