Unchanged Amid Change

FFF 13:6 (June-July 1967)

Unchanged Amid Change

John S. Robertson

We live in a changing world.” This phrase is found frequently on the lips of Christian and non-Christian alike. The fact of change is undeniable. It is an irrefutable phenomena that change moves inexorably forward from generation to generation and from age to age. Its presence as a positive force in the realm of natural science is borne out by every intelligent examination of the things around us and by our visual perception of things as they are. That it also works in the realm of economic, social and religious matters is quite obvious to even the unlearned.

There can be no argument with the fact of change but the conclusions reached and the inferences drawn there from are very much open to question. Not all change is good; nor is it synonymous with progress. The philosophy, “Without change we perish,” accepted without reservation is both misleading and dangerous. To justify a course of action on the sole ground that change is inevitable can have grave consequences. The unequivocal acceptance of this postulate lies at the root of much of the inordinate behaviour that plagues our modern society. In stressing the fallacy of such thinking, it is well to remember that the most apparent evidence of change in the natural realm is erosion and we cannot escape the conclusion that the same is true in the social and spiritual spheres as well.

Every generation has produced its own crop of rebels who chafe under restraint and look upon all social restrictions as a denial of their inalienable rights. They refuse in their own words, “to be shackled to the wheel of conformity.” The history of the human race is filled with stories of men and women who did not hesitate to break the bonds of established custom in order to please their own peculiar whims or satiate their own evil lust. Their justification for their actions, if indeed they sought to justify them, was that they were the vanguard of a change that must surely come to pass. In very truth, were they not blindly groping for something satisfying but never able to attain any real happiness? Only Christ can satisfy.

In view of the prophetic utterance of Scripture, “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse” (2 Tim. 3:13), it is not surprising to find all about us those who challenge moral order and flout every law that would seek to keep human behaviour within the bounds of decency. The advocates of so-called “free-thinking” have increased at an alarming rate, and thanks to the publicity they are given by the press, radio and television we are bombarded on every hand by iconoclasts, each trying to outdo the other in shocking the sensitivity and moral conscience of a tolerant society. Nothing is too intimate, nothing too sacred, to escape their soaring attack. Once the sole field of the self-styled intellectuals, the area of censure has been invaded by the clerics who vie with each other in their reprehensible obloquys. Even the simplest believer can see that their views, if universally accepted would result in a complete breakdown of our social structure and a reversion to unbridled lust and intemperate conduct.

Faced with this, the believer can turn to God’s Word and find that though “change and decay” is the order of our time, there are certain things that never change. In Malachi 3:13, we read, “For I am the Lord, I change not.” How comforting! How reassuring! He changeth not. The obituary announcing His demise has been written by one purporting to be a minister of the Gospel but this arrogant presumption leaves our God unmoved and unmovable. He remains steadfast, sure and immutable. Not all the winds of chance or change can alter the person of God nor make Him forego His purposes. Whatever the changes in our circumstances, in our hopes and aspirations or in our relationship, the one with the other, our God stands inviolate as to His being and undeviating as to His will. He lives in the eternal present ever ready to meet our every need and to carry us through the frustrations and vexations of life into “abundant pastures” and “beside still waters.” Such is our God.

Since the dawn of history, poets, writers and philosophers have sought to know God and to explain Him in terms they can understand. Zophar, the Naamathite raised the question in his discourse with Job. Said he, “Canst thou by searching find out God?” (Job. 11:7). Many and varied have been the answers proposed by theologians and sages, but the Apostle Paul dismisses all their speculation with the terse observation, “the world, by wisdom, knew not God” (1 Cor. 1:2).

“God is Eternity, the sky, the sea;
The consciousness of universal space;
The source of energy and living grace,
Of life, and light; of love and destiny.
God is that deep, ethereal ocean free
Whose billows keep their wide unharried place
Amid the stars that move before His face.”

So wrote Albert Durrant Watson. Can human thought fathom the mystery of the essence of God or unravel the hidden secrets of His mind? Me thinks not! Alfred Lord Tennyson perhaps came nearest to the truth when he said:

“Strong Son of God, Immortal Love,
Whom we who have not seen Thy face,
By faith and faith alone embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove.”

The inquiring Philip made a request to the Lord Jesus, “Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us” (John 14:8). Christ replied, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (v. 18). To make the infinite comprehensible to the finite, God became man. “God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). “In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9). All we know or ever will know of God is found in our Lord Jesus Christ Who like the Father changeth not. He is, “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

“I change, He changeth not.
The Christ can never die.
His love, not mine, the resting place;
His truth, not mine, the tie.”

Our hope lies, not in the fleeting transient deductions of man or the illusory theories and ideologies he propounds, but in a thrice holy God, “with Whom there is no variableness neither shadow of turning” (Jas. 1:17). Why, then, should we be disturbed by what either the present or the future may bring? “Our times are in His hands.” We could not wish it otherwise, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

Not only is God and His Christ stable and sure but His words are durable and ineradicable. Speaking to His disciples on the Mount of Olives, Christ declared, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). “All the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen” (2 Cor. 1:20). Rich and abundant are His promises and we need never fear but that every one of them will be fulfilled. There is no room for doubt or uncertainty, where He has spoken. As He has promised, so shall He perform.

The person and purpose of our Lord Jesus Christ has come under most virulent attack in the past few years, but strangely enough even His most ardent detractors have been forced to confess the wisdom of His words. When the pharisees sent officers to Jesus to bring Him to them, they returned empty-handed with this excuse, “Never man spake like this Man” (John 7:46). Here was One who spoke with an authority and finality that brooked no argument. Orators have, by their impassioned eloquence, won over audiences only to have another rhetorician by reasoned judgment refute their arguments and win over their devotees. When, however, Christ spoke, there was none to question. He spoke with a simplicity and directness that silenced His enemies. His response to every situation He encountered leaves us lost in wonder and awe. Consider the profound wisdom of His words when confronted with the problem of dual allegiance. “Render unto Caesar, the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God, the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). Did mortal tongue ever proffer such wise advice? Think, too, of the penetrating judgment in His words when faced with the woman taken in adultery. “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). How this silenced His tempters! Surely a greater than Solomon was here. One final word from the Cross, “Finished,” changed the whole course of human history. Even those who scoff at the Bible, and hold up to ridicule the precious truths therein, admit that the words of Jesus Christ are unsurpassed in knowledge, unparalled in wisdom and unequaled in judgment. They are authoritative, veracious and irrefutable. How it should anchor the soul! How it should rejoice our hearts to know that the words He spoke nearly two thousand years ago are eternal and imperishable, and carry the same comfort and consolation they carried when they were spoken. He said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering (for He is faithful that promised)” (Heb. 10:23).

While it rejoices our hearts that our God is unchanged amid change, and His Word ever remaineth, Scripture warns us of something else that does not change and that is the human heart. While man has made vast strides forward in the fields of science, medicine and the arts, sad to relate, every attempt he has made to upgrade man, himself, has failed. No amount of education, culture or self-reformation has or can change his sinful nature. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, about 2500 years ago, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). An honest appraisal of human behaviour over those years only confirms that conclusion. 2 Timothy gives a true, if odious picture of Christendom as it exists today and Revelation 17:1-18 shows us the downward course of man and the awful conditions that will exist just prior to God’s judgment upon a wicked and unrepentant mankind. Truly man’s heart remains unchanged. Sir Winston Churchill in describing the treachery of the Nazis during World War II said, “Never in the long catalogue of human crime has infamy so debased itself.” What an indictment! With the world in the condition it is today, can we say it has improved? In spite of international agencies created to alleviate human suffering and privation among the under-privileged, rapine and pillaging continues to be their constant lot, bringing in its wake disease, famine and death. All the charity and philanthrophy of well-intentioned humanitarians has failed to change the heart of man or solve the problem of evil.

Having failed in their self-chosen task of ministering to the spiritual need of their flocks, many occupying the pulpit today seek to change the rules of a game they cannot win. To them, sin is no longer sin; it is merely a deviation from the normal or a slight aberration. Tarpeian-like they would betray their sacred trust and throw open the gates of the citadel to every heresy and erroneous doctrine their minds can conceive, leaving their congregations floundering in the slough of doubt and despair. Shall we, who know the Lord, quail before such spurious teaching? Paul warns us that we will be faced with, “spiritual wickedness in high places,” and he exhorts us to put on, “the whole armour of God” and to “stand fast with our loins girded about with truth” (Eph. 6:11-18). Let us respond to this call to faithfulness and go forward in the strength that God supplies, unmoved and undaunted by the evil forces about us, with a single eye, awaiting the coming of the Lord.

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Not only is God unchanged as is His word, but His love to fallen man is an everlasting love. The plan of our redemption was conceived in the heart of God in an Eternity past. Love gave it impulse. It culminated in the death of Christ on Calvary. Love executed it. It will bear its harvest in an Eternity yet to come. Love will reign for ever and ever. The love of God sent Christ to die for us; the righteousness of God demanded His death. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee” (Jer. 31:3). Who can understand the length or breadth of God’s eternal love? Like shore-less seas His love can know no bounds. “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end (uttermost)” (John 13:1). This is a deep that no mind can fathom. Only by an act of inexpressible love and ineffable grace could the righteousness of God be met and our salvation procured. Here is an unchanging love that transcends all human thought and reaches across the vast ocean of time and space to the vilest sinner and brings him unto God, cleansed and made whole. “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:38-39). Ours is an unchanging God, whose word endureth and whose love will carry us through the deepest tribulation to the “land of fadeless day” where we shall bask in the sunshine of His presence and drink of the fulness of His love for ever and ever, world without end. What assurance! What a prospect!

“He and I together entering
Those bright courts above.
He and I together sharing
All the Father’s love.”