They Did Not Repent
Rev. 9:20 ¶ The rest of humankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands or give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk.
Rev. 9:21 And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their fornication or their thefts.
Throughout history people have believed that the author of these scriptures was writing about them and their time-period. Historically commentators and writers such as Clarke and Wesley have already placed these scriptures within a particular time context. For them the rise of the Turkish Empire and the fall of much of the Christian East to the Muslim world was the sign that these things had come to pass. Now, in our day, we read these scriptures again and we apply them to our lives. There are timeless truths in these scriptures which apply to each and every generation. Every generation has an opportunity to turn from their wicked ways and to follow after Jesus Christ and at nearly ever turn we encounter those who will not repent.
The understanding of the terms within these verses has changed through the centuries but again can have a timeless meaning. What was it that kept these people from repenting? The activities in which they were engaged were more important to them than worshipping God. They were enthralled with the lives of those who had gone before and wanted to follow in their footsteps, therefore, in a way, worshipping the demons of past. Man has always had hand-made idols, and while we may not be carving them into statues to worship, we may be worshipping them none the less.
How many ads are there on television today for gold? Fear the government and put your trust in gold. Buy gold now -- the real thing. Put some gold bouillon in your safe at home! If you can't afford gold, try silver. You can trust gold and silver to get you through any kind of a financial crisis! Really? What are bronze, stone and wood going to do for us? Maybe they are used in the construction of our homes or buildings where we work. Can we put our trust in the things that we own? As the author says, these cannot see or hear or walk! Why is that significant? Because our God is a relational God! Our God tells us that the greatest commands are to love him and to love our neighbor. We have the joy of trusting in a relational God who pours out his love to us. Gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood are simply items which he created and cannot be in a relationship with us. And yet we put our trust in them.
The final verse here is quite profound because again it is timeless. They did not repent of their murders, their sorceries or their fornication, or their thefts. To look at the original Greek words here the root of murder is to slaughter, of sorceries is pharmakeia, and fornication is porneia. Could we translate this to say that we are unwilling to repent of legalized slaughter, of our addiction to drugs and pornography?! Wow, that could certainly sound like a description of the world today. And they did not repent.
Unfortunately many of us do not want to repent of the things which have crept into the world and into the private lives of many individuals. Instead, we want to legalize them and rationalize them away. In most of the world abortion is used as a form of birth control. In the US it is most common when women find themselves in uncommitted relationships -- when they are simply living with a man. There is no commitment on the part of either individual to raise a child. Therefore there is no commitment to the consequences of the relationship. We want the freedom to have a casual relationship but we want none of the responsibility which may go with that relationship. The number one cause for children living in poverty in America today is single-parent homes. We have put our seal of approval on a society where no one has to take responsibility and we all have the freedom to live as we choose without consequences. If we feel no consequences, then we certainly do not feel as if we have to repent either.
The use of drugs has a significant impact on the part of the country in which I live. The loss of jobs and the consequent depression of entire communities has led people into a lifestyle of drug use. Within the last few years oil and natural gas have been rediscovered here in Ohio because fracking makes the release of these natural resources a possibility. The oil companies have moved in and the communities were excited about the possibility of jobs coming to their areas. Today you hear nothing but complaints about the oil companies and that they are only bringing in their own people to work in the oil fields. It is true that in some parts of East Ohio you can hardly find a motel room and that the big pick-up trucks have out of state plates. But why is this? The oil companies did intend to hire local workers but when they began to do the pre-hiring drug-screenings such a high percentage came back positive for drugs they decided they would have to look elsewhere. The sheer cost of screening so many non-hirable individuals has driven the oil companies to change their tactics. So now the locals complain that others are coming in and doing the jobs on the oil-fields and they can't get hired. Of course the complaint is about the oil companies, but what about taking responsibility for the drug use and abuse. At what point does it stop? And they did not repent.
The final word that jumped out at me is usually written fornication in English but the root is porneia. Oh my! Since the internet pornography has literally become a cancer in society. It used to be that "dirty old men" had to go to the "Adult Book Store" in the past but now they can sit in the privacy of their own home and have access to anything that they want…and the destructive force of pornography is being seen in the destruction of marriages and relationships. Sadly this issue has touched many a home, including those who are in the ministry. When one begins to engage in pornography -- one begins to commit adultery against their spouse. Jesus said that if a man looked at a woman with lust in his heart he had committed adultery. What do you think is happening by watching porn? But society is trying to make it more normal and acceptable. Jokes are made on television about how "every guy does it!" Do they? And they did not repent.
Why is there such little repentance these days? I believe it is because the world, and also the church, have bought into the idea that many of these behaviors are normal and acceptable. When we place our seal of approval on these types of behaviors, then there is no need to repent. At the same time I think the church needs to examine herself and how she ministers to a world in which these types of behaviors have become acceptable. Standing on a street corner and yelling condemnation on the world will not result in people repenting. Instead, we need to go back to what the author talked about in terms of God. Our God can see, walk and talk. Our God is relational. We are to be a reflection of our God to the world. We are to see the needs around us, and then we are to walk into the world rubbing shoulders with these people who are in need. In the time of Christ he did not stand on the street corners condemning people -- instead he went out and had dinner with them. He loved them and he gently showed them the right path on which to walk, not out of condemnation but out of love. But he provided a way for them to go. What do we have to offer the world? Do we have a solution? We cannot condemn if we offer no way out! The church must speak into the very issues of this world and provide positive solutions and directions for peoples' lives. And then our hope will be that they will repent.
Lord, I am a bit overwhelmed by your word today. Please, help me to know how to minister in this world. Amen.