“Will not the Day of the Lord be darkness, not light – pitch dark, without a ray of brightness?” -Amos 5:20
You and I have a tendency to look at a new year with expectations. Those expectations are affected by what is going on in our lives today, as well as the lives of our families and friends, our nation, and the world. This world is fraught with problems, tensions, wars, and rumors of wars. Economies, governments, protests, terrorism, natural disasters, health and sickness, life and death – all impact our feelings and outlook in a new year.
So, do you have a good outlook for 2019? Does everything look bright? Or do harbingers of the future disturb your equilibrium? Depending on your reading material, you can expect “pie in the sky” or, at the other end of the spectrum, dread of what is right around the corner.
T.S. Eliot, one of the most skilled members of the literary arts in the 20th Century, writes in his well-known Murder in the Cathedral,
“The New Year waits, breathes, waits,
whispers in darkness…
Some malady is coming upon us…
Ill the wind, uncertain the profit,
certain the danger.
O late late late is the time, late too late
and rotten the year…only is here
The white flat face of Death,
God’s silent servant,
And behind the face of Death,
And behind the Judgment the Void,
More horrid than active shapes of hell;
Emptiness, absence, separation from
This is the very theme of the prophet Amos in our text. What does this world really present to your eyes other than danger and unpredictability? Warnings of this meet your ears and eyes in each and every newscast, newspaper, or internet blurb.
Whispers of darkness hide in every imaging of the future. If your hope is in Christ, His promises override those whispers, but still the whispers are there because the Bible hides nothing from its readers and lovers. Before glory, persecution and suffering must come. The “last days” usher in the harbingers of creeping and inexorable evil. Satan, the ruler of the demonic in the world, still is at war and hopes to bring his absolute worst upon God’s children and the rest of humanity on the earth.
Two primary certainties in the new year and beyond punctuate expectations of the future. Firstly, tribulation, forebodings of suffering, and attacks on the gospel and its followers, and secondly, the certain promise of our Lord and Savior’s return and the glory which will follow. If you find yourself in the midst of it, the actual suffering and persecution may well blemish your hope of Jesus’ return and victory, but it mustn’t! This is exactly why you are told about such things, the very reason why the book of Revelation is in the Bible, the very reason why Jesus Himself warned you repeatedly of trial before rest, of Satanic attack before judgment and justice.
No believer should ever be surprised by what is coming upon the world, even his or her own world. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” That valley has its real fears, but the fear of the Lord will be your formidable strength. Fear Him, for He alone holds in His hands the power of your life and death. He will keep you from all “harm!” I put quotations around “harm” because you must remember that He is the Alpha and Omega, and He sees the entire picture, the beginning to the end; harm is not true harm when the final conclusion is blessing. Never forget that!
In the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation, each letter ends with an encouragement to every true disciple to “overcome!” Who can really overcome all that is coming on the world? The one who finds refuge in Jesus! The one who continually refreshes their faith. The one who keeps their eyes on the Savior. The theme of every consideration of each new year from now to the end ought to be this: Overcome! Overcome in the power of the Lamb.
“When through the deep waters I call you to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow; for I will be with you, your troubles to bless and sanctify to you your deepest distress.
When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie, my grace all sufficient shall be your supply. The flame shall not hurt you; I only design your dross to consume and your gold to refine.”
(Third and fourth verses of Rippon’s Selection of Hymns, “How Firm a Foundation,” 1787)
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