It’s the End of the World as We Know it (and I Feel Fine)!
Did you know that the ancient city of Sodom was likely destroyed by a meteor and that the same blast was probably what caused the walls of the city of Jericho to fall? (https://phys.org/news/2021-09-evidence-cosmic-impact-ancient-city.html)
At the time (1650 BC) it would have been perfectly reasonable to assume that such destruction, actual fire from the sky, was caused by God.
Why are we so fascinated by stories of the “end times,” of massive catastrophic events? They make for great special effects sequences for sure, but I think our fascination is less about the doom and horror and more about the stories of survival, of life, of renewal.
That’s the story of Christianity that has captivated people for millennia.
We’re going to begin this Bible study journey in an unusual place. People have lots of suggestions of where to begin, and most of us just resort to starting at the beginning. With respect to Rodgers & Hammerstein, the beginning is not always the very best place to start.
We’re going to begin with the end of 2 Kings:
“In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month—which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. All the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, carried into exile the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had defected to the king of Babylon—all the rest of the multitude. But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest people of the land to be vinedressers and tillers of the soil.” (2 Kings 25:8-12)
For many today, it feels like the world as we know it is ending. So much is changing, so fast. People don’t go to church anymore. Nuclear holocaust is even back on the table. People feel like strangers in their own land.
The Bible was written for people whose world as they knew it had ALREADY ended.
In 587 BC, the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the Jews were taken into captivity. The Old Testament is their story. It’s the story of a people whose world had ended.
Because most of us could not relate to that perspective of “our world has already ended”, we missed the point. We always thought that it was written to help us stop the world from ending, but it’s written to help us live after the end has happened.
It’s the story of a hope in a world of pain and suffering.
It’s the promise that despite floods, meteors, war, famine and pestilence, God’s mission is not to destroy, but to save. Despite death itself, God will bring forth life.
While in exile, the people told stories, stories about how God had delivered them in the past. They told stories of God’s wrath as they sought to reconcile their own suffering. They told stories of God’s power as they struggled with the temptation to worship other gods. They told stories that contrasted their infidelity against God’s faithfulness. They told stories about one who would come and rescue them, one who would be anointed by God, one they would call Messiah.
As we read the Old Testament, God can speak to us through the stories God inspired those ancient people to tell, but we must remember that it’s not the whole story, it’s not the end. With God, every ending is really a new beginning.
Where do you feel like “it’s the end of the world as you know it”?
What fears do you have about what might be next?
Where do you find peace as you look forward?