Good News in Dicey Times
Good News in Dicey Times
Last week in our community group, we were talking about what it is in life that makes us the most anxious. And we were almost unanimous with our answer: fear of the unknown.
What makes us the most anxious in life is uncertainty in life. Wondering if your paycheck can stretch all the way through the month. Dealing with a health issue, and wondering if you’ll ever get better. Watching people you love suffer, and wondering when it’ll happen to you. Dealing with rivals at work, and wondering if they might get you fired.
We just don’t like it when we don’t know what’s in front of us. I had a visceral experience of this a couple years ago, when our family was driving across Washington state. We were heading across the Snoqualmie Pass, and we got caught in a blizzard. Show was coming down so hard, you couldn’t see more than 30 feet in front of you. We had a plane to catch in Seattle, so we couldn’t stop. But I had never driven in the snow before, so I was freaking out. I slowed way down to 5 miles per hour.
Shockingly, all the other cars kept racing past us. They were still doing 60! I thought, “What are these people doing? They’re insane! They can’t see what’s in front of them – they could drive right off a cliff!” And then I realized, these people probably drive this freeway every day. They know exactly what’s in front of them. They’re not worried at all. I’ve never driven this road once, and I’m driving it blind. That’s why I was totally freaked out.
And that’s life. Going somewhere you don’t know, on a road you can’t see. Solomon said in Proverbs 27, “Don’t boast about tomorrow, for you don’t know what the next day might bring.” And we don’t like that. Not at all. We want to know what the next day will bring. We really don’t like uncertainty.
Well, the people of Israel felt the same way, a few hundred years before Christ. They had returned from exile in Babylon and rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem. They thought life was about to get back to normal. But then two empires rose up on their borders: an empire to the north, and an empire to the south. Israel was stuck right between them.
These two competing empires kept going to war against each other. Which meant they had to keep trampling across Israel to get to each other. Israel was stuck in a never-ending war that it didn’t start, and didn’t even want. God’s people were holding their breath the whole time, always wondering, “Who’s coming to invade us next?” It was an extremely dicey time.
Unless they were reading their Bibles. If they had their Bibles, they could just go to Daniel chapter 11, which was written a few hundred years before it all happened. The prophecy in Daniel predicted every attack, counterattack, peace treaty, and failed alliance over 350 years.
If God’s people were reading Daniel 11, they could see how the king of the North just invaded the empire of the South and left his daughter behind to be his representative, but that the plan didn’t work. So then they would know the empire of the North is going to invade the coastland. It was all mapped out for them. Hundreds of years of history in advance. They had something solid to go to in a time of uncertainty.
Maybe you say, “That’s nice, but it doesn’t help in my time of uncertainty. I don’t have a Daniel 11 written just for me. I don’t have God’s plan for my life, written down to the year and month like Israel did.”
Maybe not. But there is a plan for your life that’s written down somewhere in heaven. Solomon said in Proverbs 16, “A person’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.” The Lord has already determined your steps. There’s a Daniel 11 written just for you. You just don’t have access to it right now.
But you can rest in the knowledge that God has a plan, and he is pursuing your good through that plan, as Paul makes clear in Romans 8: “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” God’s plan is always for your good, even if it doesn’t always make sense at the time.
I’m sure God’s plan for Israel didn’t make a lot of sense to them at the time. It didn’t seem very good at the time for constant battles to be waged on their front lawns for 350 years. But through these competing empires, God established a common language across most of the world, Greek. He set the stage for the Roman Empire to build roads and bring peace across most of the world.
And all of that would make it possible for the good news of Jesus to race across the world in just a few decades. The gospel went all the way east to India, and all the way west to Spain in less than 50 years. God used uncertainty in the world to prepare the world for Jesus!
When life is dicey? Painful? Confusing and chaotic? It might seem like nothing good is happening. But God is using this time to accomplish something great in the future.