How long shall it be?
Do you know the difference between flotsam and jetsam? One floats away from the shore or from a ship because of rising tides or the action of waves. The other is thrown away deliberately. The difference, in nautical law, is that you may have the right to keep what has been thrown away while you may not if something has merely floated in your direction by accident.
Quite a number of things “come our way”. It’s like we’re standing in a river - we grow up, we grow old, our children grow up. Our jobs change because of markets - or political instability. There are times of peace and war. In one of the prophet Daniel’s visions a man standing on the river bank calls out to a figure upstream - a priestly figure dressed in white linen - and says “How long shall it be until the end of these wonders?” As is frequently the case, the answer is enigmatic. It can be taken any number of ways.
In the vision, though, the prophet is told one thing quite clearly - in fact he’s told it twice: “Go your way Daniel”.
The tantalizing promises of the prophetic and apocalyptic portions of the Old Testament are like the parables of Jesus about flowers and sparrows. The hearer is asked to embrace the uncertain flow of life and fortune as the place where God is and to recognize that faith in God - on the part of both individuals and communities - is a realistic and necessary foundation for living.
You do not control the flow of the river. You may not decide what floats into your grasp. The basic uncertainty of life, in spite of our best efforts, is a mystery to be lived and not a problem to be solved.