Crossing Over in the Storm

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When will deliverance come?

Recent international events add even more anxiety to many people in Nigeria and other places, not knowing what the year will bring. The sufferings of many years bring a perspective to current events that is real. In the article below, we dive into biblical themes for assurance that is not empty and vain, directing our response to rebuild with a hope that is powerful. Agriculture is just one area we can implement transforming solutions in this global and economic centralism, which tears the local community apart everywhere.

Many have noted that the scriptures were written to people in oppression. The great Christmas story highlights this starkly, in warfare scenery. The magi follow the star to the new-born king, risking their lives to worship. Jesus is born as part of a subjugated village family and must flee with them to Egypt for safety. The children of Bethlehem are slaughtered. Herod cannot allow a community of worship and justice to flourish in his realm.

For many years we read this each Christmas, as a story that others had passed through, but today we feel like we are part of the narrative. We feel the cruelty of the rule and the risk of true worship. An economy of oppression is taking hold, with the global controls that necessarily accompany such an unjust rule.

Looking back through the scriptures we see God delivering Abraham and Sarah from their bareness, Hagar in her rejection and the Hebrew from Egypt. The Exodus was stressful as the enemy’s rage and grip kept growing stronger, which was necessary to bring about their overthrow in the Red Sea. Above everything else deliverance requires us to trust, knowing God holds the times in his hands.

We see God deliver the widows from the kings of Israel, the Jews from Haman and from their captivity in Babylon. The prophets spoke of the greater deliverance to come, which would include all the nations. The global enemy was depicted as “Gog and Magog,” which meant mercenary, murderous plunderers. When Jesus came, people were shocked to learn that this deliverance wouldn’t be achieved through violence but through suffering and the transformation of enmity by grace and forgiveness, just as the cross showed.

This battle for the nations is most vividly depicted in the Revelation. The beast raged in his greed and thirst for power but was not overcome immediately. There was the “time, times, and half a time,” where witness was given, with the opportunity of repentance, before the judgement fell on Jeruslem. But in this judgement, there is the seed of new hope, of a new righteous rule in which the oppressed are relieved, transformed and go on to serve and rebuild the nations.

When their iniquity is full …

The Psalms are filled with this story in poetry. Psalm 2 begins, “Why do the heathen rage and imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his anointed (his people, and all the vulnerable in the world).” Not only did David and the early church live this story, but we also are living this today. Nations like Nigeria, and increasingly masses all over the world, enslaved by debt, by the refusal of the global mercenary Pharaonic power to enact Jubilee, are bowed down by this rule. And the prospect for the immediate future is only a hardening of this heart, a tightening of this grip.

Psalm 2 continues, “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh and confuse their evil plans.” What beautiful prose. The “heavens” speak of a higher intervening authority that cannot be resisted, the hope of the weak. All the power of the powerful melts at his presence. “The earth and all it contains belongs to the Lord.” (Psalm 24) When all the stage is set for the final overthrow of the people by the beast, like in the Revelation, the beast instead is consumed by fire. “Then he shall speak to them in his wrath and vex them in his sore displeasure.” (Psalm 2:5)

I would like to know when this “then” is. Is it next week, next month, next year? When will this deliverance come? For Israel captive in Egypt, it was when the “iniquity of the Canaanites was full.” It is the fulness of their iniquity that leads to their downfall, like Pharaoh with his hard heart, and Jeruslem when she hardened herself against Rome. It’s a very difficult period for everyone else to pass through, because the more their heart hardens, the greater the tribulation. But God is the only judge and only he knows when.

Today is very much like the Roman period. They had “the year of the four emperors” when evil Nero died: the clashes to rule the empire. And the vassal states that were trodden under foot and wasted in the power struggles were like many nations are today. We wait for God’s providence once again, to restore a decentralised economy of Jubilee, a decentralised political freedom and a community of true worship and family care. In short, we wait for Ezekiel’s tabernacle/ temple, meaning local, rural, and regional communities of peace.

Psalm 2 continues, “I have set my King upon my holy hill of Zion (within our hearts) … Ask of me, and I shall give you the heathen for your inheritance and the utmost parts of the earth for your possession.” Dictatorship is displaced by a Jubilee rule in every local community.

When we have judged ourselves…

In Psalm 18 David speaks of being compassed by his enemies. He was powerless before their might. Then the beautiful poetry of God’s deliverance. He comes upon the clouds, dark clouds of tempest. Again, this depicts God’s rule being above all the wicked, coming irresistibly to the aid of the weak. There is a storm, but God rides upon it, like he walks upon the stormy seas, taking us to the other side. But the storm sinks the wicked. The foundations of the earth are opened, the secret places that the wicked have hidden in and planned their plans exposed. All is revealed and flushed away.

 

Again, the question is, “when will God come upon the clouds and in the storm?” David’s answer is a little like Job’s: after his patient waiting has glorified God. We all wait, in the dark night, in the temptation, like Jesus in the wilderness. We wonder where God is, why he hasn’t acted, when and how he will come. We are tried. While David waited, he walked in justice, kept himself in God’s commandments and from his sin. He waited by serving God, by serving the poor and needy around him, by ministering to the sick, the way Jesus lived while waiting for his passion and justification.

So we wait for God’s deliverance. And while we wait, we ask God’s Spirit to cleanse us from sin, or as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, we judge ourselves. The judgement of renewal begins in the house of the Lord. We shall then say, “For you will light my candle; the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. For by you I have run through a troop, and by my God I have leaped over the wall.”

He takes down all powers of darkness for our sakes. He is the only one who can do it. These global powers are far greater than us, but he takes our part against them. “He makes my feet like hinds feet and sets me upon high places. He teaches my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by my arms (overcoming violence and injustice with mercy, healing our communities) … You have enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.”

God’s period of waiting is filled with promise, of our own cleansing, of his empowering us for righteous battle and of his sure presence and victory. He brings us into a large and effective place of service, influence, and blessing. He teaches us to stand in the night and also in the place of victory, in both places giving glory to him. In both places we minster the Jubilee.

God’s judgement on our corruption…

Micah 7 describes a day when there is no justice in courts, nor in the parliament, “the prince and the judge ask for a reward.” Many are compromised, threatened with violence, and blackmailed. Fear takes hold of Jerusalem in the day of Christ’s betrayal. Why? Because the world can see that justice and truth have vanished.

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Saviour; my God will hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the Lord’s reproach, until he pleads my case and upholds my cause. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness. Then my enemy will see it and will be covered with shame, she who said to me, “Where is the Lord your God?” My eyes will see her downfall; even now she will be trampled underfoot like mire in the streets.” (Micah 7:7-10)

What a wonderful truth: God hears our prayer.

The enemy is poetically personified in this text: corruption, hatred, and proud rejection of the only faithful one. These will no longer have the strong voice on our media or in our cultures but will be exposed and put to shame by the coming of God’s judgement and renewal. These voices are then counted as mire in the streets. Good will be counted as good again, and evil as evil. The world becomes a safer place for children.

While we wait, we replace fear and betrayal with grace, truth, forgiveness, and service, as we trust in the Lord who takes us across the stormy waters to rebuild the nations. Here in Nigeria we have strong conviction to continue building grace among our neighbours as a witness to the Lordship of Christ, until he comes and rains down his love and victory, in this life and in the one to come.