December 20, 2005

Goodbye to 2005

1550 page5 cap suspect that many readers, like me, will be glad to close the book on 2005. It was a year of unrelenting bad news, a year of disaster upon disaster, seemingly without parallel in human history.

It began with awareness of the earthquake deep in the ocean off the coasts of Sumatra that created the huge tsunami. No one knows just how many people perished in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India: the toll rose for weeks, cresting 100,000, approaching 200,000. The earthquake struck five days before the close of the year, but the vast extent of its havoc only became evident in the weeks and months of the new year.

This year became the year of earthquakes. The earth?s crust convulsed and shattered, with numerous rumblings and shakings, and massive temblors in Iran and Kashmir.

But 2005 also saw floods and famines, record heat and record cold, storms and hurricanes of such power to turn the city of New Orleans into a ghost town, denuded of its populace. It was the year when nature seemed out of kilter, spinning out of control.

1550 page5Amid the parade of bad news in the natural world, human actions brought evil of a different sort. Terror and terrorists stalked the planet. Iraq became a slaughterhouse of car bombings, kidnappings, and killings. Across the surface of the globe crime and corruption seemed to become endemic. The scourge of AIDS continued its deadly reign unchecked.

And what might lie ahead seems even worse. Avian flu killed birds across Asia and into Africa and Europe; scientists, fearing a deadly crossover to humans, worked frantically to prepare for a repeat of the 1918 plague that killed 50 million.

My friend, I don?t need to tell you we live in uncertain times. If ever Seventh-day Adventists should wake up and heed Jesus? warnings of the signs that will precede His return, surely it?s now. If the events of this year don?t get us out of our easy chairs and on our knees, what will?

Let me share a message, penned a century ago when a spirit of optimism ruled people?s thinking. It eerily forecast conditions such as we witnessed in 2005:

?In accidents and calamities by sea and by land, in great conflagrations, in fierce tornadoes and terrific hailstorms, in tempests, floods, cyclones, tidal waves, and earthquakes, in every place and in a thousand forms, Satan is exercising his power. He sweeps away the ripening harvest, and famine and distress follow. He imparts to the air a deadly taint, and thousands perish by the pestilence. These visitations are to become more and more frequent and disastrous. Destruction will be upon both man and beast. ?The earth mourneth and fadeth away,? ?the haughty people . . . do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant? (Isa. 24:4, 5)? (The Great Controversy, pp. 589, 590).

But the prediction doesn?t end there. It goes on to describe a union of ecclesiastical and political forces in the United States that resonates with recent developments:

?And then the great deceiver will persuade men that those who serve God are causing these evils. The class that have provoked the displeasure of Heaven will charge all their troubles upon those whose obedience to God?s commandments is a perpetual reproof to transgressors. It will be declared that men are offending God by the violation of the Sunday sabbath; that this sin has brought calamities which will not cease until Sunday observance shall be strictly enforced; and that those who present the claims of the fourth commandment, thus destroying reverence for Sunday, are troublers of the people, preventing their restoration to divine favor and temporal prosperity? (ibid., p. 590).

We cannot know the future, and we do well to avoid attempts that seek to spell out detailed scenarios. But on the other hand, we would be foolish to neglect the counsel that our Lord in His love and mercy has sent our way.

It?s Christmas. No, Mary?s Babe wasn?t born on December 25--probably not even during this season. But the reminder of that birth gives us hope and courage as we say goodbye to 2005.

Hope, because He will come again as He promised. He will take this messed-up planet and create new heavens and a new earth.

Courage, because we know He holds the future. Whatever happens, God will be there for us. So trust Him. Put your hand in His--it?s nail-marked--and go out boldly into the night.