The Times They Are A-Changin’

Every July there is a two-week international guitar festival here in Córdoba. I think that is because Córdoba claims some credit for the first classical guitar being made here in the sixteenth century. And every year they seem to make a point of inviting some aged rock and roll star to put on a concert. This year it was Bob Dylan. Ol’ Bob was born in May 1941, so that means he was 74 years old when he came here. He still dressed like he did when he became popular in the 1960s. He still wore his hair like he did then. He still sang the same songs he did then. So, what is a-changin’ for ol’ Bob?

Dylan and his fellow pop singers in the 60s were catalysts for change in Western society. Their lyrics were rebellious and disparaging of the status quo of that era. They cried out for change and they eventually got what they asked for. I think these lyrics from Dylan’s song with the above title will show what I mean:

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your wall
For the times they are a-changin’

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

Even though ol’ Bob hasn’t changed much from the 60s, for sure we are living in changing times. Before you can adjust to one change it changes. The most rapid change is coming in the area of morality. The 60s generation wanted a new one and the twenty-first century has chucked morality all together. Issues of right and wrong have become issues of rights—one’s right to do what they want morally. According to God the right to do wrong brings judgment and woe. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of my Living Right in a World of Woe which has just been released by Antioch Press:

From the beginning of the world God has given instructions in the form of commandments and laws informing His people how they are to live in this world. These commandments and laws are the basis of God’s relationship with people. He is God; we are His creation. He commands; we obey. Our obedience to His laws brings blessings. Our disobedience to His laws brings curses and woe. God does not change and God’s laws do not change. What God says is right will never be wrong. What God says is wrong will never be right.

We are now living in a time when some civil laws of the land are in opposition to the laws of God. What is evil in God’s sight is now called good. Obedience to those laws that oppose God’s laws will bring woe to individuals and nations. What is a Christian to do when ungodliness is the law of the land? The answer is simple: we are to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). At this time when legal and societal pressure will be on Christians to conform to the laws of the world, it will be good to take a fresh look at how God requires his people to live right in this world and its coming woe. We must see right, be right and do right in order to live right in a world of woe.

God pronounced woe to the enemies of Israel. God pronounced woe to Israel. The psalmist pronounced woe to himself. The prophets pronounced woe to themselves. Jesus pronounced woe to cities. Jesus pronounced woe to the teachers of the law and Pharisees. Jesus pronounced woe to the rich. In Matthew 18:7 Jesus pronounced woe to the world. What is woe? Where does woe come from? Why does woe come? Why is this world a world of woe?

Woe has several different meanings as used in the Bible. None of them are good. Woe can mean an exclamation that brings a curse of condemnation or judgment. It can mean deep sorrow, grief or affliction. It can mean ruinous trouble and calamity. An exclamation of woe can apply to the one expressing it as in the case of the psalmist and the prophets. It can apply to individual people, cities and nations when pronounced by God.

With the psalmists and the prophets, woe comes from what they observed going on around them. The wicked prosper. God’s people suffer. But the greatest woe came to the prophets because they observed God’s people sinning and enjoying it. Woe comes to the sinners as a natural outcome of their sin.

Romans 1 gives us a list of things that go wrong when people do not acknowledge God: their thinking becomes futile and their hearts are darkened; thinking they are wise, they become fools; and, God gives them over to the sinful desires of their hearts, to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. Sin brings woe to the sinners. This woe is the one that means a curse or condemnation. This woe comes from God.

Isaiah 5:20–24 gives us a concise explanation of why woe comes and why the world today is a world of woe. The prophet spoke words that apply to all ages when he said:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.

22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks,

23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent.

24 Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw and as dry grass sinks down in the flames, so their roots will decay and their flowers blow away like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord  Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.

After describing the world we live in, the prophet succinctly put the reason woe comes in these words, “they have rejected the law of the Lord Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.”

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