I am not as old as I think I am, but I am old enough to know that the times in which we are living are truly extraordinary. It seems as if the whole world is on fire. And maybe in a sense it is. It is easy for us to slip into a pessimistic, or even fatalistic, spirit as things continue to spiral out of control. I can’t imagine how the Christians must have felt as they watched Rome crumble all around them in A.D. 70. This fear and trepidation and doubt is what led the great theologian Augustine to write his classic work, City of God. Our Lord himself predicted and prepared his disciples for this event (Mt. 24:1-35). I can hear Jesus saying to me so many times, “O you of little faith.”
We should not be surprised, if we know our history, that God is constantly tearing down what men in their pride and idolatry seek to build up. The Tower of Babel had to be destroyed. Babylon the great had to be conquered. Every righteous King of Judah and Israel had to spend his first few months of reign tearing down the high places and idols in the land. Unconquerable Rome eventually succumbed to barbarians. The all-important, all-sovereign, all-magnificent, all-knowing kingdom of my own heart had to be brought low.
God is also constantly building up what man in his rebellion and unbelief is seeking to tear down. The serpent offers the apple of death and God sends the Bread of Life. The world is filled with violence and wickedness and God sends a flood and an ark to preserve His people and His redeeming purposes. Mankind sends out a giant to crush and God sends out a shepherd to save. Mankind exalts the church for its own means and God sends a monk to shake its foundations. Water both nourishes and destroys. Fire both consumes and purifies.
I do not know what is to come of these present days. I fear that we are much more in need of a wilderness wandering than we are a peaceful stroll through the promised land. But I am fully confident of this one thing: God will tear down what needs to be removed despite our best efforts to preserve it, and He will build up through fire and water those whom He loves with an everlasting love until we enter into that everlasting rest.