Deceived by Peace & Lulled Into Slumber

Today’s selected reading is found in the prophetic book of Zephaniah the son of Cushi which he saw in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, as well as the prophetic book of Haggai which would come unto him in the second year of Darius the king unto Zerubabel the governor of Judah, and Joshua the high priest. More specifically, today’s passage covers all three chapters found in the prophetic book of Zephaniah, as well as both chapters found in the prophetic book of Haggai. THE TWO PROPHETIC VOICES DURING THE DAYS OF JOSIAH! THE PROPHETIC VOICE OF JEREMIAH, THE PROPHETIC VOICE OF ZEPHANIAH! THE WITNESS OF THE WORD OF THE LORD & THE WITNESS OF THE LAW OF MOSES! WHEN THE LORD RAISES UP MOSES AND THE PROPHETS AT THE SAME TIME TO SPEAK TO A NATION! DURING THE DAYS OF JOSIAH THERE WAS THE PROPHETIC WITNESS OF ZEPHANIAH AND JEREMIAH, AS WELL AS THE WITNESS OF THE LAW OF MOSES! DURING THE DAYS OF JOSIAH KING OF JUDAH THERE WAS THE WITNESS OF THE KINDNESS, THE GRACE AND MERCY OF THE LORD AS HE WOULD RESPOND TO THE HUMILITY OF JOSIAH AFTER HEARING THE WORDS WRITTEN AND RECORDED IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW OF MOSES! [AND THERE WERE TWO PROPHETIC VOICES]. “The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: The mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fence cities, and against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because thy have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’s wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of His jealousy: For he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land” (Zephaniah 1:14-18). “Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired; Before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD’s anger come upon you. Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought His judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: IT MAY BE YE SHALL BE HID IN THE DAY OF THE LORD’S ANGER” (Zephaniah 2:1-3).

            “The LORD will be terrible unto them: For He will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship Him, every one from His place, even all the isles of the heathen” (Zephaniah 2:11). “Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city! She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the LORD; she drew not near to her God. Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow. Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence of the law” (Zephaniah 3:1-4). “The just LORD is in the midst thereof; He will not do iniquity: Every morning doth he bring his judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame. I have cut off the nations: their towers are desolate; I made their streets waste, that none passeth by: their cities are destroyed, so that there is no man, that there is none inhabitant. I said, Surely thou wilt fear me, thou wilt receive instruction; so their dwelling should not be cut off, howsoever I punished them: but they rose early, and corrupted all their doings” (Zephaniah 3:5-7). “Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may call upon the name of the LORD, to serve Him with one consent” (Zephaniah 3:8-9). “In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against me: For then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain. I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD. The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid” (Zephaniah 3:11-13). “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; Be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: The king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: Thou shalt not see evil any more. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack. The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will reset in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burden” (Zephaniah 3:14-18). “Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame. At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: For I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the LORD” (Zephaniah 3:19-20).

            When you come to the prophetic book of Zephaniah you will quickly and immediately notice that Zephaniah was an additional prophetic voice which was raised up during the days of Josiah king of Judah. If you turn and direct your attention to the prophetic book of Jeremiah you will discover that it was during the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah king of Judah Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah was raised up as a prophet unto Jerusalem and Judah—and not only Jerusalem and Judah, but also unto the nations. This is quite important to consider, for it is a clear indication that during the days of Josiah king of Judah there were two prophetic voices which were raised up in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. Perhaps one of the most remarkable and astounding truths concerning the ministry of the ancient Hebrew prophets is that of “contemporary” as more often than not the LORD was not without at least two prophetic voices. We know from Scripture that Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, and Micah all prophesied during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, while Hosea, Amos and Isaiah prophesied during the days  of Uzziah as well. This is a clear and present indication that at one point there were four prophetic voices which were raised up in the midst of Judah and Jerusalem during the reigns of three kings who would sit upon the throne of David. During the days of Uzziah king of Judah there would be three prophetic voices, however, once the days of Jotham came around the LORD would raise up an additional prophetic voice that would speak unto Jerusalem and Judah, as well as Samaria and the northern kingdom of Israel. It’s important to realize that during the days of these four kings the LORD raised up His servants Hosea, Amos, Micah, and Isaiah to prophesy and proclaim the word of the LORD, thus indicating that four different alarms were being sounded at the same time. It would be during the days of these four kings when the prophetic word of the LORD would be going forth in the midst of the land, as the LORD would have distinct messengers whose messages would at times overlap and be almost identical to each other.

            Upon coming to the prophetic book of Zephaniah you will discover that this prophetic voice would be a contemporary of Jeremiah and would prophesy during the same days as he did when the LORD raised him up. It is actually quite remarkable to think about the fact that during two of the greatest times of national repentance before the LORD in the southern kingdom of Judah there were at least two prophetic voices which were present in the midst of the land. As we read the twenty-sixth chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah we seem to get the indication that Hezekiah’s humility, his brokenness, his submission and even his repentance before the LORD was in direct response to his fear of the LORD, and that fear was driven by the words which the prophetic voices would proclaim in his hearing. It’s worth pointing out that during the days of Hezekiah king of Judah—which were interestingly enough the final days of the northern kingdom of Israel—there would be four prophetic voices raised up in the midst of the land which would all proclaim the word of the LORD. We know from Scripture that Hezekiah did that which was right in the sight of the LORD as did David his father, and we know that Hezekiah worked to destroy idolatry from the midst of the land—a powerful concept that points to the awesome reality of his fear of the LORD. What we also see from Scripture—not only from the prophetic books of Isaiah and Jeremiah, but also the Old Testament books of Second Kings and Second Chronicles—is that Hezekiah was one who heard the taunts, the threats, and the arrogant boasting which was spoken by the enemy and adversary, and had even seen the destruction and devastation Sennacherib and the Assyrians had wrought upon Samaria and the northern kingdom of Israel, and would witness that same enemy and adversary entering into and invading the land, as well as appearing and manifesting itself outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem. The enemy and adversary was outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem and would issue arrogant boasts and threats unto Hezekiah king of Judah and the inhabitants of the city, and he would respond to those words and those threats by first inquiring of the prophet Isaiah. If you read the prophetic book of Isaiah, as well as the books of Second Kings and Second Chronicles you will find that Hezekiah would inquire of the prophet Isaiah the first time, and when it came to the letter which was sent by Rabshakeh and received by his close circle, he would spread out the words of the letter before the LORD in His holy sanctuary and Temple.

            We clearly see from Scripture that Hezekiah was both a man and a king who saw the enemy outside the walls and at the gate, and because of his trust and confidence in the LORD he would inquire of the LORD through the prophet Isaiah. Moreover, Hezekiah would also spread out the letter which Rabshakeh had sent unto him before the LORD in His holy sanctuary and would entreat the LORD to hear and to respond to the words of the letter. I firmly believe that Hezekiah is a powerful example of seeing the enemy and adversary outside the walls and at the gates and resisting that enemy through prayer, through trust and confidence in the LORD, and through diligently seeking and entreating the LORD. I am absolutely convinced that Hezekiah is an Old Testament example of what the New Testament authors—the apostle Peter and James the half-brother of Jesus—wrote concerning resisting the devil and he will flee from us. There is not a doubt in my mind that Hezekiah chose to respond to the threats and boasts of the enemy and adversary by resisting him in prayer before the LORD in His holy sanctuary, as well as inquiring of Him through His servant Isaiah. What’s more, is that when we read the prophetic book of Jeremiah—and specifically those words which are found in the twenty-sixth chapter—we see that Hezekiah was one who during the days of Micah the Morasthite heard the word of the LORD, and who feared the LORD and humbled himself before the LORD. We know from what the elders spoke during the days of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah that when Micah the Morasthite prophesied the word of the LORD—neither Hezekiah king of Judah, nor the people sought to put him to death. Instead. Hezekiah feared the LORD and moved with hear and humbled himself before the LORD. Hezekiah saw the enemy outside the walls, and saw the enemy at the gate, and heard the taunts and threats of that enemy and adversary, and in response to that taunt and threat of the enemy—Hezekiah moved with fear before the LORD and humbled Himself before Him in His sight. In fact, if you read the following words in the twenty-sixth chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah you will get a powerful sense of the humility and brokenness of Hezekiah as he moved with fear according to the word of the LORD spoken by Micah, as well as the threat of the enemy and adversary outside the walls and at the gates:

            “Then said the princes and all the people unto the priests and to the prophets; This man is not worthy to die: For he hath spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God. Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spake to all the assembly of the people, saying, Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spake to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest. Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? Did he not fear the LORD, and besought the LORD, and the LORD repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them?” (Jeremiah 26:17-19).

            DID HEZEKIAH KING OF JUDAH AND ALL JUDAH PUT HIM AT ALL TO DEATH! DID HE NOT FEAR THE LORD, AND BESOUGHT THE LORD, AND THE LORD REPENTED HIM OF THE EVIL WHICH HE HAD PRONOUNCED AGAINST THEM? There is not a doubt in my mind that when Hezekiah first inquired of the prophet Isaiah when Sennacherib king of Assyria and the entire Assyrian army invaded the southern kingdom of Judah, captured all the defenced cities, and then came unto the city of Jerusalem to threaten and lay siege to it. Scripture reveals how Rabshakeh had spoken words of great pride, great arrogance, great boasting and great threatening against Hezekiah, against Jerusalem, against Judah, and even against the trust and confidence in placed in the living God, and how in response to those words Hezekiah moved with fear, with humility and with submission before the LORD and inquired of the LORD through the prophet Isaiah. The elders which were present during the days of Jeremiah spoke of the days of Hezekiah, and how when Micah the Morasthite prophesied that Zion would be plowed like a field, and that Jerusalem would become heaps Hezekiah feared the LORD, sought the LORD, and as a direct result of Hezekiah’s actions the LORD relented and repented Himself of the actions He had purposed against Judah and Jerusalem. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that when Hezekiah inquired of the LORD concerning Judah and Jerusalem, and when Hezekiah entered into the house and sanctuary of the LORD spreading out the words of the letters which Rabshakeh had sent unto him—not only was he resisting the enemy and adversary who had invaded the land, but he also sought the LORD through fear and averted the judgment of the LORD upon Jerusalem. I am absolutely convinced that the enemy and adversary outside the walls of Jerusalem and at the gates of the city was a sign of judgment and wrath from the LORD of hosts. I firmly believe that when Hezekiah sought the LORD he was not only resisting the enemy and adversary through prayer and humility, but he was also moving with fear before the LORD in response to the word which was prophesied by [at least] Micah the Morasthite.

            It is important that we recognize and understand the words which are found in the prophetic book of Jeremiah concerning Hezekiah king of Judah and the words which Micah the Morasthite prophesied during those days—not only because Micah was one of four prophetic voices who prophesied the word of the LORD during his reign, but also because it would be Hezekiah’s fear of and fear before the LORD that would ultimately force the enemy and adversary to flee from Jerusalem. What’s more, is that not only did Hezekiah’s fear before and fear of the LORD force the enemy and adversary to flee from Jerusalem, but based on what was spoken during the days of Jeremiah—his actions averted and postponed the judgment of the LORD upon the city of Jerusalem and the inhabitants thereof. We know from Scripture that Hezekiah’s actions would both cause the enemy and adversary to flee in the same direction he came, as well as avert, postpone and delay the judgment and wrath of the LORD. We must recognize and understand this awesome and incredible reality, as it helps us understand the days and times of Josiah king of Judah, as during the days of Josiah king of Judah both the prophet Jeremiah, as well as the prophet Zephaniah would prophesy the word of the LORD in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. What makes this even more intriguing and captivating is when you consider that the prophetic voice and ministry of Jeremiah was raised up during the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah king of Judah, and the book of the Law of the LORD was found in the eighteenth year. Thus, during the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah king of Judah—not only was the voice of the prophets heard in the midst of the city, but so also was the voice and words of Moses being heard. It would be through the book of the Law being found in the Temple and then being read in the hearing of Josiah king of Judah that he would respond in a manner similar to how Hezekiah responded during his generation. Of course we know and understand that during the days of Josiah there was no enemy and adversary which would be outside the walls and at the gates of the city, however, we know that Josiah was so deeply moved by the words which were found in and read from the book of the Law of Moses that he responded with great fear, great humility and great brokenness. With that being said, consider if you will the following words which are found in both the first and opening chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah, as well as the words which are found in the twenty-second chapter of the book of Second Kings:

            “The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin: To whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month” (Jeremiah 1:1-3).

            “Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Boscath. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left. And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son of MEshullam, the scribe, to the house of the LORD, saying, GO up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of the LORD< which the keeprs of the door have gathered of the people: and let them deliver it into the hand of the doers of the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD: and let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the LORD, to repair the breaches of the house, unto the carpenters, and builders, and masons, and to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the house. Howbeit there was no reckoning made with them of the money that was delivered into their hand, because they dealt faithfully. And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD. And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king. And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikaim the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king’s saying, Go ye, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us. So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asahiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe; (Now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college) and they communed with her. And she said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israe, Tell the man that sent you to me, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read: because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched. But to the king of Judah which sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard; Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the LORD, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the LORD. Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again” (2 Kings 22:1-20).

            “And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem. And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the LORD. And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant” (2 Kings 23:1-3).

            What I find when reading the words in the book of Second Kings is how at the time the book of the Law of Moses was found in the house of the LORD Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah had already been prophesying for five years. Moreover, it is possible that at this particular time Zephaniah had also been raised up to prophesy the word of the LORD, for we know and understand from Scripture that Zephaniah prophesied during the days of the reign of Josiah king of Judah. It is especially interesting to think about and consider the awesome and incredible reality that during the days of Josiah king of Judah—not only were there two prophetic voices that were raised up in the midst of the land, but the book of the Law of Moses was also found in the Temple of the LORD. The book of the Law wasn’t merely found in the Temple of the LORD and found in the place that represented the glory of the LORD, but it was brought from the place of the glory of the LORD and brought into the place of the government of the LORD. The book of the Law was found in the Temple of the LORD, and it was then brought out of the Temple, brought into the palace of the king, and read in the hearing of the king. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that we know Josiah did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD according to all that David his father did, but we also know that during the days of Josiah the LORD would raise up two prophetic voices which would prophesy the word of the LORD. It’s worth noting that during the reigns of two kings who sat upon the throne of Judah—both of whom humbled themselves before the LORD, and both of whom feared the LORD—the LORD would raise up at least two prophetic voices. We know that there were three prophetic voices during the days of Uzziah, Jotham and Ahaz, but we know that there was a fourth voice that was also present during the days of Hezekiah king of Judah. It’s absolutely remarkable to think about how during the days of Hezekiah king of Judah there were four prophetic voices which were present within the land of Judah and the city of Jerusalem, and when Hezekiah saw the enemy and adversary outside the city of Jerusalem within the land he moved with fear before the LORD and humbled himself in His sight.

            It would be during the days of Hezekiah king of Judah that he would witness the enemy and adversary within the land, and even outside the walls and at the gates of the city, and would move with fear before the LORD to not only resist the enemy and adversary through prayer and seeking the LORD, but would also avert and delay the LORD’s judgment upon the land of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. There is a great similarity that exists between the days of Hezekiah king of Judah and Josiah king of Judah as both kings would humble themselves before the LORD and would move with such fear that would actually delay the LORD’s judgment upon His people—upon the city of Jerusalem and upon the land of Judah. In all reality—in the case of Nineveh it would be the king who sat upon the throne who would issue a decree throughout the city calling men and women to repentance before the LORD, and it was the combined and collective repentance of the entire city of Jerusalem that would ultimately bring about the stay of the judgment of the LORD against and upon the city, and would cause the LORD to repent Himself of the evil He purposed against the city. This is something worth making note of, for there were certain times when the king who sat upon the throne would be instrumental in either staying or delaying the judgment of the LORD. We know from the days of David king of Israel that after he foolishly numbered all Israel the LORD gave him three options of judgment as spoken by Gad the seer. David would choose three days with the sword of the LORD in the midst of the city, and it would be after witnessing and observing all the judgment and destruction upon the city David would cry out to the LORD to spare His people. The LORD would give David very specific instruction(s) as to what was required of him—namely, go unto the threshing-floor of the Jebusite, build an altar and offer a sacrifice before him. David would indeed and would in fact build the altar to the LORD and would offer the sacrifice required of the LORD and would see the angel of the LORD standing between earth and heaven with the sword drawn. David would witness the judgment of the LORD stayed, and fire coming down from heaven upon the sacrifice that was made there in the mountains of Moriah. It is important for us to realize and recognize this, for what we find is one example of a king who sat upon the throne and helped stay the judgment and destruction of the LORD upon the city and its inhabitants.

            With this being said it’s worth noting that it was the king of Nineveh who issued a decree that all the inhabitants in the city would fast and eat nothing while humbling themselves and repenting before the LORD until they saw what might become of both they themselves and the city. It would be a direct result of the king who sat upon the throne in Nineveh that would help facilitate and bring about the corporate and collective repentance of the LORD among the inhabitants of the city. Although it was the king who issued the decree in the midst of the city of Nineveh it would be a combined, corporate and collective repentance and humility of the people that would ultimately stay the judgment of the LORD. When we speak about and consider the narratives of Hezekiah and Josiah we find two kings who sat upon the throne of David who would humble themselves before the LORD, who would move with fear before the LORD, and who would be instrumental in staying and delaying the judgment of the LORD. We know from the words which Huldah the prophetess spoke unto those whom Josiah had sent to inquire of the LORD through her that judgment would still come upon that place because of the great wickedness, transgression, iniquity, evil and idolatry that was committed by the people of God. Even though the judgment of the LORD would still come upon the city of Jerusalem the LORD would stay and delay the judgment during the days of Josiah. It would be a direct result of the actions of Josiah that would grant the city of Jerusalem an additional witness and testimony during those days—namely, the witness of mercy and grace as the LORD would grant the children of Israel with additional room and space to turn their hearts to the LORD once more in humility, in obedience, in faithfulness and righteousness. What we see and what we find during the days of Hezekiah would be a king who would stand against a king and resist him on his knees in prayer before the LORD, but also a king who would be instrumental in staying the judgment of the LORD.

            In all the years I have read and studied the Scripture I have always thought and believed that Hezekiah inquired of the LORD out of fear of the enemy and adversary out the walls of the city and at the gates, and yet as I read and consider the narrative of the days of his reign I am becoming more and more convinced that Hezekiah’s inquiring of the LORD and humbling himself before Him was not only resistance against the king of Assyria, but would be resistance through prayer, through trust and confidence in the LORD, and through humility. Hezekiah king of Judah would take the words of the letter which Rabshakeh had sent against the inhabitants of Jerusalem and would cry out and seek the LORD in response to the letter if by some chance the LORD would hear the words spoken by this great king and respond to his prayer and inquiry by answering his prayer. We know from Scripture that the LORD would send the prophet Isaiah unto Hezekiah to declare unto him that the enemy and adversary would not enter into the city of Jerusalem, and that no weapon which was formed against the inhabitants of the city would prosper, and that no weapon would be raised against and lifted up in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. Though the enemy and adversary was outside the walls and at the gates of the city that enemy would have no access and entrance into the city of Jerusalem as the LORD Himself would restrict and prohibit the enemy access to the city. How absolutely incredible it is to think about the fact that although the city of Jerusalem had walls round about it, and although the inhabitants of Jerusalem had gates which were intended on keeping enemies and adversaries out of the city, it would be the LORD of hosts alone who would be the wall of defense before and round about the city. This reality is completely and utterly manifested during the days of Hezekiah king of Judah as it would be the LORD who would keep and prevent the enemy and adversary from entering in. What a truly wonderful and powerful truth and message it is to read the words found in the prophetic book of Isaiah and not only see the LORD as the wall of defense round about the city of Jerusalem, but also seeing the LORD relent and repent Himself of the evil which He purposed against the city. What’s more, is that it would be Hezekiah who would resist the enemy and adversary in the midst of city of Jerusalem from the house of the LORD as he would bring the taunts, the threats and the boasts of the enemy before the LORD in His holy sanctuary.

            I have to admit that I absolutely love how during the days of two kings who would be instrumental in staying and delaying the judgment of the LORD upon the city of Jerusalem and upon the land of Judah there would be prophetic voices raised up in the midst of their generation. It would Micah the Morasthite, Amos from Tekoa, Isaiah the son of Amoz, and Hosea the son of Beeri who would prophesy and proclaim the word of the LORD during the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and it would be Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah and Zephaniah the son of Cushi who would prophesy the word of the LORD during the days of Josiah. What we must also realize during the days of Josiah is that in addition to there being two prophetic voices that would be raised up in the midst of the land, there would also be the witness of the book of the Law of the LORD as written by Moses which would also be a powerful voice unto that generation. Stop and think about the fact that the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem would have two distinct prophetic voices among them in their midst, and in the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah king of Judah the book of the Law was found in the Temple of the LORD, was brought into the presence of the king, and read in the place of government, authority and dominion. Oh there is something truly awesome, special and supernatural about the Law of the LORD and the words of Moses being brought into the place of government, authority and dominion, as we must recognize and understand that the true and ultimate authority and government is that of heaven and that which flows from the very throne of the living God. During the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah we find the prophetic voice of Jeremiah speaking unto the king, we find the prophetic voice of the prophetess Huldah speaking unto the king, and we even find Moses and the Law of the LORD speaking unto the king. What’s more, is that it would also be during the days of Josiah king of Judah there would be another prophetic voice that would be raised up to proclaim the word of the LORD. With this being said I am absolutely and completely convinced that Josiah was indeed and end-times and Last Days king who would rule and reign during those days leading up to and preceding the judgment of the LORD upon the land. Although Josiah would not live to see the judgment and wrath of the LORD which would come against the city of Jerusalem, he would nonetheless be living in the last days leading up to and preceding the judgment of the LORD. How incredibly captivating it is to think about and consider that Jeremiah and Zephaniah would essentially be last days prophets as they would both prophesy in the days leading up to the judgment and wrath of the LORD upon Judah and Jerusalem. Of course we know that Jeremiah would do more than simply prophesy in the days leading up to judgment, but he would also prophesy during the days of the judgment, and would see the fulfillment of the very things he proclaimed in the hearing of the people of God.

            Perhaps the single greatest question we must ask ourselves during the generation in which we are living is whether or not we are listening to the word of the LORD that is being spoken and revealed among us in our midst. In the days leading up to the judgment and wrath of the LORD there was the prophetic witness of Jeremiah and Zephaniah, and one might even argue that Ezekiel was among those same prophets as he would prophesy during the days of the captivity of the people of God. We know that during the days leading up to the manifestation of Jesus the Christ John the Baptist would be that prophetic messenger and voice that would prepare the way for His arrival and appearance. We know that the apostles of Jesus Christ were themselves last days apostles and messengers as they would proclaim and preach the gospel concerning Jesus Christ among the Gentiles in the midst of the earth. Ultimately the judgment of the LORD would come through the invasion of the Babylonian Empire and army as it would devastate and destroy the land of Judah, as well as the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of the LORD. It would be the Roman Empire and the Roman Army that would invade Judaea and Jerusalem and would once more destroy the Temple of the LORD. It is necessary that we recognize and understand these realities, for there were those prophets during the days leading up to the judgment of the LORD who would help call a nation and people to repentance before the LORD, and it would be those prophets during the days leading up to the judgment of the LORD that would call a people—both Jews and Gentiles—to repentance before the LORD. It is truly something remarkable to think about hot Zephaniah and Jeremiah were both last days and end times prophets as they would both prophesy during the days of the last and final righteous king who would sit upon the throne of David until that day comes when Jesus the Christ and Lord would sit upon that throne in the city of Jerusalem. These two ancient Hebrew prophets would be powerful prophetic voices which would be raised up in the midst of the land of Judah and in the city of Jerusalem during those days leading up to judgment. What makes this all the more challenging is when you think about the fact that although the LORD would stay His hand of judgment upon the city of Jerusalem these prophets would still need to warn of impending judgment, wrath and destruction.

            Scripture doesn’t make any such statement within the Old Testament, but we have to speculate and wonder if Jeremiah and Zephaniah knew that the judgment of the LORD had been stayed and delayed as a result of the humility and fear of Josiah king of Judah. Both of these men would prophesy the word of the LORD during these days leading up to judgment, and it’s important to realize and recognize that these days were most likely days of tremendous peace—perhaps even prosperity and blessing—as the LORD would not release His judgment upon the land of Judah, nor upon the city of Jerusalem. With that being said, however—although these prophets would prophesy during days of respite, reprieve, peace and rest, and although the judgment of the LORD would not be manifested during those days, the LORD would still bring about the judgment and wrath in the days to come. Although the days of Josiah were days of peace and rest they would also be days of warning and alarm, as through the prophetic voices of Jeremiah and Zephaniah the LORD would warn of judgment and wrath which was still to come. It must be noted and pointed out that the judgment of the LORD was indeed and in fact stayed in the midst of the city of Jerusalem, however, judgment would still come and would and could not be averted. Jeremiah and Zephaniah both knew that the days of Josiah were days of peace and rest—perhaps even days of obedience and faithfulness before the LORD—however, the days ahead were dark and dangerous days. Zephaniah and Jeremiah knew and understood that the nation was one that was living on the verge and on the cusp of judgment, wrath, devastation and destruction. These prophets knew and understood that the goodness and mercy of the LORD toward the inhabitants of the land was designed and intended on bringing them to repentance, but that the days were coming when judgment and wrath would be manifested within, upon and throughout the land. Both of these men knew that this peace and rest they were experiencing was only a temporary reprieve and respite before the great and terrible day of the LORD when death, devastation and destruction would be manifested in the midst of the land. Imagine being Jeremiah and Zephaniah and prophesying during days of peace and rest, and yet knowing that judgment and wrath were still on the horizon. The peace and rest they were enjoying might on the surface appear to be a sign of “better things,” however both of these men knew that judgment, wrath and destruction were on the horizon. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the prophetic book of Zephaniah beginning with the seventh verse of the first chapter:

            “Hold thy peace at the presence of the LORD God: For the day of the LORD is at hand: For the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, He hath bid his guests. And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD’s sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel. In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the thresthold, which fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that there shall be the noise of a cry from the fish gate, and an howling from the second, and a great crashing from the hills. Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh, for all the merchant people are cut down; all they that bear silver are cut off. And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil. Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation: they shall also build houses, but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, but not drink the wine thereof” (Zephaniah 1:7-13).

            “That  great day of the LORD is near, IT is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: The mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’s wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of His jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land” (Zephaniah 1:14-18).

            LIVING DURING PEACE BUT KNOWING JUDGMENT IS ON THE HORIZON! LIVING DURING REST BUT KNOWING WRATH IS COMING! UNDERSTANDING THE WITNESS AND WARNING OF PEACE AND REST! WHEN THE KINDNESS AND GOODNESS OF THE LORD IS A WARNING AND ALARM OF JUDGMENT AND WRATH! One of the greatest truths I can’t help but be absolutely captivated by when considering the narrative of Jeremiah and Zephaniah is the fact that these were two prophets who were prophesying during times of peace, during times of rest, and perhaps even during times of blessing and prosperity, and yet they both knew that something was coming. There is not a doubt in my mind that both Zephaniah and Jeremiah knew that although they were living during days and times of peace and rest there were dark and dangerous days which were on the horizon—days of devastation and destruction, days of chaos and calamity, days of judgment and wrath. Pause and think about what it must have been like for these two ancient Hebrew prophets to live during times of great peace and rest in the midst of the land—peace and rest that was secured by the humility and fear of the king—and yet they knew that this peace and rest was going to be short-lived, for just one generation from those days the enemy and adversary would once more enter into and invade the land, and the city of Jerusalem would come under attack by the enemy. It was indeed true that during the days of Hezekiah king of Judah the enemy and adversary had entered into and invaded the land, and that the enemy and adversary had even come as close and as far as the walls and gates of Jerusalem. We know that it was because of the humility and fear of Hezekiah that the enemy was forced out of the land and driven back to the land from which it had come. We know that it was Hezekiah’s seeking of the LORD that caused the LORD to relent and repent Himself of the tremendous evil He purposed against Jerusalem and the inhabitants therein, and the rest of the days of Hezekiah would be days of peace and rest. A similar reality was true during the days of Josiah king of Josiah, however, the one notable and fundamental difference between the two periods of time was that the enemy and adversary was not permitted to enter into the land during the days of Josiah. Oh the judgment and wrath of the LORD would still come and be manifested in the midst of the land, and the judgment and wrath of the LORD would still come upon the city of Jerusalem, however, the enemy and adversary would not be permitted to enter the land so long as Josiah remained upon the throne of Judah.

            Stop and consider that last statement and reality, for it lends itself to quite an astonishing truth concerning Josiah king of Judah, for so long as he would sit upon the throne of David in the city of Jerusalem the land of Judah and the people therein would enjoy peace and rest. So long as Josiah would sit upon the throne of David in the midst of Jerusalem the inhabitants of the land would experience something which was most likely misinterpreted and misunderstood during those days—namely, that this son of David sitting upon the throne of his father secured peace and rest during those days, however, it was one last and one final wakeup call to the people of the land. If there is one thing we must understand and recognize it’s that peace and rest—even prosperity and blessing—in the midst of a nation can be misunderstood and misrepresented within a generation as many can take such manifestations to mean and as an indication that the LORD has turned himself away from his wrath and from his judgment. There were those during the days of Jeremiah, during the days of Zephaniah, and during the days of Josiah king of Judah who beheld the peace and rest they were enjoying in the midst of the land, and they thought and perceived that piece as being a sign that the danger and threat had past, and that the judgment and wrath which the ancient Hebrew prophets had prophesied had been averted and would no longer come to pass. I am absolutely and completely convinced that such a thought and such a belief was incredibly dangerous, for it would be very easy for such individuals to be deceived—and even to be deceived by the false prophets which were present during those days. DECEIVED BY PEACE! DECEIVED BY REST! Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that the peace and rest which was found during those days was indeed genuine and was indeed real, yet it was not meant to lull the inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem and the land of Judah into a deep sleep and comfortable ease as they began to think and believe that the storm would pass and that the judgment and wrath of the LORD would no longer be manifested in the midst of the earth. If there is one thing the prophetic book of Jeremiah reveals it’s that there were indeed false prophets which were alive and present during those days who would prophesy peace and rest—and while there was indeed peace and rest during those days, such peace would not last and was meant to be a powerful warning, a powerful alarm, and a powerful invitation to turn one’s heart fully and completely unto the LORD.

            As I sit here this morning I can’t help but think about and be absolutely captivated by the tremendous reality that it is possible for men and women to witness and behold peace in the midst of their days and in the midst of their generation, and as a result of such peace and rest taking place before and around them they are lulled into this deep slumber and this deep ease. I firmly believe that although peace and rest might indeed and might in fact be genuine, it’s possible for men and women to be deceived by such peace, and to think and believe that such peace and rest is a representation of the storm having passed, calamity and chaos being over, and the threat and danger of future devastation and destruction no longer being something to concern themselves with. We can clearly see this in the days after the events which took place on September 11th nineteen years ago as once the initial shock wore off from those events and life seemed to go back to normal men and women began to grow accustomed and used to the peace and rest that was found in the midst of the nation—that was until the events which occurred seven years later completely rocked the financial industry within the nation, as well as within and across the globe. Once the initial shock and effect of that wore off and life seemed to go back to normal men and women would once more be lulled into a false sense of peace and rest in the midst of the land, and would continue on with life as usual until the events which would take place at the beginning of this year would take place and a global pandemic would shut the world down and force countless millions of individuals into their homes as businesses, corporations and companies were forced to shut down. Oh how I am absolutely and completely convinced that it is absolutely possible to be completely and utterly deceived by peace and rest—even if that peace and rest is not one that is false, but is one that is genuine. Josiah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, and even those who had heard the words which Huldah the prophetess spoke for the king knew that the peace and rest that would be enjoyed and experienced during those days would only last for a predefined period of time, and that once Josiah king of Judah would die and be buried with his fathers that which held the judgment and wrath at bay would no longer do so. With the death of Josiah would come the beginning of the end and the beginning of the judgment, wrath and destruction of the LORD in the midst of the land. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome and incredible reality, for to do so would be to miss out on the incredible importance and power of the prophetic words of Jeremiah and Zephaniah.

As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the truly captivating and challenging reality that the prophets Jeremiah and Zephaniah, as well as the king Josiah knew and understood that the LORD was bestowing unto that generation during those days peace and rest from that which He had purposed against the city of Jerusalem and against the land because of the sins of Manasseh son of Hezekiah. Both the prophets and the king knew that although the peace and rest, and although the prosperity and blessing would be enjoyed and experienced during those days, it was meant to serve as a warning more than it was meant to be enjoyed. We would like to think that peace and rest is something that is meant to be enjoyed and what we find instead is that peace and rest is something that is more often than not meant to stand and serve as a warning and urgent wake up call to a nation and people. I sit here this morning thinking about and considering the incredible reality that Jeremiah and Zephaniah would both prophesy during days of peace and rest, and yet both of the knew what lie ahead on the horizon. Both of these ancient Hebrew prophets knew that there were those alive during that generation who were completely and utterly deceived by the peace and rest that was before them, and that there were those who were lulled into a deep sleep and slumber because of it. Such individuals would and could not hear and recognize the warning that was being spoken and proclaimed through these prophets—and even the warning which was found in the Old Testament book of the Law of Moses. Such individuals would continue living their lives as though nothing was wrong, and as though the LORD had somehow turned away from His fierce anger, wrath, jealousy, fury and judgment, and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply wasn’t the case. Even during this generation when life appears to be moving toward a “new normal” men and women are beginning to allow themselves to be lulled into this ease, this comfort, this slumber and this false sense of security that they are completely unable to hear the warning and the alarm that is going off and being sounded in the midst of the nation. I am absolutely and completely convinced that there is a great need during this generation to hear the warning and the alarm that is being sounded within the divine Word of God, and that which the voice of the LORD is speaking in the midst of it, as the LORD is calling a people to once more turn their hearts fully and completely before and unto Him during times of peace and rest. How we handle days and times of peace and rest can indeed determine and dictate how we handle times of calamity and chaos, devastation and destruction, judgment and wrath.

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