The Book of Books—Part 6

God’s Kingdom Conquers—Part 2


God’s special people … Tabernacle of David

THE prophecy of Amos is similar to most of the prophetic books of the Old Testament, in that a major portion of it contains warnings to Israel of the dire results of her sin. With the exception of very short periods of time, the course of the nation was almost continuously wicked, which eventually led to its loss of national independence.

Through Amos, God explains why Israel had to suffer so severely because of her sins. He said, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:2,3) Through Moses, who acted as mediator, God entered into a very special covenant with Israel. He promised to be their God, and they promised to be his people and to obey his laws. He had been faithful to his agreement, for he continued to be exclusively their God.

But this arrangement imposed serious obligations upon the nation. The people of other nations might worship false gods, and disregard the laws of the true God without being so directly responsible. But it was different with Israel. This is why the nation was punished for its sins, and why prophets were sent to warn them of the result of wrongdoing. It was because the nation continued to ignore the messages of these prophets that they were finally dispersed as a people and scattered to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Nevertheless, the Lord did not leave them without hope, for intermingled with the warnings of the prophets concerning the punishments which would come upon the people because of their sins are wonderful promises of God pertaining to an ultimate restoration to his full favor. These promises refer to various phases of this work of restoration. Some emphasize the fact of a coming resurrection of the dead for both Jews and Gentiles. Some give assurance of a coming time of peace and goodwill among men, while others assure us that death itself will be destroyed, as we discovered, for example, in our review of the prophecy of Hosea.

The prophecy of Amos presents another aspect of God’s loving plan of restoration. Through him the Lord promised, “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old.”—Amos 9:11

In Isaiah 9:6 we have a similar promise. Here the tabernacle, or house of David, is referred to as the throne of David. It is in a prophecy of the birth of Jesus, a prophecy which also explains the glorious object of his birth, saying that he was to be a mighty God, his name called “Wonderful Counsellor, … The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Then the seventh verse reads, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”

In our review of I and II Chronicles and I and II Kings we found that the kings of Israel reigned as representatives of God, that the symbolic throne upon which they sat was in reality the throne of the Lord. We learned from the Book of Ezekiel that this arrangement ceased with the overthrow of their last king, Zedekiah, that it was to be no more “until he come whose right it is.”—Ezek. 21:25-27

Now, through the prophecies of Amos and Isaiah, we learn that Jesus is the one to rebuild that which is fallen; that he is to sit on the throne of David to order it, and to establish it; that he will build the tabernacle of David which is fallen down. This does not mean, of course, that Jesus will rule over Israel as a human being. It is simply the Lord’s pictorial way of assuring us that, through King Jesus he will again rule in Israel, and that of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.

The kingdom of Christ, therefore, will not only rule over Israel, but extend its sphere of influence over all nations. This is in keeping with what we learned from the prophecy of Isaiah in which the Lord’s kingdom, symbolically described as a great mountain, was to be established in the top of the mountains—that is, ruling over all the nations of the earth.


Saviors on Mt. Zion … The kingdom is the Lord’s

Obadiah’s prophecy contains but one short chapter. Unlike most of the other prophecies, it is not directed particularly against Israel, but against the Edomites—the descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob. Esau, it will be remembered, sold his birthright to Jacob, and later endeavored to recover it. The value in that birthright was the wonderful promise of God to their grandfather, Abraham, that through his seed all the families of the earth would be blessed.

Esau failed to recover the right to this promise, and he and his descendants, the Edomites, became almost constant enemies of Jacob and his descendants, the nation of Israel. The Book of Obadiah reveals that on occasion the Edomites allied themselves with Gentile nations against Israel, and took advantage of their cousins in times of peril. Verse thirteen reads, “Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity.”

God was displeased with the Edomites for their unfriendliness toward his people, and they suffered because of it. When God first made promise to Abraham that through his seed he would bless all the families of the earth, he said, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.” (Gen. 12:3) One of the values of the Book of Obadiah is to emphasize the unchangeableness of God in connection with this promise to Abraham.

As we study these various prophecies carefully, we note the many warnings of God concerning the punishments he would bring upon his people because of their sins, and also the statement that those who persecuted them would not go unpunished. However, we are impressed with the fact that these are but experiences of the present life, that they in no way indicate that God will not, in his own due time, give all these people, both Jews and Gentiles, an opportunity to be blessed with everlasting life.

As the plan of God unfolds from one book of his precious Word to another, we learn that Mount Zion of Jerusalem, the headquarters of the Israelitish government, is used to symbolize the glorious kingdom of Christ, in which he will be the king, the ruler. Associated with him in Mount Zion will be those of this present age who have followed in his footsteps of sacrifice faithfully even unto death. Yes, the Zion of the prophecies is the Lord’s kingdom. This will become more and more apparent as we continue our study. So, in this one-chapter Book of Obadiah a reference is made to the Lord’s kingdom, using this symbol of Zion. It is the last verse of the chapter, and reads, “And saviors shall come up on Mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.”

Traditional misconceptions of God’s plan have represented the judgment day as one of calamity and gloom, but this is not the biblical viewpoint. As we have learned from the Book of Judges, when the Lord raised up judges for Israel it was for the purpose of delivering the people from their enemies. This is in keeping with Obadiah’s prophecy that saviors shall come up on Mount Zion, and judge the mount of Esau.

The mount of Esau, symbolic of the Edomites, will be delivered as a result of the judging work of the saviors on Mount Zion. God punished the Edomites because of their sin against his people, but here he promises them deliverance from their enemies, the greatest of which is the enemy Death. This great deliverance for the Edomites, and for all nations, will be wrought when the kingdom is the Lord’s. Thus we see that Obadiah, like the other prophets, helps to unfold this glorious and loving plan of God for the recovery of the dying race from death through the administration of the kingdom of Christ.


A prophet prays from hell … Why the Ninevites repented

This book is largely a narrative. The Lord asked Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and cry against it, for, as he explained, their wickedness is come up before me. Jonah’s prophecy was, therefore, to be one of doom against this wicked city. However, the prophet was disinclined to obey the Lord’s command, and instead of starting on the journey to Nineveh, he boarded a ship which was sailing in another direction.

A storm arose. The explanation is that “the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.” (Jon. 1:4) The sailors became very much alarmed. They were evidently superstitious, and suspected that someone aboard the ship was responsible for the storm. They cast lots in an effort to determine who it might be, and the lot fell to Jonah. He had told them previously that the purpose of his taking this journey with them was to escape from God and to avoid obeying the command to curse Nineveh.—Jon. 1:10

The sailors quickly decided that Jonah’s God had caused the storm, which, of course, was true. They concluded that their safety depended on casting Jonah overboard, which they did. But Jonah did not drown. Instead, God had prepared a great fish—not a whale as is commonly understood—to swallow Jonah. After being in the stomach of the great fish for three days, Jonah was cast up on the shore close to the city of Nineveh. After such an experience, in which he saw the providences of the Lord clearly manifested, he was ready to obey God’s command to curse the city.

When he did, the Ninevites repented of their sins, so the Lord did not destroy the city. Two things in this story have seemed incredible to critics of the Bible. One is that a man could be swallowed by a great fish and remain alive in its stomach for three days. Part of the objection is that a whale’s throat is not large enough to swallow a man. But, as we have already noted, the record is that God prepared a great fish for the purpose. After all, God’s hand was manifested in this experience of Jonah, and when this is true, miraculous things often occur. Many miracles are involved in the outworking of the divine purpose, not the least of which is the resurrection of the dead.

Some have also found it difficult to understand why the inhabitants of a large city such as Nineveh should suddenly repent of their sins simply because a lone preacher of righteousness appeared and warned them of coming destruction, especially since they did not worship the God whom this prophet served. An obvious explanation of this has been unearthed by archaeologists. In digging up the ruins of ancient Nineveh, they have found that the people were worshipers of a fish god.

The Ninevites probably knew how Jonah arrived on their shore—that a great fish had brought him there. This could have meant to them that their god had brought Jonah to warn them; or, it could have meant that Jonah thwarted the efforts of their god to destroy him and prevent his coming. Whichever view they took would certainly cause them to respect the prophet, and this would explain why they so quickly gave favorable heed to his message.

Describing his experience in the stomach of the great fish, Jonah says, “Out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou [Jehovah] heardest my voice.” (Jon. 2:2) Here again, we have the Hebrew word sheol translated ‘hell’. It is, as we have seen, the condition of death. Symbolically speaking, Jonah was in the death state; for he was practically dead, and would have died had not the Lord delivered him. Jesus referred to Jonah’s experience as illustrative of his own death and resurrection. From this we may conclude that the Lord designed it to foreshadow the resurrection, not only of Jesus, but of all who have died; for sheol, the Bible hell, is to give up all its dead.

Jonah was quite disturbed because the Lord, taking compassion on the Ninevites because they repented, did not destroy them. As is so often the case, he was not as sympathetic and loving as the Lord whom he served. It is a human failing to make God’s love too narrow by false limits of our own. Answering Jonah’s complaint, the Lord said, “Should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand?”—Jon. 4:11

This is God’s viewpoint concerning the countless millions of humanity who have lived and died in ignorance of him. He has been, and continues to be, sympathetic toward them. Therefore he has made provision to awaken them from the dead and give them an opportunity to know and serve him in spirit and in truth.


Jesus’ birthplace foretold … The first dominion … The mountain of the Lord … Swords into plowshares

The Prophet Micah, like several others of the holy prophets, warned the Jewish nation of its sins; and also, like the other prophets who served prior to the nation’s captivity in Babylon, prophesied that this calamity would come upon the Israelites. Micah also foretold the restoration of the nation from its Babylonian captivity. Concerning this the Lord, through the prophet, said, “I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel: I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah.”—Mic. 2:12

While the prophets served God in warning Israel concerning their sins, admonishing them to obedience, and foretelling the punishments which would come upon them because of their iniquity, more important to us is their united testimony concerning the larger purpose of God which was to be carried out through the promised Messiah. In this connection, it was Micah who, in promising the coming of the Messiah, identified the city in Judah in which he would be born. “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”—Mic. 5:2

The promised Messiah is again referred to in chapter four, verse eight, where we read, “And thou, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion.” The first dominion referred to here is the dominion that was given to our first parents when the Lord told them that they were to be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over the earth.

This dominion was lost as a result of sin, and the purpose of Messiah’s coming to earth was to restore that dominion. When this is accomplished all mankind will have been restored to life as human beings and earth itself will have become one vast global paradise. In order to accomplish this grand and noble design of the Creator it was first of all necessary that Jesus die as man’s Redeemer. By his death the Redeemer purchased the lost dominion, and at the close of his thousand-year reign with his church will return it to those who shall have proved worthy to receive it.

Micah also reveals that the work of restoration was to be accomplished through the agencies of Messiah’s kingdom. As we saw in our review of the Book of Isaiah (Isa. 2:2-4), the Lord uses a mountain to symbolize Messiah’s kingdom. This beautiful symbolism appears again in the prophecy of Micah. Like the Prophet Isaiah, he also tells of the establishment of the mountain of the Lord in the last days of the reign of sin and death. He enumerates many of the blessings this mountain or kingdom will assure to the people, among them the end of war, and economic security. Micah describes this economic security poetically as every man sitting under his vine and under his fig tree. We quote this beautiful promise:

“In the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and the people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.”—Mic. 4:1-4

This reassuring promise of the ultimate triumph of Christ’s kingdom places the time for its fulfillment as the last days. The fact that it was not fulfilled in the past, therefore, is no reason to suppose that the time never will come when this beautiful description of global-wide peace will be translated into reality. There is a time element in connection with the outworking of every feature of God’s loving plan for the blessing of his human creation. The due time for the conquering power of Christ’s kingdom to be manifested in human affairs is the last days.

The expression ‘last days’, does not imply the end of human experience. Like the time of the end mentioned in the prophecy of Daniel, it refers in a general way to the last days of the reign of sin and death which began in the Garden of Eden when our first parents transgressed God’s law. For more than six thousand years the human race has been held in bondage to the unholy powers of evil, as master-minded by Satan, the Devil. For individuals it has meant sickness, pain, and death; and on the national level, war and other evils. But the time comes in God’s plan of salvation when Satan’s empire is destroyed, and Christ becomes the new ruler of the people. Under his rulership the people will learn the arts and advantages of peace. Beating swords into plowshares will then become a reality, and not merely the expression of an ideal for which people have longed but never have been able to attain. Under the administration of that mountain, or, kingdom, of the Lord, the nations will learn war no more, with the result that there will be no more war.

With the kingdom of the Lord in full operation throughout the earth, all evil will eventually be destroyed, even sickness and death. Through the conquering power of Christ’s kingdom, death will be swallowed up in victory, and all tears will be wiped away. Poetically describing the blessings of the Lord’s kingdom, in which the promised Messiah will be the chief ruler, the Prophet David wrote:

“He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass; as showers that water the earth. In his day shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace as long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.”—Ps. 72:6-8

Thus will the conquering power of Christ’s kingdom extend its promised blessings of the Lord worldwide. It was this that God promised to Abraham, and he confirmed his promise by his oath. Micah refers to this saying, “Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.”—Mic. 7:20

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