Theological Reflection: On the Degradation of Normality

The end of a cherished ‘normality’ (life as we know it) can be an unpleasant thought that one wishes to vanish from the musings of the mind. However, in this ‘topsy-turvy’ world where Islamic terrorist, African pirates, and the economy have gotten a choke hold of our ‘normality,’ we have learned (unwillingly) to entertain new ones. In other words (if I may borrow the utterance of Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz), “we’re not in Kansas anymore” and therefore we cannot think or behave as if we are. If one continues to do so it is because they are either self-deceived (perhaps due to their unwillingness to accept the new), deceived by others (due to their inability to perceive truth), or the ‘normality’ that they know of has not been touched.

Whether you agree with my philosophical ramblings or not (and I’m using philosophical loosely), you must admit that things are not like they were in the not too distant past. There is a heaviness in the air that has caused a sense of urgency that cries out, “something is going to happen, and it’s not good.” The world seems to assume that it has unmasked a new villain—‘contra-normality’—and this villain desires to usher us into an age when they say “peace and safety; then sudden destruction” (1 Thess. 5:3 KJV).

A cherished Judean ‘normality’ came to a devastating halt in 605 B.C. (Stefanovic, 43) when “Nebuchadnezzar [II] King of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it” (Dan. 1:1 NIV, emphasis mine). Written in the sixth century B.C., the book of Daniel Daniye’l—“God is my judge”—begins by bringing us up close and personal to the reality that is to be unveiled in great detail through-out the entire book: “there is a war going on outside, no man is safe from.”  The tale of two camps, which is illustrated and typified thought-out all of scripture, manifest itself in the form of two ancient cities—Jerusalem and Babylon.

Eliakim was renamed Jehoiakim by Pharaoh Neco when he dethroned Jehoahaz (2 Kg. 23:31-34). He served as a vassal for Nebuchadnezzar for three years before rebelling (24:1). In response to the evil that he had been doing all along (23:37) and “the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood” (24:3, 4), the Lord let the enemy lose! As the word of the prophets had proclaimed, God “sent them [the enemies] to destroy Judah” (24:2, emphasis mine). In Daniel’s account of Jerusalem’s fall, the enemy that shattered the Judean ‘normality,’ was allowed to do so because God “delivered them …into his [Nebuchadnezzar] hand” (Dan. 1:1, emphasis mine). Captivity didn’t occur without the permission of God; He was in control.

The King of Judah (whose name glorifies God—Yehowyaqiym, “God raises up”) was delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon (whose name glorifes his god—Nabû–kudurri–uṣur, “O Nabu, guard the offspring” or “O Nabu, protect the boundary stone”). Concerning the besieging of Jerusalem and the Lord giving it over, Gerhard Pfandl Ph.D. states, “the first statement describes the event in terms of secular history; the second supplies the event’s spiritual dimension” (Pfandl, 14). In fact, this is the structure of the book—historical events with spiritual dimension attached. In Daniel we are on the top of the world and watching the movements of massive empires colliding with each other for power, while God is holding the reins.

I believe that the book of Daniel  shows us two ways of looking at the world, side by side. One is from the historical/literal standpoint—by this, I mean what is real and can be seen by all—and the other is from the spiritual standpoint. It is the seer that declares that the Lord gave them over, not the historian. Everyone saw the towering World Trade Center come crashing down and killing the innocent, everyone sees the economy free falling into the abyss, everyone hear of the pirates terrorizing the African coast, and everyone sees destruction and doom breathing out violent threats. Indeed, sudden destruction has come and will come. But not all are able to see the other side of the coin.

Daniel opens by displaying that this is indeed an ‘open universe’ where God doesn’t just watch but is active in it. In these times where ‘normality’ pushes and shoves and refuse to be define, those who look to God sees a reality that is definite. God is a constant acting being even if it looks like the whole world has gone mad. As Daniel points out in 1:2, let’s look for God in the madness and see what He’s doing.

Works Cited:

Pfandl, Gerhard. Daniel: The Seer of Babylon. Hagerstown: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2004.

Stefanovic, Zdravko. Daniel: Wisdom to the Wise. Nampa: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2007.

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