The Times They are A’Changing
Fall’s eye-catching changes are striking in Maine. Spring’s greening and summer’s flowering end with a dramatic flair of color. Apple orchards and blueberry fields turn red. Skies become bright blue and cloudless. Nearly overnight, orange, red and yellow leaves pepper and paint roadside vistas until they drop and leave the forests naked. Although anticipated and enjoyed for its beauty, autumn is met with strange mixture of nostalgia for the passing season and mild dread for the long, bleak winter ahead.
Nearly 60 years ago, Bob Dylan’s 1960’s ballad “Times They are A-Changing” sensed and presaged the restlessness and convulsions that America would undergo during that and the following decades: assassinations, war, violent racial protests, governmental distrust, and changing mores. The ballad’s last stanza ends with ” the order is rapidly fading,” a fact we sense as our nation evolves into something unfamiliar, and we have apprehensions about what that might or might not be. Some general concerns include lack of civility and divisive politics, fears of government overreach and dogmatic ideologies, lack of accountability on multiple levels, radicalism, changing social mores and family structure, small towns struggling to maintain viability and community, climatic conditions and natural disasters, and social injustices. There is angst enough without the added anxieties of a pandemic! We desire stability as the world swirls uncontrollably around us.
In seasons of suffering and loss or difficulties and disappointments, we may become fearful and disillusioned and question if God’s dependability is overated. However, He could not be God if He did not keep His Word. The Psalmist reassures that we can have absolute confidence in His promises. “For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.” (Psalm 33:4)
Since God is immutable, we can extrapolate all His ancient promises to meaningful promises for all who have faith in Him today, sweet promises of His presence and aid: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) “They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
God was Israel’s Rock and Refuge. They found constancy in God’s integrity. As Joshua prepared to die he told the Israelites that despite their fickleness, “…Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled” (Joshua 21:43-45) Many years later, the prophet Isaiah would echo that truth: “O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago” (Isaiah 25:1).Daniel of lion’s den fame knew that God is trustworthy and will do what He says He will do. “I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments,”(Daniel 9:4)
So, what is His “covenant of love” with us? It is unchanged! He promises redemption and reconciliation, His presence and protection, His guidance and strength, and a future Kingdom of justice and goodness to those who choose to live under His authority. He will forgive sins and restore humanity to fellowship with Him when we come to Him through faith in Christ, who bid all to come to him to find relief from heavy burdens (Matthew 11:28) and claimed that whoever trusted his redemptive work should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Scripture reveals that God is faithful to His holy character, His Word, and His people. In Him is “no shadow of turning” (James 1:17) He is powerful in the life of the believer and always working so that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) “ …the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”(2 Thessalonians 3:3) “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) His promised presence is the source of great confidence. “He has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.” “So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6) That promise will culminate one day in a new Heaven and a new Earth. “When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am….I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”John 14:1-6 (NLT2) All creation will be completely renewed to its original state and purposes. The old gone! Everything new! Redemption will be complete! No sin, no illness, no suffering, no death! Justice will prevail! (Revelation 21)
Times may be changing, but God isn’t! The Psalmist knew that. In Psalm 126, he extolled God’s goodness for twenty five verses, ending each verse with the words “for his steadfast love endures forever.” The prophet Jeremiah said it beautifully, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Because of those facts, we can share in the truth that Zephaniah expressed centuries ago: “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love…”(Zephaniah 3:17)