|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #422, 423 and 424|
26 December, 1999
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
As we have arrived at an occasion of what many consider a time of great significance, it will be in order for me to make yet another digression from our normal pattern of studies.
Today, departing from that usual sequence of Bible Studies, I wish to call to mind some more general considerations which focus upon the end of the Second Millennium following the Birth of Our Lord, and to that end I will draw upon certain thoughts which have recently formed the subject matter of discussion by a few of those who particularly study the prophetic themes to be found in the Christian Scriptures.
Many, today, are looking for relief from the besetting pressures and challenges which fatigue and curse their pedestrian existence, and no group of people will be more thrilled and happy to find that the Great Day has arrived than those who have lived their lives, constantly holding before them the theme of Christ's long-promised Second Advent as a central factor in their prayers and discussions. Indeed, the scriptures speak in Hebrews 10:25 to this effect, commending to the Christian community that very focus, in the words "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."
However, the interpretations of prophetic themes which project a soon arrival and rapid consummation of the events of which the Words of Scripture inform us, may be responsible for bringing many folk to the conclusion that we are about to have the vision of that great climax of history almost immediately thrust upon us. True, we pray that sentence in the oft-repeated Lord's Prayer "Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven" and we certainly understand that its fulfilment will be at some point brought to reality in our experience. However we must constantly remember, in the words of Our Lord recorded in Matthew 25:13, to "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."
But what are some of the possible paths through which the fulfilment unfolds? Many hold to only one, certain in their own minds that they understand the complete scenario, and that there can be no other. I have lived through quite a number of decades in the Christian walk, and from my personal experience, I can tell you that there have been enthusiastic congregations in years gone by, when events appeared so close to a thrilling and happy conclusion that the congregations grew to be enthralled. They promoted by sermons and in print a scenario which saw all history concluding in the great event within their own immediate selected time. It did not happen. There were periods when many actually turned back from their former commitment, seeing in the dismay that they experienced thereafter the collapse of their chief interest in life. I want to address this now, before we pass into the transition to a third millennium, lest a similar scenario be followed by a crushing disillusionment, and disheartened folk drift to find another walk in life.
In order to accomplish this, I want to remind the Christian folk who may be following these words of several Biblical passages which I believe may present a direct parallel to the immediate prospect. First, I want to remind you of those passages which describe the actual event wherein the Israelites crossed The Jordan River, to enter into their Promised Land and associate therewith the measurements of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. Then I want to remind you of the days of Christ's First Advent, to which the present day bears a particular relationship.
When the Plan of that Tabernacle was presented to Moses on Mount Sinai, God gave it dimensions which were strikingly symbolic in many ways, and in one aspect, we may find symbolism which will aid us in finding new meaning in the manner in which Israel was ordered to cross The Jordan. You may remember that in The Tabernacle, which was a movable focus for national worship among the Tribes of Israel while they were on the march in the Wilderness of Sinai, there were, essentially two covered rooms to shield the holy furniture with its varied symbolic and prophetic presentation. These two rooms were the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. As Hebrews 9:6-7 describes their function,
6. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.
7. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people.
The dimensions of the first or outer room were, in the Hebrew units of measure then in use, twenty cubits long, by ten high and ten wide. Thus the first room contained two-thousand cubic cubits. The Holy of Holies, however, was a cubic space, ten cubits long, and the same in width and in height. Thus the cubic volume therein was one thousand cubic cubits. These dimensions have been associated, by some students of these matters, prophetically to the numbers of years between Christ's Two Advents, and to the thousand years to follow the Second Advent.
Keeping those numbers in mind, let us now consider what Joshua conveyed to the Israelites at the Jordan River's Crossing. Joshua 3:1-4 says:
1. And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over.
2. And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host;
3. And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.
4. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.
Here, then we see that same symbolic formula when the People of Israel were about to enter their Promised Land. They were to observe the Ark of The Covenant, at a distance from them of about 2000 cubits, go before them to the Jordan River, conveyed by the priests, who supported it there on the river-bed while the waters were stayed a great way off and the way was made clear for the rest of Israel to cross. This, as we should understand, happened at the spot at which Jesus Christ would later stand in The Jordan River to be baptised by John the Baptist. Now here is the important question, and hardly anyone seems to be asking it. Should we be associating the two millennium span of time only to Christ's birth date, or perhaps rather to all the sequence of events of His life, which may give us a prophetic pattern for some years yet to unfold?
Do the people of Israel, with whom we of the British-Israel-World Federation associate the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred world today, perhaps have yet in prospect the prophetic equivalents of His life, one by one as they transpired? It seems, from evidence which we find quite compelling, that Christ's Birth was on the occasion of the Feast of Trumpets in 2 BC, and hence the Annunciation would have occurred nine months previous to this at the time of Christmas. The Scriptures recount (in Luke 2) that He was circumcised on the eighth day (which The Companion Bible notes would be the last, and great day of the Feast of Tabernacles), that Mary, according to the Law found in Leviticus 12:2-4, observed the days of her purification, which would, for a male child, amount to 40 days as designated, (presumably remaining in Bethlehem for that period).
Then, to present herself and her firstborn to the Lord with the sacrificial birds, as Leviticus requires, Mary, with Joseph, took Him to the Temple, where the famous blessings of Simeon and of Anna were spoken. The Holy Family then returned to Nazareth, where, The Companion Bible notes, they must have been visited by the Magi, who, as it further notes, are nowhere called Gentiles, nor is it stated that there were only three, or that they were priests or kings!
Immediately thereafter, Joseph was warned by the angel to flee into Egypt, until Herod's death. King Herod, being half Edomite, on hearing of one "born king" of David's Royal line, decided this might present a serious threat to his own status. Hence he sought to slay Jesus by ordering the murder of every baby under two years of age in Bethlehem, David's Royal City. When Herod was dead, an angel notified Joseph, who brought his family to dwell in Nazareth. While Biblical record before Jesus' thirtieth year at which He became eligible to perform His office of a Priest, is limited to the appearance of Jesus at the age of twelve, in the Temple. We do know that there are indications that He was absent from Palestine for much of his life, and traditions in the west of England, in Cornwall and Somerset, speak of His sojourning in that land on more than one occasion in His younger years. This also may hold prophetic ramifications.
The Possibility therefore exists, that we will see the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of Israel descent passing, in the next few years, through prophetic parallels in their experiences, matching a similar pattern but two-thousand years afterward, to that laid before us in the sequence found in Christ's own life. At His First Advent, many people in Israel were spiritually restless, and some saw Christ's birth as the expected Advent, but there followed days and years while He matured before events proclaimed the true essence of the proposition. As Habakkuk 2:3 says: "For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie; though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry." We will leave these considerations for your meditation as we approach the turn of the century.
2 January, 2000
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
As we have arrived at the occasion of what many will consider a time of great significance, it will be in order for me to make yet another short digression from our normal pattern of studies for at least a part of the present talk.
Today, departing at least for a part of our time, from that usual sequence of Bible Studies which concerns the progress of the family of Israel from Abraham down to the approach of the Tribes of Israel to the Promised Land, as found in the first five books of the Bible, I wish to call to mind some more general considerations which focus upon the end of the Second Millennium following the Birth of Our Lord. To that end I will draw upon certain thoughts which have recently formed the subject matter of discussion by a few of those who particularly study the prophetic themes to be found in the Christian Scriptures.
There will doubtless be many Christian folk who have some appreciation of the prophetic possibilities in our present situation, but I have in mind something which I feel ought also to be set out for our consideration, and which may even be taken by way of a warning, of sorts. Over the last number of years, as I see it, there has been a tendency on the part of many in the camp of the humanist philosophy to gradually make preparation for something which I believe will be, in its essence, a precipitous move to displace Christianity from the world's scene and replace its influence with a form of world government which, inevitably, will be anti-Christian in its essential philosophical thrust and legislative authority. We have Christian warrant for such a supposition, for we are told in Revelation 12:12-13 "Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child."
I see this anti-Christian formula as a calculated scenario in which the greater mass of the Christian world is to be led by subtle stages of media induced excitement to focus all its attention and feelings of anticipation upon the concept of Y2K, or in other words the "Year 2000", as a major focal point, or crisis point in Christian history, laden with every expectation of the arrival of the long-prophesied and greatly desired Second Advent of Our Lord.
If that has been the programme, it will, on the face of it, be a subtle plan which will "set-up" the Christian communities for a fall in that degree of certainty which has been cultivated in this particular scenario within their religious beliefs. The success of such a development would be welcomed by those interested in bringing forward an anti-Christian plan for world dominance. It might give them the philosophical leverage and the political "window of opportunity" to insist that no expectations of a Christian continuance beyond that milestone, marked "2000", intrude any further to obstruct the advance of what I would project as an atheistic or humanistic programme for a scientific approach to the problems of world government. 2000, then, would become the high-water mark of Christianity in history, and the terminal date for effective Christian witness.
What better plan, to cause disillusionment and dismay among the ranks of the Christian community, might one develop than to encourage, world-wide, a heightened expectation, by Christians which settles on one particular date, after which a let-down would naturally be expected to ensue, so that subsequent protest by Christians at any move of the sort which I am considering would be minimal.
Those who would carry our world into a "post-Christian" world-government era would meet with much less opposition if the Christian era be handed, in a sense, their final date to "prove the Christian scenario", following which a great wave of dispirited lethargy could well be engineered to put "paid" to further Christian evangelism. Those in control of events might well, to use a Hollywood type expression seek to "make it a wrap", and "put it in the can" as something which has had its day, become passe; a religious view of which the truth has, once and for all, been disproved and which may then be placed as a foot-note to ongoing history, albeit a two thousand year footnote. We may even read the question they might ask in II Peter 3:3-4. The passage reads "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation."
It will be a danger to both the Christian and to the non-Christian communities if such a coup is attempted, on more than one score. First, the culmination of the actual year marking entry to the two-thousandth year, even by a conventional system of enumeration, lasts not to the beginning of the year 2000, but to the year 2001, for there was no year marked zero at the start of calculation, (1 BC being immediately followed by 1AD), and secondly, the date therein ought not to be January 1 of that year, but a feast day, perhaps the Feast of Tabernacles, if the calculations be done in line with informed Christian opinion. Further, the fact is that, as we put forward on last week's study, the whole of Christ's First Advent lifetime may present the present Christian world with a prophetic picture, a time-line marked by prominent events in those years, through which the people of modern-day Israel, like their Lord, must pass, though at a distance through time of those two thousand years.
We will await the day with anticipation, certainly, but we will watch with patience to note those signs of prophesied events and conditions which the Scriptures describe for confirmation of our place within the times which are all within God's hands.
Now, in the time which remains, let us recollect the threads of our ongoing studies, for these also are important. Our present series of Bible Studies began several years ago with God's Call to Abram in Genesis 12. The message contained in that call was that he should leave his home in Ur of the Chaldees, and follow the leading of The Almighty God to seek for "a better country", as Hebrews 11:14-16 shows us. Eventually God's Call was to found a family, a tribal nation, and a constellation of nations from Abram's loins, that would ultimately serve God's Great Plan for all peoples.
Our course of study has taken us down the centuries since that time and through the Bible Story of his descendants, Isaac, Jacob who was re-named Israel, and the tribal family of Jacob which was descended of his twelve sons, and which was constituted a national wife to Yahweh, (Jehovah) Himself at Mount Sinai after their emergence from the harsh school of Egyptian bondage through the miracles of The Exodus.
Our latest studies have considered the words of Numbers 32 to the end of that chapter, and so today, we are beginning to look at Numbers 33, a chapter which lists all the major localities which were visited during the past 40 years of wandering in the Wilderness of Sinai under the care and protection of The Almighty, and with the human direction of Moses to convey God's word to the Tribes of Israel. Let us finish with the first few locations in that list.
1. These are the journeys of the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron.
2. And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of the LORD: and these are their journeys according to their goings out.
3. And they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow after the passover the children of Israel went out with an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians.
4. For the Egyptians buried all their firstborn, which the LORD had smitten among them: upon their gods also the LORD executed judgments.
5. And the children of Israel removed from Rameses, and pitched in Succoth.
6. And they departed from Succoth, and pitched in Etham, which is in the edge of the wilderness.
7. And they removed from Etham, and turned again unto Pihahiroth, which is before Baalzephon: and they pitched before Migdol.
8. And they departed from before Pihahiroth, and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness, and went three days' journey in the wilderness of Etham, and pitched in Marah.
9. And they removed from Marah, and came unto Elim: and in Elim were twelve fountains of water, and threescore and ten palm trees; and they pitched there.
10. And they removed from Elim, and encamped by the Red sea.
11. And they removed from the Red sea, and encamped in the wilderness of Sin.
12. And they took their journey out of the wilderness of Sin, and encamped in Dophkah.
13. And they departed from Dophkah, and encamped in Alush.
14. And they removed from Alush, and encamped at Rephidim, where was no water for the people to drink.
15. And they departed from Rephidim, and pitched in the wilderness of Sinai.
Well, that at least, brings us some way along the path they trod. At least we have seen them along their route from Egypt as far as that famed mountain.
9 January, 2000
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our latest studies have considered the words of Numbers 33 as far as verse 15, a passage which reviews the first stopping places for the camp of Israel as they emerged out of their bondage experience in Egypt under the care and protection of The Almighty God, and with the human direction of Moses who is commissioned to convey God's word to the Tribes of Israel. We had reviewed those sites at which the Israelites had halted on the route from Egypt as far as Rephidim which is near Mount Sinai.
Today, our passage is found in Numbers 33:16-56, and we are picking up the list of camping sites occupied by the children of Israel starting at their location at Rephidim and the Wilderness of Sinai. I will read the list of localities as they are presented in the Scripture passage, continuing on from the last portion which ended at verse 15. The names will probably be unfamiliar to many of us, as all who follow with Bibles in hand will realise, and they may not be easy to pronounce.
Remember that these verses form a listing, rather like a history table, of all the major localities which had been visited during the past 40 years of wandering in the Wilderness of Sinai, and Moses is making the record for the benefit of the next generation who have been growing up to replace the mature generation which balked at entering The Promised Land some thirty-eight years before. Keil and Delitzsch state: "...the history of the desert wandering closes with a list of the stations which they had left behind them. This list was written out by Moses 'at the command of Jehovah' (ver. 2) as a permanent memorial for after ages, as every station which Israel left behind on the journey from Egypt to Canaan 'through the great and terrible desert' was a memorial of the grace and faithfulness with which the Lord led His people safely 'in the desert land and in the waste howling wilderness, and kept him as the apple of His eye as an eagle fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings'." Now, let us finish with the rest of the locations in that list.
16. And they removed from the desert of Sinai, and pitched at Kibrothhattaavah.
17. And they departed from Kibrothhattaavah, and encamped at Hazeroth.
At the first of those places, Kibrothhattaavah, the people had lusted for flesh, and quail had fallen about the camp, but when the people feasted, many died. At Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron had spoken against their brother Moses, and Miriam had suffered a touch of leprosy from The LORD, and a week's exclusion from the camp, for that wong doing. We now read a longer list of nineteen rather obscure stopping places of which we might only make a summary comment. The precise locations of many may, in fact, be doubtful.
18. And they departed from Hazeroth, and pitched in Rithmah.
19. And they departed from Rithmah, and pitched at Rimmonparez.
20. And they departed from Rimmonparez, and pitched in Libnah.
21. And they removed from Libnah, and pitched at Rissah.
22. And they journeyed from Rissah, and pitched in Kehelathah.
23. And they went from Kehelathah, and pitched in mount Shapher.
24. And they removed from mount Shapher, and encamped in Haradah.
25. And they removed from Haradah, and pitched in Makheloth.
26. And they removed from Makheloth, and encamped at Tahath.
27. And they departed from Tahath, and pitched at Tarah.
28. And they removed from Tarah, and pitched in Mithcah.
29. And they went from Mithcah, and pitched in Hashmonah.
30. And they departed from Hashmonah, and encamped at Moseroth.
31. And they departed from Moseroth, and pitched in Benejaakan.
32. And they removed from Benejaakan, and encamped at Horhagidgad.
33. And they went from Horhagidgad, and pitched in Jotbathah.
34. And they removed from Jotbathah, and encamped at Ebronah.
35. And they departed from Ebronah, and encamped at Eziongaber.
36. And they removed from Eziongaber, and pitched in the wilderness of Zin, which is Kadesh.
Ezion Geber is shown on maps to lie north of the head of the Gulf of Akaba, and Israel at that point in time was making for the border of The Promised Land, but that former generation were destined to back away from taking the land through fear of the inhabitants at that time. It was left for the succeeding generation, 38 years later, to do what their parents ought to have done. It had been at the Wilderness of Zin, which is Kadesh, perhaps better, Kadesh Barnea, nearing Canaan's borders that twelve spies, one from the leadership in each tribe, had searched Canaan in order to report the way ahead, but you will remember that, except for Caleb and Joshua, they brought back a discouraging report and suffered for it. Continuing:
37. And they removed from Kadesh, and pitched in mount Hor, in the edge of the land of Edom.
38. And Aaron the priest went up into mount Hor at the commandment of the LORD, and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the first day of the fifth month.
39. And Aaron was an hundred and twenty and three years old when he died in mount Hor.
The locality shows that Israel has now been in the wilderness of Sinai for those many years, having turned back into the wilderness and wandered therein, leading a sparse and troubled existence, and now, at this verse, we find that Aaron's life was concluded in mount Hor, at the age of one hundred and three.
40. And king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south in the land of Canaan, heard of the coming of the children of Israel.
41. And they departed from mount Hor, and pitched in Zalmonah.
42. And they departed from Zalmonah, and pitched in Punon.
43. And they departed from Punon, and pitched in Oboth.
44. And they departed from Oboth, and pitched in Ijeabarim, in the border of Moab.
45. And they departed from Iim, and pitched in Dibongad.
46. And they removed from Dibongad, and encamped in Almondiblathaim.
47. And they removed from Almondiblathaim, and pitched in the mountains of Abarim, before Nebo.
All through these many encampments, Israel had been led by Yahweh (Jehovah) from one spot to another, as He continued to teach the people thereby the fact that they had to rely upon Him for their well-being. We might think this list of encampments is extending to an inordinate length, but, in fact, these camps were often occupied for some time through those approximately 38 years in the wilderness, as the people were moving to find pasture for their domestic animals. At these next verses, we now observe that Israel is making their approach to the Land of Promise by another route, near the borders of Moab, as we have been studying in more recent Bible Studies.
48. And they departed from the mountains of Abarim, and pitched in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.
49. And they pitched by Jordan, from Bethjesimoth even unto Abelshittim in the plains of Moab.
50. And the LORD spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying,
51. Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan;
52. Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places:
53. And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it.
54. And ye shall divide the land by lot for an inheritance among your families: and to the more ye shall give the more inheritance, and to the fewer ye shall give the less inheritance: every man's inheritance shall be in the place where his lot falleth; according to the tribes of your fathers ye shall inherit.
55. But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.
56. Moreover it shall come to pass, that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them.
The stark statement which ends that Biblical Word from The LORD ought to make everyone who has ears to hear sit up and take notice, for here Israel is given a choice, which would involve, on the one hand sovereign independence to serve The LORD in the fullness of His requirements, leading to multiplied blessings, but on the other hand, a form of tolerant multi-cult amalgam which would lead inescapably to a new bondage under the Canaanite Baal worship and carnality of life.
The sad fact, recorded in Scripture, is that Israel made a brave beginning under Joshua, but then became soft hearted (some might say soft in the head), and began to compromise and make agreements with those who would not accept Yahweh (Jehovah) the God Who Created all mankind. That softness eventually deprived them of land designated as their inheritance by God The Creator of all wealth as epitomized in Psalm 50:10, in the words "For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills." In effect, the Israelites were depriving their own progeny of their inheritance.
It may assist us if we place all that we read in this context: the whole land belonged, in the last analysis, neither to the Canaanites nor to the children of Israel, but rather to God, the Creator, Whom Israel knew as Yahweh, and it was only as His "wife" that the nation of Israel could justify the supplanting of the former inhabitants, for that is the intended meaning of the very name of "Israel."
Today, there are still exceedingly important lessons for all of us, in this account, which began with a list of encampments and ended with words of great wisdom for all of God's people. That last couple of verses ought to make a very thought-provoking meditation for us during the coming millennium!
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