Confession: I think it’s like this…but, we’ll see.
Being a missionary to Asia on a mini-sabbatical in the USA during this global season has certainly had its share of mixed emotions, messages, and numerous changes of flight and travel plans:
The desire to fly back to Korea ASAP to be with my friends and community there during these times of testing and shaking.
The desire to remain here in the US with my family and home church for a much-needed season of rest, reflection, and processing of the first 2 1/2 years of the mission as well as preparing for the next phase.
[Edit 3/16: I’m thankful to be where I am (in Georgia currently, off to Colorado tomorrow to be with family) and able to join in global fasting and prayer and contribute in any way possible to communities and sectors that are at-risk for greater suffering. Let’s continue to be kind, considerate, generous, calm, hopeful, and responsive to the heart of God instead of reactive to panic and fear.]
The holding of the mixed emotions of sorrow, grief, compassion, concern, anxiety, hope…and underlying it all, the shalom that comes from knowing that our Father is Sovereign and His kingdom unshaken, from believing in the finished works of the cross that we have inherited and are empowered by His Holy Spirit to steward and manifest.
The brokenness and gratefulness in beholding the King wearing a Crown of Thorns and the new layers of understanding what that means in the wake of a globally growing virus carrying that same word as its name.
I’ve also really felt the reality of “we all see in part.” This is probably why the words most common upon my lips these days are, “…but, we’ll see” and “what do you think?”
When asked about my personal plans and flight schedule (i.e. where am I flying to next, when am I returning to Korea, what will the rest of 2020 look like for me, etc.), I find myself saying, “Well, I think X, Y, and then maybe A and B, then H, L or maybe it could also be Z, G, T…but, we’ll see…I’m still waiting for confirmation from the Lord.” (Can I get an amen if you know what I’m talking about?)
In this time of “waiting” and “we’ll see,” however, one thing has become very obvious and clear: now is the time to seek the face of the Lord like never before, to go deeper and lower in intimacy and abiding in Him. To get super close, eye-to-eye, nose-to-nose, mouth-to-mouth, and heart-to-heart. We’ve heard this before, and it has been true since we’ve been hearing it.
I believe there’s a window of time that is currently at its height of wide openness—and we are being spurred to run through that window of God’s Great Grace and be consumed by His fire and love, by His zeal and holiness, to set our priorities right, to align and re-align with the Heart of a Holy Righteous God who is Love.
This may look like hairline adjustments for some, or 180 degree turns for others. But there is a magnanimous grace for both to come into an alignment and knowing of the glory of God like never before, to experience and understand His manifold wisdom and stand in awe before the throne of God like the saints of old have yearned to witness and behold. I pray we will not waste or take for granted this incredible Great Grace that is available right now.
It’s also so beautiful to see how leaders in the global body of Christ are responding to this, and many have obeyed to join a global 40-day fasting prayer from March 1 – April 9; others have been praying and fasting in small groups; since the beginning of this year, many I’ve talked to have mentioned the Lord calling them into a season of prayer and fasting. It’s beautiful to see that despite the fear and grief, all over the globe, worship services are being held online, revival is happening in Wuhan, families are walking out the word of reconciliation and restoration, hidden things are being exposed, faith is strengthening, our mind is being made like flint.
During this time the Lord gave me two passages in response to my prayers and questions regarding our current global situation—it’s more than just about coronavirus, but I believe it’s about the awakening of the Body of Christ as THE Body of Christ, His ekklesia on earth, His Tabernacle upon the earth. And it requires all of the streams, denominations, and local bodies of believers to come together in unity while celebrating our unique strengths, celebrating the beautiful diversity of His body.
As if the Lord was highlighting this, I read an article this morning about the challenges in creating a vaccine for Covid-19 (also known as Sars-CoV-2). The article stated, “Here’s why we need to work together: No single institution has the capacity or facilities to develop a vaccine by itself. There are also more stages to the process than many people appreciate.” I’m praying for the bridge-makers and connectors to aid in communication, for the spirit of wisdom and collaboration.
I think the global church can take a cue from this. No single stream, denomination, mega- or house- or para- church alone has the capacity or the facilities to answer the challenges of a hurting world by itself and share the fullness of Christ. The followers of Jesus Christ need to put aside unnecessary differences and petty disagreements and work together—a city on a hill cannot be hidden. Let us become a city united by the Spirit in Truth, not divided. Because either way, the testimony we carry will ring out. I believe that testimony will be one of love, hope, righteousness, healing, victory, faith, peace, unity in the Spirit—not one of division, fear, despair, failure, death.
I’m not talking about a strange universalism, relativism, or compromise for the sake of unity (that will be a Tower of Babel) or forcefully aligning ourselves with those who are unaligned with the heart of God. I’m talking about the testimony of Jesus Christ as the apostles testified and embodied in the gospels, for the testimony of Jesus Christ is the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10). As we humbly align with God, and allow the testimony of Jesus Christ to become flesh in our hearts, we will align and come together.
The two passages the Lord has been speaking to me about are 1 Chronicles 21 and Acts 15:13-18.
1 Chronicles 21
In this passage, we see that David has just united the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. He has brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem and has established the Tabernacle of David where musicians and singers minister to the Lord and prophesy day and night 24/7. The kingdom is strengthened through a series of victories over Moab, Edom, the Philistines of Gath, Arameans, the king of Zobah, the king of Hamath…you get the idea.
As the reign of David is strengthening, he then enters into a series of wars with Philistine Giants, making his defeat of Goliath in his youth look like a teaser, an appetizer. 1 Chronicles 20:6 states that “there was a man of great stature who had twenty-four fingers and toes, six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot; and he also was descended from the giants.”
These giants / descendants of giants are defeated, because as we have previously read, God had already made an everlasting covenant with David, that He will “subdue all your (David’s) enemies. Moreover, I tell you that the Lord will build a house for you.” God tells David that not only will He establish the kingdom of one of David’s descendants, but that this descendant “shall build for Me (God) a house, and I will establish his throne forever” (1 Chronicles 17). We know that God is talking about Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega, who is the root of David, and who also came through the line of Jesse via David and Solomon.
After these victorious wars through which David’s kingdom is strengthened, comes this seemingly odd account of David taking a census of the people. It starts with, “Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1). I wondered for a long time what this meant—what was the connection between Satan standing against Israel and then David numbering Israel? And why did this census displease God so much that He struck Israel? (verse 7). It seemed so arbitrary, especially since in 2 Samuel 24:1, speaking of the same incident, it says, “Now again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah.’”
What the heck does that even mean? I can understand that probably the anger of the Lord burned against Israel because they started turning toward idolatry…and so that probably angered David…I just don’t understand why that anger would manifest in a census. (Side note: Anyone pick up on the interesting fact that there’s a US Census 2020 happening?)
It started to clear up when I read 2 Samuel 24:10, “Now David’s heart troubled him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, please take away the iniquity of Thy servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” The word iniquity here is the Hebrew word avown, which conveys the idea of evil sin that is deliberate in its twisting or perverting.
We all know that David was man after God’s own heart. Here, it seems, he was turning away. He was deliberate in twisting the purposes of God for his own purposes—whether to allay his own fears, greed, anxieties, or thirst for power. Maybe to see how many men and resources he had. To push his own agenda.
He was starting to shift in his heart’s paradigm of relying on God to relying on himself. I’m reminded of a quote by Abraham Lincoln, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
David has just walked through a grueling & traumatically long 15-year process of finally becoming King of a united Israel. He has received impossible promises and received seemingly unlimited power and authority. He and his armies, his mighty men, have defeated all their enemies. His kingdom is growing, strong and prosperous with its capital in Jerusalem where the ark of the covenant is—he has brought order and government and rule and reign! He has been given a covenant promise that his house will be established forever. And now, comes the test of his character. In the directive to take a census of the kingdom, the loyalties of his heart are being tested. And, upon first glance, it looks like he has failed—miserably
But the test wasn’t in how or why he took the census. The test came in the aftermath (1 Chronicles 21:8-24):
8 David said to God, “I have sinned greatly, in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.”
9 The Lord spoke to Gad, David’s seer, saying,
10 “Go and speak to David, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, “I offer you three things; choose for yourself one of them, which I will do to you.”’”
11 So Gad came to David and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Take for yourself
12 either three years of famine, or three months to be swept away before your foes, while the sword of your enemies overtakes you, or else three days of the sword of the Lord, even pestilence in the land, and the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.’ Now, therefore, consider what answer I shall return to Him who sent me.”
13 David said to Gad, “I am in great distress; please let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are very great. But do not let me fall into the hand of man.”
14 So the Lord sent a pestilence on Israel; 70,000 men of Israel fell.
15 And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it; but as he was about to destroy it, the Lord saw and was sorry over the calamity, and said to the destroying angel, “It is enough; now relax your hand.” And the angel of the Lord was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
16 Then David lifted up his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, with his drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, covered with sackcloth, fell on their faces.
17 David said to God, “Is it not I who commanded to count the people? Indeed, I am the one who has sinned and done very wickedly, but these sheep, what have they done? O Lord my God, please let Your hand be against me and my father’s household, but not against Your people that they should be plagued.”
18 Then the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
19 So David went up at the word of Gad, which he spoke in the name of the Lord.
20 Now Ornan turned back and saw the angel, and his four sons who were with him hid themselves. And Ornan was threshing wheat.
21 As David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out from the threshing floor and prostrated himself before David with his face to the ground.
22 Then David said to Ornan, “Give me the site of this threshing floor, that I may build on it an altar to the Lord; for the full price you shall give it to me, that the plague may be restrained from the people.”
23 Ornan said to David, “Take it for yourself; and let my lord the king do what is good in his sight. See, I will give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for wood and the wheat for the grain offering; I will give it all.”
24 But King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will surely buy it for the full price; for I will not take what is yours for the Lord, or offer a burnt offering which costs me nothing.”
This tremendous test of character came in four phases:
1. Humbling himself to admit and repent of his iniquity
2. Choosing one of three consequences of his iniquity
3. Taking responsibility for his & the nation’s iniquity
4. Offering a sacrifice to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan
It takes quite a bit of humility to turn and repent from our iniquity. The fact that David did, that his heart “troubled him greatly” shows that he did not ignore the promptings of the Lord, that still the Lord would fight to be first and only enthroned in the heart of his servant David.
In the choosing of the three options, David chooses the option that will put himself and his house at risk as well. The famine most likely would not have affected the royal household or the city of Jerusalem as much as it would have those who were less well-resourced or lived outside the city of David. The second option of being attacked by enemies most likely would have largely affected only David’s military & mighty men and their families—David and his family could, if he wanted, remain relatively untouched.
The third option, the pestilence, would put everybody in the kingdom at risk, David and his family included, and potentially massively debilitate the entire kingdom because a pestilence (as we are experiencing) moves without regard of status, location, geographical borders or background.
The fact that David chose to “fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are very great” (1 Chronicles 21:13) shows an even further turning back to the Lord, of trusting God and His righteous judgments, of relinquishing the desire to control or have power over one’s life or the lives of others—we see him realizing and choosing to live the reality that this kingdom is not his. He will stop his own agendas and nation-making and calculating and counting. He will truly surrender to the Lord, die to the potential of idolatry that threatened to awaken and steal his heart away from God.
As the idols in David’s heart are destroyed (those same idols known as pride, fear of man, self-reliance, selfish agenda, greed, insecurity, self-seeking, etc., that we saw destroy the heart of Saul) and his heart restored and realigned to the heart of God, David then rises up as the leader God anointed, appointed, and authorized him to be: he puts himself and his house on the line (the house that God said He’d establish forever), and becomes the compassionate shepherd-intercessor-servant-king for all of Israel and prays, “Is it not I who commanded to count the people? Indeed, I am the one who has sinned and done very wickedly, but these sheep, what have they done? O Lord my God, please let Your hand be against me and my father’s household, but not against Your people that they should be plagued.”
I believe this moment was the game-changing moment. David knows fully now the answer to every demanding why who what how when question and doubt and threat in his heart.
I think this was the moment that David truly became king of Israel, the moment that God was waiting for so that He could bless not just David but all the nation of Israel, and subsequently (as we will see), all the nations of the world. He just needed one heart—one heart fully committed, dead to idols, processed, beaten, broken, humble, strong, tender, compassionate, righteous, holy, and wholly set apart and loyal unto the Lord.
We see this heart when David wishes to purchase for full price the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite—the site at which the angel of the Lord stopped—and Ornan responds that King David can just take it, for free. But David responds, “No, but I will surely buy it for the full price; for I will not take what is yours for the Lord, or offer a burnt offering which costs me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21:24). This moment has me dead, just dead. David understands that worship is sacrifice, that love requires sacrifice. He knows the cost of what is priceless. God responds to this love sacrifice offering with fire from heaven upon this altar.
The site of Ornan the Jebusite’s threshing floor was on Mount Moriah, where another of David’s forefathers was also tested with the idolatry that threatened the heart. A.W. Tozer in “The Pursuit of God” speaks eloquently and powerfully of this moment in Abraham’s life, when he is about to sacrifice Isaac:
God let the suffering old man go through with it up to the point where He knew there would be no retreat, and then forbade him to lay a hand upon the boy. To the wondering patriarch He now says in effect, “It’s all right, Abraham. I never intended that you should actually slay the lad. I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that I might reign unchallenged there. I wanted to correct the perversion that existed in your love. Now you may have the boy, sound and well. Take him and go back to your tent. Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing that thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.”
Now he was a man wholly surrendered, a man utterly obedient, a man who possessed nothing. He had concentrated his all in the person of his dear son, and God had taken it from him. God could have begun out on the margin of Abraham’s life and worked inward to the center; He chose rather to cut quickly to the heart and have it over in one sharp act of separation. In dealing thus He practiced an economy of means and time. It hurt cruelly, but it was effective.
I have said that Abraham possessed nothing. Yet was not this poor man rich? Everything he had owned before was his still to enjoy: sheep, camels, herds, and goods of every sort. He had also his wife and his friends, and best of all he had his son Isaac safe by his side. He had everything, but he possessed nothing. There is the spiritual secret. There is the sweet theology of the heart which can be learned only in the school of renunciation.
To establish an eternal reign, the Lord needed and needs such hearts that go through the school of renunciation. Hearts which, as Tozer says, have gone through “that bitter and blessed experience” and after which “the words ‘my’ and mine’” never again have the same meaning because the sense of possession which they connote is gone. Hearts in which idols and “things” are cast out forever.
It’s the heart of David that says, “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my lift, To behold the beauty of the Lord And to meditate in His temple” (Psalm 27:4). It is this freed and processed and broken heart in love with the Lord and His beauty that builds the Tabernacle, that prepares for the return of the nations to God and for the return of the King of kings.
This is why in Acts 15, we see the apostles understanding that it is no longer about the circumcision of the flesh that determines eligibility to receive the covenant promises, but a circumcision of the heart of the kind that Abraham and David experienced. Because it is no longer about receiving solely the promises of God, but receiving God Himself as the Promise. Being One with Him, one with His Holy Spirit, Partaking of His blood and body, the wine and the bread; communion with Him and His Family, His nation of royal priests purchased at great sacrificial cost from every tribe, nation, tongue and language.
After hearing the testimonies of Paul, Barnabas, and Peter of the Holy Spirit falling upon the Gentiles and the signs and wonders God had down among them, James speaks to the council of apostles at Jerusalem, the City of David, quoting from Amos 9:11-12:
13 After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, “Brethren, listen to me.
14 Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name.
15 With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,
16 ‘After these things I will return, And I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, And I will rebuild its ruins, And I will restore it,
17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’
18 Says the Lord, who makes these things known from long ago.
Jesus Christ paid a great price to rebuild the tabernacle of David—he suffered a literal breaking of his heart to birth the Bride’s processed, broken, circumcised rent heart of renunciation that would enthrone only the true King.
This is the heart, veil torn, that prepares the way for the Temple, for the return of the King, for the knowledge of the glory of the Lord to cover the earth just as the glory of God filled the Temple of Solomon (2 Chronicles 5:14).
We know that the Temple of Solomon is a type and shadow of the New Jerusalem and God’s glory filling His people, the one new man Jew & Gentile alike, purchased by the Blood of the Lamb. And as Haggai prophesied, “’The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts’” (Haggai 2:9).
The circumcision of the heart of the Body of Christ, the mystery of the knowledge of His glory filling all the earth, the mystery of His glory filling the Temple—all these things were initiated by God and God alone. It is His zeal that will build His house, the same zeal for His house that consumed Jesus as he drove the merchants from the Temple and said, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robber’s den” (Mark 11:17).
I think we are at that moment of the Lord removing from His house all who would rob Him of His glory, and all who would exploit the Body of Christ for their own purposes and gain.
As the ekklesia returns to the heart of God and emerges so beautifully from the testing of character, stops the census-counting, calculating, building of our own empires and trusting in our own power and numbers; stops making the House of God a den of robbers and begins to humbly and corporately pray and fast together, putting ourselves into the hand of the Lord and His mercies, allowing the circumcision of the heart of the Body of Christ to run its course of completion, I believe out of the pestilence, the house of the Lord will be built, and this home will be built from a willing sacrifice of worship and prayer that will bring the nations to seek the Lord and prepare for His return.
(Edit 3/16 – Clarification: While I do not believe the pestilence in our current situation of covid19 is from the Lord, I do see He is using it for His glory.)
James, the same apostle whom we heard speak in Acts 15, also wrote these words:
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).
Let’s pray and persevere together, friends. Love you all.