Local and cable stations’ headlines are perpetually bad news, school shootings, raising gas prices, war and instability in the Middle East or elsewhere, and the list continues. Hollywood perpetuates the peddling of salacious, titillating, and perverse ideas through its various outlets, both teaching and reflecting an increasingly immoral society. The moral, ethical, and doctrinal state of society and the world seems at an all-time low.
Preaching needs to reflect an understanding of that, for sure. Sin must be called by name and addressed. We cannot hold hands with the devil and walk with God. There is no place for compromising God’s truth.
Jeremiah warned against those who cried “peace” when there was no peace (Jer. 6:14; 8:11). His message was “negative”–that his nation was destined for punishment by the Babylonian Empire. But, Jeremiah’s message included the hope and promise of a new, glorious covenant (31:31-34) and Jeremiah’s last word from God concerned the future salvation of his people and destruction of their enemy (ch. 51).
Joel starts his message with a message of doom and judgment for Judah (1:1-2:17), but he ends the book by showing the hope of God’s people experiencing His pardon (3:17-21). Amos is a book about divine judgment and retribution, illustrated with graphic, horrific visions, but it is a book that ends focused on the glorious future of Israel (9:11-15). Micah bounces back between a message of scathing rebuke of sin and hope in God. Zephaniah’s message begins saturated with words about God’s judgment on His erring brethren as well as on other nations, but he ends by singing redemption’s sweet song (3:9ff). Even Malachi, a book filled with warnings about empty, half-hearted religion ends with a word about “the sun of righteousness with healing in its wings”(4:2).
New Testament writers fill their message, however saturated with warning or rebuke, with hope and the possibility of salvation. God’s consistent message is that He wants relationship with man, has proven that desire, and eagerly awaits that from each of us. He wants all men saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). Surely we know that, but do we possibly forget that at times? Those of us who preach and teach, in such a responsible position, need to remind people that we can overcome–John says that at least four times in his first epistle (1 Jn. 2:13-14; 4:4; 5:4).
One day hope will run out for the disobedient. There will be no chance for restoration or conversion at the judgment. It will be too late then, but it is not too late now! May our teaching and preaching reflect this optimism, remembering that the powerful Word still softens hearts and changes lives (cf. Heb. 4:12). Some day all hope will be gone, but that day is not today!