The biblical eye surveys the landscape both retrospectively and prospectively. It discover evidence of YHWH’s intense care for his own in history and in hope.
Even in apocalyptic literature—that tone of voice that continues to speak even as civilization’s lights go out and chaos roams the streets—YHWH is not seen to have failed his own. Indeed the weak and the marginal emerge in such lines as history-makers of a kind. Their Lord shapes events and circumstances to preserve them, to protect them, and—in the literature’s darkest hues—to make sure things do not go so bad for them as they might have done:
Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.
Jesus speaks here of a time when affliction will be no stranger to his followers. Quite bluntly, he promises them that they will endure a tribulation so great that the world’s bloodstained chronicles can offer no precedent for it.
Yet this dark and future chapter does not rumble on mechanically. Its determinism, its underpinnings of inevitability, are delimited precisely at the point where they might have led to the extinction of the faithful.
Mercy, sometimes, comes down to this: evil, in its heyday, remains an underlord, its pretensions to supremacy snatched from its arrogant hands.