Perilous Times Primer #9

Survival Preparations According to Scripture

“Say to the righteous that it shall be well with them, for
they shall eat the fruit of their doings.” Isa 3:10
I have always been a keen student of survival techniques.  When I was about seven years old, I used to plan three-day survival exercises on the Kansas ranch where I grew up.  I was fascinated about plants eaten by the Plains Indians.  I remember one plant we used to call “Indian bread” that my Father taught us to recognize.  Tracking, hunting, and trapping were always fascinating topics.  My father even met a Cherokee man, who took us boys out behind the barn and taught us flint knapping to make arrowheads.  Even in my early days of sojourning on this earth, basic bushcraft skills, “primitive skills,” seemed important to learn and master.
So when I became a Christian, I was curious that the Bible—in passages warning of judgment and times of national collapse—seemed to have so little to say about such skills. There is one passage (Luk 22:36) where Jesus instructs the disciples to buy a sword, but the reference is so enigmatic that it produces manifold interpretations. On another occasion (Luk 21:21), Jesus bids the disciples to “escape and evade” in the face of intense persecutions. Certainly, the Old Testament is filled with many stories of skilled survivors, such as Ehud (Jdg 3:15–16), who fashioned his own short-sword and liberated his people. Or Samson, who, apparently with only materials taken from the countryside, was able to trap 300 foxes (Jdg 15:4). But when it comes to direct instruction, very little regarding physical preparations is said in regard to preparation for “perilous times.”  This clear intention on the part of the Spirit of God in inspired Scripture has long puzzled me, until lately. The obvious answer (so obvious it is easy to overlook it) relates to the Isaiah quote above.
If we look at Luke 21, for example, we have a series of commands given by Jesus to the disciples regarding an impending disaster—which came to be known as the destruction of Jerusalem—and ultimately of Israel as a nation in 70 A.D. This terrible disaster was coming in their lifetime and would be terrible beyond description. Even the Jewish historian, Josephus, finds it difficult to describe.  Beginning in Luk 21:8 and continuing to Luk 21:28, Jesus instructs them how to face “apocalypse” in their time. Nothing is said about stockpiling food, developing skills, or procuring weapons for self defense.  Having puzzled over this for years (about 43 to be exact), I have come to a satisfying conclusion in my own mind.
The simple fact is this: All human preparations fail to take into account the overruling providence and grace of God. To put it another way, when we prepare, the one thing we do not plan on is miraculous, divine intervention. Consider, for example, verses 20 to 22 in Luke 21.  Here Jesus says, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.  For these are days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” Here is the dilemma: How can you flee from a city surrounded by Roman legions?  Human logic would say that it is impossible. However, the historical record tells us that when Roman General Vespasian, who was invading the land of Israel, was recalled to Rome to become Emperor, he left his son, Titus, in charge of the invasion.  Titus did surround Jerusalem, but not wanting to destroy the beautiful buildings—especially the Temple—he gave a three-day reprieve, allowing all who wanted to leave the city the freedom to do so.  Those who remembered Jesus’ instructions took advantage of this opportunity, and this may have included the Apostle John and Mary, Jesus’ mother (of this we cannot be sure).  However, the point is that the hand of God intervened miraculously, providing the believers the opportunity for it to “be well with them” if they acted on faith and obedience, thus fulfilling the promise of Isaiah.
Some time ago, Nan and I watched a B-grade film called Miracle at St. Anna.  It was about an American unit during WWII which became cut off from the American lines and found itself fighting for survival in the town of St. Anna. One of the men—a sergeant—was a man of principle, who tried, even amidst the horrors of war, to act with honor and integrity.  Once the battle was over, after saving the life of a young boy, he was one of the only survivors (it’s been a long time since I saw this, so the details are a little sketchy—I recommend you find it and watch it).  Near the end of the movie—long after the war and in a strange turn of events—he meets someone from that former incident (I won’t ruin the film for you). He is to be introduced to this man whose path he crossed, apparently incidentally during those terrible war days, by a mysterious stranger, who first prepares him for the meeting by saying (approximately) the following:
“People are willing to pay well for safety and security … but there is no control in life. Wherever you go, wherever you hide, there are risks … people pay for control (seat belts, safety devices, alarms, and so forth) even when they have none. Safety is the greatest risk of all, because safety leaves no room for miracles, and miracles are the only sure thing in life.”
To the disciples—on the eve of Jerusalem’s destruction—it might have appeared wise to store food, water, medicine, weapons, etc.  But, when the day arrived, only one thing would save them, and that was obedient faith in the Word of Jesus—the Living Word.
“Say to the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.”
Whatever other prudent steps we may take in our “survival preparations,” we would be wise to make sure—very sure—that our lives are built on diligent study of the Bible, faithful obedience to God’s Word, and above all, the careful cultivation of a sensitive spirit to the still, small voice of the indwelling Spirit of God.  “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” Mat 10:16.  May God give us “ears to hear” in these perilous times!
Your fellow pilgrim,

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