LandMarks Magazine  
   

July 1998 Table of Contents

 
 

The Sparrow in the Storm
By Gwen Reeves

The Sparrow in the Storm

"A storm is coming relentless in its fury." Testimonies, vol. 8, 315, How will we make it through this coming storm of unprecedented fierceness? That is what we will look at in this article. Most of the time we realize our utter weakness and helplessness. Without the Lordís special intervention, we know that we have little strength to stand in times of storm. We sometimes fear that we may be left alone. We feel that we may be like the helpless little sparrow trying to brave the cold blustery winter wind.

In the world, sparrows are not of much value. "Are not tow sparrows sold for a farthing?" You may not feel that you are of much value in this world either. That you, like the little sparrow, are helpless and alone. But, Jesus said, "And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31. Our heavenly Father has a plan to protect you in the great final storm of life. "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." Jeremiah 29:11. Do not fear the coming storm if you are hidden in the sure hiding place.

The final culmination of this coming storm is described as happening during the seventh plague. "And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great." Revelation 16:18Ė21. This storm will be louder then any you have ever heard. The thunder will roll through the earth with deafening jolts. Where will you be hiding when the lightening flashes, the thunder rolls and the hail crashes to the earth? Will you have a hiding place?

Job wrote about another aspect of this storm. "Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? Or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?" Job 38:22, 23. Here we see another element of this stormósnow.

On our back porch, we have a bird feeder. In the spring time we have three kinds of birds that come: the little Sparrows, the even smaller Juncos, and the beautiful red Cardinals. The feeder is close to our table and during mealtime we often look out and see the Cardinals and the Sparrows happily eating. One day, late this past winter, the snow was coming down fast and furious, and the wind was blowing. I looked out at the bird feeder and was amazed to see that the birds were flying in, just as much as ever, to get food out of the bird feeder. However, the wind blew so hard that it blew most of the feed out of the bird feeder and the snow came down so fast that it covered up the seed on the patio.

The birds would get up into the bird feeder, flutter their wings and knock the remaining seed down on the patio. Then they would hop down on the snow and eat the seed. There were quite a number of them down there eating. Four times during the snowstorm, I went out and sprinkled a pint of various seeds on the snow. The birds would have it about half eaten before it was covered up with more snow. Then I would sprinkle more seeds. With the cold wind all around them, how lighthearted and happy the birds were. Without stopping to mourn the storm, they ate what was provided and chirped their happy thoughts.

Can You Serve Two Masters?

The One that made the little birds is the One that arranges for their care in the snow and wind. Jesus told us that we should look at the birds (Matthew 6:26) and think about them. They have a lesson to teach us. A lesson that if well learned will help us through the storm that is coming. If we, with undivided devotion, serve the Master that made us, we have no cause to fear.

"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet, your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?" Matthew 6:24Ė26. Look at the birds! Who takes care of them? They do not sew their garments and yet your heavenly Father sees them. They trust the heavenly Father. We can only have this trust if our service is undivided. "No man can serve two masters." It all comes down to which Master we serve. If you serve the Master that created the birds, He will take care of you just like He takes care of the birds. If we choose to divide our service between God and a different master, we abandon Godís careship. However, the Lord in His great mercy strives with us long, to bring us under His care, because He loves us.

We need His care because a great storm of persecution is coming. "And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." Revelation 13:11Ė17.

This beast is a persecuting power because, verse 12 says, "He exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him." And verse 7 describes the first beast, saying: "It was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations." This beast makes war with Godís people. Although he is a persecuting power, he has influence over the whole world through the miracles he performs. After he has the wholeworld awestruck by his miraculous power, then "he hath power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed." verse 15.

Discerning the Signs

This is the great storm that even now is starting to break upon us. Have you ever noticed the color of the sky before it hails? It turns an unusual kind of a green. Jesus said to the Pharisees, You look up in the sky and you can see the signs in the sky that foretell the weather. In just the same way you should look at the signs and see that the coming of the Son of man is even at the door. All around us we see the signs of a great storm approaching. Where will you be when the storm strikes?

The time is coming very soon when the warning message to obey God will have been given to the whole world. Everyone will have heard a call of mercy to obey God, worship Him and keep His Ten Commandments. It is going forth even now. Very soon, how soon only God knows, everyone in the world will have heard a call to obey Him. Whoever you obey, he is your master. Everyone will have to choose one or the other; "No man can serve two masters." But the One that created the birds is able to take care of us, just like He takes care of the little birds and sees that they have food to eat in the storm.

"His hand is not shortened, that He cannot save, nor His ear heavy, that He cannot hear." Isaiah 59:1. That is not even the question. The question is, are our sins removed? God said, It is your iniquities that are between Me and you, so that I will not reach forth My hand to save you.

We have a prayer hearing and answering God. But if we persistently refuse to receive His invitations of mercy, the time eventually will come when God will stand up and the final pronouncement will be made for every inhabitant on this world. The words will go forth: "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And behold, I come quickly." Revelation 22:11, 12. Before this pronouncement, everyone will have decided which side they are on and which master they will serve.

The Time of Jacobís Trouble

Then the world will be plunged into the most terrible scenes of trouble. Satan himself will plunge this earth into a fearful time of corruption, agony and despair, affecting all the inhabitants of this world. Godís people also will be in a time of trouble, what is called by the prophet Jeremiah, the time of Jacobís trouble. "For thus saith the Lord; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? Wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacobís trouble; but he shall be saved out of it." Jeremiah 30:5Ė7.

Why is Jacobís trouble used to describe this great time of trouble that is coming on this earth Because we, like Jacob, are great sinners. Through lying and deception, Jacob obtained the birthright that was to be his. Esau wanted the birthright and was angry, so Jacob had to flee for his life. Twenty years later an angel, in a dream, told Jacob to go back to his homeland. Like the little sparrow he had no weapons against the hand of the fowler. He sent his brother gifts. He eventually divided his family into two camps hoping that if one were attacked, the other could escape. As the night approached, he crossed over the brook to spend the night in prayer. He knew God was his only hope. "And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when He saw that He prevailed not against him, He touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacobís thigh was out of joint, as He wrestled with him. And He said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And He said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And He said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed." Genesis 32:24.

Jacob knew that he was feeble. He had to run to a hiding place. Someone was coming against him that was stronger than he was. He was like a rabbit being chased by a fox. The rabbits know that they must find a hiding place, or they will get caught. "The conies [little desert rabbits] are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks." Proverbs 30:26. But Jacob had a problem that even the rabbits do not haveóhe had sinned against God (his Rock of hiding). He had been deceptive. He had broken the law of God. But knowing the mercy of God, he dared to lean upon His grace and ask for help. We must also go to the one we have sinned against and ask for forgiveness, if we expect to find help and strength in the storm. That is our only hope. Like Jacob, we will find mercy there.

Jacobís prayer must have been similar to this: "Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For Thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of Thy wings." Psalm 61:1Ė4. Hidden in the Rock, Jacob was safe. Esau could not touch him.

The next morning, as Esau came, Jacob, leaning on his staff, painfully limped out to see his brother. Jacob looked feeble. He had been wrestling with the angel all night. Little did the hardened chief realize that the hiding of his brotherís strength was in his limp. It is better to have a lame joint from the hand of God than to stand in our own strength.

Often God heals us through the pain of trials and suffering. We are very slow to realize that trials, suffering and times of trouble mean benefit to us. We want the "blessing" of no problems, no financial worries, no hard work, no weariness and no pain. But that is not the way life is. When Jesus was on earth, the devil assailed Him from the cradle to the cross but He never faltered. We can walk in His footsteps. There are cruel thorns on the pathway that prick and wound us, but through the power of prayer, we can prevail.

There is a great evil power on this earth and just as the devil moved on Esauís heart to march against Jacob and destroy him, the devil will move on the wicked to destroy the righteous. That is why the prophet Jeremiah called this the time of Jacobís trouble. The righteous during this last great time of trouble will have people against them, just as Jacob did. (See Revelation 13:15.)

Wrestling with God

During that time, if we follow Jacobís example, we will be saved. It is said of Jacob, "Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto Him: He found him in Bethel, and there He spake with us." Hosea 12:4. Like Jacob, we have sinned. But we need to go to the One we have sinned against, for He is the only One that can give us a protective covering in the storm. God says to each of us: "Let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me." Isaiah 27:5. Have you reached out your hand in prayer and taken hold of the strong One? Have you agonized long with God in prayer, until every power in your soul was on the stretch? Until your only longing was to be completely transformed into Godís likeness?

Those that are wrestling with God for the victory, as Jacob did, will find a cover in the storm. Like the conies, they will be hidden in the rock. I want to be sheltered by the Rock of ages, the Tower of strength, under His wings. During this storm, the beast power will cause everyone to receive a mark. Anyone who does not receive the mark or the name of the beast or the number of his name will not be able to buy or sell. (See Revelation 13:16, 17.)

Jesus said, If you serve the Master that created the birds, you do not need to worry. We serve a God that owns all the food and raiment in the world. Our only concern should be which god are we serving? Do we worship the Master of earth and sea and sky, the Creator?

Satanís Masterpiece

During this time, the greatest deception in the history of the world will be staged. Satan will try to counterfeit the Second Coming of Jesus. Paul warns us of this time, "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition: who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4.

The man of sin will oppose God. He will try to set himself up as God and cause all to worship him. In other words, he will use trickery. Then Paul says, "Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: [It was already working in Paulís time] only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way." 2 Thessalonians 2:5Ė7. "Letteth" means constrained. This man of sin was being constrained, being held back in Paulís day, but it was already starting to work.

"And then [meaning when the power restraining the man of sin was removed; which happened in 538 A.D., when the pagan Roman Empire was removed, and there was nothing to hold back the papal church] shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming. Even him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." 2 Thessalonians 2:8Ė12.

This is not the Second Coming of Jesus, but the coming of another power. Jesus talked about this coming, which "is after the working of Satan," in Matthew 24, "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not." Matthew 24:23Ė26.

Imagine the ring of victory in the air as people from all over the world cry, "Christ is come! Christ is come! He is performing miracles!" The deceiver comes as a beautiful majestic being, speaking the words of Scripture. Then in his gentle voice, this false christ assures the world that Godís law has been changed, that the Sabbath has been changed to Sunday. Then the whole world will wonder after the beast.

The devil cannot counterfeit the coming of Jesus. We must know what the Bible says about His coming so we will not be deceived. The following verses give a description of the Second Coming that cannot be duplicated: "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." Matthew 24:27. "And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Verse 31. "Every eye shall see Him." Revelation 1:7. "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17. But if you see a coming that is not like this, you are seeing the greatest deception this world has ever seen. If you are not hidden in the Rock, you will be deceived.

"A storm is coming, relentless in its fury." There is a hiding place. It is safe in the Rock of ages. If you have chosen Him for your Master, then just like the little bird in the storm, you will be safe. Some of Godís people may be martyred. You may be persecuted for your faith, for standing firmly for Godís law. Remember, the words of Jesus, "And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear Him, which after He hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear Him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him shall the Son of man confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth Me before men shall be denied before the angels of God." Luke 12:4Ė9.

Do not be afraid of men. Fear God. If you have chosen Him for your Master and you confess Him before men, He will take care of you, just like He takes care of the little sparrows.

July 1998 Table of Contents

 

       
 

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