Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: November 2019

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Nuances of Worship

The Nuances of Worship

          Although everything a believer does in his/her relationship with God is an expression of worship, the local church assembly is NOT primarily a worship center.  Worship should never be reduced to a few hours a week.  The three primary and purest forms of worship that happened every day within the life of any believer are personal Bible study and living what is learned (II Timothy 2:15), singing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), and winning souls/making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20; fulfilling the Great Commission).  Although all three of these aspects of worshiping God are primary to the assembling of the “saints” (believer/priests) in what we call a church service, the primary purpose of assembling the “saints” (believer/priests) is for instruction in knowing and living the Word of God through teaching and preaching the Word of God (Ephesians 4:12).  A problem is created when the emphasis is upon teaching and preaching God’s Word without any emphasis upon worshiping God from the heart is minimized; MAINTAINING THIS BALANCE IN FOCUS IS ESSENTIAL.

           Perhaps the central purpose of life and the creation of humans with eternal souls is for humanity to individually prove to the angels their own spiritual worth and integrity before God.  This big picture is certainly the purpose of the book of Job. 

6 Now there was a day when the sons of God {angels} came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. 7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. 8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? 9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? 10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. 11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. 12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD” (Job 1:6-12).

God created innumerable angelic spiritual beings with enormous powers and then made those beings subordinate to humanity with one command; “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion {to subjugate, to reign, to rule over}” (Genesis 1:26 and 28).  

The question from the very beginning of the fall is simply a worship question: Will humanity submit to God’s sovereignty, obey Him, love Him, and worship Him regardless of the circumstances of life now under the fall into satanic dominion and God’s curse upon the first creation. 

When we think of words like rejoice, praise, or thanksgiving, we almost always connect these verbs to something good God has done.  Very seldom do we ever think in these terms just because of the privilege of knowing God or just because of Who God is.  Yet, this latter use of these verbs is the predominant use of these verbs in the Bible.  Do we only rejoice because things are going the way we think they should be going?  Do we only praise God because all is well in Whoville?  Does God only deserved to be thanked when He has done something that we deem to be a blessing?  

Did you know that within the Levitical priesthood at the time of king David, of the 38,000 priests, 4,000 of them (about 10%) were commissioned with doing nothing but making praise music with the musical instruments David had invented for that purpose?  

1 So when David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son king over Israel. 2 And he gathered together all the princes of Israel, with the priests and the Levites. 3 Now the Levites were numbered from the age of thirty years and upward: and their number by their polls, man by man, was thirty and eight thousand. 4 Of which, twenty and four thousand were to set forward the work of the house of the LORD; and six thousand were officers and judges: 5 Moreover four thousand were porters; and four thousand praised the LORD with the instruments which I made, said David, to praise therewith”(I Chronicles 23:1-5).  

           Music itself is a creation of God gifted to humanity.  There is harmony in all of God’s creation that naturally comes forth in a symphony of praise to God’s glory.  Joseph S. Exell says of music:

If we allow music any rights of its own, they must be based upon its claim to give expression which is beyond the power of words, and to utter conceptions which thought cannot formulate.  It has the power to take them out of the surroundings even of the deepest thoughts, to lift their aspirations where nothing else can go, to carry them into the presence of a power of harmony and order more fundamental than the skill of the hand or the logic of the mind can represent.”[1]

           Praise music was the music of the sanctified.  The music played was accompanied by a chorus of “singers.”  When it was played in the Temple and was truly worshipful, it not only moved the hearts of God’s people, it moved God Himself.  Can we imagine what it must have been like to have been in a song service like the one described in II Chronicles 5:11-14?

11 And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place: (for all the priests that were present were sanctified, and did not then wait by course: 12 Also the Levites which were the singers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets:) 13 It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one {playing and singing in harmony}, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; 14 So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God” (II Chronicles 5:11-14).

           We should regularly remember that a central purpose of the solemn assembly of believers is to sing and play music to the praise of God.  We sing and play TO God.  He should be our focus and the purpose of song and music of PRAISE.  We should think of the song/music parts of our services as sanctified believers calling out in invitation to God to come and fill our services with Himself; for the Shekinah glory of the LORD to fill “the house of God.”  It is very easy for song services and music to miss this focus all together.  I am not talking about standing and swaying with our hands raised in some kind of zombie-like trance.  I am speaking of music and singing that is already filled with praise in our thoughts and hearts.  The music does not put those thoughts there.  We put those thoughts of praise there and we sing to God those thoughts of praise, rejoicing, and thanksgiving.  We do not do that so our hearts will be moved.  We do that to move the heart of God and to be a blessing to Him.  If our thoughts are not filled with praise, rejoicing, and thanksgiving to God, God will not be stirred or blessed by our external mechanics of worship (so called).  

           Can we imagine what the choir of the redeemed will be like in the presence of God and His throne?  It is partially described in Revelation chapter five.  A choir of millions of millions of believers will sing with the purest of worship in the most perfect harmony ever heard?  Add to that the choir of the harmony of all other created beings; can we imagine such a choir? (If you are “born again,” you will be part of this Choir!)

6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. 7 And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. 8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. 11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; 12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. 13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. 14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever” (Revelation 5:6-14).

           Personal sanctity before God was the criterion for worship music to be accepted by Him.  Only sanctified/consecrated priests were allowed to sing in the Temple worship services (II Chronicles 5:11).  In Amos chapter six, God decried the worship music of the unsanctified.  It is a passage similar to Christ’s epistle to “church of the Laodiceans” (Revelations 3:14-22).  There must be genuine sincerity about sanctity before worship is acceptable.  

1 Woe to them that are at ease in Zion {they rested or leaned upon God’s promises to Abraham}, and trust in the mountain of Samaria {because it was an impregnable fortress}, which are named {well known} chief of the nations {God’s elect nation}, to whom the house of Israel came! 2 Pass ye unto Calneh {brought under Assyrian enslavement BC 794}, and see; and from thence go ye to Hamath the great {brought under enslavement by Jeroboam II and then by Assyria}: then go down to Gath of the Philistines {brought under enslavement by Uzziah}: be they better than these kingdoms? or their border greater than your border? 3 Ye that put far away the evil day {God’s pending judgment}, and cause the seat {reign or habitation} of violence to come near {the idea is they held their sins near while considering their punishment far off}; 4 That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; 5 That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David; 6 That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. 7 Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed” (Amos 6:1-7).

Praise, rejoicing, and thanksgiving cease when we begin to focus on our own lives.  This is known as anthropocentricity.  This is a disgusting thing to view in anyone’s life.  This is the child that cries when he does not get what he wants.  His crying turns a request into a demand made through manipulation.  Notice how thankless people are that practice manipulation.  Notice how nothing really satisfies them for any length of time.  Notice that they are happy only when the circumstances of life produce it.  There is no real joy in their lives.  The point is that we are thankful for stuff and things.  We rejoice when good things happen or when things go our way.  We praise God for blessings.  However, do we ever praise God just for being God?  Do we ever praise God for what He does not give us?  We do not get what we deserve!  Instead, God protects us from what we deserve – His wrath!

1 To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth {Choir of female virgins, i.e.-sanctity}. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. 4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. 6 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. 7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. 8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth. 9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. 10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” (Psalm 46:1-11).

“Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death” (Proverbs 11:4).

When we finally understand who God is, we will finally understand true worship and praise.  Then, our hearts will be so full of praise, worship, and thanksgiving that even our eyes will well up to His glory!  Our knees will bow to His majesty.  Our hearts will demand that our lips shout forth - Hallelujah! There will be jubilation in the Day of Jubilee!

[1] Exell, Joseph S. The Biblical Illustrator. London: SwordSearcher Software 6.1.

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 50 years.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Rejected Ambassadors of Reconciliation

Why We are Failing the Great Commission
Chapter twenty-seven
Rejected Ambassadors of Reconciliation

In II Corinthians chapter five, the Apostle Paul addresses the Ambassadorship of the priesthood of all believers (II Corinthians 5:16-21) and accountability for that ambassadorship at the Judgment Seat of Christ (II Corinthians 5:1-11).  A summary statement between these two realities is found in II Corinthians 5:14-15.  

There are two types of rejections of the ambassadorship of all believer-priests.  The first is the rejection of the message from Christ that is communicated by these messengers to the world to which they are sent.  The world rejects the message and persecutes the messengers.  This is the most common rejection.  

Second, there is the rejection by the ambassadors themselves of the responsibility to communicate the message given to them by Christ to communicate to the world.  The second rejection is to what Paul warns about in II Corinthians 5:10-11.  Believers have little control over what the world does with the message given to us by Christ to communicate to the world.  However, nonetheless, we are responsible to broadcast that message on the widest scale of possibilities of our influences.  Simply because the common response of the world to messages from God is to kill the messengers is no excuse for unfaithfulness by the messenger to the message.  This is the context of the warning given in II Corinthians 5:14-15.  DO NOT MISS THIS CONTEXT!

14 For the love of Christ {to truly love Christ and to love what He loves} constraineth us {restrains, holds us together, and compels us to faithfulness}; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them {since Christ died for the believer, the very least we can do is live in ‘Christ’s stead’ vs.20}, and rose again {to release His Spirit to indwell the believer and enable the believer}” (II Corinthians 5:14-15).

Most of the God’s communication to us comes to us in the Holy Bible.  This book is God’s inspired record of human history.  The Bible is written to professing believers who begin in ignorance of God, willful, existing in various degrees of unbelief and disobedience, and usually living in extreme carnality.  Most of God’s written communication is ignored and seldom read.  Most of God’s communication is the historical record of His interaction with unfaithful people who professed faith in Him to some degree.  

In I Timothy chapter three, after Paul gives God’s qualifications necessary for pastors and deacons to serve in these leadership positions, Paul gives the central ministry and purpose for the assembly of believer-priests he addresses as “the church of the living God.”  This is what Peter addresses to believers as individual sanctuaries of God living in their individual bodies and corporately as the living temple of living stones (I Peter 2:5).  Paul then gives a descriptor of every local church as the “pillar and ground of the truth.”  In I Timothy chapter three, Paul is certainly referring to local churches as embryos of the “general assembly” for the Kingdom Age because he makes every local church responsible for examining the qualifications of their pastors and deacons.  

In most part, most people completely misunderstand the metaphor given in “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”  Ancient temples were a construct of immense quarried rocks that necessitated a solid foundation upon which they were constructed/installed/stacked.  One of the reasons most temples were constructed on mountain tops is because mountain tops were solid rock.  The solid rock of these mountain tops became the floors/foundations for the construction/stacking of these enormous quarried/shaped stones constructing walls, pillars, and a roof of quarried stones.  The solid rock floors/foundations were referred to as “the ground” or stay of the building.  

The second element in the construction of these temples were colonnades (rows) of pillars often reaching seventy feet into the sky (the height of a seven storied building).  These pillars were a pile of huge shaped stones stacked and interlocking one upon the other each weighing many tons.  Every stone within the construct of these pillars needed to be carefully selected, shaped, leveled, and plumbed.  This portrays the care necessary to the individual discipleship of EVERY believer-priest making up the construct of the church.  Failure in discipleship of any individual would create a weak spot that weakens the integrity of the whole structure.  This is to what Paul refers in the statements, “how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God” andwithout controversy great is the mystery of godliness” (I Timothy 3:15).

14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: 15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (I Timothy 3:14-16).

The central purpose of the solid foundation and the exacting specifications for the colonnades of pillars was to be able to maintain the support of the huge stones that would become the roof of the temple.  The roof is a metaphor for the eternal truths of God’s revelation given to the world in God’s inspired words of His Holy Bible.  Supporting the “truth” is the basis for the quality detailed construct of every individual stone in the colonnades of pillars.  This metaphor is the picture of the “line upon line” principle of establishing truth in every generation.

9 Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. 10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: 11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people” (Isaiah 28:9-11).

Most of the population of the world outside of Israel was completely ignorant of the one true God and were immersed in the corruptions of the sexually perverse idolatry of the pagan fertility cults.  Even the Jews continued to slip back into these corruptions of the “mystery of inequity” on regular occasions.  The priests of God failed to teach the Word of God.  Then God sent prophets (preachers) to the willful and disobedient professors of belief to warn them of the consequences of disregarding the commandments of God to which they had agreed to obey.  We are seeing parallels of this ignorance within Christianity in these “last days.”  

The true prophets of God were disregarded and even murdered for preaching the revelations given them from God.  The true prophets of God were more preachers than writers.  The prophecies given to us are the written form of God inspired messages (sermons) they preached repeatedly as they traveled from city to village throughout the nation of Israel.  

False prophets arose in abundance giving messages contradicting the messages of the true prophets even denigrating the true prophets as extremists and false prophets.  The false prophets gave false messages from God that condoned the carnal licentious practices of the people, telling the people things they wanted to hear.  Even God’s preachers’ warnings against the false prophets went unheeded by most people.  False prophets emphasized nationalism apart from the spiritual qualities of separation from idolatry and unto godliness.  Separation from idolatry and unto godliness were the constant focus of all true prophets.  Israel as a nation was always secondary to God because nationalism was irrelevant apart from a spiritual relationship with God (“vain oblations,” Isaiah 1:13). 

All of this defines the “mystery of inequity” against which every true and genuine believer is commanded that he “should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).  Before faith can be truly “the faith,” that faith must be based upon the correct understanding of God’s inspired Words that generate a right relationship with God.  This is the front line of warfare upon which the faithful preacher and every faithful believer battles against a constant barrage of corruption from “the mystery of inequity.”  Failing to understand this warfare makes a professing believer more a part of the problem than a part of the solution.  

In the Old Covenant, not every prophet was a priest.  Not every priest was a prophet in the sense of receiving direct revelation from God.  However, every priest was supposed to be a preacher/teacher of the Word of God as well as continually reminding the people of the messages of the prophets retelling what God had done and what God still was going to do.  This too becomes the responsibility of all New Covenant believer-priests (all “born again” believer of the Church Age).  An untrained and undiscipled priesthood is doomed to unfaithfulness.  Herein we discover the root of failure in modern Christianity.  

Isaiah is commanded of God to preach to the children of Israel the messages that God gave him through direct revelations from God.  In other words, God told Isaiah the exact words He wanted Isaiah to say.  Isaiah did not just write what God said on sheep skins and parchment to then be sent to every household in Israel.  Isaiah traveled throughout the land and the people and preached these truths repeatedly everywhere he went.  These truths then became the responsibility of individual hearers to disseminate to everyone within their own realm of influence.  

However, Isaiah’s preaching came with an instruction book from God on Homiletics (the science and art of preaching/teaching).  God expected Isaiah’s communication to be passionate, specific, confrontational, and instructional.  These instructions from God to Isaiah about preaching are detailed in Isaiah 58:1-2. 

1 Cry aloud {to call out to someone loudly with your voice to get their attention; urgently and passionately in order to compel to obey}, spare not {without restraint, reservations, or prejudices in respect towards persons or the positions they hold in life}, lift up thy voice like a trumpet {make sure everyone hears the warning and understands the meaning of the trumpet’s sounding; For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?’ I Cor. 14:8}, and shew my people their transgression {The prophet/preacher is required to speak with specificity regarding failures and sins.  The word ‘shew’ means to stand in bold opposition against the corruption.  God viewed His ‘people’ in moral revolt against His Law.  Isaiah, and all preachers/priests, are commanded to expose that moral revolt against the character and nature of God’s holiness in every detail of minutia.}, and the house of Jacob their sins {the intent of the preaching is to confront the hypocrisy of ritual and practical externalism without any genuine repentance of the sins.  This religious and ritual hypocrisy was greater than the sin itself.  God addressed this problem in the very first message to Isaiah to give the children of Israel. ‘Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.’ Isaiah 1:13}. 2 Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as {semblance} a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God {nothing real or genuine in their repentance; no substance to it}: they ask of me the ordinances of justice {seeking solutions}; they take delight in approaching to God {This all describes semblance without substance; no genuine life changing repentance.  It is absolute foolishness and self-deception for anyone to think this kind of hypocrisy of religious externalism is somehow going to be acceptable and blessed of God.}” (Isaiah 58:1-2).

In Isaiah 6:1-8, God gives Isaiah a vision of Himself upon the throne in Heaven where the “seraphim . . . cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3).  King Uzziah dies just before this vision.  His son Jotham had reigned in his stead when Uzziah was stricken with leprosy by God for pride.  Isaiah’s call to prophesy came two years before Uzziah’s death that happens in Isaiah 6:1.  

Isaiah 6:1-8 is one of the most revealing and sobering visions of the character and nature of God in the Bible.  The vision shook Isaiah to the core of his being humbling him before God; “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).  

It is this vision of God that is the foundation of equating Isaiah as the Paul of the Old Testament (II Corinthians 12:1-10).  Isaiah’s faithfulness to preaching was unwavering after this vision of God in His sovereignty.  After God gives Isaiah this spectacular vision in Isaiah 6:1-8, then God commissions Isaiah with his preaching responsibilities to God’s people.  It is this deep-seated understanding and faith in Who God is that establishes the foundation of moral responsibility for every believer’s commission to fulfill the Great Commission.  It is out of this understanding of the sovereignty of a holy God and our accountability to Him in faithfulness to His commands that true obedience is birthed into this world. 

9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, {the message of God to the people is as follows} Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. 10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes {the intent is that the children of Israel would harden themselves to what God was saying and the continual preaching of the faithful prophet would become a heavy weight of judgment upon their hearts}; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. 11 Then said I {Isaiah to God}, Lord, how long? And he {God} answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, 12 And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land {keep preaching until there is literally no one left to listen}” (Isaiah 6:9-12).

Isaiah’s ministry would span the lives and the roller-coaster ride of spiritual devolution and corruption from Uzziah, to Jotham, to the pagan Baalist Ahaz who passed his own children through the sacrificial fires to Moloch (II Chronicles 28:3), and then back to revival under Hezekiah (Isaiah 1:1).  Within this roller-coaster ride of spiritual devolution and corruption would rise the opposition to the message of the true prophets by the ear-ticking, culturally relevant placating messages of the false prophets who simply told the people what they wanted to hear with no mention of God’s condemnation or any call to repentance.   

Isaiah prophesied for sixty-two years from 760 to 698 B.C. seeing revival under king Hezekiah in his last few years of ministry.  The point of this is that he was faithful to God’s Word through the thick and thin of political corruptions leading through spiritual apostasy under the leadership of Ahaz to spiritual revival under the leadership of Hezekiah.  The faithful messenger is concerned only with being faithful to the message given him.  There can be no faithful mouth to ear to heart transposition of truth from one generation to another apart from being faithful to the message and to a personal relationship with the God of the message.  

Herein lays the great corruption of the priesthood of all believers of the New Covenant by “the doctrine of the Nicolaitans” (Revelation 2:16 and 16) and why the Church is failing the Great Commission.  The “the doctrine of the Nicolaitans” was the creation of the clergy/laity division within professing Christianity.  Christ hated “the doctrine of the Nicolaitans” because it corrupted the priesthood of all believers making it easy for false teachers to gain control and propagate their false doctrines.  In other words, by A.D. 96 and the giving of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Apostle John, like the false prophets in the Old Covenant, most of Christianity had become dominated by false teachers who then denigrated, radicalized, and marginalized those faithful preachers who were faithful to the message.  The responsibility for the transposition of the truth of the message of God from one generation to the next under Nicolaitanism had now become the responsibility of a few, not the responsibility of the many; the “Church.” 

Jeremiah was the last of the faithful prophets to Judah prior to the captivity.  Jeremiah prophesied to Judah from 629-588 B.C beginning his ministry sixty-nine years after Isaiah.  The ten Northern Tribes had already gone into Babylonian (Chaldean) captivity.  

Three more generations of Jewish kings have passed into history before Jeremiah comes on the scene.   Zedekiah was the last of the pre-exile kings who was carried to Babylon after eleven years of a puppet reign under the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar.  Jeremiah remains in Jerusalem witnessing God’s final judgment upon Judah in the Babylonian captivity.  

Ezekiel (595-574 B.C.) is already in Babylon having been taken with the ten Northern tribes.  Ezekiel witnessed what God said He would do from that captivity.  Daniel is also in Babylon under exile (607-534 B.C.).  Daniel would spend the whole prophesied seventy years of captivity in captivity to live long enough to see the remnant returned to Jerusalem.  

This historical context is incredibly critical to understanding the difference between being a faithful prophet/preacher and an unfaithful prophet/preacher.  Spiritual and political circumstances are irrelevant to faithfulness.  Although there were ups and downs in the spiritual and political atmosphere of Israel, what defined faithfulness to God’s Word remain a constant among the faithful prophets/preachers.  Apart from this historical context, Jeremiah chapters twenty-three and twenty-four would have little meaning to us or be able to give us the intended understanding of what defines faithfulness.  

1 Woe {a pronouncement of pending doom; curse} be unto the pastors {corrupted, unfaithful priests and false prophets} that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. 2 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors {corrupted, unfaithful priests and false prophets} that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD. 3 And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them {the regathering of Jews during the Tribulation through the preaching of Jesus as Messiah by the 144,000 saved, sealed, resurrected, and glorified from the twelve tribes of Israel}, and will bring them {saved Jews from the Tribulation} again to their folds {various land distributions in the Promised Land}; and they shall be fruitful and increase {marry and produce children and thereby multiply}. 4 And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them {refers to a new Melchizedekian priesthood in the priesthood of all Church Age believers from the Church Age grafted into Israel at the beginning of the Kingdom Age}: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD {JEHOVAH; because Jesus will reign in omnipotence over the Kingdom Age through His glorified priesthood with a ‘rod of iron’}” (Jeremiah 23:1-4).

We are rapidly seeing our culture being converted from Amoralism due to Secular Humanism into Immoralism due to total Atheism and rampant unbelief in the existence of God.  There are few differences between the cultural outcomes of Amoralism and Immoralism except the complete intolerance of any moral absolutes and any form of strict moral codes of ethics.  Amoralism and Immoralism create an anti-Christ and an anti-God culture.  True and Biblical Christians are rapidly being viewed as the enemies of this evolving culture (Paganism without physical idols).  

The so-called Christianity of Post-modernism is more secular than it is sacred.  The falsities of Ecumenical Christianity (now Pluralism) demand the acceptance of a degree of veracity for all beliefs and all forms of worship.  

This corruption is very similar to what was going on in Israel during Isaiah’s and Jeremiah’s prophecies against Israel and her false prophets.  The false prophets and corrupted priests (“pastors”) were validating all forms of worship and the integration of pagan practices into Judaism.  This unholy, worldly nonsense in professing Christianity, daring to call itself by the Name of Christ, is the continuing evolution of false salvation decisions unaccompanied by any form of genuine repentance of sin or false doctrines.  When false teachers demand that nothing is to be called false and wrong then everything must be considered righteous.  This is the outcome of “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (II Timothy 3:5).  History is repeating itself.  

9 Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets {Jeremiah prophesied under the reign of kings Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah, which moved from revival under Josiah to complete compromise under Zedekiah.}; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the LORD, and because of the words of his holiness.  {Jeremiah lived through and personally experienced the horrors of the siege, captivity, sacking, and destruction of Jerusalem.  The reasons God allowed all this carnage is now described in verses 10-17.  Notice the cause is directly connected to people refusing to hear the true prophets and heaping to ‘themselves teachers having itching ears,’ II Timothy 4:3} 10 For {because = cause} the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right. 11 For because = cause} both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD. 12 Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the LORD. 13 And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err. 14 I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. 15 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land. 16 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you” (Jeremiah 23:9-17).

           As we transition from Jeremiah chapter twenty-three into the ten verses of Jeremiah chapter twenty-four, we see that there are extensive long-term consequences to compromise. 

1 The LORD shewed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of the LORD, after that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah {Coniah; Jerimiah 22:24, 28, and 37:1} the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, and the princes of Judah, with the carpenters and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon. 2 One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe: and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad” (Jeremiah 24:1-2).

           In Jeremiah 24:1-2, God presents two different harvests of “figs” in two different levels of the captivity.  The first “figs” were the best and ripest of the harvest and would be the source from which the returning remnant of faithful would be birthed in the last generation of the seventy-years of the Babylonian captivity.  These “figs” are therefore called “very good figs.”  

The second basket of figs came from the third harvest and often came very late in the season.  They were seldom ripe enough to be any good for eating.  The captivity of the first “figs” was accompanied by repentance and revival of real passion for the things of God and love for God among many Jews.  The later captivity under Zedekiah’s reign of those at the greatest level of compromise and disassociation from the heart and mind of God was not accompanied with repentance and a change of heart.  Therefore, these people in this level of the captivity are called “bad,” “naughty,” and even “evil” figs.  Nothing could turn their sour hearts to sweetness.  They would not hear, see, understand, or be turned from their wickedness.  

This is very similar to the Laodicean church of Revelation chapter three.  They would not see that what they thought they were is not anywhere close to what God knew they were. 

14 And unto the angel {pastor or messenger} of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 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: 18 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 eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten {rejoice in your rebuke because there is still hope of repentance if chastisement is still taking place}: be zealous {this is the ‘rebuke;’ present tense = habitually be; this is the opposite of being ‘lukewarm.’  The Greek word translated ‘zealous’ here comes from a root word meaning to boil.} therefore {get some passion for godliness}, and repent” (Revelation 3:14-19).

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 50 years.