God reigns! We believe it, might say it, and perhaps even sing it. Yet we probably miss some of the implications. As God’s reign invades His created world He creates disturbance and delight for the nations, for all peoples, and especially for those becoming His subjects! His ruling power seems obvious when circumstances favor us: cancer gone; new job offer; injury-free collision, medical tests negative. However, when sin and the consequences wreak havoc and flood our life with pain and despair, the mighty hand of God fades from view. God seems hard, life bitter!
In 6th century BC God delivered His people (the Jews) into the hands of the evil cruel Babylonians, who destroyed their homeland and turned Israel’s good life into slavery and poverty. To survive, they worked for Babylonians and served in other kings’ courts. They endured ‘re-education’ and ‘cultural assimilation’ aimed to eradicate Israel’s faith, history, and way of life. The Babylonians flaunted their victory and superiority. Yet, according to the Book of Daniel, God gave these experiences to Israel. Once enslaved, God favored them and taught them to follow King Yahweh as they lived an unfamiliar and uncomfortable life. Some Jews thrived in dependence on God’s mighty power.
Despite the misery of Babylonian rule, many Israelites prospered materially. Jobs, good harvests, and new family members enriched their new life. The prophet Jeremiah encouraged the Jews to build homes, plant vineyards, and work for the good of the Babylonian community they lived in. Many Israelites adapted well and experienced joy. However, God’s instructions also included the resolve to remember King Yahweh and not let God-blessed earthly comforts weaken their resolve to live God’s ways in their temporary home.
Life in 2015 resembles 6th century B.C. Followers of Christ face cruel governments and persecution in today’s world. People live with the painful scars of abuse and addictions. Marriages crumble, families implode, jobs end, and death touches all. These realities, expressions of God’s rule, boil beneath the surface of our life despite experiences of prosperity and ease. We might fill our life with trivial pursuits and empty glory, yet we never escape the realities of evil.
We face a similar choice as 6th century Israelites: namely to follow King Jesus and embrace His rule in all things. For some this involves the fight to trust God in final days or with broken dreams. For others, life with King Jesus requires stronger resolve to pursue forgiveness over bitterness, purity over lust, service over self-absorption. For all, life in God’s kingdom results from faith in Jesus who lived the perfect life we need, and then died the death we deserve. By faith, we continually reorient our life, however long or whatever our particulars, around God’s mission of treasuring and spreading the love and hope of Jesus. The book of Daniel, full of stories and dreams, points us to Jesus and offers hope for how we embrace life under God’s reign. God’s aim in this book: that we pursue God’s reign in all things! Join us on Sunday mornings as we encourage one another to pursue and enjoy Life in God’s Kingdom.
Pastor Jim Lee