90 years makes for a lot of changes in a culture.
The first world war had left around 18 million dead, this was closely followed by the Spanish flu pandemic that took an estimated 50 million. There was to be an all too brief respite before turmoil would return to a beleaguered world.
In 1925 Thomas Obadiah Chisholm was 59 years old and had lived a pretty tough life. Illness had robbed him of his desired calling and he was earning a living in the insurance industry. By his own admission,
“My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now.”
At this point in his life he penned the poem, “Great is thy faithfulness.”
The outlook of the church at that time was hugely hopeful, there was a resurgence in end time studies and in spite (or perhaps because) of the turbulent times there was an expectancy.
Such huge loss had not caused the church in general to lose sight of God, neither had it bred the cynicism and apathy that now is so prevalent across the globe.
As we fast approach the 20’s again we live in a hugely different world.
Constant conflict has also pushed forward great technological developments, as each nation strains to attain the best militarily which inevitably impacts upon the products available to the mass market.
I can sit and type this on my hand held computer, jumping between libraries of information just a click away. No physical page has been turned and I have access to centuries of knowledge about any subject that enters my mind.
With these great advancements we have gained so much, but equally we have lost something important.
People essentially have never changed, but as a society we have had a mental shift in our understanding of who God is. Surrounded by a million voices and their opinions we always expect at some point to be let down.
Experience has taught us that it’s only a matter of time before the inevitable happens. The secrets will surface, the trust will be broken and we will be left alone with shattered hopes.
As this attitude prevails it is inevitable that it will creep inexorably into the church psyche.
If that is all we know, surely God is the same.
Our expectations of life are enormous compared with even our recent forebears. So when our prayers “seem” unanswered or plans go South we are not surprised and it adds to our general feeling of cynicism.
One of the songs going around churches just now is titled “Do it again.” The general overtone of the song is one of hope. Hope of deliverance, hope of a better day, hope that the promises will be fulfilled.
However there is an addition to the refrain that Thomas Chisholm picked from the Old Testament book of Lamentations, a little word that makes everything just a bit different. The group of song writers who penned this song added a “yet.”
“You’ve never failed me yet.”
Perhaps I am over sensitive, but the repetition of this phrase adds a seed of the 21st century that was missing when Thomas Chisholm penned his hymn. He went on to live into his nineties and looking back over the thirty or so years after writing his hymn he remarked:
“Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.”
God is not like us, He does not change.
Quoting James 1:17 Mr Chisholm says, “there is no shadow of turning with thee.” simply stated, God is as He ever was and ever will be.
The events on earth do not cause Him panic, neither are they a surprise.
There is no “yet” in His nature.