Monday, December 3, 2018

The Sovereignty of God Pt 6

Sailors in the north Atlantic have frequently observed icebergs traveling in one direction while the winds were blowing in the opposite direction. The icebergs were moving against the force of the winds, but how? The explanation: icebergs, with over 90% of their bulk underwater, are moved by ocean currents not wind. No matter which way the winds blow, the current will decide what direction the iceberg moves.

When God is moving His plan along, He creates a current to direct circumstances and people to where He wants them. Opposition can blow in from any source, but God, controlling the current, will decide what direction everything will move. Even when opposition intentionally tries to interfere with what He is doing.

Satan never stops trying to thwart the purposes of God. He throws in opposing forces and circumstances to mess up where he thinks things are going. However, Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the worldSatan cannot stop the activity of a Sovereign God.

Jesus said, on the foundation upon which I build My church – who I am, – even the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. Isa 54:17 "No weapon that is formed against you will prosper," declares the LORD. Or, as Job said: Job 42:2 I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.

That is the privilege of being sovereign. You set the plan and You make the plan work.

Remember Nebuchadnezzar’s statue: Dan 2:38-40 You are the head of gold. After you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth. Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces. 

God was working these four nations into His plan. He gave Daniel the prophecy that told what He was doing. He laid out details in advance, so when it happened, we’d know it was Him at work. At this point in our history study, we’re in the Persian section of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue and in the Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah portions of our Bibles.

Cyrus was the one who decreed that the Jews could go home and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. From the commissioning side of that decree, everything was in order. But from the application side, opposition rose up to stop them. Some of the remnant of the people who remained behind and never went into captivity had established themselves in Jerusalem and didn’t want these expatriates coming back to interfere with their lives.

During this time, the Jews are taking one step forward, two back, three steps forward and one back. They’re making progress but very slowly.

You’d think a decree would settle everything, but for the Temple to be built, Darius had to affirm what Cyrus had decreed. To keep the Jews alive so they could even go to Jerusalem, Esther had to appeal to Ahasuerus. For the walls of Jerusalem to be built, Artaxerxes, the son of Ahasuerus had to make a final declaration to have them built. So, from the first decree by Cyrus in 538 B.C. to the completion in 443 B.C. took over 90 years. But was finally done.

Even delays cannot invalidate the promises and plans of God. All the opposition did was to help place things into God’s time schedule.

How involved were these Persian kings? God used their compassionate spirit to permit Israel to return to their land, rebuild their lives, restore Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. But that wasn’t their only focus during their reign. What they ordered regarding Jerusalem and the Temple was only one item on their agenda one day. Not a lifetime obsession with restoring the Jews.

In the 80s the most popular TV show was Dallas. No one will forget the famous question that ended season two: Who shot J.R.?  Sue Ellen, Cliff Barnes? TV shows use cliff hangers to hold your interest until the next season begins. Someone gets shot, or there’s a big explosion, or some great mystery is announced. Some characters simply get killed off. But of course, it’s all imaginary.

In real life, real people face real challenges. Things happen to them that moves the story along and sets up the following chapters.

In 465 BC Ahasuerus, Xerxes, King of Persia, husband of Esther, was killed by members of his own court. The conspiracy was carried out by two of his confidential advisers. The Crown Prince was named Darius after his grandfather. Darius was the son of Ahasuerus and Vashti. Before Darius could take the throne, his brother Artaxerxes was deceived by the same two men who killed their father. They told him it was Darius who had done it. Why would Artaxerxes believe that? It could be from a lingering grudge against his father that Darius may have carried toward his dad. Seems Ahasuerus had intimate relations with Darius’ new wife soon after they were married. Artaxerxes, being the faithful son, with enough motives to drive him forward, invited his brother to his house and had him killed.

Wait! God can work through men like that? How horrific! Stop and think about what Habakkuk said about the Babylonians. Yet, God worked through them. It was Artaxerxes, the man responsible for his brother’s death, that God used to date the arrival of the Messiah into Jerusalem 490 years down the road.

There are two crucial decrees in reference to Jerusalem. To rebuild the Temple and to restore the city.
The Book of Ezra begins with the story of the first group that left to rebuild the Temple as soon as Cyrus told the people they were free to return to Jerusalem in 538 B.C. But Ezra is writing this years later. At the time of his writing, Artaxerxes was King of Persia. Ezra tells us the decree of Artaxerxes to complete the restoration of Jerusalem was made in the 7th year of his reign which would have been 458 B.C.

Here’s where the story gets gooder.

Dan 9:24-26 Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come [the Romans in 70 A.D.] will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. 

Seven weeks and 62 weeks, in prophetic mathematics, equals 483 years. Add 483 to 458 B.C. (the year Artaxerxes made his declaration) and you have the Messiah arriving in Jerusalem approximately in 27 or 28 A.D. (The Jewish calendar was 360 days per year, so add in the extra days and you pick up 2-3 additional years.) Which happens to be the earliest date possible for Jesus’ entrance on Palm Sunday, the week before the crucifixion.

God used Artaxerxes to issue the command Daniel said would trigger the timing of the arrival of the Messiah into Jerusalem.

Imagine that! Through death and family tragedy, mistaken murderous revenge, Artaxerxes became king and he is the one who makes the official decree to complete the restoration of Jerusalem.

Remember Prov 21:1 The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. For God’s own timing, Artaxerxes was the king whose heart God directed toward His own specific purpose. He was the one in position at the right time to make this crucial decree.

But God wasn’t finished setting the stage for the ultimate moment of history. Next week, we’ll see what happens when the Greeks and Romans take their turns at King of the Mountain.

  1. Opposition, regardless of how fierce or from what direction it comes, cannot stop the current of God’s purpose.
  2. Even what is meant for evil, God can use for good.
  3. When we lose that perspective, we will try to fight the wrong enemies.
  4. The right enemies may be the implements of Satan and his demonic forces to try and thwart God’s intentions, or they can be our own minds twisting our thoughts to believe God isn’t enough for what we face.
  5. As a Child of God, He has promised He will get us Home, the journey to which may be bumpy at times, but the destination is secured.

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