Down to the wire, last minute directions were flying as I struggled to get things under control before guests arrived. I raced back into the house for the ice and a spare spoon and ran smack-dab into one of my sons carrying his latest model airplane to the kitchen table. The vintage 1903 Wright Flyer, with its approximately 999 strips of 3mm laser-cut pieces of balsa wood, tubes of special glues and tiny strands of string tottered precariously on its 48-inch cardboard platform. Thankfully, catastrophe was averted and the partially completed plane made it safely to the table. But as I looked on in horror at the intricacies of the project he was preparing to delve into, I lashed out in a not-so-virtuous way. Now was not the time for this! And I wondered, how could he be so oblivious to the timing of his own party?
It was just another day for Daniel living out his life in exile. He had survived the ups and downs one might expect while serving tyrants – and even some you might never expect! Torn away from his homeland while still a youth, Daniel’s life in exile was pretty much all he knew. So, for him, it really was just another ordinary day on planet earth when he made a startling, jaw-dropping discovery: the end was in sight! Right there in plain text, God’s timetable was precisely spelled out! Hungrily, he read and reread the words of Jeremiah, letting the full impact sink in. How had he missed this before?! The countdown was on! The future was now!
Do you know what Daniel did next? He “set his face to the Lord”. He pleaded and fasted. He took off his palace clothes and wore rough burlap with a sprinkling of ashes. Daniel had a life-changing moment. As someone who keenly understood the reason for his exile, he was humbly showing repentance and earnestly interceding on behalf of his people. Deliverance was just around the corner, and Daniel was bombarding heaven to ensure the Lord knew his people were ready!
To my thinking, Daniel was an almost perfect person. As a child I sang “Daniel was a man of prayer, praying three times daily”. I think it is also neat to picture him taking time to read and actively study the Scriptures of his day, in this case the book of Jeremiah. Maybe his urgent response came from his knowledge of Israel’s early history. He could read how Moses had patiently escorted the big family of Israel right to the doorstep of the Promised Land. The end was literally in sight! Joshua and Caleb tried with every ounce of passion to persuade the people to take hold of God’s planned deliverance. But they weren’t ready on that first go around. Trembling with fear, they shrank back from the path ahead and refused to proceed. How could people who lived in a desert be so attached to it? Perhaps it was this aborted mission that now drove Daniel to so earnestly seek and plead for God’s timetable to go ahead as planned.
As I compare these two stories set on the cusp of deliverance, I can’t help but wonder at my own response. You see, I too have come to realize: the end is in sight! I wish I could say that knowledge caused me to immediately set my face to the Lord and to pray mightily for his kingdom to come, his will to be done. But if I’m honest, parts of me still struggle with letting go. And I ask myself, how could I, who live in the desert of this world be so attached to it? Do I look wistfully over my shoulder remembering the glory days of a nation once so blessed by God? Do I anxiously pray for the pursuit of happiness for my children long into the future? Do I patriotically yearn for earthly kingdoms to be made great again or have I laced up my shoes in a posture of readiness, eagerly awaiting the greatest exodus of all?
While Jesus could direct his listeners to “Do business till I come” (Luke 19:13), He also wanted them to recognize the signs of the times and to live with the end in sight. Like He did. Jesus said: “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work” (John 9:4 NLT). His words are a commonsense reminder: 1) There is work to be done. 2) There is a closing window of opportunity for that work. With His every move, Jesus showed His dedication to the Father’s work and His complete focus on the next event in the Father’s timetable.
It’s so easy to be earth-bound. Our days cycle on with a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to harvest …. . . on and on it goes. But maybe it’s time to change our perspective. “This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here” (Romans 13:11-12 NLT).
I had my own little moment of discovery when I realized the writer to the Hebrews referred to the “last days” as being the time when God “has spoken to us by his Son” Hebrews 1:2 (CSB). Hey! Did you catch that?! According to God’s calendar, Jesus came in the “last days”. And then Hebrews 9:26 triumphantly, and quite specifically, declares “He has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself” (CSB). I’m not much of a theologian nor a mathematician, but I would think that means the greater time of human existence had already passed when Jesus walked this earth. He didn’t come at half-time: He came in the last days! So what does that make 2023?
Time to set our faces towards the Lord.
Time to fast and pray for the lost.
Time to plead for God’s kingdom to come.
Daniel was changed by his awareness of God’s timetable, and we should be too! Peter’s words call for an if/then response as well:
“Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along” (2 Peter 3:11,12). Wait a minute! Did Peter just say “hurrying it along”? How can we do that? Would the response of His bride stir His heart and quicken His step? On the other hand, how pitiful if we were to selfishly sink our earthly roots in deeper, engage in a careless lifestyle, and say in our heart, “My lord delayeth his coming” (Matthew 24:48 KJV). I’m not sure how much we can influence God’s timing, but at the very least we can pray as our Lord did “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 ESV).
A better grasp of our placement on God’s timeline will help us to treat each day with a more intentional mindset. Rather than look around anxiously, shrink back in fear, or linger in the comfortable shadows unwilling to push forward, we need to recognize the signs: the end is in sight!
 I believe the return of Christ to set up His kingdom is certain, and the rapture is imminent (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).