Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Times of the Assyrians

And King Solomon went the way of all mortal men and slept with his fathers. 
In 933 BC, his kingdom was divided.  The northern kingdom, consisting of the land assigned to the ten northern tribes, took the name Israel and the southern kingdom, the name Judah.  The southern kingdom was comprised of the land allotted to the tribe of Judah and a portion of the land occupied by the tribe of Benjamin.  Before that time, the tribe of Judah had absorbed the tribe of Simeon and their land.
Sargon II, king of Assyria, the world power at that time, completed the conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel which was begun by his two predecessors, Shalmaneser and Pul, by capturing its capital city of Samaria in 722 BC.  He then imposed the Assyrian practise of transportation.  Some Israelites were exiled to other parts of the Assyrian empire while colonists from other areas governed by Assyria were settled in Israel.  This was a form of cultural genocide which removed solidarity and the threat of national resistance against the Assyrian empire.  The intermarriage of the Israelite remnant with the settlers produced a people called Samarians and the land came to be known as Samaria.  As for the descendants of the Israelites deported by Sargon II and Pul, they became known as “the lost tribes of Israel.”

When Samaria fell, Hezekiah was king of Judah.  After the fall, Sargon's son, Sennacherib, succeeded his father to the Assyrian throne.  Hezekiah, supported by Egypt’s pharaoh, decided to test the new monarch and refused to pay his tribute to Assyria.  At the same time, the incorrigible Merodach-baladan established himself as king of Babylon.  Sennacherib felt the rebellion in the east was far more serious than Hesekiah's act of treason and set his sights on Babylon.                                                                                                         
About 701 BC, after Sennacherib quelled the rebellion in Babylon, he turned his attention to Judah.  He seized forty-six of Judah's fortified cities and then laid siege against Jerusalem.  When Sennacherib's general presented the king of Judah with a letter demanding his surrender, Hesekiah took the letter into the temple, knelt before the Ark of the Covenant, and prayed to the Lord for deliverance.  That night the angel of the Lord visited the Assyrian camp and slew 185,000 soldiers.  Sennacherib returned to Ninevah where he was subsequently murdered by two of his sons.

Hesekiah, who fell ill after his ordeal, was visited by Merodach-baladan, self proclaimed king of Babylon.  He entertained the Babylonian and showed him all the treasures of Judah.  When the prophet Isaiah heard about the meeting, he made the following prophecy:
“Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left.
And some of your sons who shall issue from you, whom you shall beget, shall be taken away; and they shall become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.”

Josiah came to the throne of Judah about 640 BC.  The temple had been sadly neglected by his two predecessors, Amon and Manasseh.  Manasseh's acts were more wicked than all the kings who preceded or succeeded him for he committed that one, unimaginable sin; he placed an idol in the Holy of Holies.  He also filled Jerusalem with innocent blood.  The prophet Isaiah was sawed in two during the reign of Manasseh.

Josiah was determined to return his subjects to the worship of the Lord their God.  In 623 BC, he hired workmen to repair the damage to the temple.  Previously, the Levites had removed the Ark of the Covenant from the desecrated and dilapidated house of God.  After the repairs were completed, Josiah commanded the priests to return the Ark to Solomon’s temple. 

At that time, a Chaldean governor by the name of Nabopolassar defeated the Assyrian forces at Babylon.  The victory resulted in an independent Babylon and gave Nabopolassar the notoriety of becoming the first king of the Neo-Babylonian (Chaldean) empire.  In 612 BC, the new king joined forces with the Medes to defeat the Assyrians at Nineveh, their capital city.  The Assyrians then retreated westward to the city of Haran.

Josiah, king of Judah, was pro-Babylonian.  When Necho II, pharaoh of Egypt and friend of the Assyrians, sought to join his allies at Haran in their last desperate attempt against the Chaldean and Median forces, he was intercepted by Josiah at the strategic Megiddo Pass.  In 609 BC, Josiah was mortally wounded trying to block Necho's passage through the Valley of Megiddon, also known as the apocalyptic Armageddon.
Despite Egypt’s efforts, Assyria was crushed and Babylon began its reign as the most powerful kingdom on earth.  And Josiah, the last of Judah’s godly kings, was taken by chariot to Jerusalem and buried in his own tomb where he slept with his fathers. 

Does Armageddon Symbolize Megiddo?

PART 2 of 3

Megiddo is an important Israeli city which was mentioned twelve times in the Old Testament. It gave its name to the surrounding district including the Valley of Megiddon which is a broad valley often referred to as the Plain of Esdraelon or Jezreel. This fertile plain, drained by the Kishon River, stretches from the Mediterranean Sea, near Mount Carmel, southeast to the Jordan Valley at the ancient city of Beth-shan. It provides a passageway to the Jordan Valley from the Mediterranean coast and was the favourite route of ancient Egyptians travelling to the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers called Mesopotamia.

The Carmel Range runs along the southwestern boundary of the Valley of Megiddon. It is largely a range of steep hills culminating at Mount Carmel which reaches a height of 1,732 feet. There are three routes through the Carmel range. The middle route, via Megiddo Pass, is the fastest and most direct. However, in ancient times, advancing armies considered the middle route to be the most treacherous. Megiddo Pass contained a narrow ravine with only enough space for troops to travel single-file. If their enemy was waiting for them at the other end of the ravine, they ran the risk of being ambushed and utterly annihilated.

The strategic importance of the district of Megiddo was exemplified in 609 BC. After the Babylonians joined forces with the Medes to defeat the Assyrians at their capital city of Nineveh, the Assyrians retreated westward to the city of Haran, located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

Josiah, the last of Judah’s godly kings, was pro-Babylonian. When Pharaoh Necho II attempted to join his Assyrian allies at Haran in their last desperate battle against the Babylonian and Median forces, he was intercepted by Josiah at Megiddo Pass. Josiah was fatally wounded by Egyptian archers while trying to block Necho's passage through the Valley of Megiddon. He was carried by chariot to Jerusalem where he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers. Following his burial, there was a national day of mourning which was kept as an ordinance in Israel.

The prophet Zechariah foresaw a similar mourning that will occur in the house of David and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. At the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, Jews will weep bitterly when they look upon God’s only Son, the first born of the universe, whom the Romans pierced with nails and spear at their request.

In Zechariah 12:11, the prophet compares the mourning at Christ's Second Coming to the national mourning for Josiah. “In that day there will be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.” Hadadrimmon was an ancient village near the city of Megiddo.

Because Zechariah compared the Second Advent with Josiah's tragic death, some Bible commentators believe that the Battle of Armageddon will be fought on that same fertile plain where Josiah was mortally wounded, the Valley of Megiddon.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Heritage of Hope

The Hopeless Heritage: Everything happens by chance.  The Big Bang was a random occurrence that created the universe.  There is no reason behind life. We live, we die, we decompose; end of story. Graveyard dust is our biological heritage and there is nothing more.

The Heritage of Hope: Jesus Christ came down from heaven and by the power of the Holy Spirit was born of the Virgin Mary which was foretold by Isaiah the prophet some seven centuries earlier.  “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” 

On Passover Friday, April 7, 30 AD, Jesus was crucified for our sins.  He rose from the dead on the third day, the first fruits of the resurrection.  After forty days, He ascended into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of God the Father.

Great is the reward in heaven for those who are saved by grace and justified by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  Now grace is defined as favour and more specifically, unmerited favour.  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, being convinced of things that are unseen.  

While believers are justified by their faith, unbelievers will be judged according to their deeds.  Because all men are sinners and Christ’s crucifixion is the only sacrifice that atones for sinful deeds, how shall unbelievers escape if they ignore so great a salvation?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”

“And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.  And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”