When I was fourteen, I fancied myself an actress. To prepare for my future in the theatre I attended every play I could. But I grew up in rural Michigan, so the plays I could attend were mostly just other school productions.
One especially unfortunate night I sat through a ragged performance of “The Pajama Game.” After two acts of awkward silences, off-key solos, and one actor with a very inappropriate interpretation of Factory Worker #2, the lights came up and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I could cross this musical off my list and go home!
But no one else left. There was more musical to go. So very much more. I had to sit in that hot gymnasium on hard bleachers and subject myself to another painful hour of bleating song and dance.
Have you ever thought something terrible was almost over, but it was only just beginning? It’s such a sinking feeling.
This is just what happened to Israel. Daniel and the Israelites were in exile in Babylon, but as Daniel read through the history of Jeremiah he found this great part: “When 70 years for Babylon are complete, I will attend to you and will confirm My promise concerning you to restore you to this place” (Jeremiah 29:10). Daniel did some quick math: YES! The seventy years are almost over! Our exile is coming to an end! We get to go home! Huzzah!
But then Daniel did a little looking around and thinking. What was the purpose of this exile? Why did God let Babylon capture us?
It’s the same old reason, isn’t it? The same thing that got them into trouble last time, the same thing that gets us into trouble— grimy, sinful hearts.
The purpose of the exile was for God’s people to get their act together—to repent, pray, and confess— only, they weren’t doing that. On the whole, Israel was still in the same rut that got them sent into exile in the beginning. But the seventy years were almost over! What if they hadn’t learned their lesson yet?
They had not. The lesson of repentance is one we are still learning to this day. But Daniel was convicted by God’s Word, so he prayed, confessed, and interceded for God’s people. That is exactly what should happen when we read God’s Word! The Bible redirects us to truth and drives us to prayer.
Let this be our response every time we read God’s word: pray.
God heard Daniel’s prayer and He answered with a promise: I will restore Israel in my perfect time. Seven is the number of fulfillment and completion. God was preparing the way for both the judgment of the wicked and also the coming salvation—Jesus!
Our God is always at work in all of time, space, and history. When it seems to us that the timing is wrong, or something is taking too long—like that horrible musical, or an exile in Babylon, or a hard relationship, or a lingering sickness—remember: God is always at work and His timing is right.
Our impatience with God’s timing throughout history is well-documented and epic. And God’s timing is still perfect. He doesn’t need us to approve, but in the midst of our waiting, He invites us to pray, confess, and repent.