Summary: Memorial Day 1986: God is at work in history. He restrains evil and, in Christ, He absorbs evil into Himself and provides complete redemption.
All during this month, as we have thought together about the work of the Holy Spirit, we have been in familiar territory. It wasn't hard to think about the Holy Spirit in the heart, speaking to me, leading you, dealing with each one of us as individuals. That we know about, that's familiar territory.
And when we looked at the way the Spirit takes His place in our homes, in our marriages, and in our families, that too must have sounded familiar. Every one of us can identify with the idea that the Spirit of the Living God crosses the threshold of our homes, that he crowns our marriages with his presence, that he empowers us to love and to care for one another in families. This too is familiar territory.
And then last week we considered together what the Spirit does for the church, we spoke of the gifts the spirit provides for the people of God, and again we were comfortable with that idea. Again we were on familiar territory, because, I would guess, each one of us hopes, each one of us wants to believe that the Holy Spirit is active in the life of this church and, indeed, in the life of the whole Christian church. Familiar territory.
But today, unless I miss my guess, we are getting into some uncharted lands for many of us. Terra incognita, as the old maps used to say, unfamiliar territory, because today I want us to expand our concentric circles to their farthest extent. I want us to stretch our thinking and to imagine what the Holy Spirit is doing in the world. In the whole created order. In the whole web of institutions and systems, of organizations and governments, of movements and trends and activities that make up our world. The Holy Spirit in the world – ever thought of that? Is the Holy Spirit somehow active on the grand scale? Is He involved in the affairs of men and nations?
I can imagine the Holy Spirit speaking to me in my heart, yes. But does He speak to the very soul of a nation?
I have heard the Holy Spirit addressing my home, my family, yes. But does he address all humanity in some way?
I know the Holy Spirit is working toward some overarching purposes in the church, I can even measure what the Spirit is doing in the household of faith. But does the world, the world of evil as well as of good, the world of military might and economic power and social change, does that world yield at all to the leadership of the Holy Spirit?
Well, I guess it should be evident by now that I believe that, yes, the Holy Spirit is active in the world at large, the world outside the church, the world of systems and structures. If I didn't believe that, more importantly, if I didn't find that in the Bible, there would hardly be any sermon to preach, would there? And you know full well you have not sat there for the customary 18 to 20 minutes yet, have you? Why, some of you are still awake – sermon cannot be over yet.
The Bible does teach that God is lord of history; the Scriptures do focus on a God who not only sees the inner side of the human heart, but who also sees what we are when we begin to live out our lives as nations and as part of the stream of human history. The Bible teaches, in fact, that God is working out his purposes not only in persons, and not only in the church, but that God is working out his purposes all across the globe and in all sorts of ways. There is the Lord of the Exodus, for example, who reaches down and deals with the Pharaoh of Egypt and who creates for himself a people called Israel.
Or there is the Lord of Israel's armies, seeming to struggle alongside his people against the enemies that stood in their way. Or again the Lord of the Exile, who permitted his people to be stricken down and carried away to Babylon, but then reached out and touched one Cyrus, a Persian king who was by no means a faithful follower of God, an infidel, an outlander, a nonbeliever. But the prophet Isaiah insists that God reached out and tapped Cyrus of Persia and anointed him, chose him, so that the purposes of Almighty God among men and nations might go forth.
Do you see what I am saying? Our God is a mighty God. Our God is one who is the creator of all things, all things and all humanity, whether they recognize him or not. And he is involved, involved in the world, in order to achieve his purposes.