Allowing Circumstances to Speak, Part 2

 

Is it possible in our relationship with God to know — not just how He is leading us — but how He is warning us when we are at cross-purpose with Him?

Last week, I shared how my husband and I were led to sell our home, how I resisted and how God engineered circumstances to defeat my intentions, which were at cross-purposes with His.  We suffered financial loss as a result; but as the events unfolded, I recognized the finely orchestrated discipline and loving intervention showing me that I was at cross-purposes with His intentions for us.

Proficiency at anything demands practice. To become proficient at understanding what God is saying to us, we have to practice submission: submission to Truth, to the Word, to authority, to discipline, to circumstances finely orchestrated to speak to us.

When we want to hear God, but don’t, it is often because we are unwilling to submit at some point where we are in contention with Him. Every time I’ve ever prayed for God to show me what that is — He has — and I’ve clearly understood what He was saying.

 

* * *

How misplaced sympathy puts us at cross-purposes with God

When Jesus took His small band of disciples to Caesarea Philippi — where waters break out of the base of Mount Hermon to water all of Israel — He asked them, “Who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter declared, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  

Powerfully affirming Peter, Jesus told him that He would build His church upon this rock solid revelation that had been given to him . . . that would be given to us, each in our time.

BUT THEN, as Jesus began to relate the hard things that must take place as He is handed over, tried, and put to death — Peter couldn’t bare to believe it. It was too awful; it couldn’t be!  Peter’s grasp of Jesus as Messiah was too inadequate[1] for him to submit to what Jesus was saying. Peter’s sympathy was misplaced, because he lacked a sweeping awe for the immense imperative of man’s redemption.

Jesus turned to Peter sternly, shockingly, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Matthew 16:19-20)

How quickly Peter’s misplaced sympathy had driven him from the heights of revelation to the actual enmity with God’s purpose.

Jesus was not telling Peter that he was “Satan.”  But He was looking him fiercely in the eye naming, humbling and commanding the spirit speaking through Peter — that spirit that is always at cross-purposes with the will of God.

Throughout time that same spirit has worked through men’s misplaced sympathies.

I have been there. I know the shame of falling from the heights of revelation to the pit of rage and self-pity, where my hurt and offense has loomed so large that I’ve become the hideous opposite of all God wanted to do and be for me there.

* * *

This may be one of the most difficult but most important messages I will ever write. It is a warning to the church, of how quickly a misplaced sympathy will put us at enmity with what God is intent on doing. I am deeply convinced we are in the clear and present danger of being at cross-purposes with God.

* * *

How will we know if and when we are at cross-purposes with God?

Paul warned the believers in Rome to look at what happened to ancient Israel, things that happened “as examples for us”  so that they could avoid Israel’s mistakes. We need to pay attention as well.

I am constantly aware of soft warnings leading to stronger disciplinary consequences meant to right my course, when I begin to drift.  I take them seriously because I see this phenomenon played out in Scripture — in the finely orchestrated, disciplinary actions God took with Israel throughout her history — by which He brought her out of her misplaced sympathies back to her big-picture awe of what God wanted to be and do for her. Discipline may be painful for a time, even harrowing — but if it brings us back to the sweet center of God’s protective provision — that is supremely worth whatever it costs.

The greatest mistake Israel’s leaders ever made, putting them at cross-purposes with God, was their failure to read the signs of the times: not allowing finely orchestrated circumstances to speak to them, not recognizing what God was doing through the fulfillment of ancient prophesies in their time. Consequently, they did not recognize their own Messiah, when He came — redemption’s breakthrough in their time.  Their minds were so firmly set on their interests that they could not recognize — much less submit their minds to — God’s passionate intention.

My concern is that a vast swath of the church may be repeating this same mistake. Like Israel, like Peter, our sympathies may be so set upon our own interests that we can’t recognize — much less submit our minds to — redemption’s breakthrough in our time.

Israel

For nearly 2,000 years, the nation of Israel ceased to exist.  With her overthrow by the Roman legion in 70 A.D. , the anticipation of God’s ancient promises ever being fulfilled for her appeared to be lost. . . over, done, impossible . . . maybe it was never God’s plan in the first place.

The majority of Christians turned to Replacement Theology, proposing that the Old Testament promises made to Israel found their final and full culmination in Jesus Christ –the Messiah promised to Israel, who was born a Jew, who fulfilled the prophecy that salvation would spring from Zion, who came to His own but was rejected by them. This theology insists that the Church has replaced Israel as the recipient of God’s eternal promises and the fulfillment of His redemptive purposes. Israel is “out of the picture.”

For centuries, this theology has held a low view of the Jewish people — permeating Christian commentaries, helping to fuel anti-Semitism, guiding Christian leaders to take political stands they never imagined might be at cross-purposes with God.

On May 14th, 1948, the inconceivable took place. The nation of Israel was re-born on the same land bearing a 3,000-year continuous archaeological record of her presence there. But few have submitted to the possibility that this nation born in a day fulfills prophecy or represents God’s redemptive activity in history.

Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once?

Isa 66:8

Few nations were willing to acknowledge her statehood, for fear of losing political capital on a bet that was sure to be lost.  Israel was surrounded by hundreds of thousands of hostile Arabs intent on destroying her the moment British forces withdrew. They were determined to drive every Jew out of the land into the sea. And so, within minutes of her birth, Israel was plunged into a war for her life.

With the re-birth of Israel, a deep schism divided Christians.

  • Evangelical Christian Zionists saw Israel’s rebirth as the divinely choreographed fulfillment of ancient prophecy — prophecies thousands of year old only partially fulfilled in history past, prophecies telling of a time toward the end of days when Israel as a nation and a people would be re-gathered back to their land. . . that the Holy city of Jerusalem would be tread underfoot by Gentiles (non-Jews) for a period of time, until God would intervene to bring about His ultimate redemptive purpose in history.  (Revelation 11:2)

I will gather them from the remote parts of the earth. . . A great company, they will return here, With weeping they will come, And by supplication I will lead them; For I am a father to Israel. . .  Hear the word of the Lord, O nations . . . He who scattered Israel will gather him, And keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock. ( Jeremiah  31:8-10). . . then the Lord your God will . . . have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. . . The Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. (Deut. 30:1-5) Thus says the Lord God, ‘I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.’ ( Ezek. 11:16-18)

 

  • However, a great swath of both Protestants and Catholics disavowed any Biblical basis for Israel’s rebirth as a nation or possession of that land.

Fouad Twal, named by Pope Benedict to represent the Vatican in the Jewish State, stated that Israel’s existence today has nothing to do with the Bible. The Vatican synod in 2010 declared, “We Christians cannot speak about the Promised Land for the Jewish people.”

For many Christians, Replacement Theology denies any Scriptural basis of a promised land  justifying the return of Jews to Israel. [2]

*

In the 1st century, in the 11th Chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul gently warned Christians who thought themselves superior to Israel, that they were only grafted in to God’s redemptive promises to her . . . asserting that the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29) . . . warning that they should not be wise in their own estimation — that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved . . .” (Rom 11:25-32)

Paul denies that Israel is out of the picture, explaining that for a time she has been hardened so that the promises made to her could extend to the Gentiles (all the rest of mankind). But her gifts and calling are irrevocable. She will always be the literal and symbolic representation of what God wants to do and be for all of us.

For Evangelical Christians, Israel’s “chosen-ness” means that God determined she would convey His message of divine deliverance to all men — prophecy, unfolding history and divine message coming together in a living collage enacted through her. This has been anything but easy.  No nation has been dealt with harder, suffered greater persecution, been made more of an example to others, or paid a higher price for her sins than Israel. YET, she is the means of blessing to all the families of the earth because God’s redemption came through her.  Evangelical Christians believe that her prophets have given us a blueprint by which to understand human history.

This being said, only a very few Jews or Christians believe that God is speaking to the world through what He does with Israel. The world’s political and religious elite hotly contest any suggestion that ancient prophecy is playing itself out in God-directed current events.

Few world leaders believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob IS GOD, preferring to believe that all men worship the same god in different ways — which is why Israel has become the point of contention she is.  We are not just debating the rights of Jews and Palestinians — we are debating the identity of God.

 * * *

How can we know whether Israel’s return to the land is God’s redemptive purpose breaking into our time . . . or not?

Because I’ve seen how God choreographs circumstances to speak to me — I look for the same phenomenon on a larger scale.  Is He orchestrating events in the world to speak to nations?  Is He piecing together messages for us using symbolic pictures, giving us signs, creating collages for us out of modern events?

Yes, I see it everywhere. And I am not alone. The pieces of the puzzle are falling rapidly together. God is orchestrating circumstances to speak to us [3] — because He wants to keep us from the danger of drifting into misplaced sympathies putting us at cross-purposes with His passionate intent.

IF God’s chief desire is to make Himself known to us as the God of Israel — the God of redeeming love who saves nations and men by causing us to turn to Him, so that we will come into the protective sphere of submission to His will — then, I would expect the God of the Divine dialogue to use as strong language as necessary to get through to us.  I would expect Him to orchestrate events that would give as stern warning as the danger we’re in . . . to warn us if we are at cross-purposes with Him.

IF God cares, and IF HE IS the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — then He would have a huge reason to orchestrate the resurrection of Israel — as the symbol of His redemptive activity in human history — as a sign to the nations that HE IS GOD, making His identity known . . . declaring events before they take place, so that we will recognize Him in those words coming true.

The Hebrew Scriptures predict that in the latter days, God will make Jerusalem a cup of reeling among the nations. (Zechariah 12:2) Jerusalem, more than any city in the world today, is a firestorm of contention.

The prophet Joel said that God would judge the nations that divide His land (Joel 3:2). With ever increasing pressure the nations demand that Israel divide the land to create a two-state-solution for peace between Arabs and Jews.

* 

My country’s leaders have been foremost in devising the two-state-solution, pressuring for the division of the land. They believe they are doing the right thing; but are they like Peter, whose misplaced sympathies put him into an adversarial relationship with God . . . seeking the things of men rather than the things of God?

Is it just a coincidence that when my nation’s leaders (Democrat and Republican) exert pressure on Israel to give up their land, we suffer an immediate and striking loss of property and lives in our own land? [4].

These are just a few of an overwhelming number of correlating events that exceed the chance of “random coincidence”:

 

  • President George Herbert Walker Bush (our 41st president) and Secretary of State James Baker initiated the new approach to peace in the Middle East, in which Israel was to give up land for peace. On October 18, 1991, they made the public announcement. A firestorm in Oakland, California, resulted in $3.5 billion dollars of damages, the worst loss by fire since the San Francisco earthquake in 1906.
  • At the Madrid Conference of 1991, convening October 30, President Bush made a groundbreaking speech, pressuring Israel to give up its land as a “territorial compromise” in exchange for “peace.”  On the same day, a massive hurricane formed in the northeast Atlantic (The Perfect Storm, “a once-in-a-century storm”), orchestrated by a rare combination of factors, creating waves 10 stories high.  This storm made a direct hit on Walker’s Point in southern Maine, the most precious piece of real-estate belonging to our President. Thirty-foot waves filled his home with seawater. That storm hit Kennebunkport at 2 P.M., within hours of the president’s speech in Madrid.
  • When hawkish Prime Minister Shamir of Israel refused to give in to pressure, our government threatened to withdraw financial support from Israel, if the government didn’t change.  American threats were effective; Yitzhak Rabin was elected — making the concessions we wanted, capitulating to our demands on August 24, 1992 — the same day that Hurricane Andrew smashed into the United States (one of the most destructive natural disasters to hit America up until that time).
  • In his book, Eye to Eye: Facing the Consequences of Dividing Israel, William Koenig documents 25 instances in which Clinton pressured Israel to give up land for peace, with the natural disasters that followed each effort.
  • Secretary Christopher pressed Israel to a historic crossroad in February of 1993, meeting with Israeli officials. While he was flying home over the Atlantic from those meetings, a car bomb exploded in the underground parking garage of the World Trade Center.
  • After a series of negotiations begun by the United States in Oslo, Norway, lasting from April, 1993, until August, 1993 — the Oslo Accord was signed by Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization on September 13, 1993. The PLO was given control over specific territory; Israel agreed to withdraw from parts of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. During that exact same period of time, from May through September, record flooding took place in our Midwest.  Rain that would have been normal for spring continued day after day throughout the summer, bringing 200 – 350 % of normal precipitation. Damages approached $15 billion.
  • Under Saudi pressure, our 43rd president, George W. Bush, agreed to pressure Israel into giving up land (not just control) to the Palestinians to become their own homeland.  This was more than either his father or Clinton had suggested. This was followed by the forced evacuation of the last Israeli presence from the Gaza Strip, and the eviction of Israelis from their remaining homes on the West Bank.   On August 23, 2005, the same day as the completion of the forced evictions in Israel, a tropical depression off of the U.S. coast was upgraded to a tropical storm named Katrina — it would forcibly evict 1 million Americans from their homes, costing more than $150 billion in loss.  In America, as in Israel, thousands were driven weeping from their homes.[5]
  • October 20, 2005, Pres. Bush met with Palestinian Authority President Abbas to reaffirm in strongest terms his support of a two-state solution. Wilma, the fourth costliest hurricane in U.S. history took place at exactly the same time, with  $30 billion dollars of destruction.
  • From 2007 until 2008, President Bush and Secretary Condoleezza Rice worked tirelessly toward a final peace plan giving a homeland to the Palestinian people out of the homeland of Jewish people. They planned on presenting the U.N. General Assembly with a document describing borders agreed to by both the Palestinians and Israelis . . .  with the announcement of their historic two-state- solution on September 16, 2008 . . . at the opening of the General Assembly. But on September 15, Pres. Bush had to take care of other matters. Wall Street stocks were tumbling with the news that Lehman Brothers had declared bankruptcy, Merrill Lynch had been bought out, and AIG was seeking an $85 billion bailout.  On September 29, the Dow suffered its greatest decline since the Depression.

*

How do we know ?

At a conference of Evangelical leaders, President George W. Bush addressed shared concerns over events taking place in the Middle East.  At one point, the President took questions.  Kay Arthur, internationally known for her Bible studies, addressed our President with deference, asking him why he was pursuing a two-state-solution in Israel . . . given Scripture’s warning about dividing the land.

“Kay,” the President gently chided — charmingly leaning over the podium toward her — “Not everyone interprets the Bible the way you do.”

And our President was exactly right.  Who dares to insist that his interpretation is closer to the truth than anyone else’s?

*

So how do we know what to believe?

*

This I know from Scripture and from my own life — out of love, and because He hates for us to miss what He wants to do and be for us — God will come hard against whatever misplaced sympathies are putting us at cross-purposes with His passionate intent . . . the enormity of His present redemptive activity breaking into our time, on our behalf.

There is a Divine dialogue taking place, in which God uses strong language, as stern as the danger we are in — to turn us back to Himself, so that our interests will not put us at cross purposes with His.

 

The question is, will we understand what He is saying to us by allowing finely orchestrated circumstances to speak  ?

*

 


[1] from The New American Commentary, Copyright © 1991-2007 by B & H Publishing Group.

[2]  http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4203818,00.html

[3] see Jonathan Cahn,  The Harbinger

[4] From William Koenig’s, Eye to Eye: Facing the Consequences of Dividing Israel  and various internet postings

[5] from John Price’s The End of America  (whose premises I do not share, but whose selection of data broke my heart in repentance for my country)

 

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  1. Patty says:

    This is very interesting and thought-provoking. I have always thought of these modern disasters as being allowed by, rather than caused by, God. Then my mind goes to recent episodes in my own life, where sin has been followed by calamity. Viewed as an engaged and active disciplinarian, God becomes for me not just more fearsome, but also, in his immediacy, more loved.

  2. Dianna says:

    WOW…. this was good Valerie. We always have to look at what is going on in Israel to understand what is going on with us. Blessings…..

  3. Nancy Wooten says:

    Thank you!!!!! Yes Israel is our time clock and we need heed the Bibles warnings and
    directions. I know Israel will be established and all of her land restored to her(what God promised Abraham)in God’s time, but woe to those who try to thwart God’s plans, they will be destroyed. Daily we need to be in personal touch with God who created all that we see hear and touch. To seek Him and His Word for us daily.
    I did not know that these disasters in our country were so directly alined with the decisions of our leaders. I am in a Bible study on Isaiah now, and the prophecys given, some were for in the prophets own time and some are for now and some for later. God never hides what He will do, He always tells in advance, we just need to be
    aware of and know His word, seek His face daily and a time will come when we will need to seek Him hourly and that time is NOW!

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