God Will Be Faithful

1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving you, and you offer to the Lord from the herd or from the flock a food offering or a burnt offering or a sacrifice, to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering or at your appointed feasts, to make a pleasing aroma to the Lord, then he who brings his offering shall offer to the Lord a grain offering of a tenth of an ephah of fine flour, mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil; and you shall offer with the burnt offering, or for the sacrifice, a quarter of a hin of wine for the drink offering for each lamb. Or for a ram, you shall offer for a grain offering two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with a third of a hin of oil. And for the drink offering you shall offer a third of a hin of wine, a pleasing aroma to the Lord. And when you offer a bull as a burnt offering or sacrifice, to fulfill a vow or for peace offerings to the Lord, then one shall offer with the bull a grain offering of three tenths of an ephah of fine flour, mixed with half a hin of oil. 10 And you shall offer for the drink offering half a hin of wine, as a food offering, a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

11 “Thus it shall be done for each bull or ram, or for each lamb or young goat. 12 As many as you offer, so shall you do with each one, as many as there are. 13 Every native Israelite shall do these things in this way, in offering a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. 14 And if a stranger is sojourning with you, or anyone is living permanently among you, and he wishes to offer a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord, he shall do as you do. 15 For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the Lord. 16 One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you.”

17 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 18 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land to which I bring you 19 and when you eat of the bread of the land, you shall present a contribution to the Lord. 20 Of the first of your dough you shall present a loaf as a contribution; like a contribution from the threshing floor, so shall you present it. 21 Some of the first of your dough you shall give to the Lord as a contribution throughout your generations. Numbers 15:1-21 ESV

Even though God had condemned an entire generation of Israelites to wander in the wilderness for 40 years as punishment for their rebellion, He would not abandon them. The Lord would continue to guide them, provide for and protect them, and even give them further instructions regarding their eventual occupation of the land of Canaan. While that generation would never experience the joy of crossing over the Jordan and experiencing God’s rest, their children would. And God used the four-decade-long detour through the wilderness as a training opportunity for the next generation of Israelites, providing them with detailed instructions for their eventual entrance into the land of promise.

Though the adult population had allowed the fear-laden advice of the ten spies to deter them from keeping God’s command to enter and conquer the land of Canaan, God refused to renege on His promise. He remained committed to the covenant He had made with Abraham and assured Moses that the offspring of the rebellious generation would inherit the land.

God had made it perfectly clear that the adults in the room had blown their chance.

“…not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have all seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they have tested me by refusing to listen to my voice. They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it.” – Numbers 14:22-23 NLT

Yet, despite their blatant display of disobedience, He would not hold the children responsible for the sins of their parents. During the 40-year delay, things would continue just as they had since the Israelites departed Egypt. The tabernacle would remain in the center of the camp with the Shekinah glory of God located above the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies. The sacrificial system would continue just as God had prescribed it on Mount Sinai. Sacrifices would be offered and sins atoned for. Life would go on as it had before. And each year, children would be born into the Israelite community and members of the older generation would die off. There would be a slow but steady changing of the guard as the infants grew into adolescents who eventually became adults.

And God provided Moses with the assurance that a new group of Israelites would eventually enter the land.

“Give the following instructions to the people of Israel.

“When you finally settle in the land I am giving you, you will offer special gifts as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. – Numbers 15:2-3 NLT

The faces and names of the people would change, but the covenant would be fulfilled. And this message from God must have been a painful reminder to the older generation that their disobedience had been costly. They would never have the joy of crossing the Jordan River into the land of promise with their children and grandchildren. Their lives would end in death in the wilderness. They were close but yet so far. Canaan was within reach but completely off limits because of their refusal to obey God.

This chapter contains additional instructions regarding the sacrificial system and it focuses on the changes God would require once they entered the new land. It is interesting to note that this addendum includes additional sacrifices involving grain, oil, and wine. When the people arrive in the land, they will be required to supplement their meat offerings with “a grain offering of two quarts of choice flour mixed with one quart of olive oil” (Numbers 15:4 NLT). And for each lamb offered, they would add “one quart of wine as a liquid offering” (Numbers 15:5 NLT).

This appears to be a reference to the fruitfulness of the land of Canaan. When the spies had returned from their expedition within the borders of Canaan, they reported that it was “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Numbers 13:27 NLT). It was rich and bountiful. In fact, they had brought back “a single cluster of grapes so large that it took two of them to carry it on a pole between them! They also brought back samples of the pomegranates and figs” (Numbers 13:23 NLT).

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses describes just how bountiful the land of promise will be.

“The LORD your God will soon bring you into the land he swore to give you when he made a vow to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is a land with large, prosperous cities that you did not build. The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce. You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant.” – Deuteronomy 6:10-11 NLT

For people who were living in the wilderness, surviving off of manna and quail, this description must have been highly attractive. The prospect of enjoying the comforts of a real house over the cramped confines of a tent would have been difficult to imagine. Ever since leaving Egypt, they had eaten no fruit, raised no crops, baked no bread, or enjoyed any of the comforts of “home.” They were nomads wandering through a godforsaken wilderness.

But God assured them that upon entering the land of promise, all that would change. They would have plenty of grain, oil, and wine. So much so, that these bountiful resources would become a part of the sacrificial system. According to the book of Exodus, the Israelites had left Egypt with “great flocks and herds of livestock” (Exodus 12:38 NLT). So, animal sacrifices had always been plentiful, even in the wilderness. But they had no access to grain, oil, and wine. The only bread they had to eat was in the form of the manna which God miraculously provided. Since there were few olive trees or vineyards in the wilderness, oil and wine were in short supply. But things would be different in Canaan.

This entire passage is meant to emphasize God’s faithfulness and to assure the Israelites of His unfailing commitment to providing for all their needs. And their response to His faithfulness was to be one of gratitude, expressed through the offering of meat, grain, oil, and wine. These gifts were intended to honor God for His goodness and grace – “a pleasing aroma to the Lord” (Numbers 15:3) for all that He had done.

It’s important to remember that these instructions were given long before the people entered the land and long before they had access to the oil, grain, and wine. But God was assuring them that the day would come when the bounty of the land would become readily available. In fact, He was guaranteeing its availability.

“When you arrive in the land where I am taking you, and you eat the crops that grow there, you must set some aside as a sacred offering to the Lord. Present a cake from the first of the flour you grind, and set it aside as a sacred offering, as you do with the first grain from the threshing floor. Throughout the generations to come, you are to present a sacred offering to the Lord each year from the first of your ground flour.” – Numbers 15:18-21 NLT

To the rebellious generation who had decided that the conquest of Canaan was impossible, this word from God must have been difficult to hear. They must have been filled with regret when they considered all that they had sacrificed when they made their fateful decision to disobey God. Not only would they fail to enter the land, but they would never enjoy its fruit or experience the joy of standing alongside their children and grandchildren as they offered God gifts of gratitude for its bounty.

But God underscores His own faithfulness when He states that these offerings will take place “throughout the generations to come” (Numbers 15:21 NLT). The next generation will conquer and occupy the land. The land will provide for all their needs. And the people will be expected to offer up their thanks to God for His goodness and graciousness – for generations to come.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

No God. No Hope.

Ephraim mixes himself with the peoples;
    Ephraim is a cake not turned.
Strangers devour his strength,
    and he knows it not;
gray hairs are sprinkled upon him,
    and he knows it not.
10 The pride of Israel testifies to his face;
    yet they do not return to the Lord their God,
    nor seek him, for all this.

11 Ephraim is like a dove,
    silly and without sense,
    calling to Egypt, going to Assyria.
12 As they go, I will spread over them my net;
    I will bring them down like birds of the heavens;
    I will discipline them according to the report made to their congregation.
13 Woe to them, for they have strayed from me!
    Destruction to them, for they have rebelled against me!
I would redeem them,
    but they speak lies against me.

14 They do not cry to me from the heart,
    but they wail upon their beds;
for grain and wine they gash themselves;
    they rebel against me.
15 Although I trained and strengthened their arms,
    yet they devise evil against me.
16 They return, but not upward;
    they are like a treacherous bow;
their princes shall fall by the sword
    because of the insolence of their tongue.
This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt. Hosea 7:8-16 ESV

Not only had Israel enjoyed ongoing love affairs with its many false gods, but it had also pursued adulterous relationships with foreign powers. In turning its back on God Almighty, Israel was forced to protect its national security through alliances and treaties with its more powerful neighbors. And none of these agreements had been ordained or approved by Yahweh.

These unsanctioned relationships with pagan powers, intended to strengthen Israel’s position in the region, actually ended up having the opposite effect. Over the years, Israel had embraced the false gods of the surrounding nations, further undermining its relationship with Yahweh. The marriage alliances that the kings of Israel made with other nations did more than provide a questionable peace agreement. The pagan princesses that joined the harems of Israel’s kings ended up bringing their false gods with them. And this practice could be traced all the way back to King Solomon.

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, “You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.” Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord. – 1 Kings 11:1-3 NLT

The kings of Israel had followed Solomon’s lead, continuing to seek security and safety through these marital alliances with foreign powers. The treaties they made treaties with these godless nations were in direct violation of God’s command that they remain set-apart and distinct. When God had delivered them from their captivity in Egypt and led them to the borders of the land of Canaan, He had warned them:

“I will fix your boundaries from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the eastern wilderness to the Euphrates River. I will hand over to you the people now living in the land, and you will drive them out ahead of you.

“Make no treaties with them or their gods. They must not live in your land, or they will cause you to sin against me. If you serve their gods, you will be caught in the trap of idolatry.” – Exodus 23:31-33 NLT

Four decades later, when the people were preparing to enter the land of Canaan, Moses reiterated God’s warning.

When the LORD your God hands these nations over to you and you conquer them, you must completely destroy them. Make no treaties with them and show them no mercy. You must not intermarry with them. Do not let your daughters and sons marry their sons and daughters, for they will lead your children away from me to worship other gods. Then the anger of the LORD will burn against you, and he will quickly destroy you. – Deuteronomy 7:2-4 NLT

Yet, hundreds of years after that, Hosea is having to chastise the people of Israel for their complete disregard of God’s command.

The people of Israel mingle with godless foreigners,
    making themselves as worthless as a half-baked cake!
Worshiping foreign gods has sapped their strength,
    but they don’t even know it. – Hosea 7:8-9 NLT

They had compromised their convictions and allowed themselves to be corrupted from within. By opening the doors to these foreign nations and their false gods, Israel had violated God’s command and was now suffering the consequences. But they remained completely oblivious to the danger. It had all taken place slowly and imperceptibly, as the graying of man’s hair as he ages. Time passes, and before you know it, you find yourself old, weak, and incapable of doing the things you did when you were younger.

Yet, in their stubbornness, they refused to call out to the only one who could do anything to rescue them: Yahweh. Despite their growing weakness, their pride remained remarkably strong. They couldn’t bring themselves to repent. It was too much for them to admit that they had been wrong and needed the help of God. So, they kept up their deadly pursuit of false gods and foreign aid. And God can’t help but point out the absurdity of it all.

“The people of Israel have become like silly, witless doves,
    first calling to Egypt, then flying to Assyria for help. – Hosea 7:11 NLT

Israel’s kings and the diplomats who advised them acted like “witless doves,” flitting about from one nation to another, in the hopes of securing assistance in their time of need. But they had no idea what they were doing. They were in dangerous territory, making overtures to countries that would turn on them in an instant. These nations were not to be trusted. They were power-grabbing opportunists who did not have Israel’s best interests in mind. And what Israel failed to understand was that the very nations they were seeking to align themselves with were the same nations God would use as His instruments of judgment against them. Their treaty partners would become their destroyers. Israel’s foreign diplomats could negotiate all the treaties in the world, but nothing was going to save them from the destruction to come.

“But as they fly about,
    I will throw my net over them
and bring them down like a bird from the sky.
    I will punish them for all the evil they do.”  – Hosea 7:12 NLT

And God makes it clear that His pending judgment will be the result of their willful abandonment of Him. They were guilty of spreading lies about Him. The very fact that they were seeking the aid of foreign powers was evidence that they believed He would not or could not protect them. He was not powerful enough. And the ongoing nature of their rebellion would appear to indicate that Yahweh was too weak to punish them. So, they sinned with impunity.

Rather than seek God’s help, “They cut themselves, begging foreign gods for grain and new wine” (Hosea 7:14 NLT). This portrays the cultic practices associated with the worship of the false gods of Canaan. It is reminiscent of the actions of the prophets of Baal who attempted to call on their false god to aid them in their battle with Elijah, the prophet of Yahweh. From morning to Noon, they had called on their god to rain down fire on the altar they had built to him, but nothing had happened. So, Elijah ridiculed and mocked them, saying:

“Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention. – 1 Kings 18:27-29 NLT

Baal never responded. And the false gods of the Israelites never came to their aid either. But their pride and arrogance will keep them from seeking God. It seems they would rather die than return to Him.

“They look everywhere except to the Most High.
    They are as useless as a crooked bow.
Their leaders will be killed by their enemies
    because of their insolence toward me.
Then the people of Egypt
    will laugh at them.” – Hosea 7:16 NLT

So, God would end up using one of their former treaty partners to serve as His deliverer of judgment. The Assyrians would end up invading Israel, destroying the capital city of Samaria, killing the king, and taking the people captive. And when this devastating event occurred, their former allies would laugh at them with scorn. No one would feel sorry for Israel. No nation would come to their aid. All their treaties and alliances would be for naught. God had longed to redeem them, but they had rejected His gracious offer by refusing to repent of their rebellion and apostasy. And yet, God’s promise of redemption and restoration that He made to King Solomon had never gone away.

“…if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT

Their salvation was as close as a prayer of humble repentance.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Good and Godly Leadership

1 King Solomon was king over all Israel, and these were his high officials: Azariah the son of Zadok was the priest; Elihoreph and Ahijah the sons of Shisha were secretaries; Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder; Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was in command of the army; Zadok and Abiathar were priests; Azariah the son of Nathan was over the officers; Zabud the son of Nathan was priest and king’s friend; Ahishar was in charge of the palace; and Adoniram the son of Abda was in charge of the forced labor.

Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, who provided food for the king and his household. Each man had to make provision for one month in the year. These were their names: Ben-hur, in the hill country of Ephraim; Ben-deker, in Makaz, Shaalbim, Beth-shemesh, and Elonbeth-hanan; 10 Ben-hesed, in Arubboth (to him belonged Socoh and all the land of Hepher); 11 Ben-abinadab, in all Naphath-dor (he had Taphath the daughter of Solomon as his wife); 12 Baana the son of Ahilud, in Taanach, Megiddo, and all Beth-shean that is beside Zarethan below Jezreel, and from Beth-shean to Abel-meholah, as far as the other side of Jokmeam; 13 Ben-geber, in Ramoth-gilead (he had the villages of Jair the son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead, and he had the region of Argob, which is in Bashan, sixty great cities with walls and bronze bars); 14 Ahinadab the son of Iddo, in Mahanaim; 15 Ahimaaz, in Naphtali (he had taken Basemath the daughter of Solomon as his wife); 16 Baana the son of Hushai, in Asher and Bealoth; 17 Jehoshaphat the son of Paruah, in Issachar; 18 Shimei the son of Ela, in Benjamin; 19 Geber the son of Uri, in the land of Gilead, the country of Sihon king of the Amorites and of Og king of Bashan. And there was one governor who was over the land. 1 Kings 1:1-19 ESV

Through his record of Solomon’s deft handling of the dispute between the two prostitutes, the author has provided an example of Solomon’s Spirit-imbued wisdom. And Solomon would put that wisdom to use in a variety of ways, including in the formation of his royal administration. His father’s death had left him as the sovereign authority over a large nation with a sizeable population spread over a vast area. And to understand the nature of Solomon’s actions, as outlined in this passage, it is important to remember the historical context that precipitated the establishment of the royal position in Israel.

Until the day Saul had been anointed the first king of Israel, the nation had functioned as a loose coalition of 12 tribes, with God as their King and sovereign. The tribes, while varying in size, each maintained independent control over the land they had been allotted by God. As the priestly tribe, the Levites were not given any land, but instead, were allocated cities within the territories of the other 11 tribes.

When the tribes first entered the land of Canaan, they had to defeat the existing inhabitants before they could occupy the land awarded to them by God. To do this, the tribes formed alliances with one another, fighting side-by-side until they could settle in their respective territory. Once this task had been completed, the tribes tended to operate independently. There was no centralized governing body or system of government in place to provide guidance or regulate behavior. In time, each of the tribes began to drift away from God and take on the pagan practices of the land’s former inhabitants. They began worshiping false gods, a decision that forced Yahweh to judge them for their disobedience and unfaithfulness.

…the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. – Judges 2:14 ESV

This led to a period of time in which God governed the tribes through the administration of the judges. This was a disparate and diverse group of individuals sent by God to deliver his disobedient people from their enemies and call them back into fellowship with Him.

Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. – Judges 2:18 ESV

This arrangement persisted for hundreds of years, until the day when the people demanded that God give them a king.

“Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” – 1 Samuel 8:5 ESV

Samuel, who had been God’s official spokesman and the last of the judges, had been offended by their demand. He took it as a personal slight. But God told him, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them” (1 Samuel 8:7 ESV). During their years as a confederation of independent tribes, Yahweh had been functioning as their sovereign authority. He had been their King. But now, they were demanding a human king, which meant they would be ruled over by a fallen, sin-prone man whose actions would have devastating implications. And God had Samuel warn the Israelites of the consequences of their request.

“This is how a king will reign over you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. Some will be generals and captains in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. He will take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the Lord will not help you.” – 1 Samuel 8:11-18 NLT

They demanded a flesh-and-blood king, but God warned them that when they got their wish, they would end up regretting it. But they refused to take God seriously and reiterated their demand for a king.

“Even so, we still want a king,” they said. “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.” – 1 Samuel 8:19-20 NLT

So, God gave them Saul. He was exactly what they had been looking for – a tall, good-looking man who had all the outward characteristics of a king.

Saul was the most handsome man in Israel—head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land. – 1 Samuel 9:2 NLT

This guy looked like a king. And after he received his anointing by Samuel, Saul would give all the indications that he would prove to be a good king. But, in time, his true nature revealed itself. He would prove to be headstrong and stubbornly disobedient, refusing to rule according to God’s will. And God was forced to remove him as king over Israel.

“I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command.” – 1 Samuel 15:11 NLT

When faced with the prospect of his removal, Saul would attempt to assuage God by begging His forgiveness, but it was too little, too late. Samuel had to break the news to Saul that his refusal to obey God was unforgivable and his kingship was irredeemable.

“What is more pleasing to the Lord:
    your burnt offerings and sacrifices
    or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
    and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,
    and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
So because you have rejected the command of the Lord,
    he has rejected you asking.” – 1 Samuel 15:22-23 NLT

And to make matters worse, Samuel told Saul that God had already chosen his replacement.

“The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to someone else—one who is better than you. – 1 Samuel 15:28 NLT

God had shown the people what happens when they get a king who seemed to meet their hearts’ desire. Now, they were going to see what a king looked like whose heart beat fast for God. God even warned Samuel that when looking for Saul’s replacement, he could not allow himself to be swayed by outward appearances. He had to look beneath the surface – at the heart.

“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7 NLT

This wasn’t a beauty contest. It had nothing to do with good looks, pedigree, charisma, or natural abilities. Samuel was to look for a godly man, not just a good man. And God had already decided who that man would be.

the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people. – 1 Samuel 13:14 NLT

God chose David to be the next king. He wasn’t a perfect man, and he would prove to be anything but a perfect king. But he had a heart for God. He attempted to live his life in obedience to God. And God chose to make Solomon his successor. Early on in his reign, Solomon would also reveal himself to be a man after God’s own heart. He would be faithful to God. He would attempt to operate his kingdom in obedience to God. And he would use his God-given wisdom to establish a royal administration that provided structure and stability so that the nation might thrive. This entire section of chapter 4, with its list of difficult-to-pronounce names and obscure titles, is meant to reveal how Solomon used his divinely-ordained wisdom to establish a system of government that would allow him to rule righteously and justly over the people of God. He did not take his responsibilities lightly or use his kingly powers selfishly. He ruled with wisdom and discernment. And the end result was that “Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy” (1 Kings 4:20 ESV). 

Solomon was demonstrating the truth of one of the proverbs he would later record.

Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers. – Proverbs 11:14 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Sword of the Lord.

The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the Philistines, before Pharaoh struck down Gaza.

“Thus says the Lord:
Behold, waters are rising out of the north,
    and shall become an overflowing torrent;
they shall overflow the land and all that fills it,
    the city and those who dwell in it.
Men shall cry out,
    and every inhabitant of the land shall wail.
At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his stallions,
    at the rushing of his chariots, at the rumbling of their wheels,
the fathers look not back to their children,
    so feeble are their hands,
because of the day that is coming to destroy
    all the Philistines,
to cut off from Tyre and Sidon
    every helper that remains.
For the Lord is destroying the Philistines,
    the remnant of the coastland of Caphtor.
Baldness has come upon Gaza;
    Ashkelon has perished.
O remnant of their valley,
    how long will you gash yourselves?
Ah, sword of the Lord!
    How long till you are quiet?
Put yourself into your scabbard;
    rest and be still!
How can it be quiet
    when the Lord has given it a charge?
Against Ashkelon and against the seashore
    he has appointed it.” Jeremiah 47:1-7 ESV

In this oracle from God, His attention turned to the nation of the Philistines. We are not given any indication as to when this prophecy was given to Jeremiah, but obviously, it was well before the events discussed actually took place. We know that Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians defeated Ashkelon in 604 B.C. In 605 B.C., the Babylonians defeated the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish. So, this prediction of the fall of the Philistines at the hands of the Egyptians would have probably been given to Jeremiah sometime before that, most likely around 609 B.C. But regardless of its exact date, the content of the oracle is indisputable and its outcome certain.

“A flood is coming from the north
    to overflow the land.
It will destroy the land and everything in it—
    cities and people alike. – Jeremiah 47:2 NLT

The “flood” from the north is a reference to the Babylonians. At some point, before they made their way to Egypt, King Nebuchadnezzar and his forces invaded Gaza and destroyed the Philistines. Their arrival happened so quickly that the Philistines were totally caught off guard and unprepared to defend themselves. God describes the fathers running for their lives, not even bothering to look back and abandoning their helpless children to fend for themselves against the Babylonian forces.

God makes it clear that He is going to wipe out the Philistines once and for all, and He is going to use King Nebuchadnezzar to do so. The Philistines were not natives to the land of Canaan. They had originally showed up in the land as refugees from Caphtor (Crete). But in the book of Amos, God makes it clear that their presence in the land of Canaan had been His doing.

“Are you not like the Cushites to me,
    O people of Israel?” declares the Lord.
“Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt,
    and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir?
Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom,
    and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground,
    except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,”
declares the Lord. – Amos 9:7-8 ESV

God had been behind the formation of the various nations and their migrations and subsequent settlements around the globe. And God spoke through Amos, indicating that He was going to bring complete destruction on these sinful nations, but would refrain from completely destroying the house of Jacob. But the Philistines, who had long been the enemies of God’s people, were going to experience His wrath. Unlike the Egyptians, who had never turned against the Israelites or treated them poorly, the Philistines had been a perpetual thorn in the side of the people of God for generations. But God makes it clear that their 15 minutes of fame were about to expire.

“The time has come for the Philistines to be destroyed,
    along with their allies from Tyre and Sidon.
Yes, the Lord is destroying the remnant of the Philistines,
    those colonists from the island of Crete.
Gaza will be humiliated, its head shaved bald;
    Ashkelon will lie silent.
You remnant from the Mediterranean coast,
    how long will you cut yourselves in mourning?” – Jeremiah 47:4-5 NLT

God even throws Tyre and Sidon into the mix. Perhaps they were allies of the Philistines, but we are not told why there were included in God’s judgment. More than likely, God is using geographic points of interest to indicate that His judgment will be complete and will encompass the entire nation. Tyre and Sidon were on the northern perimeter of the land of the Philistines, while Gaza and Ashkelon were at the southern-most tip. His wrath would be meted out upon the whole nation, from one end to the other. No one would escape.

Verse six contains a heartfelt plea that God might cease from the slaughter. This is likely a glimpse into how those who witness the coming devastation will respond. They will beg that God call an end to the horror of it all. The fact that this horror is the result of God’s judgment will be clearly evident and it will be to God that the cries will go out.

“Now, O sword of the Lord,
    when will you be at rest again?
Go back into your sheath;
    rest and be still. – Jeremiah 48:6 NLT

But verse seven gives the response to this call for mercy.

“But how can it be still
    when the Lord has sent it on a mission?
For the city of Ashkelon
    and the people living along the sea
    must be destroyed.” – Jeremiah 48:7 NLT

God’s will must be done. His judgment must be fulfilled. His sword will not return to its scabbard until His will concerning the Philistines is completely fulfilled. These oracles concerning Egypt and the nation of the Philistines are intended to remind the people of God of His sovereignty. He is in control of all things. He is sovereign over all the nations. There are no kings who reign without His express permission. There are no dictators or despots who rule without His will making it possible. Like flood waters that overflow their banks and devastate the land, the nation of Babylon would overwhelm the nations of the world, bringing destruction and fulfilling the sovereign will of God Almighty. No one escapes His judgment. No one operates outside of His will. No kings rule without His permission. No governments exist that He has not willed into existence. It was Daniel who said of God:

“Praise the name of God forever and ever,
    for he has all wisdom and power.
He controls the course of world events;
    he removes kings and sets up other kings.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the scholars.
He reveals deep and mysterious things
    and knows what lies hidden in darkness,
    though he is surrounded by light.” – Daniel 2:20-22 NLT

Despite all that had happened in Judah, and regardless of how bleak things appeared to the people of Judah, God was still in charge. And the words of psalmist provide us with a powerful reminder of God’s sovereign, unstoppable hand in the affairs of man.

“I warned the proud, ‘Stop your boasting!’
    I told the wicked, ‘Don’t raise your fists!
Don’t raise your fists in defiance at the heavens
    or speak with such arrogance.’”
For no one on earth—from east or west,
    or even from the wilderness—
    should raise a defiant fist.
It is God alone who judges;
    he decides who will rise and who will fall.
For the Lord holds a cup in his hand
    that is full of foaming wine mixed with spices.
He pours out the wine in judgment,
    and all the wicked must drink it,
    draining it to the dregs. – Psalm 75:4-8 NLT

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson