Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 4 * BOOK 9
ISRAEL: FROM JOSHUA TO NEHEMIAH
Now I would like for you to turn to the Book of Ezra. I mentioned two or three lessons ago, about the spiritual wickedness in high places. And immediately I felt I might be misunderstood, so I qualified what I meant right away. I wasn’t talking about our local pastors, and men who are sincere and are proclaiming The Word. When I castigated some of these false teachers, what I was talking about were the big wheel scholars, and as I said in my last lesson (I didn’t have the magazine handy), when I got home, I had a copy of the Archaeology Review in my mail box, and there was an article in there titled, “Did Jesus really die on the Cross?”
Fortunately, I had seen a portion of a TV program interviewing the lady who wrote the book, and she had cast all this doubt on the Scriptures. And she is a “scholar” now at the University of Sydney in Australia. She is almost totally committed to studying the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is nothing wrong with that. Now the Archaeology Review had read her book and was reviewing it. And to make a long story short she jumps to the conclusion that the famous teacher of righteousness of the Qumran text is John the Baptist. And that his opponent, the wicked priest whom she conflates with the man of the lie, is none other then Jesus. Imagine! and she’s a scholar. She also scoffs at the Virgin Birth and writes that Joseph was the father of Jesus.” And she goes on to say, “The story that Jesus died on the Cross is “fiction.”
So, in short, the review was that the book was a farce from start to finish. But anyway, I want you to be aware of a verse in the Book of Romans, in Chapter 1:22. Paul writes“Professing themselves wise, they became fools.” Now isn’t that perfect? And that is exactly what we are up against. I had a lady tell me a couple of years ago, “Les I’m beginning to feel a belligerent antagonism against my faith.” I thought maybe she was exaggerating a little, but listen, it’s coming on strong. I’m having a lot of people in my classes who are beginning to feel it. Also our Christian students are feeling the pressure in our university environment. They hear, “To believe this stuff, you must be some kind of a nut.”
Now listen, here we have to be concerned as Christians where America is going. I read an article by a university professor years ago; I think he was at the University of Minnesota. This was back in the 60’s and he was advocating that if Fundamental Christendom stands in the way of social progress, one of the ways to reduce their influence would be to commit them to insane asylums. After all they are not mentally fit for our society. You see Hitler and Stalin did the same thing. And now we have people in this country that are advocating that same thing. It is not that far away. I’m not a prophet of doom and gloom, as you well know, but sometimes we have to be made aware of what we are up against.
Back to Ezra. At the end of our last program we saw the Southern Kingdom of Judah overrun by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and he empties the land of the Jews. They end up in captivity for seventy years. Now at the end of the seventy years Cyrus, the King of Persia, made a decree that the Jews could go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. They could then re-establish temple worship, and re-establish their national entity, of course, under his sovereignty. Now in Ezra Chapter 1 verse 1.
“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled (He said it years before it happened), the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, `Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, `The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he (The God of heaven) hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.'”
So he puts the proclamation out to the Jews, who have been there seventy years. In fact two things happen to the Jews in that seventy years. Number one, they were cured once and for all of idolatry. A Jew may be anything but orthodox, but he will never be an idolater. For example, you will not find a Jew worshiping oriental religion. The second thing that happened is that they found out they had an acumen for business. That is where they learned it. In Babylon they became tremendous business people. Now remember Babylon was the beginning of our whole system of banking. In Daniel Chapter 2, we see all the various empires in that image that Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of, and we see that all of it is consummated with the second coming of Christ. All of the remnants of those previous empires in Daniel 2 – the Babylonians, Medes and Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans, as well as the revived Roman Empire, will all have residues of those previous empires with us today. And so the residue of the ancient Kingdom of Babylon that is part and parcel of our everyday existence is banking. The whole idea of interest and usury was really begun on that kind of scale in Babylon. So the Jew just embraced it and took that with them. But the amazing thing is that of all who were taken to Babylon (and it could have been a million), precious few take the offer to go back to Jerusalem and build the temple. We pick that up in Chapter 2 verse 64. Cyrus has now made it possible for any Jew to go back to Jerusalem. Remember, it’s a barren wilderness; there is nothing there. It will take a lot of hard work. But it was still home. Now look how many take the offer:
“The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore.”
That’s 42,360 Jews. That’s not very many is it? This is about 535 B.C. Remember Nebuchadnezzar came over here to Israel in 606 B.C. and 70 years later they are permitted to come back and rebuild the temple. Then turn over to Nehemiah for more of these historical events. They are so basic to understanding prophecy. Now remember I told you a few lessons back that all prophecy is centered on the nation of Israel. There is no prophecy to the Church. So if you really want to be a student of prophecy, you had better learn, and like, history. Because everything is going to be based on the history of Israel. Now some years later, almost 100 years after Ezra led those 42,360 Jews back and began to rebuild the temple, there comes another group also from Babylon, under yet another King and his name is Artaxerxes. We pick this up in Chapter 2 verse 1.
“And it came to pass in the month Nisan (April) in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I(Nehemiah) had not been beforetime sad in his presence. Wherefore the king said unto me, `Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart, Then I (Nehemiah) was very sore afraid,”
Now just put yourself in his shoes. You come before a king, and back in those days kings had power, and if you insulted him even a little bit, he could simply have you put to death. So I can see where old Nehemiah, when the king recognized that something was bothering him, would be scared stiff. And do you know what he did? Now here is the whole idea. You don’t have to be in a prayer closet, or on your knees in a church pew or altar to pray. You don’t even have to pray out loud. So what does Nehemiah do? The only thing left to do. He prayed.
“And said unto the king, `let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?’ Then the king said unto me, `For what doest thou make request?’ (can’t you just see old Nehemiah just melt.) So I prayed to the God of heaven.”
Now he didn’t pray audibly in front of that king. So how did he pray? Silently. Does God read our thoughts? You had better believe it. The Psalmist says it as plain as day. “He knows our thoughts like an open book.” I know we can’t add to Scripture, but sometimes I can’t help it. Like a book in large print. I mean there is nothing we can keep from Him. He knows our every thought. So He saw and heard Nehemiah’s prayer. And as a result of it, Nehemiah is given permission to also go back to Jerusalem (not to build the temple, that happened under Ezra, but) to rebuild the city walls. Now I’m emphasizing that because when we get to Daniel Chapter 9, in a few more lessons, the prophecy there is based not on the day Ezra comes back, but on the day Nehemiah comes back. If I remember correctly, Daniel’s prophecy from that day, I believe is April 14, 445 B.C. That is when Nehemiah got his permission to rebuild the city walls until Palm Sunday was fulfilled to the exact day.
Let’s go to Daniel in the short time we have left. Daniel is writing from Babylon, while in captivity. We won’t get into the prophetic part of it during this program, but nevertheless, I want to introduce you to the Book of Daniel, historically and hopefully, prophetically. Now when Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, and destroyed the Temple, and took the Jews captive, Daniel and his friends were just young lads. Probably early teen-agers.
Now the scoffers just love to scoff at the Book of Daniel, and they maintain that some impostor wrote this long after the fact (that it is not what we claim it to be). And one of their main arguments is that Daniel writes a good portion of this Book in the Aramaic language, and the rest of it in the Hebrew. But when you really analyze it, that’s not a point of scoffing, that’s a point of inspirational truth. Here he is a young Hebrew lad when he is brought captive to Babylon. Being in that environment, he is going to learn the native language. He already knew his Hebrew. But out in Babylon, in the course of instructions by the King to prepare Daniel and some of the other sharp young Jewish men for service in his government, they naturally learned the Aramaic language. So it is natural that Daniel learns to write in Aramaic. Secondly you need to remember that Daniel is a prophecy that is going to deal with the Gentile empires as they have contact with the nation of Israel. That is why prophecy is always centered on Israel, but it will include those Gentile empires that included Israel in their conquest. That is why you don’t read about any great Russian or German Emperor, you don’t read about the Kingdom of Great Britain, because they were not centered with the nation of Israel. But these Kingdoms, as we will see them come on the scene in the Book of Daniel, were all intricately involved with the Jew, so they come into prophecy. Now a verse or two in Daniel Chapter l:
“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his(Nebuchadnezzar’s) hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar (back to Babylon) to the house of his god;…”
In other words, he took all of those gold, silver, and brazen vessels from Jerusalem back to Babylon and put them in one of the temples of his god. I think Nebuchadnezzar got away with it, because he probably didn’t use them until you come to that great drunken feast of Belshazzar, when they brought in the vessels and used them for their partying. And then what happened? The hand writing on the wall. Before we go any further in the Book of Daniel (this now is into the area of the Gentile empires), I want to take you to Luke Chapter 21. We probably won’t get back to Daniel again until our next lesson. Here we have Jesus speaking. And he is addressing the scribes and elders and priests:
“And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these (Jesus says) be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. (prophecy will always be fulfilled; nothing can stop that) But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land (Israel), and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations (now there is the clue): and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the gentiles, until…”
There is that time word “until.” It doesn’t put a day on it, but nevertheless there is coming a time when the Gentiles will no longer trod the streets of Jerusalem. Let’s look closely at that last verse we read. It said “they shall be led away captive into all nations;” The casual reader will read this verse and automatically think this is Armageddon, but it is not. The Jews will not go into captivity during the tribulation period. Jesus here is referring to the besieging of Jerusalem by Titus the Roman General in 70 AD. But as He makes this statement concerning Jerusalem, He goes on to say that Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the heavy boot of Gentile armies until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
The times of the Gentiles of course started back here when Nebuchadnezzar first took Jerusalem. Jerusalem, for the most part, has been under Gentile dominion ever since, and will be until Christ returns. We look at Israel tonight and think she is a sovereign state. The Gentiles aren’t overlording her. Oh No? How much can Israel do without the permission or the financial aid of the Gentiles? They wouldn’t last overnight. And although they have accomplished a lot, they are still under the control basically of the Gentiles.
Now I think I have time to go to Romans Chapter 11. Here we have another statement concerning the Gentiles, but it is in the exact opposite setting. The times of the Gentiles is that time when the Gentiles are overlording the Nation of Israel as I said, and I call it the filling of the cup of iniquity of the Gentiles. They are filling it and filling it and filling it, as they make that slide down, down, down. But counteractive to that, we have another group of Gentiles and here Paul speaks of them:
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery (it has never been revealed before), lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness (spiritual blindness)in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”
What is the fullness of the Gentiles? The Body of Christ. As Gentiles are being saved, they are being placed into the Body of Christ. And when the last Gentile has been saved and the Body of Christ is full, it will be taken out (the Rapture) and God will pick up once again where He left off with Israel.