Prophets of doom are abundant and quite popular, and have always been. Sometimes they are right, but much more often wrong. Having survived the swells and storms for my 71 years till now, I can say I have heard far more of the latter than the former.
Before discovering the kingdom of the Most High in my thirty-first year, my own experience in life led me to ask myself why I would marry and bring children into such a sad world as this. But upon entering that wonderful kingdom I was given three new gifts that made all the difference in the world: Faith, Hope, and Love. And that latter, Love, was not only the kind that burns brightly for a spell then leaves but a pile of ashes behind. It was the unending love of God that Moses saw on the mountain, that burns brightly but does not consume the bush. It is that love that is the opposite of fear. Those three gifts are the legs of the table that He prepares for us in the presence of our enemies (Psalm 23), right here in this world. I discovered that once armed with those tools all is possible, including happy marriage and children. Guided by the Good Shepherd we are led through the tangles of this world to still waters and green pastures.
I have seen many of the youth of this new generation living in hopelessness, with only fear for the future. Many are now tattooing their bodies beyond recognition, with little concern for what that might mean in a meaningless future life. Some seem to yearn for former times that, in their imaginings, were better and happier. But I would ask them, when was that? And I point out that there was never a Golden Age anywhere, but for brief intervals travail and wars and conflict reigned throughout human history. In fact, I would tell them that we are now living in the best times ever.
Some might heartily disagree with that last sentence, but I hold to it. Yes, perhaps the bad things are getting worse, but indeed the good things are getting better, confirming those words in revelation, “Let those that do evil do so still, and those that do righteousness do more so yet” (Rev. 22:11). Indeed, we have at our disposal today medical advances and knowledge that prolong our lives, and comforts far beyond any of those who came before us. We have technology that was undreamed-of just a few years ago, allowing us to travel and communicate and gain knowledge unheard-of by our fathers, or even to me in my own youth. There are wonderful possibilities for this generation that no earlier generation had access to. And finally, we have no other choice but to live in these times that God in His great wisdom has put us into. ‘This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it’!
In every generation there may be advantages and disadvantages. Where once there was more pristine wilderness, there was also less access, and more danger. When there were fewer chemicals and pesticides, folks had fewer teeth left past the age of thirty to chew with, and few medicines to stop infections and disease and pain, thus shortening the average lifespan. Wickedness is nothing new, and life was cheap in the Roman period when Yeshua lived, killing being a form of entertainment in the Coliseum. But then, “where sin abounds, grace abounds more abundantly” (Romans 5:20). And the Messiah’s promise and purpose is, “I have come to give you life, and life more abundant.” It is always our calling, even in times of erosion of values, to “strengthen the things that remain” (Rev. 3:2).
Having taken far too many chances and risks in my own adventurous and far-flung life, I never really expected to live this long. But like our father Jacob, I can say, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil- may he bless the young ones” (Gen: 48:16), and now am enjoying my children and my children’s children in prosperity. In following our King for these nearly forty years, I have found Him to be faithful and true, leading us through our trials and turning them into blessings. Though men have failed me, He has never let me down.
There is in Jewish tradition a discussion that I find inspiring, in which it is asked (I paraphrase), what to do if you know Messiah is coming? Plant a tree, is the reply. Therefore, I advise you young people to rejoice in the days of your youth and go plant a tree, and eat the fruit of the Tree of Life that is served at the table the Messiah has prepared for us in the presence of our enemies, a table resting firmly upon the foundation of Faith, Hope, and Love. Enjoy this magnificent world of His, which is indeed filled with His glory. Follow Him, wherever He may go.
And Hazak v’amatz- be strong and of good courage.