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The Greatest Story Rarely Told

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The Greatest Story Rarely Told

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Each year as the fall festival season arrives I am reminded of the greatest story rarely told. 

Something begins prior to the Seven Trumpets that is more important to the success of the Millennium than all but a few events. This is a story well worth telling. We view the greatest events of this period as the return of Jesus Christ, the First Resurrection and the coming universal availability of the Holy Spirit—but these are stories we tell often. So, what is the story rarely told?

It is the story of the captivity. Maybe we skip over it because it begins before the Day of Trumpets, or because it doesn’t fit into the joyfulness of the Feast of Tabernacles, but it’s a story that needs to be told.

The story reminds me of “Groundhog Day,” a movie about a self-centered, opportunistic TV weatherman who becomes caught up in an endless time loop, waking up every morning at 6:00 a.m. to relive Groundhog Day until a drastic change occurs in his character. Israel has been living in its own Groundhog Day since the Exodus.

In Exodus 19:6, God assigned Israel the task of being a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Yet the physical nation of Israel has consistently not lived up to this commission. First it flunked the assignment as a unified nation. Then the House of Israel flunked it. Later the House of Judah flunked it. The Jews who returned from captivity flunked it and today modern-day Israel is flunking it—a perfect record. God designed the coming captivity to bring about an end to Israel’s Groundhog Day and its perfect string of failures.

When you understand the story of the captivity, you come to see that God has never abandoned His goal for Israel. God still wants what He wanted in the wilderness and He won’t quit until He gets it—a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

The story has a tragic beginning but ends as the most beautiful human drama of all times. It starts when God’s longsuffering ends and He calls once more for the captivity of His people. The account is found in multiple locations and speaks of a time when one-third of modern-day Israel will die by famine and disease, one-third will die of warfare and one-third will go into captivity. God will reserve to Himself a tithe of the people but it appears that even these He will further refine (Zechariah 13:8-9; Ezekiel 5:1-4; Ezekiel 5:12-13; Amos 5:3; Isaiah 6:10-13). The captivity will be the refining crucible in which God makes the determination of who will populate millennial Israel. He will work with the precision of a harvester sifting grain and promises that not one grain will fall to the ground unaccounted for (Amos 9:8-10).

When the sorting is completed, God will mercifully deliver the captives in such a dramatic fashion that it will pale nearly  into insignificance the miraculous deliverance of Israel from Egypt (Jeremiah 16:14-15; Jeremiah 23:7-8). While the deliverance is spectacular, even more significant will be the change of the hearts and minds of the returnees.

Israel’s deliverance will be a time of relief, joy and tears—tears expressing the widest range of emotions—tears of shame and humility for what they have done, tears of awareness of how unworthy they are to be returning and tears of joy to be free and going to a place of permanent safety and peace. Their tears express an attitude critical to the success of a mission Israel has flunked repeatedly—tears of total repentance (Hosea 5:14-15; Ezekiel 20:42-44; Jeremiah 31:8-9, 18-20; 50:4-5; Zephaniah 3:11-12).

Amidst all that is happening, this critical element is often overlooked. God once more will perform a final sorting of the people just as He did when the spies returned from searching out the Promised Land and He will exclude all the stubborn, faithless and unrepentant (Ezekiel 20:33-38). None but the fully repentant, humbled and willing to follow God will be returning and at that point God will provide them the same help He has given us—His Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Ezekiel 39:25-29; Hebrews 8:7-10). Can you grasp the impact of all this? Returning from captivity will be a people filled with first love—fully contrite and humble, willing to learn—in fact, eager to learn. Into their hearts and minds God will pour His Holy Spirit, converting the returning remnant of people.

Have you ever witnessed first love? Have you ever watched it at work? It is alive, relentless and it can’t help but share what it knows and feels. The love of God shown by those returning from captivity will be infectious, eventually influencing the whole world.

God will finally accomplish what He has always wanted to accomplish—to have a people model loyalty, commitment and  the love of God to the whole world, demonstrating everything God stands for in the way they talk, think and live (Deuteronomy 4:1-8; Isaiah 61:4-6; Zechariah 8:20-23).

This is the greatest story rarely told—a story of profound sorrow, total refinement and true conversion, leading to a people who will serve God as a kingdom of priests, a holy nation and a light to all the world.