Sunday, November 21, 2010

Your Happily Ever After

Another Disney movie is being released this week--Tangled, a remake of the classic Rapunzel. Although I haven't even seen the previews, I already know the ending. It'll be some happily-ever-after, justice-always-prevailing, evil-always-being-punished conclusion to make its viewers feel all warm and fuzzy as they leave the theater, knowing all is right with the world.

I've always judged a story by its ending. Even though it's not reality, I like the happily ever after. Why should I spend two hours watching a movie that ends in sadness when I can duplicate that same feeling of disappointment in my own life, all without having to shell out six bucks to do so.

The ending is key.

Lately, I've been looking at endings of the Old Testament books of prophecy.

If you've never really spent weeks and months in these books of the Bible, if you've only made the cursory pass through them just so you can say you've read other words, if you're like I was before the past few years...then you may not understand why someone would want to spend time in book after book filled with descriptions of God's anger, wrath, judgment, destruction, violence, calamity, and punishment.

Yes, the prophets are filled with stories of God's people and the people in other nations who seemed to do everything the opposite of what God intended.

The prophetic books show really terrifying visions of a righteous, holy, angry God with all creation at His disposal to exact punishment on those who do not obey Him. But that is not all.

In all the prophets' endings, they give a picture--either one of hopelessness or one of hope.

The difference between those whose outlook is hopeless and those whose future has hope?

It all boils down to whom the people belong to.

Even in the midst of God disciplining His people by allowing them to be taken captive first by the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, then ruled by the Greeks and finally the Romans--even then,


God remembers that the children of Israel are His people. He remembers His covenant with Abraham. And as such, He ends each prophecy to His people with a word of hope that He will not abandon them when they return to Him in repentance. He will glorify Himself by keeping His covenant and saving a remnant, which will rise up in the last days. For example:

The book of Isaiah ends with hope for God's people: "Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her...For thus says the Lord, 'Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream" (Is. 66:10, 12).

In Jeremiah, before turning his attention to the other nations, he promises Israel hope as well: "I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel and will rebuild them as they were at first. I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned against Me..." (Jer. 33:2).

Hosea says of God's children, "they will blossom like the vine" (Hos. 14:7).

Joel prophesies that "The mountains [of Israel] will drip with sweet wine, And the hills will flow with milk, and all the brooks of Judah will flow with water" (Joel 3:18).

Amos speaks, "In that day, I will raise up the fallen booth of David, And wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins And rebuild it as in the days of old" (Amos 9:11).

Obadiah reminds of the remnant: "But on mount Zion there will be those who escape, And it will be holy. And the house of Jacob will possess their possessions" (v. 17).

Micah's last verse says, "You will give truth to Jacob And unchanging love to Abraham, Which You swore to our forefathers From the days of old" (Mic. 7:20).

Ezekiel, Daniel, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi--their endings all look to Israel's restoration, to the Messiah from the line of David who will reign from Jerusalem, to a land restored to resemble a new Eden.

There is hope...because the people belong to God.

Yet in those same prophets, for people who do not belong to God, there is no hope.

Of Babylon, Jeremiah ends his message by saying, "You, O Lord, have promised concerning this place to cut it off, so that there will be nothing dwelling in it, whether man or beast, but it will be a perpetual shall Babylon sink down and not rise again" (Jer. 51: 62-64).

In Nahum, he says of Nineveh, "'Your name will no longer be perpetuated...Behold, I am against you,' says the Lord of hosts...There is no relief for your breakdown, Your wound is incurable" (Nah. 1:14, 2:13, 3:19).

The same concept is true today. No matter how much you have sinned along life's journey, no matter how much God has chastened you for your sin, if you have truly repented of your sin, turned completely from it, and are seeking with all your heart, mind, and soul to obey and follow God's entire Word with your everything--if that is true, then you are adopted children in God's family...and there is hope for your future, for my future.

Yet, if you allow sin to control your actions, if you do not obey God's entire Word with your everything as an act of love for God's perfect holiness and righteousness, then you are not one of God's children and like the peoples of Babylon and Nineveh, there is truly no hope. If anyone has rejected God as those cities of old did, then she will hear the most terrifying words a person can hear from God: "I am against you."

Unlike a Disney movie, your happily ever after, my happily ever after doesn't depend on whom I marry or how much money I have. In the end, it only matters whom I belong to.

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