By Elizabeth Prata
Does it bother anyone that the literal name of this new year is “2020 won”?
LOL I didn’t make that line up, I saw it on Twitter. It’s true, though, isn’t it? I feel like I’ve gone through 2020 with Jake “Raging Bull” LaMotta. Beaten up from pillar to post, knocked down only to get up and be knocked down again, emerging from the year battered and bloody and barely standing. I guess the ‘difficult times’ finally came to America. (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
2020 felt like the Time of Judges. If you are skeptical, look at this summary of the Book of Judges and see if it doesn’t fit:
JUDGES, BOOK OF The seventh book of the Hebrew Bible; depicts the period between Joshua’s conquest and the monarchy of Saul and David. The narrative arc of Judges shows how the Israelites, lacking a leader, digress from a united people loyal to Yahweh into conflicting, independent tribes that serve Baal and adopt Canaanite customs. The Lexham Bible Dictionary Butler, T. C., & Balogh, A. L. (2016). Judges, Book of.
A lot of people are anxious to put 2020 behind them, me included. But the usual optimism a New Year brings is absent this time. Though we hope for a better year, it doesn’t look likely. In my own opinion, I see ahead unrest, maybe even civil war. Perhaps one of our enemies will take the upcoming time of confusion and disarray to invade. God certainly allowed a conquering army to overcome His own beloved Israel to punish them for their sin.
And America certainly has sinned. I won’t enumerate the ways, you all know the corruption and immorality that exists in the secular part of this nation. It’s even heartily applauded by those who practice their evil ways. (Romans 1:28-32). 2020 also showed us that the Church’s foundations had only been swiss cheese all along, soft and full of holes. A little hot air blew and the church melted like a flickering vapor, scurrying to isolated homes for fear of a virus (that has a 98-99% survival rate). Tyranny took advantage of our unflavorful salt and dimmed light, and pressed its advantage.
From my own observations, it seemed to me that the civil-social compact disintegrated. Neighbor quickly and easily snitched on neighbor. We were told to cancel our celebrations and holidays, where to stand, how to move through a store (when they were still open), where to go and not go, how to breathe. Visits to Grandma were forbidden but riots were allowed. We eagerly accepted these intrusive micro-managings like mindless lapdogs. We were told that churches, weddings, playgrounds, beaches, and parks were super-spreader areas while casinos, abortion clinics, liquor stores and strip clubs were safe. Leaders sallied forth in blatant hypocrisy, not even hiding it anymore. Masks are the new virtue signal, and this nation took to walking around like it was Daniel Defoe’s The Plague Year and thought it normal, while people who resisted were hounded, doxxed, rejected, and censored.
What do I mean about the civil-social compact? I mean that our long-standing institutions of law, justice, politics, commerce, recreation, and worship, have a generally accepted authority or a widely understood place of importance in our lives. These institutions function together, overlaid upon the individual, who accepts them as normal and needed. When you vote, you expect your vote to count. When people enter the country illegally, you expect them to be deported. When something is litigated, you expect the judge to be unbiased. When people riot and destroy, you expect them to be arrested and charged. When you go to the grocery store, you expect food and hard goods to be there (like TP). When you get married, you expect to stay married. When you go to church you expect the doors to be open. You expect the freedom and liberty to make your own health decisions. Science is expected to be objective and solid, not politically will-o-the-wisp.
For centuries, American citizens’ highly individualistic attitude had achieved a delicate balance with civic understandings for the common good. Mutual compacts among citizens meant that commitments among each other were fulfilled. Crimes were reported. Law enforcement showed up. Hospitals served the unhealthy. Stores welcomed customers (without a mask over their face). Neighbors minded their own business, trustingly asserting a live & let live attitude.
“Fundamental American institutions of democracy are held in public trust. They provide a continuity of law and procedure, of practice and participation, and of knowledge and inquiry from one generation to the next,” said Academy President Leslie C. Berlowitz. “When they serve the short-term interests of particular individuals or groups, they erode public trust; they erode the faith of citizens in the very legitimacy of our constitutional democracy.” (Source)
All that trust crumbled in 2020, within 9 months it was gone. That’s a fast turnaround and the nation convulsed in whiplash.
What I see ahead for 2021 is this:
Sorry. Maybe I’m wrong. But let’s look at this biblically. What happens when a nation rebels continuously and unrepentantly? God smites them. Chorazin, Bethsaida, Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, Assyria, Egypt, Nineveh, Canaan, Moab, Israel: judged. His rod of correction is not hovering over only willful believing children, He uses it as a rod of judgment for nations, too. He used nations as the punishment tool upon his beloved nation Israel, why not upon us, a nation not mentioned in prophecy and will likely at some point go the way of history like all the others? 2020 certainly seemed like a year where God was moving negatively among the world and in America.
Wikipedia says Jake LaMotta was a rough fighter who was not a particularly big puncher, but he would subject his opponents to vicious beatings in the ring. Yes, that was 2020. But Christians have something non-Christians don’t have. We can get out of the ring. We are not locked in it. Circumstances might punch us, slap us, stalk us, circle us, but we dwell here but apart, as a kingdom amid the throng. Our ring is surrounded by Jesus, who encamps around those who fear Him.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them. (Psalm 34:7)
We escape the ring by prayer and petitions to Jesus. We leave the ring by reading His word and clinging to His promises. We depart that boxing ring by congregational worship, song, hearing and preaching of the word. We leave that ring by doing good works in fear and trembling working out our salvation, enhancing our savor as salt and brightening our light. We escape it permanently by death or rapture, never to be troubled again by 2020 and its ilk.
At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:26–29).
He is shaking the world and shaking America. He is always working. (John 5:17). But this year His work in the world seemed to observably intensify and click up another notch. Here is Matthew Henry Commentary on Hebrews 12 verse-
“When God speaks to men in the most excellent manner, the guilt of those who refuse him is the greater, and their punishment will be more unavoidable and intolerable; there is no escaping, no bearing it, v. 25. The different manner of God’s dealing with men under the gospel, in a way of grace, assures us that he will deal with the despisers of the gospel after a different manner than he does with other men, in a way of judgment.”
“The glory of the gospel, which should greatly recommend it to our regard, appears in these … It was by the sound of the gospel trumpet that a new kingdom was erected for God in the world, which can never be so shaken as to be removed. This was a change made once for all; no other change shall take place till time shall be no more. We have now received a kingdom that cannot be moved, shall never be removed, never give way to any new dispensation.” Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (pp. 2405–2406).
Friends, no matter what 2021 has in store for us, we are dwelling in a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Ever, never, ever. We stand upon the rock. He encamps around us. When circumstances arise this year that invoke fear look UP. In fact, it is good that the noose tightens because the more constricted we are by earthly circumstances the more we true believers look to Him.
It’s heartbreaking to see Christian leaders and friends fall away. But…maybe…dare I say…looking to 2 Thessalonians, the Tribulation cannot come until the Man of Perdition appears and the Man of Perdition will not appear until the great falling away. The verse urges us not to be quickly shaken from our composure nor disturbed by a spirit when it happens.
Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, regarding the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit, or a message, or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. No one is to deceive you in any way! For it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction… (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).
shaken—literally, “tossed” as ships tossed by an agitated sea. Compare for the same image, Eph 4:14.
in mind—[composure] rather as the Greek, “from your mind,” that is, from your mental steadfastness on the subject.
troubled—[disturbed] This verb applies to emotional agitation; as “shaken” to intellectual.
(Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary).
Paul ended his letter by urging them to stand firm. Stay firm emotionally, physically, mentally is Paul’s message. They thought the end was near then, and the end could be near now too. It’s 2000 years closer anyway! 2021 could be THE year we are snatched away to be with Jesus while He judges the world. Or 2021 could be the year He judges wicked nations including America with His rod and not just a removal of protections as has seemed so these past years. Time will tell.
The takeaway is: do not be disturbed, do not lose composure, do not be shaken, and stand firm. Jesus has got this! And we are in Jesus!