Prophecy Update Newsletter
IN TODAY'S NEWSLETTER...
The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, And The Lost Son
- Jack Kelley -
And in Heaven the angels rejoice.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
"Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
The Parable of the Lost Son
Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.
"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father.
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
"The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.
"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'
"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'
"'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' " (Luke 15:3-32)
What's Going On Here?
The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law were muttering among themselves, criticizing the Lord for fraternizing with sinners. They believed that even acknowledging a sinner's presence was wrong, and sharing a meal with a one was a sign of acceptance to be avoided at all costs. Guilt by association, they called it. It's an attitude that's still around. Go bankrupt, get a divorce, or even lose your job and you'll soon find out who your friends are. If you're lucky, one or two will come around. The rest will avoid you like the plague, as if your condition is contagious and they might catch it.
The so-called righteous people of the day placed little or no value on the lives of sinners, believing their behavior had rendered them undeserving of any effort toward reconciliation. So Jesus told them three parables to explain God's view that sinners were actually of more urgent importance to Him than the righteous.
On one occasion He told them that He had come to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), and on another that it was the sick that needed a doctor, not the healthy. "I have not come to call the righteous," He said, " but sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:31-32) Now He said, "If you had 100 sheep and one got lost you'd leave the 99 and search for the lost one wouldn't you? And wouldn't you be glad when you found it?"
"And suppose you had 10 coins and lost one? Wouldn't you focus all your efforts on finding it? And when you did wouldn't you celebrate?"
If they felt that way about material possessions that could easily be replaced, how much more important should a human soul be?
To our Creator each and every life is of infinite value; irreplaceable. He doesn't desire that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) That's why there's more rejoicing in Heaven over redeeming one lost soul than over 99 who never got lost. And that's why every time a sinner repents and receives the Lord the angels in Heaven sing for joy.
By the way, the Bible only mentions five events that cause the angels to sing. One was when God said, "Let there be light," and the Earth came to life. Another was when the Lord Jesus was born, and then there's the arrival of the Church in Heaven, and finally the Lord's defeat of His enemies at the end of the age. That's just four other times in all the history of man. But they get plenty of practice, because the fifth one repeats itself every time one of us comes to the Lord. In His view saving a single life ranks right up there with creating and saving the world.
Here's The Point
But it's the third parable that must have cut them to the quick, because it highlights the resentment the obedient son felt over the return of the disobedient one.
"The older brother became angry and refused to go in (to the celebration). So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'
My guess is that this parable exposed their true motives for ostracizing the sinners among them. They worked hard to keep the Law and took pride in doing a good job. Those who didn't were being disobedient and deserved to be punished. By shunning them the Pharisees were actually helping the Lord mete out the punishment. This made them feel all the better about themselves. Nothing like being on the Lord's side to make one feel righteous.
Then comes this itinerant preacher giving these sinners all kinds of attention and actually making them feel good about themselves, giving them hope, and taking away their motivation to clean up their act. It wasn't fair. The Pharisees worked so hard at being good and these sinners get all the attention. On top of that, the Pharisees labored to earn their ticket to eternity. If the sinners got a free pass, like Jesus seemed to be implying, what kind of example would that set? They were plainly jealous.
And so the Lord softened the blow with the last point in the parable. He had the joyful father say, "My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."
Rewarding sinners doesn't penalize the righteous. The Lord doesn't subscribe to the scarcity mentality that there's only so much to go around and giving to one means taking from another. For everyone who asks will receive, all who seek will find, and to all who knock the door will be opened (Matt 7:7-8).
And Finally ...
It's easy to spot the Pharisees' error. They thought salvation was something they could earn, and by attempting to do so they developed a self-righteous attitude that actually placed them further in their debt of sin. The only difference between the Pharisees and the sinners, is that the sinners knew they needed a Savior. But the Lord's compassion for them, as expressed by the father in the parable to the older son, must have worked. On the Day of Pentecost, the newborn church picked up over 3000 members, many of them Pharisees and Teachers of the Law.
The Pharisees were a group from Biblical times, but they're not all dead yet. There's still plenty of that self-righteous "holier than thou" attitude around, and most of us harbor some of it. So next time you feel a little jealous when some undeserving sinner repents and is saved, remember ... this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. And in Heaven the angels rejoice. Selah
Will Trump make a peace breakthrough in 2018? -
US President Donald Trump's goal of generating a rapid improvement of Israel's ties with the Arab world, including the Palestinians in 2018, is not just up to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, but depends largely on how the Trump administration handles the continuing conflict between Qatar and its powerful Arab opponents, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Up until the end of this week, Trump had turned down the efforts of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis to resolve the Gulf conflict by diplomacy. Instead of heeding them, the president took the advice of the Saudi defense minister, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, who visited Washington this week. Tillerson and Mattis tried to arrange a conference between Saudi Arabia and Qatar so as to gradually ease the tensions, but Trump torpedoed the initiative by adopting Riyadh's tough line.
A complex situation has arisen in the last few days regarding the US diplomacy for bringing Israel and the Palestinians aboard a peace process. The signs of movement on this score fluctuate between crises and some progress:
1. The Gaza electricity row falls under the first heading. Some circles contend that the crisis is artificial, since the Palestinian enclave is receiving as much power now as before. What is different is the new, intensified pressure by Egypt on the one hand and the Palestinian Authority on the other in the hope of toppling Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip or squeezing its leaders into toeing their lines. Neither Egyptian President Abel Fatteh El-Sisi nor the Palestinian Authority chairman has made headway. Hamas stubbornly refuses Cairo's demand to sever ties with Qatar, while launching a counteroffensive to draw Israel into the dispute by making an empty threat of an "explosion."
Israel responded with a counter-threat on Thursday, June 15: a proposal to transfer one hour's worth of power from West Bank Palestinian towns to boost the supply to Gaza.
This maneuver kept the entire electricity issue in the court from it was tossed, Ramallah.
2. A shower of Israeli concessions is landing on the Palestinians judging by almost daily reports. Some are true and others false. But in sum, they are designed to impress President Trump with the Netanyahu government's good will towards his peace initiative and readiness to take steps in its support. In fact, the prime minister is preparing the ground for the forthcoming arrival of Jason Greenblatt, Trump's envoy on the Israel-Palestinian issue.
3. US Secretary of State Tillerson this week informed the Senate that the Palestinian Authority had agreed to halt its payments to the families of Palestinian terrorists who were killed while carrying out attacks against Israelis. Palestinian officials no doubt let this be understood to demonstrate their willingness to go along with Trump's peace initiative, without, however, have any real intention of following through.
4. Media reports and the findings of Arab research institutes add up to the following predictions on the fate of the negotiations generated by the Trump administration between Israel and the Arab world:
A. Some time during 2018, a showcase summit will be staged for Trump, Netanyahu and leading Arab rulers like Saudi King Salman, Egyptian President El-Sisi and the UAE's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
They will publish a joint declaration signaling the phased normalization of relations with Israel by such preliminary steps as the exchange of economic and business delegations, the opening of trade offices and of Arab skies to Israeli commercial flights. None of these researchers is clear about the Palestinian role in this event.
B. Meanwhile, Israel will make concessions towards improving the lives of ordinary Palestinians, such as removing checkpoints, issuing building permits for Palestinian towns and more jobs in Israel.
C. Israel and the Palestinian Authority will expand their security cooperation. The Palestinians will be persuaded to cease their incitement against the Jewish State and stop payouts to the families of convicted Palestinian terrorists and other security offenders.
D. Direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations will ensue, without preconditions on either side, and expand. with Arab governments sitting in.
E. At the end of a period of some years, this process will mature into a discussion of the core issues of the dispute, Palestinian statehood, future borders, settlements, Jerusalem and refugees.
In other words, the year 2018 will see the building of normal relations between Israel and Arab countries to be followed at a later date by the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. President Trump has clearly seized on relations with Riyadh, Cairo and Abu Dhabi as a lever for pushing Israel and the Palestinians into peace talks.
The idea is simple. Israel's improved ties with the Arab world will resonate positively on Israeli-Palestinian relations. That appears to be Trump's formula for peace. But there is a catch. It depends heavily on the US President maintaining good relations with the Arab world in the long term.
Burying Obama's legacy
- By Caroline B. Glick -
Obama and his failed policy paradigm were roundly rebuffed this week, leaving no doubt where the current administration stands
It may very well be that this week was the week that Israel and the US put to rest former president Barack Obama's policies and positions on Israel and the Palestinians.
If so, the move was made despite the best efforts of Obama's team to convince the Trump administration to maintain them.
The details of Obama's policies and positions have been revealed in recent weeks in a series of articles published in Haaretz regarding Obama's secretary of state John Kerry's failed peacemaking efforts, which ended in 2014.
The articles reported segments of two drafts of a US framework for a final peace treaty between the PLO and Israel. The drafts were created in February and March 2014.
The article series is predicated on the assumption that Kerry and his team were on the precipice of a historic breakthrough between PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. But a close reading of the documents shows that the opposite was the case.
There are two reasons that Kerry had no prospects for reaching a deal.
First, he, Obama and their advisers were too hostile to Israel and its citizens to ever convince Netanyahu that Israel's interests would be secured.
A February 2014 draft framework agreement, which was based on conversations Kerry and his team held with Netanyahu and his advisers, makes this clear. The draft includes Netanyahu's demand that Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria not annexed to Israel would remain "in place" after the implementation of a peace deal, and presumably, become towns in the future Palestinian state.
In other words, Netanyahu demanded that the Israelis in Judea and Samaria whose towns would be located in the territory of "Palestine" would enjoy the same rights and protections as Israel's Arab citizens enjoy.
Kerry and his team would have none of it. The February draft agreement notes, "[US] negotiators need to check with PM [Netanyahu] on whether he wants to [maintain this position]... They believe that if so, he will push strongly for 'in place.' 'In place' is inconsistent with US policy and therefore unacceptable to us as well as the Palestinians."
In other words, the position of the Obama administration was that all Israelis living in areas that would become part of the Palestinian state must be forcibly removed from their homes and communities.
Haaretz reporters Barak Ravid and Amir Tibon recalled that in previous rounds of negotiations, the Palestinians - unlike the Obama administration - had not rejected this Israeli position out of hand. That is, in demanding the mass expulsion of Israeli Jews from their homes, the administration adopted a policy more extreme than the PLO.
Then there is the problem with the PLO.
Abbas rejected Kerry's February 2014 draft framework agreement, which was based on conversations with Netanyahu and his advisors. But he also rejected Kerry's March 2014 agreement, which was based on the US's conversation with him and his advisors.
The March 2014 draft was presented to Abbas by Obama himself during a meeting between the two in the White House. Not only did Abbas not accept Obama's offer, he refused to respond to it.
This should have surprised no one. Abbas did the same thing in 2008 after then-prime minister Ehud Olmert presented Abbas with his peace proposal. Abbas's predecessor, Yasser Arafat, responded in the same way in July 2000 to then-prime minister Ehud Barak's peace offer, and in December 2000, to then-president Bill Clinton's peace offer.
Given the consistent track record, it is beyond foolish to believe that anyone - even Trump - will fare differently from his American and Israeli predecessors.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Haaretz series is what they tell us about Netanyahu.
Like him or hate him, the Netanyahu revealed in the articles is a brilliant statesman. In difficult diplomatic conditions, with the US openly siding with the PLO against him, Netanyahu managed to parry and duck. Although Haaretz tries to present Netanyahu as weak and compliant, the text shows that the opposite was the case.
In the face of massive pressure from Obama, Netanyahu refused to commit to anything. His only recorded position was that all Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria remain in place in perpetuity.
Rather than confront Kerry directly, Netanyahu stood aside and watched as the Americans drafted their anti-Israel proposals. He nodded. He smiled. He refused to commit to anything.
And he waited patiently for Abbas to walk away from the table.
Until this week, much to the dismay of many of his supporters, Netanyahu appeared unwilling to move beyond the defensive position he maintained throughout the Obama presidency. This week he took three great big steps forward.
First, Netanyahu announced that he supports amending Israel's NGO law to ban foreign governments from funding political nonprofits registered in Israel.
For the past 20 years, Israel has been subjected to ever-escalating subversive campaigns funded and often directed by foreign governments and carried out by Israeli-registered NGOs. The purpose of these campaigns is to legitimize political and economic warfare against the Jewish state by European and other Western governments. The campaigns legitimize political and economic warfare against Israel by demonizing the Jewish state, its citizens and its soldiers.
In recent years, lawmakers have tried repeatedly to block the funding. But due to US pressure, Netanyahu scuttled all their attempts. Proposed reform bills were watered down until they were limited to instituting weak reporting requirements. Foreign government funds continue streaming into the coffers of NGOs whose positions are supported by no significant domestic constituencies.
By announcing that he now supports passing legislation that will bar foreign government funding of nonprofits, Netanyahu is striking a strategic blow at the political and economic war being waged against Israel by the EU and by the international Left.
This war, waged in the name of the Palestinians, has harmed Israel's relations with the Palestinians by discouraging them from living peacefully with their Israeli neighbors.
Then there is UNRWA. The UN's refugee agency dedicated to the Palestinians is arguably one of the central reasons for the perpetuation of the Palestinian conflict with Israel. Indeed, UNRWA was formed by the Arab governments to specifically block all prospect of peace between Israel and its neighbors.
UNRWA prevents the permanent resettlement of the Arabs who left Israel in 1948 and 1949 as well as their descendants. It has doomed five generations of "refugees" to live in the squalor of its camps, blocked from receiving citizenship in the countries of their birth and prevented from being resettled in other countries.
After Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, then-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and then-foreign minister Tzipi Livni decided that the best way to respond to the move was by massively increasing UNRWA's budget. They were unmoved by the fact that UNRWA employs Hamas terrorists. They ignored the fact that UNRWA schools in Gaza and elsewhere indoctrinate their students to embrace jihad and the cause of Israel's annihilation.
Under Obama, the US increased its payments to UNRWA even as UNRWA schools, clinics and other facilities have been used as missile launching pads and storage depots in Hamas's war against Israel.
This week, Netanyahu finally put to rest the dangerous folly that UNRWA is a foil to Hamas and a positive force in the region. He called for UNRWA to be dismantled and for the Palestinians and their descendants to be treated like every other refugee group in the world and be resettled by the UN's high commissioner for refugees.
If Netanyahu's move against UNRWA is translated into actual Israeli and US policy, it will mark the beginning of the end of one of the primary causes of the Palestinian conflict with Israel.
Finally, there is incitement. Palestinian terrorism would vastly diminish were it not for constant incitement that encourages terrorism and rewards and celebrates terrorists.
Since it was established by the Qatari regime in 1996, Al Jazeera has been a central engine of antisemitic and jihadist indoctrination of the Palestinians. And yet, Israel has never moved to close Al Jazeera's bureau in Israel.
Israel has given the terrorist network a pass largely because it hasn't wanted to deal with the Western outcry that such a move would provoke.
This week, for the first time, Netanyahu, along with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, announced they support Al Jazeera's closure and have directed their staff to consider the best way to do so.
In so doing, Netanyahu and Liberman are making the most of the opportunity afforded Israel by the Arab states' open cleavage with Qatar. Last week, Saudi Arabia and Jordan closed Al Jazeera's bureaus in Riyadh and Amman. Egypt, which closed Al Jazeera's offices in 2013, blocked its website.
Taken both separately and together, Netanyahu's moves this week strike strategic blows at three central components of the Palestinian conflict with Israel. Incitement, political warfare and the eternalization of Palestinian refugee status all render the conflict intractable and prevent peaceful Palestinian leaders from emerging.
Notably, whereas the Obama administration would have subjected Israel to hysterical condemnations if Netanyahu had dared to take the steps he took this week, the Trump administration has taken no position on Netanyahu's announcements.
The real reason that Trump appears to be burying Obama's legacy is because unlike the ideologically- driven Obama, Trump is willing to consider evidence and facts when determining his opinions.
In May, Abbas came to the White House and told Trump that he abjured terrorism. Israel then presented Trump with evidence that Abbas publicly incites terrorism and uses the Palestinian Authority budget to support terrorists and their families.
Trump took in the information and upbraided Abbas for lying to him.
True, this week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson falsely told Congress that Abbas had cut off the payments. And true, Tillerson doubled down on his assertion after both the Palestinians and Israel said the payments have not been cut off.
True as well that Trump continues to believe that he can make "the deal" that his predecessors failed to secure.
But the fact is that Trump has given Netanyahu support as he has walked away from the failed policy paradigm of the Obama years.
In other words, Netanyahu's moves this week, and the fact that the Trump administration has left him alone to make them without being second-guessed or condemned by Washington, indicates that we have finally moved past Obama's legacy.
Where we are going is still unknown. But what is certain is that by going after the sources of the continued malignancy of the conflict and pushing back against the lies that informed Obama's policies, both Israel and the US have abandoned them.
Palestinians to claim Tomb of Patriarchs on UN World Heritage List
- Tovah Lazaroff -
The World Heritage Committee on Thursday published the list of 35 sites that it plans to consider inscribing, including Hebron.
The World Heritage Committee is set to debate inscribing the Old City of Hebron - including its Tomb of the Patriarchs - to the "State of Palestine" when it meets from July 2 to 12 in Krakow, Poland.
"This is a new front in the war over the holy places that the Palestinians are trying to ignite as part of their propaganda campaign against Israel and the history of the Jewish people," Israel's Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama HaCohen told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
The World Heritage Committee operates under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization.
For the last three years Israel has waged a stiff battle at UNESCO to prevent the Palestinians from linguistically reclassifying Judaism's holiest site, the Temple Mount, solely as the Muslim religious site known as al-Haram al-Sharif.
"This is a clear continuation of the attacks and hallucinatory outrageous votes in UNESCO regarding Jerusalem, the Temple Mount and the Western Wall," Shama HaCohen said, drawing a clear link between the two battles for Israel's Jewish heritage.
UNESCO recognized Palestine as a state in 2011, a move that allowed the Palestinian Authority to inscribe two sites on the World Heritage List: Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity and the pilgrimage route in 2012; and the ancient terraces of Battir in 2014.
It fast-tracked both inscriptions by claiming the sites were endangered. It is now making the same argument with regard to Hebron's Old City. This includes the Tomb's Herodian structure that houses both Jewish places of worship and the Ibrahimi Mosque.
If the 21-member committee approves the PA's request, it would mark the first time that a Jewish holy site under Israeli control was registered to the "State of Palestine."
The World Heritage Committee on Thursday published the list of 35 sites that it plans to consider inscribing, including Hebron. But PA documents to explain the rationale for the inscription as well as a technical evaluation by a professional subgroup of the World Heritage Committee has yet to be posted on UNESCO's website.
Israel has already been working for the last month to sway the committee members to reject the request based on five arguments, Shama HaCohen said.
The Tomb and the city of Hebron is the second holiest site in Judaism, after the Temple Mount and its Western Wall, he noted. The Bible clearly records its purchase by Abraham.
Inscribing the site to the Palestinians would also be problematic diplomatically, because the area is under Israeli control based on the 1997 Hebron protocol signed by the PA and Israel, Shama HaCohen added.
The Palestinians are fast-tracking inscriptions at the expense of other countries who sometimes work for close to a decade to fulfill all the necessary inscription requirements, the ambassador said.
"This is a process that normally takes years." In this case, he said, there was no danger to the site.
Israel has worked together with the religious authorities in Hebron with regard to upkeep and repairs to the site and to ensure access for Muslim worshipers to the Ibrahimi Mosque, he said.
Lastly, he asserted, registration of sites jointly used by Israelis and Palestinians should wait until such time as there is a final status agreement that ends the conflict.
This would allow both Israel and the Palestinians to jointly ask for the site's inscription, Shama-HaCohen said, adding that to register the site to one party prior to such an agreement will only end up deepening the conflict.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations wrote a letter to UNESCO's Director-General Irina Bokova explaining that it was important for UNESCO to "stand up for the truth."
Conference chairman Stephen M. Greenberg and chairman and executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein, who penned the letter, told Bokova that "Palestinian officials, including the leader of the Wakf of Hebron and the Wakf of the Cave, have praised the cooperation of Israeli authorities responsible for the security of these holy sites in Hebron and public safety arrangements for worshipers at the Cave.
"The Palestinian religious leaders have publicly acknowledged Israeli respect for freedom of worship for all and expressed appreciation for the sensitivity shown by the Israeli authorities in responding to Palestinian special requests," they added.
The 21 committee members are: Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, United Republic of Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
Are These the Days of Noah?
- By Jonathan Brentner -
No, I am not suggesting with this title that we start building ships or that we rush to the Ark Encounter in northern Kentucky hoping that the recreation of Noah's ark will actually float. I am referring to Jesus' words in Matthew 24 where He said this, "For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man."
What characterized the "days of Noah?" Back in Genesis 6, God complained about at least a couple of things regarding the people of that day. Genesis 6:5 says, "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of heart was only evil continually." Besides the extreme wickedness of the time, this expression appears twice, "the earth was filled with violence" (vv. 6:11, 13).
For the past couple weeks I have been contemplating a post on violence in our world, but the recent shooting of Steve Scalise and others pushed this to the forefront of my thinking.
Violence Fills the Earth
In 2016 alone, there were 2,478 Islamic terror attacks in 59 countries in which 21,237 people were killed and 26,680 people were injured. In just the past 30 days there have been 174 attacks by Islamic Jihadists in which 1,659 people were killed in 29 different countries (the source for these numbers is thereligionofpeace.com, which chronicles each such attack).
During the bloody civil war in Syria over 500,000 people have been killed, according the last numbers I saw on this, and the bloodshed and killing continues unabated in this horrible conflict.
The greatest source of deadly violence in our world continues to be abortion. In our nation alone, over 50 million babies have been murdered since 1973 and worldwide, this number is much higher. Is not God just as grieved by this senseless bloodshed as He is by the bombings and killing also prevalent in our world? I believe He is.
Wikipedia lists fourteen current and ongoing wars in our world, including the civil war in Syria, with 1,000 or more deaths each year. The Mexican drug war has claimed the lives of 138,000 people since 2006 with over 12,000 dying because of this violence in 2016 alone.
Does violence fill the earth at this time? Absolutely! We do not know the statistics of violence during the days of Noah, but I have to believe what we see around us certainly qualifies as an apt comparison.
The Acceptance of Violence
What's also disturbing to me is the growing acceptance of violence in our culture. In the past few months we have seen celebrities advocate the killing of our president. Madonna advocated the blowing up of the White House and Kathy Griffin's display disgustingly glorifies violence as well. Since President Trump was elected, there have been 12,000 tweets calling for his assassination.
Even more sickening is the play currently running in New York City portraying the assassination of President Trump to which people stand and applaud their approval. This is not sponsored, as you might suspect, by some lunatic fringe group, but by the New York Times and other well-known companies. This applauding of the killing of our president is satanic and disgusting. There is no other way to describe it.
The shooting of Steve Scalise was not some random event; it grew out the frenzied hatred of the left toward President Trump form those who advocate killing as a way to fight back against him.
Granted, not everyone who opposes President Trump advocates violence, but it's becoming increasingly clear that a significant number of people do on the left. And, from those on the left condemning the shooting of Scalise, I have yet to hear anyone on the left call for the ending of the play depicting the killing of President Trump.
A Day Like Any Other
In comparing the days leading up to His coming to the days of Noah, the Lord also made this interesting statement, "For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark" (Matt. 24:38). People on the earth during the time of Noah carried on with their lives completely oblivious to the coming flood until it was too late. The flood came on a day that started out just as any other day for them.
Until the moment Jesus returns for His church, life will proceed here pretty much as normal as well; we should not expect any great sign or worldwide catastrophe signaling His appearing to take us home. Just as in the days of Noah, life will seem normal. It will be a day like any other day, that is, until Jesus comes.
That day will then become a day glorious beyond anything we have ever experienced before in our lives. For those left behind, it will be a much different story.
What also grieves me regarding the shooting of Steve Scalise is what is signifies regarding the future of our nation. The battle of ideas that made our nation great became the politics of personal destruction under former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Now, however, it has evolved into something even worse than even what the Clintons initially advocated. The left has now incorporated violence in the equation getting what it wants.
Please pray for our president and vice president. I believe it is vital that we pray for their safety as well as all those around them in the White House and in the leadership of Congress. President Trump is under attack day and night both from the left and the mainstream media (which is just as devoted to his destruction) as anyone else on the left.
Was it not our prayers that perhaps spared the lives of many when the gunman opened fire on the GOP lawmakers? Until the day Jesus calls us home, our prayers will make a huge difference!
Jonathan C. Brentner
Eternity Versus the Moment
Hasmonean Fortress of Machaerus Unearthed - on "Wrong" Side of Border -
"Declare ye in Yehudah, and publish in Yerushalayim, and say: 'Blow ye the horn in the land'; cry aloud and say: 'Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the fortified cities.'" Jeremiah 4:5 (The Israel Bible™)
A Hungarian archaeological mission digging in the ruins of Machaerus, a fortress built by King Herod on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea located in modern Jordan, has discovered a large ritual bath which were likely constructed for the royal family's use. The bath has 12 steeps, and was fed from a reserve pool when its water ran low.
In order to qualify as a means to purification, a ritual bath must have at least 40 se'ah, the equivalent of about 83 gallons of water.
The underground cistern, 54 ft deep, watered the baths and the fortress' gardens.
The architecture of the bath is very similar to the baths and cisterns discovered in nearby Qumran (across the Dead Sea). It is situated 9 ft below the royal courtyard, and used to be covered by a vaulted stone roof, which was probably demolished by Lucilius Bassus' 10th Roman legion. Bassus' soldiers, on a campaign to repress the Great Jewish Revolt, in 71 attacked the Herodian fortress and the Jewish warriors who were hiding inside.
The archaeologists exposed collapsed walls, two massive column drums, and four Roman ballistae.
The fortress of Machaerus was built by Hasmonean king Alexander Yanai (104-78 BCE), probably in 90 BCE. Its high, rocky vantage point was difficult to access, and it was used to spot and alerted Jerusalem about invaders from the east. It was part of a warning system that included several Hasmonean citadels, in one another's line of sight.
Machaerus was destroyed by Pompey's general Gabinius in 57 BCE, and later rebuilt by Herod in 30 BCE as a military base. Herod's son, Herod Antipas, inherited the fortress (and the kingdom) in 4 BCE, until his demise in 39 CE. That's time when, according to Christian belief, John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded at Machaerus.
The legend sets the event on Herod's birthday (that's Herod II), when the king's daughter Salome danced before the king and his guests, and her father liked it so much that he promised to give her anything she desired, at which point Salome asked for-and received-the head of John the Baptist on a platter.
The excavation of Machaerus began in 1968, by the American Archaeological Baptist Mission. The current excavations, by a Hungarian-Jordanian team led by Dr. Győző Vörös, have unearthed intact massive walls 30 ft high, revealing the majesty of the legendary Herodian architecture.
The Hungarian excavators also discovered dozens of Hasmonean and Roman coins, as well as 47 Aramaic broken pottery shards inscribed with Aramaic letters.
Machaerus was in direct line of sight of Jerusalem. The Talmud reports that the smoke of the sacrificial offerings could be seen rising from the altar of the temple in Jerusalem all the way to Machaerus, and Rabbi Elazar ben Delgai said: (Yuma 39:): "Father owned goats in the Machaerus mountains that would sneeze from the smell of the burn incense."
Daily Jot: Congressional shooter may not have worked alone - Bill Wilson -www.dailyjot.com
A colleague yesterday said he was working from home because the FBI asked his company to shut down during the investigation of the baseball field where James Hodgkinson attempted to assassinate Republican members of Congress. I knew there was a ball field across from my friend's office, but I hadn't put two and two together. This field is really tricky to find as even GPS gets confused and "recalculating" occurs. Then an email arrived from ministry partner William Agbeti in Ghana, who has survived six coups, with a blockbuster question: "How did gunman James Hodgkinson, who lives in Chicago, know when and where Steve Scalise and Company would be practicing for a baseball game in Alexandria?"
When I told Agbeti about how difficult it is to find the field, he replied, "Third world kinda contract killing at work." This is an excellent point. While the narrative is that Hodgkinson was a lone wolf who went off the deep end because of all the hate rhetoric, how did he just randomly show up with an assault rifle at an obscure location where Republican Congressmen were practicing for a baseball game of all things? No, there is more to this story. It's too bad that Hodgkinson was killed as he took his secret to his grave, although we do know that he was influenced by the hate speech atmosphere created by Democratic politicians and their celebrity supporters as amplified by a biased and complicit media.
The conciliatory chorus crooned by Democrats turned quickly to blaming President Donald Trump for the shooter's actions. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was all gushy on the day the shooting occurred, but the day after said in a speech: "When you have a president that says I can shoot somebody on 5th Avenue and nobody would care, when you have people saying beat them up and I'll pay their legal fees, when you have all the assaults that are made on Hillary Clinton, for them to be so sanctimonious is something." In her column "The Resistance goes live-fire," Ann Coulter concluded: "The fake news insists that Trump's White House is in "chaos." No, the country is in chaos. But just like Kathy Griffin and her Trump decapitation performance art--the perpetrators turn around in doe-eyed innocence and blame Trump."
Agbeti sees this from an experiential lens: "Being an African who has survived six coups d'etat in Ghana, I see so many similarities associated with the development of coups d'etat at play in the US. This development has kept me thinking: What could be happening here?...Indisputably, there is a coup in the offing...the good people of America may not know about the coup in the offing. But clearly, those engineering the coup d'etat know what they are doing; and admittedly they seem to be pros about what they are doing." These are people with blood on their hands and in their minds and hearts. As The Lord said to Cain in Genesis 4:10, "The voice of your brother's blood cries unto me from the ground." We need to recognize this and pray for our nation and the courage to honor God, calling for civility and standing against tyranny.
Daily Devotion: Ready or Not? - By Greg Laurie -www.harvest.org
He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming quickly." Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
Half of all Americans today claim to be born again. Even more claim to believe in God. If you want to apply a real litmus test to your relationship with God, or lack thereof, then let's say, for the sake of a point, that we knew Jesus Christ was coming back exactly 15 minutes from now. How would that grab you?
If your heart jumps and you say, as the apostle John did, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" then I would say your life is right with God.
But if your heart sinks and you say, "Fifteen minutes? I have some big-time repenting to do," then I would say your life is not right with Him.
A person who is walking with God as he or she ought to should always be looking forward to the Lord's return. A person who really knows God should always be a little homesick for Heaven. Are you?
If Jesus Christ were to return today (and He could), would you be ready? Jesus said, "One will be taken and the other left" (Matthew 24:40). Some people will be left when the Lord comes for His church. What would happen to you?
And there is always the possibility that death could come. You don't know for sure. No one does. What if this were your last opportunity to get right with God, and you let it slip by because you thought there would be a tomorrow, there would always be another opportunity? You don't know that.
The Bible tells us that the prophet Isaiah went to King Hezekiah and said, "Thus says the Lord: 'Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live'" (2 Kings 20:1). Are you prepared to meet God? Don't wait. Get your life right with Him now.
FROM THE HEART
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