Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel, and more specifically, is found in verses eighteen through thirty-two of the eighteenth chapter. This particular passage of Scripture continues in a chapter that deals predominantly with a word unto the prophet Ezekiel concerning the sword which the Lord was going to raise up against the land of Israel. What we first notice when reading this passage of Scripture is that it opens in a rather peculiar manner. When this passage opens with the eighteenth verse, we discover the word of the Lord coming unto the prophet Ezekiel concerning the sword of the king of Babylon, yet the prophet was instructed to appoint two ways which the sword of the king of Babylon might come. Perhaps one of the greatest realities we must recognize and realize when reading this passage of Scripture is that while the prophet was instructed to appoint two ways for the sword of the king of Babylon to proceed, it essentially guaranteed the sword was going to come forth from the midst of the land of Babylon. When the Lord spoke unto the prophet Ezekiel concerning the sword of the king of Babylon, what He was essentially doing was confirming the reality that the sword was indeed going to come froth from the midst of Babylon, and that there was absolutely nothing that could prevent it from coming forth. By speaking of the sword of the king of Babylon and instructing Ezekiel to appoint for it two ways to travel, the Lord was confirming and guaranteeing the sword was going to come forth from the midst of the land. What’s more, is that the Lord not only instructed the prophet to appoint two ways for the sword of the king of Babylon to travel, but He also declared that both would come forth out of one land. ONE SWORD, ONE LAND, TWO POSSIBLE PATHS! The sword of the king of Babylon essentially had two different paths it could take, yet each of those paths originated within the land of Babylon itself. If you continue reading this passage you will notice that the point of origin of the sword was going to be found within the land of Babylon, yet that sword could proceed forth and touch two different lands. When you read the eighteenth verse of this chapter you discover the Lord calling the prophet Ezekiel to appoint two ways that the sword of the king of Babylon might come forth, yet when you come to the twentieth verse, you will find the Lord instructing the prophet to appoint a way, that the sword of the Lord might come to Rabbath of the Ammonites, and to Judah in Jerusalem the defenced. The sword of the king of Babylon was going to come forth out of the land of Babylon, and that sword was going to touch Rabbath of the Ammonites, as well as Judah and Jerusalem.
WHEN THE SWORD HAS A SPECIFIC DESTINATION! The more I read this passage of Scripture, the more I encounter the reality that the sword which the Lord raises up and releases within the hearts and lives of His people not only has an intended purpose, but it also has a specific path and destination. As you read the first seventeen verses of this chapter, you will uncover and encounter the purpose of the sword which the Lord was raising up and releasing within the earth. In the third verse we read concerning the sword the Lord was going to draw forth out of his sheath that it was going to cut off from the land of Israel both the righteous and the wicked. Moreover, when you move to the verse immediately following this verse, you will discover that the sword the Lord was going to draw forth out of his sheath was going to go forth against all flesh starting from the north and moving to the north. The reason and purpose for the drawing forth of the sword from his sheath was that all flesh might know that it was the Lord of hosts who had drawn forth His sword out of his sheath. The sword which the Lord was going to draw forth out of his sheath was going to move forth upon the earth until it came upon the land of Israel where it would cut off from the land both the righteous and the wicked. I have previously written that the purpose of the sword which the Lord releases and raises up is not only to cut off, but also divide, to separate, and to remove from the land. When the sword which the Lord drew forth out of his sheath would come to the land of Israel, that sword was going to cut off from the land both the righteous and the wicked until the land itself would become desolate. The sword which the Lord brought against the land of Israel was going to bring about a dramatic shift within the land of Israel that would remain and last for a period of seventy years. If there is one thing we must understand concerning the nature, the function and purpose of the sword which the Lord drew forth out of his sheath, it’s that the sword was going to produce within the inheritance of the people of God something that would remain for a period of seventy years. What’s more, is that the word of the sword which the Lord drew forth from His sheath was not going to be a quick work, but would essentially come in three successive waves. If you study the history of the Babylonian invasion of the southern kingdom of Judah, you will notice that Judah was entered into and invaded on three separate occasions until eventually the king of Babylon would lay siege to the city for nearly two years until it would become so weakened that a breach could and would be made.
If you turn your attention to and read the twenty-fourth chapter of the Old Testament book of Second Kings, you will encounter first hand the successive waves this sword wrought upon and wrought within the southern kingdom of Judah. “In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up and Jehoiakim became his servant three years: then he turned and rebelled against him. And the LORd sent against him bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord, which He speak by His servants the prophets. Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, to remove them out of His sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; and also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon. Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah, So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers: and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead. And the king of Egypt came not against any more out of his land: for the king of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates all that pertained to the king of Egypt. Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother’s name was Nehushta, the daughter of ELnathan of Jerusalem. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done. At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign. And he carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord, as the Lord had said. And he carried away all Jerusalem and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths: none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land. And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon, and the king’s mother, and the king’s wives, and his officers, and the mighty of the land, those carried he into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon. And the king of Babylon mad Mattaniah his father’s brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah. Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. For through the anger of the Lord it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon” (2 Kings 1-20).
When you come to the twenty-ninth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah, you will encounter—not a description of the successive waves which the sword of king of Babylon would bring within and upon the land of Judah, but a description of the length of time for which the work of that sword would produce. Beginning with the first verse of this chapter we read these words—“Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon; (After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpets, and the smiths were departed from Jerusalem;) by the hand of Elisha the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; take ye wives, and beget songs and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the Lord. For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place” (Jeremiah 29:1-10).
This particular reality is further confirmed and reiterated when you come to the twenty-fifth chapter of the same prophetic book, for the Lord didn’t merely speak to Jeremiah concerning the length of time of their captivity once, but twice. Consider if you will the words which are recorded in the twenty-fifth chapter of the same prophetic book: “The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; the which Jeremiah the prophet spake unto all the people of Judah, and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, even unto this day, that is the three and twentieth year, the word of the Lord hath come unto me, and I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye have not hearkened. And the Lord hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the Lord hath given unto you and to your fathers for ever and ever: and go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt. Yet ye have not hearkened unto me, saith the Lord; that ye might provoke me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt. Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Because ye have not heard my words, Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations. Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle. And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the Lord, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations. And I will bring upon that land all my words which I have pronounced against it, even all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations” (Jeremiah 25:1-13).
When reading the selected passages in both the Old Testament book of Second Kings, as well as the Old Testament book of Second Chronicles, you will notice that the sword of the king of Babylon essentially came upon and came against the southern kingdom of Judah three distinct and three different times. The sword would first be brought against the land during the reign of Jehoiakim, would return a second time during the reign of his son Jehoiachin, and would come a third and final time during the days and reign of Zedekiah. WHEN THE SWORD RETURNS! I am sure those within the southern kingdom of Judah had enough with encountering the sword of the king of Babylon one time as it came upon them during the reign of Josiah’s son Jehoiakim, yet that sword wouldn’t merely come one time within and one time upon the land. Scripture reveals that the sword of the king of Babylon would indeed come a second time, and would a second time during the very next reign. During the days of Jehoiachin, the sword of the king of Babylon would be released within and released upon the southern kingdom of Judah, and would essentially continue and further the work that was begun during the days and reign of Jehoiakim. WHEN THE SWORD RETURNS A SECOND TIME TO CONTINUE THE WORK IT ORIGINALLY BEGAN! One of the most powerful realities we must recognize and understand concerning the sword which the Lord releases within and upon our lives is that the sword may not be released one time and then it no longer returns. I am sure there are many of us who would rather the sword of the Lord to enter into and be released within our lives one single time, yet the truth of the matter is that that simply isn’t the case. The sword which the Lord releases within and upon our lives may initially come a first time, and within that first time may in fact produce a specific work, yet I am convinced we need to ready and prepare ourselves for the return of the sword a second time. As you read the Old Testament, you will notice that the sword of the king of Babylon didn’t merely return a second time, but would eventually return a third and final time. It would be that third and final time when the wall of the city would be broken through and broken down, the gates would be broken down, the Temple of the Lord burned to the ground by fire, and a vast majority of those which remained within the city being carried away captive into the land of the Chaldeans. PREPARING FOR THE RETURN OF THE SWORD!
Please don’t lose sight of or miss the significance and importance of that previous phrase, for I believe with everything inside of me that there are a number of men and women who need to ready and prepare themselves for the return of the sword. There are men and women among us within our midst who have experienced the sword of the Lord within their lives, and they may have come to the place where they no longer experience any impact or effect from the sword. IN other words, the sword entered into their lives and produced within their lives, yet they have grown comfortable in the aftermath of the release of the sword within their lives. GROWING COMFORTABLE IN THE WAKE OF THE SWORD OF THE LORD! GROWING COMFORTABLE IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE SWORD OF THE LORD! Once the initial shock of the sword of the Lord has worn off, and once the work and presence of the sword has subsided, we continue living our lives the very same way we did before the sword even came. LIVING THE SAME WAY AS BEFORE THE SWORD EVEN CAME. I believe there are two distinct realities concerning the presence and impact of the sword of the Lord within our lives. The first is living the same way we did before the sword entered into and was released within our lives, while the second is growing comfortable and complacent in the aftermath of the sword. Oh, the sword may very well have cut off, cut away, and removed certain things within our hearts and lives, yet once that work has been completed and the sword is put back into its sheath so to speak, we grow comfortable, complacent and perhaps even stagnant in our lives. Essentially we go on living as if the sword never even entered in, nor was even released within and upon our lives. We begin and go about living our lives as if the sword was never even released within our lives, and in all reality position ourselves for the return of the sword of the Lord. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to this reality, for there is absolutely no guarantee that the sword of the Lord won’t return a second time, and that when it does return a second time, it cannot and will not produce and bring about an even greater work than it did at first. I am utterly convinced that there are men and women who right now are living their lives in between the visitations of the sword of the Lord. LIVING BETWEEN THE VISITATIONS OF THE SWORD! Perhaps the question that I must and should ask at this juncture is what you are doing and how you are living in the period of time between the visitations of the sword of the Lord. We dare not, we cannot, we must not, and we should not attempt to live our lives as if the sword of the Lord cannot and will not return a second time within and upon our lives. Furthermore, there is absolutely no guarantee the sword of the Lord cannot and will not return a second time within our lives, for there might be an additional and further work
When you come to the fifty-second chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah you will encounter this reality in even greater detail and even greater light, for it is in this chapter that we uncover the three successive waves of captivity which Nebuchadnezzar wrought within and wrought upon Judah and Jerusalem. “This is the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away captive: in the seventh year three thousand Jews and three and twenty: in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar he carried away captive from Jerusalem eight hundred thirty and two persons: in the three and twentieth year of Nebuchadrezzar Nebuzar-Adan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the Jews seven hundred and forty-five person: all the persons were four-thousand and six hundred” (Jeremiah 52:28-30). This particular set of verses reveals the three successive waves of the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, and even the exact number of persons that were carried away in each of those waves. When you turn your attention back to the twenty-fourth chapter of the book of Second Kings, you will notice that in the first wave of the captivity of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar carried away the officers, the mighty of the land, all the craftsmen and smiths, and all that were strong and apt for war. We must recognize and pay close attention to this, for this passage reveals that it was during that first wave when the sword cut off and removed all that was strong, all that was mighty, all that was apt for war within the land. This directly corresponds and correlates to the initial invasion of the king of Babylon, for when he entered the land, he didn’t immediately descend upon Jerusalem, but instead conquered all the fortified cities of the land of Judah. WHEN THE SWORD CUTS OFF ALL THE MIGHTY FROM THE LAND! WHEN THE SWORD CONSUMES ALL THE STRONG AND FORTIFIED PLACES WITHIN THE LAND! When studying the purpose and nature of the sword, it’s worth pointing out that when it first entered into the land, it not only cut off from the land all the strong, all the mighty, and all those that were apt for war, but it also subdued and conquered all those strong and fortified places within the land. When the sword was withdrawn from the land, it wasn’t removed without having cut off the mighty from the land, as well as the strong and fortified places within the land. It’s absolutely crucial that we pay attention to this, for this is oftentimes how the sword of the Lord operates within our hearts and lives. The sword enters into and is released within and upon our lives a first time in order to target that which resembles human strength and any confidence we might have in the flesh. It is this first visitation of the sword that cuts off from within our lives the mighty within the land, as well as the fortified places within the land. When the sword returns a second time, the work it accomplishes is not the same as it was when it first came.
Notice that the first visitation of the sword of the Lord brought about the cutting off of the mighty and the strong from the land, as well as subdued all the fortified cities within the land. When the sword came a third and final time, it not only laid siege to the city of Jerusalem, not only caused a breach to be made in the wall, but it also caused the gates to be broken down, and the Temple of the Lord be destroyed with fire. It was that third and final visitation of the sword that brought about the tearing and breaking down of both walls and gates, thus exposing and making vulnerable everything that remained and was present within the city. Oh dear brother, dear sister—please don’t miss the significance and importance of this reality, for not every visitation of the sword accomplishes and brings about the same work. The second visitation of the sword wasn’t as severe or even as strong as the first visitation of the sword, yet when the sword returned a third time, it would bring about the breaking down of the wall, the tearing down of the gates, and the destruction of the sanctuary of the Lord. It would be that third and final visitation of the sword that would cause the land to come completely and totally desolate, save the poorest of the land which were permitted to remain in the midst of it. Eventually, even those which remained within the land would journey down into the land of Egypt, thus causing the southern kingdom of Judah to be utterly and completely desolate. The sword would eventually find them there in the land of Egypt—the sword which they sought to run away from and escape. YOU CANNOT OUTRUN THE SWORD OF THE LORD! YOU CANNOT ESCAPE THE SWORD OF THE LORD. Consider if you will the words which the prophet spoke unto those who made the decision to abandon the inheritance of the people of God in Judah and journey down into the land of Egypt: “Therefore now thus saith the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: Wherefore commit ye this great evil against your souls, to cut off from you man and woman, child and suckling, out of Judah, to leave you none to remain; in that ye provoke me unto wrath with the works of your hands, burning incense unto other gods in the land of Egypt, whither ye be gone to dwell, that ye might cut yourselves off, and that ye might be a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth? Have ye forgotten the wickedness of your fathers, and the wickedness of the kings of Judah, and the wickedness of their wives, and your own wickedness, and the wickedness of your wives, which they have committed in the land of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem? They are not humbled even unto this day, neither have they feared, nor walked in my law, nor in my statutes, that I set before you and before your fathers. Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I will set my face against you for evil, and to cut off all Judah. And I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and they shall all be consumed, and fall in the land of Egypt; they shall even be consumed by the sword and by the famine: they shall die, from the least even unto the greatest, by the sword and by the famine: and they shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach. For I will punish them that dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: so that none of the remnant of Judah, which are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall escape or remain, that they should return into the land of Judah, to the which they have a desire to return to dwell there: for none shall return but such as shall escape” (Jeremiah 44:4-14).
This reality is further confirmed in the forty-second chapter when the remnant which remained in Judah inquired of Jeremiah concerning going down into the land of Egypt after the sword had departed from Judah. THE SWORD COMES A FOURTH TIME! THERE COMES A FOURTH TIME! “But if ye say, We will not dwell in this land, neither obey the voice of the Lord your God, saying, No; but we will go into the land of Egypt, where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have hunger of bread; and there will we dwell: and now therefore hear the word of the Lord, ye remnant of Judah; Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and to sojourn there; then it shall come to pas, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall die. So shall it be with all the men that set their faces to go into Egypt to sojourn there; they shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: and none of them shall remain or escape from the evil that I will bring upon them: (Jeremiah 42:13-17). There are many among us who think that they can outrun the sword of the Lord, which He has raised up and released within their lives—whether it be for the first time, or the second time, or the fourth time, or the fortieth time. There are men and women who think that they can somehow avoid and avert the work of the sword of the Lord within their lives, yet the truth of the matter is that such a pursuit is vain and cannot be accomplished within their lives. The sword of the Lord not only came within and came upon Jerusalem and Judah three times, but it even entered into the land of Egypt and found those who dared violate the command and instruction of the Lord of hosts. There was a fourth time the sword of the Lord would find the house of Israel—this fourth time, however, would not be within the inheritance, but would be in the land of Egypt where they were commanded and instructed not to go. Oh that we would learn how to surrender before the sword of the Lord each and every time it is released within and released upon our lives, and that we would allow the work for which it was sent to be accomplished within our lives. Oh that we would not try and outrun the sword of the Lord within our lives, for the Lord not only sends His sword, which contains His word, in order that His will and His purposes might be accomplished.