The Lord's first wake-up call to Israel came in an invasion by Assyria. This archenemy attacked two Israelite provinces, Zebulun and Naphtali. Fortunately, the attacks were limited to these two points, and the damage was minimal. Yet God was clearly speaking to His people. The Lord's chosen nation lost their sense of security and missed the message God was speaking.
Israel then received a second wake-up call and this one was very severe. Two nations whom Scripture calls the "enemies of Israel"—the Syrians and the Philistines—combined forces for a sudden attack. According to Isaiah, this attack came from both "before, and . . . behind" (Isaiah 9:12). This means the invaders came from the east and the west, surrounding Israel. And their sudden attack was totally devastating.
After the attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, most Americans were asking: Where was God in this sudden invasion? What were His people to make of the disaster that had come upon them? Isaiah tells us God was faithful to speak to His people in Israel’s day: "The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel" (Isaiah 9:8). God spoke a clear word and He sent the message to the whole nation.
Beloved, this verse tells us something very important at our own time of devastation. It says simply, "God always sends His word." Never in history has the Lord left His people clueless in a time of calamity. He has never abandoned us and forced us to figure out things on our own. He always provides a word of understanding.
Even now the Lord is raising up godly watchmen to speak for Him in these times. These shepherds are grieving, weeping and repenting as they seek God's face. And I believe they're hearing and understanding the Lord's message behind the present events. Moreover, they're not afraid to proclaim dire warnings, because they know they've heard from God. They're compelled to speak of His purposes behind our calamities.
Ministers and theologians everywhere are saying, "God has nothing to do with disasters. He wouldn't allow awful things to happen." Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. This kind of thinking is causing our nation to rapidly miss the message God wants to speak to us through tragedy.
The fact is, we have to have a word from God. Like many pastors, I've wept and grieved over awful calamities. I've sought the Lord in prayer and through His Word. And I want to tell you, I've experienced a grief that's even deeper than the mourning for innocent people dying. It's a grief that says if we miss God's message, if we turn a deaf ear to what He is loudly proclaiming, then much worse is in store for us.
The prophet Isaiah speaks directly to what we've experienced. If you object to using the Old Testament for examples, consider Paul's words on the subject: "All these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Corinthians 10:11). Paul makes it clear that the examples of the Old Testament reveal just how God moves in times like ours.
At the time that Isaiah prophesied, God had been dealing patiently with Israel for about 250 years. The Lord had sent "light afflictions" upon His people, calling them to repentance. He was trying to woo them out of their brazen idolatry and back into His blessing and favor.
All the prophets throughout the years had spoken to Israel the same essential word: "Humble yourselves." Scripture says, "They served idols . . . yet the Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes" (2 Kings 17:12-13).
But God's chosen nation rejected His call to repentance. "They would not hear, but hardened their necks" (17:14). These people mocked the prophets who called them to humility. And, instead, they "followed vanity, and became vain . . . and they left all the commandments of the Lord their God . . . and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord. . . . Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel" (2 Kings 17:15-18).
I want to be a soldier who is fully prepared for the battlefield. I know that victory is won long before the battle begins. It's won in boot camp, in training and conditioning. When the enemy suddenly comes at me, I'm going to need all available ammunition, and that ammunition is supplied by the powerful Word of God as I hide it away in my heart. So, the next time the devil attacks, I'm confident I'll have reserves to draw on. I'll have won the battle alone with God, prior to the battlefield.
Are you a committed soldier, believing that God is equipping you even now? If so, then you're fulfilling three requirements:
1. You're a diligent reader of God's Word.
As you study Scripture, you're beginning to understand how much God loves you. If you're not convinced of His absolute love, you won't be able to handle any crisis that comes. And you become convinced of His love only by devouring His Word.
2. You're cultivating intimacy with God daily, through time in quality prayer.
Our Lord wants us to cry out to Him in our times of crisis. But prayer during our hardships isn't enough. We have to seek our Father in good times as well. Our faith isn't meant to be merely situational. It has to come from a developing relationship with the Lord.
3. You're trusting that God won't allow you to face any trial without making a way for you to endure it.
Should a great trial come upon you, you don't have to worry whether you'll be strong or faint. Our Father gives grace when it's needed. And if you've developed a close, intimate relationship with Him, He'll pour His enduring grace into you when you need it.
God invites you to enter into His rest—today.
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
To enter into God's rest, we must renounce our own efforts and sweat. Faith alone admits us into this perfect rest: "For we which have believed do enter into rest" (Hebrews 4:3). Simply put, we are to set our hearts to believe that God is faithful to deliver us in every circumstance, no matter how impossible it may seem.
"For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his" (Hebrews 4:10). When we are at rest in Christ, we no longer try to put on a brave face in times of trouble. We don't pump up some phony acceptance of our crisis. And we don't worry that we might cave in to fear and begin questioning God's love. In short, our "works mentality" has ceased to drive us. Now we've learned simply to trust the Lord.
How do we develop such trust? We seek the Lord in prayer, meditate on His Word, and walk in obedience. You may object, "But those things are all works." I disagree. They are all acts of faith. As we observe these disciplines, we are trusting that the Holy Spirit is at work in us, building up a reservoir of strength for our time of need. We may not feel God's strengthening going on inside us, or feel His power being built up in us. But when our next trial comes, these heavenly resources will become manifest in us.
This is the foremost reason I seek the Lord diligently—fasting, praying, studying, looking to obey His commandments through the power of the Holy Ghost. It's not because I'm a minister who wants to set an example. I do these things because I know I still have many trials ahead of me. As long as I'm serving the Lord, the devil will never give me rest. I'm going to face intense warfare, surprise attacks. And, in spite of all the victories and peace I have already experienced, I'll always need heaven's resources to help me endure.
“My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips” (Psalm 89:34). The term “covenant” plays an integral part in the Christian faith. Yet I have never heard a preacher or teacher adequately describe the significance of “covenant” in a Christian’s life. The Bible itself is divided into two Covenants (or Testaments), Old and New. Throughout the Old Testament, God makes one covenant after another with humankind. What are all these covenants about? More importantly, what do they have to do with us today?
A covenant is an agreement or pledge between two or more parties, like a contract. It contains terms or duties each party must perform to fulfill the agreement. Such covenants are legally binding, and once they are finalized each party can be penalized for not fulfilling its respective terms.
In creating the New Covenant, God puts His amazing love for humankind on full display. Yet the church has been blind to this incredible doctrine for decades. As a young Christian I was taught that “covenant theology,” focusing on the New Covenant, was a licentious doctrine. The prevailing thought was that the New Covenant is so marvelously freeing that people might misuse it, indulging in permissive lifestyles.
Yet the more I understand the New Covenant, the more I’m convinced we need its assurance in these perilous last days. Its pledge has the power to release in God’s church all the overcoming strength we need to be more than conquerors in any situation.
The New Covenant is a formal contract between Father and Son. And today we, the seed of a spiritual Israel, are brought into this covenant by faith. “Now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (Hebrews 8.6).
“My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him” (Psalm 89:28).