Judges 1:16-36; Luke 21:5-28; Psalms 90:1-17; Proverbs 21:8-10
NT: “When you hear of wars and rebellions, don’t be alarmed. Indeed, it is necessary that these things take place first, but the end won’t come right away.” Then he told them, “Nation will be raised up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be violent earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places, and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven. But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you. They will hand you over to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to bear witness. Therefore make up your minds not to prepare your defense ahead of time, for I will give you such words and a wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will even be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. They will kill some of you. You will be hated by everyone because of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. By your endurance, gain your lives… Then there will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars; and there will be anguish on the earth among nations bewildered by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and expectation of the things that are coming on the world, because the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift your heads, because your redemption is near.” (Luke 21:9-19, 25-28 CSB)
Merriam-Webster’s definition of “tribulation” is distress or suffering resulting from oppression or persecution – also : a trying experience. We are guaranteed tribulation. It is going to happen, to some degree, to everyone – and the level of tribulation will continue to increase the closer we get to the end of the age. How close are we? That depends on how quickly the entire world will be evangelized – for Jesus said in a parallel passage in Matthew’s Gospel that the end will not come until the gospel has been preached to every people group on earth. As I read through this passage of scripture and thought about current events, this came to mind: everyone is so ready to return back to normal – there is so much security and “peace of mind” found in normalcy. What happens if we never go back to “normal?” If the systems and things that bring us security continue to be withheld or taken away, what will happen to us? What will happen to those around us? What will happen to society as we know it? The truth is the things of this world are passing away. So why do we place our security… our peace… our happiness… our identity in things and systems that are passing away and could be taken away at any moment? Jesus told His disciples that they would (guaranteed) experience tribulation – but that they didn’t need to be alarmed. Why? Because He would be with them… He would lead them… He would give them the words to say… He would give them peace through His Holy Spirit. In fact, the worse things got, the more opportunities they would have to be a witness for His goodness and demonstrate the gospel of the Kingdom. During this time, what or who are we looking to for comfort? Is our hope placed in a return to normal, or is our hope placed in the Lord who will never leave us or forsake us – and will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death to make us lie down in green pastures beside still waters? Through our faithful endurance to follow Jesus, we will be saved.
Psalms: “Lord, you have been our refuge in every generation. Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, you are God. You return mankind to the dust, saying, “Return, descendants of Adam.” For in your sight a thousand years are like yesterday that passes by, like a few hours of the night… Our lives last seventy years or, if we are strong, eighty years. Even the best of them are struggle and sorrow; indeed, they pass quickly and we fly away… Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. Lord — how long? Turn and have compassion on your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with your faithful love so that we may shout with joy and be glad all our days. Make us rejoice for as many days as you have humbled us, for as many years as we have seen adversity. Let your work be seen by your servants, and your splendor by their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us; establish for us the work of our hands — establish the work of our hands!” (Psalms 90:1-4, 10, 12-17 CSB)
This psalm was written by Moses and is considered to be the oldest psalm in the Bible. Moses was a man who was very familiar with tribulation. As a baby, his life was threatened and he was given up in order to save his life. As a young man, he tried to take matters into his own hands and ended up killing a man – which led to him being banished to the wilderness. As a middle-aged man, he had to wander in the desert with a people that complained constantly and, on several occasions, tried to undermine his leadership. Then in a moment of frustration, he acted out against God’s will and was forbidden to enter the promised land. What a hard life. Yet through it all, Moses was a man who was faithful to and honored by God. In this psalm, you can see how He was able to endure. He kept his perspective on Who God was and how insignificant the things of this earth are in comparison. Though he died (as Hebrews 11 states) never getting the chance to see the things that were promised, his hope wasn’t just placed on this life. His hope was placed on the eternal God… and he knew that if he numbered his days on earth righteously, he would receive the things promised to him in eternity.