Hello, Crossroads Family!
Yesterday I finished my yearly reading through the Bible. It usually takes me from January 1 until mid-November to read it, so this year I was just a little ahead of schedule.
I’ve found the past two or three years that I enjoy ending up in 1 and 2 Chronicles where we read about the kings of Judah (descendants of David) and the author’s great interest in the temple at Jerusalem. If you have the time to read both books of the Chronicles, but especially 2 Chronicles, you’ll enjoy the stories of good and bad times in the world, and of God’s faithfulness to His people. Here are some lessons I learned reading this time through these two oft-overlooked books of the Bible :
- So many kings came on the scene, but none of them proved to be the one the people needed! No human leader meets all our needs and can lead perfectly — only the one who came later, Jesus.
- God’s faithfulness to Israel in fulfilling His promises to them of both blessing and, if necessary, punishment: “He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at HIs prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:15-16).
- A focus on the temple. While 1 and 2 Kings have a political focus — the intrigues of the palace — 1 and 2 Chronicles have a focus on the spiritual and the people’s zeal for the temple at different periods in their history. We’re reminded that it was said of Jesus, “Zeal for Your house consumes me” (John 2:17).
- There is a rejection in Chronicles of the idea of the “Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.” The idea that the ten northern tribes of Israel were taken captive and then eventually migrated to England or to America, and that somehow Americans are now the bearers of God’s promises to Israel (or are God’s new chosen people), is debunked in 2 Chronicles where, on a number of occasions, members of the northern tribes are shown migrating to Jerusalem. Thus, when the southern kingdom was captured by the Babylonians, all the tribes of Israel were taken, not just some of them. (Check out 2 Chronicles 11, 15, 30, and 31.) One important person of Jesus’ day (hundreds of years later) is identified as a member of one of the so-called lost tribes. That person is Anna who meets Mary and Joseph coming to dedicate the baby in Jerusalem (Luke 2:36). Anna is of the tribe of Asher and yet is living in Jerusalem (not England or America!). Chronicles helps straighten out a false teaching of our day.
- The books of the Chronicles have a hopeful ending. Although the kings of Israel and Judah eventually all fail, and the people are disobedient and taken captive, some seventy years later King Cyrus of Persia issues a decree for the Jews to return to their land and to build a new temple for God. (Historical records tell us this decree was issued in 538 BC.) The new temple, authorized by Cyrus, is the temple in which, after many years and many additions and renovations, Jesus taught.
Hopeful endings are ours as Christians today! We’ll finish our sermon series on hope this Sunday morning!
10:00 at the Community Center.
Going on at Crossroads…
Worship this Sunday morning, 10:00, at the Community Center.
Elders Meeting this Sunday
The elders continue to be in communication with the owner of the rental space on Highland Avenue. Thanks for your prayers for the Elder Board and for Crossroads and its future!
Please pray for the Nominating Committee. Angi, Donna, Heather Vestal, Erin, and Julie make up the committee, with guidance from Dave on behalf of the Elder Board. They are seeking God’s will for a nominee for the open elder position next year. Please pray for them and help them out if they ask you for input. Thank you !
Thanksgiving Sign-up. We’re planning a carry-in Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday, November 19. Heather Vestal will have a sign-up list at church this Sunday. If you won’t be with us this Sunday but would like to sign up, please contact Heather. She is also especially looking for someone who is interested in providing turkey. If you’re able to do that, please let Heather know as soon as possible! Thank you!
Membership. If you are not currently a voting member at Crossroads but would like to be, please let one of the elders know. Why membership? As you know, we recently had someone attending Crossroads who espoused a false works-based understanding of salvation built around the theory of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. So, in issues of decision-making, it’s not prudent for us to simply ask everyone attending to give input. Decisions in the church should be made by those who have identified themselves as believers in Jesus, and who hold to an orthodox understanding and practice of the Christian faith. A short membership course and interview with the Elder Board help make that possible.
Vacation. I’ll be on vacation November 20-26. Shane McCasslin will preach in my place on Sunday, November 26.
I’ve attached some thoughts on the current conflict in the Middle East. I hope they prove to be helpful to you.
“The Lord your God is gracious and compassionate and will not turn His face away from you if you return to Him”
(2 Chronicles 30:9).
Have a great rest of the week!
Understanding the Current Conflict in Israel
November 8, 2023
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Jewish people who had been dispersed all over the world for nearly 2000
years began returning to their homeland. Many of these had suffered from pogroms in Russia and other parts
of Eastern Europe, and of course, later, many returnees were survivors of the Holocaust. The return of the
Jews, and their dispersion prior to that, had both been promised by God in the Bible : “The Lord your God will
restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he
scattered you. … He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it”
(Deuteronomy 30:3-5). Since that time, the eyes of the world have been focused on Israel and its capital
Jerusalem about which God says in the Bible, “I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of trembling to all the
surrounding peoples” (Zechariah 12:1-2, written about 520 years before Christ).
Why are Jews (Israel) called God’s “chosen people” ? The Bible tells us that after the great wickedness that led
to the flood in Noah’s day, and after the confusion and separation of humanity at the Tower of Babel, came a
plan from God to bless the whole world through his choice of an individual named Abraham. God’s plan was,
over the course of thousands of years, to bless the world through Abraham’s descendants (including one
descendant whose name was Jacob and who was also called Israel). And, of course, the world has been
blessed through Abraham’s descendants since it’s from this family of people that the world received the Bible
and our Savior, a Jewish man called Jesus of Nazareth.
When God chose Abraham, God made a covenant with him. We first read about the covenant in the book of
Genesis. In this covenant, God stated that he would preserve Abraham’s family and would give them their
own home, a land at that time called Canaan. God specifically said he did not choose Abraham and his
descendants based on their size or their goodness. Moses put it this way :
“The Lord did not set his love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of
the peoples, for you were the fewest of all people” (Deuteronomy 7:7).
“It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess the
land, … for you are a stubborn people … you have been rebellious ….” (Deuteronomy 9:5-7).
God’s choice of, and covenant with, Abraham was an amazing demonstration of God’s grace. He showed that
this is the way he wants to operate in the lives of all people – not according to our righteousness or strength,
but according to his grace. By choosing Abraham and his descendants (Israel), God showed that his operating
principle is to choose the weak – and to love people who are not worthy, on their own, of his love.
Throughout history, Satan has cunningly ensnared world leaders and groups of people in efforts to destroy the
Jewish people. Such attempts were made before Jesus’ day (for example, the Persians attempting to
eliminate all Jews during the days of Queen Esther). If successful, such early attempts to eliminate the Jews
would have prevented the coming of the Messiah. A successful attempt to destroy the Jews since Jesus’ day
(the Holocaust, for example, if it had succeeded) would negate God’s promises to Abraham and would break
our own ability to trust God. If God had promised to care for Abraham’s family but didn’t, how could we ever
be sure he would care for us ? God has also prophesied in the Bible that before Jesus returns to the earth a
fraction of Jewish people will turn to in faith to the Messiah they rejected 2000 years ago. Of course, Satan
would love somehow, if possible, to prevent the return of Jesus. Eliminating the Jews might seem to him like a
way of accomplishing that.
Since the independence of Israel in 1948, the Middle East conflict has centered on who has the right to the
land. The Jews believe they have a long-standing and exclusive right. Muslims believe any land conquered in
the name of Allah must remain in the possession of Islam.
The Bible tells us God promised the land to Abraham and to his descendants in the covenant he made with
Abraham. It was an everlasting covenant, an everlasting promise. “To your descendants I have given this
land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18). “I will give to you
and to your descendants after you the land where you live as a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an
everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:8).
It’s interesting that prior to the current conflict, the land has been in possession of the British, the Ottoman
Empire, sometimes the Crusaders and sometimes the Muslims, the Romans, the Persians, the Greeks, the
Babylonians, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and, prior to that, the Canaanites. There appears to be no
human solution to this ongoing conflict over the rights of the land. However there is a divine solution which
will be put in place when the King of kings, Jesus, returns to set up his kingdom in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 7).
Who are the Palestinians ? After the British took possession of the land following World War II, many Arabs
from neighboring countries made their way into the land as migrant workers, joining other Arabs and Jews
already living there. When Israel declared its independence in 1948 (with support from the United Nations
and others seeking solutions to the aftermath of World War II), the armies of the surrounding Arab nations
invaded the land with the goal of eliminating every Jew. In 1967, Arab nations tried again to destroy Israel,
but Israel miraculously prevailed and, in addition to the land given them in 1948, took possession of the Golan
Heights, Judea, Samaria, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Gaza Strip. The name “Palestinian” was given to Arabs
caught in the middle of the conflict – welcome to live in the new nation of Israel but not desirous of it ; yet not
welcomed into the neighboring Arab nations. In 2005, Israel gave control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians.
A cease-fire was put in place and lasted relatively undisturbed for eighteen years. It was broken in a horrific
way on October 7, 2023.
The Palestinians are currently governed by Hamas which is a terrorist group. Hamas was originally a branch of
the Muslim Brotherhood and calls, in its charter, for the destruction of Israel. In the current conflict, there are
two propositions to consider : If Hamas put down its weapons, there would be no more terrorism ; if Israel
puts down her weapons, there will be no more Israel.
As Christians, we are called to love all people, even people we might want to call “enemies.” We are called to
reach all people with the Good News of Christ crucified and risen from the dead ! Many, if not most, of the
people living in the Gaza Strip and in Israel are not saved and face an eternity separated from God. In addition
to praying for, and working towards, peace in the world, we should pray for the salvation of lost souls.
Whatever twists and turns this conflict may take, the spiritual condition of the people living there should be
our primary concern.
The Bible says the Jewish people will, in fact, endure much more persecution and tribulation in the years
ahead. But God has a glorious future for those in Israel who will call upon him to be saved. According to the
Bible, a remnant of Abraham’s descendants will one day look upon, and believe in, the one they crucified
(Zechariah 12:10). They will say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:39).
The Bible says to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6). This peace can only happen with the coming
of the Prince of Peace. We look forward to, and pray for, his coming !
— Tom Rea (with helps from “God’s Prophetic Plan for Israel is Evident,” by Mike Gendron)