My Musings – Although our troubles are temporary, while we are in them, we all have a tendency to be consumed by them. We fix our eyes on them. We can hardly focus on anything else. Yet because we are in Christ, if we fix our eyes on Him, things can be different. Hard pressed but not crushed. Perplexed but not in despair. Persecuted but not abandoned. Struck down but not destroyed. Wasting away but being renewed. With the proper focus we can see the all sufficient grace of God while still in the midst of what is pressing against us, perplexing us, persecuting us, or striking us down.
My Advice – In the less than memorable movie Noah’s Ark, starring Russel Crowe, there is one brief exchange between Noah and Tubal-Cain that I do remember quite well.
Tubal-Cain (menacingly): “I have men at my back, and you stand alone and defy me?”
Noah (matter-of-factly): “I’m not alone.”
Remember, no matter how desperate the situation, if you are in Christ you are never alone. Fix your eyes on Him, not the situation.
My Musings – Coming soon, to a location near you. We’ve been blessed in the United States. Up until a generation or so ago, the rule of law and Judeo-Christian values were rarely in conflict, with the glaring and shameful exception of slavery. The first amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” A veritable two-way street; no imposition of a state religion and no impediment to the free exercise of a citizen’s religion of choice.
That may soon be coming to an end. The cracks have been visible for quite some time now, and they are rapidly growing deeper and wider. And if permitted to mix my metaphors, the handwriting is on the wall and our days may be numbered. On that day, and it may be soon, we may be joining our Christian brothers and sisters in certain third-world, communist and Muslim countries where the free exercise of our faith, or at least certain aspects of it, become illegal. Even to the point of confiscation of property, imprisonment, or even death. This should not surprise us. Jesus said we would be hated because of Him (Matthew 10:22). But, “we must obey God rather than men!“
My Advice – “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring). All we have to decide is, do we “obey God rather than men?” “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15, NIV 1984). Who’s with me?
My Musings – “We who have lived long under the Shadow may surely listen to echoes from a land untroubled by it?” (From “The Return of the King,” J. R. R. Tolkien). The shadow we live under grows longer and the darkness and distress spreads. For “immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’” (Matthew 24:29, NIV 1984). But once again, “the people living in darkness [will see] a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light [will] dawn.” (Matthew 4:16, NIV 1984). “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:27, NIV 1984).
Afterwards the “distress of those days” will be no more than “echoes from a land untroubled by it.” For “now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:3-5, NIV 1984).
My Advice – Just try to imagine it. The “great glory.” What John saw was so unimaginable, that the best way he could describe it was what was not there. The things (tears, death, mourning, crying, pain) that we will be “untroubled by.” For “the old order of things has passed away.” Yes, in this world we will have trouble that we have to live under. But take heart, He has overcome the world!
My Musings – “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass.” (Sam Gamgee, The Two Towers, by J. R. R. Tolkien).
All the great stories are full of darkness and danger. Good pitted against evil. Suspense over which would prevail, as they were equally balanced against each other so that the outcome balanced on the edge of a razor. Good did not always triumph. Evil was never fully vanquished – only for a season before it took shape once again.
What about our great story? In these “last days” as the darkness grows, “how could our end be happy?” “How [can] the world go back the to the way it was, when so much bad [is yet to come]?” It cannot. But that does not mean evil wins. Evil has been doomed from the beginning. Even though very powerful, it “will be [overthrown] by the breath of His [Jesus’] mouth and [destroyed] by the splendor of His coming.” “In the end, it’s only a passing thing. Even darkness must pass.” Because light always extinguishes darkness, chasing away even shadows. Darkness cannot dispel light. With all the power this “tower” of darkness has, it does not have that power.
My Advice – There stands two towers. You must swear allegiance to one or the other. No choice is a choice for the tower of the prince of this world. As we’ve seen, his time is short. In the end, he is the one who loses. That end has never been in doubt. Wouldn’t you rather stand with the tower in God’s Kingdom? Choose Christ and His Kingdom of Righteousness. It’s coming. He’s coming. Can’t you hear the trumpet sounding? Can’t you hear the shout of the Arch Angel? Look to His coming, look to the east for “The Return of the King.” It won’t be much longer now. It is sooner now than when we first believed. “Amen, come Lord Jesus!“
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 – We do not want you to be uninformed about the hardships we suffered…far beyond our ability to endure. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God. (NIV 1978)
My Musings – While Paul did not have the ability to endure, we know that he did until he was martyred. During all this he learned to rely on God.
My Advice – Learn from hardships. Learn to rely on God. He will never fail you.
Mark 4:18, 19 – “Still others, like seed sown among the thorns, hear the Word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke out the Word, making it unfruitful.” (NIV 1978)
My Musings – Today’s world is so fast-paced, and the demands so burdensome, that this can easily happen. So we must be on guard, carefully choosing what is important versus what may be urgent, but not that important.
My Advice – Watch out for “thorns” in your life (career, social life, etc…), that they do not choke out God from your life. You have to be on guard. It can creep up on you so that you don’t readily realize it, then it can become a habit that is hard to break.
THE INHABITANTS OF THE EARTH – With [the woman/prostitute] the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries … I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come. (Revelation 17:2, 6, 8)
Kings and People Intoxicated by the Woman – The figure of a harlot committing fornication with kings and peoples occurs frequently in the prophets. It represents the defection of God’s people and their attachment to another god. See Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; 3:1, 6, 8; Ezekiel 16:15, 16, 28, 31, 35, 41; 23:5, 19, 44; Hosea 2:5; 3:3; 4:14. The word is also applied to heathen cities, but only in three places: to Tyre (Isaiah 23:15 – 17), to Nineveh (Nahum 3:4), and here.(1) In other words, they had become a part of the religious system which she symbolized (Revelation14:8),(2) and yet later turn against her and “bring her to ruin.” As we see the people of the United States gradually turning away from, or redefining the Christian faith upon which it was built, we can perhaps see how easily this might happen when Satan has freer rein and the Holy Spirit is withdrawn.
Fornication may refer to religious infidelity, the sexual indiscretion involved in pagan ritual, or both (Revelation 2:21). Revelation 18 (next chapter) suggests that this immorality also represents the commercial and political dealings with the kings and merchants of the earth,(3) as in the end times commerce, politics and religion all become strange bedfellows.
The Woman Drunk on the Blood of the Saints – This is an explicit reference to the intense persecution inflicted on believers by the woman.
Up Next – Babylon’s fall is proclaimed.
- Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
- Walvoord, John F., & Zuck, R. B., Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
- Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.