“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” Hebrews 1:1-2a
On Aug. 15, 1945 a “god” spoke. When Emperor Hirohito of Japan directly addressed his subjects for the very first time, life came to a temporary standstill around the world. Hirohito’s announcement of Japan’s unconditional surrender not only ended a war and brought peace, it ended the myth that the emperor of Japan was divine. He spoke and the world changed.
Because of this historical event, much changed in Japan as well. A new constitution was adopted and war was renounced. Democratic ideas took root in Japan and the emperor was reduced to a figurehead. Japanese industries flourished and a new middle class rapidly emerged, resulting in a booming economy. The phrase “Made in Japan” stamped on manufactured goods was no longer derided as symbol of cheapness or inferiority, but esteemed as a mark of quality and success. Expensive vacations, quality education, designer clothes and the latest electronic gadgets could be purchased by the masses and it seemed the lone threat to a peaceful, prosperous society was the legendary Godzilla!
Certainly much changed after the emperor spoke, but in some regards nothing changed. The gods of war had only been replaced by the gods of materialism. At the same time, the traditional gods of Japan were still venerated through worship at Shinto god shelves or Buddhist altars in homes throughout the country. Japanese still made periodic pilgrimages to the local shrines or temples for various life events and relied on good luck charms for success and protection. An occasional church could be found in obscure corners of Japan, but temples and shrines remained the symbol of the country and retain a strong grip on Japanese hearts. Everything has changed and yet nothing has changed.
However, according to the Book of Genesis, everything changed when the God of the Universe spoke and the world as we know it came into being. The sun, moon, stars, oceans, dry land, vegetation, life and mankind itself were created by the mere voice and directive of God. But God didn’t stop there. He continued to speak to the hearts of men, as the author of Hebrews explains, calling them to repentance and into a relationship with Himself. This God who speaks ultimately provided eternal reconciliation to mankind, not through superior weapons of war and powerful armies, but through the death of His Son. This ultimate act of love and sacrifice brought eternal change to the world. Through the cross, God offered peace, not just between men, but more importantly, between God and man. The Living God has spoken, and hopefully, people in Japan and around the world will listen.