Sunrises, sunsets, vibrant color of spring and summer flowers, bright colors of leaves in the fall, frost and snow covering tree branches … World Series Champions, Super Bowl Champions, Stanley Cup Champions … homes, jobs, steady income … high metabolism, loads of energy, natural hair color, good health. All of these things and many other things which we could add to the list all have something in common.
They never last.
The sun comes up each morning to lighten our part of the world and the then sun goes back down. Our little area of the world does not continue to remain lit all the time. Flowers of spring, summer, and even fall bloom … and then they die. Leaves change color and then they dry up and fall to the ground. The beautiful coatings of frost and snow on tree branches melt away in the daytime sun.
World Series Champions, Super Bowl Champions, and Stanley Cup Champions rise up to stardom … only to someday be knocked off by another team.
People change homes more frequently today than they use to in the past. Jobs change. With job changes, salaries change.
High metabolism shown by our teenagers is a thing which many in their 30’s, 40’s, and beyond wish they could have back. With the lack of metabolism to counter our over eating and stationary lifestyles, our overweight selves lack loads of energy. Our hair color goes from brilliant brown, blonde, brunette, or red to silvery, gray, or the lack of hair altogether. Good health is hard to come by as we don’t bounce back from injuries like we use too in our yester years.
Nothing stays the same. Jessica and I had this conversation this past week when I took her to a doctor’s appointment. Back in March, everything was normal … and then you wake up one day and everything has changed. In a sense, I kind of compare it to the loss of a loved one. Oh how we wish things would go back to normal. Oh how we wish that loved one was still with us.
This is what I see happening when I read through Psalm 125, especially in the two verse, which again says … “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”
You need to remember … Jerusalem is the epic center of the life of the Israelites. The king lived in Jerusalem. The high priests lived in Jerusalem. The temple of God, the very dwelling place of God is in Jerusalem. Israelites near and far would travel to Jerusalem at different times of the year to fulfill various laws and to celebrate various feasts. Life for the Israelites revolved around God and Jerusalem.
However, … all that changed. It wasn’t an overnight kind of change but a more gradual type of change. Over time, the Israelites turned from wanting God to be judge over them to having earthly judges. This progressed from earthly judges to earthly kings. Over the course of time, God continued to be pushed farther and farther away. Farther and farther away until the point where God wasn’t even in the picture for many people … that is until they desperately needed something.
This sounds a little too familiar. A little too familiar to how things operate today. The Word of God, the source of absolute truth, the barometer of moral life continues to be pushed farther and farther away. Farther and farther away until the point where God isn’t even in the picture for many people … that is until they desperately need something.
The Israelites of the Old Testament had pushed God so far back that God basically said … “You don’t want me around anymore … fine. Have it your way.” In comes the Babylonian army and over the course of time, the Israelites found a new home. Living in Babylonian captivity wasn’t enough for them to get the picture though that God was really upset with them. So to re-iterate the point that God wanted the people to change from their sinful ways … God allowed the temple, the place where he physically dwelt amongst his people to be destroyed. At that, at the destruction of the temple … the Israelites believed that God had truly left them. Everything they trusted in, even if it was a half-hearted trust … everything they trusted in was gone.
Over the last two weeks, at the Jr. High and High School youth events, in addition to the main lessons about the Holy Spirit, we did another Bible Study. In that Bible Study, one of our lessons was based on this phrase, “God’s kingdom is an unstoppable force.” Now that can be something hard for us to believe, it definitely was for the Israelites. It’s hard to believe because when I look around at what is happening in the world … it seems like God’s kingdom is losing. When I look at my Twitter feed, when I look at the notifications on my phone or when I watch the news I see story after story of violence, unrest, riots, domestic violence, kidnappings, murder. Everywhere I turn it seems like violence is winning, that injustice is winning. These kingdoms of the world are powerful, scary, intimidating … and it seems like they are winning.
But look again at what our psalm says in verse two.
“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”
As the Israelites were set free from exile in Babylon and allowed to return home … they climb the hills leading up to Jerusalem singing our psalm. As they walk up the hills, they see Jerusalem, they see her walls toppled over, they see homes destroyed … they see the temple … lying in a pile of rubble. Everything was gone, everything was destroyed. It seemed like the kingdoms of the world had won.
But look again at our verse. “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people when? Both now and forevermore.” The Israelites proclaimed the permanency of God. In the midst of destruction, in the midst of heartache, in the midst of confusion on where to start rebuilding … the people knew one thing … God is with them. As another great psalm says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills.” As I lift up my eyes to the hills surrounding Jerusalem, “where does my help come from?” Get this … “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).
In a world which is constantly changing, where definitions of morals and rights and wrongs are constantly being re-written, and where the kingdoms of the world seem to be winning … how easy it is to wish for things to go back to the way they use to be.
But you know … even if we went back to the so called “good ole days,” they too were days which had their problems … they were just different.
But you know … no matter how much things change around us, no matter how it seems like the kingdoms of the world are winning and the kingdom of God is losing … there is something which has never changed. “The LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.” As Paul so eloquently put it earlier for us … “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37-39).
In a world looking and begging for some sort of permanency … we don’t have to look to far. Jesus says in John 16, “But I tell you the truth: It is for you good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Comforter, the Helper, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (16:7). The Holy Spirit, unlike sunrises and sunsets, unlike flowers, unlike championship teams, unlike metabolism and the color of our hair … the Holy Spirit never changes and never leaves you. “I am with you always … even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). How is that for permanency? Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.