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The Christian Counter

   
Segment X
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Segment X

God’s Purpose and Mission for the Twelve Tribes

When the Lord called Israel out of Egypt, He said, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation…’” (Exodus 19: 4-6, italics mine) A priest is someone God has appointed to stand between God and man. (Hebrews 5:1) Israel was to be a kingdom of priests showing fallen man the love and ways of God. This was God’s plan for Israel, but His plan never got off the ground. Seven hundred years after Israel left Egypt, the Lord pleaded with Israel, “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand, [If you will love me and obey me, I will not destroy you.] I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind [to truth], to free captives from prison [of sin] and release from the dungeon those who sit in [spiritual] darkness.” (Isaiah 42: 6,7, insertions mine) These words fell on deaf ears and about hundred years later, God exiled Israel to Babylon for apostasy. Seven hundred after the exile, the apostle Paul elegantly summarized God’s original purpose for the twelve tribes when he said: “For this is what the Lord has commanded us [the twelve tribes of Israel]: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the Earth.’” (Acts 13:47, insertion mine) We can see from these texts that God’s plan for Israel did not materialize, and we know from Revelation 7 that 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes will yet accomplish God’s purposes and mission.

   

 

Genesis 6 indicates the flood in Noah’s day was brought about because of intermarriage. The Bible says, “The sons of God [those faithful to God] saw that the daughters of [carnal and agnostic] men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.” (Genesis 6:2, insertion mine) Ironically, the consequences of verse 2 necessitated the destruction described in verse 7.

Now that we have briefly reviewed God’s purpose and mission for the twelve tribes of Israel, we should be able to understand God’s motive and intent when He declared the following law. “Do not intermarry with them [the inhabitants of Canaan]. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lords anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.” (Deuteronomy 7:3,4, insertion and italics mine) God declared this law just before the twelve tribes entered the Promised Land. Bible history confirms that Israel essentially ignored this law from the start. Everyone who knows anything about the Old Testament has heard about Samson’s love for Delilah who was a Philistine, and King Solomon is widely known as “the man” who had 700 wives and 300 concubines. “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter – Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, ‘You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.’ Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray.” (1 Kings 11:1-3, italics mine)

 

Foreign wives led Solomon astray, and in turn, King Solomon led Israel into apostasy. Consequently, it became impossible for God to produce a nation of priests because His people had no interest in accomplishing His objectives. Israel had abandoned God’s agenda to satisfy its own agenda. About 200 years after Solomon died, God destroyed the ten northern tribes of Israel, and 100 years after that, He exiled the remaining two tribes to Babylon. Ironically, God’s wrath against the nation did not terminate Israel’s intermarriage with foreigners. During the seventy years of Babylonian captivity, Jewish captives continued to intermarry.

 

God forbade intermarriage, because He foreknew intermarriage with foreigners guarantied Israel’s departure from the purpose and mission for which they had been chosen. Notice how God’s law against intermarriage has two sides: From God’s perspective, His law would protect Israel from the wayward influence of husbands and wives who wanted to serve other gods.  From Israel’s perspective, the law was a detriment to the pursuit of happiness because it restricted dating and marriage. Who can reason with two young people in love that they should not marry because there is a law against it? The parents of Samson tried to reason with him, but they could not overcome his affection (or should I say, affliction) for Delilah. In short, this is the dilemma of the carnal nature. God’s laws are based on a comprehensive understanding of good and evil and His exalted purposes for us. A heart that is grossly selfish and our failure to understand the grand purposes for which we were created cause our rebellion against God.

 

In the first month of the Jubilee year of 457 B.C., Ezra, a trusted officer in King Artazerxes’ court, a priest of Israel and a teacher of the Law of God of Heaven, asked the king to issue a decree permitting him to travel to Jerusalem and finish the reconstruction of the city and the temple. Ezra was devoted to God’s service and he eagerly wanted to see his people fulfill God’s will. After a lengthy trip, Ezra arrived in Jerusalem and he was overwhelmed with the indifferent attitude of the people toward God and the degenerate condition of Israel. After surveying the situation for himself, Ezra called for the leaders. “After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, ‘The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites.  They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.’ When I heard this, I [Ezra] tore my tunic and clock, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled.” (Ezra 10:2,3; 10-12, insertion mine)

 

Now that we have reviewed God’s law about intermarriage, Israel’s history of apostasy and Ezra’s solution to intermarriage, we are in a good position to understand the meaning of the phrase, “they did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure.” In summary, the 144,000 will not be corrupted by marriage and they will not fall into apostasy because of their families. They will not be deterred by martial conflicts or familial rejection.  They will not be compromised. They will fulfill the calling, mission and purpose for which God ordains them. Perhaps the following A/B parallels will clarify this matter.

 

A.        When the time came to resume temple services in Ezra’s day, the priests had a   choice of abandoning their foreign wives and children if they wanted to serve the Lord. As you might expect, this was very painful.

 

B.        When the call comes to be a servant of the Lord God during the Great Tribulation, the 144,000 will have a choice to abandon their unbelieving families to serve the Lord. This will be very painful.

 

A.        Corporately speaking, Israel never did become “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” “a light to the Gentiles,” or “preachers of salvation” because the leaders of Israel married foreign women who insisted on worshiping idols and offering sacrifices to other gods.

 

B.        As a group, the 144,000 will be scattered all over the world. Many of them will be married and their spouses many or may not love the Lord as they do. The phrase, “they did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure” means their spouses will not compromise the 144,000. Their devotion to God will be pure. The 144,000 will, like Abraham, be willing to slay their own son If God were to command it. This kind of devotion to God is uncommon. This is why the Bible exalts the 144,000 saying, “they kept themselves pure – as in pure devotion.” If necessary, the 144,000 will abandon their families to serve God – and we can be sure that their families for this reason will abandon many of the 144,000. Jesus said,  “A man’s enemies will be members of his own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:36,37)

 

A.      In ancient times, a man could voluntarily “bind” himself to his king by becoming a eunuch. (Isaiah 56:3) This rather severe and irreversible procedure arose for two practical reasons: First, the service of eunuchs was desirable to kings because eunuchs were not encumbered with wives and familial relationships that could interfere with their work. Eunuchs were at the disposal of their king at all times and they often held positions of significant authority. (Acts 8:27) Second, kings knew that eunuchs could not produce an heir to their throne. Therefore, kings trusted eunuchs to oversee the most contentious and dangerous part of their kingdom, their harem. (Esther 2:3) Young men counted it an honor and a great privilege to give up their “right of manhood” if they could be adopted as “barren” sons of the king.

 

B.      As firstfruits of the harvest, the 144,000 will become the property of Jesus our High Priest. In this sense, a person could say the 144,000 will be bound like eunuchs to King Jesus. The 144,000 will form a personal entourage that will attend Jesus wherever He goes. (Revelation 14:4) The 144,000 will be highly honored throughout eternity because, like their father Abraham, they exalted the call of God above everything else.

 

Remember, the subject of the 144,000 is an “iceberg” topic. On the surface, the phrase says the 144,000 will not be defiled by women, however, beneath the surface, there is a lot more to this phrase than avoiding sexual immorality.  God’s 144,000 servants, (both men and women according to Joel 2), will be severely tested. Abraham was severely tested to see if he loved Isaac more than he loved God. (Genesis 22:2; Hebrews 11:17) Moses was severely tested to see if he would be willing to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. (Hebrews 11:24,25) Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were severely tested to see whether they would obey God. (Daniel 3:16-18) Daniel was severely tested to see if he would continue to pray to God. (Daniel 6:10) Job was severely tested to see if his faith in God was nonnegotiable. (Job 23:10) Jesus was severely tested in the wilderness by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11) and He was tempted in every way as we are. (Hebrews 4:15) The 144,000 will be severely tested to see if their love for Jesus will endure humiliation and the scorn of rejection. Once they pass the fiery test, they will be mysteriously transformed within. This mysterious transformation requires some explanation.

      

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