Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
Do you look at the state of the world with a sense of despair? Have you got to the stage where you choose not to listen to, or watch, the news on radio or television? Have you stopped reading a newspaper because it is all too depressing? Have you simply tried to close your ears to the broken state of the world or if not are you increasingly tempted to do so?
I freely admit that what I have just written is a very extreme set of possible responses to the surroundings in which we live and although you may not go to that extreme, do you find yourself asking, even as a believer, why have we reached this place and where is it all going to end?
I was born in 1943, so was a wartime baby. I grew up with rationing and years of austerity although I was too young to really absorb and understand what was going on, being sheltered by loving and caring parents. I was a Grammar School boy from 1955 to 1962, followed by four years at Teacher Training College before starting, in 1966 a twenty seven year career in teaching. By the grace of God, the 60’s the years of ‘Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll’ effectively passed me! Looking back, possibly through rose-tinted spectacles life was relatively easy as straightforward. My job was secure, my Church life was encouraging and working as a Christian with children and young people both in and out of school was rewarding.
But things have changed and the question in many minds is why do things appear to have got so bad?
I am not an historian but I believe even a cursory glance at the history of the world from ancient times to today will reveal that in effect, what we see is nothing new. Many, if not all of the evils and problems we see in modern society, have been seen before and with our Bibles open to the Old Testament we see there, a microcosm of history.
The ‘fall’ of man recorded in Genesis 3 is the beginning of the up and down path of human history. Man’s rebellion against God the creator, has resulted in every decade, every century, each millennium, being topsy turvy. By this I mean, times of blessing and glory followed by times of horror and judgement. This pattern is clearly seen in the history of Israel, God’s chosen people, recorded for us in the OT. They faced times of great blessing when they walked in God’s ways and times of totally deserved judgement, culminating in 70 years of exile in Babylon, when they did not.
It is a depressing picture and but for one thing would lead to despair. That one thing is the glorious truth which is set out in the verses at the beginning of this piece.
God is the LORD. He is compassionate and gracious yet at the same time righteous in that he must punish sin.
When we look at our present situation through the lens of God’s Word, especially the OT, then I venture, we will begin to make sense of our broken world and be challenged to confront that world with holy and Christ centred living because this God, the God of Exodus 34 and all scripture,
‘is our God for ever and ever and he will be our guide and he will be our guide even to the end. Psalm 48.14.