Seven Seals Revelation 6

Revelation 6:1-8 NLTse As I watched, the Lamb broke the first of the seven seals on the scroll. Then I heard one of the four living beings say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” (2) I looked up and saw a white horse standing there. Its rider carried a bow, and a crown was placed on his head. He rode out to win many battles and gain the victory. (3) When the Lamb broke the second seal, I heard the second living being say, “Come!” (4) Then another horse appeared, a red one. Its rider was given a mighty sword and the authority to take peace from the earth. And there was war and slaughter everywhere. (5) When the Lamb broke the third seal, I heard the third living being say, “Come!” I looked up and saw a black horse, and its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. (6) And I heard a voice from among the four living beings say, “A loaf of wheat bread or three loaves of barley will cost a day’s pay. And don’t waste the olive oil and wine.” (7) When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the fourth living being say, “Come!” (8) I looked up and saw a horse whose color was pale green. Its rider was named Death, and his companion was the Grave. These two were given authority over one-fourth of the earth, to kill with the sword and famine and disease and wild animals.

John saw this vision in Heaven. He saw God on His throne, twenty-four elders in their thrones, and Jesus as a Lamb that was slaughtered and brought back to life. Everyone agrees, Revelation is a book using symbolism to tell a story. It is a story derived in Heaven, given to John, and delivered to this world. Interpretations have to come from Heaven.

We have seven spirits, seven churches, a Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes. Now we have a story about seven seals. What those seals represent has to be revealed by scripture. The four living beings send us back to the previous chapter.

In front of the throne was a shiny sea of glass, sparkling like crystal. In the center and around the throne were four living beings, each covered with eyes, front and back. The first of these living beings was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third had a human face; and the fourth was like an eagle in flight. Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty– the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.” Whenever the living beings give glory and honor and thanks to the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever), the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.” (Revelation 4:6-11 NLTse).

Sometimes it is better to advance in a story before going back to take a closer look at some of the details. Here we have four rather strange beasts. Are they physical beasts, or is their appearance used as a series of symbols?

Each of the four beasts were covered with eyes. The seven eyes Jesus showed as a Lamb represented the seven spirits who delivered the seven letters John wrote to seven churches. Eyes are a type of symbol in this story showing open lines of communication, as well as reminding us, nothing escapes God’s eyes.

The beings have eyes on their front and back. Nothing goes on without them seeing it. Those beings took on different appearances. One was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third had a human face; and the fourth was like an eagle in flight. Why four different creatures? Will one message be understood by everyone? Highly unlikely. Some messages have to be introduced one way for some people to understand, and another way for other people to understand. Four beasts have the ability to deliver the same message different ways to different people.

People try to take those creatures, look at them as symbols, then try to figure out what each animal represents. The only reliable method is to allow the story to provide the interpretations. Is there a human form in the story? Jesus is one of them. Was there I lion in the story? But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5 NLTse). What about an ox and an eagle? There is no other mention of an ox in Revelation, but we do have other stories with an eagle.

Then the fourth angel blew his trumpet, and one-third of the sun was struck, and one-third of the moon, and one-third of the stars, and they became dark. And one-third of the day was dark, and also one-third of the night. Then I looked, and I heard a single eagle crying loudly as it flew through the air, “Terror, terror, terror to all who belong to this world because of what will happen when the last three angels blow their trumpets.”

(Revelation 8:12-13 NLTse)

When the dragon realized that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But she was given two wings like those of a great eagle so she could fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness. There she would be cared for and protected from the dragon for a time, times, and half a time.

(Revelation 12:13-14 NLTse)

In one story an eagle cries out a warning. In another story and eagle takes up a woman, saving her from the dragon. The eagle has a connection to Jesus, both providing warnings, and providing protection from the dragon.

Three of the four creatures point to Jesus, as well as the eyes. What about that ox? Do we look at other books to figure out the interpretation for this story, or do we look at the physical aspects of the creatures to see of those reveal anything?

The first was a lion, a direct connection to Christ established by the book John wrote. Lions are looked at by this world as the king of beasts. Kings use lions as royal symbols to show their strength. We have to be careful because a lion is also used to identify Satan and the way he ambushes people. The second was like an ox, the creature in question. Oxen as working animals, strong and dependable, something that ties in with the lion. Oxen work long hard hours without complaint. Oxen are known for doing tedious work. The third had a human face, another connection with Christ, but not defined as a direct connection in this part of the story. This human is covered with eyes front and back, and has six wings. The face may be that of a human, but the being is much more. The fourth was like an eagle in flight. Eagles are mentioned in other stories in Revelation, and do serve a purpose. The eagle in flight may be another clue tying this eagle in with the others. Eagles are also used by kings as symbols. Eagles are a sign of power and flight in this world.

We can take the physical aspects of those creatures and see how they are all tied together. We have to ask, what do they all have in common? Work. They all work in one way together.

Each of those creatures had wings covered with eyes. Wings gave flight, directions, and a view of everything. The lion could fly, so could the ox, human, and of course, eagle. Flight and eyes are other features those creatures shared. If they have the power of flight, they must have somewhere to go. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty– the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.” The creatures spend all their time in front of God’s throne. We are not told about any other place those creatures go.

One of the four beings called John. When John moved, he saw another vision with four horses. The first horse was white. Its rider was armed for war, wore a crown, and won a series of victories. Strange as it may seem, we are not told where the victories were won, in Heaven or earth? The second horse was red. There was a sequence of events to follow. John was called again, and another seal was broken by the Lamb. The second rider was armed for war with a sword. He took peace away from the world. There is no doubt where that second horse and rider was sent. Still, we are looking at symbols. A lot has been written about those horses and what they represent. Most of what has been written are nothing more than guesses. All we know for sure is, the white horse has a rider with a crown, bow, and victories. The red horse has a rider with a sword and takes peace away from this world.

John had to repeat and record the same process for the third seal. Things are really orderly in Heaven. The third horse was black. The rider had a set of scales or balances in his hand. Not much of a weapon at all, but quite a symbol. If I had a dime for every book written about that black horse and scales, I could retire.

With four horses out of the gate all we can see is, this world is in trouble. Wasn’t that part of the message in those letters? This time we are given a clue with the third horse. That rider seems to have something to do with the economy, or that is one of the most popular guesses. What does bread, oil and wine represent? They are major physical foods, and major spiritual symbols. According to the context we have so far, what could they point to? We have two horses reeking havoc on the world, and the next horse with a message to watch the food? Just because the bread comes with a cost, doesn’t automatically reject it from the possibility of a symbol. Bread was a major symbol in Jesus’ ministry.

The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.” Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:33-35 NLTse).

Maybe that gold Jesus told the Laodiceans to buy will get more expensive as time marches on. Didn’t Jesus tell them that would happen? If we looked back at those letters, the price was high for most of those churches. People had to risk their lives for the word. Some gave up their lives. A day’s pay for a loaf of wisdom and security is not a very high price. When we look back to find an interpretation is there anything else we can find? Where else could we look for an interpretation for that bread?

Things got worse after the forth seal was opened. Death and the grave were on the next horse. Those never seem to point to anything good. They brought with them famine and disease. They spread over a quarter of the world. They were given control over this world. Now we can see the urgency in those letters to the churches.

What is the timing sequence between those horses? John saw one after another seal open. A process was followed to open each of those seals. John followed the process. Now that we have death and the grave roaming a quarter of the world, we should see something happening. But when is it going to happen? So far we’ve been given a sequence, but no starting point, or any reference to good old earthly timing.

The Fifth and Sixth Seals

Revelation 6:9-17 NLTse (9) When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. (10) They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?” (11) Then a white robe was given to each of them. And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters–their fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred–had joined them. (12) I watched as the Lamb broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood. (13) Then the stars of the sky fell to the earth like green figs falling from a tree shaken by a strong wind. (14) The sky was rolled up like a scroll, and all of the mountains and islands were moved from their places. (15) Then everyone–the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, the powerful, and every slave and free person–all hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. (16) And they cried to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. (17) For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to survive?”

The fifth seal didn’t bring any horses or riders. It did bring a view of martyrs under the altar. That is a rather strange place to keep a group of martyrs. Those martyrs must be a symbol. When we look at symbols here, we don’t see a lot of explanations, which makes it easy for people to speculate. But let’s stick to the study routine and see how the Bible interprets each of those symbols.

Martyrs are people who followed Jesus to the death. We saw those white robes in other parts of this series of stories.

“Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. (Revelation 3:4-5 NLTse)

You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me–gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. (Revelation 3:17-19 NLTse)

As we progress, we see how scripture is designed to interpret scripture by sending us back to particular stories or sections of the same story. When we go back and read those sections, the Spirit opens a new door of understanding. We see statements and details in a new light. Those white robes are pointing out how those white roles symbolize victory over this world. Not in terms the world understands, but the way Heaven sees victory. Look at all of this in simple terms. There is a spiritual battle going on. There are two sides, two leaders, Christ and Satan. We follow either one or the other. Simple, okay. In the end only one side will win, the other is the looser. Christ has already won. What happens when we win? There are two places to go, Heaven and hell. Where are the martyrs dressed in white? In Heaven. At this point they are a symbol, but one of a collection of symbols pointing to victory.

Jesus told Laodicea to buy white robes, and also gold refined in the fire. Most Christians know what that refined gold symbolizes, and what those white robes point to. The last horse dwelt with a few other symbols pointing to basically the same thing. What are we going to buy? We have a choice. We can either invest in the garbage this world offers that will eventually bury us, or we can buy into the promises Jesus offered. Is that junk from the world going to lead to victory or defeat?

The sixth seal is not the last seal but in the very least indicated a transition or change. At the beginning of this story we saw thunder and lightening in Heaven. At the end of this section of the story we see the earth falling apart. When we look at the horses and riders, were they physical horses and riders on the earth or spiritual? Of course they are spiritual symbols.

When looking at theses stories, it’s important to look at where the message came from and where the events take place. The message of course began in Heaven and came from Heaven. The events take place on earth, except for the scene with the martyrs. They symbolized victory, the rest of the symbols showed the war and struggles here in earth where battle lines are draw.

When we dissect each of the seals what do we see? We see wars, conquests, peace is taken from this world, people are tested, the economy plays a role, choices have to be made, victory is secured for those who endure, and the earth is still under God’s control. The devil didn’t make the earth shake. Satan and his angels fell to this world like stars, but can we apply that symbolism here?

Up to the sixth seal, everything that happened is a quick overview that reinforces a portion of the messages given to the seven churches. Each was warned about evil influences creeping in. They were also given a promise of protection and a view of Heaven. The Bible thrives on patterns. Each book and chapter contains an introduction and summation. Between those are details pertaining to the story at hand. Revelation is a stung out version of introductions and summations. The beginning of Revelation introduced the purpose of the book and its author. A vision of Jesus and Heaven are vital to understanding the book. We have seven letters representing the communication Jesus wants with everyone of us and the guidance He offers. Then we get John’s vision of Heaven, which reinforces the vision given in each letter. After that, John gives us a vision of earth, a short introduction, which reinforced the warnings given in each of the seven letters. The opposing force in this world was described with a series of symbols. The description doesn’t contain any time references, dates, or information pointing to any particular physical aspects in this world like people or organizations. The symbols point to the enemy, Satan. What do we get when we look at a rider with a bow, crown, sword, taking away peace, controlling a large portion of this world, death, and the grave? They point to the obvious.

Because each of those descriptions and symbols are so vague, people cut out one or two, then use their imaginations and a few elements from earth to interpret their meaning. Is that Biblical? When we followed the pattern John recorded for Jesus’ description in one chapter, then found it in other chapters, we can use that same pattern, or study method to identify the devil. The method is explained and used in the Bible, and in this book. But no where does John tell us to use the world or any part of this world to interpret symbols. On the other hand, Jesus warned about bad influences creeping in, and we are supposed to see them. At least the people with those white robes will see those bad influences.

Will we see physical signs in this world like earthquakes, the sun disappearing, the moon turning to blood, and stars falling from the sky? Some people believe we have to have each of those symbols physically fulfilled before they can be spiritually fulfilled. Is that true? God can and will use physical acts to warn us, get our attention, and send us back to scripture. How we go back to scripture is the important factor. We can go back to scripture armed with a whole lot of jink from this world in an attempt to beat God’s words into something we want it to say, or we can look at God’s Word as the teaching aid it is designed to be.

The part about this sixth seal that really gets me is the mountains and rocks covering people. Why would people call on mountains and rocks, elements of this world to save them? If we looked at other stories in scripture, mountains and rocks are often used as symbols to represent man made governments and religions. In general, Revelation up to this point has been establishing a choice between turning to Christ, or the world. This series of introductions outlines, but does not define that choice, nor does it define the threats in detail.

The sixth seal of course does point out this world has its own kings and rulers. They are hiding among the rocks and caves of what, this world, or Heaven? It’s as easy as that. Look at the facts John recorded, take your time, look at the details from Heaven, and let the story explain each of the symbols. John didn’t identify any particular king or ruler. John did tell us, they fled to the rocks and caves of this world. John was shown where Jesus’ martyrs are. We have a choice. Where do we go to identify symbols? Where do we flee for protection? Which ruler will we choose to follow?

Nebuchadnezzar Appointed Gedaliah

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2 Kings 25:22-24 NLTse Then King Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan as governor over the people he had left in Judah. (23) When all the army commanders and their men learned that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah as governor, they went to see him at Mizpah. These included Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, and Jezaniah son of the Maacathite, and all their men. (24) Gedaliah vowed to them that the Babylonian officials meant them no harm. “Don’t be afraid of them. Live in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and all will go well for you,” he promised.

The first question here has to be, who is Gedaliah? We’re not told a whole lot about Gedaliah up to this point. He just appeared in the story. But this is an important movement. Nebuchadnezzar just ended the succession of kings on Jerusalem’s throne from David’s line. Wouldn’t you think that would be something worth studying? It is. And this is another chance for serious students of scripture to hone important, but easy study skills. All we need to do is search Gedaliah in a Concordance or Bible program. What do we find? We find a number pf people named Gedaliah in scripture. I’ll bet you didn’t expect to see that. Now think about this. What do you have to do now? Of course you have to look at each time Gedaliah is mentioned in scripture to make sure you are gathering information about the Gedaliah you are studying. Did you catch that lesson? There is no way you can apply what is written about a different Gedaliah to the one Nebuchadnezzar appointed governor of Jerusalem. That would be a major error and a poor study habit. So why do people make that same mistake when studying God’s time prophecies?

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We know little about Gedaliah, except Nebuchadnezzar appointed him governor in Jerusalem. The timing is critical, but that is a different subject. The only way to find out more about Gedaliah is to look ahead in scripture, and consult other books. God continues to teach us important Bible Study rules and wants us to put all of those into practice.

King Nebuchadnezzar had told Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, to find Jeremiah. “See that he isn’t hurt,” he said. “Look after him well, and give him anything he wants.” So Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard; Nebushazban, a chief officer; Nergal-sharezer, the king’s adviser; and the other officers of Babylon’s king sent messengers to bring Jeremiah out of the prison. They put him under the care of Gedaliah son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan, who took him back to his home. So Jeremiah stayed in Judah among his own people. (Jeremiah 39:11-14 NLTse)

It’s not by accident one of the key stories about Gedaliah told us how he took care of Jeremiah. Gedaliah played a key role in getting Jeremiah out of prison. That is a deep spiritual lesson. The study methods we are learning have a spiritual release on God’s prophets. Even today, people have a way of placing spiritual chains on God’s prophets. God has been teaching us a series of steps to take our study of scripture to new and exciting levels. When we share what we learn, we are taking God’s prophets out of the spiritual prison this world put them in.

We may not know much about Gedaliah, but we can look up information on his father. Who was Ahikam? Another quick search of scripture takes us to a number of stories. Here is one of the most interesting stories.

When the king heard what was written in the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes in despair. Then he gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the court secretary, and Asaiah the king’s personal adviser: “Go to the Temple and speak to the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah. Inquire about the words written in this scroll that has been found. For the LORD’s great anger is burning against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words in this scroll. We have not been doing everything it says we must do.” So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Acbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to the New Quarter of Jerusalem to consult with the prophet Huldah. She was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, the keeper of the Temple wardrobe. (2 Kings 22:11-14 NLTse).

When God’s law was found inside the temple, Ahikam was one of king Josiah’s trusted advisers who searched for an answer. The question was, what did that law mean, and what was that book telling them? I didn’t write those lessons. God wrote them in a specific order so we would find them, and unlock their spiritual meaning. Now we have a direct tie to Gedaliah, the governor of Jerusalem and God’s law, Gedaliah’s father helped find and explain. Of course that law was explained by another prophet. God keeps linking His prophets and the roles they played in those stories in ways we never imagined. If you choose to study these subjects on your own, you’ll find out how Ahikam felt when he discovered that book, and continued to be surprised as it was explained by one f God’s prophets.

What else is God showing us in this lesson? Notice how we moved forward in scripture at one point, then scripture took us back to another story. What directed us? Scripture itself. The world had nothing to do with the direction we followed. This is such a simple process to follow, how can anyone miss it? If people don’t invite God’s Spirit into the study, they have a very good chance of missing a majority of those road signs telling us when to look forward, when to look back, and where to look when we go in the right direction.

What is Love

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Although many people fell in line to follow the dictates of man, God always had a few faithful servants who refused to settle for anything less than that one true love all men, women, and children seek. To some, the search is life itself. They will not be satisfied with imitations or substitutes. They live to find that peace that brings all understanding. A peace that cannot be explained with mere words, but must be experienced, shared, and returned to its original source in Heaven. A love the world writes about, fantasizes about, dreams of, but seldom finds. The love Solomon wrote about, waiting right outside the door that leads beyond man made walls into a world not build by human hands, but one that waits for the day sin will be destroyed, and love will sit upon a new throne in this world.

There was a reason God had Solomon write about that love. A man of royalty who experienced more in life than any man could dream of, almost missed the one true love sent from Heaven. Solomon fell for a thousand deceptive loves from this world. Combined, they could never be a substitute, replacement, or parallel for true love from Heaven. How do people miss that love?

People say and believe true love is free. It is free, but not cheap. People claim God is the source of unconditional love, but place their own conditions, rules, laws, and restrictions upon it. People insist God showers His love upon this planet like it is rain, but don’t understand, if rain doesn’t return to the sky it came from, this world would soon die.

Love must be returned. People do receive and experience God’s love everyday, but like the rain, if that love is not returned, how can it fall and refresh again and again? The heart is more like a mirror reflecting God’s love, returning the love it receives, and shares it. The heart feels that love, and shares it with the entire body, all the way to the outside. The skin, face, hands, feet, eyes, all of God’s body, created in His image was designed to accept that love placed in the heart, experience it, feel its warmth, and express it by freely sharing it.

The heart is not like some mystical chamber designed to accumulate more and more of God’s love without ever releasing it. The heart is not like some super computer collecting more and more data until there is so much, no one could ever find time to review all of it. The heart constantly beats at a steady, predetermined rate. Love is not to be stored, hung onto, then shared whenever it seems convenient. Love freely flows through the body at a constant rate, or the body suffers and dies.

How do we find that one true love from Heaven, or do we already have it? Is that why this world needs trials? We pay little attention to the life giving blood inside our bodies until we are wounded. The site of blood raises fears, concerns, and requires immediate attention. The loss of too much blood causes death. Deep inside the bones God placed little factories designed to produce life giving blood. God used a bone to illustrate the need to share love, produce love, and how that production and sharing result in something new, different, distinct, and beautiful. God took a bone from Adam and made the perfect mate from the internal structure that produces life, filling the heart, making it useful, spreading warmth throughout the body. A warmth meant to be shared.

What happens to a heart that is not allowed to share the love God places inside of it? We know how God is always trying to reach everyone in this world. God showers every heart with love everyday. What happens when the cares of this world stop the heart from pumping that love throughout the entire body, and that love is not reflected back to God? The heart breaks. The heart ceases to beat, and becomes hard. Too hard to accept any more love, until it is repaired.

A Message from Three Angels

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Based on the social media I see, it seems people like to, or want to concentrate on the negative, often bypassing a lot of the good, positive points in scripture. Like theses stories about Hezekiah and Manasseh. Many people jump over Hezekiah, the example of the good king, and jump to Manasseh, because something in that evil king may show them something prophetic about the world today. When people go into Hezekiah, their stories normally center on Assyria’s invasion, or the mistake Hezekiah made when diplomats from Babylon showed up. What about the good things Hezekiah did, and how he was able to achieve them? What about the struggles Hezekiah had to find God, and struggles God endured to reach Hezekiah? We could learn much more by dwelling on those details.

God wants us to go to Him for answers. God is waiting for us to go to Him like any son should be able to go to their father and say, “dad I need you.” God always has time for us. God wants to spend time with us. Everything in scripture points to the fact, God lives to spend time with us. So why don’t we fess up to the fact, the decision is in our hands. We need to decide if we are going to God with our problems, trying to solve them on our own, or like this example, too happy to go to human sources to see if they can offer a solution when we know, their concerns are really centered on this world trying to guess what is going to happen next. Why settle for second best, or the wrong answer when you can get the right answer in a moment, and immediately start on the solution? A major message in scripture teaches the lesson of going to God verses gong to this world for answers. This message is in one of the most popular Christians messages in our generation many people refer to as the three angels message.

And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world–to every nation, tribe, language, and people. “Fear God,” he shouted. “Give glory to him. For the time has come when he will sit as judge. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all the springs of water.” (Revelation 14:6-7 NLTse).

Once again, social media tends to concentrate on the outcome of the last message, jumping over the first two messages they claim are in the past, skipping over present time, and trying to jettison onto the future. That mentality results in skipping over the good, positive aspects of this three fold message into the doom and gloom concept this world placed on this series of messages. As with Hezekiah and Manasseh, what do we learn by constantly concentrating on and throwing all our efforts into only the negative aspects? What do we hope to gain by looking at only one side to the total story, examining only a few choice pieces of evidence? We need to look at the whole scene, the entire series of stories. These three, short but concise messages will show us why we need to hone our Bible Study habits.

When we look at the first part of this three part message, we have to understand it in sections to understand the whole message. What is the GOOD NEWS? Is it the Gospels, the New Testament, or a combination of the Old and New Testaments? The fact, that angel is described as, “another angel,” gives us a clue. The first angel followed another, or other angels. This tells the wise student of the Bible, this first message is a continuation of another message. In short, another signal to look back. How far back? This is a small part of the plan of Salvation. Where is God telling you to look back to? The main point is, this first part of the message instructs us to look back in scripture, not forward in earth’s history for answers.

What does it mean to, “proclaim the GOOD NEWS?” Does it mean to deliver, or explain that GOOD NEWS? What does it mean to, “Fear God?” A quick study on fearing God will show, Abraham, Moses, and other people feared God when they first met Him. As that relationship grew, that fear was replaced with a personal relationship with God. Fearing God is the beginning of that relationship. The only way to understand any of those details is to look back at scripture.

Timing is important in every prophecy. Here we are given a specific time. “Give glory to him. For the time has come when he will sit as judge.” This prophecy is set at the time in earth’s history when Jesus was preparing to begin the judgment phase of His ministry.

The first message in this series of three messages points to a relationship with God and to a specific time in earth’s history when new information will be made clear. This world was entering a learning phase. The first angel’s message pointed to this world learning scripture in a new light. A new light means, we missed something the first time, or the twenty times we read the Bible. Time to humble ourselves and look back over every detail we’ve studied.

Then another angel followed him through the sky, shouting, “Babylon is fallen–that great city is fallen–because she made all the nations of the world drink the wine of her passionate immorality.” (Revelation 14:8 NLTse).

This world has too many interpretations to what this message means. Most fail to see how the second message is linked to the first message. If the first message is linked to learning the GOOD NEWS in a whole new light, Babylon, used here as a symbol has to be linked to the old ways the Bible had been interpreted. Once those old ways and the walls they built fall, we are ready to receive that new light and understanding. Since the first message pointed to God as the source of creation, that creation included learning and instructions. The obvious contrast would tell us, Babylon symbolizes any learning method outside God and His Spirit. It should be obvious where that new light comes from.

Any earthly city in scripture forms a link between people and this world. That can include leadership in the city, walls built for protection, and any other physical feature of a city involving protection, socialization, organization, self reliance, and trust in any entity outside of God. Wine represents a mixture. In this case the mixture is placing reliance on the physical world and God. Combining that with the GOOD NEWS, and the new light placed on scripture tells us, Babylon is made up of any and every combination of earthly and Heavenly trust, influence, and information. This message is a call to trust totally on God and no one, or nothing less.

Then a third angel followed them, shouting, “Anyone who worships the beast and his statue or who accepts his mark on the forehead or on the hand must drink the wine of God’s anger. It has been poured full strength into God’s cup of wrath. And they will be tormented with fire and burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb. The smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever, and they will have no relief day or night, for they have worshiped the beast and his statue and have accepted the mark of his name.” This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently, obeying his commands and maintaining their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:9-13 NLTse).

Here is another part of scripture with a million different guesses at what it means. I’ve noticed one thing about this message. Most of the time I see people trying to interpret symbols like the beast and his statue using the world as their only source of information and proof. Or they mix a little bit of scripture with a ton of this world. People use news, history books, personal views on public offices, officials, companies, organizations, other religions, and hundreds of other sources, but not a shred of evidence their information came from Heaven.

That mark is another example of this world’s best guesses and that mixture of wine from Babylon. Forehead and hands are used for thinking, writing, and communicating. The problem is where that head gets the information from before the head tells the hand to record and share messages. Why do you think John recorded, “Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on.” That is the answer to all the questions in those three messages. Where did John get the messages from? Where did those angels come from? All of those point to Heaven, and God the Creator. They never have, and never will point to the wisdom of this world. But where does the world go for answers? This is really ironic. Where does the world go to interpret those messages? To Babylon when God told us to get out of Babylon, get out of this world, and away from their poisonous mixture of knowledge for answers.

As we can see, concentrating on negative aspects leads us to the wrong sources for information. When we only study negative aspects of stories or messages, we tend to stay in this world for answers, never reaching the heights of Heaven to approach God’s throne for the answers. After all, those messages and stories originated in Heaven. God never intended people to slice and dice His Word the way it is studied today. God formed those stories and recorded them in the order we have them in for a reason. God wanted us to learn from Hezekiah before we were ready to see a contrast in Manasseh. God also wanted us to see His promises of new light, and a greater understanding before this world entered a sever period of testing. Without studying the first two messages brought by those angels, Bible students are like school children taking a test without studying the subject, and concentrating on the possible outcome. The same is true whenever we take one story out of scripture without knowing what bearing the previous story has on the subject.

What can we learn when we combine the stories about Hezekiah and Manasseh? God fills the void absentee fathers create on all the levels they create. God has and always will be the Father we need to go to for answers whenever we need them. Why is it so difficult to see that answer?

Hezekiah Asked for Confirmation

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2 Kings 20:8-11 NLTse Meanwhile, Hezekiah had said to Isaiah, “What sign will the LORD give to prove that he will heal me and that I will go to the Temple of the LORD three days from now?” (9) Isaiah replied, “This is the sign from the LORD to prove that he will do as he promised. Would you like the shadow on the sundial to go forward ten steps or backward ten steps?” (10) “The shadow always moves forward,” Hezekiah replied, “so that would be easy. Make it go ten steps backward instead.” (11) So Isaiah the prophet asked the LORD to do this, and he caused the shadow to move ten steps backward on the sundial of Ahaz!

Some people have a rough time with this part of the story when Hezekiah asked for confirmation. I’ll admit, I had to pray about this one, as well as forgetting a lot of candy coated answers I’ve been fed about this story. For one thing, I’ve never seen anyone look back to see how Hezekiah got to this point in his life. This story is usually told like, Hezekiah was sick. God healed Hezekiah. But Hezekiah asked for confirmation. Why did Hezekiah have to test God? Then people try to explain if it is okay to test God based on examples so far removed from scripture, I had no idea how their explanations had any relationship to the story about Hezekiah. Or people would teach how wrong it is to test God, and how that is a sign of a lack of faith. But I never saw any of those people teach what real faith is, or how to increase faith in God. Let’s do something different here, and look at the whole story.

Hezekiah’s father was one of the most evil kings Jerusalem saw. Something had to happen to change Hezekiah into one of the most loyal kings Jerusalem saw. That information is not given in one sentence, but spread throughout the story. We have to collect information to see the whole story.

Hezekiah served God, got rid of a lot of the evil influences in the kingdom, and defeated a number of other nations occupying the promised land. Wasn’t that enough confirmation for Hezekiah to establish a lasting relationship with God, and trust God with everything? Not for Hezekiah. Assyria threatened Hezekiah and what did Hezekiah do? He did what he learned from his father. Hezekiah paid off Assyria. Hezekiah took a major step backwards.

That began a series of events, all of them designed to get Hezekiah right with God, to return to the where Hezekiah was when he sent people out to get rid of all those evil influences. From that we could see, Hezekiah was paying attention to working on the outside, while God was trying to get him to clean out the inside. That series of events was designed to get Hezekiah to look inside of himself and see where God really is.

Hezekiah got to the point to talk to God and break down in tears. God healed Hezekiah, and agreed to provide a sign to show he was really talking to God. Why? We can go back to all those false gods inside and outside Jerusalem. Just because a threat leaves, doesn’t mean the influence left.

You would think seeing 185,000 men killed in one night, and seeing a huge army leave would have been enough confirmation for Hezekiah. You would think hearing those prophecies about Assyria fulfilled before their eyes would have been enough for anyone. But remember, all those plagues and miracles in Egypt weren’t enough to change Israel.

You would think a personal visit from Isaiah, one of God’s most reliable prophets would have been enough confirmation for Hezekiah. But in this story it wasn’t. So what do we do with this story and what God had an inspired writer record? Do we read the words, then tell God, “don’t worry about a thing. I got this one figured out myself!” When we follow the way the world looks at this story, and explains this story, we are telling God, we don’t need Him. We make the same mistakes Hezekiah did. What we are doing is pointing fingers at those people who candy coated this story, and placing blame in them. What is God going to do to get us to listen?

When I prayed about this story, I had to first admit, I don’t have the answer. I had to ask Jesus what He wanted to teach in this story. Of course He has the answer, and shows where He placed the answer in scripture. Where is the answer? The answer is more like, where did confirmation begin. When Jesus told me, the answer was of course so obvious, there was no way I could argue with it.

Confirmation began the day God formed Adam with His own hands, gave His breath of life to Adam, and showed Himself to Adam. God was there with Adam the moment he opened his eyes. God confirmed His existence to Adam. God walked and talked with Adam. God spent a whole day with Adam, showing him everything He created before Adam was brought to the scene. That is confirmation.

God could have created this world, popped in Adam and Eve, and let them figure out where everything came from. God didn’t have to show Himself to Adam and Eve, but God chose to walk and talk with Adam and Eve every evening. God confirmed His existence, power, and relationship with Adam and Eve. That is where confirmation began. Conformation is not something we should find difficult to see or explain. Conformation was a part of creation.

God confirmed His existence with Enoch. Later God confirmed a part of His plan of salvation with Enoch. God confirmed His existence with Noah, showing him plans for the ark, and bringing all those animals into the ark, then flooding the earth like He said he was going to do. Scripture is filled with God’s conformation like when He talked to Abram, Issac, Jacob, and finally Moses. All of those examples, and this one with Hezekiah have one thing in common. Each of those conformations shows a direct relationship with God.

Hezekiah may have received a rather unusual conformation, but all Hezekiah did was request a conformation, and God offered that unusual choice. Why did God do that? To show how far God will go to establish that personal relationship He wants with all of us. If we looked back at other confirmations in scripture, we would see a long list of unusual things God did. If we looked deeper, we would see how each was personally tailored to the person God was addressing at the time.

I’ve talked with dozens of people about their personal experiences with God, and how they actually saw God. Each experience is as personal as the individual. But they all have one thing in common. Each person I’ve talked to also explained the state they were in when God talked to them. Each was in a state of emergency when they needed to see God most. And He appeared to them. Why? I can’t explain that. I do know, each of those people trusted me enough to share their stories. They are stories they rarely share with anyone else. In Hezekiah’s experience with God, he must have told people, or the author who wrote that chapter must have been told by God. In either case we can see, experiences like that are meant to be shared.

Here is Proof

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2 Kings 19:29-37 NLTse Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Here is the proof that what I say is true: “This year you will eat only what grows up by itself, and next year you will eat what springs up from that. But in the third year you will plant crops and harvest them; you will tend vineyards and eat their fruit. (30) And you who are left in Judah, who have escaped the ravages of the siege, will put roots down in your own soil and will grow up and flourish. (31) For a remnant of my people will spread out from Jerusalem, a group of survivors from Mount Zion. The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen! (32) “And this is what the LORD says about the king of Asscyria: “His armies will not enter Jerusalem. They will not even shoot an arrow at it. They will not march outside its gates with their shields nor build banks of earth against its walls. (33) The king will return to his own country by the same road on which he came. He will not enter this city, says the LORD. (34) For my own honor and for the sake of my servant David, I will defend this city and protect it.” (35) That night the angel of the LORD went out to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving Assyrians woke up the next morning, they found corpses everywhere. (36) Then King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and returned to his own land. He went home to his capital of Nineveh and stayed there. (37) One day while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with their swords. They then escaped to the land of Ararat, and another son, Esarhaddon, became the next king of Assyria.

God’s signs do far more than prove He is God, and with Jerusalem. God’s signs fill us in on a few facts about war. When a city hears about an approaching army, they go out, gather food to store inside the city walls, then burn the remaining crops. They leave nothing for the invading army to eat. All the cattle left outside the city are slaughtered. At times, wells are poisoned if they cannot be hidden. When siege weapons became popular, forests miles around the city were set on fire. Cities made life as rough as they could on invading armies. Self destruction was a part of defense. It was a way of life.

Stocking food inside city walls was a sign of self dependence. People shut themselves behind tall, think walls like people build personal walls around their hearts today. Pray, and God will open up an array of spiritual lessons on this scene Jerusalem physically suffered through. God would not be God if He didn’t have a plan to turn every trial into a series of lessons, both physical, and spiritual. Each reaches into the emotional level only God can see and touch. This is known as living proof of God’s existence, love, and care for His people.

God has to find ways to tell people how He works outside those walls, both physical and emotional. Once again I have to repeat the fact, sometimes these messages are hidden, and sometimes they are clear as day. When we look at the full story, we can see a king vacillate between trusting God, and the world, which is often confused with making personal decisions. But where do those decisions come from? People like to take credit for making their own decisions. The mistake they make is, they don’t think about where the knowledge to make those decisions came from. Hezekiah obviously made a decision to use the gold and silver on the outside of the temple to buy security. That payment was used by Assyria to buy and build a larger army that wound up camped outside Jerusalem’s gates and walls. We have a lot of somewhat hidden spiritual symbols here. Each is plainly explained by the story as soon as we compare the physical aspects of the story to the personal aspects recorded about the main characters. Putting those details together reveal the spiritual nature of the story in such a way, we can’t help but see how God is trying to reach us with a lesson.

It may not seem so obvious, but learning to read scripture the way it was composed is one of those spiritual walls. If you don’t have enough time, go to sources outside scripture, or want to appear like you know the answer, you build spiritual walls. That is why God gave proof, He knew what He was talking about in scripture.

Every prophecy in scripture has a recorded fulfillment. That is one of the things this story teaches. When God inspires a writer to record a prophecy, God also inspired a writer to record how it fulfilled. That is what separates God from anything in this world. That is pure, concrete evidence, God is God. If we know how to set prophecies and their recorded fulfillment in a side by side chart, we would have no problem proving God’s existence in a court of law anywhere in this world. God provided so much evidence, it would amaze this world, solidify every Christian’s belief in Him, and most likely, cause a change in this world we could not imagine. So why don’t Christian leaders use this age old fact as a tool?

The people who left Egypt saw more miracles then we can ever hope to see in our lives. How far did that get them? The priests who killed Jesus were pointed back to dozens of prophecies they saw fulfilled before their very eyes. That didn’t help them a bit. There were some who looked up a few of those prophecies, established a connection with God’s Spirit, but waited until they had enough evidence, and enough guts to place their reputations on the line. This world has too many distractions to just fall down and worship at God’s feet. We could make a list of those distractions, but there aren’t enough trees in this world to make enough paper to make a list to cover every distraction. But that seems to be what this world chooses to focus on, those distractions.

Look at how Hezekiah was distracted. Someone told Hezekiah what his father, and other kings did to solve a problem. So Hezekiah paid off Assyria, who used the money to buy a larger army, and all Hezekiah did was created a bigger threat, and new distractions. This world is stuck in a rut, and can’t see out of the holes they dig for themselves. All they can do is try to come up with new ways to dig themselves out, when all they accomplish is digging deeper holes.

God showed, His solutions are as natural as anything He created in this world. God did that by pointing back to creation. Anyone should be able to figure that one out. “Here is the proof that what I say is true: This year you will eat only what grows up by itself, and next year you will eat what springs up from that. But in the third year you will plant crops and harvest them; you will tend vineyards and eat their fruit.” Where do you think God was pointing? When we try to figure that simple symbol out on our own, we dig a deeper hole away from God, When we allow the story to explain the symbols, we see the light. God is telling us, we have to remember, He created all of this and is still in total control

We have to immerse ourselves in the scene to get into the story. The facts reveal themselves as naturally as the food that God mentioned grows. Who was God trying to reach? Was God only trying to reach Hezekiah, then tell him, “well now that you have the answer, your on your own to convert the rest of the nation.” No! That’s not how God works. To some people that may make sense. To people fighting a problem with pride, that may sound like a plan. But that is not how God works.

Who was on those walls when Assyria threatened Jerusalem? Maybe a few thousand people, with about a million thoughts going through their heads, and hundreds of plans to solve the problem, or give up. There were a million fears on those walls at that moment, caused by thousands of Satan’s most reliable demons. Satan launched a concentrated attack to smash and hope Jerusalem had in themselves, and in God. Somehow God had to come up with a plan designed to reach every single one of those people. What better plan than to feed them, and turn their thoughts back to the Creator? Sometimes God’s plans are so simple, they seem to fly right past people.

Since we already looked at transition words, we will look at one here. This is a little advanced for some people, so don’t feel bad if you don’t catch on with the first example you see. Look for other examples in scripture until you see one that opens this door of understanding for you.

The little word, “and,” found in verse 30 is a transition word. When we see that word, and similar words, we have to look for a transition in time. Does the prophecy move from present time when it was delivered, or expand into the future, past that generation in Jerusalem? We can look at other key words associated with this portion of the prophecy.

The scene expanded from Jerusalem to Judah, then onto Mount Zion, which is often a symbol pointing to all of God’s people, and often a place of learning directly from God.

Isaiah 14:23-28 NLTse “I will make Babylon a desolate place of owls, filled with swamps and marshes. I will sweep the land with the broom of destruction. I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!” (24) The LORD of Heaven’s Armies has sworn this oath: “It will all happen as I have planned. It will be as I have decided. (25) I will break the Assyrians when they are in Israel; I will trample them on my mountains. My people will no longer be their slaves nor bow down under their heavy loads. (26) I have a plan for the whole earth, a hand of judgment upon all the nations. (27) The LORD of Heaven’s Armies has spoken– who can change his plans? When his hand is raised, who can stop him?” (28) This message came to me the year King Ahaz died:

As we can see, this prophecy given to Isaiah was delivered in the same time frame, and is another piece of evidence, God knew how He was going to handle the Assyrian threat long before they showed up outside Jerusalem’s walls. If you searched, “my mountain,” in scripture, or followed a chain reference, you would find dozens of examples, other prophecies linking this event to the future. Many of those pointed to Jesus’s ministry, the early ministry of the apostles, and some of them point to our time, and the last days. The most amazing thing is how God used that little word, “and.” as a starting point. Or a type of road sign for us to follow.

When God is talking about a remnant, we have to be careful how it is interpreted. The physical remnant is clearly explained in scripture for a reason. Many false, or mislead leaders misuse and abuse the word remnant without understanding what it means, and not knowing the stories remnants are found in. They place a private interpretation on the word remnant to draw attention to themselves and their personal beliefs. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out what they are doing. When people choose to abuse God’s Word, that begins a chain reaction of events. Next they have to establish a whole new religion with members placing all their faith on the leaders to read and interpret scripture. Which is rather easy, since people look for cheap, easy ways into Heaven.

The word remnant is only one example. I don’t care to count all of them. I doubt if anyone would ever be able to count all those deceptions. That would be another, major waste of time. But that example also explains why people will not use the simple process of matching prophecies to their recorded fulfillments as undeniable evidence God does exist. Scripture is filled with hundreds of examples. To find them all requires a great deal of study. To find those links, people would need to know a few basic study procedures. That would mean, church members would have to know how to study scripture. Which would mean, those hundreds, and thousands of misinterpreted, and misapplied symbols would be exposed. That would leave leaders no alternative than to turn total control of their members over to Jesus. That is what the priests who killed Jesus feared the most. That fear has never changed. Some things in this world never change.

No wonder God uses the symbol of a remnant, a small piece. Only a few people will actually trust salvation in their own hands, minds, hearts, and time. In other words, take responsibility. Most people will be satisfied with simple answers, and rules to follow than check them out in scripture on their own. God says they, “will put roots down in your own soil and will grow up and flourish.” How often do we see that? How often do we see God’s Word flourish in people, producing twenty, fifty, or a hundred times what they’ve been told? Most Christians forget 80% of what they’ve been told between the door of their church and the door of their car. Is that flourishing in anyone’s book? That sounds more like that withered grass God used to describe Assyria.

To flourish, people have to escape the siege. They have to get off those walls, and out from behind their leaders. That’s when a view of Heaven, and all of God’s promises open up and flourish. Money seems to be the main distraction placing forces outside, forcing people into and onto those walls. Like Jerusalem, no one seems to have answers when trials arise. The threat is evident. The solutions seem impossible. People look to leaders, but are leaders going to be like Hezekiah seeking God at times when all appears lost?

Relying on money placed Jerusalem upon those walls. Money wasn’t the answer. It wasn’t even a temporary fix. Money strengthened the enemy. Why did Solomon decide to place treasures along side his temple? Didn’t he see the temptations they created?

God needs people to get out from behind those walls and get out into the world to accomplish what He took them out of Egypt to accomplish. Not invent a new variation of Egypt to enslave people. What did people specialize in physical Egypt? Building walls for the elite and powerful classes in Egypt. God used the walls of Jerusalem to bring out that point. What good did those walls do when kings consistently took out treasures, showering them on pagan kings, who invested those funds in new, larger, and more elaborate pagan temples, and their war machines to force their man made religions on the world? Those walls were nothing more than a hiding place. An attempt at hiding from the mistakes they made. A false sense of security. In the business world, we call it pointing fingers. “It’s not our fault, Look at that army outside our walls. We needed these walls.” People don’t see, their misuse of money, and lack of communication with God is the real cause of their problems. God never told them to build walls. God never wanted those walls erected. God never told Jerusalem to copy factions from the cultures they were sent into the promised land to eradicate. Kings, real men made those decisions, backed up by hand chosen committees used to verify man made plans to turn away from God and His plans.

God promised to protect Jerusalem. An invitation He expected Jerusalem to accept. But they turned it down, replacing God’s promise with a plan of their own. A long list of plans that failed. Until there was no place to turn, but to God.

The king of Assyria was to return to his land along the same road he came. That was to give him time to think. To reconsider his plans. He claimed to talk to God. But would the Assyrian king listen to God? The Assyrian king would not be allowed to enter the walls of his city. A sign from God showing how futile the kings plans were. The kings plans would never protect him.

A single angel showed how small the Assyrian army was in God’s eyes. God only needed one angel to wipe out 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. The angel killed every man in his sleep. Not a sound was heard. A mighty angel, standing taller than we could imagine, dressed in shimmering white, killed 185,000 heavily armed men without being seen or heard. No warning cry was heard. No call to battle was sounded. God’s final judgment happened in a flash. Bodies laid around the camp as a testimony, those lives were ended, and the fate of their souls was sealed forever. That was a message to people inside, and outside Jerusalem’s walls.

King Sennacherib of Assyria was so shocked by the instant defeat, he refused to show his face in his capital city. Instead he camped at Nineveh. Instead of asking God what happened, and why it happened, he asked his stone god, with no ears, mouth, or sense to answer. Inside that temple, king Sennacherib of Assyria was killed by his own sons. The king didn’t find honor and glory on the battlefield, but died in front of a stone idol, incapable of protecting anyone.

Hezekiah Heard the Threat 2 Kings 19

2 Kings 19:1-4 NLTse When King Hezekiah heard their report, he tore his clothes and put on burlap and went into the Temple of the LORD. (2) And he sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the court secretary, and the leading priests, all dressed in burlap, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. (3) They told him, “This is what King Hezekiah says: Today is a day of trouble, insults, and disgrace. It is like when a child is ready to be born, but the mother has no strength to deliver the baby. (4) But perhaps the LORD your God has heard the Assyrian chief of staff, sent by the king to defy the living God, and will punish him for his words. Oh, pray for those of us who are left!”

By the way this story progresses, we can easily tell Hezekiah went into the temple to meet with God. Before that, Hezekiah went to the temple for money to pay a ransom. Finally Hezekiah realized God was his only hope. God had this story recorded so we could see how He waits for people to make up their minds to come to him for help. That is usually how God works. But at times, God went to people and helped them without having to ask. God did that with Ahaz twice. Ahaz needed extra help, and was not at a stage to learn anything beyond the basics. Hezekiah was a different story.

God met with Hezekiah and supported him in a number of military campaigns. Hezekiah should have known better. This is an example showing how people are responsible for what they know. If they know how to approach God and depend on Him, God waits for people to exercise what they know. If they hadn’t learned to get the basics down first, how are they going to get to the next level? Hezekiah’s next level included teaching his people how to find God.

Hezekiah felt a need to explain everything to God. That showed how far Hezekiah drifted away from God. It wasn’t that Hezekiah thought God didn’t hear the conversation at the wall. Hezekiah knew God saw the entire meeting unfold. Hezekiah had to be assured God was still with him, and listening to him. It was like rebuilding the relationship from scratch. And Hezekiah didn’t have much time.

Hezekiah Stripped the Gold from the Temple

2 Kings 18:13-16 NLTse In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, King Sennacherib of Assyria came to attack the fortified towns of Judah and conquered them. (14) King Hezekiah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: “I have done wrong. I will pay whatever tribute money you demand if you will only withdraw.” The king of Assyria then demanded a settlement of more than eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold. (15) To gather this amount, King Hezekiah used all the silver stored in the Temple of the LORD and in the palace treasury. (16) Hezekiah even stripped the gold from the doors of the LORD’s Temple and from the doorposts he had overlaid with gold, and he gave it all to the Assyrian king.

Just when you think one of Judah’s kings got everything together, we see the same story, turning to treasures outside the temple for security. That is one of those things we need to expect to find in this world. The temptations to turn to the methods this world relies on to solve problems.

How did Hezekiah miss all those signs? Hezekiah stepped outside the safe boundary zone established and worshiped in this world into what most people term as the unknown. Hezekiah relied on God for a time. But that reliance, and friendship doesn’t seem to come with a step by step manual people feel comfortable with. Let’s look at this a moment.

You can search the Internet for weeks and not run out of sites with all kinds of information on the gods worshiped in ancient times. There are stone carvings, tablets, papers that somehow survived, in addition to the many idols dug up over the years. All that evidence sits in museums like we are supposed to somehow learn something from them. Like those false gods can somehow provide answers generations after people stopped worshiping and sacrificing to them. With many people, those idols still hold some kind of a mystical power.

The information on those gods points to a simple concept on worship. On a certain moon phase, or season, do this or that. Worship didn’t seem like a difficult thing. Follow a few simple steps and the gods will bless you.

Some people may think, God didn’t have rules like that. Or they may think, God has too many rules to follow. But where do we find God’s rules to follow? Are they the Ten Commandments carved in stone tablets like rules from those other gods? Or do they go much deeper than that? The introduction to this chapter pointed us back to David, which is a good place to start.

I will be his father, and he will be my son. If he sins, I will correct and discipline him with the rod, like any father would do. (2 Samuel 7:14 NLTse).

David had a special relationship with God. A Father and son relationship like no other. Can any words or pen fully explain that relationship? Does that kind of relationship have to be written in stone? If we looked back on David’s life, we see how that relationship began when David spent long hours tending his father’s sheep in the fields. David spend days and weeks alone, talking with God and learning about Him. Maybe that’s what the word pastor, mentioned only once in the New Testament points us to. The Greek word pastor means shepherd. Does that word pastor point us back to a life like David’s? Does that word take us out of this world into God’s realm? Then why are there so many man made definitions, tasks, roles, and duties assigned to that name that seem so contrary to the simple meaning God placed on the word pastor?

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies– I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for–riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.” (1 Kings 3:10-14 NLTse).

Solomon continued that relationship with God, but on a different level, and a different way. God didn’t treat Solomon the same way He treated David. Even though David and Solomon were father and son, and God had a Father and son relationship with David, God’s relationship with Solomon was different.

Then Jehoiada brought out Joash, the king’s son, placed the crown on his head, and presented him with a copy of God’s laws. They anointed him and proclaimed him king, and everyone clapped their hands and shouted, “Long live the king!” (2 Kings 11:12 NLTse).

It was some time between Solomon and the next king with details showing how he followed God. There is of course a connection between the good kings recorded in scripture. David had times he followed God, the commandments, and laws. David had times he forgot about those laws and commandments. Solomon followed in his father’s footsteps in that regard.

When God spoke to Solomon, He reminded Solomon about those laws he had to follow to see success. Later we see how Jehoiada gave Joash a copy of God’s laws. Here are the written instructions on how to worship God. Some written on stone, others recorded by hand on parchment or another type of media.

God doesn’t have a short list of steps to worship and sacrifice to Him. God had a set of books, five of them recorded by Moses. God didn’t write a short list of steps to teach people how to worship Him. God taught through stories showing what people did right, and what some people did wrong. God had a list of laws, and sacrifices to follow. Much too long to carve in stone. But Joshua carved them in a stone.

When you cross the Jordan River and enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster. Write this whole body of instruction on them when you cross the river to enter the land the LORD your God is giving you–a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you. (Deuteronomy 27:2-3 NLTse).

It seems ancient people were pleased with easy to follow instructions more than the long drawn out set of instructions Joshua had to write on those stones. Ancient gods people made up had simple rules to follow requiring no thought from the people who worshiped them. But God was different. Every relationship with God recorded in scripture was different. Each person followed different steps. God didn’t say if one process was better than the other. To many, following God seemed like a long, drawn out process. So why not invent a shorter, easier to understand process?

The problem with all those man made lists of rules to follow God is, they blotted out the personal relationship factor God strived to keep in His Word. If Joshua could write all those laws on stone, why couldn’t people follow them?

Many people look at God’s laws as a collection of what is referred to as the Levitical laws. A collection of a few chapters in the Bible telling people what to eat, what to do when a woman is raped, what to do if leprosy shows up, and other details. There are some who narrow that list down to the Ten Commandments. But look at what is explained about king Joash. When Jehoiada gave Joash a set of the laws, someone like Jehoiada would have never considered chopping apart scripture to give a king only the part they felt was necessary. When we look at the aspect of Jesus as High Priest and King, we can see a spiritual connection unfold. Joash received every word and letter to read, study, and guide him.

We see that pattern with the good kings that led Judah. So why did Hezekiah decide to leave God and trust in that treasury outside the temple? We know Hezekiah didn’t fit the mold in Judah at the time. People worshiped every god they could get their hands on. Hezekiah fought an uphill battle on the spiritual and physical sides. God gave Hezekiah a number of victories against physical armies. But when a new threat raised its ugly head, Hezekiah responded much like Elijah did when he ran away from Jezebel. In his own way, Hezekiah ran away from God.

God’s Relationship with Israel

2 Kings 17:13-17 NLTse Again and again the LORD had sent his prophets and seers to warn both Israel and Judah: “Turn from all your evil ways. Obey my commands and decrees–the entire law that I commanded your ancestors to obey, and that I gave you through my servants the prophets.” (14) But the Israelites would not listen. They were as stubborn as their ancestors who had refused to believe in the LORD their God. (15) They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and they despised all his warnings. They worshiped worthless idols, so they became worthless themselves. They followed the example of the nations around them, disobeying the LORD’s command not to imitate them. (16) They rejected all the commands of the LORD their God and made two calves from metal. They set up an Asherah pole and worshiped Baal and all the forces of heaven. (17) They even sacrificed their own sons and daughters in the fire. They consulted fortune-tellers and practiced sorcery and sold themselves to evil, arousing the LORD’s anger.

Here we see a brief description of God’s relationship with Israel, and Israel’s relationship with God. It looks like a marriage falling apart. God tried to fix what went wrong, but Israel had no intentions of changing.

We see that in marriages. Someone sees another person who tickles their fancy. Something sparks, and a new romance begins. They don’t stop to think, that new love is from a person who knows they are married, and shows no respect for commitments and promises given. Two people are getting together with no regard, thought, or consideration for vows, or time spent building the relationship they committed themselves to keeping new, fresh, and growing.

People like that can’t see, they are beginning a relationship based on lies, because their previous relationship and commitments turned to nothing but lies and deception. That same deception became the foundation of their new relationship. Add to that selfishness, greed, and arrogance, and what are people building their new found love on? The Bible called it adultery.

God did all He could to reopen lines of communication as He watched His people living in open adultery. If that’s not a vision of love, I don’t know what is. God stood by, waiting, hoping, and trying everything He could to reestablish the love connection He never really had with Israel as a nation. God established that love connection with a few, but God still counted the most despicable and untrustworthy people as His own. Soon the poor examples spread through Israel like leprosy. What could be done for Israel once the disease spread to major organs, including the heart?

Prophets and seers were like God’s marriage counselors. People look at prophets like announcers of doom. That’s not true. Prophets were messengers of hope and love. Prophets tried to counsel people on the simple art of learning how to return God’s love. But first they had to meet God before they fell in love with Him. How do you introduce someone you can’t see? Prophets heard God. Prophets talked with God. Prophets knew God, and loved Him. Prophets tried to reach people with what they knew about God, to make God real in the lives of millions of people. Do we see that today?

It’s sad to say, most prophets today focus on this world, what they think is going to happen, and what they see in this world. They cannot tell people about a God they never met. Prophets today are not at all like ancient prophets, who knew, directly communicated with God, and loved Him. The world has been deceived into thinking prophets only know how to look at the future of this world. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This story tells us how God’s prophets dedicated their lives to leading people back to God. That’s what a prophet is supposed to do, and as with the law of the prophets, that is one of the ways we should be able to tell a real prophet from a false one. If they don’t have a relationship with God to talk about, that is because they don’t have a relationship to tell about.

God’s laws were made like a marriage covenant, vows, and rules for both parties to follow. Jesus lived a perfect life keeping all of God’s laws, because He loved His Father. Obeying was a part of Jesus the devil could not destroy. Love was a hedge, a shield of protection, a wall Jesus had up around Himself. But that wall had a door people could easily enter through. God only needed curtains around the Tabernacle court to illustrate that wall. The east end was always open. Viewing the courtyard was an introduction to God’s love. A view of the sacrifice. But not the explanation of the sacrifice. Israel never got past the courtyard. That’s why the meaning of the sacrifice was never revealed to them.

The Tabernacle tent had another curtain. Easy to pass through to see the table, and incense alter. Symbols that explain the Sacrifice. Jesus sat there waiting for Israel to come in and have dinner with Him. Israel missed the invitation. The incense was the prayers of the saints raising up to God. Jesus directed those prayers.

Angels on the next curtain represented God and His throne, as well as ministry in Heaven. Angels on the curtain showed a connection between earth and God, the Most Holy place, as well as peace, love, and security the law brings.

The curtain represented the distance between God and His people. Only priests were allowed in the Holy place, and only the high priest was allowed into the Most Holy place, once a year. Israel forgot God’s offer to make them all a kingdom of His priests. Every detail of the Tabernacle would have been opened to them. But they refused that invitation year after year, generation after generation. For a time Israel was happy letting someone else do the work, approach God, minister to God, and listen to Him. Israel had the attitude, “if God tells you anything important, let us know. Then we’ll decide if it is important or not.” What kind of relationship is that?

Israel slipped away until there was nothing left. Like a spouse spending the evening in bars looking for whatever they could get, and spending the night with whomever they wished, until they decided to move in with the other adulterer, and live their entire lives in sin. With no way to contact a spouse, what can anyone do? Wait until they die of natural causes, and watch the illegitimate children grow up in sin to continue the course? Israel sacrificed their children in more ways than sending them to a slow, cruel death in fires dedicated to demons.

Mistakes Israel Made

2 Kings 17:7-12 NLTse This disaster came upon the people of Israel because they worshiped other gods. They sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them safely out of Egypt and had rescued them from the power of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. (8) They had followed the practices of the pagan nations the LORD had driven from the land ahead of them, as well as the practices the kings of Israel had introduced. (9) The people of Israel had also secretly done many things that were not pleasing to the LORD their God. They built pagan shrines for themselves in all their towns, from the smallest outpost to the largest walled city. (10) They set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles at the top of every hill and under every green tree. (11) They offered sacrifices on all the hilltops, just like the nations the LORD had driven from the land ahead of them. So the people of Israel had done many evil things, arousing the LORD’s anger. (12) Yes, they worshiped idols, despite the LORD’s specific and repeated warnings.

This may look like a short list of problems Israel had that many people read through in less than a minute. But let’s see what happens when we apply a few rules of context to that message. Rules of context are a safety feature God placed in His Word. Rules of context are not some sort of secret code, but more like reading a love letter. What do I mean by that? This part of the message reminds me of that. When we have that love connection with God, rules of context cease to be rules, but a natural checklist used to examine the depth of a love letter.

When Israel was finally destroyed, it broke God’s heart. Put yourself in an intensive care room with a loved on. You watch the heart rate and vital signs on a monitor. You hear the shallow breathing. You see an expression of fear and doubt in their eyes as they face the reality, they are about to die. But you cling onto hope. Your mind races over a hundred ideas, trying to decide which one may work. At the same time your mind races over memories, thinking about the times you shared, and what you wished you had done and said. Your thinking about what you could have done a year ago, an hour ago, or ten minutes ago to save them. If only you knew how to pray, and knew how to ask God to save them. Was it your fault because you didn’t know the right words? Did you forget something in your request? A million thoughts engulf you the moment you see, the time has come. You lean forward for one last kiss. A lack of heat confirms the inevitable. Your loved one is gone, but a piece of you still clings onto hope.

God has to go through that more than a thousand times a day. That doesn’t begin to explain what God felt when He had to let Israel go. The pain of a million lost lives hung on God’s heart, the one who could speak everything into existence at a moments notice, but powerless to save the creation He loves most. Imagine what it feels like to have all that power, and have your heart broken.

If we allow ourselves to look at that list without considering how God faces that loss everyday for more than six thousand years, we miss an image of God the author shed tears over for weeks after recording that message, and other messages like that one. We miss the walls God’s prophets built around themselves to hold in their feelings and emotions when they wanted to shout out, and share the pain they felt inside when no one would listen. Elijah gave us a glimpse into that pain and sorrow. What did God do? God told Elijah to get up and get ready to travel. God had work for Elijah to do. God felt so bad, He stepped up His plans, and took Elijah to Heaven where God could deliver a personal hug. That doesn’t happen to all of us. So all we can do is be there with that personal hug God wants us to deliver and share. Have you ever been there?

How have we been trained to deal with people worshiping other gods? That’s not something we deal with everyday. But we do encounter a lot of people who never met God. How do we introduce them to God? First, we have to meet God ourselves. We have to know God, feel His love, know all His sacrifices. All of them. We can’t allow ourselves to get stuck on one sacrifice and introduce the true living God. We may as well hand people a statue and tell them to pray though a piece of plastic to know God. We have to humble ourselves, meet God at His throne. See God in a form and manner this world falls short of describing. We have to listen to God.

More often than not, God eventually reaches that tough love stage in the relationship. Like this story shows us. It may seem like a long list of don’ts, but they are given in love. If your spouse tells you not to look at other women, or sleep with them, she is telling you how much that would hurt her. That would tear her apart inside and change her life forever. When we love someone, we can look into what they say, and feel the emotion. We can also see details they shouldn’t have to explain to us. The rules of context God placed within His Word teach us how to get back in touch with those emotions. The rules of context remind us how to see the love in God’s Word. The same Word that created this world.

Laws are not only written to protect, but to convey love and emotion. Any sane person wants a spouse able, open, and honest enough to share what would hurt them, what has hurt them, continues to hurt them, and what could hurt them in the future as that love grows. The greater the love, the more the pain if anything did go wrong. The greater the risk of pain, the more rules are introduced to protect that love and relationship. God’s laws are not a list of things to do to get into Heaven. They are a list of things not to do, so we don’t break God’s heart after we begin to share a close, personal love with Him.

How do we begin? How do people begin an affair today? Maybe a message online. Then emails. Trust is built, followed by an exchange of phone numbers. Notice how exchanges build trust. God is the same. God answers prayers. What is on your side of that exchange? How do you react to God when He answers you? Do you keep talking in a one way conversation, dominating the God of the Universe? Or do you sit quietly to listen? Men and women love people who listen. Some may even tell you how much they appreciate your listening skills. God would tell you the same thing if you took time to listen. No one can ever fall in love with anyone if they have not spent time to listen to them.

One book I read recommended talking to God out loud. I tried it, and talking out loud to God works. You can actually hear His voice clearer. And talking out loud to God reminds you to stop and listen. Talking out loud to God is like telling God, you trust Him enough to give Him your phone number.

Over the past few chapters, we’ve paid attention to decisions, and noticed how kings made a lot of them without talking to God. When we look at what scripture says, as well as what it doesn’t say, we can see how communication with God effected people, and how the lack of communication with God effected their actions, decisions, way of life, and with kings, their leadership qualities. We’ve seen how God had the author provide a list of kings and their sons to show a personal side of this story. Now the author used the word, “people,” to expand that personal level. I don’t know if paying attention to characters and how they are recorded is a rule of context, but it is a way off looking into God’s letter and reading between the lines.

In real life, we should have the ability to look into words from a loved one to see what is behind them. We also should be open enough to discuss those inner most feelings. If your relationship with God is restricted to only reading His Word, you have no idea what you are missing. It is time to open up to other forms of communication.

When God writes about Egypt, that is the same as any event your loved one wrote about. What do they want you to do? Think about that event. More often than not, they want you to remember a personal connection you had at that moment, how it was established, and the result. That is what God is doing. He wanted Israel to review their past, where they came from, how God established that relationship at that time, and what happened to it. If nothing else, God wanted them to review the type of relationship He offered Israel, and remember, the offer is still open.

God also wanted them to remember the gifts He gave them. Food and water along their journey, and land with everything they needed. An example as well as expression of unconditional love. But that love had to be returned. Unconditional love does not come without rules. The world may teach that. But that type of teaching from this world is based on greed and selfishness. The idea of getting everything for nothing, no strings attached, and no reason to respond to any expression of love. I know a lot of people have been in relationships that are nothing more than one way streets. They can tell you how painful it is to give all their love to a person, hoping, praying they will respond, and how painful it is when they finally face the reality, their affections were wasted on someone who doesn’t care. Multiple that pain by a few million and your standing in God’s shoes. But when you return God’s love, all that pain goes away. People will tell you, as soon as a new romance is kindled, all that pain disappears. God is the same. God could not exist without the love he gives returning to Him. God is not the God of a one way love affair.

God sees everything. There is nothing He doesn’t see. When we are not loyal to God, He knows it, and waits for us to come to Him to confess. God is patient, and knows we have a difficult time seeing how we hurt Him. Relationships can be like that. One person can be an over whelming, dominating factor, never considering the other persons feelings. They make mistakes and never consider how much they hurt the others feelings. We sin without knowing we sinned. We neglect God without knowing it. God calls us back, tries to explain how He feels, but selfishness and pride blind us. Our relationship is unbalanced and it is up to us to work together with God to find that balance. When we try to accomplish a balance on our own, we are doomed to fail. Our selfish traits allow us to reach out only so far. God is not selfish, so He reaches out all the way. God’s arms are not short. But our emotional arms are often too short to reach back to God and His love.

When we feel a lack of love, more often caused by an inability to return the love we receive, we look for substitutes. People shower children and their spouses with material gifts to make up for the lack of time and attention they crave. Those gifts are nothing more than idols, a payoff for mistakes, and a denial of the lack of communication we are guilty of. God used idols as a symbol to illustrate a lack of communication and compassion.

How foolish are those who manufacture idols. These prized objects are really worthless. The people who worship idols don’t know this, so they are all put to shame. Who but a fool would make his own god– an idol that cannot help him one bit? All who worship idols will be disgraced along with all these craftsmen–mere humans– who claim they can make a god. They may all stand together, but they will stand in terror and shame. The blacksmith stands at his forge to make a sharp tool, pounding and shaping it with all his might. His work makes him hungry and weak. It makes him thirsty and faint. Then the wood-carver measures a block of wood and draws a pattern on it. He works with chisel and plane and carves it into a human figure. He gives it human beauty and puts it in a little shrine. He cuts down cedars; he selects the cypress and the oak; he plants the pine in the forest to be nourished by the rain. Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire. With it he warms himself and bakes his bread. Then–yes, it’s true–he takes the rest of it and makes himself a god to worship! He makes an idol and bows down in front of it! He burns part of the tree to roast his meat and to keep himself warm. He says, “Ah, that fire feels good.” Then he takes what’s left and makes his god: a carved idol! He falls down in front of it, worshiping and praying to it. “Rescue me!” he says. “You are my god!” Such stupidity and ignorance! Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see. Their minds are shut, and they cannot think. The person who made the idol never stops to reflect, “Why, it’s just a block of wood! I burned half of it for heat and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat. How can the rest of it be a god? Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?” The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes. He trusts something that can’t help him at all. Yet he cannot bring himself to ask, “Is this idol that I’m holding in my hand a lie?” “Pay attention, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I, the LORD, made you, and I will not forget you. (Isaiah 44:9-21 NLTse).

Not many people see the compassion in God’s letter. They read the Bible like it is a history book written by an author they will never meet, or establish a personal relationship with. Sure people read scripture, and see a few things in it, when they need to be comforted. But what do you do when your loved one wraps their arms around you? It should become just as natural to return that embrace from God, as it is to participate in a hug.

Israel missed that opportunity. They missed many more opportunities than recorded in God’s book. No one can count the blessings and messages God sent. No one can count the tears God shed. No one can estimate the time and effort God put into Israel. Finally, Ahaz acted on his own to destroy his brothers to the north, and God stood by as He watched His sons and daughters die. God left kings and nations on their own for a moment to show the world what happens when He doesn’t step in to quiet disagreements and misunderstandings. We have that result to learn from, as well as those details that led up to Israel’s fall. But do we look at them with the love and heartache God used to record those details?