Last week I watched a PBS special on the Dust Bowl years, chronicling a season of several years in the Midwest/Southern Plains States when dust and dirt were the about the only things produced in the breadbasket area of the US.
Even though it seems that the farmer of the day did not understand how best to till his land to maintain the integrity of the topsoil and duly respect the local geography and weather, and even though they struck me as the most stubborn of the species in ‘sticking it out’ (must have been Germans – yes, I am one too, so no letters please), the amount of hardship they endured is still quite amazing. Many of those who settled the Plains states between 1860-1940, seemingly wired in such a way as to be convinced they could subdue and master the elements, found out quickly that man is not always the master of all he surveys, particularly when driven largely by greed or the promises of heretofore unimagined monetary gain, bypassing the inbred reasoning capacity in favor of a perceived want or need. In this case, not only did years of prevailing westerly dust prevent life from going on as usual, it also did not rain for a stretch of some 8 years and the locusts were particularly demonically inspired, destroying anything that remained, even pitchfork handles. All in all, there seemed to be a particular kind of hardship in play in those days that I don’t recall our nation enduring either in one geographical area or the nation as a whole in my lifetime since.
Factor in, in the same season, the Great Depression; the imminent invasion of Poland by Hitler and subsequent drawing of the US into WW2; the rise of Germany as the “superior race”, the holocaust, the rationing of the most basic needs on the homefront, and the loss of life of many Americans. Just prior to this historic time frame, another World War was waged on the fields of Europe, and as a side note, 6 million died of the flu in the same season, including my paternal Grandfather. Now by comparison, again, my lifetime has been pretty peaceful, and if I vicariously place myself into the first half of the 20th century, I wonder 2 things: ) how would I, born into the most prosperous and leisurely placemarker in US history, have held up under such circumstances, and 2) if I were a believer with my current interest in prophecy, what would I have thought was going on in the world? These are things I ponder as soon as the lights go out on another day.
As we see the signs of the times, we at this juncture anticipate similar times and far worse. But still, it strikes me that I have never read any account of the mid-20th century era, just before my time, in which a godly man or woman actually pondered whether or not they were in the last days, let alone the tribulation. I’m sure some did – but I cannot recall personally reading any overriding concerns of the day about the lateness of the hour and for the life of me cannot understand why, as I interpose my own deep longings into this past scenario. Is this a sign of the times in itself? I believe so. I believe it validates the importance of modern Israel, the preponderance of other biblical signs, and also validates the sense that so many have worldwide that we are on the verge of incredible global events – including the rapture of the church.
Think this through with me: in the same way that it seems like so many people today do sense that we are on the verge of the coming of Jesus, it would appear the exact opposite mindset was true at a time when you might think they SHOULD have expected it. The difference? two things: Israel is a nation as a result of the previous events and is the ultimate sign of the times, and secondly, I believe it is none other than the Lord Himself Who is telling us what time it is. Whether we live in quiet times, anxious times, violent times, or peaceful times, it is HIS timetable that matters, not ours. Why else would the bible say that the church would be snatched away during a time of life as usual, in a season we expect not, as a thief who comes under the cover of night when no one is watching? Sure, the times looked grim 60 years ago but if the people of God weren’t reading the Word and watching the skies – if they weren’t thinking “perhaps today” on a daily basis, how could they discern the times? Sure, our parents were part of the greatest generation, God bless them- but where did the voice of the Lord fit into their lives, the love of the Word, a single-minded longing to see His face?
And so we acknowledge His great grace toward us: I can clearly see why He raised up a subsequent generation to know and understand the times, beginning with a great move of the Spirit in the late 60s and early 70s, among a generation that seemed to have it all but what they needed most: a personal relationship with the God of the universe, coupled with a revival of the study of eschatology. Isn’t He good, to move in such a way in our lifetime, to do for us what we could not do for ourselves? And here I am, fruit of that generation, ever mindful of it, and so grateful beyond words for His sovereignty and for those who spoke truth to me when I least wanted to hear it.
Coincidence? Oh dear no. It is the Lord Himself Who has put it into our hearts to watch and wait, and we would do well to heed His warnings. We are without excuse, if we should be found asleep, lethargic, neglecting so great a salvation. “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” (Romans 13:11).
So bring on hard times that lead to redemption.
Pray to be counted worthy.
Heed the watchman on the wall.
Keep yourselves in the love of Christ.