Publication: Pastoral Letter, September 2012
Dear Friend in Christ:
It is decision time; no, not political decisions, but spiritual decisions. It is a time of decision not only for the lost non-believer, but for the Church – those who call themselves Christians. And what is our decision about? It is to decide our relationship to God through Christ. Will we awaken to the realities around us and the call of Christ to humility and repentance? I have known for several years that we are in a critical period in history; events could turn on our decisions and how the Lord responds. I am hopeful that you believe that history is in His hands. “He rules in the affairs of men.”
I have just concluded Joel Rosenberg’s latest book, Implosion. While our thoughts would diverge on some “end time” scenarios, I am in full accord with the thrust of his message. Interestingly, Rosenberg’s favorite book is the book of the prophet Joel, which I also visit from time-to-time, and have again recently. This letter will not be a full discussion of either the Book of Joel or Rosenberg’s book, but I would encourage you to read both.
Rosenberg is deeply involved in the prophetic and has sold over 2.5 million books. His theology of the “end times” is closer to the Left Behind series than I am, but still, his overall message warrants our attention, especially his reference to the book Joel.
The Prophet Joel
Prophets arrive in the decisive times of history; pivotal points and usually dangerous and threatening times. This is clear in the ministries of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, Elisha, John the Baptist, and others. But false prophets do as well, and we have to choose when to hear. If we hear the Lord, we are well prepared; if not, there is trouble ahead.
False prophets bring a comfortable, reassuring message which people love to hear because it requires little or nothing from us . True prophets see the future and bring a message of humility and repentance that make us uncomfortable. Sometimes people get so uncomfortable that they turn violent against the prophet.
Joel’s message was definitely not comfortable. What he saw and prophesied, while accurate, was upsetting, like a doctor’s diagnosis that might upset us but prepare us for healing. My thought is that Joel ministered around 800 BC, just prior to Isaiah. His book tells us what he saw ahead and what the people should do about it. About 80 years after his prophecies, Assyria would invade and bring havoc and destruction. The Northern ten tribes of Israel would fall captive. The Southern tribes would also be threatened, but the Lord would give them a reprieve.
What He Saw
Joel saw several significant events and how to deal with them that are significant to any period in history. The decision to hear and obey is critical. Here is what he saw:
A plague of locusts that would be unprecedented. Locusts can devastate an agrarian economy. As recently as 1915, a plague of locusts devastated the economy of what is now Israel. Food prices skyrocketed. A potato cost 6 times its normal price. A swarm of locusts can cover hundreds of square miles and leave no vegetation behind. One million locusts can eat one ton of vegetation a day. A swarm may be as large as 40-80 million locusts and eat approximately 50 million tons of food every day as it travels 12-15 miles per hour. The vineyards and fields would be only stubble. The crops were not all that were destroyed. Joel says, “The joy has withered away.”
A drought. Ask a farmer what a drought can do. When there is no water for farmers, crops fail, the livestock perish, and there is another problem: fires. This year, we have seen drought and fires in large areas across the United States. But in those days, they had no modern means to deal with either drought or fires. It is amazing that anyone could remain in the land and survive.
Joel also saw an army: locusts, droughts, and fire were not the last of the dangers_there would come an army like never seen before: an invincible, disciplined army. As the army advances, Joel sees that the people’s faces are “drained of color” and the earth is shaking. Given the preceding locusts, droughts, and fires, the people could offer no resistance.
What to Do
Joel said that the ministers and leaders should lament, lie all night in sackcloth, and pray. When the people starve, so do the ministers.
- Call a fast, a sacred assembly, gather the leaders, and cry out.
- Turn to God with all their hearts.
- Sanctify the congregation_repent of sin.
- Pray that other nations would not rule over them.
What Could Happen if They Obeyed
God is merciful and slow to anger, and great in kindness.
- He might relent and leave a blessing behind.
- He might be zealous for His land and people.
- He might restore their grain, new wine, and oil_in abundance.
- He might remove their reproach among other nations.
- He would restore courage and rejoicing.
- He would pour out His Spirit on all flesh (Joel had a long view).
- He would judge the nations.
Joel says that this is “the day of the Lord”, not the day of the locusts, droughts, fires, and foreign powers. Israel was dealing with God, that is what true prophets tell us. And Israel was in the valley of decision (see 3:14). God made us in His image, we have a will, and we make choices. Joshua said, “Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (see Joshua 24:13-15).
The validity of Joel is established several ways: it was included in the Old Covenant by God’s inspiration (see 2 Timothy 3:16). It was confirmed by the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:16). It speaks truth validated in history or else it would have been excluded from the Old Testament. And, it is consistent with what the other prophets in what they saw. Remember 2 Chronicles 7:14 begins with “If.”
Joel Rosenberg and Implosion
This modern-day Joel is a best-selling, Jewish-Christian writer and prophetic person. Implosion is about the state of our world and offers various scenarios for the future. He is not dogmatic, which I like, having grown up with Biblical prophesies and charts. We’ve all seen our share of true and false prophecies…we must learn to discern and choose between them.
As the title says, we face the possibility of imploding as a nation. Rosenberg looks at our financial condition, the possibility of war (very real), natural disasters, and rapture. He examines what each would do to our nation.
Then he offers another possibility, a third Great Awakening. The first occurred in the mid-1700s, and the second occurred in the first half of the 1800s. He raises the hope that there could be a third Great Awakening, but he does not promise it, nor could he. What he does do, which I certainly agree with, is to offer some sound biblical counsel which I will briefly outline here.
Reject fear, resist anger, rekindle your love for Jesus, recommit to study the Word of God, rediscover the power of prayer and fasting, reach out to the unsaved and to younger people and make disciples. He also suggests that we find another Christian person in our lives to whom we can become accountable in our walk with God.
The real question that Rosenberg raises and the question that I raise is, can the Church be awakened? It all depends upon that. I am currently writing a book on prayer and asking the Lord to deepen my own prayer life, which got a bit too casual. I have known seasons of serious seeking, and find myself pressed to make the sacrifices to do so again because I love my family, my church, and my nation. I am persuaded as I travel and read that only God can awaken us.
We must go beyond a “sprint to prayer”; it will be or must be a marathon. It is no longer petty, divisive issues, or about preferences as to how it should happen or who should get credit. When you are desperate, any help is appreciated.
Having said that, escaping the “day of the Lord” is not the total purpose; the promise of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit is worth the price of pursuit. But it does seem that danger can motivate us. Billy Graham said, “Fear may not be the best motive, but it beats no motive at all.”
I was recently in Costa Rica with family, the Hidden Treasures Children’s Home, and with my friend Hugo Zelaya. He was one of the first men with whom I had a discipling relationship, a real brother since 1962. Our Sunday morning service was unusual. Hugo told me, “God is doing something here.” I observed that in the worship and ministry. There was a manifest presence of God, tears, repentance, and salvations. Their struggle had prepared them for a harvest.
Our society has not yet awakened. Most Christians seem to be occupied with the cares of this life, entertainment, or finding the nearest exciting church, rather than seeking God in deep repentance and responding to real prophetic instruction. Yes, I know there are exceptions and some are awakening, but many more need to.
The Lord of the Harvest
It has often been said that Jesus never taught how to preach, organize, or market the church. But He did teach how to pray. Only the Lord of the harvest can give us the harvest. When He moves, and I pray that He does soon, Christians will become more involved with the harvest than with the style of the meeting, the eloquence of the preacher, or the pizzaz of technology.
This is a pivotal moment in history; our nation could go either way. But the first issue is not the nation, it is me, you, and individuals. We cannot bring a revival to the nation, but we can have one personally, if we seek the Lord with an undivided heart.
Please pray for me, and for the ministry of CSM. While there are many opportunities ahead of us, there are also many obstacles. I also ask you to remember us in your giving this month. Publishing and mission work are vital in this season of history, but none of it comes cheaply.
For more information on how you can receive ministry resources, as well as a place for you to send us your prayer requests, please visit us online at www.csmpublishing.org. We’re grateful for the opportunity to serve the Lord with you in the mission that He has given to us all. Thank you for standing with me.
Scripture Reference: Joel, 2 Timothy, Joshua, 2 Chronicles, Acts