Thirsty Thursday- A Better Future? Psalm 102

Thirsty Thursday- A Better Future? Psalm 102

Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.” (Psalm 102:18-20)

A Better Future?

So, it has happened several times to me lately. I have found myself in a conversation with someone and the topic is predictable: our current crisis of one part global pandemic, mixed with several parts racial unrest, seasoned with economic hardship, and baked for several months in political failure. It’s a recipe for disaster and despair!

But then the question turns away from observation to speculation: “Do you think we are maybe in the end times?”

Theology has a specific name for that speculation, it’s called eschatology, which literally means “study of the last (things).” One of the byproducts of living through a once-in-a-century pandemic is that we start to develop and embrace a more vivid understanding of our own eschatology. Is God going to destroy this world in chaos and flames, or at least allow it to destroy itself? Will the world become progressively healthier and holier as Christ’s heavenly kingdom advances and overwhelms the Prince of Darkness? Or are we caught in some kind of spiritual continuum where good and evil will coexist in conflict indefinitely?

The Bible does address these eschatological questions, even if it doesn’t always clearly answer them. [Check out the article on different Christian views of eschatology HERE]. But when those questions arise in my conversations I often wonder, “What difference does it really make?” If the world were ending in chaos, would you stop fighting injustice and stop trying to love your neighbor? If things were getting closer and closer to God’s kingdom reality, would you simply relax and take comfort in your own salvation? If the cosmic struggle were to continue indefinitely, would you crawl in a hole and abandon all hope?

Psalm 102 begins with the inscription, “Prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the Lord.” It is a song…a lament…for troubled times and weary souls. And perhaps it’s a song for our current crisis as well.

The psalmist begins by asking God to listen, to show His face, to answer (vs. 1-2). The songwriter then describes his deep pain and hardship (vs. 3-11).  And eventually gets around to sorting out his “eschatological question” by recognizing God’s supreme authority, His deep compassion, His love and His power (vs. 12-15). At the end of the hardships, the psalmist concludes, God will rebuild (vs. 16), He will respond (vs. 17), He will remain (vs. 26-27).

The writer’s prayer of lament thus becomes a song of hope and praise. His eschatology is simple: in the end, God always loves and God always wins! And God’s victory becomes a victory for God’s people! Even though the psalmist is in the middle of the struggle, even if he isn’t sure he will live to see the end of it, he is confident of the outcome:

Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.” (Psalm 102:18-20)

So how does knowing the end of God’s story change our story? Or as the theologian Francis Schaeffer wondered in his famous book, How Should We Then Live?” When we are surrounded by chaos and hardship, how does the Bible teach us to view our future? And perhaps more importantly, how should we live our lives in the present? What should we Christians do and think about things like racial and economic inequality, a world-wide refugee crisis, environmental issues, hunger and poverty and disease? Can we ignore it…deny it…or dismiss it? Can we just wash our hands and chalk it up to the inevitable “end times?”

When Jesus was about to ascend back to heaven and take his rightful place at God’s right hand, his disciples gathered around him and took one last shot as asking Jesus their eschatological question: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus didn’t give them a simple answer, and he didn’t let them off the hook for how they should live. Instead, he told them to think less about the end times and think more about their present mission: “be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8)

We are the “future generation” of Psalm 102! We are the present-day “witnesses” of Jesus Christ! Our job isn’t to figure out when the end is coming, it is to celebrate God’s love and share God’s victory; to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly” (Micah 6:8); to “live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). Whether it is a time of pandemic or prosperity, Jesus is still Lord. Follow him, listen to him, trust him…and always stay thirsty for him!

 Pastor Philip

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