27 November – 3 December 2016.
What a shocking year we have been through. In 2016 we have seen government supported killings on the streets of the Philippines; we have watched the UK break apart and surrender to hatred in the Brexit vote; we have seen a violent grasp for power in Turkey; we have looked on as Australia invented new and terrible ways to oppress and imprison refugees; we have seen the rise of a politics of hatred, fear, and racism in so many countries around the world; and we have watched the rise to power of Donald Trump. In the background, the wars in the middle east continue to rage, violence continues to spread across Africa, and we watch helplessly as thousands of people are injured and killed every day. What’s going on with the world? How can things go on like this?
In the second century before Christ, many Jews wondered the same thing. In despair, they watched as foreign empires fought against each other and rose to rule the region. The Jews were a small group of people and the world around them was frightening, filled with conflicts and tensions, filled with chaos and disaster. In the middle of all this, was it possible to stay true to their faith? Was it possible to stay loyal to God, or to keep hoping in the power of God to set things right? Everything looked so hopeless.
In the middle of that chaos, the Jews comforted themselves with stories about Daniel, and about how he had held to his faith even in exile, even in times of danger and despair under the rule of foreign empires.
In this second half of the book of Daniel, from chapters 7–12, the writers comfort the people by offering a valuable history lesson. They describe 500 years of history, from the 7th century to the 2nd century BC, showing how many nations and empires had risen to power only to collapse and disappear again. The message behind this history lesson is clear: Even when wars come and foreign powers rise, even when the world seems to be collapsing into chaos around us, hold onto faith in God and trust in him, because God is the Lord over history, and God won’t abandon us even in these dark days.
Kings, nations, and empires rise, rulers do all kinds of evil – but in the end they all must pass away and disappear. Only God is eternal. So in the big picture of God’s rule over history, even the chaos of 2016 will end and pass away.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis