From culture to technology to politics, the world around us is constantly in flux. You don’t need me to point this out. In fact, you probably want to forget it altogether, preferring instead to rock back and forth in the fetal position while plugging your ears until at least 2021. The world is a rip tide right now, and every last one of us has forgotten how to swim sideways. One minute, orange is the new black, cassette tapes are the new vinyl – and the next, we’re all walking around in public with an invisible six foot distance between us while also sporting various ilk of facial coverings. Just think about that for a minute.
Change is – change has always been – in the air. And so it’s easy to imagine God as a shape-shifter as well, a fickle genie in the sky who grants wishes on his whims, or on the basis of whether or not we’ve earned his good favor. One day he is pleased, and the next he’s like one of Khaleesi’s dragons from Game of Thrones, burning us all to ash. Some of the Old Testament stories might even prove those theories to be true in your mind. But I would argue that the author of Hebrews was correct when he said, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” This truth is an anchor we can cling to as the gale of this year storms all around us.
We often think of Jesus as strictly our New Testament hero, but scripture tells us he was there from the beginning. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Biblically speaking, Jesus himself is the Word, and John tells us here that he was there before the foundations of the earth. This is good news, because it means the cross wasn’t just a Hail Mary after God’s wonderous creation went south with Eve. It means the cross was always the plan, the blueprints of which were painstakingly measured and cut since before the dawn of time. If Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever, it means he is walking with us now – physically, intimately, tenderly, incalculably near to us – as we are simultaneously delivered and being delivered through this awful year.
Jesus in the Old Testament
If it seems far-fetched that Jesus has been on the scene since the beginning, let me briefly try to prove it to you. In Genesis God repeatedly refers to himself as “us” instead of “I,” alluding to his trinitarian nature – Father, Son, Holy Spirit. At the very moment sin enters into the splendor of Eden in Genesis 3, God tells of a rescuer – Christ – who would be the antidote to this awful curse. Throughout the Old Testament, as God grapples with his fallen people, the footprints of Jesus are absolutely everywhere. He is both the redeemer who brought his people out of Egypt and their manna in the wilderness. He is the I Am in the burning bush and the fourth man in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. God always makes a way for his people when they are stuck in what looks at first like impossible circumstances; even before his birth or the cross, the Way out, the Way through, was Jesus.
In his article, Where is Jesus in the Old Testament? Glen Scrivener notes a pattern of Christ throughout all of scripture. He says, “The flood and the ark, the Passover and the Red Sea, the wilderness and the Promised Land, exile and return, war and peace, kingdom and kings, prophets and priests, the temple, its sacrifices, and its rituals, wisdom in death and in life, songs of lament and rejoicing, the lives of faithful sufferers and the blood of righteous martyrs — the Old Testament is extraordinarily Jesus-shaped.”
Even more than the shape of Jesus is the promise of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t just show up in Matthew chapter 1. He is in every wind and turn of our often harrowing story, starting with “In the beginning…” God tells his people hundreds of times throughout scripture about the final and ultimate provision he will send in the person of Jesus. Isaiah 35:4 says, “Your God will come, he will come with vengeance, with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Hundreds of years before his birth we learn through the prophets that this savior would be born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem, that he would be shunned by those who claimed to love him and die the death of a criminal. The story was written before it came to pass. As Elizabeth Elliot has written, “We are still under the same Auspices.”
The Unchanging Love of Jesus
Charles Spurgeon said, “Though you have changed a thousand times, He has not changed once.” Another word for “unchanging” is “steadfast.” We see this word – steadfast – strewn throughout scripture, and it is almost always attached to another word – love. “For his steadfast love endures forever.” This means God’s love is not dependent on our shifting circumstances, our bad behavior, or the state of our democracy. His love is as immovable as a cornerstone, so very unchanging it’s often hard for us to believe.
Exodus 15:13 says, “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed.” Psalm 59 says, “My God in his steadfast love will meet me.” Psalm 103 says, “He crowns us with steadfast love and mercy.” We see evidence here that the quality of God’s love for us in Jesus is physical, intimate, certain, undeniably there and with us. According to these verses, God’s love leads us, it meets us, and it crowns us. In scripture, God’s love shows up as a cloud by day and a fire by night and then it took on flesh and blood. This love is not an obscure idea for us to merely accept or know; it is active, it has arms and legs, it moves and it breathes. This is good news for us in 2020. Because this God is nothing like a haphazard dragon, charring his people for going off on their grandmas on social media. No, this is a God who put himself – his physical, there-and-with-us body – in the direct path of the fire so that you and I could stand tall, utterly preserved, untouched by even a hint of the searing heat.
Jesus – God’s steadfast love made manifest – is the same yesterday and today and forever. And the steadfast Jesus who was then – lover, healer, provider, savior – is the same King Jesus who is now; he has not left his throne.
As the raging sea of 2020 tumbles and rolls and sprays salt into our weary eyes, we can hold fast to “the great unchangeable I AM, the King of glory and of grace.” The same King who had a plan for sin before sin even came on the scene, has a plan for the disease that plagues us now, and a plan for the future of our country. The same God who looked at his creation and called it good, is continuing to work all things – including the worst of things – toward the good of those who love him. The same God who offered nourishment to the Israelites in the wilderness, who made shade for Elijah beneath a broom tree, and who took our sin upon his very own shoulders, continues to carry our burdens today. The enemy can throw his very worst in our way – he has done so many times before – but our deliverer, the King who loved us enough to die for us, is the same yesterday today and forever. Dear ones, this Jesus has always been and will be forever an anchor that holds, even in 2020.
“When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil”
To Engage Your Students and Children:
- Listen to this song and discuss the lyrics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvLxZEU02uI
- Ask your teenagers if they can remember a time in their lives when it seemed like God had fled the scene. Could they look back and see how God had worked the story for good?