The cries of Lamentations’ writings detail the sufferings of Israel’s people when taken away as captives by Babylon. “How solitary sits the city that was full of people!… all Zion gates are desolate… all her people groan and sigh seeking for bread; should and shall women eat the fruit of their own bodies, the children whom they have tended and swaddled with their hands?” (Lamentations 1,2).
Calamity had come to the city of Jerusalem-Judah and its people for their sins were grave before the Lord. Israel had been warned by Moses when yet in the wilderness of the consequences if they deviated from obeying the commandments of the Lord. The prophets also warned them of the coming judgment if they continued in their idolatry. But Israel’s heart was hard toward the Lord. “Jerusalem has grievously sinned; therefore, she has become an unclean thing and has been removed…her filthiness was in and on her skirts; she did not consider her final end (1:8a,9a).
In 589 BC Nebuchadnezzar II laid siege to Jerusalem; In 587 BC the culmination of the destruction of the city and temple happened. The Jewish people were then deported to Babylon, including Daniel and his friends, who God used mightily to change the heart of the King; He used Daniel to serve as prophet for the Jewish nation. God, in His love and mercy, allowed seventy years of captivity for the Jewish nation for having failed to keep seventy Sabbath years. It is written in the book of Leviticus that a Sabbath year comes every seventh year: But in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord, you shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. What grows of itself in your harvest you shall not reap and the grapes on your uncultivated vine you shall not gather, for it is a year of rest to the land…and you shall number seven sabbaths or weeks of years for you, seven times seven years, so the total time of the seven weeks of years shall be forty-nine years (Lev. 25: 4-8). The number seventy is embed in the prophecy of Daniel chapter 9:24: Seventy weeks [of years, or 490 years] are decreed upon your people and upon your holy city to finish and put an end to transgression, to seal up and make full the measure of sin to purge away and make expiation and reconciliation for sin to bring in everlasting righteousness… When the disciples asked YAHSHUA how many times should one forgive, He gave them the answer found in the period of 490 years given the Jewish people in the prophecy of Daniel, illustrating the validity of Daniel’s prophecy’s time frame given them for forgiveness.
So also as it was in the days of Lot [people] ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the [very] day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed [them] all. That is the way it will be on the day of that the Son of Man is revealed (Luke 17: 28-30).
When the Lord told Abraham to move away from his family, Abraham took his nephew Lot with him. Lot, as his uncle, had flocks, herds and tents; therefore, there was not enough room for their herds and flocks. For that reason, there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdsmen of Lot’s cattle. Abraham suggested Lot to separate from him. Lot decided to move to the Jordan Valley, a place well-watered; it was like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt (Gen. 13:7-11). The beauty of the place however, did not represent the evilness of the people who lived in that place, as the Bible described them to be wicked and exceedingly great sinners. Sodom and Gomorra were located, that is according to the Torah, on the plans of the Jordan River, in the southern part of Canaan.
Lot’s choice of land concentrated only on its outer beauty. We don’t know how long it took before he felt uncomfortable with Sodom’s life style. But in time he realized the consequences of his choice, as Peter describes it this way: Lot was greatly worn out and distressed by the wanton ways of the ungodly and lawless, for they tortured Lot’s righteous soul every day with what he saw and heard of [their] unlawful and wicked deeds (II Peter 2:7-8). What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah then that caused the Lord God to rain His judgement over the city? Sodom and Gomorrah were plagued with the sin of homosexuality and with all those sins rooted in it. The Prophet Isaiah describes it as shameless sin, Jeremiah as adultery and lies; Ezekiel compares Jerusalem to Sodom and Gomorrah for their sin of arrogance, unconcerned and haughty. The sin of homosexuality comprises of many roots; this is only a demonstration of concealed evil in the human heart. The term sodomy came to be used to represent all evil practiced by those people. God condemns the practice of homosexuality in the pages found in Leviticus 18: 22: You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination. It is obvious to see that the main reason for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was the sin of homosexuality and its roots.
(II Thessalonians 2)
The word departure carries the meaning of finality in some cases. It is sometimes one of no return; one that brings tears of emotion when a loved one moves away for whatever reason. When the departure of a loved one is through death, nothing will comfort the heart of those left behind. The departure of the spirit from the body is final in the eternal destination of mankind. Life on earth is as if an opportunity to prepare for the eternal, where either heaven or hell awaits us. Some people have had many years of opportunities to make the eternal decision; others, not so long, but nevertheless, they all had the opportunity, with the exception of babies and young children. Death is the departure that will take the span of our entire life lived on earth preparing for. Every chance and opportunity are counted for eternity. As much preparation is needed for our physical departure, it will be needed for the departure to eternity in different aspects. The Apostle Paul lost focus of this world, when he desired to depart from this world and be with the Lord. His close relationship with God gave him the ultimate goal of his life, which was to live for Christ; but his ultimate desire was to be with YAHSHUA. He said, For me to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21-23). It is of greater gain to be with the Lord in eternity, than to be on earth. The joyous and peaceful life we will experience in heaven in the presence of our Lord and Savior- YAHSHUA is not to be compared to this earthly temporary joy and peace. Since the world is not our home, and since we are not citizens of it, shouldn’t we desire to depart from this earth to go home? That should be the outmost desire of every believer, for the Bible confirms, We are citizens of the state which is in heaven, and from it also we earnestly and patiently await the Lord YAHSHUA the Messiah, Savior, Who will transform and fashion anew the body of our humiliation to conform to and be like the body of His glory and majesty, by exerting that power which enables Him even to subject everything to Himself (Phil. 3:20-21). The longing for heaven is a sign that we are walking close with the Lord our Savior. Nothing in this world should replace our desire for heaven.
(Luke 9: 9-10, 13-17, 18, 23-26)
YAHSHUA well knew that His days on the earth were approaching when He was to fulfill His Father’s will. Soon or later He was to take His position as the Lamb of God Who was to be sacrificed for the sins of the world. He had accomplished much in a short time of His ministry which was to last three years. Nicodemus, the Pharisee who came to see Him sometime in the past, said, “No one can do the things that You do unless God is with him”. The disciples had witnessed, but they had never experienced the power of God to do the miracles YAHSHUA had performed until He called them apart and gave them power, authority over all demons and (power) to cure disease (Luke 9:1). Power and authority must be given together for the work of God to be done successfully. No, they did not need to spend years in seminary studying, but just a few hours being taught and directed by the Son of God. At that time, they were sent to the house of Israel, announcing, preaching the kingdom of God, and bringing healing to those in need of. YAHSHUA instructed them not to take anything extra for their journey. Nothing was to interfere with God’s provision while on the mission. No walking stick, nor wallet, no food, no money, no more than one garment or tunic, not even moving from place to place. God’s faithfulness and power were to be witnessed through His provision, even in the necessities of life.
The first lust of the eye happened in the Garden of Eden, when Eve fell into the serpent’s temptation. Because Eve believed the serpent, she became recipient of Satan’s curse. She disregarded God’s law concerning the tree at the moment she looked at it and she saw something she hadn’t seen before. That’s how her mind interpreted what she was seeing: the tree was good for food and that it was delightful to look at, and a tree to be desired in order to make one wise; (then the result was that) she took of its fruit and ate; and gave some also to her husband (Gen. 3:6). As a window to the soul – intellect, will and emotion, the eyes are essential in what we see. A blind person, not having eyes that cause him to sin, has no window to fall into temptation, or direct the mind to sin. However, the eyes are not the only window to the soul; the hearing is also the other window to the soul. Eve heard the serpent’s deceitful words before she looked at the tree. The serpent’ swords misguided Eve to sin. I am sure that Eve had looked at that tree several times, but without intention to eat of its fruits. Satan’s words came to her tempting her to doubt God’s commandment: Can it really be that God has said, You shall not eat from every tree of the garden? The words were formulated into misguiding her to doubt God’s authority. Then Eve answered him saying, We may eat the fruit from the trees of the garden, except the fruit from the tree which is in the middle on the garden God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die; the serpent replied, You shall not surely die, for God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing the difference between good and evil and blessing and calamity (Gen. 3:1b-6). So, it was that the woman seduced by the lust of the eyes, caused not only her soul to sin, but also the entire world.
When we hear the number 666 mentioned, we associate it with the mark of the beast in Revelation 13:16. It reads: Also, he (the antichrist) compels, all both small and great, both the rich and the poor, the free and slave, to be marked with an inscription on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that no one will have power to buy or sell unless he bears the stamp, the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is [room for] discernment. Let anyone who has intelligence calculate the number of the beast, for it is a human number; his number is 666 (Rev. 13:16-18). In time, people assumed certain presidents from different countries to be the antichrist, as they figured out the letters of their names to come to the number 666, but they came and they went without taking the position of the assumed antichrist. There will be always a curiosity about the number 666 to whom it refers, that will never be satisfied, until he will be revealed. However, as the world becomes ripened to its judgment, it seems clearer that he is about to be reviewed sooner than later.
King Solomon left us with a question mark in relationship with the number 666 in his choice of receiving 666 talents of gold every year. It seemed all together insignificant in those days, but in God’s calendar, it had a prophetic significance that stirred up curiosity in many of us. We wonder what is the significance of it for the end-times. We read in Revelation 13:18, Here is [room for] discernment. Let anyone who has intelligence calculate the number of the beast, for it is a human number; his number is 666. Is it based on knowledge and understanding of the past history that we can figure out whom it is referred to?
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needed to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded Him] we are healed and made whole (Isaiah 53:5).
No disease is greater than God’s healing power. However, diseases have their roots deeply in sin; it is a result of the fall of men. When God introduced man to the garden He had beautifully created, He commanded Adam saying, You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and blessing and calamity you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die (Gen. 2: 16-17). Why was it so important for Adam to obey the Lord’s command, “But the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat?” Because this particular command was key to men’s blessings. Disobedience of this command would bring serious consequences, not only to Adam’s family, but to the entire human race and nature. The perfect world God had created was going to be changed from order to chaos; from peace to war; from love to hate. Consequences were devastating for all. As a result consequence demanded the death of God’s Son to restore men to Himself, to order, love and peace. The importance of that command demanded obedience. God had created the world in perfect harmony of beauty; He created man to tend the garden, which provided Adam with his sustenance. Adam had everything he needed in that garden. A simple command not to eat the fruit of one tree should have not been a problem for Adam. Obedience is the result of trust, faith and respect for someone; it is also submission of the spirit. Adam, even though knowing what God had commanded him, decided not to harken to the command of the Lord, but to follow his wife’s idea. The apostle Paul tells us that Eve was deceived, but not Adam. If he were not deceived why then did he disobey the Lord? Where was he when the serpent deceived Eve? Created to be the head of the family, Adam was to protect Eve. But he failed and he is to be blamed for the original sin. Although Eve sinned first, God’s question was directed to Adam (Gen. 3: 9)
Contrary to our thinking, Solomon in his wisdom, declares the not so obvious situation of the soul. In his analyses, he identifies the hidden truth of what seems way out of the mind of man. Judges of the soul for what we see, it shocks us to know that what we see is not what truly is. Sorrow, an expression of an unpleasant experience, is always marked on the face. It denotes sadness, in a deep emotional disturbance within, expressing outwardly, caused by a sense of loss; a condition of mournfulness. Solomon shows an interesting factor concerning this condition: sorrow is better than laughter for by sadness of face the heart is made glad; for a sad countenance is good for the heart (Ecl. 7:3). Seemly, the weight of sorrow demonstrated on the face, lifts it from the heart. The tremendous result one can experience afterward, comes with tears of joy, for it is in that time when the soul cries to God; it is in that time when man seeks God with a broken heart. Other times, life goes on without the knowledge of God. YAHSHUA took all our sorrows and pains; He suffered all we suffer and more. At the time when sorrow from whatever situation comes to us, remember that He wore the crown of thorns, while we enjoy the roses’ fragrance.
(John 10; Jeremiah 23:1-5; Ezekiel 34:2,5-23)
Now the hireling flees because he merely serves for wages and is not himself concerned about the sheep (vs. 13). When presenting Himself as the Good Shepherd in comparison with others, YAHSHUA gave a solemn picture of a hired shepherd. He said, But the hired servant who is neither the shepherd nor the owner of the sheep, when he sees the wolf coming deserts the flock and runs away, and the wolf chases the and snatches them and scatters [the flock]. Now the hireling flees because he merely serves for wages and is not himself concerned about the sheep (John 10:12-13). We know nothing or very little about the responsibilities of a shepherd in our today’s society to understand the depth of YAHSHUA’S words. However, there is much we can learn from the life of a shepherd. For example, they lead the sheep to good pastures, and cooler places higher in the mountain; at night they sleep outdoors to guard the sheepfold from wild animals and sometimes they shelter their flock in a cave assuring them with reassuring voice. Shepherds have to be diligent, dependable and brave to be a good one. Their lives are involved with their sheep from dawn to dawn. The lives of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David and many others were lives that portrayed a life of true shepherds. A good shepherd also has a relationship with his sheep. We see this in the life of David. He was truly a good shepherd. For two times he risked his own life to defend them as he told King Saul, Your servant kept his father’s sheep. And when there came a lion or again a bear and took a lamb out of the flock I went out after it and smote it and delivered the lamb out of its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard and smote it and killed it. Your servant killed both the lion and the bear… (I Sam. 16:34-36a). Lion and bear are two powerful animals; a human being cannot easily prevail against them. David’s love for his sheep carried a weight of sacrificial love. He was willing to die to save them.
Prayer, empowered by faith, is the vehicle that takes our needs to the courts of heaven. YAHSHUA’S sacrifice for mankind was complete when He, at the time of expiring, caused the curtain of the temple to be torn in two from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51a). With that, YAHSHUA was reconciliating mankind to God. No more sacrifice of an animal was necessary by a high priest on behalf of the people. YAHSHUA fulfilled the Law and its demands on the altar of the cross. And how much more surely shall the blood of Messiah, who by virtue of [His] eternal Spirit has offered Himself as an unblemished sacrifice to God, purify our consciences from dead works and lifeless observances to serve the living God? (Heb. 9:14). Because of Him, heaven will be open and God’s courts will be always ready to receive those who come to Him in sincerity of heart, presenting their needs.
YAHSHUA, as our High Priest acts on our behalf in time of our needs. The Bible tells us that The Holy Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearning and groaning too deep for utterance…The Holy Spirit intercedes and pleads in behalf of the saints according to and in harmony with God (Rom. 8:26, 27b). In a beautiful harmony of agreement, the trinity performs the act of mercy and grace toward mankind. YAHSHUA’S sacrifice of love extends to us His people, for He understands the pains and hurts we suffer in our life-time on earth. Prayer is the bridge that connects us to the heavenly Father. If only we could perceive what is happening in heaven when we pray, we would spend more time in communion with our heavenly Father. Lives are touched, lives are changed and many times we do not even know the results of our many prayers. Before His ordeal, YAHSHUA prayed for us. A priestly prayer that salve flows from it every time we read it. It brings us comfort and a sense of His love towards us even after so many years.