Keep sweeping!

by Gardner Hall

About 1831, Sydney Smith told the story of an old woman by the name of Mrs. Partington who was observed outside her house by the sea trying desperately to hold back the encroaching ocean tide by sweeping at it with a broom. The story became a popular illustration of someone who is trying to hold back the inevitable with a mere broom.

When thinking of that story I think of Old Testament prophets trying to sweep back the tide of idolatry that was flooding Israel and Judah: Jeremiah with his tears, Zephaniah with his fiery missives, and Hosea with his tragic marriage. It may have all seemed to be in vain as Israel and Judah kept sliding inexorably into full-blown idolatry. It wasn’t in vain, however. In trying to hold back the sea with a broom, the prophets were following the Lord’s leading. He wanted them to “keep sweeping” until the bitter end of those cultures.

Today the sea of worldliness and idolatry is encroaching upon God’s people. Many praise movies that are full of vulgarity. Political entanglement dominates the thoughts of many. Pictures of disciples in skimpy clothing fill social media and scorn is heaped upon any who would dare put a sad emoji by them. (I don’t recommend doing that!) Scripture is “restudied” with a predetermined outcome to justify compromises with new philosophies that are popular in the world.

Sometimes it seems that the voices of protest against the onrushing sea are gradually fading away. It is true that many have passed into eternity and others are close to making that journey. Others are bullied or intimidated into silence. However, I believe the Lord wants us to be like the old woman trying to hold back the sea with the broom. More specifically, he wants us to imitate his prophets of old, carrying on until he destroys our culture or returns to take his saints home. In other words, he wants us to keep sweeping! Don’t give up!

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