The LORD exists forever;
your word is firmly fixed in heaven.
Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
you have established the earth, and it stands fast
The year 2020 has been nothing but frantic for the United States. We started off the year with a threat of war between the US and Iran. Then, word came of a virus in Wuhan, China that would rapidly spread to rapidly change the life of the whole globe. After a few months of social distancing and isolation, a nation was inundate with protests after witnessing police brutality against George Floyd. Just this weekend, my own state of Mississippi voted to get rid of the state flag that contained a confederate symbol. The state of our country and even my state has changed rapidly this year.
Life can often change and change rather quickly. The lyrics of Don Henley’s song “New York Minute” testifies to this: “In a New York minute/Everything can change/In a New York minute/Everything can change.” A sudden accident or new of a terminal illness can change a person’s life in an instant. Add on top of that the way technology has made life change rapidly, as we are more able to get information and respond more rapidly to whatever challenges that are faced than any point in human history. The way we used to do things are giving way to new methods and practices, with new technology to make it happen, which means we need to learn new things to move ahead in the world. In the midst of all the changes, we can sometimes feel pretty lost. What are we supposed to do?
Such rapid change can make us feel like there is no truth. With the constantly having to unlearn and relearn, it can make life feel like simply a bunch of surface appearances, with no real depth and deep, persisting meaning. What is true today is gone tomorrow.
The prophet Isaiah was familiar with the changing nature of life, even if it wasn’t as face-paced change as we regularly face today: “The grass withers, the flower fades.” (Isa. 40.8a) As the seasons passed, so too did the world show all the signs of change, with nothing lasting forever. Isaiah even compared all people to grass (Isa. 40.6), recognizing that social life is a series of changes that come and go. The only real difference between our day and Isaiah’s day is how quickly the changes come and go, but the impermanence of human life is as true today as it was for Isaiah.
Yet, amidst the changing truths of who was in power and without power, who was living in prosperity and who was living in destitution, the prophet Isaiah says with bold confidence: “The word of our God will stand forever.” (Isa 40.8b) Even as human life and purposes change, God has an unrelenting, endless purposes for human life. A time was coming when all the people would see the glory of God, where there would be no division between those who were set up in high places and those whose life had left them on the margins because God had raised the valleys and lowered the mountains (Isa. 40.3-5). Even as the world changes, God purpose is endless and continues to seek to bring forth His purposes for human life.
A.W. Tozer said: “The idea of endlessness is to the kingdom of God what carbon is to the kingdom of nature. As carbon is present almost everywhere, as it is an essential element in all living matter and supplies all life with energy, so the concept of everlastingness is necessary to give meaning to any Christian doctrine.” Without the eternity of God’s purposes, the Christian faith would be at risk of being an outdating, useless relic of eras long past. Indeed, if religion was simply about human efforts to strive for God, then this would be true, but the Gospel is about God’s ongoing purposes and activity in Jesus Christ and through the Spirit to bring about the full blessing of human life through the revealing of God’s glory to the world.
This is why we as followers of Jesus continue to obey His word, as Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Even as the world rapidly changes, sometimes even witnesses the transformation of the seemingly changelessness of the mountains and the valleys, our faith is not in human power and purposes, but the loving power and purposes of God to accomplish what He has promised. So the words of Christ are for us today as valid as they were two millennia because they transform us to be agents of God’s purposes, because in the living and doing of them by the Spirit who leads us, we can become empowered to act in accordance to God’s wisdom in this rapidly changing world. While such teachings may seem outdated to many, it is Jesus’ words that invite us into a transformation of our own way of life through the Spirit so that we can bring God’s purposed peace and well-being amidst the chaos that rapid change brings about.