'Thus I will make the land desolate, because they have persisted in unfaithfulness,’ says the Lord God. (NKJV)
It’s never GOD’s desire to cast judgment on any individual, family, church or ministry, nation, or humanity. HE desires all to prosper. Jeremiah chapter 29, verse 11 of the New King James Version says it this way. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says the LORD, “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” New Living Translation reads this way. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” The New International Version says that GOD’s plans are to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future – a good life. But like everything GOD promises, there is a condition we all must live up to, to benefit from GOD’s promises and blessings – that is, HIS ability to prosper us. HE has standards – that is, requirements we must live up to, to obtain HIS promises. Jeremiah 4:1 explains, “If you will return, O Israel,” says the LORD, “return to me; and if you will put away your abomination out of My sight, then you shall not be moved.”
In the English language, the word ‘if’ is a conjunction that means in the event that, on the assumption that, on the condition that. Here, GOD is setting HIS standards before mankind to prevent a disaster – the judgment of GOD from coming upon the land and its people. (Compare to Numbers 16; Genesis 15:13). “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, seek my face, and learn from their wicked ways…” (2 Chronicles 7:17, KJV).
I have said this probably a hundred times on my blog, GOD’s required genuine actions on our part. If we do XYZ FIRST, then GOD will do what needs to be done – in this case, to cease HIS coming judgment upon this land (as in the people). Case in point, let’s read 2 Chronicles 7:14 again. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, seek my face, and learn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (KJV).
The Webster's Dictionary defines ‘then’ as follows
As soon as we as a nation, especially the Body of Christ as a whole say sincerely in our hearts, ‘LORD, forgive us for our abominations – our sins against you and your ways, and we turn completely away from all the wickedness we have come to practice, it is then and only then will GOD turn HIS attention to HIS people and this nation, and relent from casting HIS judgment upon a deserving nation, group of people, or individuals. (Compare to Jonah chapter 3). King Josiah set a perfect example for all leaders in the secular and religious setting concerning this matter of humbling oneself, praying, seeking GOD, and turning away from their sins.
2 Chronicles 34:3 says concerning Josiah, “… while he was still young, he began to seek the GOD of his father David… he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the wooden images, the carved images, and the molded images.” What are some modern type things we engage in today that can be compared to the high places, and wooden, carved, and molded images that King Josiah had to confront and get rid of during his time?
GOD does not expect a perfect society but HE does have standards we all must uphold. And if we fall short of any of these standards, GOD expects sincere repentance and a turning away from our wrongs. (Compare to Romans 3:20-25).
2 Chronicles chapter 34, verses 3 through 5 goes on and say about Josiah and his supporting leaders, “They broke down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and the incense altars which were above them he cut down; and the wooden images, the carved images, and the molded images he broke in pieces, and made dust of them and scattered it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem.” Simply put, Josiah cleansed house. He did not just clean his own house, but he required and enforced these changes to take place everywhere – in the cities, within the nation, among the people, and especially in GOD’s place of worship (2 Chronicles 34:6-8, 10-13). Let’s stop right there for a minute because we need to clearly understand Josiah’s actions.
As we continue to read, we see a Book of Law of the LORD given to Moses was found. Upon discovering what was in it – what the LORD required of HIS people – what did Hilkiah the priest and Shaphan the scribe do? Verse 16 said, Shaphan carried the book to King Josiah and read it to the king (2 Chronicles 34:16, 18). In response to what the king heard, he needed clarity concerning the things that were read to him. He wanted to know whether judgment was going to come upon his nation because the people and his leaders “… have not kept the word of the LORD…” – the standards of GOD.
So, what did King Josiah and his leaders do? Verse 22 says they sent a selective group of men to Huldah, GOD’s appointed prophetess to get clarity of what was GOD’s stance concerning the king, his people, and his nation at that appointed time based on their discovery – discovering the Book of the Law. Upon hearing King Josiah's request through his appointed leaders, Prophetess Huldah provided them the word of the LORD, which was a word of judgment because they as a nation had abandoned GOD’s laws, HIS commands, HIS ways, HIS standards, decrees, and righteousness. Josiah’s nation (the people) had opted to go their own ways, establishing their own gods, rituals, and traditions outside of what GOD required. They had preferred their own pleasures instead of the standards of GOD. (See 2 Chronicles 34:23-25). But in the Prophetess Huldah’s word of judgment against the nation, there was a message of hope because of the reactions of King Josiah upon discovering and hearing the Book of the Law of the LORD.
Prophetess Huldah said to King Josiah’s men, “Because your heart was tender, and you humble yourself before GOD when you heard HIS word against this place and against its inhabitants, and you humbled yourself before Me, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the LORD. “… Your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place and its inhabitants…” (2 Chronicles 34:27-28). It was the actions of the king that saved the nation from GOD’s pending judgment.
But we need to understand that King Josiah did not just stop there. He did not simply just hear the word of GOD from GOD’s prophetess and say, ‘I receive that’ and move on to the next thing that was on his kingly agenda. NO! HE TOOK ACTIONS based on the word of GOD’s prophetess. (Compare to James 1:22).
Verses 29 and 30 of 2 Chronicles chapter 34 said the king gathered all his leaders and went to the house of the LORD with everyone in the nation (all the people) and read the Book of the Law of the LORD to them. Then the king renewed their covenant with GOD and made a sowned declaration to GOD before the people on behalf of the people and its nation and he made all who were present to take the same oath – to be in agreement with the established covenant King Josiah declared before the LORD (2 Chronicles 34:29-33). The nation was spared of GOD’s judgment due to the action of King Josiah and the entire nation (its leaders and citizens) coming together, in agreement.
Go back to Jeremiah 4:1 and 2 Chronicles 7:14 – it is when and only when a nation and its leaders come together in one accord to repent that GOD will relent from pouring out HIS judgment upon a nation that is deserving of HIS righteous judgment.
One more example before we close. We see that GOD only turns away from destroying the livelihood of a nation (the lives and comforts of the people) when they repent and turn away from their sins. Jonah chapter 3, verse 10 expresses this way, “Then” (soon after Nineveh’s king and all its people) “… turned from their evil ways…” – the people acted first. Then “… GOD relented (give in, cease) from the disaster that HE had said HE would bring upon them, and HE did not do it.”
GOD wants to relent. HE wants to change HIS mind. HE wants to extend mercy instead of HIS judgment, but if HE has to compromise HIS standards in the process to extend mercy, HE won't do it – that is, HE will not relent – change HIS mind. If HE did, then that would make HIM a liar, which would contradict what the scriptures say about HIS character and nature – “… it is impossible for GOD to lie…” (Hebrews 6:18).
This brings us back to Ezekiel 15:8 where the LORD said, “… I will make the land desolate” (to wretch or deprive of inhabitants), “because they have persisted” (remained unchanged in their character, condition, or preferred position) “in unfaithfulness” – that is, the breaking of GOD’s standards.
GOD cannot relent, change HIS mind about a pending judgment, and extend mercy, if, we as the people, as a nation, and as HIS church are not willing to change our ways – our course of actions. We have to align ourselves to GOD’s standards and laws and what HE is doing in this season, and not the other way around, before GOD can act, the people must respond. If we do, then GOD will.
GOD wants complete obedience. Otherwise, we are in direct conflict with HIS expectations and that is a sin. And if we refuse to change our ways, it is we who will force GOD’s hand to act and respond as an act of justice. So that the land and its people can be cleansed and restored to the state in which GOD intended. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
The word of the lord
When the LORD God gives a word, it is for the sole purpose to teach, reproof, correct, or train His servants - His Body, so that every member within the Body of Christ may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). For the LORD has given the Body of Christ apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to equip the Saints for the work of service, to encourage one another, and to build up the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Thessalonians 5:11).