“His successor will send out a tax collector to maintain the royal splendor. In a few years, however, he will be destroyed, yet not in anger or in battle.” (Daniel 11:20)
Why is it that the weekend flies by, but the work week takes forever? Why do we find sitting through a lecture painful, but watching a movie easy? Why does vacation come and go when our daily commute takes so long?
Unless someone has mastered time travel (if so, please let me know) then all of these things can be explained by one simple word: perception.
Perception is that finicky thing that changes our reality. It makes us believe something has happened when it hasn’t. It makes us hot when we should be cold, and cold when we should be hot (this is why you say “boy it’s hot” when it’s 50 degrees outside in February, but not when it’s 50 in August).
Perception can be a major obstacle to our faith.
Perception may tell us that we can never change, that nothing good will ever happen, and we will be stuck “here” forever.
We are most vulnerable to these tricks when we are suffering. We somehow know that “all good things must come to an end” and “it’s too good to last”. We even have clichés devoted to them. But when it comes to pain and suffering we often forget that those things don’t last either.
This was true in Israel’s case.
After centuries of not listening to God, Israel finally found themselves overwhelmed by a powerful enemy (Babylon). As part of their punishment for losing the war, many of their most highly educated men were taken captive to become slaves (this is what happened to Daniel). While most of the women and children were just outright murdered.
Many Jews simply couldn’t believe this was happening. They were God’s chosen people. They had been set free from captivity already. How could they be going back?! They never really thought God would let something like this happen to them. Although if they had paid attention to prophets like Jeremiah, they would have figured it out.
But nothing lasts forever. At least not in this world.
And I think God was reminding them of this. In the story of Daniel, God simply slipped two sentences into the conversation. Gently saying, “you will see tax collectors gathering money for a powerful kingdom, but even in the midst of that, their country will fall apart.”
Not even captivity lasts forever.
That was a lesson that the Jews needed to remember. Because they were going to spend a long, long time in captivity. They had to know that there was hope. They had to remember who to hope in. Those were things they had forgotten.
Bad things don’t last forever. Maybe we need to remember that from time to time.