Travail Due to Bondage
Micah 4:9-10 “Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in you? Has your counselor perished, so that pain seized you like a woman in labor? Writhe and groan, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor, for now, you shall go out from the city and dwell in the open country; you shall go to Babylon. There you shall be rescued; there the LORD will redeem you from the hand of your enemies.”
The question in verse 9 concerning a king in Israel, goes to the heart of purpose and promise. Many of the promises God gave Israel were wrapped up in the Davidic covenant of Kingship. One of the most misunderstood concepts of God’s purposes is found in His people not allowing God to do what He intends to do in His timing. Israel demanded a king, but God saw it as a rejection, not of Samuel, but of God Himself. And yet, God had intended a King. Israel in their impatience ended up with Saul who was one generation removed from God’s intended king, David. A one-generation misstep of impatience births Saul when God intended a next-generation David who would carry the promise of an eternal King who would rule the nations. When we refuse to wait for God’s timing we interfere and create Ishmaels which torment us for generations. Very often in the church and our Christian lives individually we make the mistake of creating our own deliverance and in impatience, we not only sin, but we cause ongoing embedded issues not easily repented from. But God uses these issues as the seeds of birthing and travail. In a real sense spiritually, God uses bondage and the mess we create as seeds of travail to birth His glorious purposes. It is best seen in the sufferings of Christ and the following glory. We created a mess that God fixed for us by sending His son. He entered our mess and travailed for our deliverance.
Did God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden to tempt man or was it put there to motivate man, so that someday, if he continued to walk with God, he would be mature enough to manage the responsibility that comes with that knowledge? I think the latter. Yet, the Lord saw the tragedy that would surely come from man’s disobedience and hopefully, the glory we now see through Jesus’ redemption. And so now, in Christ and through the work of the Holy Spirit, we who have received him, are learning to deal with that responsibility and the consequences that come with failure. And, what was an Adam who was a limited living soul is now an Adam who is a life-giving Spirit, along with His many children. New creatures in Christ Jesus!!!
The question that God puts to His people through Micah is pointing out to them that all the promises to the nation that are wrapped up in their king are being taken away by the removal of their king and them being removed from the very land that also accompanies the promise. They are going into captivity, but that captivity will cause them to enter a travail. Over the centuries, Israel experienced many false labors. They went into captivity in Babylon and then Persia. This led to a travail that brought a slight restoration to the land but without a king. Then they were captive to the Greeks, and then the Romans. They then experienced a travail that only brought forth wind, Isaiah 26:16-18 “O LORD, in distress they sought you; they poured out a whispered prayer when your discipline was upon them. Like a pregnant woman who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near to giving birth, so were we because of you, O LORD; we were pregnant, we writhed, but we have given birth to wind. We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth, and the world’s inhabitants have not fallen.” Israel did not do more than whisper a prayer in their distress. When it was their appointed time to give birth, they only passed gas. They did not accomplish their responsibility before the Lord of being priests to the nations, and no one was changed because of them! Israel was indulgent with the blessings of the Lord and cared not for the nations. In many ways, though they complained about their bondage, their leaders learned to conform to the situation and even learned to benefit from their circumstances. The leaders of the people of God did not rejoice with the Angels when the savior was born because it would mean the end of their dominance over the people. When the leader’s hearts should have been full of worship, thanksgiving, and praise they were instead filled with anger, frustration, and murder.
The end of Micah chapter 4, which leads us into chapter 5, speaks of a purpose of God to use bondage as a means of bringing the people of God into travail and the birth of a deliverer and a deliverance. In Christian rhetoric, it is very difficult to not diminish the concept of travail. Travailing is a result of intimacy with the intention of childbirth. To diminish in the spirit something as painful as childbirth is sacrilegious. It is strenuous and uncomfortable and at times miserable to carry a child to term. How often have we seen the discomfort of pregnancy bring an expectant mother to the place of desiring the pain to end the discomfort, and yet the whole process also includes a certainty of hope and joy? And, at the point of deliverance, there is a pain that seems unbearable as the mother cries out and begins to push for the crowning and birth of the life that intimacy created. Can the final days of the coming of the Lord be any different? Can any birth of God’s purposes be any different? Can the veil between the Spirit and this fallen world be birthed without the misery of carrying the hope or the pain of bringing into this reality, the true reality of heaven? I don’t think so, but still, we strive to birth His purposes in the atmosphere of our own making and the convenience of our idyllic environment. Just like the Pharisees, we want God to act as we have imagined and to come into our world, our way. It has never been so and it will never be!!!
Is our intimacy with Jesus truly rooted in a desire to have children? Women in Israel felt shame and disgrace if they were barren because the promise of a Messiah was intertwined with bearing children. I recently visited a pastor in Ghana who had birthed 950 congregations through outreach and church planting. That was 6 months ago, but when I talked to him last week, they had grown to over 1100 congregations. Where is the cry In America “Give me children, or I die” Genesis 30:1? Where is Hannah desperately pleading with God, I Samuel 1:10. Instead the cry of our hearts seems to be, “Give us better services so that we can feel better about ourselves and improve ourselves”.
I have over the years heard Christians making glib statements about their desire for the Lord to come based on weariness with the normal strains of life and I have often found myself frustrated with the lack of understanding and even shallowness of the expression. I do believe that Christians will someday, possibly soon, come to an awakening of the desperate need for His return. I am not sure that we have even come to a time of intimacy with Him to conceive. I have seen those who have conceived the expectancy of birthing souls in the nations I have visited. I have seen individuals who are desperate enough to risk their lives to share the Gospel and, in many places, that has truly led to a travail giving birth to souls. We have not experienced anything like that in America for decades. We are more than content to rely on methodology, which is our replacement for reliance on the Spirit, but we avoid the discomfort of pregnancy with its promise of the travail of souls. Give me a modern painless method of doing Spirit business rather than the struggle of depending on the uncertainty of faith which requires me to be dependent on God. We have methods for practicing prophecy; classes training methods that are nowhere found in scripture. We have methods for growing ourselves up without the uncertainty of relying on the Spirit. You can use these methods to learn about yourself, your gifts, and why you are the way you are. It all sounds wonderful. There is no need to do the hard work of being intimate with the Spirit. It is so hard, after all, to understand Him and to trust Him to work the fruit of the Spirit into my life. We have methods for discovering why we are bound that allow us to blame our past and our parents for our spiritually stunted growth. We think we need these methods just in case God does not show up to help. We have a built-in distrust of His faithfulness and our mentors reinforce the distrust and turn our dependency on them and their brilliant substitutes for God’s empowerment. When God gave a promise to Abraham that he would have a son and when it seemed that his and Sarah’s natural bodies were approaching a time where the promise might not happen, Abraham chose to help God fulfill His promise and he birthed an Ishmael. The bride of Christ has perfected the art of helping God and birthing Ishmael in America. We are content in our avoidance of the true, pure, unadulterated work of the Spirit. And now, many Christians are reliant upon politics and nationalism to deliver them from the fear of persecution or tribulation.
Perhaps I sound far too critical, after all, none of these things are unbiblical, they may be extra-biblical but that is ok, isn’t it? I contend that we have added on one extra-biblical belief after another until much of our faith is built on something outside the boundaries of the Bible. Many charismatic Christians live in such a fantasy world of so-called “Spirit” that it totters like a tower that is about to fall. I grieve over the naïve trust that is the foundation of so many “Spirit-led” people of God. I am deeply concerned because I hear the Spirit saying, “Deliverance will come through bondage!!!” There is a captivity coming and many will fall away in fear, confusion, and unbelief. It is not far off, and we are not prepared. That which can be shaken is about to topple because it is the recurring work of God to expose the foundations of humanism. We rail against the purpose of God to bring us to repentance and restoration. We are a rebellious people who have forsaken devotion to the work of the Kingdom and have devoted ourselves to the pleasures of spiritual self-indulgence. Give me another revival not so that I can truly be transformed into a laborer for Christ, but so that I can revel in man-made shivers of excitement. Do I sound bitter or angry? I am truly not. I am deeply troubled and grieved. As I travel to the nations and see the pure devotion of Christians who are without the benefits of our “knowledge” of the Bible or the conveniences of our society, I am in awe of the wisdom of God.
I fear that like Paul said of the Jews, Romans 10:2-4 “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” We too have a zeal for God that is not submitted to the righteousness of God. Philippians 3:8-11 “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, so that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Our reliance can only be on Him, not on charismatic gimmicks and methods which are nothing more than Ephesians 4:14 “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
Whew, that was hard, but it needed to be said. I have had a difficult time preparing these teachings for the past couple of months. My mission’s work is growing and the demand is increasing. I am going to take time away from the blog to focus on an upcoming pastor’s training course that we will be doing in Ghana with 200 pastors. I need to focus attention on preparing the curriculum covering the nature and attributes of God; the inspiration and infallibility of God; and Pastoral theology. I hope to return to these teachings sometime after the first of 2024. Many Blessings, your friend forever in Christ Brad