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Rainbow Divider

Chapter 11

What Now?

A number of times since I began to write this series the question has come up in my mind as to how to finish it. It is one thing to set forth the fact that we are in “sudden death overtime.” It is another to answer the inevitable questions that arise: “OK, what do we do, then?” “What exactly is going to happen, and when?” It is our nature to want answers to such questions. That’s one reason why so many religious teachers of our day are so popular. They will gladly pull out their big charts and show you in great detail all that they believe is going to happen. But I am persuaded that they are as deceived about many of these things as were the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. The Pharisees knew about Messiah’s coming but failed to recognize Him when He actually came.

We’d love to have a nice clear “road map” that would unveil God’s full plan for His own in the last days — where to go to church, what to believe, how to tell truth from deception, His plan for protecting us from the growing darkness, and so on. But God has declared, “Now the just shall live by faith.” Heb. 10:38. Paul said, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” II Cor. 5:7. That is God’s way.

The Answer

The simple answer to the above question, What now? can be stated in two words: Trust God. Yet that sounds overly simplistic, almost trite. What do you mean, trust God? Doesn’t every Christian trust God? Yes — and no. It is true that every genuine born-again Christian has trusted the salvation of their soul into the faithful hands of Jesus Christ. But there is a great deal more than that that God had in mind when He told us to “live by faith,” and “walk by faith.”

When I say, “Trust God,” I mean that God desires in us a practical, active faith that touches every area of our lives. Too much of our “trust” in God is theoretical. We say that we are trusting in Him — as long as we are healthy, have a nice house, a steady job, the ability to work and make a living, money in the bank, and so forth. Yet how quickly we panic on the inside when God in His infinite wisdom chooses to knock out some of these props from under us! Where is our real trust?

As I look into my own heart as well as round about I can understand why Jesus posed the rhetorical question: “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8. It is not nearly so plentiful as we might suppose.

The Wilderness

Perhaps the best way to illustrate God’s plan for us is to recall something that was often emphasized during and following the visitation: the wilderness. The Lord often drew lessons and gave instructions to us from his dealings with Israel when He called them into the wilderness. There are prophetic scriptures such as Ezekiel 20:33-38 and Hosea 2:14-23 that at once look back to Israel’s earlier experience in the wilderness yet also looked ahead to God’s future dealings with His people. On numerous occasions the Lord greatly anointed Bro. Thomas to apply the truths in these scriptures and others to us in our day.

Egypt is a type of the world. God’s elect are slaves there, spending their lives for things that can never last, eking out an often miserable and impoverished existence. God knows who they are and how to help them. But until He moves in, all they can do is struggle on and perhaps cry out to God. Be assured that He hears! Though He tarry in answering, yet He is never one day late.

Canaan is, in one sense, a type of the next world that God has planned for His own. It is a land of fruitfulness and plenty, a land abounding in peace and fellowship with God. It is a place where God’s sons and daughters will be able to enjoy Him forever. (I am aware that, in another sense, Canaan is also a type of the full rest of faith into which true believers enter when they completely cast their lot with Christ. However, the fullest expression of all that Canaan means awaits the new creation after Christ returns and destroys this present one.)

The wilderness is a place of transition, a place where God tries and proves His own and prepares them for Canaan. In Egypt His people are in no condition to inherit Canaan. There is too much of Egypt in them, too much they need to both unlearn and learn. In Egypt they believed in what they could see and touch. Canaan is a place of perfect rest and trust in God. The wilderness is where those lessons are learned, where we are changed, conformed to the image of His Son. Rom. 8:29.

A Place of Separation

The wilderness is first of all a place of separation. In Ezekiel 20:34-35 God promised to bring us “out from the people,” and “into the wilderness of the people.” There He promised to plead with us “face to face.” Remember how it was in Egypt. Moses went to Pharaoh repeatedly to deliver God’s message to “Let my people go.” Pharaoh just as repeatedly hardened his heart against the Lord. Notice particularly how he tried to get Moses to compromise. He first agreed that all the men could go (Exodus 10:11). Of course, he knew they would return to their wives and families!

Later Pharaoh said that they could all go but to leave their flocks and herds behind. Moses stood uncompromisingly on God’s Word and told Pharaoh, “There shall not an hoof be left behind.” Exodus 10:26. That’s what God is looking for in this hour — those willing to make a complete break with the world, to embrace His kingdom without compromise. He desires a people who want Him alone, who are willing to “sell all” (Matt. 13:46) to follow Him, believing His promise.

This separation has to happen first in our hearts. That was the problem for so many who physically left Egypt yet remained in unbelief. There is nothing external that anyone can do that is a substitute for real heart faith. It doesn’t matter where you are or what church you go to. Jesus Himself could be the pastor but if you have an evil heart of unbelief God will see to it that it comes out. Nothing short of faith will do.

Separation from our own lives in the world and unto God may have many practical ramifications, yet if God has our hearts He can lead us step by step. Abraham is the great Bible example. He is called the “father of all them that believe,” by the Apostle Paul in Rom. 4:11.

God spoke to Abraham and told him to leave his country and his relatives and to journey to a land that He would show him. That took faith! God didn’t show him the full plan; He didn’t show him the land in advance. All Abraham had to go on was confidence in the One Who had called him. That was enough to enable him to do just what God said. He packed up and left. Over a period of time he was unerringly led to the land God later gave to his descendants.

There he was taught many great lessons of faith. God had promised to make of him a great nation yet he had to wait for many years before he even had an heir. By that time having a child was out of the question for Sarah but he kept on believing in God. Later on God proved his faith by asking him to sacrifice Isaac, the very son of promise. I’m sure that Abraham battled many fears and many questions, yet he set out to do what God had said. God waited until he had the knife raised before intervening. Abraham passed the test!

Abraham saw something beyond this world. God was real to him, more real than everything else. He was willing to follow and believe in God even when it meant turning his back on everything other men hold dear. He lived his life as a pilgrim and a stranger and died believing in the promises of God. There was no turning back. Heb. 11:8-19.

That’s what “trusting God” is really all about. Are you willing to put God ahead of family, friends, home, a particular church, plans, possessions, career, your own life? If not then you can’t be Jesus’ disciple (Luke 14:26-33). If so, then He can begin to teach you and lead you and provide every necessary thing for your earthly journey.

“Trusting God” almost sounds like a passive attitude, a sort of acquiescence to whatever happens. But it is really an active faith that calls on God, that bombards heaven in times of need, that continually and steadfastly looks to Him for the answers we need.

Yet there is a patience involved in real trust that is willing to await God’s timing. Abraham had to wait 25 years for Isaac. During that time he took some detours, one of which resulted in Ishmael who could never be his heir. Yet, because his faith was real, God was always able to work with him and to bring him back on track. I’m glad that God continues to be faithful to His plan even when we get off course. He looks at the bottom line: Abraham believed God. Even though he failed here and there, God saw the end result and declared him to be “strong in faith.” Rom. 4:20. That gives me hope!

Is there something in your life that holds you captive, something you can’t really trust God with, or let go? If so, then that thing is actually your true God. It’s just another form of idolatry. You don’t have to bow down to gods of wood and stone to be an idolater. Clinging to your own life in unbelief is the same thing. He will have no other gods before Him.

God wants to truly be God to His people. That might mean separation from loved ones. It might mean leaving your church. It might mean leaving home and friends. It might mean leaving job and career. I certainly can’t say in any individual case, but I know that we can’t put anything ahead of Him. His plan is infinitely better than ours! He just wants our hearts and our trust.

Clinging to anything ahead of Him is like staying in Egypt. That won’t do. Moses wouldn’t leave a hoof there. God has to bring our hearts to a place where He can begin to work in us according to His plan and our need. There is a lot of changing that has to take place before we’re fit for Canaan. Our inward attitude must become the same as that of Jesus: “Not my will, but thine be done.” Luke 22:42. Then God can touch anything in our lives that needs touching and deliver us.

Many of God’s people have been put to sleep by the religion they are a part of. They are unaware of their need and of the dangers of the hour. Their church is just a part of Egypt and they don’t know it. They are led more by tradition than by God. They do things their way and not God’s way. What should you do if you wake up and find that this is the case? Seek God. With all your heart. Daily let Him know you desire to be led of Him and then do what He says — when He says it. Don’t run ahead and try to figure things out. Let Him set the pace. It is a walk of faith. I don’t know what His plan for you is precisely. He does!

A Place of Dependence

The wilderness is a place of total dependence on God. It means leaving the place where we feel safe because we feel in control for a place where God is the only answer, the only source of help. As Isaiah prophesied in 42:16, “And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.” What a glorious promise! Yet how scary it can seem when God actually calls upon us to trust Him.

I was thinking the other day about how it might have been if a group of men had tried to lead and provide for a nation of people who were going to live in the desert for what turned out to be 40 years! What a staggering task! Scouting out trails and campsites, printing and distributing maps and guide books, establishing warehouses of supplies and supporting supply lines — no doubt depending upon the heathen nations of the area! Only God could do such a thing. And He did it without relying on any of the things men would have relied on!

Life in Egypt was hard but at least they lived in houses and had gardens. Out in the desert, what were they to eat? Where would they find water? Talk about the impossible!

God did everything He could do to prove Himself faithful. He led them to a militarily indefensible spot beside the Red Sea and then stirred up Pharaoh’s heart to pursue the Israelites. There they were, trapped and helpless. They cried out in unbelief. Was God worried? Struggling to come up with a plan? No! He had everything well in hand. He just wanted to secure their trust.

Finally Moses told them, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD which he will shew to you today.” He said that this was the last time they would see the Egyptians and that God would fight for them. Exodus 14:13-14.

A Promise and a Stick

What did Moses have going for him? The promise of an unseen God and a stick! But he’d already seen God do some wonderful things through that “stick” as he moved in faith. And so we know the account of how God told Moses to stretch forth his rod over the sea and the waters parted. Then after the Israelites had crossed, the same waters destroyed Pharaoh’s army as they tried to pursue. What’s really amazing is that so many could experience things like this and still have no real faith!

As they journeyed on God miraculously provided water, and manna for food. Their clothes didn’t wear out. Except for times when God judged some, they didn’t even get sick. His presence was made known by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. As long as they moved in harmony with Him, He took care of everything. They were to move when the cloud moved and stay when it stayed.

And it was just as much a walk of faith for Moses as it was for the people. They looked to him and all he could do was to look to God for the wisdom and direction he needed — as he needed it. He didn’t have a map and a detailed itinerary in his tent. He needed God every day. No program. No five-year plan. Just God. And He was more than enough!

God was showing them that they didn’t need the things that men depend upon. They only needed Him in their midst. They needed to simply trust in what He promised and live lives of daily dependence on Him. This was, as Moses later recounted in Deut. 8:3, the major lesson of the wilderness: “And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.”

There is something very “present tense” about that principle that we often forget. Now that we have the Bible, we think that’s all we need. We do need it, of course, but it’s no good without the Author! We need Him as the present tense, active Leader. When we come together, we need Him to lead us and show us what to do. All of our plans and schemes, all of our programs are a poor substitute for having God in the midst.

A Place of Humbling

One of the key phrases of Deut. 8:3 is, “And he humbled thee....” This is something that we by nature hate above all things. Yet it is absolutely necessary to God’s plan. Even His own Son, our Creator, “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Phil. 2:8.

Heb. 5:7-8 says, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” Notice the connection between obedience, suffering, and the fulfilling of God’s purpose for Him. It is the same for all of God’s children. Notice also that eternal salvation is for those that obey him.

We don’t like to be humbled, to be dependent, to feel like we’re in over our heads. But the fact is that the life we’ve been called to is not natural, but supernatural. We can’t do anything at all unless God helps us. It is both humbling and wonderful to realize that anything at all spiritually good that we are involved in comes not from us, but from God.

In the wilderness we learn that we are nothing and He is everything. It is as Ezek. 20:38 concludes, “... And ye shall know that I am the LORD.” And we learn that He is all we need.

A Place of Proving

The wilderness is a place of testing and proving. So much that is called faith is not really faith at all. After God said in Ezek. 20:33-38 that He intended to “bring you into the wilderness,” He promised to “purge out from among you the rebels and them that transgress against me.”

So many that are apparent followers of God are actually unbelievers at heart. It just takes the right circumstance to bring that unbelief boiling to the surface. Korah and the others in Numbers 15 resented Moses’ authority and rebelled, not against Moses, but against the God Who had called him. The ten spies (Numbers 13) believed more in the giants than they did in the faithfulness of God to keep His promise. Others were more interested in grumbling and complaining than they were in being thankful to God for feeding them in the middle of the desert (Numbers 21). A multitude made and worshipped a golden calf and were ready to return to Egypt rather than wait on God (Exodus 32). And on it went until a whole generation — except for Caleb and Joshua — died in the wilderness.

God knows just how to touch that one thing that is truly the center of our affections. When He does, there is a choice to be made: rebel or surrender. He will not have any other gods before Him.

There will be no stubbornness, no self-will, religious or otherwise, in the new earth. By nature we serve self and believe that obeying its dictates and desires is the key to our happiness. But in God’s kingdom it is the opposite. Happiness, joy, peace — and utter fulfillment — come from God’s loving will alone.

God’s true children experience the same trials, the same tests, that eliminate the rebels. But the trials God sends upon His own, however fiery, are sent only to purify and strengthen faith, never to destroy it. In fact, true faith cannot be destroyed because it is not really our faith at all, but Christ’s Who lives within. Gal. 2:20.

In I Cor. 10:1-14, Paul draws upon the wilderness experience of Israel in exhorting Christian believers to flee idolatry, to not be careless or presumptuous in following God. He enumerates the failures of many who died in the wilderness because of sin and unbelief.

A Way Out

It is in this context that Paul gave us verse 13, one of the most oft-quoted promises in the Bible: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” NIV.

What a wonderful testament to God’s faithfulness! We often come short, but He is always faithful! Notice, also, how it is that He helps us. His interest — and promise — is to help us to be able to stand up under the trial, not to run away in unbelief, or to somehow make the trial go away.

So much of what is called faith in our day is devoted to making the trials of life disappear. What God is looking for is faith that is able to patiently endure when that is in order. For that He calls upon us to draw, not from our own strength, but from His. Every trial is carefully balanced with whatever grace is needed. In short, He is able to finish what He has started. He just wants our trust!

God wants to prove Himself to us and that cannot happen except He bring us into situations in which all we have to lean on is His promise. He wants us to know the same lesson He endeavored to teach the Israelites so long ago: “Man doth not live by bread only but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God doth man live.” Deut. 8:3.

Under the Rod

Ezek. 20:37 says, “And I will cause you to pass under the rod....” The rod is a shepherd’s rod. God is determined to be a Shepherd to His people. He knows how desperately we need one! His heart is to gather, to nurture, to protect, and to lead us safely through. The rod is a symbol of His loving rule over His people. Rebels hate authority but God’s sheep see things differently. They can say with David, “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4. They know that the Shepherd uses the rod to help His sheep and not to hurt them.

There was a rod in the wilderness that God used to lead and provide for His people. It was Moses’ rod. It represented both divine authority and divine enabling. It wasn’t Moses’ choice or ambition that led him to do what He did. In fact he tried to talk God out of it! Gen. 3 & 4. But in the end he submitted himself to God’s plan. It wasn’t natural ability or schooling that enabled him to lead God’s people: it was God’s anointing upon him. That principle has never changed in spite of all that man has tried to employ as substitutes for the anointing.

Everywhere he went Moses lived in utter dependence on the God Who had called him. God showed Him what to do and how and when to do it. He just obeyed — and God backed him up. When he stood before the Red Sea, unbelievers crying out in fear, God told him to stretch forth his rod over the sea and it parted. When the people were so thirsty they were about ready to stone Moses, he cried to the Lord and the Lord told him to strike the rock and water came out. Exodus 17:6.

Aaron had a rod, too. Later on when the people were in a complaining and rebellious mood God had their leaders place their rods together with Aaron’s in the tabernacle overnight. Numbers 17. In the morning when they looked, Aaron’s rod had blossoms and almonds on it! God wanted them to know that there was a difference that they needed to recognize and respect. There was no way to follow and respect the LORD without following and respecting Moses and Aaron. Why? Because they were naturally superior? More dedicated? No! Because it was God’s plan.

It is the same today. God is a shepherd to His people by calling and anointing men to watch over and lead them. He wants His people to be able to tell the difference between His servants and the self-appointed, or those sent of men — or even of demons. You can know if you really want to do his will. John 7:17. Those who desired God’s will in Jesus’ day were enabled to recognize Him as the One sent of the Father.

In I Thess. 2:13 Paul commends the Thessalonian believers with these words: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” That sounds pretty important to me, to be able to recognize men who truly have God’s word — not just the words of the Bible — but God’s message for right now! God used words that passed through Paul’s lips to bring them into His eternal kingdom! But they were His words, inspired by His Spirit, full of life and power.

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