Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? Isa 53:1
The old gospel song “Whose Report Will You Believe” brings to mind the times in scripture it is graphically illustrated for us how important it is to use discernment concerning whose interpretation of events we decide to believe. Take for example:
The Israelites decided to ignore Joshua and Caleb, but instead listen to the spies who said the promised land was unconquerable; and they were left by the Lord to die in the wilderness because of their lack of discernment and unbelief.
Kings Ahab & Jehoshaphat decided to listen to the prophets possessed by “lying spirits” who told them what they wanted to hear ( “the Lord is with you in battle”). They chose to ignore (and imprison) Micaiah the prophet of God who said their campaign would fail. They were routed on the battlefield and Ahab died in the struggle.
The leaders of Israel chose to ignore the prophets Joel and Jeremiah who warned of the coming judgment of the Lord on their wickedness. Instead they listened to the false prophets who proclaimed “peace, peace”; exile to Babylon ensued.
And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray”. Matt 24:4
The reason I got thinking about this today is because this week another well known prophetic voice in our nation, Dutch Sheets, delivered a word of warning concerning an impending crisis coming to America.
“America is in a horrendous crisis of monumental proportions, a season much like Israel in the days of Joel. This Old Testament prophet warned of devastating judgment coming to Israel, but laced the warning with hope and Gods mercy if certain things occurred. That is precisely where we are in America. We Americans are a confident and optimistic people, which is often good, but can also create a dangerous denial and crippling passivity. This is happening with many. But please do not be deceived by those who are saying everything is fine. The truth is that we, as a nation, are in serious trouble.
If God brought corrective but serious judgment to Israel, we are horribly deceived if we think it will not happen to us. If something doesn’t happen to lessen this judgment (and it can be lessened)–we are headed for very difficult times. The economy is going to be devastated. The stock market will go well below where it went a few months back. A crash is coming, and soon. More terrorism and violence will occur in our land, perhaps even war. In my spirit I’ve seen buildings crumbling and cities burning. Devastating natural disasters will take place. In general, hard times will be prevalent. Why is this so? Because we have turned from God and His ways. Consider the true condition of America. This assessment is bleak but accurate”. – Dutch Sheets
Dutch goes on to remind us of the statistics concerning the rising tide of idolatry, murder, immorality, and apathy that are washing over the American cultural landscape. I’ll spare you the details, you can read it on his website. Dutch’s word of warning reads much like a bullet point summary of sermons recently preached by Allen Hood, Lou Engle, and others who see a God ordained crisis and judgment coming on our land in response to our wickedness (not the least of which is the murder of 50 million babies) unless we turn to him in repentance and humility.
At the same time as these messages are being delivered you have other Godly men who are espousing a radically different view.
For example, after the earthquake in Haiti, Greg Boyd preached a sermon titled “Left my Worries Behind” from Matthew 24. Greg’s assessment of the situation is that, yes, we should expect hardship in this life. However, Jesus primary message here is not “watch and pray” but “don’t worry”. Especially do not worry about trying to “read the tea leaves” concerning the coming of the Lord or the signs of the times. Jesus is not instructing us to do this, and God is not to be suspected as the author of our natural disasters. Furthermore, these prophecies of Matthew 24 and elsewhere have all been fulfilled in the first century, so speculation concerning end times events is a wasted effort (see preterism). I suspect Greg might say that we would do well to ignore folks like Allen, Lou, and Dutch.
Another well known prophet, Jason Westerfield, recently spoke concerning the earthquake in Chile. He makes it abundantly clear in this video clip that (in his estimation) God, being a God of love, would not send judgment on the creation He loves. Rather, this event was actually the fall-out from a great spiritual battle in which God was dethroning a large principality over the region. He likens it to a “disgruntled employee” being removed from the company who causes a little damage on the way out. According to Jason this event is actually a spiritual breakthrough that will usher in revival.
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that along with the increasing intensity in recent world events there is a corresponding increase in the divide over interpretation of these events and the times in which we live. And so the question must be asked of us as the people of God:
“whose report will you believe”?
While my own particular bent may be obvious, it’s not my intention to soapbox excessively here. I have simply been impressed with the reality that in these days of significant change and upheaval, apathy and lack of discernment are not an option (not that they ever really were). In fact, it may prove deadly. Just ask the children of Israel in the wilderness, King Ahab, or those who were carried off into Babylonian captivity.
He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. Daniel 2:21
He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away. Job 12:23
Simply putting off the discussion will not pluck you from the currents of history. God’s dealings with you as an individual do not remove you from the context of the nation in which you live and in which God sovereignly acts. Godly men like Daniel, Ezekiel, and others were carried off into exile along with the wicked despite their standing of favor before the Lord.
No matter what conclusions you draw, we each need to look long and hard at the scriptures and wrestle with God in prayer over how He deals with nations, including our own. We would be foolish to believe that in the face of our exponentially escalating wickedness America would be allowed to hold the title of being the first empire in the history of the world to go unchecked and unchallenged by God or man. Rest assured, the sun will set on us as well. This being true, we must be wise and discern rightly the times in which we live. Don’t succumb to the ubiquitous spiritual laziness in our churches that would keep you from serious prayer and thought on these issues.
When crisis is in the nations and the spiritual leaders are giving opposing interpretations, take note of the lessons in scripture, and be wise in whose report you place confidence in. The stakes are high.
Let us be like the men of Issachar of whom it is said:
Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do. 1 Chron 12:32
For those who are so inclined, below is one of the Allen Hood sermons I mentioned previously.