The Gathering Storm
In ancient times, whenever a king or person of similar high authority had an important trip to another country, usually a team of trustworthy persons were sent in advance to the region to be visited—to check the conditions of the roads and the security of the environment where their king would be going in order to grant safety and success to him and his counselors.
Today the authorities follow the same method, although with more sophisticated resources. Before kings or president hold their meetings, they already have all the information necessary regarding the country where they will be going.
Before the King of the Universe, Jesus, was about to be incarnated as our King of grace, a heavenly company of angels came in advance to see what preparation was being made to receive their beloved King. They suffered a tremendous disappointment. In Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, there was no visible sign that the people and their leaders were rejoicing over the anticipated birth of their true King. Although the priests and religious leaders had in their hands all the rolls of prophecy, they were totally ignorant of that wonderful event.
The angels were almost ready to return to Heaven with the sad news, when they found a small group of shepherds in a field of Bethlehem, discussing the prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah. To them, the angels gave the good news that the King had been born in a very humble place.
Immediately, the truehearted shepherds visited the place where they found Jesus in a manger and they began to spread the good news to the people.
Another team of faithful students of the stars and the prophecies, coming from a faraway pagan land, concluded that the heavenly king was already born. They had access to the prophecies of Balaam concerning the coming Messiah: “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth” ().
That was not a common star. It was formed by a distant group of bright angels, the same who appeared to the shepherds in Bethlehem.
The noble travelers from the East made a long trip to see the newborn King. Finally, they arrived in Jerusalem. These also expected to encounter a joyful atmosphere due to the arrival of the divine King; and they, too, became tremendously disappointed. Arriving in Jerusalem, they were invited by king Herod who pretended to receive them in a friendly manner, requesting for them to give him precise information about the details as soon as they would find Jesus.
Herod demanded of the Jewish priests to find the prophecy in question. As a result of their research, they informed the king that Christ would be born in Bethlehem, as per the prophecy of Micah, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel whose; goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” ().
With very few exceptions, the entire nation was unprepared to welcome Jesus. We only find the shepherds, the wise men from the east, Elisabeth, Zachariahs, Simeon and a very few others. The leaders interpreted the Messianic prophecies according to their national pride. And when Christ came to His people, they rejected Him.
A prophecy of Isaiah had made clear that a forerunner would come to warn the people regarding their coming Deliverer and prepare the way for Him. “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” ().
Another prophecy is found in Malachi regarding the divine agent who would come to prepare the people for the coming of the Lord: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (, ).
The fulfillment of this prophecy was clearly revealed in the New Testament.
When preaching in the wilderness of Judea, John the Baptist declared regarding his own mission: “The word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” ().
God sent a special messenger to prepare the way for the first coming of Jesus, in the person of John the Baptist. He represented Elijah and he faithfully fulfilled his mission. Likewise today, the Lord is sending another warning through His messengers representing Elijah, to prepare a people not for the first coming—but now for the second coming of Jesus.
“John was called to do a special work; he was to prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight His paths. The Lord did not send him to the school of the prophets and rabbis. He took him away from the assemblies of men to the desert, that he might learn of nature and nature’s God. God did not desire him to have the mold of the priests and rulers. He was called to do a special work. The Lord gave him his message. Did he go to the priests and rulers and ask if he might proclaim this message?—No, God put him away from them that he might not be influenced by their spirit and teaching. He was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it’ (1). This is the very message that must be given to our people; we are near the end of time, and the message is, Clear the King’s highway; gather out the stones; raise up a standard for the people. The people must be awakened. It is no time now to cry peace and safety. We are exhorted to ‘cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins’ ( ).”
“In this age, just prior to the second coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven, God calls for men who will prepare a people to stand in the great day of the Lord. Just such a work as that which John did, is to be carried on in these last days. The Lord is giving messages to His people, through the instruments He has chosen, and He would have all heed the admonitions and warning He sends. The message preceding the public ministry of Christ was, Repent, publican and sinners, repent, Pharisees and Sadducees, ‘for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Our message is not to be one of peace and safety. As a people who believe in Christ´s soon appearing, we have a definite message to bear, ‘Prepare to meet thy God.’
“Our message must be as direct as was that of John. He rebuked kings for their iniquity. Notwithstanding the peril his life was in, he never allowed truth to languish on his lips. Our work in this age must be as faithfully done. . . .
“In this time of well-nigh universal apostasy, God calls upon His messengers to proclaim His law in the spirit and power of Elias. As John the Baptist, in preparing a people for Christ’s first advent, called their attention to the Ten Commandments, so we are to give, with no uncertain sound, the message: ‘Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come.’ With the earnestness that characterized Elijah the prophet and John the Baptist, we are to strive to prepare the way for Christ´s second advent.”2
“The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. . . . Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Christ” (, ).
“It is the Lord’s desire that His followers shall grow in grace, that their love shall abound more and more, that they shall be filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the praise and glory of God.”3
In the Isaiah passage depicting the preparation of the way of the Lord, the Scripture continues by describing the exaltation of the humble and the humbling of the exalted:
“ ‘Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain’ (). Every obstacle to the redemption of God’s people is to be removed by the opening of His word and the presentation of a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ The true light is to shine forth; for darkness covers the earth, and gross darkness the people. The truth of the living God is to appear in contrast with error. Proclaim the glad tidings. We have a Saviour who has given His life that those who believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
“Obstacles to the advancement of the work of God will appear; but fear not. To the omnipotence of the King of kings, our covenant-keeping God unites the gentleness and care of a tender shepherd. Nothing can stand in His way. His power is absolute, and it is the pledge of the sure fulfillment of His promises to His people. He can remove all obstructions to the advancement of His work. He has means for the removal of every difficulty, that those who serve Him and respect the means He employs may be delivered. His goodness and love are infinite, and His covenant is unalterable.
“The plans of the enemies of His work may seem to be firm and well established, but He can overthrow the strongest of these plans, and in His own time and way He will do this, when He sees that our faith has been sufficiently tested and that we are drawing near to Him and making Him our counselor.
“In the darkest days, when appearances seem so forbidding, fear not. Have faith in God. He is working out His will, doing all things well in behalf of His people. The strength of those who love and serve Him will be renewed day by day. His understanding will be placed at their service, that they may not err in the carrying out of His purposes.
“There is to be no despondency in God’s service. Our faith is to endure the pressure brought to bear upon it. God is able and willing to bestow upon His servants all the strength they need. He will more than fulfill the highest expectations of those who put their trust in Him. He will give them the wisdom that their varied necessities demand.
“Said the tried apostle Paul: ‘He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.’, .
“Oh, my brethren, hold the beginning of your confidence firm unto the end. The light of God’s truth is not to be dimmed. It is to shine amidst the darkness of error that enshrouds our world. The word of God is to be opened to those in the high places of the earth, as well as to those in the more lowly.
“The church of Christ is God’s agency for the proclamation of truth; she is empowered by Him to do a special work; and if she is loyal to God, obedient to His commandments, there will dwell within her the excellence of divine power. If she will honor the Lord God of Israel, there is no power that can stand against her. If she will be true to her allegiance, the forces of the enemy will be no more able to overpower her than is the chaff to resist the whirlwind.
“There is before the church the dawn of a bright, glorious day, if she will put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness, withdrawing from all allegiance to the world.
“The members of the church need now to confess their backslidings and press together. My brethren, allow nothing to come in that will separate you from one another or from God. Talk not of differences of opinion, but unite in the love of the truth as it is in Jesus. Come before God, and plead the shed blood of the Saviour as a reason why you should receive help in the warfare against evil. You will not plead in vain. As you draw near to God, with heartfelt contrition and in full assurance of faith, the enemy who seeks to destroy you will be overcome.
“Turn to the Lord, ye prisoners of hope. Seek strength from God, the living God. Show an unwavering, humble faith in His power and His willingness to save. From Christ is flowing the living stream of salvation. He is the Fountain of life, the Source of all power. When in faith we take hold of His strength, He will change, wonderfully change, the most hopeless, discouraging outlook. He will do this for the glory of His name.
“God calls upon His faithful ones, who believe in Him, to talk courage to those who are unbelieving and hopeless. May the Lord help us to help one another and to prove Him by living faith.”4
“The Lord calls for a renewal of the straight testimony borne in years past. He calls for a renewal of spiritual life. The spiritual energies of His people have long been torpid, but there is to be a resurrection from apparent death.
“By prayer and confession of sin we must clear the King’s highway. As we do this, the power of the Spirit will come to us. We need the Pentecostal energy. This will come, for the Lord has promised to send His Spirit as the all-conquering power.
“Perilous times are before us. Everyone who has a knowledge of the truth should awake and place himself, body, soul, and spirit, under the discipline of God. The enemy is on our track. We must be wide awake, on our guard against him. We must put on the whole armor of God. We must follow the directions given through the spirit of prophecy. We must love and obey the truth for this time. This will save us from accepting strong delusions. God has spoken to us through His word. He has spoken to us through the testimonies to the church and through the books that have helped to make plain our present duty and the position that we should now occupy. The warnings that have been given, line upon line, precept upon precept, should be heeded. If we disregard them, what excuse can we offer?”5
“Clear the King’s highway; take out the stumbling-blocks; remove the rubbish; clear away the stones, that the Spirit of God may go through our midst, and that we may see the salvation of God as a lamp that burneth. That is what we need. We can not afford to cover up one sin. We want the richest blessing here; for trial is coming right upon us. Only a little while, only a short time, and every one will be severely tried. We want a daily renewal of the grace of God in our hearts, that we may climb the ladder of perfection step by step, rising higher and higher in the way that leads to heaven, to holiness, and to God.
“May the Spirit of God come into our meetings. May we see of His salvation, and may His glory be revealed here. Let every voice be raised to glorify God, not to pick flaws in one another.”6
“May the Lord graciously bless His people during this week of prayer. May all wrongs be righted, all sins confessed, and pardon be written over against your names in the books of heaven. Let the members of every church, of every household, seek the Lord, and humble their souls before Him. Let us, so far as possible, clear the King’s highway of all the rubbish wherewith we have blocked it.”7