Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!' (Matthew 23:37-39).
"Jerusalem" translates to "city of peace." A city is a place where people gather together to live. If peaceful folk gather, what result should we anticipate? A city of peace.
"Cognitive dissonance" is when things that are supposed to fit together agreeably, don't; when things disagree with each other. Jesus, nearing the end of His Palestinian ministry, marks the disagreement between the city's profession, its name as a peaceful city, and its inhabitant's murderous behavior.
It is too much like 2018 postmodern America.
We live in the midst of a slippery, everything's-tolerated, no-judgment beach party. It's a defect in the culture, one so all-permeating we might easily live in blindness to it. Jesus' word for us is especially important. We live at the edge of time, the precipice of judgment. Judgment in Jesus' day came with their denial of Jesus as Messiah. Judgment in our day will come as Jesus is rejected in the human denial of His law.
Probations terminate. The Jewish nation the time of Christ came finally to a day when opportunity to make certain decisions was closed against them. They resisted God and hardened themselves. And, for us today, so our opportunity to make decisions will finally close.
What does God do for this city of peace? He sends prophets. In His design He sends the prophet to His people to speak His word to them. "Prophet" is a most difficult line of work. People already know what they want to do. Most are not waiting desiring God's counsel. When that counsel comes the response is to kill the messenger.
It is because of His love that God communicates, that He tells us what is needful. And it is out of human rebellion that we act out our rejection. We fight those whom He sends, not because of their haircut but because of their message. It's all about content. We can't destroy the ideas but we can kill the messengers.
Any forward movement arising out of God's prophetic truth will be opposed by those adhering to the status quo. "What fellowship has light with darkness?" None. Therefore, murder.
No part of reality is optional. The last book in the Bible, Revelation, shows us that finally, ultimately, the righteous are attacked and, were Satan to have his way, would be blotted from existence. God faces two options: the final destruction of the righteous, or the final destruction of the wicked. The power of fallen angels is too much for humans. Without divine intervention, they will be destroyed. The power of fallen angels is too much for us. If God did not deliver us, we would be destroyed.
So what will God do with the last set of believers, Jesus followers who cleave to Him and His truth no matter the cost? They seek His truth; they embrace it when they understand it. They are changed by it. Will God abandon them them? Will He forget those who cry to Him day and night?
So Jesus sought to gather His people. He came to their city of peace. He came to protect and guide, to be their parent (which shouldn't have been a problem since they insisted they were God's children).
But they refused.
He spoke to them through prophets and spiritual leaders.
But mostly they were uninterested. They were positively hostile, and often murdered the prophets.
But not only was the truth still truth, error was still error. Error is not from God. Error confuses and separates. Error interposes between His will for His people and their accomplishing His will. Error makes it harder to follow Jesus. Error is so dangerous that it inhibits the acceptance of truth. When truth comes we can be so emotionally locked into or possessed by error that we resist His truth.
Since that fateful, long-ago human choice in the garden of Eden, God has sought to gather. He works; across thousands of years, He educates. He permits apostasy to develop, to show its fruit, and then He delivers those who are willing. Respecting free choice, He is of purer eyes than to look upon evil (Habakkuk 13). The beginning of the Bible points to the end of the Bible. "In the beginning God" points to, "even so, come Lord Jesus."
Creation is not intended to as an ever-repeating cycle of wickedness. History is linear; it moves in a line, from one point to the next. Things happen; there is development. Light is sent. People are confronted. They sort themselves out in relation to the light. Some choose darkness.
In one place, after setting forth contrasting right and wrong paths for the people, with the consequences, the word from God was:
"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants" (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Through the prophets and through the Scriptures God had done this for Israel. Finally, Jesus was sent to demonstrate God's word. When Jesus did that, most rejected Him.
God has a plan to build, educate, regenerate. In due course, class is over; you take the final exam. Jesus came to His own. Class had been in session for generations. Then He Himself came to prepare the Messianic generation. Most failed the test.
Final Generation Gets the Most Challenging Test of All
They had Jesus with them, in their midst, in the flesh; they faired miserably. The test for our generation will be yet closer:
Jesus, looking down to the last generation, saw the world involved in a deception similar to that which caused the destruction of Jerusalem. The great sin of the Jews was their rejection of Christ; the great sin of the Christian world would be their rejection of the law of God, the foundation of His government in heaven and earth (Ibid., p. 22).
The Jews then were involved in an enormous deception. It led them to murder Jesus. The deception in which the world is involved today is arguably much worse. They claimed to be upholders of God's morality, but they threw away the Messiah. But where are we today? Even the idea of biblical morality is considered problematic. The Bible itself is viewed a fairy tale, an editorial salad of writers and redactors written by men to advance "male privilege." In postmodern thought there is no truth, just "power relations." People have been led to dismiss the Bible.
And that is much worse. The wholesale dismissal of the one absolute source of truth to this generation bodes ill for us. What are we left with without God's revelation? Whatever is politically correct at the time.
Jesus wept then for Jerusalem, and weeps today over planet earth. What was true for that city then is true today for an entire planet:
No foreboding of His own superhuman anguish clouded that unselfish spirit. He wept for the doomed thousands of Jerusalem--because of the blindness and impenitence of those whom He came to bless and save (The Great Controversy, p. 18).
Blindness and refusal to be sorry for sin is a bad mixture.
Jesus and Psalm 118
And so, in His reaction to Jerusalem's rejection, Jesus weeps. He quotes from Psalm 118, one of the royal Psalms and a thanksgiving Psalm.
That Psalm's message calls on believers to give thanks to God. The Psalmist says he prayed and God delivered him. In verses 10-13 all nations surround him, but He cuts them off. That is very interesting when we think of it beside this thought Ellen White shares referring to that same event:
Then God withdrew His protection from them and removed His restraining power from Satan and his angels, and the nation was left to the control of the leader she had chosen. Her children had spurned the grace of Christ, which would have enabled them to subdue their evil impulses, and now these became the conquerors (ibid., p. 28).
God does not force people. He often permits them to have that which they insist upon. At last, their rejection was final, and the result was that God withdrew the protection He had been giving. Grace had been offered, and grace--interesting that word, grace--grace would have enabled them to subdue their evil impulses. But they turned away from Jesus and His power, and now those same evil impulses, the weeds they had nurtured in their character gardens, conquered. Satan had stocked their characters with all kinds of levers for self-indulgence. With God's protection removed, they came under Satan's direct control.
So this statement from the same chapter is true:
Every ray of light rejected, every warning despised or unheeded, every passion indulged, every transgression of the law of God, is a seed sown which yields its unfailing harvest (p. 36).
How long can we reject, despise, refuse to heed, how long can we indulge, how long can we break His holy law, and do so with impunity? We should never try to find out. We should stop in our tracks, turn to Him with all our heart, and receive His power!
Here is Christ with this sad warning. On Olivet, Jesus declares that their temple is left empty, desolate, vacated. With weeping, God accepts their rejection. Nevermore will Jesus favor their temple with His presence.
He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord
In Psalm 118 the test is extreme at verse 18, but then God delivers. Verses 19-24 have Him entering in through the gates of righteousness, and the rejected stone becomes the cornerstone. All this Jesus, weeping on Olivet, has in His mind. Then, at verse 26, He foretells the future of the rejectors:
"Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."
Jesus will come again. His character is undiminished. His kindness, His mercy, His justice, His humility, His power, His sacrifice, are undiminished. His righteousness is vindicated. He will return. When He returns will He find faith on the earth? Not so much. The majority of believers abandon Him.
What will you and I do?
Called to the Gatherer
In Jerusalen, in the end, everyone made their choice: for or against. Jesus is not a figure we laugh about or live indifferently towards. When we understand who He is and what He is about, we have to make the choice.
It is not just a choice to affirm Him as a fact of history, or even the truth or falsity of the Bible. It is a choice about how we will live. That choice is live like Jesus, or not live like Jesus; be giving and gathering, or taking and scattering.
Like the Jews, we will have to make our choice. Yes to Messiah, yes to Jesus' law, or no to both. Probation--a time to choose--closed for them. It closed for every person who ever lived in every age, eventually.
We are not to move from fear; fear will not perfect us. Fear will not make us more like Jesus.
God's love is what will draw. It will cut the coldness. Our testimony even to a preoccupied, unlistening world can be as the disciples:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life--the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:13).
What question then to ask myself? Do I have a personal experience with Jesus? How do I relate to His death on the cross to give me His life? What do I do with the Bible? What voices do I listen to? Will I give my heart to Jesus anew today? Will I weep with Him for the lost and join with Him to save the lost, or pass onward to final doom? The lemmings are out. Will I ride with the lemmings? Jesus is calling us to Himself. We do not always have space to repent. Let's all come one step closer today and then one step closer tomorrow. Every day another step, until we are standing with Jesus victorious in His Mount Zion victory.
"Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."
Deer Park WA SDA 2018-04-07
Chewelah, WA SDA 2018-04-14