Permanence

By Sigrid Fowler

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views  and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.

            Days pass, elections happen, results are tallied, we live with the new normal. Even the in-between times seem now to agree with Heraclitus: Change is the bottom line. There’s a shift, a shake of the kaleidoscope, a new configuration. The new will also change because change seems to be the given. Never will we step into the same river twice. Flux is all. If you’re stricken with an edgy sense that life will never settle down, that we’re always to have disruption and uncertainty (even chaos in some quarters), it’s time to revisit what the Bible says about the never-changing, eternal God. I’m not pointing fingers, except the kind that point back at me. I think we’re all ready for peace and stability. I’m not sure we’ll buy all that at any price, but these days such blessings seem far off, a rare benefit.

            So for a start, consider this: Even in the current challenge to all things permanent, we have to admit that we’d panic if the changes we expect with fall and winter didn’t happen. If summer heat persisted, we would ask a thousand questions. Odd how steady changes, year by year, season by season, can speak of orderliness and permanence. And the Bible puts all that in the mouth of the God who doesn’t change: “While the earth remains, / Seedtime and harvest, / Cold and heat, / Winter and summer, / And day and night / Shall not cease” (Gen 8:22) This is a catalog of change! The certainty of that change, the orderly progression of delightful variations, is itself a recognition that we inhabit an endlessly changing environment. To see that, you have to look at the bigger picture. What appears is the fact of orderly change, a dynamic range of possibilities and variations we expect to be that way. It’s night as I’m writing, but I don’t fret about the sun coming up in a few daylight-saving hours.

            The biblical record describes an unchanging God, whose eternal qualities prompt worship, provide a faith foundation, and offer humans a way to live in peace during times of change. The strange seer Balaam, who encountered Israel during the wilderness wanderings, declares, “God is not a man that he should lie, / Nor the son of man that he should repent; / Has he said and will he not do it? / Or has he spoken and will he not make it good?” (Num 23: 19). Samuel, prophet and judge, who anointed David king, agrees: “The Glory of Israel will not lie or change his mind, for he is not a man that he should change his mind” (I Sam 15: 29). God speaks through the prophet Malachi (about 450 BC): “For I the LORD do not change” (Mal 3: 6a). Three hundred years earlier, Isaiah wrote: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa 40: 8), and again: “Trust in the LORD forever / For in God the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock” (Isa 26: 4).

            The psalms speak of an unchanging God: “Your throne is established from of old / You are from everlasting” (Ps 93: 2). Moses begins Psalm 90, “LORD, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. / Before the mountains were born, / Or you did give birth to the earth and the world, / Even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God” (Ps 90: 1-2). Another psalmist says: “Your name, O Lord, is everlasting, / Your remembrance, O LORD, throughout all generations” (Ps 135: 13). God’s unchanging choice and will are celebrated by many—Balaam, Samuel, and David in Psalm 110: “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind.” In this Messianic psalm, God speaks of an unchanging priesthood, One who will rule “until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” (Ps 110: 4, 2). Remember Psalm 23? David thinks of God’s eternal dwelling and says: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, /And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Ps 23: 6). “His mercy endures forever” occurs as a half verse twenty-six times in Psalm 136.

            Speaking through Moses, God says of himself: “See now, that I, I am he / And there is no God besides me; / It is I who put to death and give life. / I have wounded, and it is I who heal; / And there is no one who can deliver from my hand. / Indeed, I left up my hand to heaven, / And say, as I live forever, / If I sharpen my flashing sword, / And my hand takes hold on justice, / I will render vengeance on my adversaries, / And I will repay those who hate me” (Deut 32: 39-41). God’s justice and mercy are eternal and he doesn’t change.

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