“Not another six months of this?” That was the reaction of most of us to this week’s latest COVID-19 announcements wasn’t it. Something that we hoped would be sorted in a matter of weeks or maybe months is likely to be the dominant issue at least for a whole year and probably longer.
We had hoped to be back in our churches, worshipping together with singing and preaching by the summer. We were looking forward to a kind of Easter and Pentecost celebration rolled into one. There were going to be the baptisms of new believers from our online services, delayed weddings attended and alongside that dignified memorials to those we had lost during the pandemic.
Here we are and it is dragging on. Restrictive measures remain in place. True mourning remains on hold and celebration seems a long way away. Optimistic talk of a surge in Gospel interest has been replaced with the fear that in fact as people succumb to Zoom fatigue and as new habits become ingrained that churches will find themselves losing attendees.
So, how do we keep going? Well, put yourself in the shoes of Daniel in exile. In Daniel 9, he both reads in Scripture and has a visit from an angel to explain it that there were to be 70 symbolic weeks from the destruction of Jerusalem until return from exile. Now, for our purposes here, don’t get too hung up on the exact meaning of the weeks and what they represent. Rather, get the big picture.
The point for Daniel is that if he thought the exile would be a quick affair and the people would soon be back home then he needed to think again. Daniel is being told that he needs to be ready for the long haul and that there is further trouble ahead.
Something similar is going on in 1 Peter. The recipients of that letter were no doubt looking forward to Christ’s imminent return. Peter is telling them that yes it is imminent so be ready for Christ to come back at any time but also be ready for the long haul because from a human perspective it will feel like time is going on and on and they will be subject to mockery when it looks like God has delayed or even forgotten.
So, how do we get through the next six months – and possibly longer? Well in some future posts we’ll talk a bit more about some specific practical issues but first of all, some big picture stuff for believers.
Daniel’s secret to perseverance was that he looked forward.
“And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing.”
Daniel is looking forward to the death and resurrection of Jesus. What will keep us going? It will be by looking back to the Cross. First of all, as Peter also reminds us, there is the example of his suffering. If Christ went through suffering and death for me, I can face the inconvenience of COVID. Secondly, we are reminded that he suffered for us. We will struggle to survive the pandemic if we think this is about our punishment, our atonement. It is not. Christ has already been punished for us. Thirdly, it will motivate us and give us a sense of purpose. What is the pandemic all about? The answer is that it is al about and has always been about the opportunity for us to glorify God by pointing others to Christ.
Daniel looked forward and we look back. However, we are also looking forward. We look forward to Christ’s return and the New Creation. Hope will keep us going. Summer is still coming.
 Daniel 9:26.