Many of you who are older like me (or who have seen old sit-com re-runs) may remember the trailer video for the late 60s program “Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.” Sha-zam! You will recall how Gomer was trying to march in step with the rest of the Marines, but he just couldn’t pull it off properly, especially with Sergeant Vince Carter screaming into his ear.
I look around at the rest of the world and the broader culture and often feel like a Gomer Pyle in terms of understanding it or ever being in step with it … as if that is even any sort of worthy goal.
We see so much injustice on so many fronts, particularly of people who prosper in spite of their values systems, while others who are more honorable by moral and ethical standards are wrongly stepped upon and marginalized.
And as we have answered the question of the past week with a “yes” — that there is final justice and judgment — we live now as foreigners in a strange land. This is not our country; we are not at home here, not really.
If you have travelled to other countries, you know what I mean by how there are so many little things about the culture that are just very, very different.
The French (and other Europeans) do this greeting thing where you kiss right and then kiss left (at least I think it is right/left … or is it left/right?). When travelling there a couple years ago while our son Jesse was studying in Antibes, France, we went to a luncheon gathering of his young adult church friends. And I’ll say it was very awkward to do all this kissie thing with French college girls. I was so afraid I was going to get it wrong and end up with a meet-me-in-the-middle head butt!
So our Christian lives come down to having a sort of skill in living in a place that is decidedly foreign, a place that never quite feels like home, a place where you realize you are always just a bit out of step with the rest of the world, a world characterized by unresolved issues of justice / injustice. Living in such a place looks like this, in the words of Peter in 2 Peter chapter 3 …
3:3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming… make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation
As we have said over the past week, the Lord will indeed return and a time of accounting and justice will ensue. But until then, what kind of people should we be? Well, spotless, blameless and at peace with God … in other words, confidently out of step with the rest of the crazy world.
And remember also that the patience of the Lord in not returning sooner, and thereby even allowing injustices to grow and expand, does have the positive benefit of the salvation of many and the growth of His Kingdom.
So it is OK to be out of step; there is a good reason for it. We make it work and endure it patiently, because we know we are going ultimately home to our real country and kingdom.
Other scriptures that might pertain to the end. Note these from the book of Isaiah.
My interest in science has me thinking about a large asteroid strike that could
1) Shake the earth
2) Split open an area of the earths surface
3) Burn up the earth’s inhabitants as returning asteroid ejecta falls back to earth, blanketing the earth with atmospheric fireballs.
4) Leaders retreat to underground bunkers, others hide in caves.
The asteroid itself would create huge wind blasts and an enormous roar. It is just a matter of time, but scientists think in terms of millions of year. How else should one interpet these prophesies?
10 Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty!
11 The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.
12 The LORD Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled),
13 for all the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty, and all the oaks of Bashan,
14 for all the towering mountains and all the high hills,
15 for every lofty tower and every fortified wall,
16 for every trading ship and every stately vessel.
17 The arrogance of man will be brought low and human pride humbled; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day,
18 and the idols will totally disappear.
19 People will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from the fearful presence of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth.
20 In that day people will throw away to the moles and bats their idols of silver and idols of gold, which they made to worship.
21 They will flee to caverns in the rocks and to the overhanging crags from the fearful presence of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth.
22 Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?
(Isa. 2:10-22 NIV)
6 Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.
7 Because of this, all hands will go limp, every heart will melt with fear.
8 Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them; they will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at each other, their faces aflame.
9 See, the day of the LORD is coming– a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger– to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.
10 The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.
11 I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.
12 I will make people scarcer than pure gold, more rare than the gold of Ophir.
13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the LORD Almighty, in the day of his burning anger. (Isa. 13:6-13 NIV)
19 The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is violently shaken.
20 The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls– never to rise again.
21 In that day the LORD will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below.
22 They will be herded together like prisoners bound in a dungeon; they will be shut up in prison and be punished after many days.
23 The moon will be dismayed, the sun ashamed; for the LORD Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders– with great glory.
(Isa. 24:19-25:1 NIV)
6 Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left. (Isa. 24:6 NIV)
And other prophets besides Isaiah have prophecies.
14 The great day of the LORD is near– near and coming quickly. The cry on the day of the LORD is bitter; the Mighty Warrior shouts his battle cry.
15 That day will be a day of wrath– a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness–
16 a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers.
17 “I will bring such distress on all people that they will grope about like those who are blind, because they have sinned against the LORD. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like dung.
18 Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD’s wrath.” In the fire of his jealousy the whole earth will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth.
(Zeph. 1:14-2:1 NIV)
18 Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD! Why do you long for the day of the LORD? That day will be darkness, not light.
19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him.
20 Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light– pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness? (Amos 5:18-20 NIV)
There is other imagery about the day of the Lord. Malachi seems to make the magnitude of the destruction of the day of the Lord contingent on the inhabitants of the earth not repenting and the hearts of the fathers not being turned to the children and the hearts of the children not being turned to the fathers. Look up Malachi 4:5-6.