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Bible verses about Scattering
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 3:22

Exile is a form of punishment that God has used from the very beginning. Here in Genesis 3, in the book of beginnings, we have the first instance of exile imposed by God Himself. It was exile from the Garden of Eden, from all that was wonderful and good that God had created, the perfect environment in which He had placed Adam and Eve. They could never go back. God placed an angel with a flaming sword that would turn whichever way any man juked to get back. If it were still there, it would deny us "paradise" even now.

This context shows three reasons we can glean to determine why God uses exile. The first one is evident—it was punishment for their sins. Adam and Eve took of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil when God said they should not take of it. That is sin, breaking a direct command of God. Exile was the punishment.

What else can we glean? What did their exile do? It separated them from access to Him. So, secondly, exile separates man from God. He does not want to be separated from us, but because of sin, it happens. It must happen because He does not like sin in the least. So this is a kind of corollary to the first point. Sin brings exile, and sin causes separation from God.

The third point must be read into it, but it is obvious from God's intent and the way God is. God imposes exile to spur repentance because it should be the natural inclination of men who have known God and all the glorious things that we can have in His presence to return to His good graces.

In summary, the first point is exile occurs because of sin. The second point is exile happens because sinners must be separated from God. And the third point is God uses exile as a goad to motivate sinners to repent.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile


 

Genesis 11:4

The city and the tower, taken together, represent the cohesion-imparting structure we call community. Babel's builders believed that her bricks would provide economic and social stability, ensured by shared religious and military establishments. To them, Babel meant survival. The city and tower were, then, the first post-Flood comity of nations. Babel failed, of course, because God's response—dividing mankind's language—so thoroughly forced dispersion that man could never unite long enough to rebuild a single Babel.

Yet how he keeps trying! In one sense, the empire builders throughout history have merely relived the story of Babel. Its successors have been many and great: societies deemed by their inhabitants to be stable, indeed insuperable—Thebes, Tyre, Babylon, Nineveh, Rome, Paris, London, Washington. Babel just gets bigger and bigger—from city, to city-state, to nation-state, to empire, to world. Globalism, representing as it does mankind's desperate response to his fear of death due to scattering, is today's version of Babel.

Charles Whitaker
Globalism (Part One): Founded on Fear and Faithlessness


 

Leviticus 26:33

Leviticus 26:33 clearly shows that scattering results from faithless commandment-breaking, and a vomiting out of the mouth (another metaphor for scattering) is evidence of inconsistency and instability of attitude. We have not held faith with our covenantal responsibilities!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

Numbers 16:9-10

Moses lays it right back on them! They had been appointed apart from the rest of the congregation just as he had been. They despised and took lightly that appointment, desiring the higher job! They did not despise hierarchy—they despised not being HIGHER in that hierarchy! They wanted to call the shots their way.

The same is true today. Even in those groups condemning organized church government, someone emerges as spokesman, organizer, and/or leader. Those who disagree with this then split off again. The process tends to continue until little or nothing remains. Are these fruits godly?

Staff
For the Perfecting of the Saints


 

Deuteronomy 28:64

Clearly, these prophecies have not yet been fulfilled. To date, God has not actually scattered Israel among all nations. Historically, He did not use the Assyrians to scatter Israel so much as He used them to resituate Israel to locales south of the Caspian Sea, in what is now northern Iran. In process of time, God further resituated Israel through a number of migrations into rather localized areas of the earth, such as northern Europe, the British Isles (including Ireland), the North American continent, Australia, and New Zealand. Notice that these areas are isolated from the capitals of the Gentile world. The British Isles and New Zealand are islands; Australia is a continent-sized island. North America is separated from other northern hemisphere power centers by two large oceans.

These lands to which God led Israel were generally under-populated before Israel invaded them and displaced the aboriginal—Gentile—populations. These aboriginal peoples did not constitute the bulk of Gentiles. Far from it. The majority of the Gentiles lived, and continue to live, in areas isolated from the lands of national Israel. The Gentiles are concentrated in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Asian Subcontinent, and South America, as well as in certain areas of southern and eastern Europe. With the exceptions of the State of Israel and South Africa, Israelite migrations to these Gentile areas have generally not been extensive to date.

So today's world looks like this: The Gentiles are concentrated in certain areas of the world, while Israel is concentrated in other areas of the world. Relatively low numbers of Gentiles live among the Israelites, and, again in relative terms, even fewer Israelites live in Gentile areas, such as Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Africa. Clearly, those Israelites residing in South Africa make up an exception to the pattern. However, when God scatters Israel to all nations, the exception will be the rule. The present plight of Israelites living in South Africa will become Israel's commonplace plight everywhere.

To this day, God has not yet scattered Israel among the Gentiles en masse, not yet sifted them "among all nations." Today's demographic reality does not look at all like the population distribution of which God speaks in Deuteronomy 28, Ezekiel 20, or Amos 9.

This level of scattering is yet to come. A number of scriptures appear to connect this vast displacement of Israelites with Israel's fall and the time of "Jacob's Trouble." For example:

One-third of you shall die of the pestilence, and be consumed with famine in your midst; and one-third shall fall by the sword all around you; and I will scatter another third to all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them. (Ezekiel 5:12)

Does the scattering mentioned here occur before Israel's fall or after? As an approach to that question, it may be instructive to compare Matthew 24 with Ezekiel 5. Note, however, that the order in which the terrible events cataloged in them is not the same. Comparing the number of thens in Matthew 24 with the number of thens in Ezekiel 5 suggests another difference. Matthew wins out, with his ten to Ezekiel's two. As Herbert Armstrong so often pointed out, Matthew 24 is sequential—first this, then that, "immediately after" the other.

However, aside from the last clause of Ezekiel 5:12, where it is quite obvious that the sword will follow the third God has scattered "to all the winds," there is no explicit idea of sequence in the Ezekiel passage. Nothing in verse 12 (or in its companion, verse 2) argues for a sequence of events: first pestilence, then famine, then war, then scattering. Even though war is mentioned in this passage after pestilence and famine, the war of which God speaks could cause—and hence, precede—the pestilence and famine. Historically, this is not at all an unusual sequence. War comes first, causing famine.

So, it is possible, even plausible, that some part of the prophesied scattering could take place before the pestilence. It could even take place in a time of relative peace and prosperity.

Of course, none of this denies the fact that the final dissolution of the nations of modern-day Israel will not be accompanied by vast, involuntary migrations. That will certainly be the case. Yet, given the magnitude of the prophesied sifting/scattering, it remains plausible that God may at least begin to scatter Israel before her national destruction, using as His vehicle the widespread "open borders" established by a globalized international community. Such borders would facilitate easy migration from nation to nation (just as between Canada and the United States today).

Charles Whitaker
Globalism (Part Nine): Running To and Fro


 

Judges 2:11-15

Forms of the situation described here appear frequently in the history of Israel's relationship with God. Several hundred years after this, God inspired Isaiah to write, "Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hand is My indignation. I will send him against an ungodly nation, and against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, to seize the spoil, to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets" (Isaiah 10:5-6). This can only mean that God inspires and empowers the Assyrian nation to punish the nations of Israel for their flagrant disobediences.

Such punishment precipitated Israel being scattered, taken into captivity into foreign lands, and losing their homeland, to which they have never returned. God remarks in II Kings 17:18, after providing a long list of Israel's sins, "Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone."

However, the tribe of Judah was hardly better than Israel, as II Kings 17:19 states: "Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made." The result was similar to Israel's, for in II Kings 24:2-4 God carried out His threats of punishment against Judah too:

And the Lord sent against [Jehoiakim] raiding bands of Chaldeans, bands of Syrians, bands of Moabites, and bands of the people of Ammon; He sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord which He had spoken by His servants the prophets. Surely at the commandment of the Lord this came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and because of the innocent blood that he had shed; for he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon.

Much negative, indeed inflammatory commentary, arose in America's newspapers and radio and television programs when some suggested that we are not as innocent as we like to think we are and that we must consider the attacks of September 11 to be a judgment from God and repent. The fact remains that, long before the attacks occurred, critics of American morality—Americans themselves—have been calling upon their fellow citizens to change their immoral ways. The attacks and a wave of sympathy for the grief of those directly impacted by them, as well as a sudden spurt of patriotism, changed the way people heard these messages. Before, they just tuned them out. After all, the messages were not for them but for others because they considered themselves to be okay. Afterward, however, the sense of being innocent victims of a sneaky and undeserved attack made the hearers feel that the messages were demeaning and insulting. But were they true?

In addition to the undisputed fact of God's sovereignty over Israel, ample additional evidence exists to show that He exercises equal dominion over the other nations of the world. He determines their rise and fall and the times of dominance of every nation. Clearly, God judges the inhabitants of His creation, and His judgments are not limited to Israel or to "biblical times." God lives and He always rules and judges—just as surely today as He did thousands of years ago. Since the One who judged during Old Testament times is the same One who judges today, we can be certain that He uses the same standards now that He did then. His laws, which define His standards of morality, have not changed one iota. Jesus emphatically asserts in the Sermon on the Mount that we should not think that He came to destroy the law or the prophets (Matthew 5:17). Indeed, Malachi 3:6 proclaims, "I am the Lord, I do not change," while Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus "is the same yesterday, today, and forever."

Is God to blame because He exercises His authority, punishing to maintain order and to continue the advancement of His purpose in His creation? Who sins and brings upon themselves the necessity of punishment? God does not sin, men do. If God does not punish for sin, then righteousness loses all meaning. Life will soon become a violent free-for-all (Ecclesiastes 8:11). The Bible makes it clear that human nature is violently evil, and when left unchecked as it was before the Flood, it will reproduce similar conditions (Genesis 6:5). Indeed, God forecasts that exactly those conditions will face those living just before Christ's return (Matthew 24:37). Every indication is that we live during that time now.

The Bible prophesies scores of horrific punishments: epidemics of incurable diseases; wars; fires burning fields, forests, and homes; earthquakes; famines; floods from raging seas; violent weather patterns; and infestations of insects and wild animals. All of these occur as punishments for sin as God exacts His vengeance on "those who destroy the earth" (Revelation 11:18). "Earth" here represents all aspects of His creation—including man—which He created for man.

God is most certainly not to blame if He reacts in accordance with what He has told man He will do. Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 establish that, if one does well, God will bless him. Conversely, God strongly warns that, if one does not do well, He will surely punish him. Though not to blame because His sins did not cause these tragedies, He is responsible for them because He at least allowed them to occur. He may even have inspired them to occur and oversaw events so that they would.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is God to Blame?


 

2 Kings 4:35

Elisha again stretches himself out on the child, and this time something happens: The child sneezes seven times and opens his eyes! What a strange way to resurrect the dead! Its very peculiarity demands a spiritual parallel, and indeed it has one.

No medical rationale sufficiently explains the boy's sneezing. One commentator writes that, because the child's illness centered in his head, the seven sneezes relieved the pressure that had caused his death. Wanting a rational explanation, other commentators insist the Septuagint, which lacks this clause about the child sneezing, is correct. Yet others declare that the word should be "breathed" and Elisha is the subject (for example, the Revised English Bible reads, ". . . he [Elisha] breathed into him seven times")! The last two "solutions" have very little textual support.

These rationalists fail to recognize that miracles are by nature irrational! The child's sneezes, therefore, are not as medically important as they are spiritually significant. God is more interested in our grasping the lesson in this "parable" than He is in explaining how He worked the boy's resurrection. The seven sneezes are the key to the entire story! They are spiritual therapy!

What is a sneeze? Webster's Dictionary defines it as "a sudden violent spasmodic audible expiration of breath through the nose and mouth especially as a reflex act." This last phrase shows that most sneezes occur as a reaction to an irritant of some sort: dust, dander, allergen, etc. The respiratory system convulses, and a 240-mph blast of air attempts to dislodge and expel the offending particle.

Does sneezing have a spiritual counterpart? Yes! The act of repentance is the part we play in clearing ourselves of irritants—sins—that enter our lives. Through repentance, we expel everything that is foreign to God's way of life. Notice Paul's description of repentance in II Corinthians 7:10-11:

For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted. . . . For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

In the analogy of reviving a body to life, sneezing is a perfect picture of the individual Christian's repentance!

One other detail remains: The child sneezed seven times. The number seven—used multiple times in the Bible—is notable for signifying completion, totality, perfection. The book of Revelation contains numerous groups of sevens: lampstands, stars, angels, churches, spirits, eyes, seals, trumpets, plagues, bowls, thunders, heads, crowns, mountains and kings. Solomon uses the number seven to show a complete list of things God hates (Proverbs 6:16-19). Sacrifices are often in groups of seven (Leviticus 23:18; I Chronicles 15:26). Scripture includes numerous other references to seven.

That the child sneezed seven times is an illustration of complete repentance. Just as Elisha's part takes his complete exertion, so must the child put his all into the cure. One or two sneezes are not enough to rid him completely of his illness; he must sneeze until it is completely gone. Then, completely restored to his former health, he can live a new life without fear of relapse. Back in the embrace of his mother, he can go out and be a witness of God's mercy and power (II Kings 4:36-37; 8:5).

The spiritual parallels are obvious. David cries out to God in his prayer of repentance:

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity. . . . Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. . . . Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to you. . . . The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise. Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem. (Psalm 51:2, 7, 13, 17-18)

This is the kind of repentance God seeks from us now. The church has not been scattered because of righteousness! God's displeasure with our deplorable spiritual condition has resulted in His violent expulsion of us (Revelation 3:16; see Leviticus 26:33; Daniel 12:7; Amos 9:9-10). To return to His good graces—to revive God's church—we have to expel the sin from ourselves completely, totally, permanently, so we can be suitable representatives of Him before the world. Only then will we be fit to preach the gospel with any power to the world.

When that time will come, only God knows, and He will open the door to get it done. In the meantime, our job is to become clean by the grace of God, the blood of Christ, and the scouring effect of sincere and deep repentance. Revelation, an end-time book, contains one-third of the Bible's occurrences of "repent" (New King James version), and this should convince us how important repentance is at this time. Christ tells the Laodiceans, "Therefore be zealous [earnest, eager] and repent" (Revelation 3:19).

This is the lesson of Elisha's resurrection of the Shunammite woman's son: God's true ministers and the members must work together to produce repentance, putting God's church back on the road to His Kingdom and eternal life!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Elisha and the Shunammite Woman, Part II: Serving God's Children


 

2 Kings 17:33

This chapter reports on the behavior of the people placed in Israel after Israel's conquest and deportation by Assyria between 722-720 BC. These people, who became known as the Samaritans, feared the Lord but worshipped their own gods. They were afraid of God, but they did not really change their way of life. Thus, they developed a syncretic religious system, a blending of the truth of God and outright paganism. The Jews of Christ's day clearly recognized this putrid blend and despised the Samaritans for it.

What is so interesting is that, by verse 36, God is no longer reporting on the Samaritans but is addressing Israel. In other words, God is saying that He was driven to defeat and scatter Israel because they were guilty of exactly the same sin as the Samaritans! They too had blended the worship of the true God with outright paganism, utterly corrupting the relationship He had established with them.

It is urgent that we understand what is involved here because it reveals the cause of God's anger that led to Israel's defeat and scattering. We must understand that our god is not what we say we worship but what we serve. Our god is what we give our lives over to.

Theoretically, the Israelites did not believe in idols, but in reality, they did. They believed in a Creator God, but they worshipped Him at the shrines they erected to the Baals. While they gave lip service to the Creator, they adopted most of the Canaanitish religion with its lewd immorality, and in actual practice, patterned their life after it. In daily life, they conformed to and reflected the Babylonish system just as Israel does today. This is exactly what God warns us to flee, and the only way to come out of it is by developing and maturing in our relationship with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Be There Next Year


 

Psalm 11:4-5

The church was scattered when the doctrines were changed, producing confusion and badly disturbing the doctrinal foundation. But David is reminding us that, in reality, God is still on His throne! He knows what is occurring, and we are not to lose hope. He is testing us to see our reaction is to the destruction of what we thought was so solid. But truth cannot be destroyed! We must still have faith in it. If we do, we will use it despite what is happening around us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 3): Ephesians 4 (A)


 

Psalm 11:4

The church becomes scattered when the foundations—the doctrines of our faith—are altered, and confusion is produced because the doctrinal foundation is so badly disturbed. But David is reminding us that the reality is nothing has changed because God is still in charge—and we can have faith in that. He has not changed. Men may attempt to change the doctrines, but God has not changed, nor has His truth or His purpose. We can continue on as before—we are not to turn aside.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 5): Ephesians 4 (B)


 

Psalm 137:2-6

This describes the bitterness of exile into which God forced Judah. Have we ever felt this way? Have we sighed and cried for the abominations of the church? That is what the Judeans who really learned the lesson of the exile did. It absolutely broke them down. They had to sit down and weep.

There is something to exile, to scattering, that God finds very good. It is not all grief. We know that God does nothing that is not for our good - either immediately or ultimately. One of the results of exile, if a person responds to it, is repentance, which is what God is looking for.

He wants our grief to be turned, as Paul says (II Corinthians 7:8-11), into zeal, into putting our whole hearts into our sorrow and then into the fruit that can be built from it. He wants us to get angry that we allowed things to go so far and to clear it out. Anger can be used to scour away sin, to be righteously indignant. We can use it like Drano® to clear the pipes and then direct that zeal to become righteous and holy once again, to do the things that God commands.

God will do whatever it takes to get us on the same page with Him, and if it means turning our lives upside down, turning us inside out, He will do it because He loves us. He still has us in the palm of His hand. We are still the apple of His eye, but He is not like a modern liberal who will not punish. He is a God who knows how to produce sons and daughters, and sometimes the worst punishments produce the best results. If He thinks the punished person will cooperate and learn the lesson, God is willing to take it that far.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile


 

Isaiah 1:4-6

Israel was sick, diseased from top to bottom. One might say, "Yes, this was the unconverted nation, not the converted children of God." But do not forget Romans 15:4 and I Corinthians 10:11: "All these things are written for our learning, for our admonition." These Old Testament books were written for the church, and these verses show us the pattern according to which God will act. When iniquity reaches a certain point, in order to save us, He will scatter us. We cannot escape His condemnation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 1)


 

Jeremiah 6:8

This description of Judah is given just before God drove them into captivity to Babylon. God's pattern, beginning back in Genesis 15, is to scatter, to destroy when the iniquity is full. God determines what "full" is, and it might be different for the Amorites than it is for those who have made a covenant with Him. Nonetheless, when God judges that the people's iniquity has reached a certain point, He scatters. This description shows that they were filled with iniquity from top to bottom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 1)


 

Jeremiah 7:4-12

We can learn a great deal from the prophets' descriptions of conditions in Israel in the years just before God scattered them. Jeremiah 7 contains an especially vivid description, describing attitudes and conduct just before Babylon's invasion of Judah. Anybody who cares and diligently searches for the causes of our present scattered condition can easily find many of them.

Verse 4 reveals a casual, self-righteous, and presumptuous self-confidence that, since they were fellowshipping with the "church," everything would be fine! Nevertheless, the enemy conquered Judah and took the people into captivity, so membership in the church is no guarantee that judgment will not come on us individually or collectively. Jeremiah expresses the Jews' prideful assumption of being above correction, an attitude that has its basis in a confused understanding of God's love and the purity of His holiness.

We must be prepared for God's Kingdom. The attitudes and conduct of these people, expressed here but applied to us now, show that we were not living up to God's expectations. We can learn, though, that fellowshipping with the church without the right attitudes and conduct can easily foster a delusion that all is well, while by God's judgment all clearly is not well! Verses 5-6 illustrate that their judgment of how to apply God's Word in their lives was severely compromised. They definitely did not love their neighbor as themselves; they were unmistakably self-centered. Is there more evidence here that we may have been the same?

Verse 10 expresses the extent this delusion had permeated their lives. By ignoring God's moral and ethical demands, they were in effect telling God that attending services released them from the guilt accrued during the rest of their lives. It was as if God's judgments did not apply to them. They were after all "in the church," right? It reads almost as if they felt they were doing God a favor by showing up! What is more, while there, they heard insipid messages telling them, "Peace, peace. Everything is okay. God's grace covers all."

Though ceremonially going through the motions, they lacked thorough dedication and devotion to God's way in every aspect of life. Beginning in verse 12, God reminds them that they should remember the history of former generations and take warning because they are on track to experience the same calamities. Have we in our time repeated their assumptions that everything is fine when it is not? It seems so, since the Laodicean assumes he is rich and increased with goods and needs nothing. The reality is that he is blind to his true condition and not clothed with God's righteousness.

God has called us into a courtship relationship leading to marriage with Jesus Christ. He makes clear what He expects from us as our part in this relationship. Jesus says to His disciples, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). A love relationship requires each to sacrifice thoughtfully for the other. Keeping of the commandments does not "save" us, but it prepares us to live eternally with Him and shows our attitude of submission to Him.

Jeremiah 7:5-9 plainly portrays precious little concern for fellow man. In fact, most of the sins Jeremiah directly mentions are transgressions of the last five commandments. Only one sin, idolatry, focuses directly on the first four commandments. This suggests that a breakdown in human relationships quickly followed the disintegration of the relationship between God and Israel. Similarly, I John 4:20-21 calls upon those who say they love God and claim to be Christians to love the brethren. John goes so far as to say that, if we do not love the brethren, our claim to love God is a lie! This is another area in which many fell short, and it led to division, which continues to the present.

This indicates that self-absorbed people indulged themselves at others' expense. Self-absorption produces strained marital relationships (and ultimately divorce) and alienated children as they and their parents go in wildly different directions. Within congregations, it yields shallow and casual relationships that show little true concern. Its fruit are intolerance, impatience, strong opinions about trivial things, offense, harsh judging, and division.

It produces busy people who feel as if they are accomplishing a great deal because they seem to get many things done. The church member may even prosper more than at any other time in his life. However, the busy-ness is spent on things of minor spiritual importance. Meanwhile, the relationship with God, while existent, is allowed to be neglected. That is what Laodiceanism is. People bring it in from the world where God is a figurehead but with whom there is no relationship. It is a deceitful fruit of too much time, attention, and energy focused on the wrong things. Laodiceanism is deceitful because the Bible reveals that the person afflicted with it is unaware that he has it. He is blind to it, but God certainly is not because He is being neglected in this relationship. How can He possibly marry someone who will not draw close to Him because of involvement in so many other things?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Seven)


 

Jeremiah 23:1-3

We have a wonderful promise from God—that He has not forgotten about us and that He will punish those who are most responsible. Even though there was sin from the top to the bottom within the church, the ministry bears the major portion of the responsibility for the church's scattered, weak condition because we should have done something. He undoubtedly expects more of us than we gave to Him—and than we gave to you.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Avoiding Superficiality


 

Jeremiah 29:4

God's message here applies to the entire church, the greater church of God, the scattered ekklesia, the ones who have been dispersed from our former church home into the wilds of this world to fend for ourselves. Some of us have banded together into church groups, some larger, some smaller. Others are remaining by themselves, and many of these will likely melt back into the world. Nevertheless, what He says is directed at us—at all of us—who have been sent away, and it is excellent advice.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile


 

Lamentations 2:8-10

Jeremiah does not specifically use the term "plumb line" here, but in verse 8, he uses "line," meaning a measuring line: "He has stretched out a line." It is a similar image. When a workman lays down concrete or puts up posts for a fence, he stretches out a line to make sure that his work meets the measurements for that particular project. God has done this as well. He has stretched out a line, and the implication is that, in this case, the daughter of Zion has crossed it! So He said, "That's it!" and He did all these terrible things that Lamentations speaks of. God destroyed the wall, made the people suffer lack and degradation, etc.

In destroying the wall—taking away the people's source of protection—He will determine who trusts Him and who does not. He will see who will stick by Him and His way of life and who will not. When the wall is destroyed, people and their characterss are exposed. Then God will see just where they stand—on which side of the line: on His side or on the other side.

Verse 9 mentions scattering: "Her king and her princes are among the nations." It also speaks of disregard of His law: "The Law is no more." He writes also, "Her prophets find no vision from the LORD," meaning there is a disconnect between God's people and God Himself. They are not getting the instruction they need.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 5)


 

Ezekiel 5:2-3

The "them" has to be the last of the third, those that he is to scatter in the wind. So we have three separate, distinct piles. He takes the third pile and throws it. However, before doing so, he just takes a small number of hairs from that pile and puts them into the folds of his garment, or as we might say, into his pocket. Then what remains he throws up into the air, and it just gets blown away. We understand this means people will be blown into all nations, that is, scattered and likely in captivity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 1)


 

Ezekiel 20:12-13

Verses 23-24 go on to indicate the consequence of Israel's refusal to become sanctified by obeying God's laws: God says He "lifted [His] hand in an oath, . . . that I would scatter them among the Gentiles and disperse them throughout the countries, because they had not executed My judgments, but had despised My statutes, profaned My Sabbaths. . . ." If Israel insisted on acting like the nations of the world, God says He would physically place them among those nations; Israel would become separated from God and the land He promised them. They would become "sifted" (see Amos 9:9) among the Gentile nations.

Leviticus 18:24-30 outlines the inevitable separation that a nation (or an individual) will undergo as a result of commandment-breaking: "The land vomits out its inhabitants" (verse 25). This is the national consequence of breaking the commandments. God states the result to individuals in verse 29: "Whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people." Vomiting and cutting-off are both metaphors for separation.

Nationally and individually, commandment-breaking always yields the same ultimate punishment: separation from God. That separation may come slowly, as Ecclesiastes 8:11 points out, but always surely.

The history of the children of Israel proves the point. God wanted Israel to be a special, sanctified nation; a holy one. He promised to bestow incredible blessings on it if it acted to separate itself from the social and religious practices of other nations. Israel failed as a nation because it failed to be holy!

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Twelve): The Sign


 

Daniel 12:7

In the larger context of end-time events, "the holy people" refers to God's chosen nation, Israel. The church, however, can also be alluded to here in antitype: Peter calls the church "a holy nation, His own special people" (I Peter 2:9). Both of these groups, Israel and the church, seem to be in the process of having their power "completely shattered."

This expression in the Hebrew has the primary meaning of "broken in pieces," "scattered," or "dispersed by force." It can mean something akin to "explode." When an object explodes, its pieces fly apart, and it can no longer do what it was made to do. The individual pieces are powerless to accomplish what the whole object did. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

This must be part of the meaning of the verse because the word power is really the Hebrew word for "hand." The hand symbolizes a person's ability to do work, to accomplish, to act. The translators have taken it to mean the more abstract "might" or "power," but they could have rendered it as "ability," "strength," or "effectiveness."

If this is so, we can expect the church's ability to do an effective work to decline still further because our power is not yet completely shattered. That is why it is so important that we make use of the abilities still left to us: to prepare ourselves for God's Kingdom. As an encouraging Jewish proverb reminds us, "When God shuts a door, He opens a window." We can take other avenues in the meantime while the road ahead is blocked for doing a public work.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Remnant


 

Matthew 13:24-30

This parable is another illustration showing why the true church is scattered in many organizations. The Kingdom of Heaven resembles the situation on a man's farm. The farmer sows good seed, but while the plants are developing, weeds sprout up. The true and the false are mingled together in the same field. It is interesting that the bad seed is sown while everybody is asleep. Consider this in relation to Matthew 25:1-13, the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Laodiceanism put us asleep, and the bad seed was sown among us then.

Notice, too, that God clearly shows that the sowing of bad seed was a deliberate act. An enemy did this! To understand this correctly, we have to recognize that God permitted it and it will continue! Both will remain until God separates us at the resurrection.

This parable is fulfilled in the visible church. If we compare this to Revelation 2 and 3, we can conclude that in some of the churches, the tares dominate. This does not mean that true Christians are not there. For instance, in Thyatira, tares are running things! The same is true of the Pergamos church, where Satan's seat is. How about Sardis? They have a name that they are alive, but they are dead! Jesus says that only a few among them are still awake, who have not left the faith.

We can also conclude that all of the churches of God have tares in them. It is entirely logical to think that every one of those churches have a variety of true Christians in various stages of development. They contain a mixture of seed, good and bad, in various stages of growth.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 8): Ephesians 4 (E)


 

Acts 8:1

The church is under attack. A powerful persecution is under way, and many sheep have been scattered. But what is often heard among "independent Christians" are cries such as, "I'll never follow another man!" or "No man is going to tell me what to do!" or "Beware of any group that has a hierarchical governmental structure."

While a limited amount of wisdom may be in such thinking, these independents may be failing to see a very real problem because they are looking in only one direction. While they critically examine others, problems of equal or greater magnitude in the areas of ignorance of God's Word, of respect for government, or gross intolerance for another's weaknesses may be in them.

They have reacted by divorcing themselves from any group and "floating" among many groups. Their attitude is such that, even when they do attend, they are in reality just passing through. It is very much like the modern practice of a man and woman living together without commitment. Each "takes" what they can get from the relationship, but one is always free to leave if things do not go quite as planned.

Daniel writes:

Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered [scattered, KJV], all these things shall be finished. (Daniel 12:7)

Surely the enemy has attacked, and the sheep are scattered! Jesus says,

And when he [the true shepherd] brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. (John 10:4-5)

We had good reason to flee our former association: The voice of a stranger was heard within it, and we could not follow him. But is it possible that the "independents" still do not hear the True Shepherd's voice? Could they have fled for different reasons? This is why these people may be in very real danger. They cannot come to any shepherd because their confusion and governmental problems are preventing it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
In the Grip of Distrust


 

Romans 8:14-16

A Christian is one who has the Spirit of God. Notice the use of the terms "Father," "Son," and "children," while in other places, the terms are "Bridegroom" and "bride," all of which suggest a family relationship. A family of which God is a part is a spiritual organism, and we are in it in a spiritual relationship, gradually taking on the characteristics of that spirit Family. When scattering and division occurs within the church, it is because we are losing those God-Family characteristics and reverting to the characteristics of our former spirit father, Satan.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 4)


 

Ephesians 4:2

Forbearance is a vital part of agape love. Paul's immediate change of subject in verse 3 indicates that by bearing with one another in love, unity of the Spirit is produced. Very interesting and helpful for us today.

Forbearance in love produces unity. When we see disunity and scattering, we can be sure that someone has thrown out forbearance, love, and humility, which the apostle had mentioned earlier. When these virtues are absent, the church goes to the four winds because the members cannot put up with each other. They find reasons to be offended, and they scatter.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

Ephesians 4:13

Perfect unity will not occur until we all believe and know, and therefore act, like our elder brother, Jesus Christ. This is why the ministry goes over the same territory Sabbath after Sabbath—because we have not reached perfect unity yet. We have by no means "come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God." We have not come "to a perfect man." We have not come "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ," so the ministry keeps on preaching. It is its job, and if the preaching of it becomes trite, repetitive, boring—sorry, that is the ministry's job.

Ministers have to keep going over it until the perfect man is produced in the body of Christ. We will probably never reach it in this life, so church members should get used to hearing the same old sermons every week. It is hoped that ministers can come at it from new angles, provide deeper knowledge, explain things in a little bit better way each time, and make it seem fresh and interesting. But God, who gave the ministry this goal, desires that we strive to attain it, and so the ministry, if it is going to be faithful, will keep on preaching because it is in everyone's best interest that it do so. We all want to be in God's Kingdom.

It is obvious that the church has not reached perfect unity, and in fact, some of us have regressed in recent years. We can easily see this because, though Christ is not divided, the church is. We have schisms, and schisms are there to prove who is on His side. Paul says there must be schisms, factions, heresies, in the church because they expose, make manifest, those who are really following Christ (I Corinthians 11:19). The goal is that there be no divisions (I Corinthians 12:25), but Paul tells us that there will be, and that is the way God set up the church.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
It Takes a Church


 

Hebrews 2:1-4

Paul's warning to the Hebrews here is a bit stronger than what he says in Philippians 1:27. He says there, "Let's all with one mind strive together to keep the faith of the gospel." Here he says, "Give earnest heed to the doctrine, to the gospel, to the things we heard, because we're in danger of losing it!" He feels he must frighten them, saying, "Don't you remember that under the Mosaic dispensation people were punished very severely for neglecting what they had heard? Every transgression and disobedience received a just reward. How much greater under the dispensation through Christ, the Son?" He is quite serious. Work hard. Be diligent. Make your calling sure!

It is about this same time that Peter and Jude add their voices to his. The brethren were undergoing a rough time because false ministers and false teachers were in the church, and like us, they also had to fight off the pressures from the world to conform. It takes great effort to resist both in the church and out in the world. When there are problems among us, it is tough. When we must also resist all the downward pulls outside in society, it is a difficult, sore trial. Thus, Paul uses particularly strong language to motivate them to stand up, face the problem, give it their all, and vanquish it.

Are we in a similar circumstance? Perhaps some of the details are different; the deception has taken a somewhat different form (this time we do not have to contend with Gnosticism, per se). However, there is enough similarity that warnings here, as well as in the books of Peter, John, and Jude, make a lot of sense. Certainly the results, the fruit of false teaching, are the same: apostasy, falling away, confusion, distrust (especially of those who have been given a measure of authority, the ministry), scattering, and disunity. The apostles, then, are speaking to us.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Hebrews 3:17

The last phrase ("Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness?") indicates a scattering of dismembered bodies, as if they had been left unburied. These "corpses" were the same people who came out of Egypt with great joy, exulting in their new-found liberty. They yearned for a settled and free life in a land that was their own. But, instead of knowing the joy and plenty of the Promised Land, they chose to sentence themselves to live a life of homeless wandering in a barren land and to die and perhaps be buried in an unmarked grave. Chosen to be the beneficiaries of God's great blessings in a rich land, they instead lived poor and hungry in the wilderness, discontented, and often at war because of their sins. Their example ought to be a sobering warning.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Wandering the Wilderness in Faith


 

James 1:1

In New Testament times, the house of Israel was still scattered—still in a state of punishment. Therefore, Israel was still in exile as late as the generation of James, still punished more than 750 years after Assyria conquered it.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Seven): Seven Years' Punishment


 

1 Peter 5:1-3

The apostle Peter called Jesus "the Chief Shepherd" (I Peter 5:4). But this same Peter also admonished earth-bound men, elders of the church, to be shepherds to the church of God.

Many "independent Christians" maintain the notion that they are going to follow only Christ. The unspoken (and sometimes spoken) charge is that there is no need for the ministry. If that is so, why then does God consider scattered sheep as not being in a fold? Notice Jeremiah 23:1-4:

"Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!" says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: "You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings," says the Lord. "But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking," says the Lord.

This same principle is expressed in Ezekiel 34.

The independents are scattered, but they think they are in the fold. If their premise is correct, then why all the instruction in the Bible about gathering those who are scattered? The Bible gives the impression that a person is not in the fold unless he is with the group. Why else did Jesus give the parable of leaving the ninety-nine sheep to rescue the one not with the flock? It is interesting that Jesus depicted the separated sheep in His parable in Matthew 18:12-14 as having gone astray, and in Luke 15:4-7 as being lost.

Jesus has set certain men in His church as shepherds to tend His flock under Him. They are described in Ephesians 4:11-16 as His gift to the church. In giving this gift to the church, He in turn gave gifts to them to enable them to perform their job. Like all others, some perform their appointed tasks faithfully (Matthew 25:21, 23), while others are unjust stewards of their responsibilities (Acts 20:30).

To whom much is given, much is required, and so the minister will have to answer for his use of those gifts. James makes it very clear that the teacher will receive the stricter judgment (James 3:1). But the independent has a strong proclivity to paint all with one brush, perhaps forgetting that he also will have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ to answer for his use of his gifts and for his possibly too critical judgments.

What is the independent looking for? Is he looking for a pastor completely unstained by any hint of defect in character or expression of personality? Where will he find him? Is he looking for a leader with absolutely perfect doctrine? What is it? Is he looking for a teacher who has exquisite ability to express the teaching with clarity and beauty? Is he looking for the fruits of that person's ministry? I think a person should look for these things. It would be wonderful to find such a person, but at the same time we must realize that finding all of them in perfection in one man will be very difficult. Especially in this difficult time, one should not make his search with the attitude that he will settle down and take root only when he finds a pastor who deserves to have him in the congregation!

God makes it very clear that other shepherds besides Christ are necessary for leading and caring for His people. Zechariah 10:2 says, "For the idols speak delusion; the diviners envision lies, and tell false dreams; they comfort in vain. Therefore the people wend their way like sheep; they are in trouble because there is no shepherd." The context makes very clear that God is speaking of human leaders.

Moses understood the need for human leadership even though Israel had the cloud to follow in the wilderness (Numbers 27:15-20). The context shows God's clear assent to Moses' proposal.

Making a diligent and honest search for a true shepherd of the church of God is everyone's responsibility. It is imperative that we find a fold where we can be properly fed and where we can serve. The enemy has scattered the flock through the extensive doctrinal changes, and God has permitted it for our good.

John W. Ritenbaugh
In the Grip of Distrust


 

Revelation 3:7

The key of David - (See Isaiah 22:22; 9:6; Matthew 28:18) A misunderstanding of this symbol may have fostered abuses of church or ministerial authority. For decades, the church interpreted Revelation 3:7 to mean the church had "God's government," and the ministry too often wielded this club with a heavy hand (Ezekiel 34:1-10; Jeremiah 23:1-3). Revelation 3:7, however, is clear that the key of David belongs, not to the church, but to the One who is holy and true, Jesus Christ. He alone has the authority to govern the church and to open and shut doors before it.

Jeremiah 23:20 predicts that we will fully understand this problem "in the latter days." Having experienced man's misuse of Christ's authority and the church's scattering, we should now see that in its administration the church must be very careful to stay within the bounds of true Christianity and not usurp God's prerogatives.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Philadelphia


 

Revelation 3:16

Christ's grotesque use of vomit spewing from His mouth captures the violent and repulsive scattering of the church. No part of His church has escaped the scattering of God. We have all sinned and come short of His glory. None have been righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10-23)! Among the curses for following the Word of God improperly is scattering and withdrawal of blessings (Deuteronomy 28:15-47; Leviticus 26:33). Some still claim God is blessing them greatly, but these are mainly empty words and false hopes. The scattering continues and will do so until God is satisfied that repentance has been achieved. God's objective is to show us that we are still far too complacent, not having turned to Him wholeheartedly, merely feignedly.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Laodicea


 

 




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