God Outlasts Creation

The world can be awfully depressing. Political discussions are discouraging. The character of the nation seems to be diving off a cliff. Rotten people try to do others harm. Even those who should be gracious to one another are nasty on social media. So much seems wrong.

What are things we should consider when all seems out-of-place? In Psalm 102, the psalmist was feeling the sorrow of a world gone wrong. He had suffered. He was mourning over his losses. He knew that his city had been hurt by enemies. And he desperately wanted the Lord to act.

After several verses expressing his concern and sorrow, the psalmist closes with the following words of confidence in the Lord.

Psalm 102:25-28

25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.
28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
their offspring shall be established before you.

God created. This is where the psalmist begins to find his hope. In a broken world that looks uglier and uglier, the psalmist takes his mind and heart back to the fact that God made the universe. God made the heavens. God made the earth. God is. While the universe came into being, God always is.

The psalmist also understood that God will be beyond the universe we can see. God may change the universe like we change clothing, but his eternal perfection will not change. Nothing changes the Lord. He might roll up the heavens like a scroll, but this will in no way impact him. Stars can die. Planets can crumble. Or galaxies can, at God’s will, wink out of existence. None of these things have the power to change the Lord.

Even when the Lord changes the entire universe around us, we can know that God is unchanging. And this fact leads the psalmist to confidence. The changelessness of God leads the psalmist to say, “The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.” Because God does not change, those who are under the grace of God may know that the Lord will keep us. If we are his children, if we have been adopted by him, we can know that he will establish us and not let us go. Even if the earth were to shatter around us, God would not lose us.

OF course this does not mean that we know that our lives will be painless. God is sovereign over all things, and sometimes he leads his children through the valley of the shadow of death. But God wants his children to remember that he is eternal, he is unchanging, and he will never let his people go.

So, Christian, think about the universe. Think about how stable it seems. You cannot imagine it going anywhere. You cannot imagine the earth not being. You cannot imagine the sun ceasing to rise or shine. You cannot imagine galaxies beyond your vision fading away. All seems too big, too steady, too unchanging. But God wants you to know that he is before these things, he is beyond these things, and he will keep you in his eternal life even when he changes the stars like a man changes his clothes. Let this lead you to worship the Lord. Let it remind you to be confident that, regardless of how easy or hard your life on this earth goes, there is something infinite beyond it. And let this all give you hope when the world seems too hard to handle.

Hope or Vanity

Is it worth it to follow God? That was the question that I asked in a message on Malachi 3:13-4:3. You see, at the end of Malachi 3, we saw that there were some people who were claiming that following God was vain, useless, worthless. Why? They were upset that it looked like good people were not being rewarded by God and bad people were not being judged by God. And these folks believed that, if God was not making their lives better, God was not worth following.

The answer in Malachi from God was one of eternal perspective. God said that a day was to come when he would make it clear who had been his follower and who had not. In 4:1-3, God talked about the day of the Lord, a day of coming judgment and reward. God promised he will do justice. God promised he will reward those who have honored and feared him.

But what about the New Testament? Are we to think like Malachi? Or are we who are in the New Covenant to expect that things are different today? Should we assume that, regardless of what happens after we die, we get our best lives now?

In my reading through 1 Corinthians, I was reminded that Paul preached a nearly identical message to Malachi. Take a look.

1 Corinthians 15:19 – If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

When Paul faced those who were denying the concept of the resurrection, both that of Jesus and the future resurrection of all believers, he said this is a big deal. In fact, Paul points out that hope in this life alone would be vanity for the Christian. It is meaningless to live for this life and not for the one to come. No matter how good we may or may not get things now, hope in this life alone would make us of all people most to be pitied.

Malachi acknowledged that life is hard in the here and now. But he said that following God was worth it for the hope of eternity. Is that Paul’s message too?

1 Corinthians 15:58 – Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Paul says that we can know that our labor in the Lord is not in vain. How? If you look back over the chapter, you will see that Paul pointed to the day of Christ’s return. Paul pointed to Jesus raising the dead, giving all believers new, eternal, resurrection bodies, and completing the arrival of his kingdom. Paul pointed to what will come in eternity future, and he said that it is because of that hope that we can know, in a hard here and now, that our labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Following God is worth it. Sometimes it is a real joy in the here and now. Sometimes it is really hard with joy deep down holding us together. But in the light of eternity, in the light of the judgment, in the light of Christ’s return, we can know that it is truly worth it to follow and obey Jesus, to honor and fear the Lord. That message did not change from Old Testament to New. So, let us set our minds and hearts on the eternity to come which proves to us that laboring in the Lord today is worth it.

Only Eternity Helps

There are many promises made in Scripture, promises of the great care and kindness of God. We see promises that the Lord makes that his people will have life and good days. We see promises of healing and preservation.

But, what about the world we live in? We do not, in our world, always see the rescue that the Scripture promises. What then do we do?

If the Scripture promises us a rescue from God, but then we do not seem to experience that rescue, we have a couple of choices. Primarily, we can choose to believe that something is wrong with the Scripture, or something is wrong with our understanding. Since Scripture is the revelation of the Holy God, inspired, inerrant, true in all it intends to teach us, we ought not assume that the problem is in the word. And that leads us to measure our understanding of and interpretation of that word.

Take the words of David here as an example. Consider what appears to be said. And then consider what we really must take from the text.

Psalm 34:19-22

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Take this first on the surface without attempting to consider context or reality. It looks like the Psalm is promising us safety in all circumstances. God will not let the bad guys get us. God will not let our bones be broken. God will judge the wicked and rescue the children of God.

But, is that the experience of folks living in a fallen world? No, it is not. Pain crosses the path of the evil and of those who seem to follow the Lord. In many countries, Christians are brutally persecuted. Their bones are surely broken, and often their lives are forfeit. And it looks like the bad guys are getting away with everything.

One side note on the interpretation of this text, by the way, is that it prophesies Jesus. He had none of his bones broken. John noticed this and highlighted it for us in John 20:36. But we cannot say that Jesus did not suffer. What we find out is that, though Jesus died as a sacrifice for the sins of others, Jesus rose from the grave and lives eternally. His eternity of glory is the rescue that the Psalmist was writing of.

And for Christians living in a hard world, the concept of rescue in eternity is the key to dealing with these promises. If we do not have forever, if this life is all there is, then it looks like something is untrue in the promises of Scripture. But if we have forever, if we will live again after we die, if there is an eternity on the other side of this life, we can see the promises intact. How are we redeemed and kept from harm? In Christ, we are preserved. None of Christ’s bones were broken. In Christ, when we are raised from the dead, we will apply that text to ourselves, knowing that we live because of Christ. WE will see that, even if we die at the hands of evil men bent on persecution, we were not eternally harmed.

Christians, the Lord delivers us out of all afflictions. That does not mean that he keeps us from harm or death. Instead, it means something far better. He preserves us eternally. In Christ, he forgives us, keeps us, and brings us a resurrection. That resurrection will be to perfection, an eternity of joy without any sort of failing or sin. How can we know this will be ours? The fact that God raised Jesus from the dead is one piece of evidence. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is another evidence. Our hope is not in comfort and protection in this life. Our hope is in the promise of eternity. That is Christian hope. And that hope helps us to see that all of God’s promises in his word will come to pass, even if this world is hard.