In the countryside near Leicester, England, there stands an ancient church whose walls are inscribed with an eloquent memorial. The inscription recalls the life of a man who made the laying of that church's enduring stones possible long ago, and it reads as follows:
In the year 1653, when all things sacred were throughout ye nation either demolished or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley, Baronet, did found this church: Whose singular praise it is to have done the best of things in the worst of times, and hoped them in the most calamitous.
(Ralph C. Wood, Contending for the Faith, Baylor University Press, 2003, p. 213)
I don't know about you, but it strikes me that we too are now living in calamitous times. Unless you've got a much wiser investment advisor than I have, you're seeing your assets demolished. You've watched too many of the business, political, and even religious institutions of our day profaned by greed and arrogance. You're aware that an increasing number of people are losing their jobs, their homes, even their hope. If it isn't the worst of times, it sometimes seems to be heading that way. So, what does it look like to be a people who do the best of things in such a time as this?
We can learn from how the Israelites faced a calamitous time.
To get at an answer to that question, we go back to a time in history when another people group was facing difficult days. You may recall that when Cyrus the Great overthrew the Babylonian Empire in 539BC, he and subsequent kings of the new Medo-Persian dynasty released the Jewish people from their 50-year exile in Babylon. In a succession of waves, the Hebrews now return to Palestine, only to find their beloved country in ruins. The physical infrastructure has crumbled. ...
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