For the sake of Jacob my servant,
of Israel my chosen,
I summon you by name
and bestow on you a title of honor,
though you do not acknowledge me. (Isaiah 45:4)
One of the most confounding chapters in all the Bible for critics (including those who have slithered into the church) is found in Isaiah 45. Actually, the story begins in chapter 44.
The Lord announces that He has called-out a ruler…who is to come. This ruler will aid God’s people, the Jews, who have been in captivity for years, having been conquered by the Babylonians.
Cyrus is a man that history to that time does not know. He is not known because he has not yet been born! In fact, the prophecies concerning this coming king of the Medo-Persian empire are given 150 years before he arrives on the scene.
The Lord is preparing His people for the end of their captivity. In history, 150 years future from this prophecy, Cyrus issues a decree, allowing conquered inhabitants to return to their national homes and rebuild.
The Jews were included in this release.
Today, in the British Museum, the famous “Cyrus Cylinder” resides; it is a barrel-shaped clay tablet with the decree recorded. A copy exists in the Old City of Jerusalem.
In a bid to attack the veracity of the Bible and thus undermine the faith of many, scores of scholars for more than 100 years have claimed that the prophecies concerning Cyrus were in fact added later, by another, “anonymous” Isaiah. This is their way of trying to get rid of predictive prophecy.
Put another way, it is their pitiful attempt to eliminate the supernatural from Scripture, a task man has not been granted.
Honest scholars will accept the correct placement of the prophecies in Isaiah 44 and 45.
In Isaiah 46, the Lord declares that He alone knows the end from the beginning. He has told us in general ways what is to come.
It is then up to us whether we accept Him for Who He is, or not.
I read recently a few paragraphs from Hal Lindsey’s landmark 1970 book, The Late Great Planet Earth. In the years since its publication, Lindsey has had his critics. Hindsight has given many a license to pick the book apart.
Yet, I believe Lindsey was largely correct in many of his assessments, namely that we are living in the last days. The last seconds, as one wrote on Facebook today.
Among the things Lindsey had right was the prediction that the American church would, in general, slide into apostasy. He astutely noted that the “downgrade” had been going on for decades, but many had not noticed.
One of the insidious attacks on biblical faith has centered-on the Old Testament. It has been popular in seminaries and in pulpits for a long time to deny the historical nature of various biblical accounts. Many years ago, researcher Herman Otten noted one important factor in this reality:
“Christ accepted the book of Jonah as a factual account of something that actually happened. If the book of Jonah is not factual, why should we expect anyone to believe that Christ really rose from the dead? He compares his own burial with Jonah’s experience.”
Decades ago, churchgoers realized the Church by and large did not really believe the Bible. Many left. Today, even the largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, is losing members at an alarming rate. SBC heads would deny strenuously that they’ve abandoned serious Bible teaching, but the fact is, when they tolerate (and even promote) a “pastor” like Steven Furtick, the leadership is not serious about relying solely on the sufficiency of Scripture.
I contend this is primarily because the mega-church model has been adopted. “Church growth” is all the rage, and yet ironically, it is also responsible for many leaving churches in droves. The SBC is not adopting a return to real, serious Bible study and preaching, by and large, and so no doubt the exodus will continue. They aren’t the only ones, by a long shot.
(Denominational heads would, of course, seriously object to my view.)
Lindsey, 45 years ago, predicted that, based on New Testament prophecies, the Church would slide into irrelevancy one day. Apostasy is not on the horizon; it is here.
That day is here.
Hal Lindsey was right.
Who has ever heard of such things?
Who has ever seen things like this?
Can a country be born in a day
or a nation be brought forth in a moment?
Yet no sooner is Zion in labor
than she gives birth to her children. (Isaiah 66:8)
Now that Israel’s Independence Day, her 68th anniversary of the founding of the state, is complete…it’s good to reflect on what the nation has in terms of blessings. For a moment, let’s dispense with all the threats arrayed against the Jewish state. The miraculous nature of Israel’s modern birth deserves a huge celebration.
•Innovation. Israel is a leader in medical, agricultural, and technological advances—that benefit the entire world.
•Economy. In 2014, Israel’s gross domestic product amounted to more than $305 billion U.S. dollars. Not bad for a first-world economy in a sea of third-world countries ensnared in chaos.
•Military. Despite the threats from Hamas and Hezbollah, the Israel Defense Forces remain robust. IDF officers have gone from (in the early days of the 1950s) earning no salary and growing their own food, to helping develop the “world’s first high-energy laser weapon system capable of shooting down a rocket carrying a live warhead.”
Israel’s military capabilities are so far ahead of most nations, I think we’d be staggered if we knew the full capabilities.
•Culture. From a moonscape only decades ago, Israel is dotted today with theatres, museums, art galleries, and much more. World-class entertainment flocks to the Jewish state, and here we must include a nod to the sheer brainpower of the country’s citizens. Everywhere, students lead in math, science, and the arts.
In contrast, the sworn enemies of the Jewish state, the Palestinians, are set to open a museum dedicated to Palestinian history, in the West Bank. The museum will open with…no exhibits.
If the Arabs ever manage to lay down their “armed struggle” and harness their own considerable brainpower (something I fervently believe will happen), my oh my, what a paradise the Middle East will be.
As we celebrate the life of Israel, it is my hope that—even amid the growing anti-Semitism around the world—more and more people will begin to think differently about the Jewish state. Tiny seeds planted in the hearts and minds of men and women and children around the world who have been raised to distrust Israel will one day bear fruit.
I am certain of it.
This evening marks the beginning of Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this solemn day, I pause to reflect on two things: the Jews and their enemies.
I know more than a few Jews wept on May 14, 1948, when the state of Israel was born. For the first time in 2,000 years, the Jews could defend themselves. The Auschwitz flyover by IAF pilots a few years ago was one of the great circle-closings in all of history. Although Israel today has many enemies, many anti-Semites who seek to harm them, Israel is strong. Stronger even than many suspect.
The internet images of imprisoned Jews on the other side of the barbed wire from their descendants in the IDF are very moving.
Message from reality to the Jew-haters: Israel is here to stay.
By contrast, one almost struggles to comprehend the mindset of the enemies. Apart from understanding the Bible, and the origins of evil, I don’t believe one can fully understand. Such historic evil can only be explained by reading and believing Genesis chapter 3.
When an architect of the Holocaust, the Nazi Adolf Eichmann, was captured by Israeli agents in South America in 1961, it was a signal that while Divine Judgment is sometimes slow according to human standards, It is still sure and chilling.
Eichmann was taken to Israel—delicious irony—tried, convicted, and executed. Years before, at the war’s conclusion, the madman actually said:
“I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction.”
Such madness almost defies comprehension.
But it should be remembered. With anti-Semitism on the rise around the world, we must remember.