Saturday, April 20, 2013

Jacob's trouble--and mine, and yours

The Word for today:
Jeremiah 30:1-31:26
mark this: Jeremiah 30:7--
Alas! For that day is great,
So that none is like it;
And it is the time of Jacob's trouble,
But he shall be saved out of it.
When will Israel turn to Jesus?
That will happen in the time of Jacob's trouble.
The time of Jacob's touble is also known as the Great Tribulation period. It sounds like a phrase cooked up by some fire-breathing, Bible-thumping Southern Baptist preacher, but it wasn't. The phrase was first cooked up by some fire-breathing, Bible-thumping Galilean teacher named Jesus (denomination unknown).
The Great Tribulation period will be, as both Jesus and Jeremiah said, a time unlike any other. The death and destruction to be seen are beyond current comprehension. That's when Israel will turn to Jesus, mourning over him whom they have pierced:
I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)
I'm not as learned about this period as many others are. I greatly respect their studies in eschatology ("end times") and I believe that the Spirit of God is currently illuminating many end times passages which heretofore were murky. Scripture clearly says that understanding of these issues will increase in the latter days:
The fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intentions of his mind. In the latter days you will understand this. (Jeremiah 30:24)
So I fervently listen to my eschatological friends. They return the favor, just as fervently supporting my concentration on the poetics and 'pictures'--the computer age calls them 'graphics'--of scripture.
The Bible student should know what Jacob's trouble means. You should know that it's the trouble which will turn Israel around. And you should know that in the latter days our understanding of end-time prophecy will be heightened.
Having looked over Jacob's trouble, I turn to yours. I don't want us to concentrate on Jacob's trouble without recalling the time of our own...
That day or season which just sprang to mind--hold that thought. I want to be very careful because many of you right now are recollecting memories and images which lie too deep for tears.
In God's timeless kingdom, I propose we look back in time just as much as we look ahead. Let's review what we learned there. And let's even search for what might have been left there, unlearned.
The time of Franklyn's trouble began not with the Rapture (as will Jacob's trouble) but with a phone call.
Before that day I'd considered myself too intellectually nimble to be tripped up, to be found out. But I hadn't figured on Jesus Christ, because I didn't know him then.
The caller spoke for two minutes at most. He spoke pleasantly concerning various inanities and trivialities. He had no inkling of the looming cloud that was gathering as he spoke. After a minute, the phone fell out of my hand. I picked it up, excusing myself. He continued to talk for another minute, but I heard nothing more. I'd already gathered, between the words, enough information to know, without doubt, that my sin had found me out. That was the last day I ever felt clever.
Not to sound strange, but I suspect that in some super-real sense it was Jesus Christ who made that call. No one, certainly not the caller, could have laid out the information I heard in just the way I heard it. Only the omniscient mind of God could have pieced those words together, creating their intended effect.
It would be years before these realizations would crystallize. It would be years before I met the real caller, Jesus. But I would come to appreciate the cascade of troubles that ensued as an amazing sort of grace, which taught my heart to fear.
That fear was the beginning of wisdom, a Bible would later tell me (1). There was still a long way to go until repentance, but grace was leading me home.
Jacob's trouble is yet in the future, in what are called the latter days. My trouble and yours were in the past, in the latter days of lives we left behind, as new lives were struggling to be born.
(1) Proverbs 9:10

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