Perplexed, and in despair.
Perplexed, but not in despair.
That, in short, is the way the lines are being drawn as they mark the difference between the people that have their own god and the people that know the true God. The pressure of the times, with all the anxiety and the fear which follows, the dizzying pace of amazing events, the threats of more horrible and amazing things have brought perplexity upon all of us. How could we escape being perplexed? No matter how sanely we may think on the matters and however cautiously we may feel our way toward conclusions, we become perplexed. This world’s history must and shall lead to perplexity of the nations. For the sea and the waves are roaring and men’s’ hearts are failing them for fear and looking after the things that are coming upon the earth. Each new day brings fresh tidings of horror, with rumors of still greater horrors that shall follow.
Faith and unbelief; God and Mammon; assurance and doubting draw their lines close.
And while unbelief, Mammon and doubtings drag their followers through perplexity to hurl them into despair, those who believe in God and stand in the assurance of faith, shall be perplexed but shall not be in despair.
The word, perplexity, both in the Hebrew and the Greek, signifies a rapid turning around, turning now one way then the other. With the implied meaning, of course, that such an one is constantly turning around because he knows not which way he shall proceed. In Luke 24:4 we read that the women came to the tomb and found everything there so vastly different than what they had expected and we read that they were perplexed, that is, they knew not what conclusions to draw neither what to do next. In Gal. 4:20 the word occurs when Paul wants to express his surprise at the conclusions and the conduct of the Galatians and asserts that he is at a loss to know what procedure to follow in their case. In Esther 3:15 we read that the city of Shushan was perplexed at the fatal decree prompted by the wicked Haman, and here perplexity again signifies that the inhabitants of the city were bewildered and knew not which way to turn nor what to do. In Joel 1:18 we read that the herds of cattle were perplexed, that is, the drought-stricken and terrified animals hopelessly dragged themselves from one way to another seeking water and grass.
In all these passages it is evident that being perplexed means that one is at a loss to know which way to turn next. As long as there is pressure from three sides, there is a way of escape and one need not be perplexed, but comes pressure from four sides, which way shall one turn then? That is perplexity.
In Luke 21:25 the word perplexity occurs again, and this time it emphasizes that the nations of the earth shall experience that perplexity. Jesus says that with (or in, during) the distress of the nations there shall come great bewilderment. There shall not only be distress and pressure, but men’s’ hearts shall fail because they know not which way to turn. They go one way, attempt one procedure, apply one method. . . it fails; they turn back and try a new and apparently better method, but that also fails; every attempt fails. Boasts of optimism make way for anxiety and fear, confusion develops into stark perplexity.
That bewilderment and perplexity confines itself not to one people or country but reaches out its tentacles but as well the offensive nations; not only the conquered, but also the conquering; not only the belligerent, but also the non-belligerent nations. To solve the problem of over-population and the have-not complex nations have leaped at each other’s’ throats and arrayed their armies, but that is no solution, for on the battle-field both sides go down to defeat, only to find themselves in still greater perplexity. To solve the depression problems men have thought to spend their way to prosperity, but that only resulted in a staggering national debt with more perplexity as to how to cope with this added difficulty. Nations, long dedicated to a democratic form of government and dreading totalitarianism, have actually sought their safety in that very form of government they so dreaded, and the perplexities have multiplied themselves.
They know not which way to turn.
For the vials of God’s wrath are emptying themselves upon the earth. God has a righteous controversy with the peoples. They have forsaken His covenant, they have thrown down His altars and have slain His prophets. Elijah has appeared. Three and one-half years there shall be no rain, there shall be judgment and perplexity. The Lord, He is God and He has summoned the earth’s peoples into His court. They have said there is no God which is the Lord, so they have lived and so they have walked. But, the Lord, He is God and they shall know it.
Perplexity, for the kingdoms of this world approach their end and the nearer the end approaches the narrower becomes the places left them to stand.
But, withal, these things are but the beginning.
And the Church passes through these circumstances also. The Church is bound to the earth’s peoples with thousand bonds and ties, of flesh, of blood, of nationality and government. She stands, dwells and functions in the midst of perplexed nations. They turn to her for counsel and advice, but generally it is ordered by prescription. The Gospel she preaches is no panacea for this world’s ills. Her own Gospel, as it becomes true in the events of history, tends to terrify her somewhat; her prayer, “The Kingdom come” has a shocking answer for by terrible things in righteousness God answers Zion’s prayer.
Perplexed, yes, but not in despair, perplexed but not hopeless, amazed but not fearful. Unbelief ends in hopeless despair, but faith cannot despair.
Amidst it all the Church must meet perplexity with faith. Look up, lift up yours heads, the solution to all your problems is drawn in a straight line from Calvary to the Parousia, your redemption is in the offing. The distinct roaring and pounding of the waves is evidence that the shore is nearby. The Church holds the solution to all the problems, for she has the Word of God. And the solution of all things is the final and full realization of God’s Covenant in the new heaven and new earth.
Her Gospel to God’s people is a Gospel of the solution, but of the solution in hope. She is saved by hope, she preaches the sure hope of her sure faith. When her children, weary with the perplexities of the world which they daily face, turn to her, they must hear from her the note of safety, peace and of solution by hope. The Church must summon her children out of Babylon for there is all manner of confusion and despair, it is night in Edom, but here, in the Church with God’s Word, here is hope and peace and eternal life. The Church must summon her children in this patience to possess their souls, must warn them against taking the mark of the beast as a possible solution, and admonish them to dwell in safety alone.
Perplexity and despair. . . . that is the portion of them that are without God and without hope in the world.
Perplexity, but not despair. . . . that is the mystery of sovereign grace.