Economic history has to be the most boring subject imaginable, at least as I encountered it. To complete my essays I would lock myself in to the college library and even then, such was the level of boredom I would leaf through back copies of the college magazine to reveal the tedium.
It was the edition for 1939 which caught my attention. There staring out at me in black and white were the fun-loving participants of that June’s May Ball – without, it seemed, a care in the world. Did they realize – I pondered – that their world, the whole world, was about to be convulsed through events taking place in central Europe?
I wonder if we are in a similar situation today.
Since our holiday in Greece all those months ago in May I have been closely following (Jacqui would say obsessed) the unfolding debacle of the Eurozone crisis. And now, it seems, the End is Nigh. The unimaginable is about to happen.
This is, in fact, the view of this morning’s Economist magazine, which has had a good track record to date. “Is this really the end?” asks the front cover. “Even as the euro zone hurtles towards a crash, most people are assuming that, in the end, European leaders will do whatever it takes to save the single currency. That is because the consequence of the euro’s destruction are so catastrophic that no sensible policymaker could stand by and let it happen.” The leader writer continues (he or she certainly knows their Bible): “Yet the threat of a disaster does not always stop it from happening.”
The prophet Jeremiah was in a similar situation in pre-war Jerusalem in 588 BC. Even though disaster in the shape of Babylonian ambition loomed, the people of Judah seemed strangely unaware. Singing Psalm 46 (to name but one passage from the Hebrew scriptures) they blithely assumed that God would save Jerusalem come-what-may.
It took the lone voice of a few prophets, such as Jeremiah and Habakkuk, to say that the covenant with God was two way, they had responsibilities to God as well has he had to them. The people of God couldn’t live lives ignoring God while counting on his protection. Jerusalem was not too big to fail. Even so God would stay with his people, even into catastrophic exile.
So where does this leave us today? Well, no one really knows – except there is going to be a lot of suffering. Whatever, the German taxpayer will take a huge hit and very many people, especially the poor but not just the poor, will face destitution. How it will impact us here, who knows?
Jeremiah was preparing not just his people for testing times, he was preparing himself. “But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7)
So hold on, folks; above all, hold on to God’s promises. And pray for those politicians who are doing their best to face down this crisis. It will need acts of extraordinary courage: they need our support.