Tag Archives: Global

Change

Change (CaD 1 Sam 7) Wayfarer

Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life.
1 Samuel 7:15 (NIV)

What is the most acute example of change that you have experienced along your earthly journey? That’s the question that came to mind as I read this morning’s chapter.

I thought of the time the place where I worked went through a transition of leadership that was tremendously difficult for everyone involved. It personally rattled me enough that I started looking for another job.

Then there was the experience of moving to a small, rural town (just over 300 people) after growing up in the city of Des Moines and going to college in the Chicago area. There were so many things that I had to learn about the culture and realities of small-town life. It was a completely different paradigm.

Going through a divorce brought both radical changes and unique challenges in virtually every area of life.

The changes I have experienced in daily life because of rapidly advancing technology and the internet are so great that it’s hard to believe.

Then there are the changes to our world because of a pandemic and a global shutdown that we’re still grappling with, and we will continue to realize its effects for some time.

There are days when I feel as if the world has turned upside-down in my lifetime.

Change is a challenge. I’ve observed it bring out the best and worst in people. I’ve had to learn how it affects me. I’ve grown to better understand how I handle it both positively and negatively. I’ve had to learn discernment between that which is ever-changing and those things which never change. I have had to gain wisdom to know the difference.

The book of 1 Samuel is about a massive change in the history of the Hebrews. For 300-400 years the Hebrews have lived and survived in a loosely structured tribal system with occasional national leaders, called Judges, who typically rose to power in times of war or crisis and who were recognized for their leadership through the rest of their lifetime.

But the times were changing.

It was clear to the Hebrew tribes that other city-states with the centralized power of a monarchy, a king, were able to both secure their kingdoms and increase their power by conquest. The tribal system was becoming untenable. They needed to change.

Samuel is the lynchpin of this change. He was the last of the Judges. He will consecrate the nation of Israel’s first two kings and continue to be the nation’s spiritual leader in the background. He also becomes the first of the prophets who will become key figures on both the spiritual and political landscapes of the kingdom for the next 600 years. Samuel is the agent of change.

In today’s chapter, the author of 1 Samuel explains how Samuel rose to become the last Judge, leading the Hebrews in holding back the advancing Philistines and providing strong national leadership for the rest of his life. The author is setting the reader up for this massive change that is about to take place.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself coming back to the question of change in my own life and times. Having just completed this chapter-a-day journey through the book of Revelations, it’s clear to me that things will continue to change until the Great Story’s conclusion. As a follower of Jesus, I should expect it. And, as a follower of Jesus, I believe that I am called by Jesus to press on in this earthly journey with the dogged determination to live each day with the three things that will remain throughout this Great Story and into the next: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these being love.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Funeral

The Funeral (CaD Rev 18) Wayfarer

Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said:

“With such violence
    the great city of Babylon will be thrown down,
    never to be found again.”

Revelations 18:21 (NIV)

This past weekend, Wendy and I were honored to be part of a friend’s wedding. I officiated and Wendy coordinated the rehearsal and the ceremony, so we were there with the family, friends, and loved ones for the entire shebang. We knew relatively few members of the wedding party and the families, so I spent a lot of time simply observing those involved and their celebration. There really is nothing quite like a wedding to celebrate life, love, family, and community in both the moment as well as its perpetuation.

In ancient literature, writers often contrasted weddings with the lamentation of funerals. Talk about a powerful contrast: the joyous perpetuation of life and the harsh reality of inevitable death. Revelations chapters 18 and 19 are an example of this contrast on an apocalyptic scale.

Today’s chapter, Revelations 18, heralds the final execution of judgment on “Babylon the Great.” Babylon first appears in the Great Story in Genesis 10. The Babylonian empire destroyed Jerusalem and took the Hebrews into exile around 600 BC. The ancient kingdom of Babylon became a metaphor for evil human empires in the prophetic and apocalyptic literature throughout the Great Story.

In John’s day, those reading his Revelations understood “Babylon the Great” to be the Roman Empire. It was Rome who had persecuted Jesus’ followers with cruel and unusual punishments. The Romans were known for their creatively tortuous execution methods, including the tying of a giant millstone to the neck of a victim and tossing the millstone and victim into the sea or a deep river to drown. As people who had seen the luxurious excesses, human cruelty, and unjust persecutions that the Romans flaunted, John’s readers would have read today’s chapter as God’s promise to judge Rome, raze it to the ground, and “pay her back double for what she has done” (vs. 6).

It’s hard not to read Revelations and try to connect the apocalyptic characters to specific people or nations. Throughout my entire spiritual journey, I have heard and read speakers and authors hawking their interpretations to the masses. In the quiet this morning, I read the chapter and thought about the way the global economy works. It is more interconnected than ever before and the economic troubles we are currently experiencing around the globe seem eerily familiar in the text. Merchants lament that they suddenly have no customers to export their goods. Sailors cry out because there are no open ports for their cargo.

As I pondered this, it made me wonder if “Babylon the Great” is less about one specific nation and more about an entire world order that oppresses the poor and vulnerable in order to traffic everything from gold to humans in order to amass wealth for the insatiably rich and powerful kings and kingdoms of this world.

Ultimately, I believe that today’s chapter is about the execution of divine judgment and the funeral pyre of human injustice on earth, complete with the catastrophic ripple effect that comes with the demise of such a system.

In the quiet this morning, my mind can’t help but turn back to current events. The last two years have been an object lesson in just how intertwined our economies and supply chains have become. A global pandemic has led to diverse and widespread social, political, and economic instabilities. As I ponder this, I’m struck by two, make it three, thoughts. The first is just how easily a small group of power-brokers might manipulate and control economics on a global scale. The second is how quickly such a system might fall apart should catastrophe strike, leading to a descent into global chaos.

The third is that John’s Revelations envision both scenarios.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Neither Reactive nor Dismissive

STUXNET - strayed from its intended target (No...
(Photo credit: marsmet481)

[The beast] also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. Revelation 13:16-17 (NIV)

“Do you have any cash?” Wendy regularly asks me as we prepare to go on a trip or out for the evening. I get it. Wendy and I are perhaps the last generation to even think about asking this question. I always laugh inside when she asks. Sometimes I do have cash on hand. Often, I don’t. My silent retort when she asks the question is, “What do I need cash for?” The world is increasingly operating on a virtual currency exchanged via cards, smartphones, and electronic transactions.

In nine years of being together I can only remember one instance of being burned by not having cash on hand. It happened a month or so ago when Wendy and I went to an event in downtown Minneapolis and for that event the parking garage took cash only. I happened not to have cash that night. Wendy certainly had her “I told you so” moment though she was very gracious. The fact remains that it has happened once in nine years which suggests to me the greater truth that hard currency is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

I have long rolled my eyes at the many fanciful theories I’ve heard over the years regarding connections between the visions of Revelation and particular current events. I’ve long since given up on trying to make such conclusive exclamatory connections while choosing to remain alert and discerning about the spiritual implications of what is happening around the world.

This said, I do find it fascinating that John’s end-times vision alludes to a global economy based not on paper or coin currency, but on a “mark” required for monetary exchange. For nearly 2000 years such a thing was ludicrous, yet in my lifetime the possibility of such a thing is not only possible, but some economists say is probable. I’ve seen several news reports discussing such a thing in recent years.

I find it equally important to point out that the very next words John writes are “this calls for wisdom.” So it does. It calls for wisdom to be neither over reactive nor dismissive. I feel no compulsion to build a backyard bomb shelter and fill it with supplies in anticipation of the apocalypse. At the same time, I grow more and more certain that history is the unfolding of a story that God has been authoring since the beginning and will, I believe, bring to prescribed conclusion. I hear Obi-wan Kenobi’s aged voice warning: “We must be cautious.”

Ultimately, no matter what I read in Revelation or see on the news feed, my role does not change. I am to faithfully traverse the journey laid out for me as it is revealed on a step-by-step, day-by-day basis. I am to love God and love my fellow human beings with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

Everything else will take care of itself.

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