“So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud over the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled” (Exodus 19:16)
“It will come about also on that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship YHVH on the holy mountain in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 27:13)
“And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet blast, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matthew 24:31)
“If any of your scattered countrymen are at the ends of the earth, from there YHVH your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back” (Deuteronomy 30:4)
“And if those days had not been cut short, no life would have been saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matthew 24:22)
“For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and will provide great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24)
The days are getting more challenging. We are being confronted with scenarios that surprise and trouble us. Humanity is being called upon to ramp up our discernment and our powers of judgment. Especially for those of us who have had our eyes opened and our spirits made alive in Messiah Yeshua, there is an earnest longing for increased spiritual sensitivity, faithfulness and biblical accuracy. May the following thoughts be both a challenge and an encouragement for us, today and in the days ahead.
Discernment – the desire of our hearts
God’s heart yearns for us, that we would gain and exercise discernment: “If only they were wise and they understood this! If only they would discern their future!” (Deuteronomy 32:29)
Our earnest request of God is that He teach us discernment based on His Scriptures: “Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Your commandments. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word” (Psalm 119:66-67).
A wise and discerning person has a mind hungry for truth and knowledge: “The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (Proverbs 18:15).
Solomon was the wisest and most discerning of men in his day: “‘And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, to discern between good and evil. For who is capable of judging this great people of Yours?’ Now it was pleasing in the sight of YHVH that Solomon had asked this thing (1 Kings 3:8-10). Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore. Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt (1 Kings 4:29-30).
Hindrances to discernment
Each one of us struggles with internal stumbling blocks which prevent us from having clear discernment. The Scriptures call this dynamic ‘sin’: “Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12). Yeshua tells us that our own sins can hold us back from clearly discerning what is going on around us. “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but are you unable to discern the signs of the times?” (Matthew 16:2-3).
A central element in the dynamics of discernment – a man or woman who is obedient to God and to His word will have greater clarity here: “But a natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
“For everyone who partakes only of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to distinguish between good and evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14).
The calling to help people distinguish right and wrong
The tribe of Levi has been gifted with a prophetic calling to strengthen Israel’s discernment: “Moreover, they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the common, and teach them to distinguish between the unclean and the clean. (Ezekiel 44:23; see Deuteronomy 33:8, 10).
It is no small matter to help God’s people grow in discernment: “Do not become teachers in large numbers, my brothers, since you know that we who are teachers will incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).
A prophesied day is coming when the remnant of Israel will move naturally in spiritual and practical discernment: “So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him” (Malachi 3:18).
Drawing incorrect conclusions based on faulty discernment
Messiah Yeshua was once interacting with some Jewish Galileans about the reason for two specific and recent tragedies – one in Galilee and one in Jerusalem. Some were blaming the victims of those tragedies, ascribing greater sin to them than to the unharmed bystanders.
- Now on that very occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Yeshua responded and said to them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans just because they have suffered this fate? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you think that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse offenders than all the other people who live in Jerusalem? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5)
Yeshua’s point was stark: those people who had suffered harm or death were not worse sinners than the ‘innocent’ bystanders. Actually, all were in need of heartfelt repentance, especially in light of the fast-approaching judgment on 68-80 A.D. – the destruction of the Second Temple and the Roman Exile.
Two sides of the same rod
The ten northern tribes of Israel had embraced other loves, other gods and other morality, rather than that of YHVH. The God of Jacob is a jealous God determined to win His bride back to His heart. In order to turn their hearts back to Him, He extended a severe mercy to His Jewish people, which involved drawing the cruel and heartless Assyrian empire (His ‘rod’) down to the Promised Land to wreak havoc and exile on the ten tribes.
Isaiah the prophet gives us insight into how Assyria’s leader understood his own calling, and how Assyria’s perspective was totally the opposite from YHVH’s.
- “Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hands is My indignation. I send it . . . and commission it . . . to capture spoils and to seize plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets. Yet it does not so intend, nor does it plan so in its heart, but rather it is its purpose to destroy and to eliminate many nations” (Isaiah 10:5-7)
God calls Assyria the rod of His anger, stretched out against His Chosen People who had embraced idolatry and grievous social sin. Yet this ‘divine rod’ intended to go far beyond his divine commission. Assyria would boast that their military success was due to the superiority of their national demonic gods and the strength of their armies and weapons. This hubris – Assyrian hutzpa – would bring the full curse of Genesis 12:3, the full wrath of Israel’s God, down upon their heads. But even in the midst of horrific judgment, Israel was encouraged to draw strength from the prophetic future, when God would wipe Assyria off the map:
- Therefor this is what YHVH God of armies says: “My people, you who dwell in Zion, do not fear the Assyrian who strikes you with the rod, and lifts up his staff against you the way Egypt did. For in a very little while My indignation against you will be ended and My anger will be directed toward their destruction.” (Isaiah 10:24-25)
YHVH’s burning judgment on Assyria in days to come would be significantly greater than the Assyrian judgment that fell upon Israel.
- Behold, the name of YHVH comes from a remote place. His anger is burning and dense with smoke. His lips are filled with indignation, and His tongue is like a consuming fire. His breath is like an overflowing river which reaches to the neck – to shake the nations back and forth in a sieve, and to put in the jaws of the peoples the bridle which leads astray . . . And YHVH will cause His voice of authority to be heard, and the descending of His arm to be seen in fierce anger, and in the flame of a consuming fire in cloudburst, downpour, and hailstones. For at the voice of YHVH Assyria will be terrified, when He strikes with the rod. And every blow of the rod of punishment which YHVH will lay on him, will be with the music of tambourines and lyres. And in battles, brandishing weapons, He will fight them. For Tophet has long been ready; indeed, it has been prepared for the king. He has made it deep and large – a pyre of fire with plenty of wood. The breath of YHVH, like a torrent of brimstone, sets it afire (Isaiah 30:27-33)
The destruction of the prideful destroyer
Another example of God’s fearful dealings with prideful and destructive empires is laid out in great detail in Ezekiel. Though the prophet recognizes that YHVH has allowed Edom/Esau to invade and wreak havoc on Judah’s cities, pastures and civilian population, the God of Jacob warns that He is always watching, and that He Himself will repay Edom for all the evil they have done against the Jewish people:
- For this is what YHVH God says: “Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet, and have rejoiced with all the malice in your soul against the land of Israel, therefore, behold, I have reached out with My hand against you and I will give you as plunder to the nations. And I will cut you off from the peoples and eliminate you from the lands. I will exterminate you. So you will know that I am YHVH” (Ezekiel 25:6-7)
- YHVH God says this: “Because Edom has acted against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and has incurred great guilt, and avenged themselves upon them,” therefore this is what YHVH God says: “I will also reach out with My hand against Edom and eliminate human and animal life from it. And I will turn it into ruins. From Teman even to Dedan they will fall by the sword. And I will inflict My vengeance on Edom by the hand of My people Israel. Therefore, they will act in Edom in accordance with My anger and My wrath; so they will know My vengeance,” declares YHVH God (Ezekiel 25:12-14)
Talking heads and other experts
Yeshua once responded to some theologians in His day, “You are mistaken, since you do not understand either the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). My life experience has underscored the truth of Yeshua’s words. Much of the body of Messiah is divided here – on one side are those who don’t know the Scriptures well, and on the other side those who have not experienced the Holy Spirit’s power (and therefor deny its charismatic reality). In the same way, there are some popular media ‘experts’ who, though they may be forceful speakers and fast talkers, nevertheless seem bereft of biblical compassion, historical perspective and godly discernment.
Someone has said that an expert is “somebody who is more than 50 miles from home, has no responsibility for implementing the advice he gives, and shows slides.” The greatest refugee crisis since World War II has now broken out in Ukraine. The destruction of Ukrainian cities, villages and essential infrastructure (replete with bone-crushing civilian casualties) continues with a cruelty that would bring a faint smile to Hitler’s lips. On a personal note, two days ago in the Ukrainian Jewish village of Yasnohorodka (west-south-west of Kyiv) where my grandmother was born in 1888, Russian troops attacked and murdered five civilians.
Yet I have been dumbstruck to hear some self-proclaimed ‘experts’ insist that this pre-World War III situation is no real tragedy, because of the following supposed reasons:
- Ukraine deserves to be destroyed because their President has been influenced by George Soros or Klaus Schwab or because they have allowed rights for LGBTers
- Russian President Vladimir Putin is the rod of God’s anger to punish a godless West, with Ukraine being a test case
- The whole invasion is not real, but is simply meant to distract people’s attention away from other burning issues
- Ukraine (with a Jewish President) is supposedly a neo-Nazi country which needs to be crushed (these are KGB talking points since the 1940’s; see also this, this, this, this and this)
On September 30, 1938 Prime Minister Chamberlain met with Adolph Hitler in Munich, signing away a portion of Czech Sudetenland to Nazi annexation. One year later, on September 1, 1939 the Nazi juggernaut blitzkrieged into Poland with tanks, mobile artillery and Stuka bombers, destroying cities and annihilating civilians. WWII had broken out, the Holocaust following close on its heels. Would Christians in those days have been apologists for Hitler, lamely bleating that there are two sides to every story, that righteous leaders exist in Germany, and that we need to make sure to focus equal time on the many other countries in Europe instead?
Russia illegally seized sections of Eastern Ukraine in February-March 2014. Eight years later, on February 24, 2022 it invaded Ukraine from the territories of Russia, Belarus, and annexed sections of Crimea, with over 190.000 troops attacking over 20 Ukrainian locations. This is Sudetenland revisited. Will the world act any differently than it did in 1939?
How should we then pray?
- Pray for clarity, discernment, revelation and courage and divine strategies to be given to the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, USA and NATO as they weigh options and make decisions
- Pray for safety and success for the citizens and defenders of Ukraine
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army throughout the earth
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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