As we talked about yesterday, God loves us so much that He wants to favor us with His presence. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” Matthew 1:20 “An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us).”
It really is amazing how much God still loves a people who continue to reject Him as we saw John say. Isaiah 65:1 “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ 2 All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations— 3 a people who continually provoke me to my very face.” 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. 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.” Although God loves us so much to send His Son to die for us, people continue to reject Him. Today, many in the church misunderstand God’s love and think they can live however they want, and they will be safe and secure without a fear, but scripture does not tell us that. As John said, “whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” You can’t say you believe in Jesus and reject His words. The church rejects the words of Jesus by following the words of man who has changed the words of God for their own purposes.
This journey has been about turning away from our own ways and returning to the Way, Truth and Life. When that happens, God turns His face back to us and empowers us once again with power and authority from on High. The Jews had been seeking and waiting for the Messiah to come, but when He did come, they rejected Him and then murdered Him. Jesus said to Pilate, John 19:11 “Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” They even wanted a criminal in exchange for Jesus. Matthew 27:20 “But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. 21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. 22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” 23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” 24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” 25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” Matthew 23:37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Luke 11: 47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. 48 So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49 Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ 50 Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.”
We also saw those in towns reject Jesus. Matthew 11:20 “Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” Jesus told His disciples Matthew 10:12 “As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” Don’t be surprises when people reject the words of Jesus. As Ezekiel was told Ezekiel 2:4 “The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ 5 And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. 7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.” The amazing part is that when Jesus went to His hometown, he was rejected. Mark 6:1 “Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.”
Even when Jesus, the Messiah, the King of kings walked this earth, His own people rejected Him to His face and refused to believe. Not only was Jesus rejected, so were His disciples. Jesus said, Matthew 23:33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” The Apostle Paul was sent out with a specific message and purpose. God said to Ananias, Acts 9:15 “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Paul was told, Acts 26:17 “I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” He had said Acts 13:38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. 40 Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: 41 “‘Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.’” 42 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. 43 When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. 44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.”
Paul had quoted Habakkuk when he said “Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.” Habakkuk was told Habakkuk 1:6 “I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people.” In this case it ended up being the Romans and the devastation they brought to the Jews when the temple was destroyed. If you read some of the accounts, this was a ruthless slaughter. One site said, “it is estimated that as many as one million Jews died in the Great Revolt against Rome,” with many taken into captivity. Even after the Holocaust with between five and six million people dying, Jews still refuse to humble themselves before their Messiah and King Jesus. When you read about the destruction the Assyrians and Babylonians brought on Israel and Judah and then read about the destruction that came after Jesus, it is amazing how few have turned to Jesus. The few like Jews for Jesus have just modified their beliefs to include Jesus. One site said, Messianic Judaism, (a branch of which is “Jews for Jesus”) is a religious group that has tried to straddle the line between Judaism and Christianity.” They too are waiting for Jesus like the Jews to come and set up His kingdom. They say, “We believe that Jesus the Messiah will return personally in order to consummate the prophesied purposes concerning His kingdom.” The Jews believe in a Messianic Age. “The King Messiah will in some future time come, restore the kingdom of David to its former power, build the Temple, bring together the scattered of Israel, and all the ancient laws will again be in force.” Many churches have adopted this false teaching that Jesus will return to earth and take his place on the actual throne of David, while forgetting that the Jews murdered Jesus, so adapting their teaching is not wise. Everything we read in scripture needs to be read in light of Jesus.
Since we are still reading this warning (“Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you”) that Paul spoke to the Jews, it still applies to those who refuse to believe. While Paul was living in Rome, Acts 28:17 “he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” 21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.” 23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.” Like Jesus, power flowed from Paul. Acts 19:11 “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” And like Jesus, many rejected him and even tried to kill him. Acts 28:25 “They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet: 26 “‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” 27 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ 28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”  After he said this, the Jews left, arguing vigorously among themselves. 30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!”
Before Stephen died, he said Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” The ancestors refused to believe and now the Jews refused to believe and now we see the exact same happening with the Gentiles who refuse to believe all that is written. As we have talked about, that rebellion has caused a power failure and our enemies to decimate the church just as it happened with the temples. Habakkuk warned the people that Babylon would destroy them. Paul warned the Jews that destruction would come to them and the church has been warned about the destruction that would also be poured out upon them. Today the church is filled with people who are “ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” Isaiah said here am I, send me. Isaiah was told to tell the people this and he said “For how long, Lord?” God answered, Isaiah 6:11 “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, 12 until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. 13 And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”
Today the church has seen the kind of destruction Babylon and the Romans caused and all because of unbelief and rebellion. This time it is spiritual warfare, the abomination that causes desolation. This passage in Isaiah gives us hope and as we talked about yesterday, in the time of God’s favor we will be restored and the abomination that causes desolation will come to an end. We see that turning back to God can bring healing. “Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” But like the Jews, the church refuses to turn back to God’s word as Jeremiah said Jeremiah 23:36 “each one’s word becomes their own message. So you distort the words of the living God, the Lord Almighty, our God.” When talking about Paul’s writing he said 2 Peter 3:16 “He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
As we saw with Isaiah, there will be a remnant rise up. In the time of God’s favor, the church will no longer be powerless and weak. If the church will repent, there is still hope. Acts 2:36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” This still applies today as we are part of a corrupt church. So as we saw, some listened but today the Jews still reject Jesus as their Messiah. The same has happened in the church. Most who call themselves Christians will not turn from their wicked ways, which is following other gospels. Each will continue to follow doctrines and theology of the particular denomination or group they are connected to. Jeremiah 8:6 “I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. None of them repent of their wickedness, saying, “What have I done?” Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle.”
People have calloused hearts because of sin and rebellion against God’s word but there is hope that God will bring healing to the land once again. 2 Chronicles 6:36 “When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; 37 and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly’; 38 and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen and toward the temple I have built for your Name; 39 then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you. 40 “Now, my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 41 “Now arise, Lord God, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. May your priests, Lord God, be clothed with salvation, may your faithful people rejoice in your goodness. 42 Lord God, do not reject your anointed one. Remember the great love promised to David your servant.” There is still hope. Jeremiah had a vision of good and bad figs. Jeremiah 24:3 “The good ones are very good, but the bad ones are so bad they cannot be eaten.” 4 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 5 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians. 6 My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. 7 I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” With the bad God said, “9 I will make them abhorrent and an offense to all the kingdoms of the earth, a reproach and a byword, a curse and an object of ridicule, wherever I banish them. 10 I will send the sword, famine and plague against them until they are destroyed from the land I gave to them and their ancestors.’” Ezekiel said, Ezekiel 18:30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” The choice is obvious, but many will not confess they have done wrong and acted wickedly. Don’t be those people.