“Also, [the Beast] was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them […] Let anyone who has an ear listen: If you are to be taken captive, into captivity you go; if you kill with the sword, with the sword you must be killed. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.” (Revelation 13:7-10)
Jesus taught his followers using allegories, parables meant to represent spiritual realities in a manner that anyone could understand and remember. In debating agnostics, I found they often reject the use of the allegorical argument. I do not blame them for trying to ban the most powerful rhetorical weapon there is but if we were to execute their prohibition strictly, we would all remain silent. Everything we learn comes from some kind of representation, the words we use represent realities. Even our idea of God has to be represented somehow by words that are allegorical in nature: Sabaoth, Yahweh, Eloi, are some of the ways to imperfectly represent The One that Truly Is. And yet, God cannot be represented for if one could define Him perfectly, one would understand Him completely and therefore, one would be equal to Him. That would be an impossibility. That is why the Son came to us in the mystery of the Incarnation, the Logos came to us as a parable of flesh and blood to represent the unfathomable reality that is God and lead us to Him.
Scripture represents certain themes over and over but one message seems to appear more often: “Trust in God.” God is good and He is the great benefactor of mankind. He generously teach us to trust in Him. He does it gently, never forcing us to believe because He respects our freedom.
Since the days of our father Adam, we are immersed in a mess of our own making. The infinite offense against the goodness and generosity of God has mired mankind in a lot of trouble. Through prophets and teachers, God has shown us that He will get us out of this mess but not before we have learned our lesson. Experience is a brutal teacher but no one flunks her course: she really knows how to teach.
Years ago I found one of those marvelous parables hidden in the Old Testament. Before going into it, let me tell you that the lesson is: TRUST IN GOD. The main objective of this lesson was David. Some may think that David was a man with a strong heart who trusted God since infancy but … at this point we find David living among the enemies of Israel after many years of running from murderous King Saul. David accepted the protection of a Philistine prince who gave him and his men a city to dwell. The name of the city was Ziklag. The whole account of what happened to David while living in Ziklag is registered in 1 Samuel 30. Read it and pray it when you have a chance. It is a great way to build trust in God, even in times of severe distress.
David loses everything but does he?
One could read this as a simple historical account but that would be missing the most important part. This is also a moral lesson about trusting in God always. If we take a step back we can see the awesome power of God, building an extraordinary parable, a lesson made of men, their families, and their struggles. God allowed all of these things to happen for our instruction. Furthermore, God left the account of David’s troubles registered in Scripture so we can learn from it.
David is ready to go to war along with the pagan princes against Saul. Obviously, David was tired of running and decided to do something about it. However, the pagan princes had some objections. Why have an experienced Hebrew fighter and his battle-seasoned men among the pagan troops when going to fight against Saul of Israel? It could be a ruse. Everyone knew how loyal David was to the throne of Israel. So they decided to send David and his men home. The Philistines marched to fight at Gilboa, and David went home to rest. Unfortunately, David was about to find a nasty surprise in Ziklag.
Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negev and on Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag, burned it down, and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great; they killed none of them, but carried them off, and went on their way. When David and his men came to the city, they found it burnt down, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept, until they had no more strength to weep. David’s two wives also had been taken captive, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David was in great danger; for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in spirit for their sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. (1 Samuel 30: 1-6)
Put yourself in the place of David and his men. All they see is their home destroyed and their loved ones gone who knows to what horrible fate. They are tired after marching several days under the scorching sun of late spring. Those fierce warriors were ready to endure anything but this was too much for their worn out hearts. They have lived on the run from Saul for years, they have battled against many enemies, and now the only resting place they had was gone along with everything and everyone they loved. Take a minute to think about it.
What they did not know was the most important part: Saul and his sons had lost the battle at Gilboa. Saul was dead and so were all the princes of Israel including David’s dear friend, Jonathan. They did not know that in a few days they were going to recover their families and treasure from the hands of the marauders. They were completely unaware that the booty left behind by the Amalekites was hefty enough to make David the richest man in Israel. Also, they did not know that the chieftains of Israel were about to make David their king. Hidden behind a present of loss and pain there was a kingdom and many years of plenty and peace.
All’s well that ends well. The oppressive reign of Saul was history and now David, the man dear to God’s heart, was about to start a line of kings that would continue until the arrival of the Messiah.
Now focus your mind in our present time. Imagine that the destroyed city is the Church, imagine that unworthy Saul is the devil, the ruler of this world, etc.
Yes, we are facing the ruins of what it used to be the glory of Christendom. We have seen for years how its treasures were sacked and plundered. As the circle of vultures close on the remains, we contemplate how even the Holy Eucharist is targeted for defilement. And yet, that is not all but only the portion of reality that we can see. Somewhere beyond these days and not too far in the future, we know there is a Church and a world renewed by the Holy Spirit, and a long age of peace for ourselves and our loved ones: “Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” for all we have to do is endure like David and trust with all our hearts in Him Who lives forever, our awesome God that has already defeated death and conquered the world.
Our Lord’s counsel for us is odd: “Lift up your heads! Your liberation is near!” because the very things that oppress us from every side are the things that will trigger God’s rescue. We must persist with hope, “be still before the LORD and wait patiently on Him” (Psalm 37:7) and let not your heart be troubled but be glad that the day is getting near.