To ignore God’s hand as the controlling factor in human events demonstrates a spiritual and biblical naivette that misses history’s greatest stories and deepest understandings.
Let’s consider several examples of God’s sovereign direction of human history, reported throughout the Bible, and then let’s consider several prophetic declarations and how they are illustrated in contemporary circumstances that simply can’t be explained by the concept of random coincidence.
We begin with Abram.
This man was the firstborn of his father, Terah, an idol worshipper, who apparently expected his son to lead the family’s worship of the gods of high places. Terah, also known as Terach, named his oldest son–“exalted father.” Abram had two younger brothers–Nahor and Haran. Sometime after Abram married Sarai and Nahor married Milcah, Terah moved the family from Ur of the Chaldees to go to Canaan, but they never got there, settling instead in a relatively small community named Haran. Despite his father’s desires, Abram, guided by the one true God, did not embrace his father’s idol-worshipping lifestyle. Somewhat suddenly from a human perspective, Abram, 75, and Sarai, 65, pulled up stakes from Haran and struck out for Canaan. Abram’s nephew, Lot, whose father, Haran, had died, traveled with them, as did a number of servants. Shortly after Abram’s arrival in Canaan, a drought caused a severe famine, and Abram decided to move to Egypt, seeking better opportunities for his household. As the entourage approached Egypt, Abram asked his wife to pose as his sister because he feared the Egyptians would kill him to get to her because even at what we would call advanced age, Sarai was apparently a beautiful, alluring woman.
Sarai complied, and sure enough, smitten by her beauty, the Egyptian Pharaoh sought to add Sarai to his harem. As was the day’s custom, the Pharaoh gave Abram generous economic benefits, such as sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, camels and servants, both men and women. Suddenly, tragedy struck Pharaoh’s household when an epidemic of serious diseases erupted among his family and servants. Somehow, though the Bible does not provide details, Pharaoh understood that his deal with Abram and his alleged “sister” lurked at the heart of his household’s health issues. He confronted Abram, who confessed that Sarai was his wife. Pharaoh ordered the man to leave Egypt, but allowed him to take all the wealth he had accumulated there. The Bible, in classic understatement, summarizes this introductory portion of a great historical account this way: “So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.”
As this nomadic rich man continued his travels throughout Canaan, seven significant events in his life shaped the pattern of human history for thousands of years. Here are the events:
1) Abram demonstrated significant personal character when he refused to engage in a family squabble between himself and his nephew Lot over grazing rights, etc.
2) Abram believed the visionary dream that God planted in the man’s heart, a dream stated this way in the Scriptures: ” . . .a son coming from your own body will be your heir. He (God) took him (Abram) outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars–in indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Here in the Bible, we again read a powerful, yet brief summary of a tremendous event in human history. “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” This is the initial time in recorded history that a man used a concept called faith to supersede physical evidence, or information available through the five “sense-gates.” This also describes the first time that God revealed the way to righteousness–Believe Him!
3) Abram entered into a covenant with God, a millennia-long partnership based upon no physical evidence at the time. The Bible reports on that covenant in summary in Genesis 17:1-27. I will leave you to read that account rather than taking the space to quote it here.
4) Abram changed his name to Abraham and his wife’s name to Sarah, following what he understood to be God’s instructions and later, when he was 100-years-old and she was 90-years-old, they believed and acted on the belief that she would get pregnant soon, and have a son the next year. Imagine, if you’re a male reading this, being 100 years old and believing that you’re going to produce a child. Also imagine, if you’re a woman reading this, being 90-years-old and believing that you will birth a son.
5) Abraham passed the most significant challenge of his life by acting again on what he believed to be God’s word to him, and preparing to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, because as Abraham understood the situation, God required this. Notice Abraham’s declaration of faith, reported in Genesis 22:5. Talking to the small party of servants that traveled with he and Isaac to Mount Horeb, Abraham declared: ” ‘Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.'” What do you mean “we will come back to you?” Abraham had fixed his mind to put his son on an altar and kill him by stabbing the young man in the chest with a ceremonial dagger, and then incinerating the body. So how could he declare that “we will come back to you?” This declaration, a positive affirmation, demonstrates the power of faith, which is the act of believing God. When you believe God, what others deem to be impossible becomes certain.
6) Abraham sent his trusted servant back to the nomad-turned-farmer’s native land to select a wife for his son, trusting God to lead the servant to just the right woman, and believing that she would come to marry a man she’d never seen.
7) Trusting God’s word, Abraham, shortly before his death at 175-years-old, left his entire estate to Isaac, though he also gave generous gifts to his other children.
Now, let’s summarize about about three millennia of history. Isaac had two sons–Esau and Jacob, aka the “heel grabber,” a natural born con artist. Jacob, whose name God later changed to Israel, had 12 sons and a daughter. About 13 years after 10 of his sons sold their brother, Joseph, into slavery in Egypt, Jacob and his family moved to that country where Joseph, now 30-years-old, had been suddenly promoted to vice-Pharaoh. Eighty years later, Joseph, then 110, died, but not before his father–Jacob–adopted Joseph’s two sons–Manasseh, the firstborn, and Ephraim, the younger. Here is what Israel said: “Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine just as Reuben and Simeon are mine. Any children born to you after them will be yours . . .” (Gen. 48:5-6). In blessing Joseph’s sons, Isarel declared that the descendants of the younger son–Ephraim–would become a “group of nations,” while the descendants of the older son–Manasseh–would become a great nation. Some 430 years later, counted from the time Joseph’s entered Egypt as a slave, God worked through Moses, who had been born in Egypt as a slave 80 years earlier, to free the Israelites and bring them back to Canaan, aka The Promised Land.
We learn that God divided the blessings of Abraham into two categories–the Scepter and the Birthright. The Scepter blessings referred to the fact that Jesus, the Anointed would be a descendant of Jacob, more specifically of his son, Judah. The Birthright blessings referred to national wealth, including arable land, favorable weather patterns, an abundance of valuable ores, plus economic and financial largesse from God. The Bible summarizes this historically significant fact in 2Chronicles 5:1-2 “The sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel (he was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father’s marriage bed, his rights as firstborn were given to the sons of Joseph–Ephraim and Manesseh; so he (Joseph) could not be listed in the genealogical record in accordance with his birthright, and though Judah was the strongest of his brothers and a ruler (Jesus, the Christ) came from him, the rights of the firstborn belonged to Joseph.” So wherever the descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh are today, they comprise a “group of nations,” and a great nation, uniquely and richly blessed with divine largesse and financial advantages over most other nations of the world. As God laid out codes of spiritual and national conduct as He led the Israelites to The Promised Land, He explained that if they did not obey Him, he would “punish you for your sins seven times over.” This term “seven times” works out to be 2,520 years. Let me explain.
According to the Bible, God counts time differently than man has come to count it. For example, in God’s method, days begin and end at sunset. Notice in Genesis, chapter one, where God says: ” . . .the evening and morning constituted the first, second, third and fourth days, and so on. In God’s count, a month is always 30 days long. We see this principle of “time-counting in Genesis, chapter eight. Read it for yourself, beginning in verse 11: “In the 600th year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month–on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened . . . At the end of 150 days the water had gone down, and on the 17th day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.” Do you see it? For the 17th day of the second month to the 17th day of the seventh month equals 150 days. Divide five into 150 and you get 30. So, from God’s perspective, five months equals 150 days, or 30 days each month. Now, prophetically, God often uses a day to represent a year. We see this principle applied initially in Numbers 14 when the Israelites refused to enter the Promised Land. God said: ” . . . Your children will be shepherds here for 40 years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert. For 40 years–one year for each of the 40 days you explored the land.” (Numbers 14:32-34). We see this same principle repeated in Ezekiel 4:1-6). So, as you see in this prophecy, 390 days would be tantamount to 390 years.
Sometimes in prophecy, God uses the words “time” and “times” to describe a period of prophetic fulfillment. In some instances, “time” refers to one year or 360 days. Using the day for a year principle, that would be 360 years. Therefore, two times totals 720 years. Using the same measurement, a half time would be 180 years, prophetically. Thus a time, times and a half a time total 3.5 times, or 1,260 years. Double that to seven times, and you have a total 2,520 prophetic years. In the 26th chapter of Leviticus, speaking prophetically to the nation of Israel, God said the following: “I will bring upon you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and drain away your life. You will plant seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it. I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even when no one is pursuing you. If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over (or more).”
The Israelites never wholeheartedly obeyed God and He ultimately divided the people into two nations–one known as the House of Israel, composed of 10 tribes, aka The Northern Kingdom–and the other known as Judah (composed of the tribes of Judah aka the Jews and Benjamin). Ephraim and Manasseh became part of the Northern Kingdom. In 722-721 BC, God sent the Northern Kingdom into exile and they became known historically as “the 10-Lost Tribes of Israel.” Remember, the 2,520 years of punishment? It began in 721 BC., with the exile of the Northern Kingdom. Come forward in history 2,520 years, and you come to 1799. I find it interesting that the nation Great Britain, aka the United Kingdom, aka the British Commonwealth, became a world power beginning in the late 1700s and early 1800s. I also find it interesting that the United States, originally a ragtag collection of quarreling colonies, began the nation’s sprint to greatness in the early 1800s, shortly after the tremendously important Louisiana Purchase. Is it mere historical coincidence that Great Britain, before its slow and steady decline, was a “group of nations, and the United States, before its slow and steady decline, was a “great” nation?
I think not.
So what does all this mean to us today? One of Israel’s greatest prophets, Isaiah, gazing down time’s telescope, wrote an amazing prophecy that we see being fulfilled in our land today. Isaiah’s prophecy is directed to Jerusalem (the original capital of the united nation of Israel under David. When he ruled over only Judah, his capital was Hebron. When God gave David the entire nation–all 12 tribes–to rule, King David moved his capital to Jerusalem. So Isaiah’s prophecy is to the House of Israel–particularly its two leading components–Ephraim and Manasseh. Consider this prophecy, reported in Isaiah chapter 3: (quoted from “The Message,” a modern language translation of the Bible: “the Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies is emptying Jerusalem and Judah of all the basic necessities, plain bread and water to begin with. He’s withdrawing police and protection, judges and courts, pastors and teachers, captains and generals, doctors and nurses, and, yes, even the repairmen and jacks-of-all-trades. He said, ‘I’ll put little kids in charge of the city. Schoolboys and schoolgirls will order everyone around. People will be at each other’s throats, stabbing one another in the back: neighbor against neighbor, young against old, the no-account against the well-respected. One brother will grab another and say, ‘You look like you’ve got a good head on your shoulders. Do something! Get us out of this mess. And he’ll say, ‘Me? Not me! I don’t have a clue. Don’t put me in charge of anything. Jerusalem’s on its last legs. Judah is soon down for the count. Everything people say and do is at cross-purposes with God, a slap in my face. Brazen in their depravity, they flaunt their sins like degenerate Sodom. Doom to their eternal souls. They’ve made their bed, now they’ll sleep in it. Reassure the righteous that their good living will pay off. But doom to the wicked! Disaster! Everything they did will be done to them. Skinny kids terrorize my people. Silly girls bully them around. My dear people! Your leaders are taking you down a blind alley. They’re sending you off on a wild-goose chase. God enters the courtroom. He takes His place at the bench to judge his people. God calls for order in the court, hauls the leaders of His people into the dock.
‘You’ve played havoc with this country. Your houses are stuffed with what you’ve stolen from the poor. What is this anyway? Stomping on my people, grinding the faces of the poor into the dirt? That’s what the Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies says. God says Zion women are stuck up, prancing around in their high heels, making eyes at all the men in the street, swinging their hips, tossing their hair, gaudy and garish in cheap jewelry.’ The Master will fix it so those Zion women will all turn bald–scabby, bald-headed women. The Master will do it. The time is coming when the Master will strip them of their fancy baubles–the dangling earrings, anklets and bracelets, combs and mirrors and silk scarves, diamond brooches and pearl necklaces, the rings on their fingers and the rings on their toes, the latest fashions in hats, exotic perfumes and aphrodisiacs, gowns and capes, all the world’s finest in fabrics and design. Instead of wearing seductive scents, these women are going to smell like rotting cabbages. Instead of modeling flowing gowns, they’ll be sporting wraps; instead of their stylish hairdos, scruffy heads, instead of beauty marks, scabs and scars. Your finest fighting men will be killed, your soldiers left dead on the battlefield. The entrance gate to Zion will be clotted with people mourning their dead–a city stooped under the weight of her loss, brought to her knees by her sorrows.”