Sunday, October 25, 2009

“I Am Raising Up the Davids”

About 3-4 years before the tsunami hit Aceh in Dec 2004, God spoke in my heart that one day there would be a massive earthquake that would hit Aceh and Aceh would open up to help from the outside world. The tsunami hit on 26 December 2004. The next day on 27 December, I received a specific word from the Lord to read Isaiah 6. I was to read the whole chapter, and focus especially on the last verse of the chapter.

Many of us are familiar with the first part of Isa.6, of Isaiah seeing the Lord high and lifted up … and then the often quoted words of Isaiah, “Here am I. Send me.”

We quote that especially in mission conferences and we say, “Lord send me to the nations to bring Your love to them ..” However, not many people are aware of what God was sending Isaiah to. God did not send him to bring His love or good news. Instead, God sent Isaiah to bring them really bad news :

"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

He said, "Go and tell this people:

"Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed."

Then I said, "For how long, O Lord?" And he answered: "Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the LORD has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land."

Because of the political situation in Aceh, and Aceh had been cut off from the rest of the world, even 3 days after the tsunami there was still no clear news report yet of the scale of the destruction. News began trickling in from the 4th day that a few thousand people had been killed. As the days went by, the numbers increased : “more than 10,000”, then "more than 30,000”, and so on. When I arrived in Aceh, I saw what was described in Isa.6 – more than 80% of Banda Aceh had been devastated. Whole villages along the Western coast of Aceh had been totally wiped out. The final figures reported more than 200,000 people in Aceh were killed or had gone missing. Clearly it fitted the description in Isa.6

But what was I to do about that? In verse 12, God said that the devastation in the land would be so bad that the land would be utterly forsaken, and even if a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. Did that mean that God would send another disaster that would totally destroy what remained, and wipe out the whole population of Aceh? Since God told Isaiah to tell them (the people of Israel), did it mean that God was sending me to tell the people of Aceh? I prayed, “Lord, is that what You want me to do, to go tell them another disaster is coming?” I was in fear and trembling. Me, a nobody, go and tell them? They will probably think I am mad. Or they might kill me. But the word was so clear and so strong, notwithstanding my fears, I was prepared to do that if indeed that was what the Lord wanted me to do.

There was however no answer from God. Just silence. I kept asking the Lord. Days passed. Still nothing. Just silence. As I helped various teams in Aceh, God showed me what to do, but He did not answer that one question that bothered me. Months passed, but I kept pondering over it and kept seeking understanding from the Lord. Eventually it became clear to me that God was talking to me not so much about Aceh, but He was giving me a prophetic or symbolic picture of a larger scale reality about the whole world, and also about the church. Just as the people in Aceh had hardened their hearts (see appendix), so the world, and the church, had hardened their hearts.

God was showing me that just like how He judged Israel, and in this case Aceh, that is also how He will judge the people of the world who have hardened their hearts against Him. What was more pertinent was that He was telling me that that is also how He has judged, and will judge the church who have hardened their hearts against Him. In the end, only a remnant will remain.

God Himself hardened the hearts of His people and blinded them and made them deaf so that they could not see, hear or understand the truth. Why? If we look at the history of Israel, it was because they had hardened their hearts against Him. Jesus quoted that to the Jews (Matt.13:11-15). Paul also quoted that to the Jews (Acts 28:25-27). The amazing thing is this, even after God judged them, they still did not wake up but continued to harden their hearts against Him.

I see today that that is the case of the church – church as we know it (to borrow a phrase from Wolfgang Simson). Churches today are not much different from the problem with the Pharisees. Churches are more concerned about doctrine and being right in their beliefs than about living and living right. I have spoken in churches about the poor, but hardly anything is ever done about it. No I am not looking for funds or support from them. That is not what I mean. I have never ever tried to raise any funds or support for any project whenever I have spoken about the poor, lest my message is diluted and people get the wrong idea that all they need to do to ease their conscience is to pull out some money from their pockets. When I say nothing happens, what I mean is that the church will do nothing about what they hear. Life and business will go on as usual. The church will not do a thing about the poor. A year passes and I ask the leaders what they have done about the poor and the answer I get is not much different from what it was before I spoke in their church.

I was once invited to give a message at a national church missions conference about crisis response. I spoke a little about crisis generally but focused instead on poverty and the challenge of poverty confronting us in missions. At the end of the message, an elderly gentleman asked a question. He said, “I have been an elder of the church for more than 38 years of my life. I have heard thousands of sermons in my lifetime. Yet I have never ever heard the message you just gave, or anything about poverty. Why is that?” He had a very troubled look on his face. In reply I asked him, “Sir, first of all, I need to ask you, is there anything I have said that is not Biblical?” He thought about it for a moment and replied, “No, there is nothing you said that is not Biblical. In fact everything you said is so Biblical and so true … and so vital … Yet it is never preached in church … Why is that?”

In reply I said, “Actually the one who should answer this question is you; not me. When you started becoming an elder of the church, I was still a kid running around in my shorts.” For a moment he was quiet. Then he had another question, “Tell me, have you spoken this message in other churches and what happened after you spoke?” In reply I said, “Thank you for that question. Yes I have spoken in many churches and meetings. Each time after I spoke, what happened was what will happen after this meeting. Some of you will come to me and tell me what a good speaker I am and what a challenging message it was, and you will thank me for the message, and next week you will look forward to another good speaker and good message. That’s all. In other words, nothing happened.” There was silence. The chairman of the meeting came forward looking quite embarrassed and promptly ended the meeting. Guess what happened after that? Exactly what I said!

What has become of the church? Our hearts are so hardened and we are so blind and deaf that we don’t realize how far we have fallen from what God intends for us. Even when we talk about revival, what is that today? As Joe Ozawa has pointed out, when the Holy Spirit fell on the early church they sold all and gave to the poor. But what is “revival” today? It is people falling down and getting goose bumps and then going home, back to life and business as usual.

In 2000, I was invited to speak in a gathering of more than 400 leaders from across Indonesia. They had gathered to ask why from 1998 – 2000, more than 3500 church buildings had been attacked and burned by muslim extremist and what was needed to transform the church and transform the nation. I spoke my heart out. At the end of my message, the one chairing the meeting took the microphone and said, “If we had not built all those church buildings and instead we had used the money to feed the poor, perhaps they would not have been so angry with us, and there would have been no church buildings to burn down.”

Has the church in Indonesia learned? I am sad to say, no it has not. Even bigger church buildings have come up since then, some rivaling Singapore’s indoor stadium, but hardly any churches are doing anything to reach out to the poor that surrounds them. Nearly half the population of Indonesia is living below the world bank’s poverty line, but the church is unmoved. That is the same I see in India, Pakistan, Myanmar, etc. Matt.25 on the sheep and goats has been there for the last 2000 years, yet no one seems to take any heed to it. Even when it is pointed out to them! How hardened our hearts have become!

The cry I hear on the heart of God today over His church is the same as what we read in Hosea. God told Hosea to go and marry a prostitute because He wanted Hosea to feel what was on His heart and He was going to get Hosea to deliver a heart breaking devastating message to Israel. Just as Gomer would again and again leave Hosea to go back to her adulteries, God wanted Hosea to tell Israel that that is what they kept doing to God. So God’s message to Hosea was that He is going to forsake Israel and judge her “for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband.” Hos.2:2. Then He asked Hosea to take Gomer back as a prophetic act that would symbolize how He would bring Israel back to Himself :

“The LORD said to me, "Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes." Hos.3:1

The message of Hosea is heart breaking. God would judge Israel for their unfaithfulness but He would also be so grieved with having to do that, that in His mercy He would yet again show love to Israel and get for Himself a remnant that would return to Him and love Him :

“The more I called Israel, the further they went from me.” Hos.11:2 But …

"How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is churned within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man--the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath. They will follow the LORD; he will roar like a lion. When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west. They will come trembling like birds from Egypt, like doves from Assyria. I will settle them in their homes," declares the LORD. Hos.3:8-11.

What are we to make of this and how would this “pan out” as the Americans would say, in the end times? I could be wrong, but what I see is that God has already judged the church – with spiritual blindness and deafness, and he has hardened the hearts of His people so that they cannot hear, and cannot see and cannot understand. How does that happen? Every time the word of God comes to us, something happens in our heart. Either we listen and respond in obedience or we make excuses why we will not obey it and harden our hearts against what we just heard. Each time the word of God is delivered, it also comes with a judgment. Jesus said, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going.” Jn.12:35. When we do not make a decision and act upon the word that comes to us, darkness will overtake us. We will become blind. And deaf. And the word of God will no longer have any effect on us.

When this came to me, I asked the Lord, “So what am I to do? If the church is so hardened that it cannot hear You, then what is the point of me speaking to a wall?” In response, the Lord reminded me to look at the last verse of Isa.6. Whether He is going to bring another disaster on Aceh, or whether He is going to bring disaster on the church is not the point. What He wanted me to know was that He was not interested in reforming the church. He has given up on trying to do that. The church is so hardened that even if He would bring disaster to His people, they would not listen. A case in point was what happened in Nias (see below). Instead, God brought my attention to 1 Chron.12:23. Just as God turned the kingdom of Israel from Saul over to David, He is doing the same today. Saul represents the current top-down ecclesiastical structure of church leadership. In God’s book, that is over. Just as Saul was defeated by his enemies and killed himself in the end, church as we know it will die a natural death. What happened with the church in Europe, is happening in the US, and will happen elsewhere around the world.

God is doing a new thing. He is raising up the Davids – those who have been through the fire of testing but remain true to Him; those who truly love Him. This is the “stump in the land” – the holy seed that remains. Just like what He said to Samuel, the Lord said to me, “How long are you going to grieve over Saul (church as we know it)? I am sending you to find the Davids. Go and teach them and help them to know My heart and My ways. I will show you who they are.”

As I understand it, those between 25 – 35 years old now are going to be the leaders of the church of the future. Shape them now and you will shape the church of the future. They will lead the younger ones in the ways of the Lord. When someone heard me say this, he immediately said, “Not the future, but right now! They are the church right now!” Amen. I agree. The kingdom of God will be made up of servant leaders who will not be concerned about denomination, or money, or position, or image. All they will be concerned about are others whom God puts on their hearts, to see them succeed. (See my other post "Servant Leaders"). To them will come “all those .. in distress, in debt or discontented” (1 Sam22:2). These servant leaders will disciple others in the ways of the Lord. They will reproduce themselves. It is through this spiritual birthing and multiplication that Jesus will get His end-time bride.

Where are the Davids right now? Not in leadership in church as we know it. They will not fit in. Like David and what the Lord took him through, I believe many are in their caves, running from one thing to another, restless, feeling in the dark most of the time, not quite settled on anything that they feel is truly God’s kingdom, dissatisfied with church as we know it, looking for what their hearts tell them - church as it ought to be, but not finding it anywhere, going through multiple testing, possibly stretched to their limits physically, financially, emotionally …

Through the crucible of testing, the Lord has reserved to Himself those who have not bowed their knees to Baal. God knows those who are His. The devil can do his worst on them, but it will only train and prepare them to be even more in love with the Lord and zealous for His kingdom.

* Aceh - After the tsunami, some reporters went around asking the people why God had allowed the tsunami to hit them so badly. The people of Aceh are super religious, possibly the most religious people in all of Indonesia. It was the birthplace of Islam for Indonesia. Islam was brought to Aceh by Indian muslim traders who sailed from India and landed in Aceh. The Acehnese say that Aceh is "the Porch of Islam". From Aceh, Islam spread throughout Indonesia.

It was amazing what responses the reporters got from the Acehnese. Everyone acknowledged that it was an act of God, but everyone blamed it on someone else - either on the sins of the central government of Indonesia, or the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, or the immoral practices of the Indonesian military which they hated, or on the west. Not a single person said, "God judged us because we are guilty." Amazing! It never occured to them that if it was the sins of others, why didn't they, for example the Indonesian government headquartered in Jakarta, get hit with the tsunami instead?

* Nias – is an island off the west coast of Sumatra. On 28th March 2005, an 8.7 earthquake rocked the island. More than 1750 church buildings collapsed, but the main mosque survived with just a few cracks. More than 85% of the islanders claim to be Christians, but I am told that about half of them are steeped in the occult. Even pastors I am told are involved in the occult. When I went with a team in response to the earthquake, many pastors approached me to help them with funds to rebuild their church building. I asked them, “Why did God not save your church building? Why did God save the mosque instead? If God did not save your church building, can you give me a good reason why I should help you with funds to rebuild it?” They just didn’t get it. They kept wanting my contact details.

No comments:

Post a Comment