SUFFERING… AND HOPE
Praise God today—whether you feel like it or not.
Read Matthew 24:15–25
15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’[a] spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.
22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time.
a Matthew 24:15 Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11
New International Version (NIV)
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ReflectWhat are your circumstances like at the moment? Are you struggling to see God’s hand in your life?
Again Jesus refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, which would take place at the hands of the Romans in A.D. 70, after a bloody six-month siege. He warns his disciples of the horrific suffering that will be experienced in the days ahead and gives practical instructions (16).
The reference to “the abomination that causes desolation” comes straight out of the book of Daniel (12:11), and like much of this section of Matthew, uses apocalyptic, formulaic language that would have been deeply familiar to Jesus’ disciples.
For Jesus’ disciples the world that they knew was about to end. There would be chaos and catastrophe, with power struggles and civil decay. The Jerusalem they knew under the “pax Romana” (peace of Rome) would collapse and they would find themselves scattered across the known world.
And yet, despite everything, God is in control (22,25). Followers of Jesus can put their faith not in a blind optimism but in a narrative bigger than themselves. J. R. R. Tolkien describes Christian hope as the movement of history towards a great “eucatastrophe”—the “good catastrophe,” a sudden joyous “turn” that denies not the existence of sorrow and failure, but of universal, final defeat.
Read Philippians 4:4–13. How can you live out Paul’s recipe for peace and contentment through any trial in your everyday life?
Loving God, help me to put my faith in You. Please give me a joy that goes beyond circumstances.