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Lenten Journey Day 21: “Hidden Face”March 14, 2023
Yesterday we looked at what happens if you reject God’s word, even if you are part of the remnant that was saved from the Babylonians. We saw yesterday that the disobedience and repercussions took place after the Babylonians had already taken over and those who survived were taken to Babylon as captives. Today we are looking at the time when they were in process of all of the destruction. After Nebuchadnezzar took King Zedekiah captive, Jeremiah 39:11 “the king of Babylon had given these orders about Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard: 12 “Take him and look after him; don’t harm him but do for him whatever he asks.” Then we see the commander of the imperial guard “had found Jeremiah bound in chains among all the captives from Jerusalem and Judah who were being carried into exile to Babylon.”
It is here we see that the enemy of God’s people knew why this happened. He said, Jeremiah 40:2 “The Lord your God decreed this disaster for this place. 3 And now the Lord has brought it about; he has done just as he said he would. All this happened because you people sinned against the Lord and did not obey him.” Earlier we saw Israel go into captivity when the Assyrians attacked them. 2 Kings 17:6 “In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria.” Hoshea was the last king of Israel and Zedekiah the last king of Judah. We are then told why this happened. 2 Kings 17:7 “All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods 8 and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced. They did wicked things that aroused the Lord’s anger. 12 They worshiped idols, though the Lord had said, “You shall not do this.” 13 The Lord warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers: “Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your ancestors to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets. 14 But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their ancestors, who did not trust in the Lord their God. 18 So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left, 19 and even Judah did not keep the commands of the Lord their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced. 20 Therefore the Lord rejected all the people of Israel; he afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until he thrust them from his presence.”
When God turns His face from us, our enemies then can attack and plunder us. Ezekiel said, Ezekiel 39:21 “I will display my glory among the nations, and all the nations will see the punishment I inflict and the hand I lay on them. 22 From that day forward the people of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God. 23 And the nations will know that the people of Israel went into exile for their sin, because they were unfaithful to me. So I hid my face from them and handed them over to their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. 24 I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their offenses, and I hid my face from them.” God had said to Moses Deuteronomy 31:16 “You are going to rest with your ancestors, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. 17 And in that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and calamities will come on them, and in that day they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us?’ 18 And I will certainly hide my face in that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.” The church today loves to sing new songs, but they forgot this old one. 19 “Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them. 20 When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their ancestors, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant. 21 And when many disasters and calamities come on them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants. I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath.” 22 So Moses wrote down this song that day and taught it to the Israelites.” (Read Deuteronomy 32:1-47) Part of the song says, “18 You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. 19 The Lord saw this and rejected them because he was angered by his sons and daughters. 20 “I will hide my face from them,” he said, “and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful.21 They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols. I will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.”
If all you have been told is God is a God of love, but were not taught to include that He is a Jealous God and consuming fire, Deuteronomy 4:24 “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God,” you will just keep going down a path where the dead are because you will have no fear of God. Proverbs 9:16 “Let all who are simple come to my house!” To those who have no sense she says, 17 “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” 18 But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.” Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” When we looked at the need to stop worshipping with praise and worship music, we saw that God isn’t listening and our assemblies are a stench to Him. Isaiah 1:12 “When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? 13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. 14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!” Amos 5:21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. 22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.”
The church, like Israel and Judah, have rebelled against God and have gone their own way. There are so many different ways in the church it is hard to distinguish them all, but what is easy to distinguish, is the lack of the power of the Holy Spirit. While many churches are powerful, they do not go out in the authority and power of Jesus name, nor are they sent by Him. Many worship and follow men and women of whom God has not sent. Jeremiah 23:20 “In days to come you will understand it clearly. 21 I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied.” If they were sent and 22 “if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.” This is what it would look like. Luke 9:1 “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Mark 6:12 “They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” Because the church has rebelled, our enemies, which is the abomination that causes desolation, have destroyed the church just as we were warned. So not only do we not have power to defeat our enemies, but our enemies have also taken us captive and there is nothing we can do to defend ourselves except to repent and return to God. Today in the church there is only a remnant left and as we saw with those who went to Egypt, even the remnant must remain obedient.
When we understand that God has turned His face from us because of our rebellion, this realization changes how we approach the Lord God Almighty. We humble ourselves and bow before Him with trembling, reverence and awe. We completely submit ourselves to our Sovereign King and obey His word. We turn from wicked ways and return to the only way, the only truth and the only life. We tear down and destroy everything that is not of God. We will not want or let anything manmade come before God. The church we have come to know is a church that God has turned His face from. What most people have been raised to think of as church, is not even close to the true church. In fact, it is a shrine of rebellion or as Jesus said Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” If the church would start to see themselves this way, and repent and turn from wicked ways, once again the church would do as Jesus did.
Some have a distorted view of God’s love while some others say once you are saved, you are not under God’s wrath, but here is the problem with that. Some of those saying that teach other gospels, which is the same as serving other gods. So, you have to ask yourself what have you been saved into? If you have been saved into other gospels, you are not saved and you are still under God’s wrath even though you were told you are not. Romans 2:5 “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed” Because you think you are saved, you do not know how stubborn and unrepentant you are before God, so there is no need to repent and turn from wicked ways, at least that is what you think. If you are truly saved and have adhered to the true gospel, then yes, you will be saved from God’s wrath. Scripture tells us, Hebrews 3:6 “But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory. 7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. 10 That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ 12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” In the first census Moses took, Numbers 1:46 “The total number was 603,550.” Then Moses was told to take another census. Numbers 26:63 “These are the ones counted by Moses and Eleazar the priest when they counted the Israelites on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho. 64 Not one of them was among those counted by Moses and Aaron the priest when they counted the Israelites in the Desert of Sinai. 65 For the Lord had told those Israelites they would surely die in the wilderness, and not one of them was left except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.”
When God hides His face from us, we feel His wrath as He lets our enemies conquer us because of our stubbornness and unrepentant hearts. During this time God is not hearing our cry as people say He is. Every Sunday people worship and praise God thinking God is receiving their praise, but the church looks nothing like how it is supposed to look. Isaiah 64:4 “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. 5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways.” This is how the church should be, but it is not so Isaiah continues as says, But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? 6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. 7 No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins.” When you are desperate, you call on God as we see in Judges. Judges 2:10 “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. 14 In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. 15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress. 16 Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. 18 Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. 20 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.” 23 The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.”
When Gideon came along the people were crying out for help because they had been overrun by the enemy. Judges 6:1 “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. 6 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help. 7 When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, 8 he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 9 I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.” So, we see this back and forth between obedience and God’s protection and disobedience and loss of protection because God turned His face from them. They were smart because they called out for help. The church on the other hand doesn’t seem to know enough to call out to God. Generations go by, new doctrines and theology are penned, visions are cast with ideas from man and on and on it goes and “no one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you.” The church just keeps getting further from the truth. If the church had returned to God instead of building with their own hands, then Jesus would have returned sooner. 2 Peter 3:11 “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.”
The good news is that we can cry out to God, and He will hear our cry. In the up-and-coming weeks, we will be looking at what happens when God turns His face back to the church. So, for now, we wait. Isaiah 8:17 “I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the descendants of Jacob. I will put my trust in him.” Jeremiah said Lamentations 3:22 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Habakkuk said Habakkuk 3:16 “I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. 17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
That day is coming so we have great hope. We know that God will turn His face back to us because His word tells us He will. Isaiah 54:5 “For your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. 6 The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God. 7 “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. 8 In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord your Redeemer.” So we pray as Solomon prayed when he said, 1 Kings 8:33 “When your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you, and when they turn back to you and give praise to your name, praying and making supplication to you in this temple, 34 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them back to the land you gave to their ancestors. We also respond to King Hezekiah’s message. He said, 2 Chronicles 30:6 “People of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that he may return to you who are left, who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your parents and your fellow Israelites, who were unfaithful to the Lord, the God of their ancestors, so that he made them an object of horror, as you see. 8 Do not be stiff-necked, as your ancestors were; submit to the Lord. Come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever. Serve the Lord your God, so that his fierce anger will turn away from you. 9 If you return to the Lord, then your fellow Israelites and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will return to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.”