We now live in a day where we can no longer gather in large groups. Sports, shows, funerals and weddings have been significantly reduced in size. In Ontario, Canada we are presently in another lockdown. Ontario.ca states, “Limit close contact to only members of your household (the people you live with). If you live alone, you may consider having close contact with one other household only. Up to 5 people may gather outdoors, as long as you can keep 2 metres, physical distance from each other. You should also wear a mask or face covering. You may attend a funeral, religious service or wedding of up to 10 people. If you do not follow these rules for gatherings: organizers may be fined a minimum of $10,000, each attendee may receive a $750 ticket. Enforcement personnel may break up the gathering or temporarily close the premises.” Going to a restaurant has also drastically changed. “Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments can open for take-out, drive-through and delivery only.” All this really puts the damper on gathering when everyone is used to hundreds even thousands gathering together. So yes this is a serious dampener when everyone is used to large gatherings like a wedding and banquet that usually follows. On the other side of the border we just saw an inauguration that was drastically changed when it came to crowd size, parades and spectators and even inaugural balls.
                All of these precautions are being done to stop the spread of this highly contagious virus. Yet there is good news. While the events that normally take place have been put on hold, there is still another event that you can participate in with unlimited numbers. There is a banquet you are able to attend and the rules of the land do not apply, not even a lockdown. People from all over the world can attend yet there will be no travel restrictions that would affect participation at this banquet. A banquet is defined as “an elaborate and often ceremonious meal for numerous people often in honor of a person.” It can also be referred to as a scrumptious feast. Isaiah 25:6 “On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines.” I know that sounds like a scrumptious feast but truthfully I am not really talking about real food but the bread of life. John 8:28 “Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” 30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. 34 “Sir, they said, “always give us this bread.” 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 11:5 “Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
                What we are talking about today is a spiritual feast, which is a banquet like no other. This banquet is about believing in God and the promise of eternal life He has given us. As Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. If all the greatest event planners and chef’s in the world came together to plan a banquet, it would pale in comparison to what Jesus is offering to us. This banquet can happen anywhere anytime and no one can stop it. No this is not about gathering a building and calling it church. Unfortunately the world and the church are still distracted by what the hands of man can make. Jeremiah sums up what has happened in the church. Jeremiah 2:5 “This is what the Lord says: “What fault did your ancestors find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. 6 They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and ravines, a land of drought and utter darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?’ 7 I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable. 8 The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols.”
                In my younger days we use to sing a song called “His Banner Over Me is love.” Some of the lyrics say this “He invites me to His banqueting table His banner over me is love. What I didn’t understand then was there is much more to this song than just feeling good about the love of God. The song comes from this verse Song of Songs 2:4 “Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love.” Oddly enough eating and talking about God’s love can summarize the church. One thing is for sure, the church has always gotten the celebration through food down pat but the church has failed when talking about God’s love. This failure has also led to a powerless church. Even though the love of God was always talked and sung about, I don’t think there has been a real clear understanding of God’s love and all that goes with it, which has damaged the church. This misunderstanding of God’s love has left us a fearless church but not in the true sense of fearing God. Romans 3:18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Later we see in Song of Songs 8:6 “for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. 7 Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” This love has an intensity that most in the church do not understand. The true meaning of love has been distorted into a false description of God’s love. Of course the church loves the part were we are told that God loves me but then that love is distorted into a false description of who God actually is. Some will think and even say out loud that a loving God would never allow bad things to happen or a loving God would never allow someone to go to hell or a loving God would never allow the world to be in the condition it is in. As soon as something bad happens God is blamed for His lack of love. Many in the church started to view God like Santa so they could sit on His lap and ask for things instead of bowing before Him with our faces to the ground. The fear of the Lord was totally lost because of a lack of knowledge when it came to understanding God’s love. Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. 9 Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. 10 Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.”
                We have to follow God’s instruction but we must understand who God really is. Yes God is a loving God but it is crucial to understand that He is also a jealous God. Deuteronomy 4:24 “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” Deuteronomy 6:13 “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. 16 Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. 17 Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, 19 thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said.” Because of what God has done for us we know that He loves us. 1 John 4:9 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” But look at what must be included from John. 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.” It is imperative to keep God is a loving God and a jealous God together when talking about God’s love. Most want to believe in a loving God that doesn’t get angry nor do they believe He could or would condemn anyone to hell. This has even led some to teach there is no hell. This part most will accept. Psalm 86:15 “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Here is where the distortion starts. God won’t mind if I sin and not as faithful to Him as I should be. That is a lie. This Psalm is not the whole picture. Most do not understand that God does get angry and even have a harder time accepting that he does. The problem is faulty teaching that has led people to believe no matter what they are safe and secure. Even if you don’t believe in eternal security, many have a distorted view of God’s anger towards disobedience. They think that because God loves me they are okay to live as they please. Deuteronomy 29:19 “When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry.” Here is an example of God’s wrath. 2 Chronicles 7:19 “But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. 21 This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ 22 People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why he brought all this disaster on them.’” Disaster did come upon Israel and Judah and they were taken into captivity and the land was left desolate. The church has done the same and this misunderstanding of love has worsened our captive condition. Psalm 23 is a chapter most recognize. Mistakenly many think this passage applies to them even if they do not follow God wholeheartedly. Going to church is not enough for this to apply especially if you are not following His words. Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” You will not sit at the King’s table when you go your own way. People think this passage applies to then because the god of their understanding is a loving God that doesn’t mind if you don’t obey or follow his word. I used little “g” because if you don’t understand who God is, you are following other gods and going your own way. 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.” This is where today’s church is. Deuteronomy 32:21 “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.” God has allowed the enemy to prevail against his church just as He described in Daniel.
                If you truly understood God’s love you would also understand the power and protection that comes with God’s love. If we want Psalm 23 in our lives other than just a nice passage to recite, we must return to God and follow His words. Our disobedience has led us into our captivity but there is still hope for our freedom. We do not deserve the love God has for us but because of God’s amazing love we have hope of redemption but we must turn from our wicked ways. 2 Chronicles 30:9 “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.” We cannot be like these who Nehemiah 9:17 “refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery.” The good news for us is this verse continues by saying, “But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, 18 even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies.” Don’t even think for a moment that you are given a license to sin because of God’s compassion. Because of false teaching many who have died thinking they were secure will only hear Luke 13:27 “I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!” Paul states Romans 6:1 “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
                Israel paid a huge price for their disobedience yet God has not abandoned us even though we deserve to be abandoned. Think about the devastation and desolation brought to Israel and ask yourself if God’s love let their sins slide. Understanding the love God has for us must also include that fact that He will turn His face from us when we turn from Him. Isaiah 1:9 “Unless the Lord Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.” Matthew 24:22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” Even though we do not deserve God’s love due to his compassion he will save the remnant. Isaiah 54:7 “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.” Yes God is love but not only is their compassion in His love: there is power. Look at these verses talking about the power of God’s love. The church is missing this understanding of love therefore we are missing His presence. I m sure you have heard this said that “He is good; his love endures forever,” but what you may not understand is the glory of the Lord filling the temple is missing. This is why there is no power in the church. It should be like this. 2 Chronicles 5:13 “The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, 14 and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.” This is what happened at Pentecost. 2 Chronicles 7:3 “When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 2 The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. 3 When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever.” Acts 2:1 “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” His love means the Holy Spirit will be present among us and when the power of the Holy Spirit is present we too will be clothed with power. We need to be clothed with power once again so we must understand who God is and turn away from faulty teaching of who God is not. God will not tolerate our disobedience. As Paul said we worship in vain when we follow false gospels.
                In Corinthians we have a love chapter in the middle of the gifts of the Spirit. Many use this chapter but have no idea of the truth of God’s love. While many will say we are just about God’s love but if they truly understood His love, the gifts of the Spirit would be eagerly sought. I have heard renowned teachers of the bible say I am not going to emphasize the gifts but focus on love. That is just another way to say you are a cessationist without actually saying it. Look at the power that is present in these gifts. 2 Corinthians 12:8 “To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” Paul then continues to describe the church, at least what it is supposed to look like. “27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.” Think about just for a moment how many of these positions and powers God has place in the church and power that most don’t even believe exist. This unbelief is why the church is not being built up. Ephesians 4:11 “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” It doesn't say to ignore the gifts of the Spirit. It doesn’t say it is okay just to have love. Power and love go together. Paul then tells us 1 Corinthians 14:1 “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.” satan has deceived the church into believing a false god and has been able to deceive the church into believing power is no longer available to those who believe. The problem is that most in the church do not understand the love of God.
                When you look at the power that flows from love, you will see the power that is available to us because of God’s love. For example a vast army was attacking Jehoshaphat who prayed 2 Chronicles 20:10 “But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. 11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. 12 Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’” 18 Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. 19 Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. 20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” 22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.” Psalm 100:4 “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” It is not that there is a problem with God’s enduring love; the question is do you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength?
                Jesus told us in John 14:15 “If you love me keep my commandments” This is what the love of God also wants to do for us when we love Him wholeheartedly. If we love God John 14:12 also says “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Deuteronomy 28:1 (Read the whole chapter)“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God.” God loves us so much He wants to not only dwell with us but to empower us to defeat our enemies. Psalm 118:4 “Let those who fear the Lord say: “His love endures forever.” 5 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. (Psalm 23) 6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? 7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.” If we want God to keep His covenant of love with us, we must keep our covenant of love with Him. Deuteronomy 7:9 “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. 10 But those who hate him (you hate God by going your own way and following other gospels) he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him. 11 Therefore, take care to follow the commands, decrees and laws I give you today. 12 If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. 13 He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and olive oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you. 14 You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor will any of your livestock be without young. 15 The Lord will keep you free from every disease. He will not inflict on you the horrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but he will inflict them on all who hate you.” At this point the church is not seeing this and the reason why is disobedience.
                Israel did not obey and everything God said happened to them. They were taken captive and the land remained desolate. (Take the time to read all of Leviticus 26.) This part said Leviticus 26:27 “‘If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, 28 then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. 29 You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters. (Although appalling, understand the severity of this verse. This is what happened when severe famine set in when surrounded by their enemies) 30 I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars and pile your dead bodies on the lifeless forms of your idols, and I will abhor you. 31 I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings. 32 I myself will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled. 33 I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins. 34 Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. 35 All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it.” Jeremiah 6:8 “Take warning, Jerusalem, or I will turn away from you and make your land desolate so no one can live in it.” We have to understand that God loves us enough to allow us to make our own decisions but His love also means He will be true to Himself and there will be consequences for not obeying. Understanding who God is makes hell very real.
                Israel had already fallen to the king of Assyria 2 Kings 17:5 “The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria and laid siege to it for three years. 6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes. 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.” Then eventually Judah fell also. 2 Chronicles 36:15 “The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 17 He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. 18 He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. 19 They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there. 20 He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power. 21 The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah. 22 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing: 23 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up, and may the Lord their God be with them.’”
                One of the last kings of Judah was Jehoiachin. 2 Kings 24:8 “Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother’s name was Nehushta daughter of Elnathan; she was from Jerusalem. 9 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father had done. 10 “At that time the officers of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon advanced on Jerusalem and laid siege to it, 11 and Nebuchadnezzar himself came up to the city while his officers were besieging it. 12 Jehoiachin king of Judah, his mother, his attendants, his nobles and his officials all surrendered to him. In the eighth year of the reign of the king of Babylon, he took Jehoiachin prisoner. 13 As the Lord had declared, Nebuchadnezzar removed the treasures from the temple of the Lord and from the royal palace, and cut up the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the temple of the Lord. 14 He carried all Jerusalem into exile: all the officers and fighting men, and all the skilled workers and artisans—a total of ten thousand. Only the poorest people of the land were left. 15 Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin captive to Babylon.”
                Then freedom came to Jehoiachin. As God said he would never return home even though a false prophet said he would. Jehoiachin was freed from prison by his captors but not to return to the Promised Land. Jeremiah 52:31 “In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Awel-Marduk became king of Babylon, on the twenty-fifth day of the twelfth month, he released Jehoiachin king of Judah and freed him from prison. 32 He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. 33 So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table.” In this account because he was evil and did not obey he was taken into captivity. God had told him Jeremiah 22:27 “You will never come back to the land you long to return to,” but God was gracious to him and freed him from prison so that he ate at the kings table. Yes in this case God did not allow him to return to the land of Israel but we saw the goodness of God. Another king who was one of the worst was Manasseh. 2 Kings 21:10 “The Lord said through his servants the prophets: 11 “Manasseh king of Judah has committed these detestable sins. He has done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah into sin with his idols. 12 Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. 12 In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13 And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.
                We serve an amazing God. Just as Jeremiah said they would be taken captive and the land made desolate he also prophesied, the remnant returned to the Promised Land. God had warned them what would happen just as He has warned His church. God from the beginning of time wants to bless us with His abundance. He even tells us to test Him. Malachi 3:6 “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ 8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe (Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”) into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.”
                We have a choice to listen or turn away because God loves us but remember He is a jealous God. If we want God’s fierce anger to turn from us, we must return to Him and obey by following His commands. There are two choices and this choice will lead to one place or the other. Matthew 25:46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” 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. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” Obviously the choice is obvious but so few are willing to make it.
                Jesus warned us not to be deceived but the church refused to listen and was deceived but due to God’s amazing grace, the offer of eternal life is still available to those who will seek Him especially if you do not want to spend eternity in hell. God wants to dwell within us. Revelation 21:3 “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He asks us to believe and obey and then He would dwell among us. Like Judah and Israel the church has been taken captive and God has turned away. In the beginning God gave us the Garden of Eden, perfect in every way. He then gave us the Promised Land, which is described in Deuteronomy 11:9 “a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. 11 But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. 12 It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.” God then offers us eternal life but in all three of these offers, God’s children rejected him and went their own way.
                God Jesus tells us Revelation 3:19 “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. 21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” God has invited us to His table, a banquet of which there is none like, but will you attend? Jesus gives us this parable of a banquet. Luke 14:15 “When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” 16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ 19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ 21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ 23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.” Following this passage Jesus says, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Jesus also gave this example about the costs of following Him. Luke 9:57 “As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” When plowing they would pick a point at the end of the field and not take their eyes of it. Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
                We have been invited to eat at the King’s table. This invite applies to the present and the future. We have been offered our freedom but we must follow the truth wholeheartedly. Jesus warned us not to be deceived. God is calling us to Him but so is satan and you must know the difference. Proverbs show us how by showing the two voices calling out to all who would listen. Proverbs 9:1 “Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars. 2 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table. 3 She has sent out her servants, and she calls from the highest point of the city, 4 “Let all who are simple come to my house!” To those who have no sense she says, 5 “Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. 6 Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of insight.” 7 Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse. 8 Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you. 9 Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. 10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 11 For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. 12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer. 13 Folly is an unruly woman; she is simple and knows nothing. 14 She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, 15 calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way, 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.” So while both are calling out to you, only one leads to eternal life. Be careful where you eat. Just because you have been invited, makes sure it is the right banquet.
               In Esther we saw a banquet given for Haman. He thought he was extra special and bragged about being invited to a banquet for he and the king. Esther 2:10 “Calling together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, 11 Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. 12 “And that’s not all,” Haman added. “I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow.” There at the banquet it was revealed that Haman was the vile adversary, which led to his death. Matthew 23:5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.” Jesus then lists off “woe to you.”
                We have been called to obey God’s word. We must know the difference between the truth and what is false. There is great deception in the church today and because of disobedience there is also great delusion. God’s love has been distorted and His power rejected yet if we repent and turn from our wicked ways, God has promised the remnant that He would free us. There are no excuses; we must obey His words. There is a day where we will be judged and will spend eternity in heaven or hell but today I am focusing on the kingdom of God as it pertains to present life. Jesus said, Luke 11:20 “But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Jesus drove out demons so the kingdom was upon us that is, until we rejected His way and His truth. Yes eternity is coming one day but Jesus showed us His way that would bring salvation to the world but who’s listening. When the church starts to listen so will the world. Most in the church are too busy to follow wholeheartedly. They have been invited to the banqueting table but there are more important things to do. Sadly most do not know the difference in the banquets. The Jews were invited but they decided Jesus was not the Messiah and crucified Him. Paul said Acts 13:46 “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.” Sadly the Gentiles are also rejecting the offer to come to the banquet. Most are not willing to count the cost nor are they willing to submit or sacrifice. Most in the church want to carry on doing their own thing while trying to squeeze God into their busy lives at least until they can no longer handle life on their own. We have been talking about the power God has available to all who would believe. Man’s power and ingenuity does not compare to what God has in store for those that love Him. When we truly understand this love of God, we will also understand the power God gives us that will defeat satan.
                If you are willing to turn from your wicked ways, we have been given God’s word that He will return to us and restore us. 2 Chronicles 7:12 “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. 13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” Don’t be like those who went before us who followed empty ways and did not adhere to God’s words. Malachi 3:7 “Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty” Because God loves us we have great hope and because God will not break His promise with David the remnant will rise up from the ashes once again. Isaiah 44:21 “Remember these things, Jacob, for you, Israel, are my servant. I have made you, you are my servant; Israel, I will not forget you. 22 I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” 23 Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud, you earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel. 24 “This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself, 25 who foils the signs of false prophets and makes fools of diviners, who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense, 26 who carries out the words of his servants and fulfills the predictions of his messengers, who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’ of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be rebuilt,’ and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’ 27 who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry, and I will dry up your streams,’ 28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.” Isaiah 62:11 “The Lord has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.’” 12 They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted.” Isaiah 49:8 “This is what the Lord says: “In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, 9 to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!” Isaiah 49:19 “Though you were ruined and made desolate and your land laid waste, now you will be too small for your people, and those who devoured you will be far away.” Isaiah 62:4 “No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married.” Isaiah 49:22 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I will beckon to the nations, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their hips. 23 Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” Isaiah 58:11 “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. 12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. 13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, 14 then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” The Sabbath is our life seven days a week not just on Sundays.
                Yes there is a day coming and in a blink of the eye the world as we know will be destroyed and we will spend eternity with Jesus. Peter tells us what kind of people we need to be before that happens. 2 Peter 3:8 “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 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.” In the day of His favor Jesus will return to take us to spend eternity with Him. There is no second chance so make your decision today while there is still time. Many are dying around us who believe they are safe and secure because someone told them they were. In the previous chapter Peter warns all about false prophets who distort the words of God for their own gain. These men and woman are everywhere so test the spirits. Many have unknowingly attended the wrong banquet only to find out when it is too late. Right now when the hope in this world seems bleak, God has invited you to enter into a covenant of love and join Him at the table of the King. So we continue to pray for mercy. Psalm 60:1 “You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us; you have been angry—now restore us! 2 You have shaken the land and torn it open; mend its fractures, for it is quaking. 3 You have shown your people desperate times; you have given us wine that makes us stagger. 4 But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow. 5 Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered. 6 God has spoken from his sanctuary: “In triumph I will parcel out Shechem and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth. 7 Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet, Judah is my scepter. 8 Moab is my washbasin, on Edom I toss my sandal; over Philistia I shout in triumph.” 9 Who will bring me to the fortified city? Who will lead me to Edom? 10 Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us and no longer go out with our armies? 11 Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless. 12 With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.”
                There is only one banquet that you want to attend and this decision will affect you for all time and beyond. Choose life! Plead with God to remove your prison clothes so that you can eat the King’s table. Revelation 19:9 “Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” Isaiah 25:6 “On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. 7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8 he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears     from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. 9 In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” 1 Corinthians 15:54 “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”