We’re nearly at the end of 2011. And I can’t wait for Christmas and some holidays. And this week we had the last SCRIPTURE LESSON for the year here at school. We finished with the Christmas service. And our yr 12’s have finished the HSC. Laura’s busy catching up on playing SIM’s.
And our Uni students have finished for the year. And they’re all enjoying their break. Lachlan’s biggest decision is whether to go to the beach or the gym or shopping.
There’s SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO at the finish of all those things. A time TO CELEBRATE. And a chance to REST and RECOVER.
When you’re in the MIDDLE of things like that, it’s often a STRUGGLE. But when you know there’s something good to LONG FOR at THE END. Then it can make all the struggle WORTH it.
And we come to the end of DANIEL today, too. Perhaps you feel THAT’S been a bit of a struggle. And you’re looking forward to some rest and recovery. Hopefully not!
But that’s what these final chapters of Daniel are all about. THE END. Or to be more precise. The ENDS. And then the FINAL end. About how kings and kingdoms all meet their end. One after the other. All in God’s time. And then, that even HISTORY ITSELF will come to an end.
And the point is that if you belong to God’s people, things are going to be tough. You’ll be PERSECUTED. WHENEVER you live – Daniel’s time, Jesus’ time, today, or into the future.
But the message of Daniel – particularly these last three chapters – is “Don’t worry. Things MIGHT be tough. But there IS an end to it. And THAT end is going to make everything WORTH IT.”
Under the surface (10)
And Ch 10 is about SETTING THE SCENE for that message. About showing WHAT’S UNDER THE SURFACE. And it begins in a familiar way. The date stamp, and then a dream.
10:1 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a REVELATION was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war.
Another dream. And it’s about a battle. Again! But then there’s something different. He goes on to say
“the UNDERSTANDING of the message came to him in a vision.”
Which sounds like SOMETHING DIFFERENT. And I think the rest of the Chapters 10-12 are about the vision that EXPLAINS the revelation. In other words, there’s a revelation that’s HARD TO UNDERSTAND. And then there’s the EXPLANATION of the revelation in ANOTHER vision. And WE only get the EXPLANATION.
Let me explain. Daniel has the terrible revelation in v1. Then, probably in response to that, he goes on to say, in v2.
2 At that time I, Daniel, mourned for THREE WEEKS (just keep that time period in mind). 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.
And THEN, when the three weeks are over, he sees this vision of a man (from v4). We’ll get to him in a moment. But, down in v12, the man says,
“Do not be afraid, Daniel. SINCE THE FIRST DAY THAT YOU SET YOUR MIND TO GAIN UNDERSTANDING AND TO HUMBLE YOURSELF BEFORE YOUR GOD, YOUR WORDS WERE HEARD, AND I HAVE COME IN RESPONSE TO THEM. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me TWENTY-ONE DAYS. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 NOW I have come to EXPLAIN TO YOU what will happen to your people in the future..”
So, it took 21 days for this man to come in response to Daniel’s prayers. And Daniel had been fasting and, probably, praying for THREE WEEKS. Same time.
So, here’s the order. FIRST, Daniel sees a vision that he can’t understand. And which we don’t get a description of. THEN, he mourns, fasts and prays for three weeks. Wants to know what it means. And AS SOON AS he begins to pray, his words are heard. The answer WOULD have come straight away, but there was a delay. Which we’ll get to in a moment.
THEN, when the 21 days is up, the man arrives with the EXPLANATION. ANOTHER vision, which is what’s described for us in the rest of the chapters. And that’s all summarised back in v1. “In the third year of Cyrus, a revelation was given to Daniel… Its message was true. The UNDERSTANDING of the message came to him in a vision.
And the vision is of this man. V5.
5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. 6 His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.
Who is he? Well, we’re not told. But he comes in response to Daniel’s prayer to God. So, at the very least, he’s from the heavenly court.
Is he an angel? Or MORE than an angel? I want to suggest, tentatively, he’s A REPRESENTATION OF GOD HIMSELF. A THEOPHANY. He certainly comes with all God’s AUTHORITY.
And in Revelation 1, Jesus is described in a similar way. Which helps my case I think.
So, what do we make of THE DELAY? 21 days? V13 – the man explains that the PRINCE of the PERSIAN KINGDOM resisted him. And it wasn’t until Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help him, that he was able to get away and come to Daniel.
In Jude 9, Michael is described as an ARCHANGEL. And in Daniel 12 v1 he’s described as THE GREAT PRINCE WHO PROTECTS THE JEWISH PEOPLE.
And then in v20 of Ch 10, we’re told that the man’s going to return to fight against the prince of Persia, and that after that, the prince of Greece will come.
So, joining all the dots together, it seems like God’s ruling over a spiritual battle going on between ANGELS. And that, in some way that’s not really explained ANYWHERE in the Bible, there are ANGELS who are responsible for certain earthly kingdoms. For PROTECTING them, or FIGHTING FOR them, or DIRECTING them.
And the conflicts that happen on an EARTHLY level REFLECT a battle going on at a HEAVENLY level.
It’s all a bit hard to get our heads around. But if that’s the case, it helps us to understand some of the stuff Paul talks about in the New Testament.
Like Colossians 2:15 that describes what God did when Jesus died on the cross. “He DISARMED THE POWERS AND AUTHORITIES, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in the cross.”
It was an earthly event. But it reflected a battle going on at a HEAVENLY level.
And it’s not just GOD who’s involved in the battle. It’s US, TOO! In Eph 6:11, Paul says
11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God
It may be a secular society, or an angry boss, or a cynical, world-weary relative we’re trying to convince about Jesus. But at ANOTHER level, BENEATH THE SURFACE, the stakes are MUCH higher. As we live as Christians in a dark world, we’re part of a battle that’s rocking the very foundations of the Universe. A battle between spiritual forces in the heavenly realms.
And yet, most people never notice it.
It’s like you go to Sydney Aquarium. And you walk past one of the giant pools. And the water is smooth and still. It looks like it’s empty, like there’s nothing there. But go down the steps to the observation deck. To the thick glass window that lets you see BENEATH THE SURFACE. And it’s a different matter entirely.
What looked quiet and calm and deserted. Is actually teeming with life. All sorts of fish and sharks and whales. Coral and seaweed. All the action is underneath. And that’s where you need to look to see what’s going on. To understand reality.
And that’s what it’s like with this world. It’s MUCH MORE than just what you can see. There’s heavenly, eternal realities being played out on an earthly stage.
Daniel prays and prays. Day after day. And it seems like God’s not answering. That he’s not interested, or not powerful enough to answer. But that’s only ON THE SURFACE. The reality is prayer is tapping into a reality beneath the surface. God IS powerfully at work. In HIS timing, according to HIS plans.
And that’s true for OUR PRAYER. It’s NOT a waste of time. We should be encouraged to KEEP praying. It’s SIGNIFICANT, POWERFUL, IMPORTANT, OFFENSIVE spiritual work.
I wonder if that’s how YOU think about prayer. How you think about GOD. Or whether you need to REPENT of your attitude. Whether you need to get a fresh vision of the God who is ALL HOLINESS AND POWER AND PURITY AND MAJESTY. And then SHOW that in the way you pray to him.
You see, Daniel was completely comatose after seeing the vision of the man. Speechless, strengthless. He couldn’t stand, or talk, hardly even BREATHE.
That’s what it’s like when you catch a glimpse of God. Perhaps we need a bit more of THAT attitude when we pray.
The man strengthens Daniel. And he’s finally ready to receive the explanation of the vision. Which is what we see in Ch 11.
We didn’t actually read it this morning. Hopefully you did in Home Groups. But it’s about, once again, a series of kingdoms fighting against each other.
It’s long, and complicated, and incredibly DETAILED. And it describes, quite accurately, a series of events that happened between about 500 BC to 150 BC. And it focuses on TWO RULERS around Palestine and Egypt.
And the point that strikes me as I read through it. Again and again kingdoms rise from the ashes of a previous kingdom. Each one thinks they’re going to be different. That THEY’LL last. That THEY’LL succeed where everyone else has FAILED. And they try to hang on to power in all different sorts of ways. Wealth, war and conquest, political alliances and intermarriage, trickery, treachery and robbery.
But again and again each one comes to its end.
Let’s take a quick sprint through the chapter, and I’ll show you what I mean.
V2. Four kings will rise from Persia, one after the other. Then v3, a mighty king from Greece will rule as he pleases. That was Alexander the Great. But then, v4, his empire will be broken up. HE doesn’t last.
Jump down to v6. The daughter of the king of the South will make an alliance with the king of the North. But SHE won’t retain her power. And neither will HE. V7. One from her family line will rise and take her place.
Or jump down to v11. The king of the south will do battle with the king of the north, who, even though he’s got a large army, will be defeated.
Which leaves the king of the South. But, at the end of v12, he’ll slaughter thousands, but he won’t remain triumphant.
More battles through the next paragraph until v18. A commander will put AN END to his insolence. He’ll stumble and fall, to be seen no more.
Then, v20, his successor in a few years will be DESTROYED, but not in anger or battle.
V22. The prince of the covenant will be destroyed.
V25. The king of the south will wage war with a large army, but he won’t be able to stand because of plots devised against him. Traitors will try to destroy him.
V27. The two kings, with their hearts bent on evil, will sit at the same table, and lie to each other, but to no avail, because an end will still come at the appointed time.
Again, v29, AT THE APPOINTED TIME he’ll invade. And when he’s turned away, v30, he’ll take out his frustrations on God’s people who know their God, they’ll firmly resist him.
He’ll keep it up, v36, until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place.
More details of battles. V40, he’ll invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood. Many countries will fall. Until, finally, v45, HE will come to his end, and no one will help him.
If you take a step back for a moment, and don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. What’s the main impression you’re left with about all these future events?
God knows what’s going to happen. It’s all according to HIS APPOINTED TIME. And it doesn’t matter WHO it is. HOW powerful they think they are. And HOW they try to hold onto power. Their end will come.
Their POWER is limited. Their TIME is limited. God is the one who’s got it all in control.
And for Daniel who, together with his fellow Israelites, was doing it tough. The message is that suffering WON’T go on forever. ONE DAY attacks on God’s people will stop. There WILL be an end.
The end (12)
And so we come to Ch 12. The end of the book. And its topic is about the ULTIMATE end. Which will make it all worth it. The focus shifts from the time of these kings. From THEIR end. To the end of ALL things. The end of history itself.
It’s like you’re wearing bi-focal glasses. You focus, through THE BOTTOM of the glasses on the NEAR future. That’s Babylon and Persia and Greece and Rome. Daniel’s time through to Jesus.
But then, you LIFT your gaze, look through the TOP part of the glasses, and the DISTANT future comes into focus. Ch 12. The end of history. The end of pain. The end of evil and the end of death.
V1, there’ll be one final climactic time of distress, but then it will all end.
But at that time your people-everyone whose name is found written in the book-will be delivered. 2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.
This life ISN’T all there is. Everyone will be called to account. The good and the bad. The weak and the powerful. Nothing will be overlooked. No injustice or wickedness tolerated.
The atheistic society in England recently put banners on buses that said, “There’s probably no god, so stop worrying, and enjoy your life!”
Which is fine if life is GOOD. But what about if you’re the victim of injustice? What if you’re persecuted?
If there’s no God. If there’s no final justice and restoration and vindication. Then there’s no HOPE. There’s no endurance. There’s no JOY.
But that’s THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE of Daniel’s message. “There IS a God. And he’ll not only bring all earthly kingdoms to an end. But there’ll be a final vindication. There’s something worth anticipating. Something to strengthen your resolve, and give you resilience, and endurance and hope.
That’s the perspective the man wants Daniel to have. Look there in v3.
3 Those who are WISE will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
Wisdom is about recognising the way things are. About looking beneath the surface. Looking to the END. Even if it’s not obvious. And living accordingly.
Wisdom is about leading people to righteousness. Pointing out what true reality is like. Calling them to live IN RESPONSE TO the coming judgment. To take HOPE that injustice will finally be called to account. And to shine the light of that judgment onto their OWN actions.
In December, 1941, the American fleet in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, was attacked by Japanese planes. At that stage England was on its knees. Germany had conquered the whole of Europe. England, alone, was standing. London was a pile of rubble. Japan was running riot across the Pacific.
But when Winston Churchill heard the news of Pearl Harbour, he knew it would bring America completely into the war. Up to this point they’d been hanging around the edges. And he wrote these words in his diary.
No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim that to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. I could not foretell the course of events. I do not pretend to have measured accurately the martial might of Japan, but now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. SO WE HAD WON AFTER ALL!
So, we had won after all. He could see the TRUE state of things. Japan thought they’d won a victory. But Churchill knew the true strength of the US. That Britain would have an ally who would bring victory in Japan and Europe as well.
It DID take another four years. But he was right! Wisdom was seeing the true state of things. Even when it looked unlikely in the present. And living according to that vision.
God HAS won after all. Jesus HAS defeated every power and principality on the cross. Victory HAS been declared. There’ll still be suffering and injustice. But ONE DAY, all injustice will be overturned. And all rights restored.
For DANIEL it was all a long way away. He’d only seen the terrible events in his visions. Over in v8 he’s still confused. “My Lord, what will be the outcome of all this?” And he’s told (v9)
“Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end.
In other words, Get on with life. Because it’s all going to happen a long time from now. Life’s going to continue for a long while yet. V10.
10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.
Wise and foolish. Wicked and righteous. And then he says it again. V13.
13 “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”
Get on with life. Live WISELY. Then you’ll REST. And then, a LONG time from now, you’ll RISE to an eternal inheritance. And it will all be WORTH IT.
What WONDERFUL words! And even MORE wonderful FOR US. Those who live on THIS SIDE OF THE CROSS. For us who understand what that eternity LOOKS LIKE. Who understand how it’s been WON for us. Who understand more fully the God who promises to live with his people. And to destroy sin and death and sickness and pain.
Are you living WISELY? Shining like the brightness of the heavens in a dark world? Leading many to righteousness? Struggling through injustice and persecution. But longing for, and expecting, our deliverance.
Wisdom is struggling through it all. But being able to say, despite appearances, “So, we had won after all!”