What The Lord Said To Me Today
The Controversial Jesus/Jacob's Trouble

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Sometimes, when trouble and tension strike in Israel, the prophets must remember that they are Christians first, because we can tend to become tunnel visioned. This morning, the Lord said to me, "Do not neglect my teachings". So as I pondered this, I felt led to read John, Chapter 5. I counseled someone last night to read John, beginning with chapter 3.

I was asked last night to cast a devil out of someone by telephone. The person lives in Columbia. But as I prayed, the Holy Spirit said, "this person needs to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour." So, this counsel was given, along with the admonition to read John first. This morning, the Lord brought my counsel back to me and let me know that yes, I still need to read his words too. They renew the mind. They wash the mind. They are a cleansing water for the pollutions that this evil world works upon our minds.

The first thing I noted as I read in John 5 is that we are, today, in the middle of Succot, or the feast of Tabernacles and that this passage records the works Jesus performed during an unidentified feast of the Jews. The last, great day of Succot involves a water ceremony. We find Jesus at the pool of Bethesda, where miraculous powers are attributed to the water when an angel comes to stir it.

Legend has it that the angel Raphael stirs that water. He is talked about in the apocryphal book Tobit. In any event, this water that heals has only limited efficacy. The infirm man complains that he is always beaten to the healing by a quicker pursuer of blessing. Hence, the blessing seems limited to one miracle. We know that Jesus brings with him a living water that has no such limitation or respect given to a person's quickness.

Nevertheless, how controversial Jesus is. This is a Sabbath. Could not Jesus have just healed him. Why direct him to violate the 39th law of carrying on the Sabbath? For what purpose? The controversial Jesus! Imagine: 39 laws regarding carrying items on the Sabbath day! Is it any wonder Jesus chose to take a poke at that?

Jesus is so controversial that I wonder what we would really do with him if we heard him preaching down in front of the local supermarket. When he began to tell the people that they must eat his body and drink his blood, what would we good Christians do with him then? He is so controversial and we want to be so accepted. He always takes a poke at the religious establishment and we want to pacify it and keep it happy with us. He upsets the applecart and we try to steady it. He clears the temple of thieves and profiteers and we sell books and tapes. Oh, the controversial Jesus!

Oh, and then, he directs this man to "sin no more". Doesn't that lack grace? Some prophecy teachers would say that he can't be any prophet because his teaching lacks grace: he now asks this man to be perfect. Oh the controversial Jesus! What are we going to do with him?

It was at this juncture that the Lord spoke the words "Jacob's trouble" to me this morning. Apparently, the only place these words are presented this way is found in Jeremiah 30:7. "Alas, for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it."

I then recalled that, a few days ago, my five year old daughter Joanna came to me. She wanted me to read to her from the bible. When I asked her what she wanted to read, she replied, "the 36th book". How unusual, I thought. That is Zephaniah, I thought, but I complied. We Christians don't like to hang out in Zephaniah, do we? It is 36th in order of placement, but 66th in alphabetical placement. It therefore has the marking of 2/3 of that famous number found in the book of Revelation. I read chapter one out loud to her.

When I finished reading, I told her that I don't think there is a more terrible description of future events found anywhere in the bible than in this chapter. Just consider: he begins to prophesy by saying that "I (the Lord) will utterly consume all things from off the land." All means all. All things consumed, burnt up by fire is not a pleasant concept for my flesh to ponder. It just seems to lack grace.

Yet, we know that this must be true. God was like that in the past and we know that he never changes. We tend to develop a view of Father God that pictures him as a doting Grandfather, but he will, at some point, consume everything and everyone on this earth with fire. He has not changed.

As we ponder our own walk, we should join with the Jews, who are in the midst of 40 days of repentance and self examination during this season of the fall festivals. Perhaps, given the calendarical discussions of accuracy/error that are circulating because of the work of Michael Rood, we would be wise to stretch that season to 70 days of repentance. 70 days to seek forgiveness. 70 days to humble ourselves and to seek the face of our Lord with renewed vigor, stirred by a healthy fear that our Lord is still the same, yesterday, today and forever.

Jacob's trouble is not a fantasy, it will be real. It could start this week. We need to prepare ourselves as best we can spiritually while peace, safety and careless living still describe our lives here on the far flung Isle of America. Set aside a little bit more time than usual this week and through the end of November for Jesus. Let it be a time of sliding forward, not backsliding in your life.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus

Stephen L. Bening

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