Series Theme: Expectations Meditations
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Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 20. Growing Expectations
2 Sam 5:12 And David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel .
In the previous study about David (before the Recap) we observed that David actually becoming king, came about as quite a long process. He had been called and anointed by Samuel, then he had entered Saul's service, then he had to flee from Saul, then he gathered a small guerrilla army and partly lived with the Philistines, until eventually Saul was killed in battle and Judah and Benjamin made David king. However he had to wait a number of years for the other ten tribes to accept him as king over all Israel . That has now happened and David has taken Jerusalem as his city (2 Sam 5:9) and we read, “ And he became more and more powerful, because the LORD God Almighty was with him.” (v.10) Then we read what I have always taken to be a somewhat mundane verse: “Now Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar logs and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built a palace for David,” (v.11) and it is only then that we have our starter verse.
Now the thing that has struck me is that years back David had been anointed by Samuel (1 Sam 16). Clearly David already had a relationship with the Lord as he later testified how the Lord had enabled him to kill lions or bears (1 Sam 17:34-37). That relationship held him in good stead while he was on the run from Saul – see, for example, 1 Sam 23:1-4, 9-14, but the truth is that we can have had a word from the Lord but because the fulfillment is a long time in being worked out, we can still have doubts.
For instance, early on n days on the run we find, “From there David went to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab, "Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me?" (1 Sam 22:30) Then later on, despite having received guidance from the Lord, we find, “But David thought to himself, "One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel , and I will slip out of his hand." (1 Sam 27:1)
There must have been times when David wondered about the reality of what had happened with Samuel. When Samuel dies, perhaps his wondering increased. But slowly, it is worked out as we noted above. He does eventually become king over all Israel and he takes Jerusalem and appears established. Then the king of Tyre sent him gifts to enable him to build a palace for himself, and it is then we read, “ David knew that the LORD had established him as king.” The fact of Hiram sending him help and materials had to be the Lord's doing.
Now look at this matter of expectations. A word comes from God, life starts changing, then it all starts going pear-shaped and you start wondering. You had been minding your own business and then God gave you a new set of expectations in life. For a moment your spirit lifted and you were filled with wonder at the Lord's love and goodness, but then time passes. I ran across someone not long ago who said to me, “Oh, I thought you would like to know that the word you brought to me ten years ago has just been fulfilled. Thank you so much for bringing it.” It's a lesson that has been coming through in these studies more than once and we really do need to hold on to it. Often the vision has to die and we realise that unless God does it, it will never happen. But we have to learn to remain faithful and true in the waiting period and not become jaded or cynical about the originating word.
But there's more to it than that sometimes. The word starts being fulfilled but we don't realise it or we can't believe it. But bit by bit things happen and slowly it sinks in – it IS the Lord, it IS what He said. But that's not the end of it. Then we have to start living in the light of the word. David built his palace and eventually brought the Tent of Meeting and the ark into Jerusalem . Then he started thinking about building a permanent home for it, a temple. (2 Sam 7:1-3) but then the Lord speaks to Nathan the prophet and brings real words of encouragement to David about his future (7:8-16). It is a word that adjusts the expectations that both David and Nathan had had.
Yes, the Lord had blessed David: “I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you,” (v.9a) and then He promised him even greater blessing: “Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth.” (v.9b) Then He tackles the question of a house for Him: “The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (v.11-13) Wow! Question marks galore. David wants to build God a house, but God says He will build him one, a dynasty. His offspring will inherit a kingdom, the throne of which will be established forever. How can that be? A kingdom or rule associated with David. Throughout the New Testament Jesus will associate himself with this kingdom, this throne, even to the end: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” (Rev 22:16) What have we got here?
We have the blurring of a physical and a spiritual kingdom. Near the start of this series we saw divinely imparted expectations declared in respect of Abraham. Now we have a similar thing in respect of David. For Abraham it was because of his faith. With David, I would suggest, it is because of his heart and his righteousness. Abraham was about a family; David was about a rule or reign. At the start of this study we saw how David began to fully realise that he was established by God. Now he is beginning to see that those previous expectations are being extended further. Somehow his reign is going to take on a new significance in terms of world history, for out of his family tree will come one whose kingdom rule will be eternal, and to achieve that, the One to come must be not only associated with David's family tree, but he must be the Son of God, although it would take a long time for that to be realised.
How does this work with you and me? Well, as unbelievers, we get called by the convicting Holy Spirit and when we surrender to him we are born again. As that takes place there is a blurring between the physical world and the spiritual world. We who were destined to die and rot, now take on a dimension called eternal life. Inhabited by the Spirit of God, we now have an eternal destiny. When we eventually ‘die' on this earth, we will be raised with a new spiritual body (1 Cor 15:42-44) with a new world to enjoy with Him.
Here is the amazing truth: we physical human beings, when we were born again enter into a new world, a spiritual world blending with the physical world, here and now for as many years as we have left on this planet, but then there is a mysterious eternal future that is spiritual, yet still with a body. Amazing.
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Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 21. Real Expectations
1 Kings 3:7-9 "Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?"
Solomon coming to kingship is not a comfortable story. There had been palace intrigues as to who the next king shall be, and Solomon's supporters win (see 1 Kings 1:5-53). As David is about to die he instructs Solomon on how to clean up the people round about him (see 1Kings 2:5-46). Perhaps we find it difficult to understand but it certainly does establish the throne free from potential dissidents.
David, his father, gave him good advice: “I am about to go the way of all the earth," he said. "So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go, and that the LORD may keep his promise to me: `If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.” (1 Kings 2:2-4) Obey God and you will prosper is at the heart of it.
After David dies, we read, “Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.” (3:3) He goes to offer sacrifices to the Lord and has a dream in which the Lord asks him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (v.5b) It is then that we find our starter verses in which Solomon acknowledges his need: “I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” (v.7-9)
Now what is interesting about this story is not so much the fact that the Lord gave him great wisdom that made him a great king, but that he had demonstrated he had a measure of wisdom already in the way he had dealt with the various dissidents left over from David's reign and the way he recognized the difficulty of ruling over this people. This wisdom is about self-knowing and being aware of the difficulties of the life before him. This is quite a significant issue that we have here; it is all about being aware of the realities of life. Now we can put it so simply like that but the truth is that many people are not self-aware, are not aware of the need for God's wisdom.
The truth of this is revealed if I ask the question, how often do YOU ask God for wisdom to know how to deal with life that confronts you? For many of us, the absence of wisdom is demonstrated by our expectation that, “I can handle it!” The problem for some of us is that we are bright people. We have had a good education, we may be highly qualified and have a good job that gives wide experience. We may be ‘experts', and all these things lead us to the conclusion that I can handle life. Look around you and see if you have these sort of people around you. Maybe you see success. The people you see are ‘successful' people, some may even be in high places. Now look more discerningly. Look at their marriages. Look at their children. Look at their integrity when temptations are put before them. We have fallen into times of deception. We look at someone and say, “He is a good leader. She is a good leader,” and we ignore the questionable aspects of their lives, the ‘private' side of their lives. Sometimes we accept the questionable because the alternative ‘leader' is even more questionable. In this respect, I believe we are living in crisis times, but God will not be mocked.
Leadership is difficult, leadership is almost impossible – without God. We need His wisdom to be able to walk righteously and to maintain good family lives. We need His wisdom to be able to lead a committee or a company or a church righteously. Solomon saw the need and recognized his need of God's help. Do you and I? We cannot compartmentalize our lives so people see our public success but behind the scenes we are a rubbish husband or wife or parent. We cannot appear good spiritual people on a Sunday at church but never give God a thought for the rest of the week. We cannot be one person on a Sunday morning but then someone different on Monday morning at business.
If anything, the more successful we are at business or any other form of leadership, the more important it is that we pay attention to the other aspects of our lives, our private lives and our spiritual lives. The great danger of success is that at some point we start to think that actually I am what I am because of me and not because of God. That is the first step towards deception.
Now here is the most terrible thing: we can be like Solomon and appear to have immense wisdom that leads to great success but then we can forget some of the fundamentals of life; our expectations change from being God-centred to being me and my wisdom centred. The folly of that is that my ‘wisdom' is self-centred and godless and before long I have crossed the line of what is right. For Solomon it was taking foreign wives, allowing their worship in his palace, and then joining in their worship and drifting away from God – because you cannot have competing loyalties. Solomon's expectation changed from being God-centred to wife-centred; his many wives would dictate the future, not God. How terrible.
Now what is remarkable about this story is that God in His grace and mercy did not destroy him for his apostasy, but He did say that the ongoing kingdom would be a divided one, and that we'll ponder on in the next study.
The big lesson, looking at the whole of Solomon's life, is never to take for granted the gifting of God. When the Lord gifts us with wisdom or whatever other grace He bestows, realise that it comes with responsibility. It is not to elevate us but to glorify Him. If He grants us success in whatever it is we do, always make sure you give Him the glory. Don't be foolish enough to think it was all you. If you do that you have drifted into godlessness and that means a dark future. Don't let that happen.
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Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 22. Expectations of God
1 Kings 12:15 the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.
It is a fact of life that we all have expectations of God. For some, it is that ‘God' is a figment of the imagination of religious people and therefore there is no one to hold them accountable for their lives. For others, God is a supreme being who stands afar off and has little or no influence on the affairs of the world. For others He is a big scary judge who stands there just waiting to smack down any infidel. For others, those of us who are Christians hopefully, He is a loving heavenly Father who is there to love and bless His children and draw all people to Himself, if they will respond to Him. There are also those people who acknowledge He is there but think that He's not very clever or very powerful and so they can outsmart Him – or at least that is what their behaviour suggests. There are also those who observe the goings on of life, and fail to understand the hand of God in it all and therefore jump to wrong conclusions about Him.
Inadequate expectations of God are behind all that follows after Solomon dies. The events that followed were not accident but were the sovereign will of God being worked out. To understand what takes place we need to start back in chapter 11: “The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel , who had appeared to him twice.” (1 Kings 11:9) Twice the Lord had appeared to Solomon and so Solomon had no excuse when he turned to his own ways: “Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD's command.” (v.10)
That was at the heart of this – idolatry, turning to ‘other gods'. So, said the Lord, because you have done this, “I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem , which I have chosen.” (v.11-13) There it is, very simply laid out – the kingdom will be divided after you die.
I think it is legitimate to ponder on why the Lord should do this. There is no explanation expressly given and so we simply have to speculate. First, the memory of David is there as a standard for others to keep. The kingdom was established from Jerusalem and the presence of the Temple there should help anchor the people as the people of God. Yet the Lord knows the hearts of people and where a father has gone off-track, it is very common for the children to follow in their footsteps. BUT the Lord will give opportunities for subsequent generations to get it right.
What is amazing about what follows is the number of times the Lord speaks to the leaders (kings). The cannot say they did not know. Here is a brief list of these:
The originating declaration we've just seen (1 Kings 11:9-13) to Solomon .
Ahijah the prophet speaks to Jeroboam where he explains what will happen, including him to lead the ten northern tribes (1 Kings 11:29-39)
‘Shemaiah the man of God' speaks to king Rehoboam to say this division is of God and they are not to fight the northern kingdom (1 Kings 12:22-24)
A ‘man of God' challenged Jeroboam when he set up idols at either end of the northern kingdom, that a king called Josiah would break this altar worship (1 Kings 13:1-5)
Ahijah the prophet challenged Jeroboam over his idolatry and failure to live up to expectations and therefore end of his family (1 Kings 14:7-16)
The northern kingdom existed for 208 years before being carried off while the southern kingdom continued for 343 years before being carried into exile. None of the northern kings ever put right the situation and so failed to do away with the idolatry that blighted every single reign. In the southern kingdom there was a complete mix of the 19 kings and 1 queen, many getting it wrong and just a few getting it right.
As I have studied this in detail over the years, one of the surprising things about these two kingdom is the lack of activity by the Lord. Yes, He does intervene many times, but many times He doesn't. So what was He doing? I conclude the following: first he was allowing the sin of mankind to be revealed through these various kings and it is seen as purely folly. Second, He clearly speaks and waits and looks for repentance, which does come in some but not in others – but the opportunity is always there. Third, He gives them such time to get it right but at the same time those opportunities also allow them to get it more and more wrong and their sin builds to such an extent the only hope is to purge them through exile. But fourth, the big overriding thing is this giving opportunity after opportunity for subsequent kings to turn back to God and get it right. It is a case study of the human race under a microscope – and they do not come out of it well, but God's grace and mercy shines again and again.
Why a split kingdom? A) to show that God does hold people accountable but B) He also gives opportunity – double opportunity now – for getting it right. How does He judge or discipline these people? Mostly by allowing them free reign to do their own thing and so they turn on one another and kill one another. Sometimes it was being oppressed by enemy invaders, sometimes they were rebuked by God's prophets. The fact is that God used a whole variety of methods to get them back on track but Sin is foolishly persistent and rarely heeds the words or the events. That is the tragic lesson of the chapters of the period of the kings, but it shows us without doubt the need that we as a human race have for salvation. We need God's help.
Don't only think this was just Israel . In recent years I have been doing extensive reading on current history and the history of the world and in the words of one historian, the history of the world is a history of wars. When you see all societies around the world over big spans, or you observe recent governments, it is all the same – it reveals the sinfulness and folly of mankind at every turn – we desperately need help. In a day when the voices of atheism – whether scientists, philosophers or just authors – seem to be raised in ever greater measure, this analysis is ever more important, whether it comes from studies within the Bible or by historical studies outside it, the message is exactly the same – mankind left to their own devices reveal this propensity to self-centred godlessness which results in unrighteousness which in turn leads to destruction. Be clear on these things for we live an age where expectations of God are quite unreal and you and I need to be quite clear so that we can present an intelligent witness to the world, to those hopefully who may have an element of openness to the truth. Without that hope, the future is dark.
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Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 23. Slow Learners
Jer 1:14,15 The LORD said to me, "From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms," declares the LORD.
The one thing about Israel that ought to stand out in their history is the clarity of understanding of the Lord in their midst, and yet it seems that so often that was missing. In the previous study we left the divided nations shortly after they have split. Now we move on some three hundred years to a time when the northern kingdom has already been carried away and the southern kingdom is under serious threat. Now there is no doubt that they had the written records that we have, so they have the records of their dealings with the Lord as a people. They had the records of their dealings with the Lord as He had led them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, so they knew He was a God who would hold them accountable.
They had also been through the period – and had the records – of when Isaiah had prophesied, and admittedly his book was a mix of curse and blessing, but that had been clearly laid out in the books of the Law by Moses, so there was really no excuse to misunderstand. It could be boiled down to ‘obey the Lord and He will bless you. Disobey and He will step back and your enemies will overcome you as a curse.' It was all there but it seems that, mostly at least, the books of the Law were kept in the Temple and were rarely brought out.
Prophetic words were brought on occasion and sometimes they brought about the necessary repentance and salvation (e.g. 2 Chron 12:5-8). They were aware of the truths of what had happened to them (see 2 Chron 13:4-12) and this enabled them to have victory (see 2 Chron 13:18). Later Asa called on the Lord and knew His victory (2 Chron 14:11-15). The prophetic word also spurred Asa on to continue reforms (see 2 Chron 15:1-15). Following him Jehoshaphat knew God's blessing in his early days (see 2 Chron 17:3). Yet we find each of these kings, even though they often did well, still seemed to have feet of clay and got some of it wrong.
However some of the kings did really well in leading the people back to the Lord and Hezekiah was one such example (see 2 Chron 29-31). What was incredible was that his son Manasseh who succeeded him, was exactly the opposite (see 2 Chron 33:1-9). Manasseh is a particularly amazing story for the Lord had him taken to Babylon where he genuinely repented and then the Lord had him restored to the kingship of Judah (see 2 Chron 33:10-16). Incredible! That's how it should work! However, when his son Amon took over he went the wrong way and was killed (2 Chron 33:21-35). His son, Josiah, sought the Lord from an early age and when the book of the Law was found in the Temple and he had it read out loud, it caused him to instigate an even greater restoration (see 2 Chron 34:1-33).
Tragically Josiah was followed by four foolish kings who, even under pressure from Nebuchadnezzar, failed to turn to the Lord. It was during these last five reigns that Jeremiah prophesied. The one thing Israel ( Judah ) could not say was that they had not been warned. One by one the final kings were taken by Nebuchadnezzar and all the while the Lord spoke into the situation through Jeremiah in Jerusalem and Ezekiel in Babylon . The Lord's judgment was clearly stated, and because the kings and their people had turned to foreign idols and refused to repent, the Lord eventually purged the whole land of them with all the occupants of Israel being taken into exile in Babylon .
Now we have seen this intransigence, this refusal to repent before in these studies but nowhere is it so clearly defined as in the chapters we have been referring to, so the expectations of the people ought to have been very specific – we are in trouble and the only way out is repentance but, as we've seen before, the effect of Sin is so deeply ingrained that so often that doesn't come.
However in the midst of such words on condemnation, there are also words of hope. For example, “This is what the LORD says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon , I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” (Jer 29:10-14) Then there was, “ This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, `Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jer 31:33,34)
So, the likelihood was that there would be a small remnant whose expectations would be faith-filled, fueled by the words of Jeremiah from the Lord. In the exile itself, there would gradually be more and more whose hearts would have been tempered by the experience of the exile and who would have turned to the Lord. When they eventually do return to the Land, we see hearts such as that of Nehemiah that are all for the Lord (see Neh 1:4).
And us? In a day when it seems that the love of many is growing cold as Jesus prophesied (Mt 24:12) the call is for faithfulness, even if we are but a remnant. We may be going through years of severe judgment which may or may not get worse but whatever happens to others, the call to you and me is to remain faithful to the Lord and to His word and, like Jeremiah, wait out the years to see what the Lord will do.
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Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 24. Living with Uncertainty
Jer 39:11,12 Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had given these orders about Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard: "Take him and look after him; don't harm him but do for him whatever he asks.”
The previous study took us up to the period pre-Exile, while Jeremiah was prophesying over the closing days of Jerusalem . It is difficult for us to comprehend the chaos that must have followed the sacking of Jerusalem . The city has been destroyed and most of the people are being taken to Babylon . Some Jews, as we'll shortly see, had fled to surrounding nations, but most were taken captive and deported.
In the city, Nebuzaradan, commander of the imperial guard, had released Jeremiah after the instructions in our verses above he spoke to Jeremiah (40:1,2) and added “today I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists. Come with me to Babylon , if you like, and I will look after you; but if you do not want to, then don't come. Look, the whole country lies before you; go wherever you please." However, before Jeremiah turned to go, Nebuzaradan added, "Go back to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has appointed over the towns of Judah, and live with him among the people, or go anywhere else you please.” (40:4,5) How amazing was that! Gedaliah was appointed governor of the land and the commander gave Jeremiah carte blanche to go where he wanted, to Babylon or stay with Gedaliah. He chose the latter.
Then we read, “When all the Jews in Moab, Ammon, Edom and all the other countries heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Judah and had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, as governor over them, they all came back to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah, from all the countries where they had been scattered. And they harvested an abundance of wine and summer fruit.” (40:11,12) Signs of resettling, signs that perhaps peace would come to the land, even under the king of Babylon . But life isn't always smooth and, as I recently wrote, one historian has suggested that the history of the world is the history of wars.
Now a word was brought to Gedaliah that the Ammonite king had sent a man by the name of Ishmael to kill him (Jer 40:13,14) but he didn't believe the men. Nevertheless it was true and Ishmael rose up and killed Gedaliah (41:1-10) but there was a reaction against him and he fled (41:11-15). The survivors were fearful of what the king of Babylon 's reaction would be, and decided to flee to Egypt (41:16-18). However, before they did they sought out Jeremiah and asked him to seek out the Lord and find out what the Lord wanted for them (42:1-6). Ten days later Jeremiah received a word from the Lord that they should remain in the Land and He would bless them there (41:7-22). Moreover if they went to Egypt it would be disobedience and they would die there by famine or sword. It was a strong but clear word.
Some foolish men rose and took the leadership and rejected God's word through Jeremiah and forced he and the other people to go to Egypt (43:1-7). In Egypt the Lord again speaks through Jeremiah and told the people that Nebuchadnezzar would come and vanquish Egypt (43:8-13). The word then continued to warn that all who had fled would die there (44:1-14). Yet the people rejected the word and turned back to idolatry (44:15-19). Jeremiah brought a final word that reinforced the previous words – you will die here (44:20-30). Apart from various additional prophecies added to the end of Jeremiah and an historical recap, this is the last we hear of him. What a tumultuous story. But what does this story say to us today? What principles are there to teach us?
The first and most obvious thing from this story is that, man or woman of God or not, we live in a fallen world and the circumstances of that world are not always in our hands. The Lord clearly presided over this time in the life of Israel and prompted Nebuchadnezzar to come against Israel to deport them and discipline and change them. Within that He made sure that Jeremiah was spared and was given his freedom. Nevertheless the Lord allows humanity to exercise its free will and so evil men are permitted to rise up.
Now we might suggest that the Lord saw that the hearts of the surviving remnant were not purged of their sin of idolatry that had been seen for decades, and this is confirmed by their behaviour when they get to Egypt . It may be, therefore, that the Lord allowed this train of events, to remove these un-sanctified people from the land. They have been given every opportunity to turn back to the Lord having been given a second chance in the land, but their hearts are clearly not changed. It is going to take forty years of life in Babylon before the hearts of the people can be changed.
Our expectation – and this is a major lesson – is that hearts can be changed easily, but that is untrue. It often takes major pressures to transform a heart, such is the folly of sin. Very often history shows that a precursor to revival is the nation reaching rock bottom morally, to the point where people are crying out for help. Simply knowing the truth does not mean people will respond to it. That is the overall lesson about people. But what about Jeremiah? He demonstrates that although our expectation might have been after the downfall of Jerusalem that he was safe, his safety is not the big issue. It is whether he can remain the mouthpiece of God regardless of what is going on around him.
For you and me the first call is to faithfulness. Will we remain true and faithful to the Lord regardless of what people round about us are doing? But second, will we remain as obedient witnesses to the Lord, continuing to fulfil whatever ministry He has given us, regardless of how people are responding? I have often said in these studies that the Lord calls us, gives us a vision and then that vision has to die before He raises it up and fulfils it. Years ago, the Lord said to me, ‘I don't call you to success but to obedience.' We might look at Jeremiah and think, well, he didn't do very well did he! He ended up with a disobedient people in Egypt where presumably he eventually died. Unfulfilled. Well, actually, no. He fulfilled his ministry right up to the end. His role was to be God's mouthpiece wherever he was. He spoke the word again and again to Jerusalem , and they disregarded him and so Jerusalem fell. He continued to bring the word to the surviving remnant but they failed to heed it and so died in Egypt . His call was to speak. It was up to the people how they responded and they would be answerable to God because they had heard and they knew. Now they would be held accountable. Jeremiah was a total success because he managed to keep going right to the very end. The people? That's another story.
So, to conclude, don't have any romantic ideas about sin and the state of people's hearts. Our call is to be witnesses. How people respond is down to them. Remain faithful, remain true, remain obedient, do all you can to reveal Him. Amen.
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Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 25. But God
Ezra 1:1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia , in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing.
In the previous study we considered Jeremiah's faithfulness in a time when the Lord's judgment came on Jerusalem and the Exile took place. The city and the temple are destroyed but seventy years later the temple is rebuilt and re-established. Wow! How such a simple sentence whisks over such significant happenings. How easy it is to do that! It is probable that Ezra was written c. 440 B.C. and the Nehemiah c. 430. So let's look at Ezra first and then Nehemiah tomorrow.
There are, essentially, two sorts of people in this world: those who listen to God and those who don't. Which sort are you and I? The first I hope. Those who don't, end up listening to the skeptics, the doubters, the agnostics and the atheists – and are depressed! Now yesterday we saw how a small remnant in Jerusalem ended up in Egypt , but the majority of the Israelites were now in Babylonia . Their world had come to an end.
This is all about expectations, remember. Their expectations had been positive. They had thought they were invincible and they thought their world would go on and on and on – because they were ‘the people of God'. Jeremiah had challenged this mentality with a word from the Lord: “Do not trust in deceptive words and say, "This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!” (Jer 7:4) This was God's temple and surely He would look after it and it would always be there. That had been there expectations for the future. Jeremiah and Ezekiel both warned otherwise but the people ignored them.
Nebuchadnezzar had come in 605BC and Daniel and his friends had been taken. Just the top people; fine! Then he came again in 597BC and Ezekiel and some ten thousand Jews were taken to Babylon , but the poorer, more ordinary people, were left. Yes, we can handle this; it will be all right, the Temple is here and so God will look after us. But then Nebuchadnezzar came again and in 587BC Jerusalem AND the Temple were utterly destroyed and the vast majority of the remaining people also taken to Babylon . The bottom had fallen out of their world! It was the end of Israel . Now their expectations for the future were zero.
But this is where we come back to my original comments about people who listen to God and those who don't. Perhaps we should add a rider: those who listen to God and believe what He says, and those who listen but cannot accept what they hear. The fact is that Jeremiah had brought a word of hope that we briefly noted two studies back: “This is what the LORD says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” (Jer 29:10-14)
From the year of the destruction of the Temple to the year the rebuilding was completed, was exactly seventy years. The people had started returning earlier but God's yardstick for measurement was the presence of the Temple , His dwelling place in the midst of His people. So anyone who had heard of Jeremiah's ‘seventy years' word could be living in hope – but seventy years is still seventy years and for many that would have been beyond their lifetime. Their expectancy of seeing the new Temple would have been small – yet it still did bring a hope for the future of Israel .
But then we come to the matter of belief. You have just witnessed the utter destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple and you have been herded like cattle out of the Land up to Babylonia where you have been settled. You have little hope of any change – but God has said…..
Will you believe? How can such a thing take place? These Babylonians have had enough of Israel and so have deported us and put foreign peoples into our land. How can this ever change? How can we ever get back to the Land? How can the Temple ever be rebuilt? Surely, in the light of all that has just been happening, that is impossible. This must be at the heart of all these studies on expectations. Will we base our expectations on what God says, not what we can see around us? Faith is about believing God and living in the light of what He has said. You may not be able to work out how His word can be fulfilled; the only important thing is that HE has said it and if He says it, it WILL be!
But however….. the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia”. The Lord may have spoken about your future, about your partner, about you childlessness, about your unsaved children, about your job or about your ministry and humanly speaking you just can't see how it can possibly be. Your expectations are zero – except God has spoken. If you were a Jew in exile you couldn't have guessed in a million years how it could all change – but it did.
We don't know the exact detail but it did happen. Did Cyrus come across the Hebrew scrolls from many years before, the scrolls of the prophet Isaiah who had written decades either side of about 690BC, a little over a hundred years before the time we are considering: “who says of Cyrus, `He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, "Let it be rebuilt," and of the temple, "Let its foundations be laid.” (Isa 44:28) and “I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free.” (Isa 45:13) Somehow or other the Lord spoke into Cyrus's heart and he decreed, “The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah . Anyone of his people among you--may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.” (2 Chron 36:23) And that was it, and it was done!
Well, we've said it already, but let's reiterate it: will your expectations be based upon what God says? When you hear it, will you believe it, regardless of the circumstances? THIS is what provides a stable foundation in an uncertain period of history.
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Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 26. Heart Cries
Neh 1:3,4 They said to me, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire." When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven
In the previous study we noted that it is probable that Ezra was written c. 440 B.C. and the Nehemiah c. 430, and we briefly noted that Ezra starts off with God prompting king Cyrus to allow the Jews to return to the land to rebuild the Temple, in accordance with the word He had spoken through Isaiah a century before, and more recently through Jeremiah. Dates are significant in all this, so please try and cope with them all.
The start of Ezra identifies the time as “the first year of Cyrus king of Persia ,” (Ezra 1:1) which was 538BC. The temple rebuilding appears to have started in the Spring of 536BC (Ezra 3:8) and was completed in 516BC (Ezra 6:15) The traditional view of dating has Ezra arriving in Jerusalem in 458BC and Nehemiah arriving in 445BC.
The start of Nehemiah indicates a date of 446BC when Nehemiah first heard about the state of Jerusalem . So, looking at the big picture Cyrus starts the rebuilding rolling in 538, but Nehemiah doesn't get the city rebuilding under way until 446 which is roughly a ninety year gap.
Now the interesting thing about Jeremiah's word, which was, “ This is what the LORD says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon , I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.” (Jer 29:10), is that that seventy years was not tied to specific events. I have already suggested that between the destruction of the temple and the completion of its rebuilding, was exactly seventy years, but the words here “for Babylon” may indicate that the time frame is more to do with Babylon itself. Now Nebuchadnezzar first invaded in 605BC and started the deportation of the Jews then, and the first returning Jews seem to have come somewhere about 536/537 but such dates have a certain measure of leeway and so it is possible that the seventy years refers to the start of the deportation to the start of the return which again appears to be just about seventy years.
Now here is the point. These studies are all about ‘expectations' and we saw in the previous study the possible absence of any expectations in respect of Jerusalem after the Exile in those who hadn't heard Jeremiah's ‘seventy years' word, and the possible long-term expectation of those who had heard it and believed it. So the initial return was accompanied by plans to rebuild the temple – and that happened. Then comes standstill and what we haven't noted yet is the state of the city itself. This is where we come to the start of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah was in Susa , which was the major city of Elam (Neh 1:1) where King Artaxerxes (Neh 2:1) reigned, possibly the winter retreat city of the Persian kings. When some of the men return from Jerusalem he questions them on the state of Jerusalem (v.2) and is told, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” (v.3) From his descriptions in chapter 2 the city is still in ruins. Yes, the Temple has been rebuilt but it is a single restored building in the midst of a demolition site. This is the city of God and it has remained like this for almost ninety years. Nehemiah is devastated and “he sat down and wept” and for some days he “mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” (v.5) It is only then that he composes himself enough to pray (see 1:5-11) and only after he has prayed does he risk speaking to the king (see 2:3-5).
So, back to our expectations. Everyone else for the past ninety years had focused on the wonder of the Temple being rebuilt – and it was wonderful! – but the fact was that the city of God , Jerusalem , was still a landscape of rubble, and was clearly going to stay like that. Now what is intriguing about all this is that we are told that the Lord prompted Cyrus to start the Temple rebuilding but the city rebuilding was left until one man heard and was moved to tear by the state of the city. Everyone else seemed content to live with the fact of a devastated city; Nehemiah was the one person moved to bring change. How many times, I wonder, does history pivot on the moving of one person?
As I said, what is intriguing is that the Lord didn't command the rebuilding of the city. It was almost as if He was watching and waiting for someone to catch His heart and do something about it. Years before, Ezekiel had prophesied, “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.” (Ezek 22:30) Previously he had prophesied, “Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! Your prophets, O Israel , are like jackals among ruins. You have not gone up to the breaks in the wall to repair it for the house of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the LORD.” (Ezek 13:3-5) Psa 106 describes how Moses had been a ‘gap-filler': “So he said he would destroy them-- had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him to keep his wrath from destroying them.” (Psa 106:23) Moses had stood before the Lord to intercede for His people. The prophets of Jeremiah's day were supposed to fulfil that same function but they failed to do that.
Here is the point. The Lord looks for those who will look with His eyes on His people and intercede on their behalf before Him. Nehemiah saw the city in his mind's eye when told about it, and wept before the Lord for it. How do we feel about the declining state of the Church in the West? As I have asked before, do we see a living body that is empowered by the Holy Spirit who testifies in power with revelation, wisdom, prophecy and insight and who back it with works of healing? Is the ‘body' full of grace and truth? Does it so reveal its Lord that people glorify Him (Mt 5:16)? If not, are our hearts moved in anguish to pray?
Years before Haggai had prophesied to the people who had paused up on rebuilding the Temple and challenged them, “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (Hag 1:4) i.e. why are you more concerned for your materialistic lives than for God's house – which in our case is the ‘church'? Are we happy with the state of the church that we see in our land? Really? Is it impacting the world and seeing the world being purified by its presence? Sadly the state of the western world is a downward spiral and the Lord looks for men and women who will stand in the gap, men and women who are not afraid to stand out as holy, utterly different, filled with goodness and love, people who will cry out to the Lord for His people and this world, people who will make themselves available to Him to go and take part in the ‘rebuilding'. May He find that in you and me.
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Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 27. The Waiting Game (2)
Luke 2:25,26 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel , and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ
In the previous two studies we have seen first how God nudged Cyrus to release the Jews to go back to their land to rebuild the Temple , and then how Nehemiah's anguish for the state of Jerusalem caused the rebuilding of the city to come about. In the midst of this there are long periods – seventy years between the start of the deportation of Israel to the time post-exile when they started returning, seventy years between the destruction of the temple to the time when the rebuilding was complete, twenty years for the rebuilding, seventy years between the completion of the temple rebuilding and the start of rebuilding the city. These are long periods that roll off the tongue too easily. Seventy years is my complete lifespan! But all of this pales into insignificance when we realise that between the last historical details of Ezra and Nehemiah and the last of the prophets through to the start of the records of the Gospels, is over four hundred years. Four hundred years for the USA takes us back to colonial history. If we go back to 1700 you would have to wait another 32 years for George Washington to be born. Four hundred years for the UK means 1700 was seven years before the union of England , Wales & Scotland .
Yes, four hundred years is a long time, especially when it means silence from heaven for a nation that had known prophetic input for hundreds of years. When a man named Simeon, living in Jerusalem , was getting old, he might have reflected that a once godly (well semi-godly) people were now a shadow of what they once had been. Now they were a vassal state to the Roman Empire with Roman occupancy and oversight. The Romans had allowed them to have nominally Jewish rulers, but the real power came from Rome . Simeon and all his fellow Jews might have been excused if their faith levels were rather low, because they appeared a somewhat abandoned people. Yes, they still had the temple that had been build after the exile and, in fact, Herod had greatly enlarged it and made it a truly splendid building. And yes, they had a high priest and all the trappings of a religion. Yes, there were guardians of the Law of Moses, called Pharisees, but religion was more a formality rather than a reality. So Simeon could have been excused if he just filled his life with growing vines or whatever – we don't know what he did – but all we are told of him is detailed as four points in two verses.
First, we are told he was “righteous and devout”. Now there is a challenge! In our Western societies when God is absent, ethics go out the window, morals decline. It has been a very obvious thing to note. I have noted in these studies before my measuring stick. Many years ago, for seventeen years, I taught Law. At the beginning of every year I asked the class about their beliefs and at the beginning of that time (late 1970's) a hundred per cent of the class each year said they believed in absolutes, there was a clear distinction between right and wrong. By the end of that seventeen year period (early 1990's) one hundred per cent of the classes said they did not believe in absolutes, in a different between right and wrong. That was the change that took place in our society, and so it is little wonder that over the last twenty to thirty years, every area of our society has had moral scandals. Perhaps it was only Judaism's remnants that kept people on track in Simeon's day. Simeon was clearly a follower of God and of His Law for he was both righteous (morally correct) and devout (a follower of the Lord). A faithful man!
Second, he was “ waiting for the consolation of Israel ”. He was a man aware of the prophetic Scriptures about a coming Messiah and as he read them or heard them read in the local synagogue, they rang true and his heart leapt.
Third, “the Holy Spirit was upon him.” This man had a close relationship with the Lord, so much so that he was open to the prompting and leading of the Spirit, which is what eventually got him into the Temple precincts when baby Jesus was brought there.
Fourth, “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ.” Not only had the prophetic scriptures about the Messiah rung true, the Spirit had imparted to him the knowledge that he would see this one. We might add, fifth, “Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts,” (v.27a) and it as there he encountered Mary and Joseph and Jesus (v.27b).
Now it seems to me that Simeon stood out in his generation. Apart from the Wise Men, the Magi, Simeon seems to be the only one on the alert for what is going on, so here is the question I find rising in the light of this: how many of us today are alert to a coming move of God? How many of us are living in expectation of the Lord doing something? The other side of the coin, somewhat negatively, might be, how many of us are involved with ‘religion'? We go to church every Sunday. We may even go to a prayer meeting or bible study. But we don't go with much expectation.
Turn the coin over again. How many of us ‘go to church' on a Sunday morning with great expectation of meeting with God, of hearing from the Lord (more than just a good sermon), of being used by God as an instrument to bring encouragement, revelation or even perhaps healing to others? How many of us go to the Prayer Meeting with the strong expectation of hearing from God, of getting direction from Him what to pray, who leave with a sense that He had been there, He had revealed His heart and His will and when we prayed, He had decreed change? How many of us pick up our Bible every day or go to the weekly Bible Study with a strong expectation that His word is going to come alive and we are going to be thrilled, challenged, taught, encouraged and corrected by it?
Simeon stood out in his generation as one full of expectations. He was a man of the word, of the Law of righteousness. He was a man of prayer and of listening to God. He was a man open to the Holy Spirit. He was a man available to the Holy Spirit to bring encouragement and blessing to Mary and Joseph, while everyone else was just taken up with life or with religion. Can we be such people of expectations?
In a previous study we saw how David's life was largely one of waiting for God's time for him. While he waited he was faithful and was still used by God against the enemy and to encourage God's people. We may not think Simeon did a great deal, but he did encourage Mary and Joseph and so he did earn a place in the Bible. Amazing! Let's go for it! It's too late to appear in the Bible but it's never too later to appear in the archives of heaven!
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Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 28. Expectations Recap 3
We have come to the end of this part of the series that took us through historical characters in the Old Testament and concluded at the beginning of the Gospel with Simeon. From now on we will consider expectations in the more familiar form of ‘hope' that is now part of our Christian lives as a result of the work of Jesus. But before we do that, we will do what we have done twice before in this series and have a Recap to cover those studies since Recap 2, to highlight and hold on to the key points that have been made in these latter studies.
In the studies prior to this we had seen David chosen by Samuel, David having to wait some time for the fulfilment of that anointing to become king, and David slaying Goliath. Moving on from there we then considered the growing awareness that David had that he was in fact there by the working of God. We saw that we can have expectations formed by a word from God coming but very often the ‘vision' has to die as we wait for the Lord to bring it about. Once He starts bringing it into fulfilment, we then have the challenge of believing that is what is happening and cooperating with Him in that. We realise that our earlier expectations were real but now they become more concrete, we might say.
Following David we then considered his son, Solomon who, as his father was clearly in his last days, first worked at removing remaining ‘belligerents' from the previous reign and then, when confronted by the Lord in a dream, recognised the difficulty of the task before him and his need of the Lord's wisdom, which was then granted him. Solomon's expectations of the future before him as the king following in his father's footsteps were quite realistic. He knew it would be difficult and he recognised his need. We asked the question whether we too recognise the need for the Lord's wisdom in our lives as we look forward to the things before us.
As we watched the dividing of the kingdom after Solomon died, we considered that variety of expectations that people have of God and suggested that it was inadequate expectations of God that were behind all that happened in both the northern and southern kingdoms. The north stumbled over idol worship and never recovered from it. We saw the number of times the Lord spoke into the situation but His determination to divide the kingdom and pondered on reasons why it should be. The primary reason seems to be to double the chances of future kings getting it right. The opportunities of Israel – north or south – to get it right with God, were thus doubled. The tragedy is that both kingdoms failed to get it right. It was this also a double opportunity for sin to be revealed through these two kingdoms and perhaps as we compare them as we read about them, their failures are accentuated in comparison. We also noted that an observation of history reveals that what we see in Israel is repeated again and again in the nations of the world. Sin is clearly the motivating force behind multiple wars at national or international level and family divisions at individual level.
Jumping to the end of the existence of the southern kingdom, the north having passed away long before, we noted Jeremiah speaking to the nation in the years running up to the exile and pondered on the folly of the nation that (unlike the rest of the world) had amazing records of their dealings with God through three centuries, and marvelled that they obviously disregarded or forgot these. These was a people who had received prophetic words galore and who knew what was expected of them after they had entered into the covenant with God at Sinai. Although words of hope were brought through Jeremiah, the main thrust of his ministry had been a call to repent. He laid out clear cut expectations of what would happen if they failed to heed him, but nevertheless their lived in deception with the expectation that it would be ‘all right'. It wasn't.
Staying with Jeremiah we observed the circumstances that rolled out in the final destruction of Jerusalem and its temple and the life of freedom that was granted to Jeremiah by the Babylonians. We saw how a remnant gathered after the Babylonians had left, leaving behind a governor, and we saw how some of that remnant killed the governor and then made everyone decamp to Egypt despite Jeremiah bringing a clear warning against doing that. It is a story that tells us that even if we are God's servants, the ways of this fallen world may carry us into circumstances we wished we didn't have. But the biggest lesson, as we watch Jeremiah continue to prophesy in Egypt , is the call to faithfulness regardless what we expect of the days to come. As a subtext to that story, is the awareness that n this fallen world, changing hearts does not come easily and often it seems, it is only the pressures of trials and tribulations that will truly change a heart towards God.
Following the years of the exile, we recognised that humanly speaking Israel's expectations of the future had diminished to zero unless they heard and believed Jeremiah's ‘seventy years' prophecy. It was possible to maintain good expectations for the future only if they held on to God's recent word to them. We are not called to have faith built on the obvious, because more often than not, the Lord does not reveal how He will bring about that which appears impossible to us at the moment. Israel could not have foreseen the coming of Cyrus and God's ability to move on him and get him to send Israel back to their land to rebuild the temple. Similarly for us, we have to recognise that we may have expectations from the Lord in the form of personal prophecy, but more often than not we will not have a clue how that can come about, but it will. You cannot foresee a miracle! That is the shortcoming if expectations!
The years passed and then a man named Nehemiah heard the state of Jerusalem . Yes, the temple had been rebuilt but basically the city was still a demolition site. He heart was moved in anguish and the end result is Nehemiah back in Jerusalem rebuilding the walls of the city. The expectations of the majority did not include the rebuilding of the city. It was down to one man to have such a hope and, we believe with God's support, he brought it about. The expectations of just one person can change history; such is the significance of the individual – you or me? The Lord looks for those who will stand in the gap, who will intercede, or who will step up to serve, people who say we do not just have to accept the status quo if it runs contrary to God's heart.
And so we eventually arrived at the New Testament and bedded these historical reflections of expectations of men or women of the Old Testament, and we did it with, again, just one man, Simeon , a man who was righteous and devout, a man of the Spirit, a man open to the leading of the Spirit and a man that God used to encourage His two servants, Mary and Joseph. Again, and we must emphasise it, it was just one man in Israel who was alert to the purposes of God being unfolded before him. He challenges us to be people who, similarly, will have our eyes and our hearts open to be alert for the moving of God.
Each of this last set of studies since the last Recap, have been about individuals:
David, who began to realise that the expectations he had as a result Samuel's anointing, were now starting to be fulfilled.
Solomon, who realised that with the task of leading the nation before him, he needed the wisdom of God to match the expectations that he had of that role.
The two kings who caused the kingdom to be divided, whose expectations of God were too low, so that they failed to heed the opportunity to be godly kings.
Jeremiah, the faithful prophet of God in all the years running up to the destruction of Jerusalem , who recognised that his expectations for the future of the nation depended entirely on how the kings would respond to God's word. One way – repentance – would result in future hope and continuation. The other way – rejection – would result in destruction and restoration only seventy years in the future.
Jeremiah, again the faithful prophet, but not prophesying to the remnant escaping to Egypt . His expectations were not to do with his end but with his ability to keep on being the mouthpiece of God, wherever he was. His expectations were all about faithfulness.
Cyrus, who came to understand he could be God's means of His people returning to their land and rebuilding the temple, an expectation probably no one else had had before that!
Nehemiah, one man whose expectations flowed again the general tide of acceptance of the status quo, a man whose heart moved him into dangerous territory to fulfil a hope that surely was based on the heart of God.
Simeon, another man on his own, who set his heart towards God and caught the heart of God as He brought His Son to the temple so that His servants could be encouraged. Simeon's expectations were based on the heart of God and thus caught the move of God.
There is the message of this last set of studies: individuals are important in the kingdom of God and the expectations we have of God are all-important: that we are called by God with a purpose, to achieve that purpose we need His wisdom, His power and His leading, that is at the heart of godliness, called to be witnesses to Him, to remain faithful regardless of what anyone else may be doing, open to Him to do what only He can do – a miracle to open a door or fulfil a vision, called to have hearts that can be moved by Him, called to be Spirit-people who can be led by Him. people who are called to achieve the impossible because we are simply vessels of God. may we learn these things.