Lent 6 – Daniel 11:29-39
I just finished reading a book that talks about rebuilding society essentially from the ground up.
Rebuilding from what you might ask?
Rebuilding from nearly a century absent a Christian worldview; rebuilding from a half century of a worldview lacking any morals; rebuilding from a quarter century of the continuing deterioration of the basic understanding of life and marriage; rebuilding from whatever gross exploits the world has done in the last half hour.
Sounds like a daunting task does it not? And indeed it is. How likely is it we can turn this thing around? Well some are more hopeful than others; although the book I have just started reading paints a far more pessimistic picture that may in fact be far more realistic.
It is easy to say that we are overlooking a pit of devastation that the world has never before seen. And indeed, the fields that lay before us, littered with empty churches and broken homes and an absence of all that is good and right does indeed classify as a disaster.
But it has in fact happened before; and the people who saw their own fields of devastation and desolation felt as we now feel.
It is foretold for us this evening in Daniel, though the Book of Maccabees in the Apocrypha actually has the fuller account.
A foreign ruler sacks Jerusalem, goes into the temple, and sacrifices a pig on the altar.
What a dreadful sight. We speak of persecution today, and we bemoan the godless leaders that rule over us, and yet, how many come into the churches that still dot the landscape and desecrate them in such a way?
The answer to date, is zero.
And yet, what Daniel prophecies does happen. And the people of Jerusalem look at the temple, they look at the mess, and many are tempted to give up hope, and walk away.
That is our outlook on the world today, to give up and to walk away. To live as hermits in the mountains; to abandon the world and let the evil hordes run it over as they wish; perhaps even to forsake the Lord Himself, and join the masses that desecrate His name, for if no evil happens to them for desecrating the Lord’s altar, why should anything happen to you?
How many have adopted such an approach? No thunder and lightning for changing God’s Word, so it must be ok? No hellfire and brimstone for leaving out a portion of the Scriptures, so it must be ok? No being swallowed up by the earth for adding your own word to supplement God’s Word, so it must be ok?
That is the way of the world, is it not? If nothing bad happens, than it must be ok. The foreign king was not smote, so why not join him? The pagans around us are not reprimanded, so why bother?
And yet, that is not what actually happens in our text.
The pig is sacrificed and the temple desecrated, but the people of God do not give up. Rather, they mount an uprising and cast out those who would seek to destroy the Lord’s temple. And not only do they cleanse the temple, they go about rebuilding what had been torn down; not just the bricks and mortar aspect, but the hearts and minds. They launch a reformation of sorts in Israel, calling people back to the way of the Lord.
Such is the example before us. We see a world that has chased after the ways of sin, death and the devil and seemingly left no desire for the Lord and His Word.
But a remnant remains. It remains here, in the Lord’s house, where His people still gather to pray, praise and give thanks as they gladly hear and learn the very word the Lord has given.
That is the guidance given in the books read, and in our texts this evening: rebuild society. Yes, by electing leaders and passing laws and the like; but more importantly, one home at a time, one family at a time gathering to pray and hear God’s Word each and every day in worship and devotions. Rebuilding one school at a time, one community at a time, one county at a time; slowly and steadily putting society back together again.
Trusting not in our own works for gain, but instead trusting in the one who has already redeemed the world from the depths and depravity of sin. For Christ Jesus came into a world that was tarnished by far more then poor legislation and incompetent officials, or even by the Lord’s temple being desecrated by a pagan ruler.
Christ Jesus came into a world infested with sin; and it was not just in one corner of the world, or in one population of the world; it was in all the world, even in the hearts of those who believe.
Sin is a problem no program or leader could solve; it can only be dealt with by His holy and innocent suffering and death, by which He has redeemed the world from that sin. Christ Jesus restored the bridge between heaven and earth, between God and His creation, erasing the fields of desolation that separated us, by His own suffering and death.
That is the message of hope we cling to, no matter how far and deep society plunges from the Lord’s Word. The Lord still calls out to His people; still reaches out to those sitting in darkness; still extends His gifts to His people. Even when society crumbles, even when people are evil, even when you think you are the only faithful one left.
The Lord is faithful, now and always.