For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:3.
Wrong Weather Forecasts
Some destruction gives a warning; it is already being expected even before it has touched down. Some other destruction, however, gives no notice, choosing the most unlikely times and places. Of such a destruction does the apostle here warn, which rushes upon a people in a very “sudden” manner, and that at a very unsuspecting time when all the headlines scream, “PEACE AT LAST; SAFE TO SLEEP!” Mark the manner and the timing of such sightless voices.
Mark that season “WHEN they shall say….” You might never be able to tell the specific calendar date when “they” would start the sedative propaganda of peace, but that such a season comes, the prophet says we should not be unaware. And you need not bother who “they” will be that would publish such sayings in such a season; “they” that have the means of the media and the power to reach majority ears and therefore scorn the distressing minority-vision of the seeing prophet whose commissioned voice warns of a destruction to which “they” and everyone else seems so blinded. Mark that season when the headlines begin to sing songs of “peace and safety.” The suddenness of the destruction that such seasons bring is usually a type that “they shall not escape”– not even the smartest and prayermost of them.
The sponsored appearance of peace is sometimes a tactical and murderous deception. The deafening proclamation of peace to drown the sounds of an approaching storm is sometimes a strategy of war against those upon whom the storm comes…suddenly.
Same Stones, Different Sights
Everybody doesn’t see the same thing when everybody looks at the same thing. That we are all looking in the same direction does not mean we see the same thing. At a climactic season in His life and in the history of humanity, while Jesus with His disciples was walking through Jerusalem, they paused at the magnificent temple and all took a look. All the disciples – which means the majority observers at that time and in that place – saw the breathtaking stonework of that architectural masterpiece, and all began to force His attention to what they were seeing. Strangely, even though they were all looking at the same temple, He was seeing something other than they were seeing; something that had nothing to do with their here and now; something opposite to magnificence; something sad and very bloody. Their natural eyes saw beautiful set stones, His prophetic eyes saw broken and prostrate stones. Their networked ears picked the happy sounds of their mutual voices reporting the pleasant sight; the Prophet’s ears were restless with the lamentations of mothers as their infants were seized from care and smashed against those silent stonewalls.
Those disciples were sincere, which did not right their error; they were also men of God, which did not mean that they saw better. They saw beauty, He saw destruction; they heard “peace and safety,” He heard wails; yet they were all focused on the same thing. Read the account for yourself in Luke 21:5-6, Mark 13:1-4, and Matthew 24:1-3.
I wonder if none of them cursed Him secretly in their righteous hearts for His minority vision. I wonder if none of them got vexed with that good Man suddenly turned a false prophet, for daring to see what none of them saw, and for so unpopularly announcing a future of pains when they were unanimous in celebrating the present beauty in the house of the Lord.
What he saw, or what we Saw?
The prophet Isaiah had a remarkable experience. By prophetic directive, following divine instructions, a watchman was recruited at a very distressing season in the land, and given the following clear terms of reference: “Let him declare WHAT he seeth” (Isaiah 21:6). The instruction was clear: “Announce what you see.” As he watched from his tower elevated by virtue of his office – thanks to his far sight as a result of that privileged altitude, he saw the serialised approach of some harmless domestic animals. However, he would not take those appearances on their face value, so he subjected them to further prophetic scrutiny; “he hearkened diligently with much heed”(v.7), and this was the shocking alarm he raise, “A lion!” They were different forms of the same beast; they were different external disguises of the same devourer, a lion.
What the watchman announced was not what he had seen, which we also saw. What we saw with him were horses and donkeys and camels; yet what he announced and warned about was the approach of a wild predatory animal – a lion. Who was wrong? The watchman or we? Who was wrong? The minority watchman or the majority lookers and sleepers? Who was wrong, the one who “hearkened diligently” to the signals he was getting, or we who took things for what we thought we saw? Need we call a prophet mad because he sees what somebody else does not? Need we proceed to take the baton from those of whom it is lamented, “Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars…” (Romans 11:3)?
They have Killed Thy Prophets
I pray that in centuries to come, if not a few tens of year from now, the Church in Nigeria would not have to apologise to one of her own prophets whom she stoned to silence; a prophet that did not go by the title (as not all prophets bear the title); the prophet Pastor Bosun Emmanuel. By no criteria is the one-chapter book of Obadiah less the word of God than the 66-chapter book of Isaiah; it did not take less inspiration to breath the one-chapter epistle of Jude than it took to birth the 22 chapters of Revelation or the 24 chapters of St Luke’s gospel. John the Baptist was not a prophet merely because of the publicity he had and the size of the multitudes that thronged him from high and low, from the political and ecclesiastical classes. He was a prophet in spite of the size of his fans and the occasional unpopularity of his voice. Not upon us, O Lord, the tag of those “Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets” (1 Thessalonians 2:15); not upon us, O Lord. Below are my prayer points.
While I sat Waiting for a Flight
A few weeks ago, I sat waiting for a flight in the privileged lounge in one of Nigeria’s principal airports. By me was a parliamentarian. As if he were unburdening his heart, he said to me that whereas it was generally feared that the mercifully concluded recent general elections were going to be the means by which the scheming international and diabolic powers would achieve their malicious prediction on the split of Nigeria in 2015, the threat is not yet past, and in fact, that now that no one looks anymore in that direction is when to watch out more carefully, because the hawks have not yet returned to their nests. He gave me his informed insights, and unveiled the alarming pointers some of which had been a loud pre-election theme. I will not here call names.
The Tares among the Wheat
I am just returned from an evening prayer meeting where my legs literally lost strength at hearing sobering reports calling for urgent national prayers. I had to ask permission to sit, when I lost my legs; rumours of wars and of the malicious sabotaging of the efforts of the Nigerian military against Boko Haram jihadists.
Days ago, a previous leader of the army under the former government of Dr Goodluck Jonathan was rubbished by the media (or by those that hired them) for confessing that their fight against Boko Haram jihadists was hampered by the activities of what he called “fifth columnists,” who worked for the enemy while they wore the uniforms of the nation’s military. Those were more committed to their religion and their pockets than to national interest. Dr Goodluck Jonathan himself had lamented that sympathisers with the divisive Boko Haram ideology were in his government as well as having infiltrated the intelligence agencies. In other words, not everyone had been wearing the military and paramilitary uniforms honestly.
From rumours reaching us, the activities of these saboteurs have lately grown more brazenly pernicious, especially within the military. Report after report points to a clandestine plot where ‘superior officers’ that are jihadist themselves have consistently devised intrigues at drastically demobilising and diminishing the potential capabilities of officers from ‘the other side’ in religious and regional respects. In some cases, officers have been deceived to disarm because a ‘very senior officer’ was coming to see them out there in the wilderness of war, only for the ‘very senior officer’ to turn out to be Boko Haram fighters that mowed down the disarmed defenders of the nation’s integrity. Not once. It calls for prayers to cover those in the military who have put their lives on the line, sincerely committed to blotting out error and terror.
A Tithe of the Truth
If these ‘rumours’ be true which one has heard from recurrent independent sources, what is the ultimate agenda of the determined degrading of personnel from ‘the other side’? So that in the event of a war (for which ‘they’ have been earnest in preparing), there would be no helpers for those that would have to choose between their sword and their holy book? In one arm of the military, the latest scheme, we hear (and the schemes keep being revised as soon as they are discovered), is the allocation of a new type of their uniform. Those who get assigned the new uniform usually ultimately get posted to the war zone, and often do not return to shout Hallelujah. Sometimes those from ‘the other side’ constitute the essential battalions that go out, to be ambushed by the enemy. The papers do not often carry a tithe of the truth or of the pains we hear.
From just before Nigeria’s last elections, based on signals from on high and thanks to the many voices of prayers, I breathed relief that at least I’d had a break from the insistent tremors of an approaching war. I thought at last it was time to set tables and face a ‘normal’ life, but the revelations of war have begun to pour in again, also from many other quarters, and my soul will not be quiet for what I see. I am thinking, Why would God thus persistently be calling attention to the matters of our future rest, after a brief post-elections pause?
“What seest Thou?”
All watchmen do not see the same things; it depends on where each stands. Jonah was not the only prophet in the northern Kingdom of Israel at the time God sent him off to Nineveh. The others never heard about Nineveh what Jonah heard about Nineveh. It was not every prophet that God sent to Gomer when God sent the prophet Hosea to marry her. “What seest thou?” is a question God posed to respective prophets, and sometimes repeatedly to the same prophet. The answers were never the same (Jeremiah 1:11; Amos 7:8; Zechariah 4:2). Even the best of prophets sees merely a “part,” the “part” that is committed to him – the other ‘parts’ having been committed to others. The final (and therefore authentic) prophetic picture would usually be a combination of all the prophetic part-pictures (1 Corinthians 13:10; 14:29-31). In the effort to blow my alarm for the things I see, to wake up mighty men unto prayers (Joel 3:9), I have been called some of the unkindest names, even by my brethren and friends; yet my voice is determined not to be muted. It is I who will answer to God for my trumpet unsounded (Ezekiel 3:17-18).
I see a team of ‘wise men’ from the east, assembled in a place, to divine and advice the ruler on who and who should be given what place, who should sit at the gates and who should be kept far from where. The list you have been waiting for has not been seen and will not be seen until it will have passed through the diviners turbaned from the east, before it should be ‘presented’ for parliamentary rubberstamp. He needs the mystical clearance of those astrologers reading the stars to read the future. I see in another room, experts of the law assembled; they have also been there for the past few moons studying our law, to pick loopholes that could be exploited in days to come, and implemented phase by phase to fight their cause, Ishmael’s cause. These have not actually been silent months while we waited unduly so long to birth an exceptional child so difficult to find; they have been a season of retreat while the wise men of the law and the wise men of the stars consult and confer to advise and direct. May God Who makes diviners mad, who makes seeing eyes blind, blind the eyes of the astrologers, and smite the wise men with self-annihilating foolishness after the order of Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:31; 17:23). Amen.
That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish (Isaiah 44:25).
A Shopping Prayer List
Not to bore you with a long epistle, I shall pause here, and continue the burdens in a subsequent post, with prayer points more disturbing than these, from the open pages of the newspaper. However, please, pray for Europe; she faces an invasion of pain and evil, and needs every prayer from every quarter, and America also.
I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence (Isaiah 62:6).
A call has gone out to the Church in Nigeria: a vigil holds across the land on Nigeria’s Independence eve on Wednesday, September 30, from 10.00pm or 11.00pm to at least 1.00 am or later on Thursday, October 1, 2015. Nigeria’s Independence Day in this season falls in the Hebrew New Year-month, in the Shemitah year, the Sabbatic Jubilee (or 50th) year, after 7 circles of 7 years (7x7=49+1=50 – Jubilee/Sabbath year of release and rest). If you are unaware of any of these vigils holding in your city, then kindly arrange one with your household and invite others in, otherwise use your church and let other churches come in to declare God’s New Year on Nigeria, then leave the rest to the Lord of Hosts. It shall be a Passover vigil concluding with a Communion. Amen.
From The Preacher’s diary,