July 8, 2018
“Storage Units & Bottled Water”
(Numbers 23:13-20, Psalm 102:24-28, Matthew 24:29-35)
As I continue to…. “mature” (a polite way of saying “get-older,”) I find myself joining certain clubs, often without even realizing I’ve done so. One such club: the “Back In My Day” club. I realized I was a member of this club the other day, when one of our teenaged grandkids asked for a ride to a friend’s house, to which I responded (here it comes) “Back in MY day, we WALKED to our friend’s houses.” After blurting-out this statement, I realized I had become a club member. My grandkids aren’t immune to hearing from me on this matter. The other day Judy and I were out for a drive, when I spotted some storage units built out in the middle of the country. After spying this, I turned to Judy and proclaimed: “Back in my day we didn’t have so much stuff, so we didn’t need storage units!” Observing we both had bottled water in our laps, I continued: “And back in my day, we didn’t have water bottles! Why pay for something we could get out of our faucets for free!” (Commence the rolling of Judy’s eyes.)
Why do we do this? Why do we yearn for the past? Probably has something to do with human nature-at some level, we don’t like things to change; we desire stability. And yet, we will never truly experience life-long stability in an unstable world. There is only one place we can go for something truly unchanging, as our scripture passages teach us today.
Numbers reminds us of the story of Balaak (King of Moab) and Balaam (a prophet.) As Balaak spied the Israelites approaching his territory in order to journey through to the Promised Land, he instructed Balaam to curse the Israelites. After an encounter with God (see v. 16) Balaam reported to Balaak that unlike him (Balaak) God’s intentions never change and He will remain faithful to His people (see v. 19.)
Psalm 102 features a young person making two requests: improving health, and the opportunity to be part of, or at least witness the return of the Israelites from Babylonian captivity. In the midst of his/her lament, we find the psalmist celebrating the unchanging nature of God, even as the people experience big changes through their history (see v. 25-27.)
Jesus is sharing troubling words with the disciples as he points to changes ahead (Matthew passage.) This language is apocryphal, which is a literary style using symbolism. For example, the references to planets in the opening verses symbolize nations or those holding political power. Jesus’ words indicate those in power (those who will persecute the church) will fall. This rich passage concludes with a promise from Jesus about the unchanging nature of his word (v. 35.)
Our last hymn addressed the topic of stability found in relationship with God. It was written by Edward Mote, a Baptist preacher in England in 1834. Mote desired to pen a hymn acknowledging the blessing of God’s unchanging nature, despite life’s experience that features many (sometimes difficult) changes. His hymn includes the words: “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
As I deepen my status in the “Back in My Day” club, I am thankful for our God who becomes known to us in Jesus. This is an eternal, unchanging truth, and is a gift for which we may be very thankful.