The human brain is designed to focus on potential problems and dangers. In many circumstances focusing on what might go wrong can be very helpful, even lifesaving.
However alerting too easily can have unintended consequences. First Responders see this when called to an accident. Passing drivers readily focus not on where they are going but on the disaster that has fallen on another traveler. I too have had this experience wondering: What happened? Was anyone severely hurt? Instead of watching where I was driving giving only second thought that I needed to watch for responders dashing to and fro with rescue equipment.
Apocalyptic literature has that same effect. Consider the seventh chapter of the book of Daniel. Here the prophet has recorded for us a vision he had of four horrific beasts that emerge from the sea as the four winds churn into a violent storm. Immediately we want to know: What is the meaning of the the lion-eagle beast? What is the significance of the bear gnawing on three ribs? Who gave authority to the winged leopard with four heads? Almost before we can consider those questions a fourth beast emerges with iron teeth and ten horns trampling what the other beasts had left. Begging more questions about what those horns might symbolize.
Even when “an ancient of days” appears seated on a blazing throne, Daniel remained focused on the boastful words of the horned beast. His description of the “one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven” lacks the details given to four beasts and the storm from which they emerged. Was he too distracted by the impending disaster to nearly miss the Salvation of the world?
I will have more to say about Daniel’s apocalyptic vision (Daniel 7:1-18) on Sunday, October 30th, 2016 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church. We will also celebrate All Saints Day a few days early, providing a religious context for Halloween.
Robert Shaw, Pastor