(March 10, 2021) Brian Bell shares a meditation…
Scripture often speaks of these three topics. It is not my intention to ‘major’ on them as individual topics but to share some thoughts from those well-known words of Joel 2:28 (NLT 1999) where the prophet says – ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophecy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions.’
It is generally accepted that prophecy falls into two general categories… ‘foretelling’ when God gives an insight to what is yet to take place. And ‘forth telling’ when God gives a word speaking into a specific situation very often to bring encouragement to his children. Prophecy is also a gift of the Spirit which several exercise today: God’s word, however he chooses to speak it, is foundational.
Take, for example, Joel 1:16(NLT) where the prophet declares, ‘No joyful celebrations are in the house of our God.’ I believe he was speaking of an experience prevailing at that time. The people’s spiritual experience of God had waned. Could it be that we see a parallel in our recent experiences?
For many months there hasn’t really been the same joyful celebrations in the house of God – wherever that may be for you – as in the best interests and well-being of our congregations we have resorted to live streamed services conducted by a small number of people in a controlled environment. Or to a computer application such as Skype or Zoom or similar tools which enable ‘virtual’ meetings.
I know that many faithful believers have struggled with this, saying we should never have given up our liberty to meet in fellowship. Whatever view we may take, the most important aspect is that our personal relationship with the Lord must be encouraged and enriched, as we continue to live for him without the support structure, we were used to in our church fellowships (which, God willing, we may soon resume, perhaps with renewed appreciation and enthusiasm).
Prophecy essentially speaks of God’s word and I believe God has been speaking to us through his word, even if we have missed out on the ‘joyful celebrations’ we value. I see a very definite action for today in the words ‘your sons and daughters will prophecy.’
When I think of sons and daughters it reminds me of children and while there was a literal application to these words, we can also think of ‘sons and daughters’ as Spirit-born children, those who come to saving faith. God was saying the younger generation – literally as much as spiritually – would speak his word and I believe we should be encouraged by that prospect in our generation.
The scripture record often tells us how God spoke through dreams. Perhaps among the best known in the Old Testament are the dreams of Jacob’s son Joseph and in the New Testament era Joseph’s dream about Mary’s pregnancy.
I believe it is significant that God says it is the old men who will dream. I have often heard folk speak of dreams as being aspirational and while we may encourage young people to ‘dream big’ perhaps we feel ‘old men’ are past it!! I beg to differ. The context of “old men” here can relate to those who are mature in the faith.
This tells me my ability to have Holy Spirit filled aspirations need not be curtailed because I am in my 60’s or 70’s or 80’s. Think of Caleb in Joshua 14:10-11, ‘Today I am 85 years old. I am as strong now as I was when Moses sent me on that journey, and I can still travel and fight as well as I could then.’
If the Lord has gifted us in some way, whether in music, teaching, preaching, encouraging or giving, he can help us to exercise some service for him as recorded in Isaiah 46:4 ‘…until your hair is white with age.’
Because we may not all have Caleb’s measure of physical well-being, the nature of our service may need to change as we age. Lack of physical mobility or other ailments may make movement or even driving difficult, but we can always be encouragers, we can always pray for those who are still physically able.
We can have the spirit that Caleb exercised, and we need not be filled only with dreams of what has passed, wonderful as past times may have been, but dream of what God will still do for the honour of his name – and be a part of it.
I have suggested prophecy (God’s word) is foundational, that dreams can be aspirational, and I believe visions can be inspirational.
Perhaps when we think of visions, we may remember how in Acts 10 Cornelius ‘…had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him…’ and we are told this vision was in response to Cornelius’ prayers and gifts to the poor. I’m confident that God is well able to give this type of vision as he chooses.
Now, I wear glasses to help me have greater clarity of vision and I know the difference it makes to my natural sight. I believe, for those of us today who are seeking to walk in the light of God’s word, ‘vision’ speaks not so much about what we see, as how we see.
The use of the term ‘young men’ speaks to me about those who are still young in the life of faith. There has always been, and still today, a need, for real clarity about the truth of God’s word. When I was a young man – both literally and spiritually – I was very privileged to have been involved with a fellowship which made provision for sound scriptural teaching.
It was important to listen and learn; however, we were encouraged to search God’s word for ourselves and for me this is what the Bereans did as recorded in chapter 17 of the book of Acts ‘…searched the scriptures day after day,’ I won’t pretend I always got it right then or even now, but I believe it has helped me to see and understand God’s word with greater clarity.
In recent weeks we have been reminded again that even the most high-profile leaders in the Christian world may fail. This isn’t cause to criticise or to be self-satisfied, but a challenge to be even more diligent and accountable, to ourselves, to the Lord and to whatever structure or body of people to whom we may be accountable, especially if we are in a leadership role.
So, in whatever situation of life you may be at present – whether saved for many years or more recently, in a specific public ministry role or see yourself as just ‘one of the flock’ –
- Keep God’s word as your foundation,
- Don’t be afraid of God honouring aspirations and
- Continue to seek for clarity as we look to God’s word for inspiration.
Brian Bell is a diaconate member, Christ Church (Congregational) Abbots Cross, Northern Ireland, and a volunteer with Disabled Christians Fellowship Ireland. He describes himself as ‘grateful for the privilege and opportunity given me to serve my Lord.’