Comfort in Crisis
Over the weekend, reports surfaced that 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded in Libya. Our thoughts and prayers are with these families and churches. The word martyr is a Greek word that means “witness.” Some witness in life, others in their death. Christians are not alone, of course. Depending on what part of the world you live in, French Jews, Iraqi Yazidis, Jordanian Muslims, and others have faced imminent danger because of their faith. Christians should be unique, however, in their response to the situations. We trust in the Prince of Peace and the one who gave his life for the world. We worship Jesus as Lord, pray to him, endure persecution, receive comfort from the scriptures, and bear witness peacefully in Jesus’ name.
Times of religious crisis often give rise to speculation about the “end times.” As the New Testament reminds us, Christians live with anticipation. Every generation lives at the end times. For the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day. At any time, Jesus could return. Because of that perspective, we don’t live with a sense of panic, but peace, knowing that God is in charge; and Jesus is Lord.
Christians are humans too, and we need reassurance and hope. The Bible teaches that during a time of crisis, the prophets like Ezekiel and John of Patmos in Revelation gave their people comfort through visions. They saw and wrote about God’s work to save, preserve, and rescue them. By studying scripture, we can see how each generation of believers turned to God and worshiped Him alone when they felt that they were under attack.
One great example comes from the book of Ezekiel. The people faced an unknown, mysterious opponent named Gog of Magog. They had no idea who Gog was; but God did, and that’s all that mattered. (The book of Revelation calls this figure “Gog and Magog.”) Despite numerous attempts to identify this person, we still have no idea who Gog is. The Bible doesn’t tell us who; the Bible teaches us why the story of Gog is important, how God saves his people and how the people are to trust God through the crisis.
On Wednesday night, I’ll be teaching from Ezekiel 38-39 about God, the people of Nippur, and Gog of Magog. We’ll take a look at who Gog has been identified with over the years. Then we’ll talk about why the people of Nippur had experienced so much suffering and what we can learn from them as we go through difficult times in our lives right now.