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Friday, February 21, 2014

Return from Captivity

Did you ever think about the significance of the fact that, even though Israel returned to the Land of Promise under orders ( Ezra 1 ) of their more or less friendly captor, they were still in Captivity, both physically and spiritually ( Really & Actually )!  Even though they were back in their own Land, they still had to bow to an earthly king, and follow his leading, or pay the consequences!

National physical Israel ( 'according to the flesh' ) never, almost from the times of the Judges on, experienced true freedom!

In much the same way, those who fight against God's Headship today, both Christian and non-Christian, believer and unbeliever, are in Captivity! Until they accept His Love and Judgment, they will remain captive to idols, both real or imagined! The Captivity of which we speak is a Captivity of the heart, which has its natural outworking in physicality, or as some would call it, real life. Release from this Captivity can only come from an acknowledgement &a acceptance of the Sovereignty of God in their lives! Sure, some have found release of sorts, by distancing themselves from certain situations, people, or even one person in particular, but the adage rings true, sooner or later; 'you can't run away from yourself'!

In today's watered-down version of the Gospel, Grace is most often seen as in opposition to Law! Although Grace is prevalent in the Gospel Story, indeed, throughout the entire History of the People of God, we should see that it is not in opposition to Law, but that Law is an integral part of Grace! For a moment, consider this; in an earthly family, any good father would tell his child things like, 'don't run out into the street until the truck passes', or 'don't pick that 'stick' up', even such a simple command/warning as 'don't touch that'! Law did not come in opposition to Grace, but as an example of our Father's Love for His Children, to keep them from danger. As we know, and read throughout Scripture, this Law, though it had its intended effect in the fullness of time, was abused by His children, and even became an idol to them, one which held them in Captivity until our Heavenly Father sent His Only Begotten Son to release them and give them True Freedom!

The Israel of God, as personified by God Himself in the Perfect Man, Jesus Who was the Christ, was symbolically & corporately released from Captivity by that One final Sacrifice of the Perfect Lamb of God! The son of God had been held captive since his Genesis by the Fall of Adam, and its consequences,which were covenant death, and separation from the Full Presence of God. This Presence was restored in a fashion, first by the Tabernacle and finally by the successive Temples in Jerusalem, but His Presence with His People & the True Temple would not be Revealed until the fullness of Time had come!

Though God's People, as a Body, were released from Captivity, many of the several ( individual ) members of that Body, as well as those outside the Body, remain in an imagined, though very real captivity to this day! For whatever reason, certain Christians still see themselves as subject to 'this body of death' ( Romans 7:24b ) that Paul wrote about. Because they see themselves as still under the Curse, pretty much every aspect of their doctrine and even their lives is affected! This is not to say that those are not truly followers of Jesus, or even that those who believe thusly are adversely affected.

Captivity is a funny thing; like many other realities, it always, especially at first, seems like a bad thing! With our ability to view the past through the lens of Scripture, we can see that though Israel ( 'according to the flesh' ) often suffered severely under their Captivity, and saw it as a great evil, it was actually a good thing! Through their Captivity, the Gospel was spread to the nations around them! Daniel is probably the preeminent example of this that we have in Scripture, but other examples show forth the same Pattern. Through the foreign ministries of Joseph, for instance, a Seed was planted in Egypt, the Fruit of which was that it was said of them, 'Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance' ( Isaiah 19:25 )!

The Captivity that many people, even some Christians remain in today is much the same, in effect! Even though it often seems a bad thing, it is, in a sense, a necessary evil, for it is a Designed Captivity, one meant to bring that individual to their knees, to make them realize that the People of God have been released from their Captivity, and now enjoy the Freedom of Life in, through and with their Heavenly Father!

This Freedom no man can take away!

May We, as the Israel of God, ever Live in this Freedom we have been given, may We live our Lives as those who have been set free from our Captivity, and no matter what this world, which is our Father's, or men may throw at Us, may We always remember who We are and what We are to be about, our Father's business!

In service to His Kingdom,
Charles Haddon Shank






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