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Eternity 55 - Signs Of The Times
Matthew 16:1-3 BBE And the Pharisees and Sadducees
came and, testing him, made a request to him to give them a sign from heaven.
(2) But in answer he said to them, At nightfall you say, The weather will
be good, for the sky is red. (3) And in the morning, The weather will be
bad today, for the sky is red and angry. You are able to see the face of
heaven, but not the signs of the times.
Can we read "the signs of the times"? Can we tell what God is doing in our day? It is interesting that in this passage sign has two parts - the "indication" that is the actual observed event - and its context. In both instances above the sky is red. It is the exact same indication - but it has a different meaning at sunset (the weather will be fine) than at sunrise (the weather will be bad).
The signs of the times are similar - there is the event and its context.
For instance a peace treaty at the end of a war may be a cause of rejoicing
whereas a peace treaty before a war may mean compromising with a bully.
Calm weather after a storm is a relief, but calm weather in the middle of
a hurricane just means you are in the eye of the storm and worse may be
to come. Context and timing are all important.
In Ecclesiastes 3 Solomon gives a long list of things "in their time" ;
Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 LITV (1) To all there is an appointed time, even a time for every purpose under the heavens: (2) a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pull up what is planted; (3) a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build up; (4) a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; (5) a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; (6) a time to seek, and a time to give up as lost; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; (7) a time to tear, and a time to sew together; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; (8) a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. (9) What advantage has he who works in that which he did as a laborer? (10) I have seen the task which God has given to the sons of men, to be humbled by it. (11) He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has set eternity in their heart, without which man cannot find out the work that God makes from the beginning even to the end.
The implication is that it is that each event has its right time. A time to mourn (at a funeral) and a time to dance (at a wedding) and so on. But woe betide if you mix them up an dance at the funeral!
So the critical thing is to know when it is right to do X and when it is "the wrong time".
To laugh at a Charlie Chaplin film is fine, to laugh at the end of Love Story is not. Each action has a right time and place in the order of things and the wise person is able to discern this.
Judgments about "the right time' to do things are sometimes quite difficult. At one point I found my house under surveillance by a terrorist group and decided it was "time to move". Another person may have decided to risk it. In decisions like that we need to be sensitive to the other person's wisdom and sense of God's timing and not to criticize them because we may have done it differently.
This applies also to missionaries returning home for their children's education
while others feel they should stay on the field. This is an individual calling
and an individuals sense of God's will at that time.
On a larger scale there are social and political events that God wants us to interpret. As the Great Commission nears completion in the next thirty years or so and as Israel and the Middle East gets more complex we can see that the 21st century may well be the last century and that we are in a time when history is reaching a global resolution of the issues of good and evil.
Globalization and the questions of how many cultures and peoples can live on the same planet sharing limited resources with very different belief systems and economic needs is THE challenge of our times. On a missiological level the last great frontiers are the monolithic major religions of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Bahai, Judaism, Sikhism and Jainism amongst others. In the West post-modernism is a major challenge to how we do church.
Windows of opportunity open and shut and the "time" for various technologies and solutions come and go and if we are quick we can seize them. For instance I believe the time is ripe for Internet-based theological education by extension and the augmentation of mission by strategic uses of IT.
Without compromising the gospel we have to read the signs of the times
and evangelize those groups whose time has come, with structures, messages
and methods which time is now. We need to know what is happening around
us in our city, nations and our world and respond to it with wisdom. The
gospel of the Kingdom remains intact but the application to human hearts
requires a godly appropriateness. Pray that the Lord will open your eyes
to what is happening so that unlike the Pharisees you will be well able
to read "the signs of the times".