Many Christians look around at the social and political landscape with a deep anxiety towards what the future holds. Different issues cling to our psyche like pursuers we can’t gain distance from. Morality, liberty, church, money, the way in which we view these things is changing. What’s worse is we are often guilty of feeding that worry, of staying exposed to it, trapped in an echo chamber of our own making until we believe the sky is falling. It does us good to step back and remember who is in charge.
You have to wonder how terrifying the world seemed to young Daniel when Babylon marched the Israelites across Shinar into Babylonian slavery.
“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.” – Dan 1: 1-2
Israel, after prophetic warnings, had finally passed into judgement for not obeying God. Jeremiah chapter 34 explains how Israel did not practice their Sabbath days or years, and were to spend between 606BC and 536 BC as slaves to the Babylonian and Persian empire. It was exactly 70 years before Daniel and his countrymen were allowed to start rebuilding Jerusalem, the bulk of his life in fact. Permission was given by the Persians to rebuild the temple, but never again, until May of 1948, were the Jewish people not ruled over by others. They had lost their independence.
But what came from this slavery, this providential lowering of protection for Israel. First consider the precision of judgement. God’s people had abandoned the Sabbath year for precisely 490 years before enslavement. Every seventh year being a Sabbath year, meant the Israelites were being judged for disobedience in regards to exactly 70 of those years (490 / 7 = 70). The exact amount of years they were under captivity! Much too perfect to be coincidence, true historical data such as this continues to make the word of God unique, and remarkable. Precisely 70 years were paid back to God; and during those 70 years it was prophesied not only the empires to follow and continue to rule over the Israeli people, but also the 490 year prophecy pertaining to God’s plan for them. A precise starting point was given, and an exact time of the messiah was shared with Daniel, and in turn, with the world.
The bible was edified beyond comprehension through this tumult, proving to be prophetically accurate, highlighting God’s precise righteous judgement, and promising a time of grace and salvation, all within, and around, and in the midst of human debauchery. You see, it is within the framework of human behavior that this historical narrative plays out, and does so according to the sovereign will of God. What seems like abandonment, unfairness, tragedy, when examined from a historical perspective, falls in line perfectly with what God is doing. Make no mistake, grace and judgement are, and have always been, linked. We like to celebrate God’s love, but tend to deny deserving God’s judgement, and the sacrifice necessary to bestow undeserved grace. In Eden, sin was covered, and the animals shed blood to cover it; during the flood, Noah and his family were spared, the continuously evil world judged; at the exodus, Jews were shown grace, while Egypt was judged righteously; at the cross, the world was loved, while blood was shed. It has always been.
A true study of Daniel is mind-blowing, but the greatest lesson from its pages is the comfort of knowing who is in control, even when hardships fall. That trek across the Shinar valley, each step adding distance between each prisoner’s home and holy places, while the Babylonians defiled everything sacred, how could one be asked to trust in God. It must have seemed hopeless. But even then, we can look back at a perfect mosaic woven by God’s hand, and see a plan unfold that was implemented beyond our understanding, and outside of our time.
What does this mean for you? It means that God’s plan far exceeds your understanding, even your life, and furthermore, He does not owe you explanation before accomplishing His will. What He demands instead is trust. The kind of trust Daniel personified, despite circumstance, despite slavery, despite even death if need be. But this trust does not go unrewarded. In return for your trust, you receive that precious grace you don’t deserve, and it is stamped with the same assurances as the prophecies given to Daniel, which unfolded with supernatural accuracy.
So when we view the landscape of our times, do so with the wisdom that comes with hanging hope on the promises of God. He has asked for your trust, and has bought you with His own blood. For consideration:
When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm. – Psalms 75:3
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6
Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. – Psalms 46:10
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. – Proverbs 3:5
(Jesus) Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. – John 14:27