“In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”– Psalm 102:25-27
In 2019, Gallup released an article citing the “10 Major Social Changes in the 50 Years Since Woodstock.” I found the article fascinating not only because of its content but also in light of the changes we’ve seen since 2019. Who could have fathomed all that has occurred since the start of the pandemic, much less Woodstock? How should Christians respond to all the social change?
You’re likely familiar with Woodstock. It was a music festival held in Bethel, New York in August 1969. It was a gathering of thousands of people to promote music, sex, drugs, love, and peace. According to the Gallup article, the young people who assembled at the festival “epitomized the countercultural movements and changes occurring in U.S. society at the time.”
The article also claims “the “open” display of activities at Woodstock was a direct challenge to the relatively conservative views of the time.” Woodstock was a clear signal that change was coming.
The article discusses ten major changes, I’ll mention four here which I believe are of particular interest to the Christian worldview.
1. Religious Attachment Has Waned
It’ll likely come as no surprise, but religious attachment has declined since the days of Woodstock. A decade before the festival, 75% of people described religion as “very important” to them. In 2019, only 49% made such a claim. Additionally, during that same span of time, people who attended a religious service weekly fell from 46% to 35%.
2. Majority Now Think First-Trimester Abortions Should Be Legal
In 1969, a few years before the historic Roe v. Wade decision, 40% of Americans favored making it legal for women to have an abortion at any point during the first trimester. In 2018, 60% were in favor. The assault on human life through abortion continues to rise.
3. Americans Now Prefer Smaller Family Size
By and large, family is no longer valued and children are no longer considered a blessing, but rather, a curse. It has become common to hear people claim children are an obstacle that keep them from attaining their goals and dreams. One recent article cites an increase in vasectomies by childless men in Australia. The reason many are signing up for the surgery is because “children would get in the way of their lives, and their plans for crafting the life they want.”
4. Premarital Sex No Longer Taboo
In 2019, 70% of Americans believed nothing was wrong with having sex before marriage. Gallup didn’t start polling on the issue until 1973, likely because the expectation of not having sex until married was entrenched in U.S. social norms prior to that time. The article says, even in 1973, “less than half of Americans (43%) supported premarital sex.” Premarital sex is anything but taboo in today’s rapidly changing world.
The Times They Are Still A-Changin’
A few years before Woodstock, Bob Dylan prophetically sung about the changing times. His words are no less true today.
As Christians, what are we to do? As the culture around us changes and heads in a direction opposed to the clear teachings of Scripture, how should we respond? I believe Psalm 102 provides the answer.
The author of the text is unnamed. They are identified at the beginning of the psalm only as “an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the LORD.” They cry out for self and for their afflicted nation, Israel. Notice how the tone of the psalm changes from distress to hope as the psalmist moves from self, to others, and lastly, to God.
The author of Psalm 102 is profoundly distressed. Their lament is seen throughout the text. First, they look to self (vs. 1-11); then they look to others (vs. 12-22); and finally, they look to God (vs. 23-28).
Look to self:
“My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food.”– Psalm 102:4
During this section of Psalm 102, the author uses numerous first person pronouns. In verse four, they describe the condition of their heart and the absence of appetite because of it. Have you ever been so discouraged you forgot to eat your food? That is a profound level of distress. That is the position of the psalmist. They are deeply troubled. In verse five, they say “in my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones.” This person has hit rock bottom.
Look to others:
“The nations will fear the name of the LORD, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. For the LORD will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory.”– Psalm 102:15-16
In verse 12, the focus of the lament changes from first person pronouns to second, as the psalmist begins to lament for the nation of Israel. The author is clearly a patriot who is distressed over the turmoil afflicting his nation. Once the author begins to imagine the nation worshiping the LORD again, hope ensues. Verses 21 and 22 say, “So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the LORD.”
Look to God:
Verses 25-27 are perhaps some of the best known in Scripture when considering the immutability of God. When theologians discuss God’s unchanging characteristics, they are talking about his immutability. Wayne Grudem has defined the immutability of God as follows: “God is unchanging in his being, perfections, purposes, and promises.”
First, God is unchanging in His being. He simply is and will always be. He is eternal. I have a shirt I’ve been wearing regularly for over a decade. It fits perfectly. Furthermore, it is made out of a material that keeps me dry when I sweat or am exposed to weather. I recently noticed it has a small tear around the collar. I was reminded that nothing lasts forever. Like every piece of garment, my shirt will wear out. The heavens and the earth will too (Psalm 102:26). Not so with God. He remains the same.
Second, God is unchanging in His perfections. He is good and will always be good. He is faithful and will always be so. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (emphasis added). Also, Malachi 3:6 says, “I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed” (emphasis added). In Hebrews 13:8, Jesus is described as being the same yesterday, today, and forever. God is perfect in so many ways. His perfections will never change.
Third, God is unchanging in His purposes. What are His purposes? His purposes, primarily, are to receive glory and draw people to Himself. In Isaiah 43:6-7, God says, “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth — everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (emphasis added). You were created for the glory of God! He is continually drawing people to Himself so they may know the reason for their life.
Lastly, God is unchanging in His promises. He has given His children many promises. We could write a substantial list. The best promise of all, however, is eternal life. All who believe in the son will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
How Should We Respond?
Our response to distressing times should be found in the fact that God does not change. His promises are true. As the culture around us continues to change and head in a direction opposed to the heart of God and the clear teachings of Scripture, we can look to God for our hope. Though everything changes around us, He does not change. God remains the same. His being, perfections, purposes, and promises will never fail us.
Many of us have allowed the current cultural tides to push us into distress, discouragement, and disillusionment. Some of us are living in outright despair. Take heart! God is faithful and He never changes. When things are uncertain, He can be trusted.
“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the LORD always, for the LORD GOD is the eternal Rock.”– Isaiah 26:3-4 (NLT)
Author’s note: The content here is from a sermon I preached at Christ Evangelical Church in Cape Girardeau, MO on October 10th, 2021.