Altars of Hewn Stone

Grave danger exists when prophetic scriptures meant for spiritual interpretation and understanding are chipped away as a stone to fit into some preconceived idea.  I saw it in 1948 when Israel became a nation.  Again, I saw it in 1967 as pandemonium broke out at the Louisiana and Texas Youth Camps.  We all remember 88 reasons for rapture in 1988.  A huge scare over y2k just before the year 2000, and then of course that was the 7th year after the signing of the Jerusalem Covenant which supposedly marked the seven year count down to rapture in 2000 or just before.  This Harold Camping fraud is just old stuff, once again.

I went with Buddy Guidroz to visit his father around 1981 or 1982, who lived in Houston before his death.  Viley Guidroz, his father, was the Dist. Supt. in 1967.  He told me the tragic events that took place at the Tex. Dist. Youth camp that year.  From his words, I surmised that prophetic preaching concerning the rapture and sequence of unfolding events from natural concepts had been greatly hyped.  (What would those kind of preachers do without the latest newspaper headlines?)  He then told me that so many of the children were in a state of panic and were emotionally breaking down.  They had to call a number of parents to come get their children and try to console them since the emotional turmoil in those children had gotten out of hand and had become too much for the staff to handle.  There were children in their offices weeping as in an emotional break down and in a state of panic.  The same thing happened at the Youth Camp in Louisiana that year.  From the way things were shaping up in and around Jerusalem, war was about to break out at any moment between the Jews and their surrounding nations.

The preaching at the camp that year was in affect, “if those Jews take the other half of the city, the rapture will be next and immediate, since the scriptures say that “Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be come in.”  The explanation to that was that when the Jews capture the old half of the city from the Palestinians, the Jews would then have all of the city.  The preaching clearly, definitely explained that the rapture would then be next and at any moment.  Things were on edge.

I can’t remember if it was Bro. Winfred Black of St. Louis or John Kershaw of Richardson, Texas, who preached a message one night, “Count Down To Rapture.”  He started at the number ten dramatizing with each count what will happen when the Angel of the Lord sounds the trumpet.  He emphasized what would happen to all the young folks who missed the rapture at the sounding of that trumpet.  At each point he counted down one more number.  The air was tense.  Those children were spell bound.  The atmosphere was so thick you could almost cut it with a knife.  You could hardly stand the tension when he finally counted down to the last number of one.

He was slow and methodic, heavily emphasizing the impact that the rapture will have upon all who are not ready at the sounding of the trumpet of the Lord.  When he finally shouted, zero, he simply backed away from the pulpit and stood there for a long while with his arms folded and you could faintly hear him over the mike pray, “My God!”

Kids were about ready to fall out of those old wooden, plank benches into the sawdust floor upon the ground.  The wait seemed to be an eternity.  Then it all happened….

Suddenly from the back of the tabernacle, someone blew a trumpet into a microphone which sounded so loudly through the PA system that it almost rattled the rafters.  I’ll never forget the next scene as long as I live.  There was a moment of hesitation that captured the startled unexpected moment.  Then, it happened…

Those children started stampeding to the altar.  They fell over each other.  Many of them climbed over the benches, knocking some of them over.  The scene can only be described as a mass, mindless cattle stampede.  Some children were hurt, but I don’t think any were hurt seriously.  They did not politely kneel at the altar.  No.  They dove in there, some on top of each other.  That was one prayer meeting that lasted all night long.

Earlier that afternoon, I waited in line to use the only phone booth on the campground.  No cell phones in those days, you know.  I could not but help to hear the wailing of one Pastor, whom I knew very well, talking to his wife on the phone, “Puuuulleeeaaassse, bring my boys up here as soon as possible, I want to see them one more time before the rapture.”  I seriously wondered if he thought he was going to be left behind or possibly his boys might be left behind.  It was that day together with that night that I gradually, over time, come to realize the inherent dangers of pressing spiritual concepts into a natural box to accommodate our preconceived notions.  It does not work.

I did put away my charts that were mostly copied from Clarence Larkin drawn and painted by my wife, who is an artist.  I had been teaching from them at my home church for some time.  I also put away my chart graphically depicting “The Feast of the Lord.”  I really enjoyed teaching that one including the Tabernacle plan.

But, thanks to those dramatic events, a metamorphosis of thought and subsequent understanding begin to evolve in my spiritual understanding which is where it should have been all along.  Today, all the Harold Campings, 88 reasons books, y2k, 1967 style preaching, Richard Heard roaring the sound of a nuclear blast over a pa system, on and on such like, does not move me.  It causes me to feel sad for those who grope in such darkness.

These things of such like character are tantamount to building altars of hewn stone which the Children of Israel were commanded to NOT do.  You might build an altar of un-hewn stone but to make that last stone fit just right, it might seem that the only way that you can make it complete is to chip off a corner, an edge or chip a line a little straighter.  But, if by one hammer or chisel is used or struck against the first stone, the altar is unacceptable, regardless of how nicely each and every theory fits into the preconceived scheme of things.

The carnal Prophets and their earth bound prophesies standing upon their nicely built altar of finely shaped stones.  They all fit just nicely.  But, look at all the shards of chipped stone around the base which testifies of their use of preconceived ideas, material and worldly perceptions, not to count the many theories to make things fit.  Deceived  prophets will also prophesy while standing atop their own contrivances, formed and shaped by the use of their hammers of unending theories and one worn out chisel after another, all borrowed from the spirit of error.  But what of  all their human sweat and exertion poured into it?  The latest news headlines are replete with prophetic understanding by use of their carnal chisels that seem to somehow make everything fit just nicely.  But where did all those loose pieces of stone around the base of their strenuously built altar come from?  The worst offenders are they who propound their error in preaching, teaching and writing to become a learned practice in the generation that follow after.  You may be sure that they went down into the mud pits of Egypt to get some bricks of straw and clay to close up the holes in some of their altars.

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