Throughout the centures, peoples around the world OFTEN ASSUME that culture, traditions, practices, ways of life, customs, clothing, food, transportation, thought patterns, and so on WILL STAY THE SAME, WILL CONTINUE TO BE THE WAY WE HAVE ALWAYS DONE THINGS. In our "narrow slice" of time, it is difficult to realize that WE, our FRIENDS, our CHURCHES, our NATIONS, and our WORLD are rapidly changing. And there is nothing we can do about this. IT IS INEVITABLE.
The Book of Exodus narrates a series of events or stories portraying CHANGE. Very briefly, we are some of the highlights.
1. From the time of Joseph to the time of Moses, the Israelites lived in the land of Goshen in Egypt, and, overall, the Egyptians treated the Israelites well because of the work Joseph had done to deliver Egypt from a severe famine. Gen. 39-50. BUT OVER TIME, the Israelites increased in number, and the Egyptians began "fearing" the growing "success" of the Israelites. At some point, a new Pharaoh came into power in Egypt, who did not know Joseph. With A NEW SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES, this new Pharaoh [many assume this is Rameses II] launched strong "oppression" against the Israelites. (Exod. 1:8-14).
2. In a few decades, a Hebrew family gave birth to Moses. Through a series of events, Pharaoh's daughter saved Moses and elevated Moses to a high position in Egypt, even though Moses was an Israelite. However, Moses became irate when he saw the ways the Egyptians were "oppressing" the Israelites, and at some point, Moses killed an Egyptian taskmaster, and Moses SUDDENLY had to CHANGE HIS LIFE by fleeing from Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and came to Midian near Mount Sinai, where he lived there for 40 years, and where he married a Midianite woman, Zipporah, and gave birth to two sons. (Exod. 2:11-22).
3. After 40 years in Midian, God sent Moses back to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of bondage. On the one hand, this was refreshing and invigorating for the liberated Israelites, but after they crossed the Red Sea, they had to CHANGE THEIR LIVES. Daily challenges in the wilderness drastically confronted the Israelites' way of life in Egypt. So, they began to complain. (Exod 15:22-17:15).
4. For approximately one year, the Israelites stayed around Mount Sinai, where God gave them the ten commandments, the tabernacle with its furniture and worship, and "the Book of the Covenant" (Exod. 20:1-23:19). But, INEVITABLY, after approximately, the Israelites "wandered" through the wilderness for 40 years on their way to the promised land of Canaan. (Exod. 24-40; Num. 10:11-36).
Life may be changing more rapidly today that in ancient times, when transportation, customs, etc., were slower in those days. In my own life, I have experienced many significant CHANGES. A few are: sophisticated cars [from the Model-T to the SUV), airplanes [from the one motor prop plane to four powered jets], TV [from none to modern types], complex computers [I had to use a typewriter to produce my PhD dissertation in 1966], the iPhone, the iPod, high-tech movies [from black and white to very sophisticated movie productions], etc., etc.
The church has changed dramatically through the past seventy decades. My first church was a very modest church of approximately 250 people. We debated about the King James Version versus the American Standard Version. We believed that the Holy Spirit works ONLY through the preaching and teaching and studying of the written Bible [usually KJV]. We believed that elders had to have at least two baptized children; elders could not be divorced, and if one of their children committed a serious sin, they had to withdraw from the eldership. Elders were virtually CEOs in business. Elders made ALL THE DECISIONS in the local church. The Lord's Supper had to exist in a certain order. The worship had to be in a designated order. Prayers had to be spontaneous, not prepared. Whites and Blacks [this is the older terms] must be kept apart in different churches--certainly segregational. Women and children must listen and be submissive. ONLY THE MEN LED the worship and activities of the church. The ONLY way to be saved is to OBEY the Gospel as we interpreted the Gospel, and it was BY AND THROUGH OUR OWN GOOD WORKS. We kept grace and love virtually out of the picture. We knew the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and expected all other human beings to agree with our position.
Over these 70 years [I am now 75], HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED. This is inevitable, and MOST of this is good, but, unfortunately, some is bad, because we all are [and always will be] sinful human beings.
There are two ways to look at change. One way is to become very cynical and irritated and enraged and resentful--and dig in deep and refuse to CHANGE. Another way is to accept the fact that God is constantly a God of CHANGE. In fact, at the very heart of the Gospel is GOD'S TRANSFORMATION of our hearts and lives. God's admonition through Paul in Romans 12:1-2 is:
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but BE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MINDS, so that you may discern what is the will of God--what is good and acceptable and perfect."
Which way shall we choose?