My friend Cindy is all things amazing. She's one of those people who by her very presence makes the world better and brighter. She is so funny that she literally does stand-up comedy, and she loves Jesus.
We've been friends for over 20 years, and I was so thrilled when in her mid-40s, she met the love of her life. This was the man she'd been waiting for her whole life. He doted on her and treated her like a queen.
They planned the wedding, but then the pandemic hit. They decided to delay until summer, and less than two weeks before the wedding, he had a massive heart attack and died. Instead of walking down the aisle, she delivered his eulogy.
Sometimes, life is so unfair. My dear friend never deserved that, no one does. It seems so unjust, so wrong. Maybe you too, know someone for whom that never should have happened. Or maybe that person is you.
About five years ago, Leif and I moved to Utah so he could plant a church campus. I had to learn a whole new city — all the streets and suburbs, and let's just say… I'm not the best driver. And so when I move to a new place and make a new friend, I'll offer to drive us somewhere, and the person will accept, once. And after that, I'll begin to notice a pattern where everyone says, oh no, let me drive, really. And somehow, despite this, I haven't gotten pulled over or gotten a ticket.
But I recently learned of a black man in our community who passionately loves Jesus, and who has kept a log. Over the last 10 years, he's been pulled over 37 times.
Each time when the officer approaches, he always asks, “Sir, what did I do?” Because he wasn't speeding, there's no taillight out. He always gets the same response when he asks. “You were driving too slow.”
At that point, he'll try to ask a follow-up question for clarification. But he's often cut off as the person leans forward to speak to the passenger. “Ma'am, you all right?” To which the white woman sitting in the front seat responds, “Yes sir, I'm fine. I'm riding in our car with my husband.”
37 times in 10 years. If you do the math, it's happening every few months.
And I'm just going to call it, that is so unfair. That is so unjust. I ache for my beloved brother in Jesus who should never have to go through that. No one should.
Sometimes, when I look at the pain, the loss, the suffering, the injustice of this world, I think, Oh Lord, how long? How long until You come and wipe away every tear and make all things right?
We all have areas of our lives where we cry out, oh Lord, how long? Maybe for you, it's your prodigal son or daughter. Despite praying countless prayers, your child is no closer to God or any semblance of a flourishing life. And you think, Lord, how long?
Maybe for you, it's the chronic pain in your back, your rib cage, your neck, or those migraines that force you to sit in dark rooms for days. And you cry out, God, how long? Maybe for you it's in your marriage. You can't even remember the last time you felt loved, cherished, appreciated, acknowledged. And you wonder, Lord, how long?
Or maybe for you, it's the ways in which you've been snubbed, overlooked, dismissed, made to feel invisible or less than. And you cry out, Jesus, how long? How long until You wipe away every tear and make things right?
- The Book of Revelation is written to anyone and everyone who has ever asked, Lord, how long?
As this book both asks and addresses this question, it uses a slew of strange and symbolic imagery. And if you take it all literally and in a linear fashion, the interpretation gets weird and scary really fast.
Remember, Revelation is a book written in code. It's apocalyptic literature, a unique genre of writing that tells of future events without giving us all the details. And because of its cryptic nature, I love what Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin, said: "Revelation has as many mysteries as it does words."
That's why, as we dive into today's text, we must once again center ourselves on the truth, that first and foremost, this is a revelation of who? Jesus Christ. With all its strange imagery, do not get distracted from the extravagant hope that
life is not fair, but Jesus is not finished.
And He wants to do some of his greatest work through you.
Turn with me to chapter 6 of Revelation, where a series of seals open, and four riders on horses are released. Now, these are not literal horses. You’ll never open your front door and say, there is a horse from Revelation! These are not literal, they're symbolic. Of what?
Well, horses throughout the Bible were commonly used in battle. So this suggests battle language between who? The forces of good led by God and the forces of evil led by the Adversary.
I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conquer bent on conquest.
Some interpret this as describing Jesus, but I don't think so. Why? He's not described as Faithful or True.
Notice he's bent on conquest, meaning someone who wants to win at all costs. That sounds like an earthly ruler, not Christ. This horse symbolically delivers political injustice and oppression.
The second horse is red. And it says,
Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.
The horse delivers military devastation and oppression.
Now, check out the third horse. It says,
Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the living creatures, saying, 'Two pounds of wheat for a day's wages, and six pounds of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!
The horse brings economic injustice and oppression.
The cost of basic food supplies like bread skyrocket, so people are starving. But the food of the wealthy, the oil and the wine, remain the same price. The rich get richer at the expense of the poor.
And the last horse? Well, it's kind of gross. It's pale and sickly. It says,
Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the Earth to kill by sword, famine, and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
This horse delivers ultimate oppression to humanity — death. Together, these horses reveal the patterns through which hell is released on earth — conquest, violence, oppression, and death. And you don't have to look too far to find people today who are battling political oppression, military oppression, economic oppression, or they're in the fight of their lives against sickness and death.
Take time to read and listen to the stories of the most vulnerable populations in the slums of Africa, the underground churches in China, those who wrestle with poverty in your community. Look at the satellite images of mass graves, photos of babies that are covered in flies with dysentery. Or simply go spend two hours at your local children's hospital or cancer ward.
The raging effects of those horses is real. And such darkness feels so unfair, so cruel, so unjust, you may be tempted to throw up your hands, walk away, and say, beam me up, Scotty! Get me out of here! There's no way we can win this.
On the edge of giving up hope, once again we encounter the great unveiling of Jesus Christ. The Lamb, Jesus opens the fifth seal. And guess who's in it? The faithful saints.
Continuing in verse 9,
I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.
Why are they under the altar? This throne room is actually a heavenly temple. These are the faithful saints who resist evil and oppression in all its forms. Those who stand up against injustice, who help rescue children from extreme poverty, who spend time volunteering in prisons.
Those who cook savory meals and sit with friends who are heartbroken. Those who deliver groceries, drive to doctor's appointments, and volunteer to take the kids. Those who give a listening ear without judgment, those who send cards filled with handwritten prayers, those who run in when everyone else is running out. Those who proclaim the goodness of Christ and His Kingdom in word and deed until their last breath. They rise up by the Word of God and their testimony, and so can you.
- The truth is, life is not fair, but Jesus is not finished.
Is it going to cost you? Yeah. Yeah. It may cost you everything. But no matter how bad the score looks mid-game, Christ wins in the end. And you are part of Jesus's winning strategy.
From Revelation by Margaret Feinberg, copyright Margaret Feinberg.
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If you’re crying out, Lord, how long? in a place of exhaustion, desperation, or terrible unfairness, Jesus sees you. He is not finished yet! You are a part of His winning strategy! Are you joining us for the Revelation Online Bible Study starting May 2nd? Grab a friend and sign up today! ~ Devotionals Daily