Listening Alone

yeshuaadvent

Today I want to share the reading from my current devotional. This is taken from John: 90 Days With the Beloved Disciple by Beth Moore. The reading is from Revelation 1:4-11.

John to the seven churches that are in Asia:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Vision of the Son of Man

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”

We can be quite sure that John never sketched Patmos on his personal itinerary. I wonder what the old man felt as he was shipped like a criminal from his loved ones in Ephesus to a remote, unfriendly island. He had no idea what awaited him. God’s ways are so peculiar at times. Yet the greatest privilege of John’s life waited from him in these gravest of circumstances.

The most profound revelation in Revelation is the revealing of Jesus Christ himself, not only in visions but in authority. The word “revelation” (meaning “unveiling”) is translated from the Greek word apokalupsis. Thrown onto a boat transferring criminals, John had no idea what God would “unveil” to him upon the island of Patmos.

Imagine John’s frail, aging frame as he held on tight while the sea vessel tossed its long way across the Aegean. John probably pushed his gray hair out of his face to look at the few other prisoners sharing his destination. Don’t picture a bonding experience. No one would likely carry him through a small group of worshippers while he said, “Dear children, love one another.” Exile was intended not only for overwork and overexposure to the elements; it was purposed for crazing isolation. Yet the tactic would be wasted on John – just as it can be wasted on us when Satan tries to force us into isolation.

John most likely would have preferred death. His long life may have frustrated him. If forced to remain on earth, exile from ministry and isolation from those he loved was certainly not the way he envisioned spending his senior years. I can’t imagine at one point or another in the labors forced upon John didn’t slip on the jagged, rocky surface and rip his thinning skin like paper. He had no bedding for his aching body at the end of the day.

I also can’t imagine that he thought, “Finally! A little peace and quiet for writing a new book!” He couldn’t have expected to meet Jesus on that island as he did. Beloved one, how many testimonies do we need to hear before we accept that sometimes the places and seasons we expect Jesus least, we find Him most? And oddly, sometimes the places we expect Him most, we find Him least.

Yes, when Christ returns to the groaning soil in His glorious splendor, every eye will see Him. But until then, He sometimes comes with clouds. God’s glory is so inconceivably brilliant to the human eye that He often shrouds His presence in a cloud (see Exod. 16:10; 24:15-16; Lev. 16:2; 1 Kings 8:10; Luke 9:34). But one day, as Revelation 1:7 says, the clouds will roll back like a scroll and Christ will stand before us revealed.

He has much to disclose to us in the meantime, and we’ll be greatly helped when we accept that clouds are not signs of His absence. Indeed, within them we most often find His presence. In the July 29 entry of his classic devotional My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote figuratively of the clouds:

In the Bible, clouds are always associated with God. Clouds are the sorrows, sufferings, or providential circumstances, within or without our personal lives, which actually seem to contradict the sovereignty of God. Yet it is through these very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith. If there were never any clouds in our lives, we would have no faith. “The clouds are the dust of His feet” (Nahum 1:3). They are a sign that God is there…. Through every cloud He brings our way, He wants us to unlearn something. His purpose in using the cloud is to simplify our beliefs until our relationship with Him is exactly like that of a child – a relationship simply between God and our own souls, and where other people are but shadows…. Until we can come face-to-face without damaging our view of God’s character, we do not yet know Him.

I’ve been on Patmos myself when the clouds that settled on the island obscured what might have otherwise have been a beautiful view. I wonder if clouds covered the island when Domitian thought he left John to the island’s harsh volcanic mercy? I wonder how the old apostle “viewed” his circumstances? I wonder if he ever imagined getting off that island? Or what he’d see while he was there?

John had a critical decision to make while exiled on the unkind island. Would he relax his walk with God at the very least and at most resist? After all, no one from his church or ministry was watching. Would he lie down and die? Goodness knows he was weary. Or would John the Beloved love Christ all the more and seek Him with his whole heart amid the rock and wasteland?

His answer rises like a fresh morning tide baptizing the jagged shore: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (1:10). And there He was: the Alpha and Omega. The first and the last Word on every life. Every trial. Every exile.

Is your life covered in dark clouds right now? Or perhaps the clouds aren’t dark. They are simply obscuring clarity and tempting you to be confused by circumstances. What will you do while waiting for the clouds to part? Is there anyone else who might need your encouragement to stand strong in such stormy conditions? How can you help them?

PRAYING GOD’S WORD TODAY

God, You are our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas, though its waters roar and foam (Ps 46:1-3). It feels like this sometimes. Stormy and chaotic. At other times, rocky and dry. How I pray that You will pour out Your Spirit from heaven on this place. Then the desert will become an orchard, and the orchard will seem like a forest. Then justice will inhabit the wilderness, and righteousness will dwell in our midst (Isa. 32:15-16). I long for Your transforming power and presence, dear Lord. I need it. I crave it.

God bless you,

Steadfast

 

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