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"Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem." Acts 9:1-2 Saul, later known as the apostle Paul, was a high-ranking member of the Jewish religious body. He was avid in his love for Judaism, and a staunch defender of it against anyone bringing in any kind of deception or opposition. He searched out the followers of Christ and put them in prison. It was in the process of doing this very thing that he had an encounter with Jesus Christ. He was traveling to Damascus when: vs 3-5: "As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?' And he said, 'Who are you, Lord?' Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting...'” Don't just read those words. Get into the moment. Think of the emotional shock Paul experienced while being so dramatically encountered by the very one he hated. Imagine his astonishment. He must have sat there dazed as he tried to make sense of what was happening. In his wildest dreams he would never have imagined something like this. He was a proud Jewish leader, and here he was being thrown to the ground by the very one whose name he was trying to destroy. When he got control of himself, he asked: vs 6: "So he, trembling and astonished, said, 'Lord, what do you want me to do?'" This story is precious to me because I had a similar, though not so dramatic, event take place wherein I very suddenly came to see that what I believed from my youth was NOT the truth. And I had a similar response. It was so shocking that I reeled from it for three days until I could get hold of myself. And then I asked the same question, "Well then, what IS the truth, and who ARE you Lord?" People believe what they believe oftentimes because that's what they were taught from their youth. I was taught what I was taught from my youth, and everyone in my life believed the same, all family, friends, teachers, everyone in my life. Like Paul, I was totally sincere in my beliefs. And like Paul, I had an encounter with the Lord that absolutely stunned me as he showed me that what I believed was deception, that most of it just wasn't true, and a lot of it was outright heresy. My question to you this day is this: If the truth is something other than what you believe - would you want to stay as you are, or would you want to know the truth? It's one of the hardest questions that can be asked. Don't answer quickly before evaluating what knowing the truth might cost you. It could cost you alienation from family and friends. But it's a question every sincere person has to consider in his/her lifetime, otherwise his foundation just might be a foundation of sand. (Luke 6:47-49). Meditate on this until you "get it." It's serious, it's the most important question you will ever ask. “Who are you, Lord?” Ask the Lord to show you the truth, being willing to accept it if it is not what you've believed all your life. You'll forever rejoice that you did.

"But if you do not obey me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise my statutes, or if your soul abhors my judgments, so that you do not perform all my commandments, but break my covenant, I also will do this to you... I will even appoint TERROR over you..." Leviticus 26:14-16 In this chapter in Leviticus, God spells out the terms of the covenant. He lays down promises which, if they remain faithful to him, will bless them greatly; he also tells what will happen if they do not remain faithful to him. First, note the prophecy God is giving here. Leviticus was written by Moses long before any judgment fell on Israel. In Moses's day there was no Temple, it would only be built generations later by King Solomon. Therefore, looking back, this is an example of fulfilled prophecy, validating the Word of God written by his servant Moses, but fulfilled much later. Centuries later, the Israelites surely were taken into captivity - twice - and Scripture reveals that there would be only two captivities. The first time they were taken captive to Babylon for 70 years, then they were restored to their land and the fallen Temple rebuilt. The second time they were taken captive by Rome, and they were dispersed throughout the entire world for more than 2,000 years. Only in our generation have they been brought back and restored to the land of their fathers. Israel was proclaimed a nation on May 14, 1948. But in this restoration, they have come back in unbelief, as foretold by the prophet Ezekiel. Even the "believing" Jews in Israel put their faith in the writings of men, as recorded in their "Talmud," rather than in the Word of God. For the most part, the Jews in Israel are secular. The prophecy of their restoration is speaking to our days when it says, "I will even appoint TERROR over you..." and that's exactly what has been happening in our generation, right before our eyes. But the coming events will bring the heart of Israel back to their God. vs 40, 41, 42: "But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to me... ...if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their GUILT, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and my covenant with Isaac, and my covenant with Abraham I will remember; I will remember the land." During the horrific judgments that will come upon Israel and the whole world during the upcoming "Great Tribulation," Israel will be humbled - not by man, but by God himself. The judgments will be so great that they will finally realize that without God they are doomed. The whole point of the Great Tribulation will be to bring Israel to her knees utterly broken, and in their great affliction they will "acknowledge their offense" and earnestly seek him. And when they do, their long-awaited Messiah will come to them. But first, they have to get to where they "acknowledge their offense." "I will return again to my place till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek my face. In their affliction they will earnestly seek me.” Hosea 5:15 When God says "I will return again to my place," that suggests that he was here but went back to his place, and that points to Jesus Christ who was among them, but who was rejected by them - and truly he has returned to his place where he sits as Majesty on high, waiting to return to Israel when Israel comes to repentance. When they are totally broken and humbled, Israel will cry out for him - and then he will come into their great trouble and reveal himself to them. And then they will receive the great shock: "And one will say to him, ‘WHAT ARE THESE WOUNDS IN YOUR HANDS?’ Then he will answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’" Zechariah 13:6 And they will go into deep and grievous mourning when they realize that the Messiah - is the One they rejected: "...then they will look on me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem..." Zechariah 12:10 The Messiah will finally pardon them, cleanse them, and he will fully restore them. He will set up his Kingdom on earth ruling and reigning from Jerusalem. There will be no more terror, no more judgment: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." Isaiah 2:4 This is where the story reaches the victory, but there is much yet to happen before they get there. "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May they prosper who love you." Psalm 122:6 More: God's Covenant With Israel

"Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, so that no one went through you, I will make you an eternal excellence, a joy of many generations." Isaiah 60:15 What validates the Bible is its prophecies. God says that he declares the end from the beginning, and so he does!This is a prophecy about Israel's future, her glorious future after she has been fully restored by God in her land. And truly the land was forsaken. The author Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) visited the land in the 1860's and wrote:

"Palestine is desolate and unlovely. And why should it be otherwise? Can the curse of the Deity beautify a land?" "There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent - not for thirty miles in either direction. There are two or three small clusters of Bedouin tents, but not a single permanent habitation. One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings." "... There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country. No landscape exists that is more tiresome to the eye that that which bounds the approaches to Jerusalem..."

When Israel lost her land in 70 A.D. the Jews were dispersed throughout the earth for a very long time. No one was able to settle her land, because for as long as the Jews weren't there it didn't rain, so the land would not produce. Her land was "forsaken and hated, so that no one went through." (Isaiah 60:15) But the God of Israel promised that she would be repopulated once again when the time of her dispersion was over, and this time it will be forever as God makes Israel "an eternal excellence." In the late 19th century, Jews slowly began coming back to the land and in 1948 Israel was once again proclaimed a nation, after 2,000 years! God is in the process of restoring it, and when the Messiah returns, in that glorious day soon to come, all the enemies of Israel will be destroyed, and there will be an end to the "everlasting hatred" which has assailed her from the beginning. In 1967 Israel took the Temple Mount and it was captured on video:

Thus says the Lord: "VIOLENCE shall NO LONGER be heard in your land, neither wasting nor destruction within your borders; but you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise." Isaiah 60:18 It is in this final restoration of the land of Israel to her rightful owners, that the long-awaited Messiah will come, and he will reveal himself to those who had rejected him. They will come to the shocking revelation of who he is: "And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; THEN THEY WILL LOOK ON ME WHOM THEY PIERCED." Zechariah 12:10 The shock of recognition: "And one will say to him, ‘WHAT ARE THESE WOUNDS IN YOUR HANDS?’ Then he will answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.'" Zechariah 13:6 The Bible's story of Jacob's son Joseph who was banished by his brothers is a "type" of the Messiah being banished by his brothers, the Jewish people. In the end, in one of the most heart-wrenching passages in the Bible, Joseph reveals to his brothers who he is. You can read the story in Genesis 45. The Messiah, like Joseph, will make known his identity to his brothers, and when they recognize him they will go into deep mourning, they will mourn greatly what was done to him when Israel rejected him. "Yes, they will mourn for him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem..." Zechariah 12:10-11 But he, the Messiah, the King of Israel, will forgive them, and restore them fully. He will raise up Israel and the newly-repentant Jewish people as he promised so long ago. "Also your people shall all be righteous; they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified." Isaiah 60:21 Israel has a bright future ahead, says the God who proclaims the end from the beginning. But before he comes, there will be a terrible time, a 7-year period of horrific suffering as Satan is allowed his last hour on this earth. The Scriptures tell us that those who belong to Jesus will be taken from the earth before that terrible time begins. Bow before Jesus Christ even now and be saved, for he is your Creator and he holds his nail-scarred hands out to you that you might escape the severe tribulation that is about to take over the earth as God judges the Christ-rejecting world and prepares his people Israel to receive her Messiah. Turn to him now and be saved lest you be left behind to endure that terrible time. More: Israel's Covenant