Back to biblical times, we have the Book of Daniel depicting the period of the Babylonian Exile (sixth century B.C.) to provide comfort and inspiration to the Jews held in captivity under a tyrannical ruler.
Daniel and Revelation are known as apocalyptic writings, which means that they are designed to help people in all generations cope and survive difficult circumstances in the light of God’s final victory over the forces of sin, suffering and death, namely the establishment of the “Kingdom of God” that will never be destroyed.
The chaos that David wrote about was designed to describe the miserable times the Jews suffered while in captivity. The vision of the four wild beasts further expresses the power and might of all the opposing forces that the Jews encountered in exile.
Throughout dealing with the chaos of their captivity, however, Daniel never lost his focus on the eternal (not timely) biblical truth, that “the Lord God omnipotent reigns supreme forever over all the forces of evil,” or, in other words, that God is in charge, God knows what he is doing, and God always has our best interest in mind. God’s kingdom will be victorious in the end. If not, then the end has not come.
I believe that the Book of Daniel underscores another eternal biblical truth, which is particularly relevant to recall when we have to endure and finally survive chaotic times personally and corporately.
This basic truth was succinctly stated by Peter Gomes, a professor at Harvard Divinity School, when he was asked how he would define “the good news” of the Gospel: “You don’t have to be as you are.”
Life can change. We don’t have to stay trapped in a life that is going nowhere. We can choose to set ourselves on the road to a more productive life. We don’t have to remain captive to our fears and dreads. Such “good news” was surely on the minds of those Arabs in the Arab Spring. It was surely on the minds of those Jews in captivity. And it is certainly on the minds of many people who feel caught in oppressive circumstances.
Wow! Isn’t it exciting to realize that God’s redeeming grace and love in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, are designed to help people in all walks of life to have the chance to change by God’s grace and their hard work. The same God who heard the cries of the Jews still hears the cries of his people in oppressive circumstances. You don’t have to be as you are!
THE REV. GENE NORRIS IS A PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR IN AUGUSTA.