A few days ago I had a dream.
A well-known Christian leader, now departed, was moving through a room surrounded by two handfuls of disciples. His face was creased, and his followers’ features were similarly lined. A fine layer of dust-like powder covered everyone’s countenance. There were many frozen smiles, but there was no longer any life or joy on their faces. Everyone was convinced that they were disciples of a cutting-edge leader, in a cutting-edge movement, in the spiritual avant-garde.
In my dream this group of people and their leader were part of a previous move of God. Now they were stuck in the past, fixated on what had been. They were not awake or alive to what God was about to do and even now doing. Their pride at being part of the “in crowd” was blinding them, preventing them from entering into the present work of God’s kingdom. They had become a slavish imitation of what they had once been. Time had stopped for them.
Bear with me as I attempt to interpret this dream.
A wake-up call
“After the death of Moses the servant of YHVH, YHVH said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ servant: ‘Moses my servant is dead’“ (Joshua 1:1-2). When God restates the obvious, it is usually because we are having difficulty assimilating reality. Joshua knew that Moses had died, though he had been unable to bury him or even see his dead body (Deut. 34:6). Joshua’s grief at losing his mentor and closest friend was considerable. In later Jewish tradition, a fixed period of mourning occurs after death, and it is quite possible that something similar was happening in this case.
God’s wake-up call compelled Joshua to exercise his will, to force his heart and his thoughts to focus on things to come. The challenge of conquering the Promised Land needed to come front and center for Joshua. Moses – God’s man of the hour in Egypt, at the Red Sea, on Mount Sinai, in battle – had moved on. He had completed his own “exodus (see 2 Peter 1:13-15) and was now with God. Priorities, emphases, strategies – all of them had to shift. No more yesterday’s manna, as Keith Green would say.
“Get ready to cross the Jordan River!” (Joshua 1:1-5)
In 1991 Bob Mumford spoke out a powerful message, one based on his experience in observing and participating in most of the Twentieth century’s moves of the Holy Spirit. He spoke of lessons learned when the wave of the Holy Spirit starts to rise, when the wave crests, and then when the wave subsides. With humor and wisdom he charted these Pentecostal, Charismatic, Third wave (and other) movements. He called upon his listeners to exercise grace, to stay humble, and to focus their eyes on the fact that there would be other future waves before the coming of the final and greatest wave – the events of Revelation 7 and 11.
The ability to honor and appreciate previous moves of God, while hungering humbly for Holy Spirit’s next stirrings (see John 5:3 addendum) – this is the challenge that faced Joshua.
It is the challenge that confronted British Anglicans faced with Methodism, and then Methodists considering the Nazarene Holiness wave. It tested Nazarenes dealing with the Pentecostal revival. It cornered Pentecostals struggling to come to terms with events in North Battleford, Saskatchewan and Van Nuys, California. In their day Charismatics nearly stumbled over John Wimber and the Third Wave, while the Third Wave in turn grappled quite recently with prophetic and intercessory waves of the Holy Spirit. And of course, the whole Church is being confronted by the divine wave of Israel’s restoration-in-process, leading ultimately to Ezekiel 37:9-14 and Romans 11:12, 15.
In each case, in each wave, not everyone moved forward. Not everyone was ready to cross the Jordan. It is rare to meet a Bob Mumford – a man of God who refused to give in to a hardening of the categories, who allowed his spirit to remain tender, pliant and expectant in the hands of God.
Old and New Wine – Old and New Wineskins
In Luke 5:33-39 Yeshua is confronted by an audience who asks Him about two recent moves of God – the Pharisee movement (similar to the modern loving focus on the Scriptures in the Baptist and Bible church movements) and the wave spearheaded by John the Baptist. Yeshua’s movement was not exactly like these other two; His disciples were not blindly accepting these two movements’ values and ways. How would He respond to the audience’s challenge?
Messiah explained that those who are used to the traditions of a revival movement can be like connoisseurs of fine wines. “No one, after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better’“ (Luke 5:39). Yet in time the new wine would be much better. For Yeshua was bringing the Messianic wine of the New Covenant, which included full atonement and the mighty indwelling power of Holy Spirit for all who believe. Yesterday’s gourmet just might miss out on the meal of his life! (see Isaiah 25:6-8; Isaiah 55).
Yeshua’s proverb declared that the followers of John the Baptist (him who pointed to the coming of the Bridegroom) should have been the first to embrace Yeshua (Luke 5:34-35). And surely, some of them did (Luke 3:15-17; John 1:40).
Yeshua is showing concern for the previous moves of God, and the grace deposits that are still to be found, like golden nuggets, beneath the surface of each movement. New wine needs to be preserved in new wineskins, while aged wine is best conserved in older wineskins. (Matthew 9:17). For every move of God there is a season, and a time for every divine purpose under Heaven.
Every movement discovers that its disciples imitate their leader. A young Baptist preaches, mopping his brow with a handkerchief , as did his former pastor . John Wimber’s disciples took to wearing loud Hawaiian shirts. In our day one can see disciples still imitating their leaders long after the glory has moved on. Yeshua noted this dynamic: “Every (student) who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).
The Apostle Paul sheds some light on this dynamic as well, as do other passages in the New Covenant (Hebrew 6:12; 13:17; 3 John 11). In 1 Corinthians 11:1 he says, “Imitate me, even as I imitate the Messiah!” Herein is a measure of safety, protection and blessing. Ultimately we need to always keep our eyes on the Prize, who is Yeshua Himself. In the end, “each tree will be recognized by its own fruit” (Luke 6:44), and we all bring forth fruit based who is our Father (see Genesis 1:12).
On another note – Ancient Enemies
Joshua waged war against many kings in his day (Joshua 12). Though these specific kings and most of these peoples are all deceased, Israel’s enemies continue to thrive and prosper. Haman is dead, but Ahmedinejad is very much alive. Hitler may be dead, but the current international wave of neo-anti-Semitism is thriving and burgeoning.
Whereas the Western world agrees by and large that Hitler’s Jew-hatred was evil, today many have been caught asleep at the wheel as a new and virulent form of anti-Semitism has swept over the bows of Flagship Europe. The Passover Haggadah declares, ““In every generation they (the anti-Semites) rise up against us (the Jewish people) to annihilate us; but the Holy One, blessed be His name, rescues us from out of their hand”.
Who would have believed it? Yesterday’s anti-Nazis have become today’s Israel haters. Sweden, Holland, France and England – nations which overflowed with a warm heart for the Jewish state in the 1950’s and ‘60’s, today have birthed significant movements and media which are in the vanguard of disseminating poison against the Jewish people.
Preparing for yesterday’s battles is less than efficient. Today is the time to gear up! Now is the time to prepare for the defense of the Jewish people, the apple of God’s eye (Zechariah 2:5-13).
In Messiah Yeshua,
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