In this part of our investigation I should like to draw upon a portion of a teaching prophecy that we were privileged to hear during a meeting on 17th July 1980. The tape recorder was on, so we were able to make a transcript. Here it is.
For did not the prophets of old suffer within themselves so much of that which was to come upon the nation? Did not Jeremiah suffer the anguish of loneliness, and the unfulfilment of his youth in celibacy and loneliness when he would have been joined to another? For my people in that time knew not what it was to be joined to the living God.
“And did not my prophets of old go through great pain and great suffering, even in their personal lives and in their own walk with me, becoming as it were a mild and temperate version of what was to fall upon the nation?
“And did not Elijah suffer great pangs of uselessness and inadequacy, of depression and smallness, in the face of the work and the word of God? And was this not as it were the birth pangs of the rejection and inadequacy and the awfulness that my people were going to suffer as they turned to worship again the Living God after years of apostasy?
And did not Ezekiel weep and mourn, and did he not languish upon a bed of suffering, and was he not to the people as it were a laughing stock and a visual symbol of my wrath, and my pain, and my displeasure upon the nation? And did not those things that he suffered come into being upon the nation?
These three stalwarts of faith were selected by the Lord to teach us a very clear lesson, a lesson not only to be learned from days long gone by, but to encourage the same process to occur in the our lives in this day and age. God has not changed His manner of working. He has chosen to work out His purposes through men and women of faith, as Arthur Wallis clearly prophesied in December 1967 –
You shall know through my word that this is the voice of the Lord your God and you shall therefore have confidence. And the revelation of my Spirit shall breed and raise and develop and cultivate faith in your hearts, and you shall be men and women of faith.
For only through faith can my purposes be wrought out, only though faith can there be an overcoming of the powers of darkness, only through faith can there be a breaking through of the tremendous barriers that exist, that the word of God might reach the nations and turn them from darkness unto light.
Therefore be encouraged and strengthened, for I have brought you to the kingdom even for such a time as this. And I will take you up and use you as you yield yourselves and are willing to pay the price and to pay the vow to go through with me. I will use you for the accomplishment of my purposes, saith the Lord.
The examples of Jeremiah, Elijah, and Ezekiel, given in the 1980 prophecy, show that in each case God’s servants were being used as cameo sketches, as though His men were “living prophecies” of what was about to come upon the nation of Israel. The fact that these men were able to be used, meant that God had achieved the authority and power to carry out His purposes on the nation. It was a demonstration to the powers of darkness that He had made significant advances in the Cosmic Chess Game.
I sense that some may now want to query what I have written, saying that God is Almighty, and nothing is too hard for Him, and He doesn’t need man to enable Him to work out His purposes. Intrinsically that it so. But God has chosen to limit Himself by the Rules of Engagement, which means that faithful men are God’s tools, His ministers, His workmen, to bring His purposes to pass. The greatness of God can be seen by the fact that although there is this apparent limiting of His power, He has chosen to use “the weak things of this world to confound the mighty, the base things of the world, and things that are despised, and things that are not, to bring to nought things that are,” and thereby achieve victory! (1 Cor.1:27-28) Was it not in the time of Jesus’ greatest weakness that Satan crucified the Messiah, thinking he had achieved his greatest victory ever? And was it not that a few days later he suddenly realised his scheme had backfired, resulting in Resurrection, with the sin-offering of God’s anointed Son cleansing man? That is the greatest example in history of what Paul was referring to in his letter to Corinth. And that is the way in which God requires us to see His methods, His ways, His manner of working in this world. That is the way in which He wants us to understand the pains, the weakness, and the wretchedness in the lives of His faithful servants.
The religious world of Jeremiah’s day scoffed at God’s prophet, derided him, and even put him in a pit, but he kept faith with God. There was a time when he was almost at the end of his tether, and wished he had not been chosen to speak for God, but his words show the tenacity of his faith. Listen to this – “The word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, ‘I will not mention Him, or speak any more in His name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot. For I hear many whispering, and terror is on every side. ‘Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ say all my familiar friends, watching for my fall. ‘Perhaps he will be deceived, then we can overcome him, and take our revenge on him.'” (Jeremiah 20:8-10) But in his wretchedness Jeremiah remembered what the Lord said to him at the outset. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. . . .Do not say,’I am only a youth.’ . . . Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” (Jer.1:5-8) And so he says, “They will not overcome me . . . O Lord, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to You I have committed my cause. Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord!For He has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers.” (Jer.20:11-13)
The stalwart faithful of the Lord have always suffered indignities, been badly treated, even by the household of faith, but God promises to deliver them. Paul understood the principle of this when he said, “I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and am filling up that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, on behalf of His Body, the Church.” (Col.1:24) The “afflictions of Christ” have been operative from the days of Abel to the present time, and are still the daily bread of God’s chosen vessels. Paul not only understood this, but he also encouraged others to share “in the fellowship of His sufferings”. (Phil.3:10) By this means the hand of God may take the Chessmen and move them forward to destiny, one step at a time, until in the fulness of time victory will be complete, and the great cry go up, Checkmate! “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor.15:26) “And the Lord said to me, ‘Write: for these words are true and faithful.’ And He said to me, ‘It is finished! I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.'” (Rev.21:5-6)
We shall continue with this theme in the next number.