The ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, once said, “Man cannot step into the same river twice.” His point was that things are always subject to change. If you step into a river and then into the same river moments later, things have changed, even if imperceptibly to you. The water you first stepped into has flowed downstream. The sand on which you first stepped has shifted with the current. As with a river, change is a constant reality for human beings.
There may be some things that seem unchanging to us. The earth itself seems pretty solid. Yes, there are changes that occur to the landscape over the course of time, but the planet itself is enduring. The heavens likewise seem enduring. Common wisdom asserts that the stars are billions of years old. In the scope of human life, these things seem almost eternal.
The enduring nature of the heavens and the earth is, however, deceptive. The heavens and the earth had a beginning and they will have an end. They are not eternal. The writer of Psalm 102 recognised this truth and used it to encourage God’s people in his unchanging character:
Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end.
The author of the psalm is not identified but it is titled “A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD.” The identity of the human author is insignificant because it is designed to be a prayer for any of God’s people to pray when afflicted. Indeed, the writer speaks of great affliction and a sense of abandonment by God (vv. 1–2). He is painfully aware of his mortality (vv. 3–4) and his affliction only serves to highlight this reality. Sleep evades him (v. 7) as those who oppose him cruelly taunt him (v. 8). He cannot help but feel that he is under divine judgement (vv. 9–10).
At the same time, he is deeply conflicted because he is confident that God loves his people and will intervene to save those who are afflicted (vv. 12–13). He hears the prayers of those who are afflicted (v. 17) and the psalmist wishes the next generation to take heart in divine faithfulness (vv. 18–22).
It is precisely this conflict between human hopelessness and divine faithfulness that drives him to write. He knows that if he feels the disconnect between his theology and his experience, others will too. And so he writes to encourage them with the encouragement that he found. And that encouragement lay in the unchanging character of God. In a world where everything and everyone constantly changes, the Lord remains the same. And because he remains the same, his people can “dwell secure” as they are “established before” him (v. 28).
This year has been a trying one in many respects. Few would have guessed in January just how difficult a year it would have been. Whatever positive hopes we had for a great year ahead were dashed within the first quarter and things haven’t seemed to improve a whole lot. Many have found their theology in conflict with their experience.
As you reflect back on the rough year behind us, and look forward in hopes of a better year ahead, remind yourself of the glorious truth that, whether 2021 is better or worse than 2020, God remains unchanging. Find your hope in his unchanging nature. Dwell secure in him whatever lies ahead.