Listen to me, my people, and give heed to me, my nation; for a teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples.
I will bring near my deliverance swiftly, my salvation has gone out and my arms will rule the peoples; the coastlands wait for me, and for my arm they hope.
Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath, for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and those who live on it will die like gnats; but my salvation will be forever, and my deliverance will never be ended. Isaiah 51:4-6 (NRSV)
The science of astronomy has shown that the universe is constantly expanding and changing. Nothing that we can see or experience within creation is permanent. Everything begins and ends, except God and His promises, and we have a really difficult time wrapping our minds around that one.
Human understanding is necessarily limited to things that we can perceive with our senses, so it can be hard to trust in the permanence and constancy of God when everything we encounter eventually decays, dies or changes in some way. Entropy is inevitable.
Jesus warned us that there will always be wars and rumors of wars, as well as earthquakes, famines and various other types of civil unrest, (see Mark 13) but that He is with us no matter what happens in this world.
It is easy to be cynical about the state of the world especially should we ponder over the news for too long. However, when we watch the news, we must remember that reporting tragedy, drama, gossip and pathos is what keeps people watching the news and keeps the media in business. Sponsors pay for advertising, so the media needs to put on a good show. Otherwise people won’t bother watching, and then how would we ever know what widget we can’t possibly live without?
Good news is never reported as much as bad news is. No reporter would bother to focus on the 499,999 people in the city who didn’t get fatally shot last night. The one person who did is the one we want to know about.
It can be tempting to go to one of two extremes in our conduct and stewardship of this earth. We can live in a way that only has regard for today because we know today is temporary. Unfortunately this approach is not God-honoring as it does nothing to bring about or preserve God’s kingdom here on earth. We should conserve resources and use them wisely. We should strive to leave the earth a good place for our children and grandchildren. The earth- whether it is going to last millions of years longer, or for only one more day- is God’s good gift to us and should be treated as such.
It is worth knowing that in spite of (and sometimes because of) our efforts, nothing here on earth is permanent. This doesn’t mean to plunder at will, but neither does it mean to hoard resources to the point of denying people a way to make a livelihood or causing undue hardship. There are ways to use the earth’s resources wisely and be good stewards without calling for us to bury our cars or forgo personal hygiene. There is a balance.
We have no way of knowing when our last hour will come, or when the Lord will return and the kingdom of God will arrive in its fullness. We can’t even be sure of the nature of that transformation. What will the new heaven and new earth look like?
“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I still would plant my apple tree.”- Martin Luther
We have no way of knowing or proving what life beyond our existence is going to look like, or even for sure when that transition will take place. Jesus said we would not know the day or the hour when He returns.
(Jesus said): “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert, for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” Mark 13:32-37 (NRSV)
We don’t know when our own personal end will come either. Only a small electrical charge is all that keeps a heart beating. It is the barely tangible difference between life and death.
The best that we can do is to trust God and know that He is beyond it all. We are supposed to do and be who and what He created us to be, and to hold on to His promises even when the world and its circumstances would seem to contradict the sovereignty and permanence of God and His kingdom.
God is in control. Amen.