If you are a follower of The Master’s Table, or a former student, or have ever listened to me preach, teach Sunday School or lead a small group of any kind, you know by now that I do not pick up a recent newspaper and use the headlines for talking points about Bible prophesy. During Advent I talk about prophecies of the Messiah being fulfilled by Jesus’s birth and the events surrounding it. During Easter and Pentecost I talk about prophesies Jesus fulfilled during his earthly ministry, his death, burial and resurrection, and the promise we have of his future return. What I have never done is point to earthquakes, volcanoes, war in the Middle East or any other current event while quoting snippets of scripture and saying “See, the Bible says so.” I’ve seen preachers and other church leaders look foolish when Mikhail Gorbachev did not turn out to be the antichrist, Saddam Hussein was not the Beast described in Revelation and the world did not end in 1988 despite the list of 88 reasons that it was going to.
What I like to do is see what the Bible has to say to us rather than asking questions and demanding answers. When studying the US Constitution, you will hear a lot about framers’ intent. The document is brief and we must consider what the original writers were thinking about and trying to get at. There is not a secret Bible code that requires patterns, numerology or some magic decoder ring to unlock its secrets. The message of God’s Word is shared as plainly as possible because he wants us to understand it and he knows we have limited intellectual capacity for doing so. No offense. I do believe the Bible speaks to us. It is a powerful and dynamic message that informs us how to live lives that please God. The entire Bible, from one end to the other, is about how a God that is Holy deals with people that are fallen, sinful and broken. At the center of that story is Jesus.
Now, having said all that, what about the global pandemic and recent demonstrations and riots in our country? Does the Bible speak to us to offer hope, encouragement, or instruct us in how to respond? My answer is yes, absolutely. The goal of the Christian believer is to become christlike. Reading the Gospel accounts we learn about the heart and mind of Christ. Beginning with Acts and continuing through the New Testament Epistles (letters) we learn about the history of the early church and how to put Judeo-Christian precepts into practical action in the real world. Some basic examples of just a few would be love God, love your neighbor, seek justice for the fatherless and the widow, be a cheerful giver and consider others more important than yourself. Reading the Bible and praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit will allow us to become more christlike over time although we can never do so perfectly. The goal is perfection and we help each other along the way to work towards it. Bear one another’s burdens and “go the extra mile” are both biblical concepts.
Here’s the part you are not going to like: This is the 21st century and we haven’t eliminated racism or poverty. And we are not going to either. There has been a lot of chatter on Facebook and Twitter about racism not being biblical. If by not biblical you mean we are instructed that God is not a respecter of persons and that we should not discriminate or treat people differently, then that is correct. But in regards to racism, from a biblical perspective, it is always going to exist. The idea that we as a society, or all humans on the planet, will get better and better until all social ills are gone is wrong; according to the Bible. World peace is unbiblical, at least before Jesus returns and brings God’s Kingdom. I don’t know how each event on the nightly news plays into the bigger picture but the bigger picture is plainly spelled out. Brother will rise against brother, nation against nation, there will be wars and rumors of war. I mentioned poverty a moment ago. A popular notion is that we will work together and eliminate poverty in our country. Some are surprised we haven’t done it already. When Judas suggested the alabaster box that was broken could have been sold and the money given to the poor, Jesus said “The poor will always be with you.” That may not be prophetic but it is a true statement. We as humans cannot improve ourselves to the point we reach perfection. That is a recurring theme throughout the whole of scripture. The Hebrews learned in the wilderness and during the reigns of Saul, David and Solomon that they could not live sinless lives and thus please God. The Pharisees were still trying to impose a multitude of laws and commandments during the first century. They believed they could demonstrate to God they were serious about being his people and in turn God would restore the Kingdom of Israel. That wasn’t what God had in mind.
So is all hope lost? Of course not. When Jesus returns it will not be as an infant in a manger but in glory and power. The nations of the world will be judged and God’s Kingdom will be all the things we currently wish the world could be. That kingdom was described by John when he saw “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,” in Revelation 7:9. Our hope is not in this world. Our hope is not in this lifetime. To repeat an old cliche this world is not our home we are only passing through. Love God, love your neighbor. Love your neighbor enough, no matter he or she looks like, to share the Gospel message. This world will pass away and God will make all things new. The only way to come into God the heavenly Father’s presence is through Jesus the Son. That is our refuge and our strength. He is our peace. This life is short and the only thing that matters is whether or not you are ready for the next.