We all have good times and we all have bad times. The question for Christians is this: In the bad times, who is hindering us?
Many Christians look at their lives and attribute all their problems to Satan. Though they may be devout Christians, yet they are unable to hear God speaking to them through their circumstances and experiences. Instead of being able to hear God in and through their situations, they give credit to God’s enemy and in pray, exacerbate their error, praying hard against the enemy while giving him undue attention and credit. What is the net result of this? Well, since the prayers are not aligned with God’s will, nothing changes. Next, they are getting into spiritual error by focussing on the problems, not the solution.
Yes, God does speak to us through our situations, predicaments and problems, as He did in the days of the Old Testament. There are times when we make mistakes and do wrong in the eyes of the Lord; some of us more than others, to be sure. At these times, God may well allow certain circumstances to occur with the intention of bringing us to Him, so we may understand what we have done to offend, and then correct the matter. However, if we do not accept that God can and does work this way, we miss out on His love and mercy and grace as we focus on his enemy, as the source of our ‘misfortune’.
In Haggai, Malachi and Joel we find extensive teachings in which God speaks to His people through unpleasant circumstances. We will now look at one example from each Prophet.
Back in the year 520 B.C. the Israelites were rebuilding their houses in Jerusalem, but leaving the Temple of the Lord in ruins. For a while the Lord permitted this situation; but then He decided enough was enough and started a change of circumstances for them. As Haggai 1:5-11 explains it:
“Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways.
You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.
‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labours.’“
The Israelites had started out productively working on their houses and on tending their fields, but the Lord put His hand on their productivity so they needed to work harder and harder to achieve less and less. God was speaking to them through their circumstances, but no one was listening or interpreting. Certainly no one asked the Lord for an understanding.
We see in v5 and again in v7 that the Lord became more explicit in His words to them, asking them to give “carefully consider their ways”. Yet His words fell on deaf ears. Even under diving judgement, they were blind to the reason for their circumstances and deaf to the words of the Lord who was giving them the solution to their circumstances. As a result of their failure to communicate with or hear God, God finally sent His Prophet Haggai to explain the situation to them; his words you have read above.
In Malachi 3:6-12 we read of another situation in which the Lord withdrew His economic protection from Israel because they would not tithe.
“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’
Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.
You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts.
Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.”
Without the Lord’s hand of protection over Israel, pests devoured crops, investments failed and economic disaster ensued. How like the present world economic predicament is this?
The Prophet Joel observed much the same, as wave after wave of locusts decimated the crops. We can understand the guilt and the people and their attitude towards God as Joel called out to them in Joel 1:5 “Awake, you drunkards, and weep, and wail, all you drinkers of wine, because of the sweet wine, for it is cut off from your mouth.” He then went on and demanded they put on sackcloth and repent from their drunken, pleasure seeking ways saying in vv13-14
“Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar. Go in, pass the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! Because grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God. Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.”
But Joel was a prophet and he was able to see much more in that which the Lord gave him, than related to their present situation. In Joel 2 he sees the invasion of the armies of locusts as representing the apocalyptic last days judgement:
“Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations.
Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them. Their appearance is like the appearance of horses, and like war horses they run.
As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle. Before them peoples are in anguish; all faces grow pale.
Like warriors they charge; like soldiers they scale the wall. They march each on his way; they do not swerve from their paths. They do not jostle one another; each marches in his path; they burst through the weapons and are not halted. They leap upon the city, they run upon the walls, they climb up into the houses, they enter through the windows like a thief.
The earth quakes before them; the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining.
The LORD utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the LORD is great and very awesome; who can endure it?
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.
Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God?
Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.
Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep and say, “Spare your people, O LORD, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?'”
Then the LORD became jealous for his land and had pity on his people.
The LORD answered and said to his people, “Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations. I will remove the northerner far from you, and drive him into a parched and desolate land, his vanguard into the eastern sea, and his rear guard into the western sea; the stench and foul smell of him will rise, for he has done great things.
Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things! Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and vine give their full yield. Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.
The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke.
The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.”
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I pray and I ask you to come now before the Lord and seek His word for you and your country as we enter this new year of 2012. Do not listen to the Lord’s enemy, for he is “for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8;44). Do not listen to you own heart, “for the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Listen to God and Him alone!!
In closing, I bring to you the words of First Timothy 2:1-6 and ask you this: Do you want to lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way?
If yes, please read and understand the following and pray for your country and all whom God has put in positions of authority over you:
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
Amen and Amen.
Dear Heavenly Father,
As I enter this year of 2012 I place myself before you as an acknowledged sinner and ask for your mercy upon my life. I repent of ——- name sins you need to repent of ——- and humbly ask for your forgiveness.
Father, I offer my body to you now as a living sacrifice, and I ask that You will now take control of my life and guide me so that the destiny which you have planned for me, will be fulfilled to your entire satisfaction. Let Your will and Your will alone, be done in my life.
Father, I also pray for my country and all whom you have placed in authority over me. I repent for no praying regularly for my country or those in authority over me, in the government, church, workplace and elsewhere, and I ask that you now give me heart to pray for them daily and make a difference for You in this land.
I pray this in the mighty name of my Lord and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen and Amen and Amen!