Archive for June, 2016

THE BOOK OF NUMBERS

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Yesterday, as I completed our walk together through the book of Daniel, the natural question that came to my mind was “What book do I move to next, Lord?” The thing that came through and clear was that I have been bouncing around the Bible. When I started this journey of documenting my studies of each book of the Bible several years ago, I had either through this blog page or through solely Facebook posts before that that I had studied several books of the Bible but only a few in consecutive order as the books appear to us in the Bible. Below are the books of the Bible that I have done devotionals on either here or as a Facebook post over the past four years:

 

The Old Testament

  1. Genesis (Facebook posts only)
  2. Exodus (Facebook posts only)
  3. Leviticus (Facebook posts only)
  4. Job (Facebook posts only)
  5. Daniel (Blog page)
  6. Hosea (Facebook posts only)
  7. Amos (Facebook posts only)

 

The New Testament

  1. Matthew (Blog Page)
  2. Luke (Facebook posts only)
  3. John (Facebook posts only)
  4. Romans (Facebook and Blog Page)
  5. 1 Corinthians (Blog Page)

 

It made me realize that (1) I have been steadfastly studying my Bible almost daily for about 3 ½ years and have documented that in some way through my daily writings for 12 of the 66 books of the Bible, (2) I need to go back to all those old Facebook posts and copy and paste them into here on my blog page and (3) it was time to walk through the Bible’s books in order so that gain a greater sense the building of God’s plan of redemption throughout history. So, the Holy Spirit is leading me back to the beginning of the Bible and I must start at the earliest point at which I have not done daily study. Seeing as how I have done daily studies of Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus, guess what was next? Numbers, that’s right! I struggled with the Lord on this one all day yesterday. Numbers, Numbers, Numbers was the answer. C’mon, Lord, really? Numbers? That’s why I jumped to Romans awhile back after having completed Genesis – Leviticus. Numbers seems to the untrained eye to be a difficult and non-exciting book to walk through for the purposes of a daily devotional through which you try to offer up relationships to my personal life or current events and then practical application to the 21st century readers of my blog including myself.

 

Previously I had thought the same thing when I began my study of Leviticus a year or two ago. What can I learn and share? But that turned out to be one of the most moving spiritual periods of my life. It was where I learned that the historical books of the early Old Testament were actually full of the basics of the theology of the Christian faith and it is these early books of the Bible that shows how God was preparing to send us Jesus Christ from the moment that Adam and Eve disobeyed Him. It is amazing to think about when you think about it.

 

That’s the thing that I come today as we open up our study of the Book of Numbers is the similarity of my unwillingness previously to tackle this book is not too dissimilar to the reason that the Israelites in the Book of Numbers ended up wandering for 40 years. The Book of Numbers by appearances and by reputation among Christ followers is a tough book to read and maybe it is. Many of shy away from it all together as a yawner and because it is seemingly hard to get any spiritual meat out of. Was that not the way of the Israelites when they stood before the Promised Land. They murmured and complained that it would be too hard to try to conquer the Promised Land. Without even having given the conquest a chance, they were already defeated. They had already given up. They had already conceded defeat. Without even trying.

 

Many of us avoid these early Old Testament books because of the difficulty in relating some of their content to today’s world, the seemingly incessant need for genealogies, and odd rules that do not seem to fit today’s world. What we learned previously in Genesis – Leviticus is that God was teaching His people about holiness and what it took to be a holy people. These books were to teach God’s people about cleanliness in what was very diseased world at the time. These books were to establish practices that also pointed us forward to Jesus Christ. There was much that I took away from those first three books of the Bible.

 

Thus, we move into Numbers now. Not because it is easy but because it is hard, as JFK said about the space race, and because it is hard, the reward is great. Let us not stand before the Promised Land and whine and complain that it is too hard to accomplish. Let us stand there and say take us there Lord. We trust in your almighty power. It looks like it is going to be difficult but we trust that you have us here for a reason. Teach us, God. Teach us from the history of your Chosen Ones about ourselves in the 21st century. Teach us the hard lessons that we need to hear from your timeless Word. Let us move forward and learn together not because it is easy but exactly because it is hard!

 

Amen and Amen.

 

To help us get started in our study in earnest tomorrow, here is an overview of the Book of Numbers that I gathered from www.gotquestions.com and www.biblehub.com:

 

 

Overview of Book of Numbers

 

Author:

Moses was the author of the Book of Numbers.

 

Date of Writing:

According to most scholarly research, the Book of Numbers was written between 1440 and 1400 B.C.

 

Purpose of Writing:

The message of the Book of Numbers, is universal and timeless. It reminds believers of the spiritual warfare in which they are engaged, for Numbers is the book of the service and walk of God’s people. The Book of Numbers essentially bridges the gap between the Israelites receiving the Law (Exodus and Leviticus) and preparing them to enter the Promised Land (Deuteronomy and Joshua).

 

Key Verses:

Numbers 6:24-26, “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

 

Numbers 12:6-8, “When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”

 

Numbers 14:30-34, “Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. But you — your bodies will fall in this desert. Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert. For forty years — one year for each of the forty days you explored the land — you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.'”

 

Brief Summary:

From chapters 1-9 the Israelites are preparing for their journey and entry into the promise land. Moses begins by taking a census of all the tribes, primarily to see how many men are available and in shape for military service. Next, Moses dedicates the Levites and instructs the Nazirite vows and laws. During this time, the Israelites celebrate the 2nd Passover one year after their exit from bondage.

 

In chapters 10-12, the Israelites travel from the wilderness in Sinai to approach the promise land. The people complain about their food, God gives them quail, and because of their greed, He also sends them a plague. Miriam and Aaron learn a lesson about whom God places in leadership.

 

In chapters 13-19, we see severe punishment for disobedience and unfaithfulness to God. Moses sends out 12 spies to perform reconnaissance on the promise land. The 12 spies return and only two of them bring good news. The people fear the occupants and rebel against taking the land. For this God punishes them and sends them into the wilderness for forty years to roam.

 

The last chapters of Numbers, from 20-36, the new generation of Israelites again attempt to enter the land to take it as God promised. This time they easily destroy two nations that confront them as they are entering. Balak uses his prophet Balaam to learn to seduce the Israelites to worship Baal. Because of this disobedience, about 24,000 people die, including Balaam. Before the book of Numbers ends, Moses again conducts a census, and Joshua assumes the leadership of Israel in place of Moses who is banned from the promise land, due to his disobedience.

 

Most of the events of the Book of Numbers take place in the wilderness, primarily between the second and fortieth years of the wandering of the Israelites. The first 25 chapters of the book chronicle the experiences of the first generation of Israel in the wilderness, while the rest of the book describes the experiences of the second generation. The theme of obedience and rebellion followed by repentance and blessing runs through the entire book, as well as the entire Old Testament.

 

The theme of the holiness of God is continued from the book of Leviticus into the book of Numbers, which reveals God’s instruction and preparation of His people to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. The importance of the Book of Numbers is indicated by its being referred to in the New Testament many times. The Holy Spirit called special attention to Numbers in 1 Corinthians 10:1-12. The words “all these things happened to them for examples” refers to the sin of the Israelites and God’s displeasure with them.

 

In Romans 11:22, Paul speaks about the “goodness and severity of God.” That, in a nutshell, is the message of Numbers. The severity of God is seen in the death of the rebellious generation in the wilderness, those who never entered the Promised Land. The goodness of God is realized in the new generation. God protected, preserved, and provided for these people until they possessed the land. This reminds us of the justice and love of God, which are always in sovereign harmony.

 

Foreshadowings:

God’s demand for holiness in His people is completely and finally satisfied in Jesus Christ, who came to fulfill the law on our behalf (Matthew 5:17). The concept of the promised Messiah pervades the book. The story in chapter 19 of the sacrifice of the red heifer “without defect or blemish” prefigures Christ, the Lamb of God without spot or blemish who was sacrificed for our sins. The image of the bronze snake lifted up on the pole to provide physical healing (chapter 21) also prefigures the lifting up of Christ, either upon the cross, or in the ministry of the Word, that whoever looks to Him by faith may have spiritual healing.

 

In chapter 24, Balaam’s fourth oracle speaks of the star and the scepter who is to rise out of Jacob. Here is a prophecy of Christ who is called the “morning star” in Revelation 22:16 for His glory, brightness, and splendor, and for the light that comes by Him. He may also be called a scepter, that is, a scepter bearer, because of his royalty. He not only has the name of a king, but has a kingdom, and rules with a scepter of grace, mercy, and righteousness.

 

Practical Application:

A major theological theme developed in the New Testament from Numbers is that sin and unbelief, especially rebellion, reap the judgment of God. First Corinthians specifically says—and Hebrews 3:7-4:13 strongly implies—that these events were written as examples for believers to observe and avoid. We are not to “set our hearts on evil things” (v. 6), or be sexually immoral (v. 8), or put God to the test (v. 9) or gripe and complain (v. 10).

 

Just as the Israelites wandered in the wilderness 40 years because of their rebellion, so too does God sometimes allow us to wander away from Him and suffer loneliness and lack of blessings when we rebel against Him. But God is faithful and just, and just as He restored the Israelites to their rightful place in His heart, He will always restore Christians to the place of blessing and intimate fellowship with Him if we repent and return to Him (1 John 1:9).

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Daniel 12:1-13

The Times of the End

 

For some reason, this morning, that song by the one-hit-wonder group, Vitamin C, released 16 years ago in 2000 called “The Graduation Song (Friends Forever)” comes to mind as we close out Daniel. This song gets played at graduations even today and in video montages of graduating seniors on Facebook this time of year all over the digital landscape. It is a wonderful and timeless song that will most likely live on for many, many years.

 

This song holds a marker place in the history of my adult life as well. I remember that it was one of the three special songs that my second wife and I selected to be sung at her oldest son’s funeral who died suddenly in a car crash at the age of 16 ½ years back in February 2001. The lyrics of the song goes something like this:

 

And so we talked all night about the rest of our lives

Where we’re gonna be when we turn 25

I keep thinking times will never change

Keep on thinking things will always be the same

But when we leave this year we won’t be coming back

No more hanging out cause we’re on a different track

And if you got something that you need to say

You better say it right now cause you don’t have another day

Cause we’re moving on and we can’t slow down

These memories are playing like a film without sound

And I keep thinking of that night in June

I didn’t know much of love

But it came too soon

And there was me and you

And then we got real blue

Stay at home talking on the telephone

And we would get so excited and we’d get so scared

Laughing at ourselves thinking life’s not fair

And this is how it feels

 

[1]

As we go on

We remember

All the times we

Had together

And as our lives change

Come whatever

We will still be

Friends Forever

 

So if we get the big jobs

And we make the big money

When we look back now

Will our jokes still be funny?

Will we still remember everything we learned in school?

Still be trying to break every single rule

Will little brainy Bobby be the stockbroker man?

Can Heather find a job that won’t interfere with her tan?

I keep, keep thinking that it’s not goodbye

Keep on thinking it’s a time to fly

And this is how it feels

 

[Repeat 1]

 

La, la, la, la:

Yeah, yeah, yeah

La, la, la, la:

We will still be friends forever

 

Will we think about tomorrow like we think about now?

Can we survive it out there?

Can we make it somehow?

I guess I thought that this would never end

And suddenly it’s like we’re women and men

Will the past be a shadow that will follow us around?

Will these memories fade when I leave this town

I keep, keep thinking that it’s not goodbye

Keep on thinking it’s a time to fly

 

[Repeat 1 (3x)]

 

The three special songs that we had sung at Trey’s funeral were “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercyme (see lyrics below):

 

I can only imagine what it will be like

When I walk by your side

I can only imagine what my eyes will see

When your face is before me

I can only imagine

 

Yeah

 

Surrounded by your glory

What will my heart feel

Will I dance for your Jesus

Or in awe of you be still

Will I stand in your presence

Or to my knees will I fall

Will I sing hallelujah

Will I be able to speak at all

I can only imagine

I can only imagine

 

I can only imagine when that day comes

And I find myself standing in the Son

I can only imagine when all I will do

Is forever, forever worship you

I can only imagine, yeah

I can only imagine

 

Surrounded by your glory

What will my heart feel

Will I dance for your Jesus

Or in awe of you be still

Will I stand in your presence

Or to my knees will I fall

Will I sing hallelujah

Will I be able to speak at all

I can only imagine

Yeah

I can only imagine

 

Surrounded by your glory

What will my heart feel

Will I dance for your Jesus

Or in awe of you be still

Will I stand in your presence

Or to my knees will I fall

Will I sing hallelujah

Will I be able to speak at all

I can only imagine

Yeah

I can only imagine

 

I can only imagine

Yeah

I can only imagine

I can only imagine

I can only imagine

 

I can only imagine

When all I will do

Is forever, forever worship you

 

I can only imagine

 

 

and older Christian song, “If You Could See Me Now” by Truth (whose lyrics go as follows):

 

Our prayers have been answered
I finally arrived
The healing that had been delayed
Is now realized
No one’s in a hurry
There’s no schedule to keep
We’re all enjoying Jesus
Just sitting at His feet

If you could see me now
I’m walking streets of gold
If you could see me now
I’m standing tall and whole
If you could see me now
You’d know I’ve seen His face

If you could see me now
You’d know the pain’s erased
You wouldn’t want me
To ever leave this place
If only you could see me now

My light and temporary trials
Have worked out for my good
To know it brought Him glory
When I misunderstood
Though we’ve had our sorrows
They can never compare
To what Jesus has in store for us
No language can share

 

and the last song was “The Graduation Song” by Vitamin C. We said that the first song was for Trey himself, the second was for the family (us and his extended family) and the third was for his friends. Each song was tough to listen to during the immediate aftermath of a sudden loss of a teenage child. Each song though had so much hope in them that they do give you comfort as you grieve a loss. That funeral was 15 years ago now. I do not remember the sermon, though I am sure that Pastor Baker of Abundant Life Church in Greenville delivered an awesome one as was his usual practice at all times, but what I remember are those songs. Tears flowed from my second wife and I as we listened to the wonderful message of I Can Only Imagine. Tears flowed from the entire family as we heard the words of If You Could See Me Now. And tears flowed from the entire overflow audience of teenagers and adults as the song Graduation Song (Friends Forever) was sung. As I have long pondered over why those three songs are my only continuing memory of that horrible day where we had to bury a son to my second wife and a stepson to me, it was that there was comfort and hope in those three songs. The Mercyme song tells us of the glory it will be in heaven to be living in the presence of God. The song by the group, Truth, gives us assurance that our loved ones who have passed on, even those who have passed tragically, are in a far, far better place that this plane of existence and that they, even though they loved their lives here, would not return for anything. The Truth song gives us a glimpse of heaven and assures us that our loved ones are in this amazing place that we cannot understand fully now on this side of eternity. The Vitamin C song reminds us that even though life changes and people move on (including in this case, through death) that we have our memories of our times together that no one can take away from us. There is hope in that for us as well in that as Christ followers death is not the end. Memories live on and there is that constant and abiding hope that we will be reunited with the ones we love in heaven.

 

That is the thing that I think of today as we read the final chapter of Daniel and as we move on tomorrow to the next book of the Bible that we will tackle together. I think of my former stepson’s funeral and three special songs that were song during the service. Each of these songs were songs of hope in the midst of tragedy. Each of these songs were songs of hope in the midst of suffering. With that in mind, let us read the final chapter/passage of the Book of Daniel, Daniel 12:1-13:

 

 

12 “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. 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. 3 Those who are wise[a] will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. 4 But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”

 

5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. 6 One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?”

 

7 The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, “It will be for a time, times and half a time.[b] When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.”

 

8 I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?”

 

9 He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. 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.

 

11 “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. 12 Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.

 

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.”

 

I think that the thing that shines through to me in this ending of the Book of Daniel is that God does not deliver us from suffering. He delivers us through it. He never promised us that there would not be suffering in this world. He tells about when not it there will be suffering. We live in a fallen world besieged by sin so even the earth groans under the pains of the suffering caused by man’s sin. There are things that we are not going to understand in life. And at the end of times, there is going to be great suffering and persecution and there will be family tragedies that abound in those times. We will grieve and we will suffer anguish and heartache at the hands of an evil, sinful world. There will accidental deaths that we will find hard to explain. There will be those are shining stars for Christ while they are here on earth that will be taken from us too soon and we will not understand it. But let us remember the prize. God delivers his people. We win. Heaven is our reward. Heaven is our promise of hope. Heaven gives us the fortitude to move on. Heaven gives us comfort when we lose loved ones who are a child of Christ. Heaven gives us urgency to share the gospel with those we love and with those we don’t even know. Heaven is our reward. Heaven is the prize. We persevere here and we even take great risks for justice and honor here because we can man do to us but hasten our trip to our final prize. Let us live in anticipation of heaven rather than fear of losing this life. That makes all the suffering and hardship on this side of heaven worth the effort. When we get there, we will have our imagination satisfied. When we get there, we will be walking the streets of gold in the presence of God. When we get there, our eternity will be changed from this existence on this side of heaven and we will have our memories of a good race run and then sit at the Master’s feet praising Him all the day long. This is my story and this is my song. Is it yours?

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 11:2-45

Kings of the South and North

Wow! After reading this chapter, you realize that the immediate future of southeastern Europe, Palestine, what is now Iraq, Iran, and the Arabian Peninsula, and northern Africa is going to be a bloody mess of wars and intrigue. Here’s a little bit about what the chapter is describing.

 

Daniel 11:2 – the fourth Persian king that is referenced here may have been Xerxes I who ruled over the Persian Empire from 485-465 BC. He launched all out war against Greece in 480 BC (remember the movie, The 300? It fits in this time frame).

 

Daniel 11:3 – the mighty king referred to here is Alexander the Great who conquered the Persian Empire and was such a skilled military tactician that he pretty much conquered all the areas mentioned in my opening paragraph in just 4 years.

 

Daniel 11:4-5 – At Alexander’s sudden death at age 31, just as the beginning of the zenith of his power, he had left no succession plan within his family so his kingdom was divided up by his four leading generals in his army. It was divided under the rule of these four generals who set up their own little Alexandrian kingdoms in Egypt, Babylonia/Syria, Asia Minor, and Macedonia/Greece. The king of the south noted here is most like the general who claimed Egypt as his kingdom, Ptolemy I and Ptolemic dynasty.

 

Daniel 11:6-7 – These prophecies seemed to have been fulfilled in the wars between Ptolemy II of Egypt (the south) and the kingdom of Babylonia/Syria under the successor of the Alexandran general Seleucid under Antiochus II. To finalize a peace treaty between the two kingdoms, Ptolemy II gave his daughter in marriage to Antiochus. However, one of Antiochus’ wives, Laodice, assassinates Ptolemy II’s daughter before the marriage can take place. Ptolemy II’s son, Ptolemy III ascends to his father’s throne and vows vengeance for his sister and launches against the Seleucid kingdom.

 

Daniel 11:9-11 – The king of Syria (the north) was now Seleucus II and the king of Egypt now is Ptolemy IV.

 

Daniel 11:13-16 – the king of the north may have been Antiochus III. He defeated many Egyptian cities and established himself in Israel (the glorious land). He is later defeated by the Romans at Magnesia (see Daniel 11:18). Antiochus III tried to bring peace between the Alexandran kingdoms of Egypt and Babylon/Syria by having his daughter marry Ptolemy IV of Egypt, but as before in this tale of intrigue and wars, the plan failed.

 

Daniel 11:20 – The successor to Antiochus III was Seleucus IV. He sent Hellodorus to pillage the Temple treasury in Jerusalem.

 

Daniel 11:21 –  Seleucus IV was succeeded by his brother Antiochus IV who found favor with the Romans.

 

Daniel 11:22 – The great armies refer to the way all opposition against Antiochus IV will be broken. The covenant prince may bet the Jewish high priest, Onias III, who was assassinated in 170 BC.

 

Daniel 11:27 – these two treacherous kings were most likely Antiochus IV of Syria and Ptolemy VI of Egypt.

 

Daniel 11:29-31 – Antiochus IV again invaded the south, but enemy ships caused him to retreat. On his way back home, he took out his frustrations on Jerusalem and plundered the city, desecrated the Temple with pagan gods, and stopped the Jewish sacrifices. The Temple was desecrated when he sacrificed a pig to the god Zeus on an altar within the Temple that he had erected. To the Jews this was the ultimate insult because (1) pigs were considered unclean and were not to be eaten or even used as sacrifices and (2) it was sacrificed within the Temple to a false, pagan god. This insult led to the Maccabean revolt in Jerusalem (and from that revolt comes the Jewish tradition of Hannukah that lives on today).

 

Daniel 11:32 – This reference is probably to Menelaus, the high priest who aligned himself with Antiochus and conspired with the him to root out Jews who were not loyal to Antiochus. Those who were loyal to God were probably referencing the Macabees and their supporters who eventually revolted against Antiochus. It may also include though a future times prophecy that has not yet been fulfilled.

 

Daniel 11:36-39 – These verses could refer to Antiochus IV, Titus the Roman General who authored the final destruction of the biblical era Jewish state in AD 70, or it could be the Antichrist of the end times prophecies. Some of these events have been fulfilled in the past but some have yet to be fulfilled.

 

Daniel 11:37 – may refer to the god of fertility in the pantheon of Babylonian gods. The person referred to here will not recognize any gods, any religion, or the one true God. He will proclaim himself to be divine and the ultimate power.

 

Daniel 11:38 – This king will make war against all sacred things. More than any of his predecessors, he will wage war and glorify its horrors. Is this maybe Atilla the Hun that brought down much for the western Roman empire or is this Antichrist?

 

Daniel 11:40 – the Antichrist of the last days becomes the center of attention for the remainder of the book of Daniel.

 

With this background now let’s read Daniel 11:2-45:

 

2 “Now then, I tell you the truth: Three more kings will arise in Persia, and then a fourth, who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained power by his wealth, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece. 3 Then a mighty king will arise, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases. 4 After he has arisen, his empire will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others.

 

5 “The king of the South will become strong, but one of his commanders will become even stronger than he and will rule his own kingdom with great power. 6 After some years, they will become allies. The daughter of the king of the South will go to the king of the North to make an alliance, but she will not retain her power, and he and his power[a] will not last. In those days she will be betrayed, together with her royal escort and her father[b] and the one who supported her.

 

7 “One from her family line will arise to take her place. He will attack the forces of the king of the North and enter his fortress; he will fight against them and be victorious. 8 He will also seize their gods, their metal images and their valuable articles of silver and gold and carry them off to Egypt. For some years he will leave the king of the North alone. 9 Then the king of the North will invade the realm of the king of the South but will retreat to his own country. 10 His sons will prepare for war and assemble a great army, which will sweep on like an irresistible flood and carry the battle as far as his fortress.

 

11 “Then the king of the South will march out in a rage and fight against the king of the North, who will raise a large army, but it will be defeated. 12 When the army is carried off, the king of the South will be filled with pride and will slaughter many thousands, yet he will not remain triumphant. 13 For the king of the North will muster another army, larger than the first; and after several years, he will advance with a huge army fully equipped.

 

14 “In those times many will rise against the king of the South. Those who are violent among your own people will rebel in fulfillment of the vision, but without success. 15 Then the king of the North will come and build up siege ramps and will capture a fortified city. The forces of the South will be powerless to resist; even their best troops will not have the strength to stand. 16 The invader will do as he pleases; no one will be able to stand against him. He will establish himself in the Beautiful Land and will have the power to destroy it. 17 He will determine to come with the might of his entire kingdom and will make an alliance with the king of the South. And he will give him a daughter in marriage in order to overthrow the kingdom, but his plans[c] will not succeed or help him. 18 Then he will turn his attention to the coastlands and will take many of them, but a commander will put an end to his insolence and will turn his insolence back on him. 19 After this, he will turn back toward the fortresses of his own country but will stumble and fall, to be seen no more.

 

20 “His successor will send out a tax collector to maintain the royal splendor. In a few years, however, he will be destroyed, yet not in anger or in battle.

 

21 “He will be succeeded by a contemptible person who has not been given the honor of royalty. He will invade the kingdom when its people feel secure, and he will seize it through intrigue. 22 Then an overwhelming army will be swept away before him; both it and a prince of the covenant will be destroyed. 23 After coming to an agreement with him, he will act deceitfully, and with only a few people he will rise to power. 24 When the richest provinces feel secure, he will invade them and will achieve what neither his fathers nor his forefathers did. He will distribute plunder, loot and wealth among his followers. He will plot the overthrow of fortresses—but only for a time.

 

25 “With a large army he will stir up his strength and courage against the king of the South. The king of the South will wage war with a large and very powerful army, but he will not be able to stand because of the plots devised against him. 26 Those who eat from the king’s provisions will try to destroy him; his army will be swept away, and many will fall in battle. 27 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. 28 The king of the North will return to his own country with great wealth, but his heart will be set against the holy covenant. He will take action against it and then return to his own country.

 

29 “At the appointed time he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before. 30 Ships of the western coastlands will oppose him, and he will lose heart. Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant. He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant.

 

31 “His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. 32 With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.

 

33 “Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. 34 When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. 35 Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.

The King Who Exalts Himself

 

36 “The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. 37 He will show no regard for the gods of his ancestors or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all. 38 Instead of them, he will honor a god of fortresses; a god unknown to his ancestors he will honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. 39 He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god and will greatly honor those who acknowledge him. He will make them rulers over many people and will distribute the land at a price.[d]

 

40 “At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood. 41 He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. 42 He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape. 43 He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Cushites[e] in submission. 44 But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many. 45 He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at[f] the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.

 

 

All you can say is wow! This prophecy written in the 550’s BC nails it head on specifically about the events of the future during the time period between 550 and time period just before the Roman Empire becomes the dominant world power. And, when you read the history books of the time period between Alexanders death and Rome’s appearance as the dominant world power, all you can say is that it was crazy, bloody mess of intrigue, in-fighting, wars, rumors of wars, and destruction. Daniel must have been sickened by all of this when he was told the future. He, I am sure, was hoping for rest for his native land. However, even after the Jews were allowed to return to their homeland under Cyrus, they were not restored to their former glory under David and Solomon.

Israel was a pawn in the chess match between world powers over the next 600 years before Titus destroyed what was left of the biblical era Jewish nation in AD 70. The footsteps of the armies of world powers are all over Palestine. Israel was a puppet and someone else was always pulling the strings. The future of Israel has been revealed to Daniel and it’s just not pretty when you compare it to the glory days under David and Solomon for which all Jews longed to re-establish.

 

This reminds us that God is our only hope. If we place our trust in man, we will be disappointed. Time and again, we see these power plays of kingdoms throughout the history of man. Kingdoms rise. Kingdoms fall. Once what was considered invincible decays and is swallowed up by the next seemingly invincible power. Today and in the future it will be no different. One day the kingdom of the United States will no longer be a world power – guaranteed! The Romans were shocked when their everlasting kingdom, or so they thought, was picked apart piece by piece by its enemies when it became weak and self-absorbed. It happens to every kingdom. It will happen to ours.

 

The only thing that we can trust in is the Almighty God who created all things. He is our fortress. He is our strength. Nothing man-made can last. Only the eternal God of heaven! Let us remember that man will screw everything up he can. To man, its always and always will be about pride and arrogance and power. That will continue to make this world a mess until Christ returns. Let us put faith in the things that are eternal not the things of man. It all decays and gets devoured by the next great thing. Only God lasts. Only God is eternal. Let’s put our faith in that and ride that through the craziness that is man’s history until our Savior returns to end all this crazy messed up mess!

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 10:1-11:1 (Part 2)

Daniel’s Vision of a Messenger

One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite shows of all time is one from the show, How I Met Your Mother. Ted, whose former fiancée, Stella, who had left him standing at the altar to return to her ex-husband and father of her daughter. Ted was crushed by that and it took a whole season of the show for him to work through that. And at the beginning of this episode from 2009, he was finally going to go tell Stella off once and for all, but he sees Stella, her husband and their daughter on the steps of their building and saw how happy they were and decided not to. Later in the show, they ended up have a moment alone and this is how that scene goes:

 

Ted Mosby: Okay, I’m gonna say something out loud that I’ve been doing a pretty good job not saying out loud lately. What you and Tony have… What I thought for a second you and I had… What I know that Marshall and Lily have… I want that. I do. I keep waiting for it to happen, I wait for it to happen and… I guess I’m just… I’m tired of waiting. And that is all I’m going to say on that subject.

Stella Zinman: You know that once I talked my way out of a speeding ticket?

Ted Mosby: Really?

Stella Zinman: I was heading upstate to my parents’ house and was doing, like, 90 on this country road and got pulled over. So this cop gets out of his car and he kinda swaggers all over and he’s all, like: “Young lady, I have been waiting for you all day.” So I looked up at him and I said: “I’m so sorry, officer. I got here as fast as I could.”

Ted Mosby: For real?

Stella Zinman: Nah. It’s an old joke. I know that you are tired of waiting, and you may have to wait a little while more, but she’s on her way, Ted. And she’s getting here as fast as she can.

 

Ah, that last line of Stella’s. And she’s getting here as fast as she can. It still grabs my heart and brings a tear to my eye. It is a line that I have wanted to use with three single moms that I know that are three of the greatest single moms that I know. All three of these ladies, in this day and age of selfishness and it’s all about me, put their children’s needs forever first in their lives in which they have to be both mom and dad. One is in her late 20’s, one in her early 30’s, and the other is in her mid-40s I have told them both that in this age where single moms often parade a barrage of boyfriends around their sons and daughters. To show your children that you put them first among your earthly treasures is to show them that they are loved. In so many cases, 20 or 30 or even 40 something single moms just make their kids tag along for the ride of their romantic life instead of making the children first and romance second to that. I know that sometimes it is lonely for each of these ladies, but to see them and the relationship that they have with their respective children (and in one of these cases, grandchildren) just melts your heart. I have so often wanted to tell each of them this classic line from How I Met Your Mother. I have wanted to tell them that God will honor the fact that that they are putting their children first or even their children’s children first. Each makes sacrifices for their kids (and even grandkids). God will honor the sacrifice and that the guy that God has intended for them is really, no kidding, getting here as fast as he can. Just hold on. Keep honoring God and he, that one guy, will get here. He’s already on his way. He’s getting here as fast as he can. He will get here.

 

It was that thought of how Daniel continued to pray to God fervently throughout his life and never stopped honoring God. Even though the answer to prayers did not come right away. Help was on its way. Eternal battles had to work themselves out. But Daniel had faith. He held on to his faith when there was no immediate answer. It is here in this passage, Daniel 10:1-11:1, that we that Daniel prayed for weeks on end with no obvious answer to his prayers. Daniel kept on praying and praying and praying. And in this passage, Daniel is met with a vision and he is told that His prayers were heard but an eternal battle had to be waged before they could arrive to him. God had sent an messenger, an angel (who some scholars suppose to be Jesus, but which I doubt because Jesus would not have needed help from Gabriel), to his aid but was detained by having to wage an eternal battle with a demon of Satan. But now the messenger was here. He was getting there as fast as he could. Sometimes there are eternal details that have to be worked out, but the messenger was getting there as fast as he could. And, when the angelic messenger and Gabriel arrived, Daniel found comfort and healing. Daniel’s honoring of God was heard from the first moments of his humbled prayer. God was listening. God did send a messenger to comfort Daniel and He was restored to strength. The angelic messenger ministered to Daniel’s needs. The messenger was getting there as fast as he could.

 

Let us read Daniel 10:1-11:1 with an eye to how we must continue to be faithful even when God is not seemingly answering our prayers – well at least according to our timetable:

 

10 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.[a] The understanding of the message came to him in a vision.

 

2 At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 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.

 

4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like topaz, 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.

 

7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.

 

10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

 

12 Then he continued, “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, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”

 

15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man[b] touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, “I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.”

 

18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 19 “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.”

 

When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.”

 

20 So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince. 11 1 And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him.)

 

Daniel continued to pray fervently for three weeks. He honored God his entire life. He also had prayed for his homeland for his entire life. Even though there was no immediate answers to any of his prayers. His prayers were heard. He was sent a comforter. He was told in his dreams that many things still had to be worked out even before his own people could return to their homeland in the immediate future (a thing that Daniel had been praying for all the years that he had been in exile with his fellow Israelites) and many things had to be worked out before the end of times way in the future. Even in this three week prayer, Daniel did not see an immediate answer to this particular prayer session. But Daniel kept praying. But Daniel kept honoring God with his life. And in the answer to his prayer some three weeks later, he is comforted by God through an angelic messenger. This messenger gave him comfort in his time of need. This messenger gave him healing in his time of need. This messenger rewarded him in his time of need by telling him that he was highly esteemed in the heavenly realms and that his prayers were heard. However, there was a heavenly battle that had to be waged. He basically said to Daniel that I was getting here as fast as I could.

 

These would be the words that I would say to these three single moms that I know, each of them in various stages of their lives when it comes to the man that God has intended to be their future husbands, that one true guy that God had really intended for them all along. Hold on. He is getting here as fast as he can. Keep honoring God. It may be lonely at times putting the needs of your family first before your own needs but God will honor that. He will bring you the man that is a God honoring man at the right moment at the right time. It may seem that God is not hearing your prayers but from the moment that you uttered your prayers to Him, He has heard the prayers. There are eternal details that are working themselves out right now behind the scenes that you cannot see that God is creating the path for this God-honoring, God-fearing man to reach each one of you. He is getting here as fast as He can. God is answering your prayers but the details are being worked out right now. Keep honoring God. Keep living godly examples of godly women in front of your children (and grandchildren). God is working out the details as fast as He can.

 

That message to these three single moms that I know is also one that all of us need to listen to as well. Sometimes, we pray to God as if He is a vending machine and the answer is just supposed to pop out. Daniel prayed for somethings over an entire lifetime before they came true. In in seeking answers to a specific question in his prayer here in Daniel 10, he prayed without ceasing for three weeks. The answers did not come right away. Eternal details were being worked out. We must continue to fervently pray to the Lord for answers to our prayers even when the answers don’t come in the time frame that we want. In our continued prayers, we are often changed by the continuing prayer from our own desires to those of God. Just because there is not an immediate answer to our prayers does not mean that God does not hear them. He just may be working out and orchestrating the eternal details that will result in the answer that He has for us for the subject of our prayers. He does hear us. He is working on the answer that He has for us. He is working on it as fast as He can. In approaching God in humility and by living God honoring lives we become less selfish in our prayers and simply seek to know God’s will for our lives and seek His help in doing or knowing what He wants us to know or do. When we do that, he hears us. He esteems us and will answer us. There may be eternal details that have to work themselves out over long periods of time. But the answer is getting here as fast as it can – as fast as it is supposed to be getting here as part of God’s plan for our lives. How we handle our lives in the midst of seeking answer to prayers can be a ministry to others about how much trust we have in the Lord to answer our prayers. We must trust that He is working it out as fast as He can.

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 10:1-11:1 (Part 1)

Daniel’s Vision of a Messenger

Why is that movies about evil spirit beings sell so well? People give some credence to the existence of evil spirits in the world. Movies like The Conjuring 2 that are out right now are selling tickets wildly. Some of the highest grossing films of cinema history are movies about evil beings. Probably one of the highest grossing films of all time (after adjusting for inflation) was The Exorcist about a 12 year old girl who becomes possessed by a demon. The Exorcist was not only a high grossing film but also it was an Academy Awards nominated movie. Had it not been for the movie, The Sting (with Robert Redford and Paul Newman), that was released in the same Oscar cycle, The Exorcist may well have won Best Picture that year. Other movies such as Rosemary’s Baby (made in the late 60’s) was not only critically acclaimed but it became a cult classic of a movie there for a while. Then, there are the slice and dice movies such as the Friday 13th movie franchise that involves an unstoppable evil spirit. People are willing to believe that evil spirits exist. They are willing to pay money to see it portrayed. Yet, at the same time, films and television shows that are about angels are rare. People consider movies about the good guys, the angels of God, as being unbelievable fantasy. We will push these shows and movies off as being unrealistic. Typically such movies about angels are presented as comedies or light entertainment. There are very few movies that have ever been made, outside of re-creations of Bible stories, where movies about angelic beings or even God himself are not presented as comedies or light fluff movies. It seems that we think angels and God are a joke or light-hearted fantasy whereas we are willing to be believe in and give more credence to demonic spirits in the movies and TV shows that we make.

 

Daniel 10 is here to push back the veil for us and show us what is going on in the spirit realm. Let us read Daniel 10:1-11:1 together:

 

10 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.[a] The understanding of the message came to him in a vision.

 

2 At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 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.

 

4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like topaz, 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.

 

7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.

 

10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

 

12 Then he continued, “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, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”

 

15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man[b] touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, “I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.”

 

18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 19 “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.”

 

When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.”

 

20 So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince. 11 1 And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him.)

 

Chapter 10 is Daniel’s final vision that will be fleshed out in the final two chapters of the book that follow. The thing that we look at today is the fact that we get one of the few rare glimpses in the Bible in which we are allowed to see the unseen, the spirit battle that goes on around us daily. There are demonic forces that are around us and want to occupy us and our thoughts and turn us away from God and toward Satan. There angelic forces as well that are out there as well. There is a spirit world out there that we cannot see because we are mere mortals. There is indeed evil out there. But at the same time, there is good in the form of angels. Let us remember that angels are created being that are a step above humanity but less than God. The same is true of demons. They are created beings that were formerly angels but followed the prideful angel, Satan, and were cast out of heaven. They are created beings. Satan is created. He is not equal nor are his demons equal to God. The point for today is that we must consider that there is a battle going on around us that we do not see. We may think it fantasy in our 21st century reasoned nature. But why then do movies about the existence of evil spirits sell so well. We must at least believe that there’s the possibility.

 

I present to you that there are angels out there too. Gabriel and Michael and their kind mentioned in the Bible are out there keeping the evil ones from God’s chosen people. Just as when Daniel prayed in Chapters 9 and 10, angels departed immediately to be with him and to show him the future. Angels are right now protecting his people. Even if we suffer persecution in the future, we can count on angels to rescue our spirits if not our bodies. Angels will protect us from the evil that wants to attack us. When we are in need God provides us protection through his angels. They are fighting for us daily to protect us from the evil ones. When we are child of God through Jesus Christ, He makes sure we are protected. When we seek Him in prayer, He protects us. He sends His angels to minister to us and keep us safe in God’s arms. There are those of you who are reading this and say poppycock. There is no such thing as angels. But yet these are the same people who fill theaters for the movie, The Conjuring 2, and any other movie about evil spirits.

 

Let us be reminded that God is greater than Satan. Satan was created. Satan’s demons are created. The angels of God are created. All of these beings are created except for God. He is the creator of all things. He is then ultimately more powerful than Satan. Let us remember then that evil spirits know the name of Jesus Christ and will bow down at him. Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit have command of angels who are not just sweet little cherubs but also warriors in the eternal battle with the demons and Satan. We are not lonely in our battle against evil. We do have the hosts of heaven, angelic beings, that are fighting the unseen attacks on us by demons and by Satan. It all may seem fantasy to you in this modern age. However, I submit to you that seeing movies about evil spirits means that you at least subconsciously give credence to the existence of evil beings. Therefore, I submit to you to consider that there are angelic beings as well and that they are not little baby Valentine cherubs. I submit to you that they are confident warriors against evil. They are even arrogantly superior to demons in that they know that their boss is the Creator and not some created being.

 

We should therefore have confidence and boldness in our faith in that we know that angelic beings are fighting for us. Because of the mysteries of God that we do not understand and will not until we reach heaven, angels may not save our physical bodies from early deaths but they will be there to carry out God’s will. If that is death at an early age for us, then, the angels will be there to deliver us from the pain of death and deliver us to the presence of God in heaven. Other times, angels will be there to protect us from harm as we live out the will of God for our lives. That gives me confidence in my faith. No matter what I have the hosts of heaven on my side. It should give me, it should give you boldness. Live out the life God has intended for you with boldness and fervor. We have the hosts of heaven on our side! Daniel pulls back the veil for us to see that. We play on the A-team. Live boldly for God as a result!

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 9:20-27 (Part 2)

Gabriel’s Message about the Anointed One

Have you ever had a person in your life that thinks of themselves as more well-known than they really are? These are the people that see a local celebrity on television and claim that they are friends with that person. They make these claims because they know that you will never verify whether it is true or not. We have all known people like that. There have been books about the lies we tell ourselves so much that we sadly believe them such as the classic work, Death of a Salesman. There has been someone in your life that you have encountered that has so deluded themselves and their importance in life that they believe the lies that they tell. We are often that way when it comes to the prophecies in the Bible. In America, we think of ourselves as the greatest nation on earth, militarily, economically, athletically, socially, you name it. With the king of the hill complex that we have, we often interject the United States into biblical prophecy. Although there may be a role for the United States in the end times, it may not be in the way that we self-importantly place ourselves in it. By the end times, we may not even be a world power anymore, maybe we will. Who knows? The Bible is silent when it comes to a nation that the divinely inspired human writers would not even have known about or even could have conceptualized in their mind at the time. Therefore, we have to be careful “in reading too much USA into biblical prophecy”. Of course, we are a people of the future that the Bible speaks of for certain but like I said for there to be specific role for a future nation called the United States of America may be like the person who believes he knows celebrities when he really doesn’t – projecting our own self-importance onto the reality of the world around us.

 

Having said all that, let us look at what Gabriel’s message means. Let’s read what is said in this passage:

 

20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill— 21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision:

 

24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.

 

25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”

 

The first thing that we have to do is to determine what the length of time is in Gabriel’s message. Gabriel states that these things will be accomplished in 70 weeks. Sometimes, there are troubles in translating Hebrew into English. Hebrew is a much more compact language than English and the same word in Hebrew can have varied meanings depending on the context in which they are used. In English, we have some of that but not to the extent of the Hebrew language, particularly in the Biblical era. In the Old Testament times, we know of 8,000 different Hebrew words that were used in the Old Testament books. Compare that to the English language which had eclipsed 1,000,000 total words in our language by 2010. Thus, English has become a language of specific words for specific situations whereas the Hebrew language (though it has eclipsed 45,000 words by 2010) of the Bible and its 8,000 different words relies heavily on context for one to understand the meaning of a word. Having said all that, the first clue we have is that weeks are years. For it is Daniel’s prayer here in this chapter that occurs 70 years after the conquering of Jerusalem by the Babylonian armies. Further, according to www.gracebibleny.com, in their post http://gracebibleny.org/understanding_vision_daniel_92027,

 

“…the reason for the 70 years of desolation in Jerusalem is because this was the number of Sabbatical years that they had violated (2 Chronicles 36:21 cf. Leviticus 26:34), and 70 Sabbatical years would take 490 years to accumulate which in turn corresponds to seventy “weeks” of years here in Daniel 9:24. Third, the many things that Gabriel states would have to be accomplished during this period of time would take longer than what would be provided by units of 490 days, weeks (about 9 ½ years) or months (nearly 41 years). This would include not only the rebuilding of the Temple and Jerusalem, but also the coming of Messiah, His being cut off and the city and the sanctuary destroyed again. Fourth, we live many centuries after many of these events have occurred and it is confirmed that this is referring to weeks of years.”

 

 

Thus, it is fairly certain in scholarly circles that the meaning of the “weeks” is simply a reference to units of time passage and in this case, years is the logical conclusion.

 

As this vision and Daniel’s prayer are very specific to the Jewish people, we must be careful not to put too much future casting into this vision. It is clear that none of this vision can offer any reading into about the United States. Further, it would be difficult to interject the Christian church into it. This is a vision for the Jewish people about the future of the nation of Israel as it was known in the biblical era. Then, in the second half of v. 26, the broad future of the end of time is prophesied. Vv. 26-27 do not give specifics about the future with the long-ranging prophecy of a prince (who we can conclude from Revelation that it is the Anti-Christ) at the end of all time who will also defile the Temple in Jerusalem or the remains thereof.

 

Gabriel’s words in this passage through the first half of v. 26 are very specific about the nation of Israel. All of the transgressions, and working out of sin and repentance, all must occur before Jerusalem is restored but Gabriel promises that it will happen. Through repentance, Israel will be restored. Once the results of their wickedness and rebellion against have all worked themselves out Israel will be restored. Once they have paid the price for wickedness and have atoned for their sins, Jerusalem will become a holy city once again. As we know, from other exilic books in the Old Testament, Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their homeland beginning in 538 BC and the temple was rebuilt around 457 BC under the watchful eye of Artaxerxes, the next named ruler after Cyrus. In Nehemiah, we know that the whole city had been rebuilt by 445 BC.

 

Gabriel also gives warning too that the future would again involve destruction because of Israel’s inability to recognize Jesus as the Messiah which occurred with utter brutality under the Romans in 70AD. Then, Gabriel projects far into the future. There will be wars and destruction throughout history until the time of the end. In this future period is where we are now. There is no mention of the United States other than we are a people of the future who will be a part of the wars and desolations that will occur after the final destruction of biblical Israel in 70AD. We are a part of the future. We may not see ourselves the arising of the Anti-Christ but it will happen in the period of the future that we are in – anything that happens after the final destruction of biblical Israel in 70AD. To say that America will play a prominent role in the end times is a bit presumptious because we don’t know when the Rapture and Tribulation noted here and in Revelation will occur. It may be 2 years from now, 20 years from now or 200 or even 2,000 years from now. We just don’t know. To project ourselves as a country into these prophecies is a bit self-important.

 

The only thing that we do know for sure from biblical prophecy is that there will be an end to the world as we know it at some point in the future that could happen tomorrow or 20,000 tomorrows from now. We must not read ourselves into these prophecies as if the end is upon us but we must live prepared lives. We must not be constantly looking for signs of the end times, but rather live lives that are reflective of our Savior Jesus Christ. Instead of seeking signs of the end times, we should have urgency for evangelizing those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior. If there is anything that we can take away from end times prophecies is that only the Father knows when it will happen and we must have urgency to bring people to the saving grace of Jesus Christ before we reach the end of our lives or the end of the world as we know it. So, let’s spend more time on that rather than conjecturing what the role of the United States will be in the end times. We should just know that the end could happen at any time and we must take seriously the role we play as Christians to make disciples of all nations before the final judgment time comes upon us. Stop trying to calculate time frames. Stop trying to determine if Obama is the Anti-Christ and start living with urgency for evangelism.

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 9:20-27 (Part 1)

Gabriel’s Message about the Anointed One

Have you ever heard a speech that was profound whose words were as prophetic as they were profound? There are many speeches just in the history of our country that have been profound and that we remember to this day (even if some of the speeches were made before we were born or were too young to remember them). History records Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s speech to Congress after Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor and the US Pacific forces that were stationed there. In that speech, he uttered the famous line at the beginning of the speech that “December 7, 1941, a day that will live in infamy!” He went on to make one of the most rousing speeches ever uttered by an American President. It galvanized a nation in sacrifices for the war effort that our nation will never be willing to undertake again. What a speech! Twenty years later in 1961, we hear President Kennedy utter the famous words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country” in his address at his inauguration as President. Later in 1962, we hear him say, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win…” That speech galvanized a generation not only to stretch the boundaries of technology but challenged a generation to change the world not because it was easy but because change needed to happen. Fast forward to 1987, we hear President Reagan utter those famous words during a speech at the Berlin Wall in which he exhorted, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Fast forward to September 20, 2001, nine days after the terrorist attacks on our nation, President Bush gave the speech that defined his presidency as much as the other speeches defined the presidencies of Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Reagan when he spoke about America’s resolve to track down those responsible for 09/11. He uttered the now famous words, “We will not tire. We will not waiver. We will not fail!” He galvanized a nation into a resolute one for a time. He lifted us out of our fear of terrorism into a nation resolved to stop it. Rousing words by all these presidents. They were as much prophetic as they were rousing. In each speech, there were hard tasks ahead and each of these Presidents probably had no idea how they were going to actually execute their claims but they knew that they had to be done. These words are burned into the American psyche.

 

What does this have to do with Daniel 9:20-27? These American Presidents had a vision of the future in which American would be restored from being knocked to its knees temporarily or a vision of an America that was victorious over evil or oppressive empires or a vision an American that could boldly go where no man has gone before. Visions of the future. Charting the unknown future and saying that this is the way it is going to be was the characteristic of these great speeches from American presidents. It is the same, in a way, with this passage. Gabriel gives Daniel promise and hope of a brighter future. He gives Daniel a vision of the future that God has planned. These American Presidents rallied the American people to do insurmountable tasks at moments when we did not think we could do what was ahead of us. Gabriel gives us hope of the victory ahead. Daniel was down and out and had grown tired of knowing that his homeland lied in ruins. He was old and wanted to return home. He knew that his nation had been knocked to his knees and deserved it but he was weary of the exile by this time. He was begging God forgive the errors and sins of his people and let them return home. Gabriel gives him a vision of the future. Gabriel shows him that the road was not yet over, the road would be hard, but that there would be victory in the end. Let’s read what is said in this passage:

 

20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill— 21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision:

 

24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.

 

25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”

 

Gabriel gives Daniel hope in that he assures Daniel that Jerusalem will be rebuilt. He gives Daniel hope that the Anointed One, the Messiah will finally come during the time periods mentioned ahead. Gabriel doesn’t give Daniel so pie in the sky perfect world vision for the future. He is realistic with Daniel about the things to come. Jerusalem will be restored but it will be under attack again and again in the future. His people will not recognize the Messiah when He comes and ultimately Israel will be desecrated. But with the last phrase in the last sentence, “until the end that is decreed is poured out on him”, Gabriel gives Daniel a vision of the ultimate victory of the Messiah over His enemies.

 

There is much debate about the meaning of the time periods that Gabriel states in this passage and we will talk about that over the weekend but for now, the thing that is on my heart about this passage is the hope that this speech by Gabriel ultimately gives to Daniel and any believer who reads this passage. The road ahead for God’s people is going to be hard. It will get harder before it gets better. But there will be ultimate victory in the Messiah’s return to gather up his people and to pour out his judgment on evil. There is hope in that. We know the road is hard ahead in prophetic end-times terms. Jesus’ return is our victory in the end. We will not tire, we will not falter, we will not fail. We will have victory through Jesus Christ in the end. Jesus will have victory and force Satan to tear down that wall that imprisons us in his world. We fight not because it is easy but because it is hard. It will take all our talents and energies as Christ followers to ensure that we survive the coming storms and to aid the Holy Spirit in gathering souls to Christ in a world gone mad and that will get madder. Ask not what we can do for ourselves but what we can do to help Jesus Christ. We are in a battle and Satan thinks he has had his day of infamy. But there is hope. The Messiah will come. We press on. We hold fast to our belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord because He is coming to set things right. The battles between here and there will be fierce but Christ will come. He will come.

 

Amen and Amen.