Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand.
There is a fundamental truth about teaching and learning that is often overlooked. No one can teach a person who does not want to learn. The modern debates over education policy and how the shortcomings of the educational system should be addressed very often overlook this truth. The debate and policy issue is not really what I see in this verse, but it was a fleeting thought that came along for the ride.
That fundamental truth, however, is what I see in this verse. The verse calls people out. There are two groups named: the wicked and those who have insight.
The wicked, the verse says, will act wickedly and none of them will understand. The wicked acting wickedly kind of goes without saying, but what, precisely, will they not understand? The answer is in the context of the verse. The angel has been speaking to Daniel about prophecy. Those who want to act wickedly; who want nothing to restrain their wickedness cannot give heed to prophecy or take the time to understand it. If they did, they would then be accountable for what they had learned and accountability is precisely what the wicked take pains to avoid. If I am acquainted with someone who tries to avoid accountability, I am likely to be dealing with one of the wicked mentioned in this verse. It is both an indictment against the wicked and a litmus test of whether or not someone is wicked or simply lacking insight. The wicked will not understand, they choose not to. They choose to read The Bible with no intention of God’s Word changing them. They are looking for ways to change God’s Word; ways to subvert it; ways to make the Truth sound absurd. And they will find it. The Bible says that these folks will find God’s Truth absurd and repulsive while those who have been changed by it will find it to be our very lifeblood.
Which brings me to group number two: those who have insight. This is not some super-special, elite group of believers. James writes that anyone who lacks understanding (insight) can ask God for it and God will give insight freely and without condemnation. God is not looking for an elite corps of insightful folks in His kingdom, rather He is looking to make insightful folks of all in His kingdom. Talk to believers to whom God has granted insight and wisdom and you find that they, most often, are totally unaware of God’s wisdom flowing through them to others. They simply spend time with God and make themselves available to Him and He takes care of the rest. He speaks wisdom and insight through them and to them. He is the One Who opens up scripture to folks so that even I can wrap my mind around it. He is the One who reveals the needed truth at the moment it is needed.
Both of these groups are defined by their actions. Not just their momentary actions, which are variable, but by the pattern of their lives. If someone has a pattern of acting wickedly, then I can conclude, based on that pattern, that the individual is wicked. If someone has a pattern of insight and understanding, as evidenced by a life lived according to that insight and understanding, then I can conclude that the individual is one of the insightful; one of those who is not wicked in God’s eyes.
This morning, I need to take stock and look at my life. Have I been living wickedly or have I been exercising insight? If wickedly, then I need to return to God and be made right with Him. If living by insight, then I need to stay the course and reaffirm my commitment to live according to the insight that God gives me. The wicked will act wickedly, the righteous should not.