In a shocking development for many including me, Robinsons, Singapore’s oldest home grown department store, announced on 30th October 2020, that it would be closing its last two stores in the country. After more than 160 years in Singapore, the venerable brand that survived World War II and other crises fell victim to changing consumer buying patterns, online shopping, and COVID-19.
Permanence is seemingly elusive. In 2020, the harsh reality of impermanence has been even more stark, with an ongoing pandemic that has devastated livelihoods and lives, shattering the illusion that the ingenuity and industry of humans can build things that are enduring. James 4:13-14 admonishes us, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away”. This is reinforced in Hebrews 1:10-12 which reads, “And: ‘You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not fail'”.
However, the last sentence of Hebrews 1:12 offers hope that there is permanence after all. First, God is permanent. He “is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). This means that the God of the Bible is the very same God we worship today. This sameness means that in uncertain and fast-changing times, we can cling on to Him knowing that He is trustworthy and we are safe in His hands (Proverbs 29:25).
Second, God’s love and compassion are also permanent. Afflictions of various forms may come our way and God may seem distant. However, He is merciful, faithful and compassionate. God will, in His time, provide for us what we exactly need if we entrust ourselves to Him. Here, Isaiah 54:7-10 aptly illustrates this, “‘For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you’ … ‘For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has mercy on you”.
Next, God’s word is permanent, as Isaiah 40:8 poetically proclaims, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” In a society where values and preferences shift ever so often, and what was wrong in the past is now right, we take comfort in the knowledge that the Word of God endures forever. We have the assurance that His commandments, teachings and promises will never change. Jesus said in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away”.
Finally, God’s Kingdom is permanent. We may not see it yet, but it is waiting for us. Revelation 22:3-5 promises us that, “… there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever”. It will be a glorious place filled with light and God’s love, and there will be no more death, sorrow or pain (Revelation 23:4). And this will be a permanent arrangement.
By brother Dion Goh (YCKC Bulletin 7/8 Nov 2020)