The Nation of Israel–From Captivity to Freedom and Back to Captivity

“From the going of the Israelites from Egypt to the temple’s first building 480 years, after this chronology and account. From the first building of the temple, until the captivity of Babylon, are 419 years and a half.” Bible Timeline, Houston Baptist University

Captivity: Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out, and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them. (Exodus 2:23-25)

Israel’s Exodus from Egypt: “Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron during the night. ‘Get out!’ he ordered. ‘Leave my people—and take the rest of the Israelites with you! Go and worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you said, and be gone. Go, but bless me as you leave.’ All the Egyptians urged the people of Israel to get out of the land as quickly as possible, for they thought, ‘We will all die!’ ” (Exodus 12:31-33)

Israel’s Continuous Disobedience: “Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Because you have not heard My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ says the Lord, ‘and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations.’ ” (Jeremiah 25:8-9)

70 years in Captivity: “And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” (Jeremiah 25:11)

According to Bible scholars, the time between the nation of Israel’s exodus from Egypt and their captivity to the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar was approximately 899 and a half years. We realize that many generations existed between the exodus and the captivity. In response to their freedom from grievous enslavement to entering the Promised Land and receiving the blessings of God for nearly nine centuries, the stiff-necked people continued in their pursuit of the pleasures of paganism.

“They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal—something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind.” (Jeremiah 19:5)

Just the thought of sacrificing one’s children to pagan idols produces a chill of shock and sorrow in our bodies and minds. How does a believer lose their way and progress to committing such heinous sins against God?

God’s Answer: “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

The Progression of Losing our Spiritual Freedom: When we first accepted Jesus as our Savior and were baptized, the excitement of a new and blessed life was evident in our smiling faces. Yes, we had the zeal and excitement of being born-again believers in the Most-High God. We eagerly shared our faith with others. But we allowed the busyness of life to interrupt our relationship with Jesus Christ. As time passed, we became too tired to commune with God. Our days were filled with overwhelming tasks which interfered with our ability to have daily, meaningful worship.

Eventually, we stopped praying and our Bibles remained unopened for days into weeks–there was no time or energy for diligent study of the Scriptures. One or two hours of online church services became the norm and we lost our desire to attend church services and participate in community outreach.

Satan knows that we love to pursue our heart’s desires. And he is eager to help us disobey God. The distractions of the noise of social media, entertainment, technology, worldly activities under the disguise of Christianity, busyness, politics, financial gains, unholy liaisons with unbelievers, and self-gratifying activities pulled us away from our commitment to the sacrificial life required of a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Although we shudder in disbelief at the sins biblical Israel committed, many of today’s believers are also worshipping idols. Self is our idol! We pursue the desires of our hearts as evidenced by unequally yoked relationships, chasing success and financial gain, and serving God according to our discernment of God’s truth.

Truthfully, we do not have the desire to trust or obey God. Jesus told us that we must love God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds and love others. Read Matthew 22:37-38.

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27). How many people have you helped in 2022?

The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 to “Go and make disciples” is not an option. God gave us the spiritual gifts, time, and physical energy to finish the work that Jesus began on this earth in His short life but spiritually productive life. Every day we must witness the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How many people have you told God loves you, and helped by giving words of encouragement or participated in community outreach programs in 2022?

Our lifestyles reflect self-idol worship and have led us into the captivity of sin.

Israel received the punishment of 70 years in captivity. Yet, with love and mercy, God did not leave them hopeless. In studying Jeremiah chapter 29, God commanded them to build houses, plant gardens, take wives, have children, and seek the peace of the city where He has caused them to be carried away into captivity [verses 5, 6, and 7].

The difference between Israel in the time of Jeremiah and today’s believers is God gave them a definitive time when their captivity would end and when He would give them complete restoration. Many are living as if this earth is our final destination. Yet, this is our time of Probation to study, pray, and live righteously. God has given us forewarnings in Matthew chapter 24, 2 Timothy chapter 3, and the book of Revelation of last-day and end-time events.

Yet, we choose to continue to live in spiritual bondage by ignoring the signs of the times. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).

We received freedom when we gave our hearts to Jesus Christ. Through self-seeking desires, many have placed themselves in captivity. We do not know when Jesus will come again or when our lives will cease to exist. Yet, if we surrender to Christ in faith and obedience, use our spiritual gifts to witness and help those in need, and worship our God in spirit and in truth [which is Human Effort], we have this precious promise of Divine Intervention: “… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 1:6).

Jesus’ blood sacrifice gave us the divine opportunity to get out of sin’s captivity. We can live in spiritual freedom while waiting for the Greatest Event on Earth. Coming again, coming again, Yes, Jesus is coming again!

Prayer: Lord, we pray for those who have lost their way that they will regain the desire to serve You with their whole hearts. We thank You for your great sacrifice and the promise of eternal life if we so choose. We ask to be anointed with a double portion of the Holy Spirit. Reveal our purpose as we await Your return. We ask this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.

As the Seasons Change

As for me, I will see your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness. Psalm 17:15.

The Apostle Paul placed great emphasis on the transformation of our character. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14. We are preparing now to live forever in a perfect and sinless New Heaven and New Earth. We cannot justify holding onto ungodly character traits and unrighteous habits, which will prevent us from receiving our reward of eternal life. Knowing what God expects from us will give us the motivation to please Him. You must be holy because I, the Lord, am Holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own. Leviticus 20:26. Amen.

Prayer: God, it is our desire to change and to strive for righteousness. We ask for forgiveness of our sins. God, we desperately need your help in our spiritual transformation. Thank you for hearing and answering our prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

Sabbath Blessings

As we approach the last Sabbath in October of 2021, pray and thank God for all of the blessings that He has given to you including life, health, strength, and the ability to praise him. Jesus gave the priceless gift of His life to redeem us from a debt of sin that placed us into Spiritual Bankruptcy. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from the hand of the enemy. Psalm 107:2. Happy Sabbath!

Time, Money, and Energy

God has blessed us with the resources of time, money, and energy. Utilize each with diligence. The goal of every believer is to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been Faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” Matthew 25:23

The Earth is the Lord’s–Happy Sabbath!

In a world with constant changes and challenges, we can be confident in knowing that ” Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

Preparing For Persecution

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…. 2 Timothy 3:12

The persecution and martyrdom of Christian believers was Saul’s main focus before his encounter with Jesus and transformation to the Apostle Paul. And who would know about persecution better than Paul? He was a prisoner while writing five of the books [letters] of the Bible. From studying, we know that Paul did not fear death because of his belief and hope in the resurrection of the dead in Christ, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Despite witnessing Paul’s strength, his protégé, young Timothy, was fearful of imprisonment and persecution. Timothy’s fear prompted Paul to write the letter of 2nd Timothy. Although the Apostle was a nurturing spiritual mentor, he reprimanded Timothy’s lack of faith in God during times of persecution.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and self-control. So do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me, His prisoner. Instead, join me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.…2 Timothy 1:7-8

Of all the emotions God has given humanity, God never gave us the spirit of fear, especially the fear of death. Having a spirit of fear differs from the “Fear of Reverence for God, the “Fight or Flight” response of the Autonomic Nervous system, or from the “Stranger Danger” that babies experience. Living in fear of trials, tribulations, persecution, and death cancels out our proclamation of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 1 John 4:16-18

Were you aware that the only disciple that died from a natural death was the apostle John? They boiled him in oil, but Jesus had grand plans for John. John did not die! When the persecutors witnessed the power of God, they exiled John to the Isle of Patmos where he wrote Revelation. Revelation is filled with spiritual symbolism so deep that many individuals ignore the book or only read a few verses. It takes the anointing of the Holy Spirit to understand the Revelation prophecies. The books of John were written by the apostle John who also wrote the gospel of John and the book of Revelation.

John’s separation reveals that we need to stop wasting time on people, places, and things that cannot help us grow spiritually. We have to step back and fully assess our priorities. 2 Timothy 3 tells us of the Perilous Times and Perilous People of the last days. Refer to Genesis chapters 5-10 for an account of the flood and the destruction of all living things. The reason: Now, the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. Genesis 6:11. If God gave John a vision of the New Heaven and New Earth, imagine the anointing and the spiritual gifts you can receive with total commitment to Christ.

Lack of knowledge of the scriptures, intermittent prayers, and trust in our own abilities leaves us with hidden fear. We can live a life of pretense, but God knows our fears safely tucked away, that are unknown to others. Half-committed to follow Jesus places us in a valley of indecision. Not fully prepared to give up our willful desires or put our complete faith and trust in God, we only acknowledge a higher power by word of mouth. The human effort of daily studying, praying, faith, trust, and obedience must be a priority on our every day agendas.

Without God, humanity is powerless against the agents of evil. Yes, Satan is the father of fear. I watched a video of a Christian woman in Afghanistan who proclaimed, “We will not throw away our Bibles! We will die for Jesus Christ!” For citizens of the United States of America, persecution is not political, it is biblical prophecy. Search the scriptures. Our time is coming. Get out of the valley of indecision! Strengthen your relationship with God while you have time. Jesus is coming!

“But if it doesn’t please you to worship the LORD, choose for yourselves today: Which will you worship—the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living? As for me and my family, we will worship the LORD.” Joshua 24:15
Bible Readings: 2 Timothy 3

Prayer: God, we ask you to forgive our sins. We realize that our fear exists because our relationship with you is based on words. As we seek knowledge through the study of the scriptures, we ask for the anointing of the Holy Spirit for wisdom and discernment. Thank you for your grace and mercies. We ask this prayer in the Worthy name of Jesus. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry