We love countdowns. Before church service starts, we have a countdown. Every sporting event has a countdown. Part of its attraction is the pressure. It moves us.
Another attraction of a countdown is finitude. We know there is an end, even if our team is losing (or maybe especially). It will end.
As we read Daniel, it’s often about the visions and their exact meanings. They are visions. Sometimes I trust interpreters of visions about as much as I trust an interpreter of dreams. After a few psychology sections on dreams, I realized that what people determined the meaning of certain objects would not connect with me. So, when it comes to the greater vision of God and God’s vast perspective, we should be cautious in our interpretation.
In this passage, what struck me was not the vision, or that it would be sealed, but the time. Happy are those who make it to 1,335 days. The bad stuff timeline is 1,290 days. The difference from misery to happiness is 45 days. For comparison, that 1,290 days is more than a quarter gone since the beginning of the COVID era (not that the vision and COVID are comparable or related.
The vision doesn’t state that the 45 days will be easier than the 1,290 before it. It could be inferred that the 45 days will actually be worse. Can you imagine counting down those 45 days, and knowing that you would be happy?
It would be similar to the climax mentioned by Paul in Ephesians. It would be that moment when all, for no matter how long or short, would be well.
This countdown mentality, however, can also be the greatest detriment to our joy. If we are so focused on “that” will make me happy, we miss so much of what God has already graced us with. As Paul told the Ephesians, we have the down payment (the Holy Spirit) of our inheritance, why are we looking for more, right now?
Should we not be using what we have to make a difference now, rather than effectively burying our inheritance in the ground where it does not even gain interest? We are often told to be patient, though perhaps it is the results that we are to be patient with, not with what gets us there.
In a place I used to live, hay was grown. When growing hay (and many crops) time is of the essence, and sometimes just timing. Certain farmers planted their hay just a week earlier than others. More often than not, they could get 4 cuts (i.e., 4 harvests), while those (their neighbor) who planted a week later got 3. It was all based on temperature and rain. The third cut was usually the cut that you went financially from red to black. The fourth cut was profit.
Other crops have a different problem. Once the crop starts to ripen, you have 2-3 days to get all the fields done. Some of these farms were really large. I watched the equipment still working in the dark as the harvest continued for 24 hours a day for 3 days.
Sometimes you have to wait at the beginning. Sometimes you have to wait at the end. We just cannot assume that all waiting is the same or always appropriate.
- What can you think of that you waited too long before acting?
- What can you think of that you acted too quickly instead of waiting?
- What is your process to determine when to act and when to wait? How is God part of that? How is wise council part of that? When do you listen to those outside your comfortable circle?
Holy Spirit, guide us when to wait and when to act. Soften our hearts and open our ears so that we will listen to you. Amen.