Understanding the Times & Our Place in History
“And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honoured Him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?”
Daniel 4: 34-35
(Testimony of King Nebuchadnezzar after his sanity and kingdom was restored.)
Dear friends, brothers and sisters in Christ,
After enduring a week of illness and starting on the road to recovery, it is in my heart to share with you some of the thoughts that have been with me while incapacitated. One of the things that has been constantly on my mind has been the fact much of the Church Present goes about its course blissfully unaware that God’s great hand is present in the affairs of men and it has ever been so. Even the very hearts of the rulers of this world are in the hand of God. The nations of the world exist because He allows them to for the time to accomplish His ultimate purposes among men. If this were not true there would be no value in Bible prophecy and the many statements and examples in the Bible concerning the authority of God in the affairs of men would be nonsense. For those of us who love the Word of God, ignoring the fact God rules in the affairs of men in one manner or another according to His purpose is unacceptable.
Some nations exist for specific purposes and others are present in somewhat of the same manner as extras upon a stage, playing a role yet free to choose either the good or the bad road. I have lived among Christian believers in countries mentioned in Bible prophecy and found believers in those lands often have great difficulty recognizing and accepting their nation’s future roles in prophesied events. I have lived among Gomer, Germanic peoples, and among Togarmah, the Turkish people just to name two. I have known Persians (Iranians) as well as people of other lands, so what happens to them is very important and personal to me. But I know my feelings about individuals will not alter God’s plans for the nations. But as God did not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah without telling His friend and servant Abraham what He would do, He has acted to tell us, His “peculiar people” what He plans.
In this week, which includes the important date, the 4th of July, I would like to focus with you on the subject of what appears to me, and others, God’s revelation through the prophet Isaiah about the role of one nation, the United States of America, in the Last Days. This is important for those who live in the USA because it is their country, and their lives will be directly impacted. It is important to those who live in other countries because it explains why such a country should come into existence at the time it did. It also makes plainer why some of the recent events we have wondered at have occurred.
I hope you will investigate and consider what I share with you in the next four days. There have been people thinking and writing on this subject since at least the nineteenth century so what I am telling you is not ideas in a vacuum. But we live in a time where we can see a bit clearer the completion of the acts those who came before us only could speculate about. Please read Isaiah chapter 18 to set the stage for what we are about to meditate on.
Your servant in Christ,
Michael L. Ford, Th.D.
1 Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia:
2 That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, saying, Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!
3 All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye.
4 For so the LORD said unto me, I will take my rest, and I will consider in my dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.
5 For afore the harvest, when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening in the flower, he shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and take away and cut down the branches.
6 They shall be left together unto the fowls of the mountains, and to the beasts of the earth: and the fowls shall summer upon them, and all the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them.
7 In that time shall the present be brought unto the LORD of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of the LORD of hosts, the mount Zion.
The Land of Overshadowing Wings
“Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia: Isaiah “18:1
One of the things about the study of Isaiah 18 is recognizing the word “woe” used in the passage is not a pronouncement of certain and coming judgment as might be discovered in other places. It is the word "hoi arets!" The interjection could be translated "ho" for it is properly a particle of calling: Ho, land! Attend! Give ear! The great commentator and Adam Clarke and expositor Dr. H. A. Ironside both recognized this. The latter pointed out in his expository it is so translated in Isaiah 55:1. I like the “Woe” translation because it is clear within the context of the chapter what happens ultimately to this nation depends on the final decisions it makes. Perhaps our King James translators thought of that as well.
The problem with the men of the past who commented on the passage is they often ignore geographical direction in order to make what they believe or has occurred fit so the prophecy might be declared fulfilled. Clarke is guilty of that here toying with the idea the passage refers to Egypt even though the land is clearly beyond the Rivers of Ethiopia or Cush in the original tongue. Ironside, fell into another great trap in his consideration of the passage. That of rejecting the possible role of his own nation for another based on other partly related prophesies. In his defense, when he spoke, the fleeting shame Europe was experiencing over the mass extermination of six million Jews and unknown numbers of Christians who protested the holocaust no doubt encouraged him to come to wrong conclusions even when he got the geographical directions right.
Frederic Charles Jennings, 1847 – 1948, born in India and educated in England, resided in the United States beginning in 1871. He wrote was has been called a “monumental work” on Isaiah in which he correctly pointed out there are two places called Cush, the Hebrew word translated “Ethiopia.” The one on the banks of the Euphrates is most often ignored. (Remember my comments on paying attention to geography.) The stretch between these two places named Cush include the land promised by God to Abraham, a matter I find significant. Both look beyond waters, and to the first land symbolized by the overshadowing wings we come to taking the proper direction is America. No, the USA did not exist when Isaiah wrote the prophecy, but he was writing under inspiration for a people yet unborn, which is why people down through history always found this writing so obscure.
There is another point in identifying the land I wish to mention before closing this portion of our thoughts on Isaiah 18. That is the second verse that begins “That sendeth ambassadors by the sea…” makes it clear the passage refers to a great maritime power. I would suggest to you the USA has been one of the greatest maritime powers the world has ever known and in the beginning because of its isolation from much of the world by oceans ambassadors could travel only by water. Added to that such terms as “gunboat diplomacy” have been invented to describe the tendency of nations including European powers like Germany and England, the US, and later the Soviet Union to impress their foreign policy desires by the display of maritime power. This is particularly important also in emphasizing the time frame of the prophecy since this maritime power has been particularly important for the last three hundred or so years.
After considering the subject for thirty years I have become convinced prophecy to the land of overshadowing wings was written to show God’s plan for the Americas, particularly the United States.
The Choosing of a People
“…Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!
3 All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye. “ Isaiah 18:2b-3
Israel is always central to the judgment of the nations, and in the case of the prophecy in Isaiah 18, the nation being referred to is important because its relationship with Israel is central. It is my belief that the beginning of this nation’s interplay with the Jewish people has to begin while the people are still dispersed about the face of the earth with no land to call their own. This is why the messengers are first sent “to a nation scattered and peeled.” The beginnings of relationship with the Jewish people and America precedes the establishment of the nation of Israel. Even Benjamin Franklin was known to give support to not less than two Jewish synagogues in his time!
It is my belief there was a process of choosing the United States as the nation of Isaiah 18. It can be traced in history from at least the time of Christopher Columbus, though admittedly better scholars than myself should be able to take things back further, and to other lands. I remember well when it first came out that the translations of Columbus’ journals revealed he believed his journeys of exploration would not only bring him personal wealth but also enable him to be instrumental in the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. This set off a firestorm of angry comments, as I recall. Many denied there was any such evidence even without reading the translations. (Few were capable of reading the original documents even if they could have gotten access to them.)
My memories of this time also reminds me that this was one more blow to those people who deny the Christian origins of America. Since the information about Columbus came out, several history programs have suggested Columbus might have had Jewish roots, even though information about his origins are fairly well known today. I have noticed that some biographical notes concerning him now call him a “mystic” as if feeling God’s calling upon one’s life makes a person intellectually “out there.”
Columbus work did not make him wealthy, and he did not personally get to restore the Temple, which yet waits after more than five hundred years. But I would remind you that God has taken long periods of time according to men’s reckoning to accomplish his purposes. Columbus work of exploration was the beginning of opening up all of the Americas to Europe. Nearly three hundred years would pass from 1492 till thirteen colonies would rebel against the British Empire.
It is extremely important that some of the first people to come to those colonies were people seeking religious liberty! That is another point the history revisionists want to obscure and deny the knowledge of to the generations of this day. In their own way many of the first settlers had a great affinity with the cloud of witnesses described in Scripture:
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. Hebrews 11: 13-15
A Nation the World Notices
“All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye.” Isaiah 18:3
After spending years studying the prophecy of Isaiah recorded in chapter 18 I became absolutely convinced the nation spoken of in the chapter had to make a mark upon the entire world. There have been a number of nations down through history, which impacted much and even most of the world. For instance it was said of the British Empire that the sun never sat upon it. But Great Britain, whether considered benevolent or despotic existed for the greater glory of the British nation and monarchy, even though it had a golden age of missionary outreach that was notable. But there has only existed one nation that from its beginning made it clear it did not want the things most nations aspired to. Our thirtieth President the most often overlooked Calvin Coolidge said it as well as anyone: "America seeks no earthly empire built on blood and force. No ambition, no temptation, lures her to thought of foreign dominions. The legions which she sends forth are armed, not with the sword, but with the cross. The higher state to which she seeks the allegiance of all mankind is not of human, but of divine origin. She cherishes no purpose save to merit the favor of Almighty God." Those who hate God try to hide the truth of America’s Christian heritage.
Someone posted on the Internet ten points concerning America’s history and heritage that I liked even though it is incomplete. I share them with you, changing only some misspellings:
1 Christopher Columbus was motivated by his Christian faith to make his difficult voyage.
2 The Pilgrims clearly stated that they came to the New World to glorify God and to advance the Christian faith.
3 The Puritans who followed the Pilgrims to New England, created a Bible based commonwealths in order to practice a representative government that was modeled on their church covenants. Their more than 100 governmental covenants and compacts essentially laid the foundation for Americas Constitution, which was drafted in 1787 and ratified in 1789.
4 This nation was founded in large measure as a sanctuary for religious dissidents, seeking asylum from religious persecution and seeking the opportunity to live in freedom under the laws of God.
5 The education of the settlers and the founders of America was uniquely Christian and Bible based. More than 40% of the signers of the Declaration of Independence had seminary degrees.
6 The Great Awakening, a religious revival, was a key factor in uniting the separate pre - Revolutionary War colonies and increasing communication among them.
7 Many of the clergy in American colonies "preached liberty" The pulpits of New England were especially important in helping to bring about independence.. Long before the general population understood the threat to American liberty, some colonial ministers saw what was coming and boldly spoke out about it from their pulpits.
8 Biblical Christianity was the driving force behind the men who championed American independence.
9 Christianity played a significant role in the development of our nations birth certificate, the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence mentions God four times.
10 The Biblical understanding of the sinfulness of man was the guiding principle behind the United States Constitution…The framers of the Constitution drew their inspiration from the Bible. They intended America to be one nation under God.
It was the fact the USA was founded not as a theocracy, which had a national religion, but as a Christian nation, that protected religious freedom instead of criminalizing it, that gave it the great strength that made it visible to the whole world. It is the Christian nature of America that has made it hated among the pagan nations of the world, more than any single thing it has done.
I believe America needs to return to the faith of its Fathers and Americans should learn the truth about their Christian roots.
The Shining City on a Hill
¶ And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. Luke 4:16-21
When our Lord used the words of Isaiah to proclaim His earthly ministry as Messiah, He did not use the full quotation from that prophet which continues: “To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:2-3) Had He used the full quotation the Millennial Kingdom Age would have been announced and ushered in at that time. Yet it still waits for the acceptable year of our Lord.
Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, perhaps our last truly Christian President though some as they did Patrick Henry have questioned his Christianity, proclaimed his vision of America as a shining city on a hill. “…The past few days when I have been at the window upstairs I’ve thought a bit of the “Shining City upon a Hill.” The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim…He journeyed here on what today we would call a little wooden boat; and like other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free. I’ve spoken of the Shining City all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and heart to get here. That’s how I saw it and see it still.”
The city Reagan and Winthrop talked about was not Washington our capital, which some have called Sodom on the Potomac. It was not found in our politicians, who are too often an embarrassment. It stemmed from our culture and our great documents reflecting the vision of men of the Christian faith. This idea of a shining city does not abandon the dream shared with the great cloud of witnesses from both the Old and New Testament who "...looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Hebrews 11:10) It says that God can appoint something better than what is customarily instituted by man when people of faith build under divine guidance, something that can profess there is a God who rules the heavens and can control the affairs of men as they wait to come to that "...better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city." (Hebrews 11:16)
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