When life goes well and all things are falling into place better than we could have ever imagined, a few of us will turn to the Lord and give thanks. This is not uncommon and regrettably, is biblical. It happened to Jesus Himself, in fact, as is revealed in Luke 17:12-19. “And as He entered into a certain village, ten leprous men met Him, who stood afar off. And they lifted voice and said, Jesus, Master, pity us! And seeing them, He said to them, Go show yourselves to the priests. And it happened, as they went, that they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back and glorified God with a loud voice. And he fell down on his face at His feet, thanking Him. And he was a Samaritan. And answering, Jesus said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were none found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner? And He said to him, Rise and go; your faith has cured you.”
Jesus healed 10 men from leprosy, 1 Samaritan and 9 Hebrews, yet it was only the Samaritan, of whom John 4:9 says: “the Jews do not associate with Samaritans,” returned to give thanks. No, we need to give our thanks to the Lord in good times and in bad, for as the story of Job clearly demonstrates, the reasons for our good times and bad times may not be exactly for the selfish soulish reasons we imagine. It is not always about us!
Indeed, the “revelation-before-testing” is repeated many times throughout the Bible. Let us briefly review a few well known examples:
Genesis: At the tender age of 17, Joseph as not on good terms with his peers; indeed, “they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.” All Christians are familiar with the story of Joseph; his being sold into slavery and his eventual incarceration in Pharaoh’s prison. Certainly a wilderness time, a testing time for him. But what happened before he was sold by his brothers is quite interesting. The Lord gave Joseph an especially symbolic dream, which it seems, all in the family were able to interpret. As Genesis 27:5 says “Joseph dreamed a dream and told it to his brothers. And they hated him still more.” But then he dreamt again and again told his brothers, but this time, his brother conspired to kill him. Godly circumstance intervened and these prophetic dreams came true. The blessings of revelation before the testing of Joseph, certainly would have provided him with just the fortitude to face the temporary challenges of the testings.
Exodus: Before the Hebrews entered the wilderness, their testing period, they were the recipients of numerous miracles; each more astounding than the one before them. The list starts with the 10 plagues which infested the Egyptians, followed immediately by the slaughter of the first-born of Egypt on the night of Passover. Then God became a pillar of smoke and fire before dividing the Red Sea and allowing them to cross. Then, even then in the desert, the miracles continued: water from a rock, manna and quail and on went the list. The Lord blessed His people bountifully that they would be able to sustain the wilderness.
First Samuel: David, son of Jesse, is introduced to us a child, a callow youth, though not so callow or inexperienced in shepherding that he has not killed both a lion and a bear in discharge of his duty (v13:37). David then went out in the face of a massed Philistine army to kill Goliath, their giant warrior. David’s later exploits showed him to be blessed by the Lord in warfare and strategy and as his victories accumulated, much to the chagrin of his king as v18:7 we read “And the women answered as they played, and said, Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Quite clearly the revelation of the relationship between himself and his God sustained him through the years of persecution from a jealous King Saul as he hid out in the mountains and caves and wildernesses. Certainly, a time of testing, however you look at it.
We can see that at times, prophetic revelation can cause us problems and difficulties. At other times, prophetic revelation can prepare us, can strengthen and embolden us, for the testing periods in life which follow on thereafter.
As we come noticeable closer to the End Times, the words of Acts 2:17-21 make it clear that these days will be days of signs and wonders. There will be more revelation and there will be more testing. There will be greater revelation and there will be greater testing. “And it shall be in the last days, says God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh. And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And in those days I will pour out My Spirit upon My slaves and My slave women, and they shall prophesy. And I will give wonders in the heaven above, and miracles on the earth below, blood and fire and vapour of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before that great and glorious Day of the Lord. And it shall be that everyone who shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Why more testing? As we become more capable and move on to higher things, as we move on to more accomplished signs and miracles, the levels of the demonic which are faced will increase also. Higher levels of miracles will result in higher level demons to contend with. For this, God will require that we are capable of operating at these levels, and the only way to ensure this, is through higher levels of testing. We can learn from Paul here, as he writes in Second Corinthians 12:7 “and by the surpassing revelations, lest I be made haughty, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be made haughty.” We can see here that the “thorn in the flesh” was the direct result of the abundant prophetic revelation. We need to expect the same, for just the same reasons; we are no more or no less human than he was.
Viewed from another aspect, God is providing powerful and effective prophetic revelation precisely because of the difficulties to come: that we are prepared and ready; that we can pass the tests, whether from Him or others.
The powerful prophecy, intervention of the Holy Spirit and visions of Acts 16:6-10 led directly to particular physical hardships for Paul and Silas which are described in v17-21 “And the crowd rose up against them. And tearing off their clothes, the judges ordered them to be flogged. And after laying on them many stripes, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailor to keep them safely; who, having received such a command, thrust them into the inner prison and made their feet fast in the stocks.”
This gives us some kind of inkling of what to expect then the signs and wonder of the End Times are unveiled in all their majesty.
Amen and Amen.