Wake Up American Faithful (1.30.2009)
God is Reminding Us That We Are Nothing More or Less Than the Faithful Seed of Abraham (Psalm 69,36).
Ezekiel 1,1-2: "In the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, as I was among the exiles by the River Chebar, heaven opened and I saw visions from God."
Ezekiel 14,1-3 "Next, some elders of Israel visited me and while they were sitting with me, the word of Yahweh was adressed to me as follows, 'Son of man, these men have enshrined their foul idols in their hearts and placed placed the cause of their sinning right before their eyes.' "
Ezekiel 17,4-6a: "He took the top of the cedar tree, he plucked off the top branch, he carried it off to the country of merchants and set it down in a city of shopkeepers. Next, he took one of the country's seeds and put it in a fertile field; by the side of a generous stream, like a willow tree, he placed it. It grew and became a fruitful vine of modest size and grew towards the eagle [God sanctioned political alliance of Judah with Babylon]."
Genesis 12,3c: "And in you all the clans of the earth shall be blessed."
Genesis 12,7: "Yahweh appeared to Abraham and said, 'I shall give you this country to your progeny. And there, Abraham built an altar to Yahweh who had appeared to him.' "
Psalm 69,35-36: "Lo God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah: that they may dwell there, and have it in possesssion. 36 The seed also of his servants [the seed of faith] shall inherit it: and they that love his name shall dwell therein."
The literal and specific context of Ezekiel 17, and particularly verses 5-6 is the exile of Judah to actual ancient Babylon in 586BC, expressed here as rightfully growing toward the eagle Babylon (a bird of prey!), and the betrayal of growing toward another eagle, Egypt, for military expediency. God blessed the former, not the latter.
It's necessary to make this distinction of one Israel and many "Babylons," when we speak about America and the comparable application of Ezekiel 17 to the United States in these trying, even calamitous, days.
Firstly, if biblical Israel is only one, and Babylon many nations, we realize that the pilgrim's sentimental idea of America as some sort of "new" Israel is woolly headed, and thus the idea Christian church in America is a "new Israel", even more so.
However, this has been the unstated or de facto belief and practice of many American Christians and politicians.
But this "new" Israel idea is a non biblical conceit that comes from the now mostly discredited replacement theology, the idea that the Christian church inherited all the unfulfilled promises made to Israel, because they largely rejected the historic Jesus. The rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948 after almost 1900 years of exile, which fulfilled biblical prophecy, has exposed the error of replacement theology. God is not finished with Israel by any means, they will look upon the one they have pierced (Zechariah 12) and get a merciful second chance but that's a story for another day.
So where does that leave the faithful of America? Who and what are we? Well this is a time for humility- so let's be that. We, the faithful of the United States, can be like Judah of old, a faithful Abrahamic clan, the faithful top of the cedar tree in another Babylon, in exile from our final home in Zion.
But we are not any "new" Israel!
From Ezekiel 17, 4-6 we learn that Babylon is not such a bad place to be, not a place for the faith to be lost, but found again, and strengthened. In fact, it's even a prosperous place, a fertile place, besides generous waters, a place for the seed of Abraham to grow. But it's still Babylon.
Not home, yet.
So when "the top of the Cedar tree," that is the the faithful House of David (which was built with Lebanon Cedar, 2Sam.7,2) were exiled there in 586BC, Babylon was the provision of God, the best of a bad situation, a place of correction from idolatry (Ezekiel 14), of repentance, of greater dependancy on God, a fruitful place, a place of growth.
This exile in Babylon would prepare God's people to return to Jerusalem, by whetting their appetite again for the ways of God and the return to the righteous cult of the temple and the rule of God when they were allowed to come back, having been corrected (Ez. 37).
In fact all the prophets of that day counselled an alliance with Babylon even before the forced exile of 586BC. Even before Jesus said it to his contemporaries God and his prophets six hundred years before were saying "Render unto Babylon that which is Babylon's."
King Zedekiah got and followed this message, but then made a secret alliance with another bird of prey, Egypt (Ez. 17,7). This was based on his fleshly judgement, his false sense of military expediency that Babylon could be defeated by man's cunning. For this betrayal of God's provision the Temple was destroyed and the wooden altars smashed (cf Ps. 74,6).
Well by a miracle of mercy our shared God, in 536 BC Judah was allowed to come home (the ten tribes of Israel having been exiled by the Assyrians in 722 BC did not come home, that's what's happening now) and then enjoyed the generosity of another "Babylonian" king, the Persian Cyrus, who allowed the Jews to return and even funded the rebuilding of the temple.
Sacred history is filled with this pattern of exile as purification and preparation for Zion, for the coming of the Messiah and his establishment of his kingdom from Israel. For example, faithful Judah, both Jewish and Jewish Christian were partially exiled again in 70AD after the destruction of the Temple by the Romans, a chastisement predicted by Christ because it's priesthood's missed the time of his visitation and instead served Jesus up for crucifiction. And completely exiled in 134 AD when Jewish diehards again rebelled against Roman "Babylon" once again, and lost in a rout.
This repeated pattern of exile as purification and preparation for the kingdom even defines the broad context of 1Peter and the book of Revelation, and to a lesser extent Hebrews. God's faithful, God's remnant, are struggling in exile, and proved there. It's a time to rejoice in and take stock of the world's one messiah-high priest who will bring the one faithful people of God back to physical Israel, both Jew and gentile (Zechariah 14).
1Peter is addressed to God's faithful in exile. John the Revelator sees his confinement (probably for refusing to worship the emperor of Rome) by "Babylon", as preparation and longing for the day when every Babylon will fall once and for all. Rev. 18,2-3 "Babylon has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen, and has become the haunt of devils and a lodging for every foul spirit and dirty loathsome bird [that bird of prey thing again!]. All the nations have drunk deep the wine of her prostitution; every king on the earth has prostituted himself with her, and every merchant grown rich through her debauchery."
In the meantime, John says a new thing in the very next verse- that all Christians, first Jewish and now mostly gentile, must "leave" Babylon: Verses 4-5 "Come out my people, away from her, so that you do not share in her crimes and have the same plagues to bear. Her sins have reached up to the sky, and God has her crimes in mind..."
This important scripture does not just mean heading back to physical Israel when Babylon is destroyed, and the dawn from on high breaks upon us and Christ comes back, it also means that the faithful spiritually leave now, and make the best of our exile. This "leaving" is done by maintaining our faith, rejecting politically co-opted religion, banding together as God's remnant, not being afraid to die, and spreading the gospel. In sum, we stay separate and faithful, while stuck in Babylon.
Over the course of two thousand years of the Christian faith in Babylon, some nations or empires have been more like the Persian Cyrus in 536BC and less like the Roman Emperors Nero and Domitian in the first century after Jesus, who ruthlessly killed Christians failing to worship Caesar.
Now the United States, a young people and later nation, has for hundreds years has been a prosperous seed for the Christian children of Abraham (Genesis 12,3c). And our government has perhaps been more like Cyrus than the caesars, but that could change. And despite the present yearning of many good-hearted American Christians, the mixed bag of Christians and deists that formed the United States specifically avoided instituting any brand of Christianity or state religion, as Jesus taught. They had known and learned the ravages of state-sponsoredChristianity whereby those in power picked up the sword and killed fellow Christian countrymen not in power, thereby profaning the name of Christ.
So to state as some presently do that America-United States is a "Christian" nation in any institutional or juridic sense is a stretch. No, we are nothing more or less than a faith seed of Abraham placed in Bablyon, a beacon of hope, for whom faith is of first import.
For the most part this faith has been exercised in freedom and separate from Babylonian state entanglement. Praise God for this.
Certainly we the United States have led the world in the dissemination of the gospel for the past 100 years. This has been a tremendous move of God. We as the seed of Abrahamic faith have been used well. But we never were meant by God to become Israel, or a theocratic state with a new Solomon in charge. God never meant for us to cite his generosity to except ourselves from the corrections and instructions of the word of God, or the Spirit of God!
No this generosity from God came with the stipulation of Ezekiel 17, that we stayed humble and close to him.
Look at our history. It squares up well with Ezekiel 17. We began as faithful exiles from the once faithful church exiles in England. We began as reformers of the reformers, exiles from exiles, outsiders breaking from the outsiders of Europe. And bless God and His holy name, he has made great provisions for us as exiles.
But now we too, like Judah of old, have not been content with all the generosity and safety God has provided, and have looked more and more to our government to provide for us, and of late accepting our government's adventurous and self willed alliances, which look like a lot like Zedekiah of old.
We as Christians have also allowed the separation between church and the state to be blurred, which threatens to pollute our faith and make it Babylonian too. Have we American Christians forgotten how forceful Jesus was when he said "render unto Caesar what belongs to Caeser and to God what belongs to God." Perhaps we American Christians have gotten overconfident in the generous provisions of God, which he gave to us as a humble seed of faith, not as a Christian nation, but as a clan of faith!
Perhaps we have conflated rightful patriotism with the unbiblical notion that we (not Israel) are privilidged as a nation to some sort of eternal divine benediction in all our dealings in the world. Perhaps we have confused this rightful patiotism, with our first allegiance to Christ! This despite the unmistakeable word of God that there is only one Israel, one gospel, one Lord, one master, and one Zion Kingdom. As for those in the Christian movement here who welcome blurring the lines between our government and us Christians, we should remember that in the very one country of Israel, where this makes biblical sense, that nation rejected their true King because he didn't come politically packaged in the way the religious rulers deemed he should.
The only theocratic goverment we Christians in America can support is the reign and rule of Jesus Christ from Israel, instituted and governed by him at the time of his just judgement. America is not a valid theocratic government, if only the secularists would stand down, and embrace a viable and truly Christian political leader (the closest we may ever have come to that was Mike Huckabee in '08, who the "Christian nation" folks refused because he was not Babylonian enough. Now he's on Fox, trying to please the theocrats? No, on second thought, running from them and their selective politics). It's a pluralistic democracy, run by fallible men and women, some of whom are of our Christian seed, which has served as a hedge against the historical abuses of "Christian" theocratic governments.
Our world at present is filled will wars and rumors of war. Do we as American Christians really want to embrace a Christian Jihad form of faith that would make the abuses of "national interest" look tame? Do we value the sword of the state more than the sword of the Spirit? Do we really want to continue the risk of being co-opted by worldly powers and politicians as our "Christian" forbears were in the last 2000 years? Do we really want to put more trust in our nations chariots and horses, and the allmighty dollar, than we do in the living God of Israel? Or do we want to follow the biblical mode of Revelation, which says faith and witness comes before everything else.
Faithful of America we need to wake up to who we really are, a modest clan of faithers who have been incredibly blessed by God, leaders and examples of freedom in Christ, exporters of salvation. We are not the nascent stuff of some sort or earthly economic-political empire, not authors of any new world order, but merely faithful exiles awaiting the kingdom of God. Peter and Paul never dreamed of being part of the ruling political class of any nation, yet many of us American Christians seem to expect our politicians to carry our banner, and our savior to politically agree with us on everything. No- God fashions us by his Spirit according to our faith, we don't fashion him according to our worldy standards.
Wake up faithful America. We are not the new Israel! We in America admit of no divine right of of kings, or governments. We do not need our politicians to speak for our God. We'll do that for ourselves, thank you very much, as God's royal priesthood.
As to politics and economics, today's headlines prove that we are a fallible nation, subject to the word of God and the lessons of history, not to mention, basic economics and fairness. Wake up American Christians, the USA is not a Christian Government, and we are under no Godly inspiration to export our system of goverment or economics, but to spread the gospel. Our power, political and otherwise, comes from our example of faith and from our free and humble humanity- these witness to the world way more than our present geo-political and economic world view.
We follow a separate king, and the only certain and manifest destiny any of us enjoy is that God reigns and God will decide when he's had enough of Babylon. We are not the new chosen people or the new promised land as the Latter Day Saints contend.
Wake up America, most of us are children of faith, children of Abraham, blessed to live an outpost of freedom and faith, a voice in the wilderness in a relatively new part of the world. We are a nation with a short history, faithers, not architects of a new world order! Leave that to God dear compatriots. If the Son of Man failed to do that while in his sinless flesh, how dare we think we can do it given our still sinful flesh.
The parallels of America to Judah and Babylon of Ezekiel 17,6 are striking. Judah was meant to be humble and learn from him there- have we the faithful here not become proud of our prosperity and made of our nation more than God thinks it to be? Have we not taken our wealth for granted, been ungrateful, even confused about the source of it? Have we not become so consumed with getting and having, by whatever means, that we risk stumbling in our salvation? Have we not become overconfident and bellicose, and numb to the lessons of both secular and salvation history?
Time will tell. The verdict on Zedekiah's pride for doing it his way and not paying attention to God or the prophets is a wise caution to the present day faithful of America. Jeremiah 37,9: "Do not cheer yourself up by thinking: the Chaldeans [Babylonians] are leaving us for good. They are not leaving. Even if you cut to pieces the whole Chaldean army now fighting against you until there were only the wounded left, they would stand up again, each in his tent, to burn this city down." Like the legend of Nero, Babylon keeps rearing it's ugly head. It's the spirit of the world. Our task is not to destroy all that is Bayblonian. That's God's job. It's to avoid becoming part of it, and hanging onto the faith.
As for those of us in the church and Wall Street and Main Street who have put money on high and worshipped it, there is Jeremiah 17,3-4: "your wealth and all your treasures I shall hand over to be plundered, because of the sin of your high places, throughout your territory. You will have to relinquish your heritage which I gave you; I will enslave you to your enemies in a country which you do not know..."
Oh faithful America, our heritage is the blessings of faith in exile, nothing more or nothing less. To represent God not so much as a nation, but as a faithful and responsible clan who has been the best hope in a dark world. Would that we wake up and recall this humble heritage, build an altar to God and put our own church houses in order first, and be content to be the faithful seed of Abraham, placed in a land of abundant waters and blessings, awaiting something even better in the future.
*Thanks and props to Dave Wilkerson for his ongoing prophetic word to America.
Your Turtledove (Feb. 24, 2009)
Psalm 74,19 "Do not surrender your turtledove to the beast; do not forget the life of your oppressed people."
Genesis 8,6-9 "At the end of forty days Noah opened the window he had made in the ark and released a raven, which flew back and forth as it waited for the waters to dry up on earth. He then released a dove, to see whether the waters were receding from the surface of the earth. But the dove finding no where to perch, returned to him…"
Psalm 68,13: "Meanwhile you others were lolling in the sheepfolds [literally between the middle of the two walls of the sheep gate JB n. h]. There were dove-wings covered with silver, on their pinions the sheen of green gold; jewels were there like snow on Dark Mountain."
Genesis 15,9: "Bring me a three year old heifer, a three year old she goat, a three year old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon. He brought him all these, split the animals down the middle and placed each half opposite the other; but the birds he did not divide."
The Psalmist refers to the faithful of Judah, and by extension Israel, to a turtledove (Psalm 74,19), a defenseless bird, that can only fly so far, for so long, mournful moaning (cf Isaiah 59,11), looking for peace, and hasn’t quite found her rest, yet would be faithful to her mate, and her God.
Yes Judah had just lost it’s temple in 586 BC at the hands of the ax wielding Babylonian mob (v.6). And she joined her brother Israel in exile, in Babylon. She had no place to land, like the dove that Noah released, until the floodwaters of judgment subsided.
Do not surrender us God- do not sacrifice us without a care like we have sacrificed to you. Have mercy- we have No Temple-No home! We have no place to land! We don’t even have a decent place to worship anymore. We are weary with our weaknesses (idolatries) and we have no one to turn to now, but you.
For such a witless and weak thing the dove sure has a great biblical and Holy Ghost pedigree. Let’s count the ways of her importance.
1. She symbolizes all God’s people in Genesis 8, seeking and sometimes finding the olive barnch.
2. She was part of the first sacrifice depicting the covenant between Abraham and God (Genesis 15). And God insisted that unlike all the other sacrifices it was not to be split in two, for one day it would have the Holy ghost fire not just pass by and pass through, but wholly infill!
3. She was the most offered, and least expensive, sacrifice, the gift of the poor to God (Leviticus 1,14).
4. As representative of Israel and now all God’s faithful grafted in (Psalm 68,13) she always gets help from God. With silver in her wings and gold on her feet, she always can keep moving and flying with God, unlike some of the tribes who hung back and didn’t move as God took the promised land (Judges 5,16).
She doesn’t have to get stuck in the sheep gate, neither in the fold or out of it.
That is, her tired wings get the power of silver streams in flight, her slow unsure feet get set in burnished gold.
And when we live our lives by faith and love, moving with God, we soar- we are silver and gold taken flight.
5. She comes down from heaven as God's representative and representative of the people and identifies Jesus as the Son of Israel and the Son of God (Luke 3,22). The Jerusalem, Place of Peace, Above Reveals the Prince of Peace below, in his once and future home!
Yes the God of Israel reveals the Son of Israel. And as the Son was begotten so are we today, by the very same Spirit of God, by our faith and his decree. “You are my Son; today I have fathered you.”
That’s some high cotton for a dove.
And I remember “On the wings of snow white dove, he brings me pure sweet love, a sign from above, on the wings of a dove.
Prayer For Now
Oh Dear God do not surrender Your Turtledove to the Beast.
Help Israel stay unified and whole and become a place of your peace.
Help us Christians, on the wings of the Holy Ghost, to find places to land amidst of the storms of judgment in our day.
Help us stay whole and Holy while the worldly beast of Babylon tries to rip us apart.
Help us to be humble, to be offering ourselves, and to move quickly and strongly when you move, to demonstrate you, to soar with the silver and gold of your Spirit.
Shake up those lolling in the sheepfolds, neither in or out, hanging back like some of the tribes did when you took Canaan.
Deliver us soon Lord God of Israel, Come Lord Jesus, Come!
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...