Sword, Famine and Pestilence
by Jennifer Hallmark
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In the Old and New Testament of the Bible, there are promises and warnings. II Chronicles 7:14 is where God promises:
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” NKJV
When humbleness and obedience are present, God’s blessings follow. James 4:10 repeats this message:
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” NKJV
These are two wonderful promises and the Bible is full of other promises. Some people enjoy reading, memorizing and claiming the promises of God yet ignore the warnings, many of which are targeting disobedience. All through the Bible, disobedience and curses go hand in hand. In Deuteronomy 28:15, God warns the Israelites:
“But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you…”
The next 52 verses tell what those curses and warnings are that God is so serious about. God is serious because He knows that sin separates us from Him and He wants relationship with His children.
Many prophets and teachers give God’s people different warnings in the Old and New Testament but none with as much passion and righteous anger as the prophet Jeremiah. His compassion for the people is matched only by his disbelief and anger at their lethargic response to God.
At the beginning of the book of Jeremiah, he is called to be a prophet. He is later told not to marry and to fervently bring the message of Israel’s sin, the need for repentance and ultimate restoration with God the Father. At the same time he is bringing this message, false prophets are crying “Peace and safety!” Israel prefers the comfortable message of the false prophets and disaster is the result.
In chapter 14, the Word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah concerning severe drought in the land. The people are mourning and are ashamed because of a lack of rain and water, both physically and spiritually. They beg God to save them and not leave them. God answers in chapter 14, verse 10:
“Thus they have loved to wander. They have not restrained their feet. Therefore the Lord does not accept them; He will remember their iniquity now and punish their sins.” NKJV
The problem is that Israel wants to be helped and their reproach taken away but they do not want to change! They want to have God and have the world.
In verse 12, God continues:
“When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offerings, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by the famine and by the pestilence.” NKJV
When I read this, I wondered about the threefold phrase, sword, famine and pestilence which is repeated over and over throughout the book of Jeremiah. I had several thoughts about this phrase. First I feel the term “sword” can mean words; people using words like swords inflicting damage on those around them.
“And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.” James 3:6 NKJV
God gave His Word to uplift and encourage but some Christians use words and even truths to stick and twist the Word like a sword. Sadly enough, we often do not have to look past our own church to see this in action. The downfall of many churches begins with the “sword” used with wrong motives and evil intention.
Famine, in its simplest terms, is a lack of food. We see after the word “sword”, the word “famine” is next in line. The supply of bread is cut off, both physically and spiritually. We see in the book of Jeremiah a lack of true shepherds or spiritual leaders over the house of Israel. There are only hirelings and as a result the people do not receive the Word and proper spiritual care.
Some churches in today’s society lack a true shepherd or have replaced the shepherd with a hireling of their own choice, much the way Israel had done. Israel eventually would fall prey to the Babylonians or their enemy, which we can see happen to churches today that have no Pastor or a hireling. People not being fed the true Word either seek new pastures or die of starvation. Ezekiel 34 relates to this problem and points to the next problem, pestilence:
“So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered…” Ezekiel 34:5 NKJV
One definition of pestilence is “attacks that come like a plague.” For Israel, pestilence came about many times as punishment for their sins. It would usually be a physical attack of sickness or disease brought on the nation by either the sins of one or many.
One such example is found in Numbers 25 where some of the Israelites had begun worshipping other gods, one man bringing a Midianite woman to the temple which was a brazen act of disobedience. Phinehas the grandson of Aaron grabbed a javelin at this point and killed both the man and woman, stopping the plague. The Lord spoke to Moses in Numbers 25:11-12;
“Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace…’” NKJV
People were dying left and right until Phinehas stepped in and took immediate deliberate action. His obedience nullified the other man’s disobedience.
Can pestilence still affect people in today’s Church? These are Israelites dying in the book of Numbers, God’s chosen people. When Christians move in disobedience and unrepented sin, they leave the door open wide to the attack of the enemy. It’s like stepping out from under the umbrella of God’s protection and into the storm. We can still be in a storm as a Christian but God’s protection is over us as long as we move in obedience and with a repentant heart.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” Isaiah 43:2 NKJV
In the Church today, we are experiencing in a different way, the sword, famine and pestilence. Attacks of words, lack of the Word and open doors to the enemy: the hedge has come down and the enemy has broken through. Wake up Church! The enemy is standing in the temple saying, “Well, what are you going to do about me?”
It’s time to take immediate action! Thrust the enemy through! THIS IS NOT PEOPLE! This is an unrepentant heart, unforgiveness, bitterness, strife, hatred, prejudice, and every evil thing that we are allowing in our lives. We need to clean up our lives through repentance, the Word and prayer. We need to pray for our churches and the people to stop these attacks or many will be affected. Do we want a covenant of peace? It is time for the children of God to take a stand and like Phinehas be blessed for future generations.
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