The Vision and the Appointment
George H. Warnock
CHAPTER 7 - THE FURNACE OF AFFLICTION
"Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy" (Jas 5:11).
"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 1:7).
It seems quite evident that the test and trial that God laid upon His servant Job, is finding a new fulfilment in many of God's people today. Job loved God, knew God very intimately, and was very sensitive to His ways. He was a godly and an upright man. God literally boasted in the righteousness of His servant Job, even before Satan. And it was this that drew Satan into the picture. God knew his boast in Job would do this, but in His own sovereign way, He was going to demonstrate the faithfulness of His servant in the midst of trial, and eventually come to him, and restore his health, and give him much more blessing than he had known before. But over and beyond all that, Job would know his God in a dimension of His power and wisdom such as he had never known before his afflictions. I know very often we bring sickness and disease upon ourselves because of our ignorance, or unbelief, or some kind of failure on our part. But I believe many are suffering the 'afflictions of Job' for no other reason, than that God is refining them, as gold and silver, in a fire that He Himself has kindled. And it is for such people that I would write these final words of encouragement.
God is looking for gold in your life and mine, and He will very often allow afflictions for that very purpose. For many centuries this precious metal has retained its reputation as something that men can rely upon – at any time – at all times. Wars may come and go. The economy of nations might collapse, and their currency might become worthless – but the advice has always been: never fail to invest in gold, for it will always survive an economic collapse and bounce back.
But what men do not want to believe, is that gold is a perishable commodity. Even though it is considered to be imperishable in the world about us – in God's eyes the finest gold that man has ever produced is corruptible and will avail nothing in the fiery trials that will come upon the earth.
"Their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD" (Ezek 7:19). But when our God rises up to "shake the heavens and the earth" He will have a people walking close to Him, who are heirs of His Kingdom – a "Kingdom which cannot be shaken." They are a people who have been tried by fire, and from whose lives God has burnt away the dross – that He might have a people that are truly a praise and glory to His name.
Earth-quakes and Heaven-quakes
I believe men of God who have understanding of the times are aware that God has already begun a shaking in the earth, which will eventually bring about a collapse of the social and financial systems of the world. Jesus told us that "men's hearts will fail them for fear" as they see what is coming in the world. But we who know Him and love Him are admonished very clearly to harbour no fear in our hearts concerning that Day – except the "fear of the Lord." Haggai prophesied this word:
"Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land" (Hag 2:6). The apostle Paul expounded on this by saying: "And this word, yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain" (Heb 12:27). What then will remain after the shaking of the heavens and of the earth? Nothing other than the Kingdom of God! And to the heirs of the Kingdom he speaks words of consolation, and of sobriety: "Wherefore we receiving a Kingdom which cannot be moved (or, shaken), let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb 12:28,29). After all the shakings in the heavens and in the earth – the hurricanes, the tsunamis, and the violent storms – after the earth-quakes and the heaven-quakes, there remains a Kingdom that is sure and steadfast, and passes not away. And we are now members of that Kingdom, if King Jesus is Lord of our lives.
The Psalmist gives us a preview of all this devastation that will take place in the Day of the LORD. Man's day comes quickly to an end. None of the peace plans of men will be effective. For when men reject "the Prince of Peace" there is no other option but war. "Wars" come from the lusts in the hearts of men, as James tells us. "From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?" (Jas 4:1). God alone will eradicate wars from the earth. It will not come about by negotiations at the peace table.
"Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations He hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth" (Ps 46:8-10).
We are not to fear those calamities, nor wonder how His people will survive. The Lamb on the Throne has overcome the world, and He will have an overcoming people in the Day of His power. The Israelites who walked across the bottom of the Red Sea in the face of their enemies, and landed on the other side, delivered from the wrath of Pharaoh – needed no explanation as to how God might supply their needs in the wilderness that lay before them. They were free from the wrath of Pharaoh, and that was sufficient for that day, and they sang a victory song of deliverance from their enemies.
Then the disbelieving ones in their midst woke up the next day with fear in their hearts. What are we doing here? And how can God furnish a table in this wilderness? God was not about to tell them how. All this would unfold in its time. They were taken out of the darkness and the idolatry of the land of Egypt, and delivered from the Pharaoh who had oppressed them; and this was God's assurance to them that He would finish that good work that He had started, and bring them into the Land of Promise. How would they survive without the economy of Egypt? Is it not enough for us to know that when God brings about these desolations in the earth, His people will be arrayed with the Armour of Light, and will be "more than conquerors" through Christ who loves them? For He "hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the Kingdom of His dear Son" (Col 1:13). And this Kingdom is a "Kingdom which cannot be shaken." "Be of good cheer," Jesus told the disciples, "I have overcome the world" (Jn 16:33). Is this not sufficient for us to "war a good warfare" with the whole armour of God that He has given us? It is enough that we simply walk in the Spirit and follow the Cloud of Glory that resides over His Tabernacle – by day as a Pillar of Cloud, and by night as a Pillar of Fire. His Presence with us is the only protection we need, as we walk our way through the wilderness journeys of life. The walk of faith is totally contrary to the ways of men, who walk according to "the course of this world." And God is preparing a people of faith, who will hear His voice, and do His will. A people who will walk so close to Him that they fret not about tomorrow. They remember what Jesus said: "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? – But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt 6:31,33). He will have a people walking so close by His side and who love Him so much, that they are ready to leave tomorrow in His hands. They know their God far more intimately than the sparrow knows its Creator; and they know that if God cares for the sparrow, how much more shall He care for His beloved people whom He has redeemed?
The Triumph of Job's Faith
Of course we desire to be the people that Jesus spoke about. But let us be confident of this: If we profess to believe in our God, He will not hesitate to try our faith to the utmost limit: not to destroy our faith, but to remove every presumptuous thought we might have, that our faith might truly be "the faith of God" in our hearts, by which we live. And the utmost limit is nothing less than what we have heard so often, about the refiner's fire. When the refiner of gold and silver can see his image in the molten metal, he knows the refining process has been completed; and he will remove the precious metal from the fire. And then the gold in us causes us to know that the "fiery trials" of the way were not intended to destroy the gold, but the dross that contaminates the gold. Then we understand a little more of what the apostle said: "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 1:7).
We do not understand how precious "the trial of our faith" is in the sight of God, and we need to meditate on what James calls "the end of the Lord" in Job's trial of faith. James refers to Job as a man who was "an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy" (Jas 5:10,11). Job's patience has become a byword today, and men speak of one who has 'the patience of Job' – referring to someone who keeps trying and trying to do something, and can't make it work. But true scriptural patience has nothing to do with that.
Patience is a higher quality of 'faith' – faith that has been tried in the fire, purged of all selfish and presumptuous thoughts. It is overcoming faith that has been tested and tried, and emerges as pure gold without the dross. Here is the man Job, righteous and godly in all his ways – and for no fault of his own he finds himself stripped of family and friends and all the wealth and glory he once enjoyed. He was a great man of God, full of wisdom and charity. But in Job's Triumph of Patience, God revealed Himself to this chosen vessel in a dimension of Himself that Job, in spite of his unblemished life, had not known before. Satan was put to open shame, and Job was humbled and then raised to heights of the revelation of the true God such as he had never known before. And the God whom he loved was vindicated and glorified in and through it all.
The men who came to comfort their friend Job with their knowledge and wisdom were likewise put to shame. The comfort they sought to give Job contained a lot of wisdom and knowledge, but it was irrelevant to Job's situation, and therefore they also were subject to God's rebuke, when the Lord "turned the captivity of Job." Many today are taking sides with Job's comforters, by saying that Job brought these troubles on himself through fear. In doing so they are inviting the same kind of rebuke that God poured out on Job's comforters, when He said: "My wrath is kindled against thee – for ye have not spoken of Me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath" (Job 42:7). God chastised them for their folly. God's own testimony to Satan is clear: that Job "still holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst Me against him, to destroy him without cause" (Job 2:3).
It was not Job's sin that prompted Satan to accuse him in the face of God. It was rather his righteousness that Satan didn't like, and he charged Job with opportunism. Why would Job not serve God, Satan said, You have made him very rich, and put a hedge about him, and protected him, so I can't touch him. What consolation this ought to be to us in the journey of life, to know that God has chosen us, taken us out of the kingdom of darkness, and translated us into His Kingdom of Love, and Truth and Righteousness – and then hedged us about with goodness and mercy against the wrath of the Evil One! And we may rest assured, that if perchance we find ourselves in situations where we cannot see the hedge of protection about us, and we feel the onslaughts of the Enemy – we know that it was God who removed the hedge for a season, to try our faith, and to prove us. Yet all the while He assures us that Satan may cause pain and trouble, but cannot go beyond the limits that God has determined. We may find ourselves walking with Christian the Pilgrim along the narrow way, as he journeys toward the Celestial City. Suddenly we hear the ravenous beasts on either side of us, and roaring at us, and we are startled. Fear grips our hearts! We are about to be overcome and torn in pieces! It is said that the thunderous roar of the lion will freeze the prey for a moment or two, giving the lion a chance to spring on the frightened animal. We must not allow our faith to falter, nor allow any sin in our lives to damage our faith, nor hinder us in our walk along the narrow way. We have learned to keep our eyes focused on the Light of the City of God. And then sometimes it seems that our pathway itself is flooded with the Light, and we press on our way with hope and courage. We love God intensely, and yet fear Him just as intensely. So we do not dare to see how close we can come to those angry beasts, without being torn in pieces. Then we discover they are chained, and can only come so far toward our pathway. We know we must stay in the narrow way, always "looking unto Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of our faith." We know we must walk circumspectly. We fear not these Satanic beasts, but with the holy fear of God upon our hearts and lives, we continue on our way, with His Word as "a Lamp unto our feet, and a Light unto our pathway."
I think few of God's people have come to the place where they can say with the apostle Paul: "we glory in tribulations also." And the reason may be that we have feared the fiery trial, not knowing that "tribulation worketh patience" (Rom 5:3). Besides, we live in a comfortable society, and have taken advantage of the situation to live the good life. But I must affirm that when God brings us into this total union with Christ that we long for, we will know what the afflictions of Christ are all about. Right now there is a lot of hatred against God and His Christ in our land, but it is still somewhat subdued. We can be sure that when God raises up a standard of righteousness in His people, there will come about a confrontation with the forces of evil such as we have not known. Satan hates righteousness, and when there is a holy standard raised up against him, persecution will follow. It was because Job walked in righteousness that Satan sought an occasion to afflict him. God's Glory will return to His Church, for many of His people are crying out for it. And the heart of God cries out for it, for His Church is intended to be His own "habitation in the Spirit," and the Light of God "in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation (generation)" See Phil 2:15). The Son of God "loved righteousness and hated iniquity." And when God's people "love righteousness and hate iniquity" as Jesus did, we too will be hated as Jesus was hated. Is God not powerful enough to save His people from persecution? Certainly He is, and sometimes He does. But very often He will allow the wrath of men and of Satan to come against us – to purge us and to try us – as gold and silver are tried in the fire.
God reminds us: "Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the Furnace of Affliction" (Isa 48:10). Joseph knew the furnace of affliction. So did Moses, and David, and the prophets. So did our Lord Jesus. So did the early disciples in the Church. And so does the Church in many nations today, where there is a true Testimony of Jesus shining forth from His people. The Lord will often allow "the Accuser of the Brethren" to stoke the fiery trials of His chosen one, until He has produced the untarnished gold He is looking for. And then Satan is put to shame, as he was put to shame when Jesus was crucified by wicked men. Satan and his evil principalities and powers did not recognize that when they crucified Jesus – in the wisdom of God, they themselves were brought to naught. Had they known it, "they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory" (1 Cor 2:8).
O mystery of all mysteries! That no matter how evil men may rage against truth and righteousness, and persecute those who walk in Truth, they are actually doing this to their own shame and destruction! And may God have mercy on them!
We may not know too much about the evil devices of the Accuser, but we must give him no honour by thinking he has been given freedom to do as he will in the lives of God's people. God has a hedge about us. Satan knows it, but very often we do not know it. He is actually outside the hedge looking in, and trying to torment us with his roaring threats of hate and anger. It is imperative that we be clothed upon "with the whole armour of God," which Satan cannot penetrate. Paul speaks of having "fought with wild beasts at Ephesus" as he warred against the beastly hate and bitterness of evil men. David confronted many evil beasts in his time of great trial, when he saw himself as a 'worm,' and he was taunted by the evil slander of the workers of iniquity. He saw himself compassed about with "strong bulls of Bashan." He was confronted by the "ravening and a roaring lion." Evil "dogs" compassed him about, and the "power of the dog" threatened him, and "the lion's mouth" opened wide to devour him, and he was caught in "the horns of the unicorns" (see Ps 22). We know all these attacks on David were prophetic, and were fulfilled in a far greater measure of reality in our Lord Jesus, as He was apprehended by the beasts of religion, and delivered into the hands of a powerful Roman Empire for crucifixion.
I recall reading in the journals of George Fox, how in his visions and dreams he would find himself at war with wild beasts full of hate and anger. He was young in the Lord and did not understand that God was preparing him for the day when he would "war a good warfare" against these wild beasts in the hearts of men. But God gave him clear understanding of what weapons he would use against them, and never would he resort to carnal weapons. God had taught him that only as he was clothed upon with "the whole armour of God" would he overcome, and he would wield no sword against them, but "the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." God will train us in the art of spiritual warfare, as we take His yoke upon us, and learn of Him.
O the trial of faith that the saints of God have gone through, and always they overcame as they walked in obedience before God. Their victory over the Accuser of the Brethren is clearly stated: "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" (Rev 12:11). They walked in the faith of God – enduring the fiery trial to the very end. It is no wonder that the apostle tells us that the "trial of our faith is more precious than of gold that perisheth." The gold that men seek after will perish, as "the fashion of this world passeth away" (1 Cor 7:31).
But Lord – give us the grace now, while we have opportunity, to lay up treasures in Heaven, "where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt 6:20,21).
Job's Appointment with a Whirlwind
When God determined the end to Job's trials, He came on the scene and spoke to Job "out of the whirlwind." He did not accuse His servant; but He asked him about 82 hard questions that left Job totally speechless. O for that glorious Day!
When God will speak "yet once more" from Heaven – and put an end to the strife among men –
When God shall speak from Heaven, and bring desolation to all these weapons of war in the world and in the Church –
When the King on the throne shall have put down all rebellion and opposition to His righteous Government in the heavens, and will have a 'willing people in the Day of His power' (see Ps 110:3).
Be assured, He has already been exalted as King on the throne of Glory, for God says "Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion," and He cries out to all people of all nations, "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little" (see Ps 2:6,12). "Sit Thou at My right hand" the Father said, "Until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool" (Ps 110:1).
The heathen rage against Him, even as they did in the early days of the Church. And they will continue to do so until the appointed time, when He shall encounter His enemies in battle, and kings and rulers and armies of men shall cry out to the mountains and rocks: "Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" (Rev 6:16,17).
God will continue to prepare His people, through much grace as well as much suffering, until He has a holy band of overcomers, who will overcome the Accuser of the brethren: "by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" (Rev 12:11).
The 'hearsay' knowledge that we have as God's people, must give way to words out of "the whirlwind," humbling us to ashes, that out from our burnt-offering unto God, we too might know our God as we never knew Him before. It was from the whirlwind that God spoke to His servant Job – who, having been humbled to ashes, was constrained to say:
"I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5,6). Repent of what? Of himself, you might say, of his ignorance of God's ways. He was a righteous man. But he was humbled in the dust and ashes of repentance, when God asked him a host of questions that Job knew he could not answer. Nor did he try. He realized he knew so little of God, and His ways. He saw himself as totally unworthy to defend himself in the Light of the glory of God that was revealed from Heaven. He would leave the fragment of knowledge he had, in dust and ashes, that he might embrace the God that he had always served – but now saw Him as he had never seen Him before. As it was with Isaiah, when he saw the glory of God, he cried out: "I am unclean!" As it was with Saul of Tarsus, the Light of God blinded this zealous Pharisee for a season. But the Light that blinded his eyes, gave him new vision into heavenly realities – a Light that would never be extinguished as he walked among men, nor when he had "finished the course" and gone to be with his Lord. It was the Light that shone out of the darkness in the beginning, and which "hath shined in our hearts, to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 4:6).
O Lord, we pray, activate and fulfill in this generation, what your servant Isaiah said concerning the Day of great Darkness:
"Arise, shine; for thy Light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee" (Isa 60:1,2).
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