The Gathering Storm
“What is truth?” (John 18:38). The Roman praetor inferred that the prisoner before him had the answer. Yet sadly, he didn’t bother to wait for that answer. What a loss, a terrible loss, . . . not to know! He could have known! The Truth personified was right there in front of him, but Pontius Pilate didn’t pursue it. What about us? “And knowest not . . . ” (Revelation 3:17), the True Witness tells each of us today.
The worst thing for Pilate was that he didn’t know he was in the crisis of his life! He thought Jesus was in danger, not him. He thought he was the judge—that he was fine! What an enormous deceit! Probably that attitude cost him eternal life. In those few hours he decided his eternal destiny. Right there, standing in his presence, covered in the humble resemblance of a prisoner was “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). He looked like a captive, but He was the Liberator. “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). But Pilate missed it altogether! He did not know . . .
What would you have done in that situation? Would you have sought and followed the truth by any means?
By the way, are you in a crisis right now? Am I? What if we are, unknowingly, like Pilate, assuming that somebody else might be in danger? To all of us, the Lord may say: “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belongunto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes” (Luke 19:42).
Today we must know, my dear brethren! Tomorrow could be too late! We need to know the truth that shall make us free. (John 8:32.)
“Rulers and statesmen, thinking men who occupy positions of trust and authority, men and women of all classes . . . recognize that something great and decisive is about to take place—that the world is on the verge of a stupendous crisis.” 1
“The conflict that is right upon us will be the most terrible ever witnessed.”2
“The ‘time of trouble such as never was,’ is soon to open upon us; and we shall need an experience which we do not now possess, and which many are too indolent to obtain. It is often the case that trouble is greater in anticipation than in reality; but this is not true of the crisis before us. The most vivid presentation cannot reach the magnitude of the ordeal. In that time of trial, every soul must stand for himself before God.”3
The good news is that God promised and paid our salvation: “Alas! for that day isgreat, so that none is like it: it iseven the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it” (Jeremiah 30:7). As Jacob prevailed against that terrible trouble, we are also to prevail!
“Jacob prevailed because he was persevering and determined. His victory is an evidence of the power of importunate prayer. All who will lay hold of God’s promises, as he did, and be as earnest and persevering as he was, will succeed as he succeeded.”4
Although God made ample provision for our salvation and paid an infinite price for it, not all His children will be saved. What about you? What about me?
“Those who are unwilling to deny self, to agonize before God, to pray long and earnestly for His blessing, will not obtain it. Wrestling with God—how few know what it is! How few have ever had their souls drawn out after God with intensity of desire until every power is on the stretch. When waves of despair which no language can express sweep over the suppliant, how few cling with unyielding faith to the promises of God.”5
A terrible warning! May the Lord help us today to wake up and get ready!
The truth is precious if we understand and accept it. It brings life, the life of God, freely given to us through the plan of salvation, “for the life was manifested, and we . . . shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (1 John 1:2). Knowing the truth puts us in a privileged position; we are enabled to see the whole picture, to understand the causes, project the outcomes, make the right choices—and at the end—enjoy the pleasant, desirable results.
“What is truth?” Pilate asked 2,000 years ago, and today the question is more pertinent than ever! What if he had taken the time to listen? Maybe he would have heard, like Nicodemus, a straight, shocking, but life-changing answer, revealing to him the salvation of his soul! But he didn’t . . .
Now is our time! Let us ask ourselves: Do I really want to know the truth about myself, about my soul? If we truly hunger for the truth, we shall be satisfied; it will be more for us than the right knowledge about things or principles involved. The truth is the precious Person of Jesus, the Son of God and Son of man. He not only has the truth about everything, He IS the Truth. And more than that, if we accept Him, He is the Gospel, He is the solution for any crisis, He is the Salvation, offering Himself to us: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)!
Ever since the time of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, deception has been interlaced with truth. What yesterday was labeled as “fake news” tomorrow may be found as “proven science” and vice versa; the “truth has fallen in the public squares” (Isaiah 59:14, RSV).
From the beginning of his rebellion, Satan brought falsehood mingled with some truth. “He is a liar and the father of lies.” He lies boldly that God doesn’t punish sin (Genesis 3:4) and “in a loud voice” that the Lord cannot save! (2 Kings 18.) By accepting his deceits, human nature has been corrupted and made incompatible with the truth.
We “have eyes to see, and see not” (Ezekiel 12:2). In a time of crisis, this blindness is even greater. In a crisis, we’re stressed and tend to react instead of acting wisely and thoughtfully. We’re prone to be deceived by our fears and feelings which distort reality. We see only “giants” and we are “in our own sight as grasshoppers” (Numbers 13:33). The stress of the crisis cuts short the time needed for calm consideration. We’re pushed to resolve matters quickly, get things done—to escape! And in the process, truth can be lost. . . . Only at the end, after we cool down and the crisis has past, can we discern the mistakes and deceits, and see the truth more clearly. Sometimes this scrutiny is painful and saddening. We discover that the truth was other than where we thought and that we have acted foolishly. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it” (Jeremiah 17:9)?
Therefore, we don’t have to look to ourselves for solutions to the crises. We have to go to the fountain of truth! Starting at the beginning, the first truth—the most important—is:
In the beginning, “the God of their fathers” named “I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:14) was not known by the Israelites. But at the Red Sea they began to know Him! They now saw the residue of Egypt’s pride and glory: the corpses of their oppressors, brought by the waves along the shore. They saw the Hand of God erasing the land of Egypt due to its stubborn opposition; they had seen the Pillar of cloud and fire, they had seen the huge walls of water obeying the Creator’s voice! They had seen His mighty Hand miraculously working for them! That was the Truth revealed for them: the Great “I AM” was in their midst, a loving Father, eager to help, omnipotent! By faith they had reached out to know the Lord. “By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land” (Hebrews 11:29).
This is even more precious! The Lord is “the Truth,” He is “the Life” (John 14:6)! He is the Source of life itself, all creation. He is the solution for any imaginable trouble, He is “the Way” of escape as well as the way of righteousness. He declares, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). He is in perfect control and cannot be surprised. By knowing Him, receiving Him, His children receive life and salvation, because to know Him is life eternal (John 17:3). “He that hath the Son hath life” (1 John 5:12). This is the truth!
“To know God is to love Him.”6 In times of trouble we see Him clearer; His love and saving power prove themselves real. The Lord says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Psalm 50:15).
The second important truth in a crisis is about who we are.
“It is in a crisis that character is revealed.”7 Peter thought he knew himself, but in the crisis of Christ being arrested, he discovered himself. While the words of denial were still fresh on his lips, he looked to Jesus. There He saw Jesus as never before—full of forgiveness with no shadow of reproach. “A tide of memories rushed over him. The Saviour’s tender mercy, His kindness and long-suffering, His gentleness and patience toward His erring disciples—all was remembered. . . . [Peter] reflected with horror upon his own ingratitude, his falsehood, his perjury.”8 Like Peter, in mirroring Jesus we may understand our total impotence and the cruel malice of our hearts. A painful but saving experience! It is this discovery that brings us, as it did for Peter, to repentance and conversion. Like him, we become a new creature, but only as we fully understand our desperate condition and abhor ourselves.
Daniel confessed: “O Lord, righteousness belongethunto thee, but unto us confusion of faces . . .” “because we have sinned against thee. To the Lord . . . belongmercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him” (Daniel 9:7–9). The apostle Paul acknowledged: “For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh” (Romans 7:18, RSV). Precious, saving understanding!
In the light of God’s character, we admit our true condition: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death” (Romans 7:24)?
“Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am” (Isaiah 58:9).
“Where is the Lord God?” (2 Kings 2:14.) Any time a soul in his impotence and despair seeks the Lord, He answers, “Here I am!” He wants to be with us any time and even more so in time of crisis. He is there to save “with healing in his wings.” This is the very essence of God’s life. “I AM” means He is everywhere (Psalm 139); He is with every child of His in need. “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not” (Genesis 28:16), is the truth for us.
Six centuries before Christ, in Babylon, in front of the burning furnace, the three young Jews said confidently: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver usout of thine hand, O king” (Daniel 3:17). That was the truth! Not the rage of the king, nor the burning flames, but the dear Person of Jesus, who was there , walking freely with them in that fire. The apostle Paul confirms: “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him” (Hebrews 7:25).Do we need more than that?
In the crisis of Dothan, surrounded by Syrian armies, Elisha, the man of God, explained to his servant: “Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kings 6:16). What was the truth in that crisis? Here they were besieged by the Syrians with no apparent way of escape. But in reality they were encircled by the mighty protecting armies of heavenly angels. Not they, but the Syrians were in danger!
Another solemn truth is that “the cloud that was a wall of darkness to the Egyptians was to the Hebrews a great flood of light . . . shedding brightness upon the path before them.”9 “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6). He wants to help all; He paid the salvation for all; but He can only save those who accept Him and His grace!
It would be a terrible deceit to willfully continue in opposition with God, to scoff His grace and in the time of crisis to assume that He is with us! Remember the last crisis in the life of King Saul—(1 Samuel 15:22, 23), and in the life of Judas Iscariot (Matthew 27:3–5). It is true that the Lord, in His longsuffering, often delays the execution of justice determined by our choices, but that path of opposition, of rebellion, of spiritual indolence, if insistently followed, will surely bring us to destruction! “Because I have called, and ye refused . . . ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity. . . . Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me” (Proverbs 1:24–28).
“But a small portion of those who now profess the truth will be sanctified by it and be saved,”10 “for many be called, but few chosen” (Matthew 20:16). Only “two of the adults of the vast army that left Egypt entered the land of Canaan. Their dead bodies were strewn in the wilderness because of their transgressions.”11
“Those who delay a preparation for the day of God cannot obtain it in the time of trouble, or at any subsequent time. The case of all such is hopeless.”12 This should be the most painful truth to the heart of our dear Saviour! For many, His infinite sacrifice will be in vain!
The apostle Paul, whose life was a never-ending crisis (see 2 Corinthians 11:23–29) has given us the key: “because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18, RSV).
“By faith [Moses] forsook Egypt, . . . for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27). In other words, “to see” Him means to believe in Him, in everything He is and does! “The just shall live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38). The faith is “the substance” (concrete reality, the assurance) of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). By faith we receive Him (John 1:12), by faith we obtain His righteousness (Philippians 3:9), by faith we are transformed (2 Corinthians 3:18), and by faith we are saved (Ephesians 2:8)!
Let us turn our eyes from all that the enemy puts before us! Let people say whatever they want. We have a far brighter vision to contemplate: let us see dear Jesus—THE TRUTH, the unseen Mighty Commander of the Universe, with all creation at His feet, ready to heal and save! “Once the gaze is fixed upon Him, the life finds its center. . . . Duty becomes a delight and sacrifice a pleasure. To honor Christ, to become like Him, to work for Him, is the life’s highest ambition and its greatest joy.”13
Just as in the crisis at the Red Sea, “often the Christian life is beset by dangers, and duty seems hard to perform. The imagination pictures impending ruin before and bondage or death behind. Yet the voice of God speaks clearly, ‘Go forward.’ We should obey this command, even though our eyes cannot penetrate the darkness, and we feel the cold waves about our feet.”14
By faith in Him we are made able to obey. “Faith works by love and purifies the soul, and with faith there will be corresponding obedience, a faithful doing of the words of Christ.”15
So then, look to Him, “the chiefest among ten thousand”!
It is in the written Word of God that we “see” and “know” our Saviour, and the reality of our own frailty as well. Christ conquered by “it is written” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). He did not debate with the enemy; “He would not parley with temptation.”16 May the Lord help us do the same. “When assailed by temptation, look not to circumstances or to the weakness of self, but to the power of the word. All its strength is yours.”17
“ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ Often the follower of Christ is brought where he cannot serve God and carry forward his worldly enterprises. Perhaps it appears that obedience to some plain requirement of God will cut off his means of support. . . . But the only thing in our world upon which we can rely is the word of God. . . . When we learn the power of His word, we shall not follow the suggestions of Satan in order to obtain food or to save our lives. Our only questions will be, What is God’s command? and what His promise? Knowing these, we shall obey the one, and trust the other.”18
Surrounded by mountains, blocked by the sea ahead and pressed from behind by the Egyptian armies, the Israelites, without weapons, could see nothing but imminent death. By faith, Moses seeing the Lord in their midst, said: “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still” (Exodus 14:14, RSV). “The victory belongs to the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31). “Be still”—for them and for us, this is indeed one of the most difficult exercises of faith! Let us honor the Lord by completely trusting Him, as true people of rest (shabbath in Hebrew) and get ready!
Jesus says, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Christ did not fail, neither was He discouraged. As He prevailed, we may prevail, too. His grace is sufficient for us and His power is made perfect in weakness. Let us say with Paul: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Trusting in Him, we are made “more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37).
Victory is assured by the Mighty Conqueror! We have only to submit to His will—and “if God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
In the night of the last fierce crisis, the Sun of Righteousness shall rise, and His people shall be raised with Him to glory, purified, shining, reflecting the beauty of their Redeemer! The greatest truth that “God is love” shall resound in all of God’s creation! May the Lord help us to cooperate with Him, to allow Him to save us fully, to walk with Him daily until faith shall fade in glory, when He shall receive us in the courts above! Amen.