Who has heard such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. (Isaiah 66:8)
This is what the Lord God says: Look, I will lift up My hand to the nations, and raise My banner to the peoples. They will bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders. (Isaiah 49:22)
They will bring all your brothers from all the nations as a gift to the Lord on horses and chariots, in litters, and on mules and camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “just as the Israelites bring an offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord.” (Isaiah 66:20)
“However, take note! The days are coming”—the Lord’s declaration—“when it will no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives who brought the Israelites from the land of Egypt,’ but rather, ‘As the Lord lives who brought the Israelis from the land of the north and from all the other lands where He had banished them.’ For I will return them to their land that I gave to their ancestors.” (Jeremiah 16:14,15)
“ . . . the nations will know that I am the Lord. For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land.” (Ezekiel 36:23,24)
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach appeared recently on a Sid Roth television debate with Dr. Brown (Viewable at: http://www.sidroth.org/site/News2?news_iv_ctrl=-1&abbr=tv_&page=NewsArticle&id=11373&security=1041).
Shmuley recited a list of reasons that Jesus “can’t” be the Jewish Messiah that was, to say the least, less than persuasive. One of his “reasons” seemed particularly strange; Shmuley cited the “unfulfilled” Messianic prophecy that Israel’s Messiah would “restore the kingdom to Israel.” He asked, with his characteristically-intense, rising volume, pitch, and speed, whether anyone thought this prophecy has been fulfilled.
Surely Shmuley is aware of the massive return to Israel in recent decades of people of Jewish ancestry from Russia, Africa, the U.S., and other parts of the world. Christians (and perhaps other people of faith from around the world) have financially supported the return of those who couldn’t have “made aliyah” otherwise. Even if Shmuley refers to the restoration of military power and superiority to Israel, rather than the restoration of its lost tribes and scattered citizenry, these military objectives have also been accomplished by tiny Israel in recent decades!
Yes, Rabbi Shmuley, many viewers are absolutely certain that these amazing prophecies have been — and are still being — fulfilled before our eyes.
The prophetic verses above (and there are many more on this topic) become so powerful and precious in light of recent history, with regard to the return of the lost tribes or scattered citizenry of Israel. But the statement at the end of Isaiah 66:20, which is about Israel’s children being brought back to her in every possible type of conveyance, is deeply intriguing: “as the Israelites bring an offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord.”
Could the “clean vessel” be a new Israel (“Messianic” Israelis), whose citizens’ eyes will increasingly be freed from the “scales” that have blinded them (also foretold in prophecy), and whose people will at long last see the One who has so long been obscured from her understanding and recognition — and finally requite to the Lord the offering of love and recognition that He so richly deserves?
May it increasingly come into manifestation before all rejoicing hearts. Maranatha!
A campaign to raise awareness of the 53rd chapter of Isaiah from Chosen People Ministries, which included billboards and a full page ad in the New York Times promoting a free book explaining the chapter, also featured a public open-mic debate with Dr. Brown at a Marriott in downtown Manhattan on July 15th. The debate began with a presentation from Brown on Isaiah 53, and followed with an opportunity for anyone in attendance to challenge his presentation. Below is a report from Dr. Brown, including live excerpts from the presentation and comments/challenges from some of those that came to the mic:
Reaction from Jewish counter-missionaries (those that actively oppose the message of the gospel being spread to the Jewish people) to the campaign and debate included the following from 5 Towns Jewish Times:
Last Thursday night, Chosen People Ministries held a poorly attended public debate at Manhattan’s Marriott East Side, featuring top missionary lecturer Dr. Michael Brown, author of a five-part book series which purports to answer Jewish objections to JC. Among the few Jews who attended were several countermissionary experts, including Rabbi Moshe Shulman, executive director of Judaism’s Answer (www.judaismsanswer.com). Shulman engaged Brown in collegial exchange and scored several points in refuting Brown’s scholarly allegations that Isaiah 53 definitively supports the messiahship of JC.
Commenting afterwards, Rabbi Shulman noted, “Debates with Jews about the messiah are not new. Over 500 years ago, the Spanish Jewish communities suffered such indignity as part of the Inquisition. Today it’s more subtle, and Jewish apathy is furthering missionary inroads into Russian, Israeli, Bukharian, Persian, and American Jewish communities. The Orthodox can no longer claim to be immune. And what’s happening here is equally unfolding in Israel with little resistance or outrage.”
The chapter, according to the translation in The Times, speaks of a singular “suffering servant,” which Glaser maintains is a reference to Jesus.
Isaiah 53 is a standard polemic text that missionaries use, said Rabbi Tovia Singer of Outreach Judaism.
“Isaiah 53 is the fourth Servant Song which began in Isaiah 41,” Rabbi Singer explained. “In the first three Servant Songs it identifies the servant who suffers at the hands of the nations as Israel. Isaiah introduces the servant of G-d, both in the singular and plural, who endured tremendous pains, but who is ultimately vindicated in the Messianic days… The chapter [is] molested, ripped out of context and mistranslated and presented to Jewish people who know nothing about the faith that they are being asked to abandon.”
In response to allegations such as these from counter-missionaries that the campaign should elicit “resistance and outrage” from Jewish people, and that the 53rd chapter of Isaiah is “molested, ripped out of context and mistranslated” by Messianic missionaries, Brown said the following:
When you hear almost hysterical charges like these from Rabbi Singer, you can only ask yourself why the counter-missionaries are protesting so loudly. Could it be that Isaiah 53 speaks for itself so clearly?
Really now, why would a Jewish rabbi get so upset when we tell our Jewish people to take their Bibles (in Hebrew or in a good Jewish translation) and read Isaiah 53 for themselves? Are we being criticized by professional counter-missionaries for encouraging fellow Jews to read their Bibles, pray, and think for themselves?
In reality, the greatest evangelistic tool we have is not our gospel literature or our arguments or our debating abilities. It is just the text of the Tanakh, the Hebrew Scriptures. Countless thousands of Jews have embraced Yeshua as the Messiah based on their study of Isaiah 53, and we are confident that many thousands more will come to faith as well.
“For we know in part and we prophesy in part.” -1 Cor. 13.9
It was Smith Wigglesworth who stated:
Most people seem to have discernment, or think they have, and if they would turn it on themselves for twelve months they would never want to discern again. The gift of discernment is not criticism. I am satisfied that our paramount need is more perfect love.
One thing that still seems prevalent in the Church today is an “either it’s God or it’s not” mentality. Truth is, all of us see in part, and every movement, ministry, and individual believer is in the process of growth in the knowledge of God. The easiest thing to do in this process is to recognize the gaps and inconsistencies in other saints, and to write them off on account of those gaps.
This is terribly antithetical to the Pauline view of the Church. Do we know of anyone besides Jesus Himself who was more jealous than Paul for the salvation of Israel, the maturation of the Church, and the glorification of God in the earth? Paul is, aside from Christ, the great NT prototype for foundational leadership, and his disposition toward the churches (even the most immature communities) was quite the opposite as that of the critical soul who sees himself as superior those who are in need of doctrinal or ethical correction.
The situation at Corinth was the clearest example of this. Paul was dealing with a community of believers who had immorality in their midst, who were fraught with jealousies, divisions and schisms, who had very disorderly gatherings, whose meetings were doing “more harm than good,” who were questioning his own apostleship, and who were spreading confusion and doubts regarding the reality of the resurrection. Have you ever run into a community of believers in that rough of a condition?
In Chapter 11 of 1 Cor. Paul even states that sickness and premature death have broken out in their midst as a judgment from the Father for their lack of value for the Body in the context of the meal of the Lord. Divine chastisement is breaking out in their midst, and yet, Paul has the audacity (or should it be called an apostolic faith and sight?) to address them as “saints” and “holy ones” in the opening of the epistle.
I often hear comments along these lines with regard to certain movements within the Church:
“I have not taken the time to listen or read any of the teachings for myself, but I’ve heard all about them, so I just categorize them with the other counterfeits and all the hype that is out there.”
Often the sharpest criticisms come from those who have taken little time to hear from those they are criticizing. Yet it doesn’t matter how much certain expressions of Christendom “get under our skin”, even those that bear true issues of concern. If we cannot go to the cross in intercession, even on behalf of those who are “deceivers” and “white-washed tombs”, we are not expressing the wisdom of Christ. We are called to express the same reality in the present that Jesus revealed at the cross.
Indeed, there are radical mixtures out there, and those mixtures need to be addressed with the clear word of the Lord. Still, it must be asked of the critical soul, “Is your life not a mixture? Is there nothing to be addressed in your own life? If your secret life was to be examined as you are examining others, what would be revealed in that examination?”
Along those lines, is there any denominational, missionary, revival, or seminary history that can be recounted without a mixture? The fellowship that you are a part of, is it pristine and clear in every way? Is there any church or work that is expressing the fullness of Jesus Christ?
“Aren’t these movements polluted wells, though?” you ask.
Indeed, there are issues that could greatly harm the believer’s heart within certain movements. In the right spirit and context they need to be addressed. But the question must still be asked, ‘Was Corinth a polluted well?’ It was full of error and even sin, yet Paul never doubted the validity of their spiritual gifts, did he? He never questioned their salvation either. Instead, he challenged them to get things in order before the Lord, and I believe they were missing the mark in a lot more ways than many of the movements that are often criticized.
I want to look at all of the saints through the lens of Paul in the context of Corinth. Did he address issues that needed challenging? Yes, as one sent to them, he did. He addressed those with whom he had immediate responsibility and relationship as an apostle, and aside from that he was occupied with seeing the Gospel revealed to hearts who were bound in darkness.
Does this mean we have to be an apostle to raise concerns? Certainly not. But to categorize other believers (no matter how immature, or incomplete in doctrine or practice) as mere counterfeits is simply the opposite of what the apostle demonstrated.
The Body of Jesus is mangled at present, and there is not much in that Body that we may look upon with a sense of completion. We need the sight of Joseph of Arimathea, a man of “high-position” who was able to go against the tide of bitterness, self-righteousness, and unbelief which flowed so powerfully through his religious colleagues. He was able to look upon the Body of Jesus, mangled though it was, and to value it, though it had not yet appeared in resurrection glory, and despite the fact that the masses had no anticipation of that resurrection.
“It takes half a man to criticize,” said Sankey, who was Moody’s worship leader. It takes the resurrection life within to look upon the Body of Christ with merciful identification, as Jesus presently is from the right hand of the Father.
Shall we be jealous for the fullness of God in the Church? For a purging of bad teachings and doctrines? For a maturity to come to the Church again? Most assuredly. We must. But the only way for that maturity and depth to be restored in the last analysis is for us to go to the cross ourselves. To walk out the reality of the Gospel is the chief thing. To give ourselves to intercession on behalf of the Church is the central calling with regard to moving toward the corporate reality He is jealous for.
The mystery of Israel is the revelation that God is a God of mercy, and that His people are simply those who have received the grace to come under the rod of His Fatherhood and governance. When we think we’ve earned anything, we’ve removed ourselves from the grounds of the Gospel. If I realize that I haven’t earned anything (including insight into Scriptures or maturity of vision), I have the grace to look at the Church- in all of its various deficiencies- and to thank God for it, while crying out for mercy on Her behalf.
“Then how shall I know when these heresies need to be addressed? Didn’t Paul call out heretics and correct false doctrines?!”
You will know in the same way that Jesus did: When you are willing to go to the cross on their behalf. You will know in the same way that Paul did: When you have given yourself in prayer and intercession for their souls, and any correction you deliver will flow mercifully and boldly out of that place, when you have dwelt in the counsel of the Lord. It will not come in a reactionary manner, or as a result of fellowshipping with vulturous, gossiping men. We need to abide in the most holy place, to be jealous chiefly for His glory, and to come into His own truth and love for men.
I want to be found in the counsel of the Lord, friends. He’s more jealous for the fullness of Christ than any of us. He’s wanting to raise up foundational servants, who will proclaim His heart to Israel and the nations. The Church does need to be called to repentance. The Church does need a higher vision of the standards of God. Ultimately, we need “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God” Himself. That Word will only come from broken-hearted vessels who have been united with Him in the Holy Place.
Jesus Himself is the ultimate revelation of this. There is no one more jealous for truth, purity, reality, and fullness than Him. And the way He set out to establish that was by laying His own life down for the very ones who were crucifying Him. He continues to demonstrate that today, interceding from the right hand of Majesty. Shall we follow Him, or shall we strut around with a presumptuous and embittered collection of opinions and ideals?
When I stand before the judgment seat of Christ, what will be His assessment of the thoughts I have carried and the words I have spoken about others? Will they be seen as pure, true, and merciful as He Himself is, or will they be revealed as arrogant, spiteful, and serving my own exaltation? “Every idle word” shall be examined in that great day.
Oh, for the Spirit and nature of Christ Himself to permeate our lives today.
“Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.” -Ps. 51.4
The degree to which we have come into a true knowledge of God is directly related to the measure of our own awareness of sin. There is no true repentance, and thus no true salvational experience in the delivering sense, until the hideousness of our own sin has flashed before our souls, and the radical requirement of Jesus’ crucifixion comes into view.
A great number of Church-going people in our nation have never come to this place, for the most popular message of modern preaching has been totally devoid of this reality. It’s no wonder, since a man cannot rightly call others to this place unless he himself has passed through the press and crisis of conviction and come into the personal event of receiving mercy.
We have heard more about the Gospel than any other generation, and yet scarce few have come into the inward-transaction of the Gospel in the way that David the Psalmist did. It had everything to do with his own knowledge of God as He is, and the corresponding awareness that his sin was not merely a mishap or an accident to be swept under the rug, but a heinous crime committed straightforwardly against the Lord of glory. This acute knowledge of the sinfulness of sin revealed that even though he was the great psalmist of the Holy City, his heart still had the propensity to despise the One to whom he sang.
“Against You, and You only,” was David’s true lament. Our problem is that we do not know the “You.” We have an inward image of a lesser God who is not as requiring. David’s sin was all the more grievous because his knowledge of God was so much deeper.
(Art Katz, The Cross; Forthcoming, Chapter 1; Art Katz Ministries/Burning Bush Press)
If we are inwardly winking at sin, and have grown numb to its hideous nature, it is only because we have had an inadequate revelation of God. If we are self-righteous, and thinking too highly of ourselves without being continually aware of our own propensity for sin, we have fallen just as short of the glory of God.
David could have swept things under the rug, or fallen back on his heritage and anointing as the King of Judah. There were more than enough “yes men” surrounding him to appease his conscience and lull him into a sleepy indifference towards the gravity of his sin. But when the word of the Lord came through Nathan, “you are the man,” the hideousness of his sin flashed before him, and he cried out from the marrow of his being, “Against You, You only, have I sinned….”
Even the anointed King and Psalmist could not play the game of reputation once his sin was disclosed. He did not shift blame or water down the hideousness of his crime. He saw himself as facing the high courts of heaven, and his transgression was not merely against men, angels, saints of old, or the heavenly creatures surrounding the Throne of God. His offense was acutely and directly against the Lord Himself, and he knew that this kind of ultimate confession and repentance was the only gateway to cleansing and redemption.
We need, like David, to come into an awareness of the depth of our own sin. We need to be convinced that regardless of our spiritual history, our religious heritage, and our pious consistency, we still have the propensity to sin, and our blackness of heart is no less black than David’s was. When we are made aware of our depravity, by the grace of God’s speaking, we are then standing upon the proper foundation of truth, by which we are enabled to cry out for purification and restoration. If we have yet to be brought to that place, we have not repented, nor have we been saved from the stranglehold of our sin.
We do not hear sufficient prophetic preaching these days, not the kind that addresses the issue of sin, and we need desperately for that kind of proclamation to be restored. Our ministries have discouraged an adequate consideration of sin, and we have striven to extend comfort to those who have yet to come into a revelation of their own offense against God. We cannot live lives of mercy until we are actively receiving mercy, and if we have failed to cry out to the Lord over our own fallenness, we have not come to that place.
But when we have been convinced of the hideousness of our sin, we will cry with the psalmist:
Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness,
Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins
And blot out all my iniquities. (vv. 7-9)
We will not only cry out about a particular and embarrassing sin, but about our very tendency to stray from His ways, and when we have cried out from that sacred ground of revelation, God Himself will cleanse, restore, and deliver us to the uttermost, and we will be like Jacob- unable to walk again as we had theretofore walked- awed and jolted by the fact that we have “seen God and lived.” His mercy will be altogether merciful to our souls, and His goodness altogether good. The intimate knowledge of His mercy in light of the hideousness of our own sin is the essence of the Gospel of God. What about you, dear saint? Have you cried out from that place?
Abraham fell on his face and laughed…
Sarah laughed to herself …
(Genesis 17:17a; 18:12a)
Many are happy to overlook the way God has revealed Himself in the sacred histories. They prefer to view Him through inspired statements made about Him. Then they define His actions in view of those holy declarations. This is a good principle, but we should not neglect to watch carefully to see how He interacts with people that He loves. Perhaps statements about God might be seen through the revelatory record of His relationships. For example, look at Abraham and Sarah’s unbelief. First, look at Abraham:
Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. “I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before You!” But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. (Genesis 17:15-19)
At least Abraham kept his derision to himself. He only spoke “in his heart.” God didn’t reprove him. God continued to declare His purposes for Abraham. Yet, look at Sarah. Really, this couple just goes from bad to worse…
He said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” And the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ “Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah denied it however, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh.” (Genesis 18:9-15)
Here’s a woman who actually laughs in disbelief at God’s promise. When she’s called on it, in fear and disbelief in God’s goodness, she lies to God’s face. Why wasn’t Sarah turned to ashes where she stood? In the very next chapter (the inexorably severe judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah) we read of Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt for disobeying the word of an angel. Here, we have the inspired record: Lot’s wife’s Aunt Sarah secretly mocking God’s word. She laughed!
Not only did God not destroy Sarah, but He didn’t rescind His promise to her. Not only did God not respond in wrath, but Sarah didn’t disqualify herself from His purposes for her. In fact, the gentle reproof He offered did not even receive a penitent response. What did she say? “I did not laugh.” So, Sarah not only laughs at God’s word, but when convicted by the audible voice of God she doesn’t even have the reverence to humbly confess her fault. She denies, she maintains her righteousness. And this woman lived? What did God say? “No, but you did laugh.” I have been familiar with this story for years, but still can’t quite get over this.
This is as poignant and merciful an interaction as anything we read about in the New Testament. In fact, where else in the Sacred Text do we see this type of behavior? (I’m not just writing about Sarah, but Sarah and God!)
Have you ever received a promise that you believe was from God, but now, if it is mentioned, the very sound of it brings pain? If the LORD, Himself, was to draw near to you and restate His purpose, would you bitterly laugh? Would you mock? Have you done that? If so, take heart. He is the God of Abraham, yes, but He is also the God of Sarah.
Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” (Genesis 21:5-7)
What an incredible display of the God of Sarah’s faithfulness. Before we leave this story, let’s read the way the writer of Hebrews tells this story:
By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. (Hebrews 11:11)
Are you kidding? That’s the apostolic verdict? I am tempted to laugh…
I want to just bring a brief word of exhortation at this time to all the readership of VOR. Whether you know the Lord or whether perhaps you are weighing up the cost of following Him. I am sensing at this time that even the best of us can be distracted from the key thing in the Kingdom of God. Life throws up so many issues, and there is an enemy out there seeking to violate the purposes of God. I hope the following helps deal a ‘death-blow’ to any of those things at this time.
As I sit writing this morning, my heart is stirred by the call of God, coming again to me with fresh clarity and intensity. My mind has gone back over the time when from a child God spoke to me and called me, and how in His faithfulness He kept coming back to me and back to me, again and again. He would come at times and remind me of HIs holy calling, and that His willingness to perform that concerning me was greater than my willingness to follow!
Today, I am reminded by the following things in this regard:
1. The Call of God costs.
I remember the voice of a prophet laying hands on me when 15 years old, and another when I was 18 years, declaring by the Spirit – “What I am going to call you into is going to cost you something. You have said in your heart ‘why can’t I be like other young men; why can’t I do what others are doing?’ You can not because I do not permit it, says the Lord… You are mine!’
To some of you this would seem hard or harsh. But I can tell you today that those words did something in my spirit that did me good! I did not feel condemned or hurt but I felt encouraged. I thought: ‘How amazing, that in this ruthless word from the Spirit of Christ, I was yet assured that I was His, and He was mine!’ This is the Spirit of Jesus in prophecy.
This is what the rich young ruler failed to grasp in the account of Mark 10 and Luke 18. All he heard from the Lord was the cost, ‘Give up all you have and give to the poor…’ yet he failed to hear the words, ‘then come follow me…’ If only he had grasped this! Grasping this alone would have been enough to have outweighed the carnal delights and its pull.
Some of you have felt the cost of the call of God upon your life, and may even sense it again now as you read this. Yet your heart is in a kind of spiritual negotiating with God. I have something to tell you from my own experience, and in line with the Scriptures: There is no negotiation! But there is a Treasure that far outweighs the cost! Jesus is all we need. Brothers and sisters there is only one response to the Call of God. Yield, give up your rights, do whatever He says… you will be satisfied.
2. The Call of God consecrates.
When I think of this, I think of surrender, but not just in terms of giving up something, rather in terms of giving oneself to something.
Samuel was called of God from a boy, and from a young age had to learn complete obedience to the voice of the Master. He also had to learn separation from the world and devotion to God’s presence. In this, God anointed His servant for holy and powerful purposes. The rest is history… Samuel was one of Israel’s greatest prophets and judges. He was a voice to a people and to a kingdom.
Again, I tell you from experience that the Call of God demands consecration to Him alone. There have been times when the enemy or the flesh has come to war against that in me, trying to revive the carnal man and his lusts for the world, pride and desires. But during those moments it is as if an inner whisper comes and reminds me: ‘You belong to Me… flee from it.’
He has bought us at a price! We are his for His own purpose. The need of the hour is for a total consecration to God and His purposes. This is a crucial moment for the Church. We need consecrated vessels to carry out God’s will. I pray daily much for a consecrated generation that will totally yield to the Lord, and do it on His terms, for His glory. It’s the only thing that will make a difference!
3. The Call of God keeps.
Think a moment about Peter, loved by God; called and chosen to be an apostle, and a leader among men. Yet somehow in the mysterious dealings of God, Peter goes through a season of testing, where satan incites him to deny the Lord. God knows more about the heart of man than we do about ourselves. God was not out to destroy Peter but He was allowing this attack of the enemy to make something of Peter. Some of the most wonderful words in Scripture are these: ‘But I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.‘
May I say this: God’s call is more powerful to keep us than any of will ever realize! No, I am not an extreme Calvinist, neither am I an extreme Arminian. (I still cannot work God out!) But I know the God of the Bible. I have met Him in Jesus Christ, and know the Holy Spirit at work. (Not as much as I should, I add!)
I can say with confidence: His faithfulness is great and reaches to the skies! (Psalm 35: 5 & 6) and that His ability to keep me is far greater than may ability to remain faithful.
Also, we are assured by Scripture that God will not only keep us, but He is faithful to complete the work He has called us to. Our duty is by His grace to remain in Him! (John 15: 4 & 5)
My prayer this day is that as you read this you will be reminded of the Call of God on your life. It will cost until it is completed. It demands consecration to His ways and purposes. Yet He is faithful in His part to do that which we cannot do – bring it to pass.
“…. no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of the human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” -2 Pet. 1.20-21
Please hear this remarkable word from Nathaniel West:
In the hour of affliction we learn more of God’s word, and God’s way, than in a whole age of sunshine and prosperity, and it is well to remember that the prophecies were spoken first in that moment when Israel’s night was the darkest. Paradoxical indeed, it was then that the light was the brightest, the promise the sweetest, and the devotion the deepest. So will it be again. Israel will be able to say, when emerging from the last great tribulation, as when returning from Exile to build the Temple:
“The Lord hath chastened me sore,
But not abandoned me to death.
The Lord is God. He hath given us light;
Bind the sacrifice with cords, Even to the horns of the altar!”
Affliction, Light, and Consecration, these are the best handmaids of a true interpretation.
(Nathaniel West, The Thousand Year Reign of Christ; Kregel Publications, p. XVI)
It is often said that we form our theologies and interpret the Scriptures based on the lens through which we look. Depending on the stream of our religious upbringing and our experiences in life, we often interpret passages with our own particular presumption and bias.
It is also said that we often interpret the Scriptures based on the level of willingness we possess to truly hear what they require and promise. In other words, we find in the Word what we want to find, and discard that which demands a higher call to the death of the self-life. We see what we want to see, and no more.
Nathaniel West wrote that “Affliction, Light, and Consecration” are the greatest and most necessary helpers for a true interpretation of the Scriptures.
What do we know of affliction? West is speaking of Israel’s affliction under judgment and exile, but is there an affliction that we willingly give ourselves to, and that would make way for a better interpretation of Scripture? I believe, in at least one aspect, that our self-made value systems, bumptiousness from familiarity, and “know-it-all” attitudes must be afflicted before the Light of interpretation can be opened. We’ve got to crucify our own wisdom, and lay our souls low before the same Spirit that moved the prophets. Are you reading the Scriptures categorically and robotically, or are you turning away from your own frozen knowledge and facing the burning bush that the Scriptures constitute?
Next, there is the element of light. When our own wisdom has been afflicted and set aside, then we are postured inwardly to receive the Light of God through the Scriptures. We must receive Light from the Spirit of God, or else the Bible is an impossible book to engage, enjoy, and receive from. If the same Spirit who rested on and moved the prophets does not rest on us, we will not gather from the Scriptures what the Lord has desired to give. We must ask the Spirit to come with His own Light, otherwise we will not be reading rightly. Therefore, dear saint, we ought to pant for the presence of the Spirit in the midst of our reading, so that Light may come, and our reading may itself become an act of Communion with God.
Lastly, the element of consecration. If we come to the Scriptures with no true intention of consecrating our lives to the Light that He gives us, we are not likely to come into a true interpretation. The Scriptures were not merely given for the formulation of eschatological ideas, the constructing of Doctrinal charts, or any such thing. They were given so that the Eternal God, and His great purpose, would be exposed to Israel and the nations, and that men would come into the reality of what He has always intended; namely, the revelation of Himself, and the glorification of His ways.
If we are unwilling to consecrate our lives to the Light that He gives, we will invariably miss what He is speaking. But if we come to the Scriptures in the same Spirit by which they were written, all the glories of His nature and will become intensely available to us.
“Affliction, Light, and Consecration, these are the best handmaids of a true interpretation.”