Harold S. Paisley
Few years will be remembered in history as clearly and as solemnly as 2001. The shocking events of September 11 in New York touched new depths of terror and sent a tidal wave of insecurity around the world. Most people in the West were deeply moved by the appalling attack on America and the very blatant nature of the evil involved has led many to ask penetrating questions about the nature of life, faith and the hereafter. We may yet see, in the providence of God, some substantial good come from these dreadful happenings.
At a personal level, 2001 may also have been a difficult year for you with unexpected problems and frustrations. Or you may have had a good year with unanticipated joys and blessings. Whatever our circumstances, we should learn, as Paul did, to be content (Phil. 4:11) and to trace in them the faithfulness of God.
As we cross the threshold of 2002, we should be increasingly watchful and prayerful for we know that the coming of the Lord draws ever near (James 5:8). It is also a good time to revisit some of the great watchwords of the Bible which have sustained the Lordís people over many generations. Here are some of them.
EBENEZER - "HITHERTO HATH THE LORD HELPED US"
In a prolonged period of defeat and difficulty for the people of Israel, "Ebenezer" marked a significant victory and a cause for thanksgiving to the Lord. Not long before and interestingly at another place called Ebenezer (1 Sam. 4:1), the nation suffered a terrible defeat at the hands of the Philistines and the loss of the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of Godís presence among them. But the people responded positively to the prophet Samuelís call to repentance and God brought both a miraculous victory and the restoration of the Ark. This was the moment to erect the "stone of help" or "Ebenezer" with its affirmation that "hitherto hath the Lord helped us" (1 Sam. 7:1-12).
God still protects and guides nations which respond to His call in humble repentance and honest faith. As a Canadian, I thank God for our American neighbors and for the way in which He has blessed the nation from the times of the founding fathers up to the present administration. It is significant that in the present crisis, the leaders of the nation have sought Godís guidance and we should continue to pray that He will direct them in the weighty decisions they still have to make.
As individuals, we know that the Lord Jesus has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5) and that we too can experience the protection and help of God implied in "Ebenezer."
IMMANUEL - "GOD WITH US"
At the heart of the gospel is the great truth that God has made Himself known to the world in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. In incarnation and by virgin birth, Christ has come to all the peoples of the world. For those who believe in Him, the truth that "God is with us" is both a saving and a sustaining reality. Although our Great High Priest is now in heaven, He still understands our earthly infirmities (Heb. 4:15) and He is there for us at Godís right hand every day of our lives.
MARANATHA - "THE LORD IS COMING"
This Aramic word, from the part of Palestine where Jesus lived, was clearly a watchword for the early Christians who, in spite of the bitter persecution they had to endure, encouraged each other with the hope that "The Lord is coming." For us, twenty centuries later, "maranatha" should be an incentive to live more Christ-like lives as we anticipate the "blessed hope" of His coming again for His people (Titus 2:13).
SELAH - "PAUSE AND CONSIDER"
Frequently used in the Psalms, Selah means simply "think about that." In Psalm 46 for example, it is used three times to invite us to reflect on Godís presence and protection in times of deep trouble. For the believer, there is no reason to fear, even though the earth be removed and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea (Psa. 46:2). We need to pause more often and reflect more fully on the sovereignty of God over all things.
HALLELUJAH - "PRAISE THE LORD"
Here is a well known watchword of great joy and praise. Psalm 150 closes the Psalter with a final great Hallelujah to God for who He is and for what He has done. At almost the end of the New Testament, in Revelation 19, the splendid "Hallelujah Chorus" strikes the same note. We should always maintain a spirit of thanksgiving for all that God has done and will yet do for us and for the world through Christ Jesus, of whom we often sing "hallelujah, what a Saviour."
AMEN AND AMEN - "SO SHALL IT BE"
In Psalm 72:18-19 this confident double affirmation emphasizes that all the works of the Lord are perfect and affirms the desire that "the whole earth be filled with His glory." We know that all the promises of God will find their fulfillment in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20) and all our "Amens" should carry the certainty that the saving work of the Lord Jesus is central to Godís purposes for the world.
Keep these watchwords in your heart throughout 2002 and share them with your friends and fellow believers. "Ebenezer" to remind us of the Lordís unfailing help. "Immanuel" for Christís incarnation and continuing presence. "Maranatha" for the blessed hope of His return. "Selah" for thankful reflection, and "Hallelujah" for lasting joy. So may it be for us all in 2002. Amen and Amen!