Archive for June, 2016

Daniel 9:1-19 (Part 3)

Daniel’s Prayer for His People

In the movie, Bruce Almighty, the main character played by Jim Carrey, is angry at God or whatever his conception of God may have been at the time. He blames God for his lot in life, for his life not going the way that he wants it to go. “Smite me, oh, mighty Smiter!” was a classic line from the movie. He later comments that God is a bully of a kid with a magnifying glass and he is a little ant and God is concentrating the power of the sun upon him. He seems to think that God is out to get him and that God is sitting back and laughing at the puppet on a string that He is controlling. Many of us feel this way at times. We think God is some sadistic, remote god who toys with us and sees how much we can take. We blame God as this mean bully but rarely do we really examine ourselves and see what we have done to ourselves. We think that God can clear up our problems in 5 minutes just like God said to Bruce when He temporarily gave Bruce the power of God. We think that God can clean up our messes in 5 minutes but He chooses not to just to mess with us.

 

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever been angry at God, as in your own thinking, for being mean to you? One thing in the movie that was pretty profound was the following lines:

 

Bruce: How do you make so many people love you without affecting Free Will?

God: [snorts] Heh, welcome to my world, son. If you come up with an answer to that one, let me know.

Of course, God knows the that answer to that question. He is God, but the point God was trying to make to Bruce was that free will is something granted to us by God and it has a mysterious interplay between it and God’s omnipotence. It is a mystery to us and something God will not reveal to us until we are in heaven. However, God acknowledges in this scene that He gives us free will. It is our free will that often gets us in trouble and then we blame God. Bruce in the movie, and many of us, fail to recognize the role we play in our own messes. Certainly, with free will be a part of every human existence, we are often hurt by the free will actions of others. However, many of our messes are the result of the selfish use of our own free will. Just as Bruce made the selfish decision “on air” to go off on his superiors for not giving him the news anchor position that he thought he deserved which resulted in his firing and then he blamed God for it, we often do the same. We make selfish decisions and we blame God for the outcome. We think that God wants what we want. We can’t understand it when our selfish decisions result in negative effects for us. We are like kids who disobey their parents and then get angry with their parents for punishing them or allowing the kids selfish decisions play themselves out without fixing it for them.

 

It was the same for Israel. In their free will, they chose to ignore God and pursue their selfish desires. God warned them through many prophets to change their ways or they would come to destruction. The selfish indulgence of Israel led to their downfall. They turned from God and pursued selfish desires and became so self-centered that they became weak as a nation. They were more interested in pursuing their lusts than being a self-disciplined people. In obeying God’s commands, they would have been a people that were strong and stayed away from things that turned their attention toward weakness and self-indulgence. God allowed circumstances to happen as a result of their not following Him. We are the same. We pursue our free will induced selfishness and then things happen and then we cry out to God as to why He is being mean to us. We fail to examine that we chose not to obey God’s commands for our lives that are intended to keep us from destroying ourselves.

That idea of blaming God for our circumstances is the opposite of what Daniel did here. He examines the life of Israel before its conquest by Babylon and sees that Israel deserved it. Let’s read through it together here again today with an eye toward examining our own lives and seeing where we disobeyed God and what it has led to:

 

9 In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes[a] (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian[b] kingdom— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

 

4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:

 

“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

 

7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.

 

“Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

 

15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.

 

17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

 

Here in this passage, Daniel refers to the blessing and curses promised by God for obedience and disobedience, respectively, found in Deuteronomy 28. God gives us free will and we have to make a choice: obedience or disobedience. The curses of disobedience are meant to turn us back to God. Daniel speaks of how God continually tried to turn Israel back to Himself. Even after disaster struck them, they continued to disobey Him. Daniel recognizes in his prayer for his nation that they (and he includes himself with them) have sinned against God continually, refused to see their ways as sinful, and that they deserved the lot in life in which they found themselves – captives of another nation. Daniel, though begs for undeserved mercy. He knows that Israel does not deserve mercy but He begs for it because God is a loving God who wants to restore Israel. However, God uses circumstances to teach us what we need to learn from disobedience. Sure, God could have cleared things up in 5 minutes if He wanted to but what would Israel have learned. That Daddy would get them out of a jam no matter how many times they acted irresponsibly?

 

God still uses circumstances, other people, and His Word to bring His people back to Himself. When we face difficult circumstances, we should ask ourselves if God has a reason to send judgment upon us. If we think so, we should be like Daniel and beseech God to forgive us. We must turn away from those behaviors that have, in our free will, brought about the circumstances in which we find ourselves – in a state of judgment. God will not automatically fix the situation because He wants us to learn the consequences of disobedience so that we never revisit that place again in our free will. Sometimes, after we realize that we have disobeyed God and we seek forgiveness and change our ways, it may take a good long while before all the effects of our disobedience play themselves out. Just because we seek and receive God’s forgiveness does not mean that we erase the mistakes we have made.

 

God grants us mercy though we seek forgiveness for misusing our free will. He will draw us unto Himself and we will arise from our messes through seeking Him. On our own merit, God should smite us with his Almighty Smite. We deserve it. We have sinned against Him and deserve eternal judgment for disobedience after disobedience. We deserve the circumstances, the judgment, in which we find ourselves. We deserve to be separated from God. However, God is not a mean bully. God is a loving God. He does not desire for us to live eternally in a state of punishment. He wants to have relationship with us. He has provided a way for us to be made right and clean before His eyes. It is through Jesus Christ who covers our dirty stains of sins in his purity. When we make Him Lord of our lives instead of ourselves, we hand our will over to Him and God sees Jesus covering us and accepts us as perfect through Jesus not because of ourselves. We are still ugly in our sin but we are covered by the purity of Jesus.

 

Israel did not deserve restoration. Neither do we. But through repentance and accepting Christ as our Lord we are restored. Israel was restored as a nation not because they deserved it but because God loved them and gave them another chance. Through Jesus Christ, we have a second chance. If you are in need of a second chance, examine your life. Instead of blaming God for your selfish decisions that have led you to the bottom of the barrel where you find yourself, claiming that He is some mighty and capricious Smiter, seek his forgiveness. Repent of our sins and ask Jesus Christ to cover you in his purity and ask Him to come into your life and take it over. You will be restored. You won’t ever deserve it, but God is not a bully. He is a loving Father who wants you to be restored to His favor.

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 9:1-19 (Part 2)

Daniel’s Prayer for His People

In this day and age, tough love is not something that many of us are willing to display, particularly with our children. Too many times, we want to be our children’s best friend instead of their parent. We want to be the cool parent that the kids want us to be. We want to be that popular parent where you children’s friends think we are the coolest thing ever. We would rather our children be spoiled with toys and with little discipline rather have to do the hard work of molding them into responsible human beings. This issue is one that is of great concern to me for a couple of reasons. I am going through a tough time with my youngest adult child of my two adult children and within the next four weeks, I will become a grandparent for the first time as my oldest child and her husband are about to have their first child together. With youngest adult child maybe I am paying for spoiling her over the past years. With my grandchild, I know it is a grandparent’s special relationship with their grandchild that often involves spoiling and eating dessert first and having chocolate before bedtime and all that stuff. I want to be a good parent and a good grandparent. Sometimes, we have to show our children and grandchildren tough love. We must enforce discipline when it is necessary. We must make them mature into productive adults. Sure, there is time for playfulness and a time for just showering them with love, but there are also times where we have to be tough.

 

With my children, after my divorce from their mother, and subsequent marriage to my second wife, I felt (right or wrong) because of the jealousies that existed in my new marriage with her kids vs. my kids that I had to do only what was necessary for my kids. During my second marriage, I put a great emotional distance between me and my blood children just to keep the peace in my new household. It almost destroyed my relationship with my kids. Ultimately, having to make choices about supporting my own children above and beyond the required child support was one of the main factors in the demise of my second marriage. After the second marriage ended, I went overboard in the other direction. I showered my kids, particularly my youngest, with whatever they wanted. She was still a young teenager and she was the type that as long as you do something for her, she was the type to continue letting you or expecting you to do things for her. The fact that I (and her mother who passed away 11 months ago) spent so much time after my second divorce giving her exactly what she wanted and not expecting or demanding any growth out of her, I now find myself with a 25 year old daughter who has only worked three meaningful years of work in her life so far. She is currently not working, living in the home she inherited from her mom, and has no desire to get her education or, as it appears, a meaningful job. Over the past year, I have been doing my best to force her toward maturity through cutting off various forms of support that I had still been giving her. The relationship has been testy to say the least over the past year. It is to the point that she is not speaking to me or having anything to do with me. Lord knows, I have made many mistakes with my kids over the years, but I am trying to correct that through find that balance. Right now, to get back to balance between the extremes that have marked the relationship in the past, tough love is required. This stretch with my youngest has been the hardest thing I have ever done. It would have been easier I guess if there had been balance throughout the relationship. But that can’t be changed and here we are with the tough love sequence.

 

Knowing the tough time that I had growing up as a parent and doing the right thing by them at the right times. Showing tough love when needed. I wonder how I am going to do as a grandparent. As a grandparent, we fulfill a role often as the relief valve for the parenting of children by the parents. We often are the comic relief. We are the spoilers. We are the unconditional accepters. There are so many clichés about grandparenting that are so easy to fall into. Will I be a grandparent that is willing to tell my granddaughter the truth about her behavior as she grows up in addition to being that necessary goofy granddad that she will love and adore. Will I be able to show her the errors of her ways when it is required. Will I be willing to tell her what she needs to hear rather than what she wants to hear. Sure, I KNOW I am going to spoil her and I should, as her grandparent. That’s part of the deal. However, I want to be the grandparent that is willing to teach her life lessons in a way that sometimes a parent can’t. I guess this whole time period with my adult youngest child is a reminder to me that in my role as grandparent it will not always be about going to Disney World and gifts and presents. There will be times that I will need to stand firm with my granddaughter to force her to mature at the right pace and not wait until she is 25 to start doing that.

 

That job of parenting (and grandparenting) is what I thought of this morning as I re-read Daniel 9:1-19 for the second time. Daniel’s understanding of the exile of Israel is spot on. It was the result of their disobedience to God. Had they simply obeyed the Lord and kept His commands, they would not be experiencing his tough love at this time. The exile to Babylon was God’s tough love for the sin and disobedience of His Chosen Children, Israel. Let’s read through it together here again today with a special eye toward Daniel’s commentary on the disobedience of Israel:

 

9 In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes[a] (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian[b] kingdom— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

 

4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:

 

“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

 

7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.

 

“Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

 

15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.

 

17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

 

Here in this passage, the captives of Judah had rebelled against God. Their sin had led to their captivity. God had sent many prophets to speak to His people through the years but they would not listen. Their messages were ignored. They were warned that if they continued in their disobedience that they would come to a bad end. The people of Israel thought that they knew better than God. They thought that they could do better going their own way. God was the parent here knowing that destruction would come from their self-indulgence. He knew that He gave them their boundaries of life not because He was trying to restrict their freedom but rather to keep them from destroying themselves. However, as impetuous kids, Israel did not take too well to the boundaries laid down by God. Thus, God allowed circumstances to swallow up Israel. Their self-indulgence became weakness and they became a conquered people enslaved. God could change all that in an instant if He wanted to, but He allowed it to happen to teach Israel a lesson in maturity.

 

Sometimes, God does the same thing with us. He speaks to us through the Bible, through a preacher’s sermon, through teachers, through life circumstances, through concerned friends. Sometimes, we need to hear the truth even if it hurts. God’s Word convicts us. A preacher’s sermon may sear straight into our hearts. Teachers may show us the error of our ways. Life circumstances often teach us what we need to know. Sometimes, concerned friends tells that we are full of it when we need to hear it. Tough love is sometimes part of God’s plan to get us to grow up as Christ followers. Tough love is sometimes too how God gets us to the cross in the first place.

 

In His tough love, though, there is always mercy. When we admit our mistakes and confess our sins and turn away from them, God is there with open arms. He only wants the best for us. He doesn’t show us tough love because He randomly wants to be mean to us. He just wants us to move away from sin and move back to Him. He is a good Father who just wants us to blossom into what He intended for us all along. It is no different for us as parents or grandparents. We may be required from time to time to show our children tough love. We don’t do it to be randomly and capriciously mean to them. We simply want them to avoid the pitfalls that we know are ahead of them. We simply want them not to miss their potential by wallowing in the path of least resistance. We show tough love to our kids and grandkids so that they will grow up and grow into to responsible, productive adults who have not boxed themselves into a certain lifestyle by the choices that they make right now. God was doing the same with Israel. He does the same thing with each one of us over the course of our existence here on this side of heaven. Sometimes we need tough love. Sometimes, after that we need His mercy and open arms. Just as any parent would welcome their child back into their arms with unconditional love and mercy after a period of tough love.

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 9:1-19 (Part 1)

Daniel’s Prayer for His People

Does your prayer life leave you disappointed? Do you even pray at all? I know that my prayer life is not what it should be. Sure, I pray when asked. I pray before my small group about the prayer requests that have been offered up during our meetings. I pray aloud at church events or functions when requested. I often search for the right buzz words to say when requested to pray. My prayers may even be moving and effective petitions to God on behalf of those who are listening. However, it is my private prayer life that is wanting. I have conversations and bits and pieces of prayers as the day goes by. But to sit down and pray to the Lord and to have quiet time with Him, my prayer life is wanting. I often pray most fervently when I want what I want and I want it now. My motives may well be in line with the will of God when I do pray but my prayers are lackluster at best. Although I may have matured in a lot of areas of my walk with Jesus over these past 15 years but my prayer life remains a baby prayer life. My excuses are many. I do have a very demanding job that I can never fully get away from – even on vacation. I do have a full time secular job and a part time ministry job. The time is short because of all that. Add to that, this morning, I began getting back into my early weekday morning exercise routine that has been sorely lacking for the last six months or so. I think God wants me to get this weight off me for health reasons and for ministry reasons as well so I see that as extremely important as well. Then, there’s my daily blog that I write here virtually every day as I walk through and study straight through books of the Bible. That is necessary not just for those who happen to read my blog but it is necessary for me to continue reading, learning, and then taking life applications away from my Bible study. All of it necessary, right? Yes, it is all necessary.

 

But, like the nuclear explosion intended to blow away the attack ship of the aliens over the city of Houston in the movie, Independence Day, and they ask for verification, the soldier says, “the target remains, sir. I repeat the target remains.” The target remains. My prayer life, my personal, private prayer life is a target that remains. No matter the excuses that I use for not having private time with the Lord. No matter the excuses of it feeling awkward. No matter the excuses, the target remains. There is only so much growing that you can do in your life without a healthy prayer life, an intimate prayer life with the Creator of all Things, the Lord and Master of my life. A marriage without intimate times of discussion, sharing, and quality time together is a marriage that drifts apart, away from it center. A marriage without times of closeness, even if there is no infidelity, becomes a business partnership rather than a marriage. A marriage without times where you celebrate wholeheartedly together, cry great tears together, and just share life’s innermost feelings is just two roommates sharing a home. You drift apart eventually if you and your wife do not have that deep-hearted connection. Even if you stay together but are not close, it is just two folks pooling resources. It is the same with our God. We must have intimate time with Him. Our prayer life is how we become intimate with Him. A full-grown prayer life makes you feel the presence of the Lord more so that some half-hearted prayer at the dinner table. Prayer is not for Him. It is for us to grow closer and more intimate with Him.

 

It is that idea of a full-grown prayer life that I see when I read through today’s passage, Daniel 9:1-19. Let’s read through it together here today:

 

9 In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes[a] (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian[b] kingdom— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

 

4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:

 

“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

 

7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.

 

“Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

 

15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.

 

17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

 

Here in this passage, you see a full-blown prayer life. Daniel’s prayer life has got it going on! Daniel pleaded with God to bring about the promised return of his people to the Promised Land. The prophet Jeremiah had written that captive Israel would not be allowed to return to their native land until 70 years had passed. Daniel knew that this established time period set by God was coming to an end. The thing that I notice the most here is that Daniel confesses that he is a sinner along with his whole nation. He uses the pronoun, we, throughout his prayer. If any Israelite had proven his righteousness during this time period, it was Daniel. Yet, he confesses his sinfulness and need for God’s forgiveness. Instead of complaining about others or asking God to see their sins instead of his own, Daniel includes himself among the list of sinners. Maybe we should do the same in our prayer life. It should be just me and God. It should not be about getting God to do something to other people. It should be about seeking God’s help in seeing ourselves as who we really are. A real honest prayer life is like the difference between dating and marriage. We often want to show our best to God (like dating) rather than being honest with God about who we really are (like marriage).

 

Daniel knew how to pray. As he prayed, he fasted (for us that may mean giving up television for a specified time period and using that as intimate prayer time), confessed his sins (he was honest with himself and God about his sin nature), and pleaded that God would reveal His will (instead of our own will that God will execute for us). He prayed with complete surrender to God and with complete openness to what God would say to Him. When you and I pray, do we speak openly and honestly with God. We must examine our attitude. Just as we must be willing to be open and vulnerable in our marriage relationships for them to be more than mere business partnerships pooling mutual resources, we must be willing to be honest and vulnerable before God. We cannot hear God when we are not being open and honest with Him. Let us take our desires out of prayer and seek intimacy with our Father in Heaven. Maybe, we should practice with our spouses to get an idea of what we should be like with God. Maybe, we practice being more real with our spouses as we try to learn what God expects of us in prayer. God has always used our marriages as the one human experience that is to resemble what our relationship with Him should be like. So, let’s begin with that experiment. Let us make ourselves more open and vulnerable with the one we share this human existence with, our spouse, so that we can learn about how we are to be in our prayer life with God. He wants us to be close with Him. He wants some quality time with us. He wants us to see Him as more than this far-off remote, vending machine of a god. He wants the real us. He doesn’t want buzz word prayers and that’s it. He wants us to open up to Him. He wants the real us. Not some canned, prepared go-to prayer. He wants intimacy. Daniel shows us how here. Let us follow his example.

 

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 8:1-27

Daniel’s Vision of a Ram and Goat

Wow! Daniel who gained quite a reputation for explaining God’s vision is baffled by his vision in this chapter, Chapter 8. Because it is a vision of future events, there is really not much in it that I can extract from it that compares to personal experience so let’s go straight to the text:

 

8 In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. 2 In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal. 3 I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. 4 I watched the ram as it charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against it, and none could rescue from its power. It did as it pleased and became great.

 

5 As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between its eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. 6 It came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at it in great rage. 7 I saw it attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering its two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against it; the goat knocked it to the ground and trampled on it, and none could rescue the ram from its power. 8 The goat became very great, but at the height of its power the large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.

 

9 Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. 10 It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. 11 It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the Lord; it took away the daily sacrifice from the Lord, and his sanctuary was thrown down. 12 Because of rebellion, the Lord’s people[a] and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.

 

13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?”

 

14 He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.”

The Interpretation of the Vision

 

15 While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.”

 

17 As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. “Son of man,”[b] he said to me, “understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.”

 

18 While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet.

 

19 He said: “I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end.[c] 20 The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. 21 The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. 22 The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.

 

23 “In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. 24 He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people. 25 He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.

 

26 “The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.”

 

27 I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.

 

 

For some background to this mysterious vision that baffles even Daniel, the great interpreter of dreams for Babylonian kings, lets identify some things (literary credit goes to the footnotes in my Chronological Life Application Study Bible):

 

  • Susa was the winter capital of the Babylonian empire’s government. It later became the capital of the Medo-Persian empire after it conquered Babylon. Susa was a well-developed city both militarily and culturally. It was the location that the first set of codified laws known to man was found (the Code of Hannurabi).
  • The two horns were the kings of Media and Persia who had a confederacy of sorts that worked together to overthrow Babylon and begin establishing their own empire. The longer horn represents the fact that Persia was growing stronger while Media was growing weaker as time progressed.
  • The goat represents the Greek empire of Alexander the Great. At the time of this vision in 551 BC, Greece though culturally significant was not yet even close to becoming a world power. It was only under Alexander the Great, the military genius that he was, that Greece became a world power. Because of his military genius, Alexander conquered much southern Europe, the Middle East, northeastern Africa, and southwest Asia in swift order. It was during Greek dominance of the Middle East that the Greek language became the language of commerce that continued to exist in the time of Jesus.
  • Although Alexander may have many greater exploits in him, he died suddenly at the age of 31 at the height of his power. His vast kingdom was then eventually split up into four separate kingdoms under the four highest ranking generals under Alexander. Ptolemy ruled Egypt and Palestine. Seleucus ruled Babylon and Syria, Lysimachus ruled in the Asian provinces, and Antipater ruled southern Europe and Greece. These are the four horns.
  • It was under Ptolemy that he appointed Antiochus IV as the ruler over the Jerusalem and it is Antiochus who appointed himself the High Priest of the Temple. He then proceeded to place Greek idols in the Temple of God. This is the abomination of desecration that is referred to by Jesus in Matthew. A further fulfillment of this prophecy will occur under the Anti-Christ at the end of all things (see 2 Thessolonians 2:4).
  • The 2,300 days refers to the time between Antiochus’ desecration of the temple until it the temple was restored to proper worship under Judas Maccabeus in 165 BC.
  • The time of the end refers to the whole period from the end of the Exile to the Second Coming of Christ. Many of the events described would happen under Antiochus will be repeated on a larger and broader, maybe even worldwide scale, just before the Second Coming of Christ.
  • The fierce king has an immediate focus in Antiochus but also has a end times pointing toward the time of the Anti-christ.
  • The Prince of princes is God Himself. No human power could defeat the king whom Daniel saw in his vision but God would bring him down. Antiochus eventually went insane and died in Persia in 164 BC and God will ultimately defeat the Antichrist at the end of time.

 

The thing that continues to be hammered into my head about the dreams and visions is that things will get worse before they get better. We will live through times where it will be tough to be a Christian. We see that happening all around us all the time. It is easy to be a Christian in America even now compared to the rest of the world. Persecution is a real thing for most Christians around the world from being cut off from family, from being economically discriminated against, from being imprison and even being killed for being Christian. The time will come in America that we will be silenced and even imprison and maybe even murdered for our beliefs. It will come. Mark it.

 

However, one thing God promises is that there will be an end to it all. He is holding back from bringing an end to the world to give everyone the last available opportunities to turn to Him. Meanwhile, man continues to turn his back on God and descending into further self-indulgence and idol worship. God is being patient but at some point, the Father’s patience will run out. Time will be up and Christ will return.

 

That brings us to two points that we must remember. First, we are safe in Jesus’ arms. We are secure in our fate. Regardless of if we die right now, we are safe in His arms. If the world ends right now, even though things will be pretty doggone horrible, we will be safe in His arms. The second thing is that it calls us to evangelism. God is being patient but we must tell the world that there is something better than this world and its self-indulgence and recklessness. The fact that there is an end of times that we, according to Jesus, must be ready for at all times should spur us on to evangelize the world. It’s not something we should be putting off. The world could come to an end at any time. Do you really want to put off having that conversation with those people that are in our spheres of influence?

 

We are safe in the Lord’s arms but our job is to make sure as many who will listen are safe in His arms also.

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 7:1-28 (Part 3)

Daniel’s Dream of Four Beasts

 

When I began thinking of today’s blog, a song that jumped into my head was the song, “The End of the World as We Know It” by the alternative rock band of the 80’s and 90’s, REM. It was a catchy little tune. Some of the lyrics went like this:

 

Team by team, reporters baffled, trumped, tethered, cropped

Look at that low plane, fine, then

Uh-oh, overflow, population, common group

But it’ll do, save yourself, serve yourself

World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed

Tell me with the Rapture and the reverent in the right, right

You vitriolic, patriotic, slam fight, bright light

Feeling pretty psyched

 

It’s the end of the world as we know it

It’s the end of the world as we know it

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

 

It was a fast paced song that was unusual for the era in which it was released. That was what made it popular I guess. Preoccupation with the end of the world as we know has been an obsession of man throughout the centuries, practically since the beginning of recorded history. In every society, we have some form of end times reckoning. Some type of closure to the existence of the world and mankind as we know it now. Some conjecture that the Judeo-Christian Bible simply has borrowed from pre-existing cultural notions about the end of the world as we know it. However, it is my conjecture, based on what Paul says in Romans 1:18-25, that we have all known of the one true and we are without excuse. We are all created by God to worship. We often chose and have as entire societies turned away from what is the One True God. But that does not take away the fact that He designed us. Therefore, we are all wired to understand that there is an end to all things. As Rachel Green once said on Friends, “…and that my friend is cloooosure!” So throughout history, man has created his own ideas of the end times.

 

In this increasingly complex political, economic and cultural climate of the 20th and 21st centuries there are many who believe that we are end the end times predicted in biblical prophecies. Even though who are far from God are intrigued by the prophetic end times messages of Daniel, Revelation and other end time prophecies in the Bible. As Americans, we see ourselves as a never ending world power and thus many of the prophecies of end times out there involve the United States being a central part of the end times prophecies and it might be true. Who knows? According to Jesus Christ, only the Father knows. Only the Father aspect of the triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) knows. However, it does not stop us from conjecturing what the role of our nation will be if the end times are upon us within the next few generations of human existence. Here are some the ideas out there. From www.endtime.com, I found that the four beasts represent:

 

By examining this prophecy, we know this vision of the ten-horned beast hasn’t come to full fruition and that the other beasts represent nations that already exist.

 

 

 

  1. Daniel’s lion = England, whose coat of arms carries three lions. The eagle’s wings removed from the lion represent the United States, which we know separated from England during the American Revolution.

 

  1. Daniel’s bear = Russia, whose national symbol is a bear.

 

  1. Daniel’s leopard = Germany, whose Leopard tanks have been used predominantly in European armies since their introduction in the 1960s.

 

    We can understand the four heads of this leopard by remembering that Germany’s Third Reich historically attempted to gain world dominion during World War II, and that the Fourth Reich is emerging in our time.

    The leopard Daniel saw also had bird’s wings, which represent France and its national symbol of a rooster. France and Germany have not only collaborated on the design of Leopard tanks, but both countries are also founding members of the European Union.

 

But what is the fourth beast? It must be some form of world government, the last kingdom to be established upon the Earth. In Revelation 13:1-2, the Apostle John depicts Daniel’s four beasts again, now combined into one: a beast that is part leopard, part bear, and part lion, with ten horns.

 

 

  1. Daniel’s conglomerate beast = a world-dominating kingdom that will include Germany, Russia, and England. Since Daniel sees that the leopard is given dominion, we may also surmise that Germany will be the dominant nation in this world government. The new horn that emerges and dominates three others tells us this government will be controlled by the Antichrist.

 

Since the United States is not mentioned in the future prophecies of the Bible, we can assume that we will be one of those kingdoms that comes and goes that are mentioned in the Bible. We will become less of a world power at some point and maybe even become one of the ten kingdoms that is ruled by the rise of a charismatic Anti-Christ figure who will consolidate the world’s fragmented power when the end times do come. One thing is for certain, we are destined to become less influential than we are now and there will arise a new world power. There may be many new world powers before the end times come. There may be coalitions of world powers. There may even be complete chaos caused by groups like or similar to the radical anarchist group, ISIS, in this generation. Disruption of anarchist groups around the globe may lead to the consolidation of power under a single world government predicted in Revelation. This will be brought about by a smooth talking, charismatic leader who will be the Anti-Christ, when the end times are truly upon us.

 

Daniel’s dream is ample evidence that the end times will come. And, yes, man is obsessed with the end times. We have movies about end times. We have books about end times. These movies are so prolific, they are a genre unto themselves. There are whole sections of the bookstores dedicated to end times literature. We have seen many man over the centuries predict the end and we are still here. But that does not stop the obsession with it.  Let’s re-read the story with an eye to the modern, long-ranging arc of prophecy. Do you see the United States as part of it? Do you see the United States as being one of the specifically named beasts or one of the horns?:

 

 

7 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.

 

2 Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. 3 Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.

 

4 “The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it.

 

5 “And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’

 

6 “After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.

 

7 “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

 

8 “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

 

9 “As I looked,

 

“thrones were set in place,

    and the Ancient of Days took his seat.

His clothing was as white as snow;

    the hair of his head was white like wool.

His throne was flaming with fire,

    and its wheels were all ablaze.

10

A river of fire was flowing,

    coming out from before him.

Thousands upon thousands attended him;

    ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.

The court was seated,

    and the books were opened.

 

11 “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. 12 (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)

 

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

 

The Interpretation of the Dream

15 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. 16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this.

 

“So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. 18 But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’

 

19 “Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. 20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. 21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.

 

23 “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.[b]

 

26 “‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’

 

28 “This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”

 

The takeaway for me though is that I believe our world and our culture’s obsession with the end times is like the kid left home by himself for the weekend while his parents are away. We are obsessed with the signs of the end times so that we can clean up the mess of our house before our parents get back home. Risky business that mentality is! Jesus tells us that we do not know when He will return to end and judge all things. We must remain every ready for the end times as they will come like a thief in the night, unexpectedly. We obsess with signs of the end times so that we can quickly get right with God. Why do you think that people have to spend so much time and paper and video to justify behaviors that are against God’s Word. We are trying to make right in our minds what we are wired to abhor. We have to justify it to make it right. End times are a coming. We want to know the signs so we can make right with God. We want the party to last right up until we see the signs and then we can get right. We are like the song by Prince called “1999”, “I want to party like it’s 1999. Two thousand zero zero, party over, whoops, out of time!” We want to indulge ourselves til we see the signs. When the signs come though we will rationalize them away so that we can continue the party like it’s 1999.

 

If you are right with God, though, through a relationship with Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, then the end times are of no matter, no great worry. Our place is secured. We do not have to obsess over the signs. We know our place. We know that Christ will return and that He will take care of us. We may die before He returns but we will be with Him. Through Jesus Christ, we are victorious. Through Jesus Christ we can say, “It’s the end of the world as we know it. It’s the end of the world as we know…AND I FEEL FINE!”

 

Amen and Amen.

Daniel 7:1-28 (Part 2)

Daniel’s Dream of Four Beasts

Most Americans believe that our reign as the most powerful nation on earth will last forever. By most standards, we a spit of a country when it comes to age. We are only 230 years old as a declared independent nation. We have only been an organized society, however meager those beginnings were, for 495 years (if you count the Plymouth colony as the first successfully sustained European settlement). We did not have our own national military, however meager it beginnings were, until the Revolutionary War in the late 18th century. But, now, in the 21st century, The United States of America is the preeminent world power militarily and economically. Our military is so well-trained and so highly sophisticated, there is no country out there that could stand up against us. Economically, the American economy is the anchor of the world economy. All accomplished in a very short period of history. However, we have not been the world’s dominant power forever either. We have really only been the world’s dominant power since the end of the World War I – World War II time period. After World War II, we were one of the world’s two superpowers that emerged. Before World War I, yes, we were an up and coming nation with great potential, but we were not the great solo power that we see ourselves as now. We were one of many equally capable political players on the world scene. We were among the English, the French, the Germans, the Italians, the Russians. All vying for world supremacy. It was only after World War II was over in 1945 (just 70 short years ago) that the mighty America that we think of now emerged. But to us that have grown up in the post-World War II era, my parents’ generation (born during the World War II years), my generation, my children’s generation and to small kids of this new generation, we have only known the United States as a great military power and as a great economic power. So, there is certainly the idea in our minds that our way of life will last forever. We do not know any different. We complain about first world problems like why my cell phone doesn’t get its normal awesome signal while I am lounging seaside at the beach. But it is likely that our first world complaints may eventually be our own undoing as a nation.

 

However, if history is any teacher at all, we must realize that our time as the chief nation of the world is limited. All the world’s greatest powers have lasted not forever but limited times. The Egyptians were once a great empire. Israel was once a great kingdom. Babylon was once a great kingdom. The Persian empire was once a great empire. The Greeks were once a great empire. The Romans were once a great empire. Islamic empires of the Ottomans and Moors were a great empire during what we call the dark ages after the fall of the western portion of the Roman Empire. Then, there was the emergence of the great nation-states of Europe, each having its brief moment in the sun as the great world power. France, England, Spain and others have each had brief moments of world greatness. During the 1600’s – the 1800’s and the early 1900’s, each of these nations were almost equal in power and thus competed for world domination. It was only after World War II that America rose up as one of two great world powers. And after 1990, when the Soviet Union fell, we emerged as the world’s only superpower. Our time as one of two or as the only superpower has been short and it will be short in relative historical terms. I am not trying to scare anyone here, but it is simply the nature of man. And what destroyed the other world powers was internal strife or internal weakness to the point that they no longer were strong enough to defend their position as the world leader. Look at the Roman Empire, they had become so enamored with their own self-pleasures that they became weak, started defending the kingdom instead of expanding it, political intrigue, and all sorts of internal strife brought Roman down to the point that it was easy prey for the coalition of Goths and others that finally brought down the unified Roman Empire. It was weakened from within to the point that it was easy prey. Sound familiar? We are so enamored with our pursuit of everyone pursuing their own thing, are we likely to fall just the way the Roman empire did? Romans became so pampered of themselves and their pursuit of pleasure that they became weak without realizing it. They no longer had the guts they once had by the fourth century AD. They were focused within while there were barbarians at the gate. All great empires have fallen that way. It will happen to us. Maybe not in our generation or the generation of our children or grandchildren, but our time limit is out there and we are acting just like the Romans. Our time limit is out there. It may happen in the generation of our great grandchildren, but it will happen.

 

That is the thing that I see here from a strictly historical perspective when looking at Daniel’s dream (which has amazing parallel’s to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2). Let us re-read the chapter 7 again today below with focus on who these beasts represent in past history. Tomorrow, I will be off the grid due to traveling home from vacation, but Sunday we will look at some of the conjecture as to the future end times prophecy of who these nations are. Today, we will simply look at what they meant in the immediate present and immediate future of the time in which the book of Daniel was written. That is the thing about biblical prophecy is that it always seems to have an immediate future to it plus a long ranging future to it. Here is Chapter 7 below:

 

 

7 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.

 

2 Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. 3 Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.

 

4 “The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it.

 

5 “And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’

 

6 “After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.

 

7 “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

 

8 “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

 

9 “As I looked,

 

“thrones were set in place,

    and the Ancient of Days took his seat.

His clothing was as white as snow;

    the hair of his head was white like wool.

His throne was flaming with fire,

    and its wheels were all ablaze.

10

A river of fire was flowing,

    coming out from before him.

Thousands upon thousands attended him;

    ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.

The court was seated,

    and the books were opened.

 

11 “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. 12 (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)

 

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

 

The Interpretation of the Dream

15 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. 16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this.

 

“So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. 18 But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’

 

19 “Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. 20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. 21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.

 

23 “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.[b]

 

26 “‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’

 

28 “This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”

 

From a strictly historical perspective at the time of Daniel, the dreams of Daniel here in Chapter 7 and of Nebuchadnezzar back in Chapter 2 have these immediate prophetic aspects for Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, I have found the following at http://lifehopeandtruth.com/prophecy/understanding-the-book-of-daniel/daniel-7/

 

 

The Chaldean/Babylonian Empire

In Daniel 7:3-4 Daniel records, “And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.”

 

In verse 17 we are told, “Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth.” The lion was symbolic of the kingdom of Babylon and the “man’s heart” was that of its most notable king, Nebuchadnezzar, who is written about considerably in the first four chapters of Daniel.

 

As The Expositor’s Bible Commentary explains, “The lion symbol was characteristic of Babylon, especially in Nebuchadnezzar’s time, when the Ishtar Gate entrance was adorned on either side with a long procession of yellow lions on blue-glazed brick, fashioned in high relief” (1985, Vol. 7, pp. 85-86). The eagle’s wings plucked off the lion were symbolic of Nebuchadnezzar’s time of insanity when he was humbled by God to learn that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men” (Daniel 4:17, 34-37).

 

Nebuchadnezzar ruled from Babylon to Asia Minor and from the Caspian Sea to Egypt. Biblically, his most notable conquest was that of the nation of Judah, with Daniel being the most famous captive from that nation. Following his father’s death, Nebuchadnezzar reigned as king of Babylon for 43 years, from 604-561 B.C. (JewishEncyclopedia.com/Nebuchadnezzar). After his death, Babylon continued as a strong empire until 539 B.C., when it was conquered by the second rising power in Daniel’s vision, the Medo-Persian Empire.

 

The Medo-Persian Empire

Daniel 7:5 says, “And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’”

 

This beast’s being “raised up on one side” represents the Persians being greater than the Medes in this federated empire. This is made plain to Daniel in a vision two years later when he sees a ram with two horns, one being higher than the other. Daniel is told by the angel Gabriel that the ram represents the kings of Media and Persia (Daniel 8:3, 20).

 

The three ribs that are devoured represent three empires conquered by Persia’s first great king, Cyrus the Great, and his son, Cambyses II. Cyrus came to power in 558 B.C. and conquered the Lydian Empire (Asia Minor) in 546 and the Chaldean Empire (Babylon) in 539; and Cambyses conquered Egypt in 525 (ibid. p. 86).

 

The Medo-Persian Empire lasted for 200 years and, under later kings, expanded to Greece in the west and to India in the east. At one point, the Persian Empire covered parts of three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe. But, like the Chaldean Empire, the Persian Empire finally came to an end. A new beast was rising in the west, and its appointed time had come.

 

The Greek Empire

Daniel 7:6 says, “After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.”

 

As with the second beast, the third beast is clearly identified by the angel Gabriel. It was Greece, and the “first king” was Alexander the Great. After his untimely death in 323 B.C., his empire was divided into four smaller kingdoms (Daniel 8:21-22).

 

The symbol of the leopard with four wings portrays the swiftness of Alexander’s sudden rise and conquest of the Persian Empire from 334-331 B.C. After his death, several years of struggle ensued that resulted in the division of his empire into four kingdoms. The new kingdoms were (1) Greece and Macedon, (2) Thrace and Asia Minor, (3) Middle East-Asia and (4) Egypt-Palestine.

 

““After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.””The last two were ruled by Seleucus, who began the Seleucid Empire, and Ptolemy, who began the Ptolemaic Empire. These two kingdoms are called the king of North and the king of the South in Daniel 11. Approximately two centuries later, the fourth beast conquered all four of these kingdoms and expanded far beyond the lands conquered by the previous beasts. These two kingdoms—called the king of North and the king of the South and having yet to be determined configurations—will revive and play major roles in end-time prophecies.

The Roman Empire

 

Next in Daniel 7:7 we read, “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.”

 

The devouring teeth of iron and the trampling feet correspond with Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the fourth kingdom being strong as iron, breaking in pieces and crushing all others (Daniel 2:40-41). When the Roman Empire came to power under the Caesars (44 B.C.) it devoured, broke in pieces and trampled the residue of its enemies with its feet—as was described in Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7.

 

The fourth beast is quite different from the previous beasts, in that it has 10 horns. Daniel 7:24 says, “The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom.” Historically, these revivals began to rise after the fall of Rome in A.D. 476, with the later ones under a new name: the Holy Roman Empire. (For additional information, see “What Is Babylon?”).

 

This fourth beast would continue to be revived off and on for over 1,500 years until the end-time 10th revival. The 10th and final revival will be destroyed by Jesus Christ at His second coming (Daniel 7:26-27). This leads to one other unusual feature of the prophecy of the fourth beast.

The little horn

 

Daniel 7:8 says, “I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.”

 

This little horn represents a powerful religious system that would align with the last seven of the 10 political horns that were to arise after the fall of Rome. This coordination between church and state produced what ultimately became known as the Holy Roman Empire.

 

In verses 21-22 and 25, this little horn makes war against the saints, speaks pompous words against God, intends to change times and law, and persecutes the saints for a “time and times and half a time” (literally three and a half years, but using the day-for-a-year principle of Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6, 1,260 years).

 

Evidence of this persecution can be seen through the centuries, as hundreds and thousands of people in Europe lost their lives through the inquisitions of the Roman Catholic judicial system. They were tortured for confessions of being heretics and killed because they would not submit to the authority and doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church and the pope.

 

Though the inquisitions of that time were abolished, the Bible indicates religious persecutions from the “little horn” will come back and result in the death of many before the return of Christ. Daniel also saw the conclusion concerning the “little horn”—that when Jesus Christ returns, “the court [judgment] shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever” (verse 26; Revelation 18:2).

 

The Kingdom of God

The vision of Daniel 7 could not end with any greater news: “Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (verse 27).

 

This prophecy ends by revealing that Jesus will establish the Kingdom of God on earth and give it to the saints of the Most High.

 

This analysis by lifehopeandtruth.com is one of the best quick synopses that I have read that summarizes Chapter 7 well without leaving out necessary meat but without going into too much detail. It gives the immediate future of the succeeding world powers following Babylon and then gives the broad view of future history ending with the end of time when Christ returns to establish His eternal kingdom at the end of times.

 

The takeaway for today is that all man-made kingdoms are of a limited nature. One day the things that we count on as our reality is coming to an end. Our kingdom of the United States though the shining star of the moment. But it too will fall. We will go the way of all the great kingdoms of the past at some point. What we count on as reality will come to an end. Therefore, we must look to the things that are eternal rather than the things we count on now. Our material goods will not save us. Our first world problems will be minor at some point compared to survival at the hands of whatever kingdom arises after us. Our self-indulgence will give way to simply surviving. Nothing man-made last forever. The only thing that lasts forever is Jesus Christ. May we reconsider what we think is important and place our faith and trust in the only thing that lasts forever, the one who will judge all temporary things, Jesus Christ.

 

Amen and Amen.

 

PS>Next blog we will consider some of the modern-day prophetic musings about what in our modern day these four beasts represent.

Daniel 7:1-28

Daniel’s Dream of Four Beasts

Have you ever had a dream but cannot remember it the next day? You spend the whole next day kind of spooked by this feeling that you had an ominous or fearful dream the night before but you remember none of it. You feel like something bad has happened but you cannot remember why you feel that way. That’s happened to me many times. They, you know “they”, the experts on everything, say that the only way that we remember anything about our dreams is when we wake up in the middle of our dreams. Otherwise, they remain locked in our subconscious with simple residues of emotions left in our conscious thoughts. Would it not be amazing though if we had clarity of thought enough when we wake up from a dream and go run to our desk and write down on paper what we remember of our dreams. That would be pretty cool. My thought has been would it not be pretty cool to have the ability to record our dreams in some way for later playback? Wouldn’t that be the coolest thing ever? To be to peak into our subconscious and see our dreams on our TV screen later. To see all the rich colors, the characters, the monsters, the reliving of past experiences, the creation of altered states of past experience or dreams about our future that our minds can create. It is all pretty amazing when you think about what our brain can do while we are sleeping. Dreams themselves are difficult for scientists to explain. Why do we dream? The scientists can give you neurological, physical explanations of how dreams are created by the brain but not the reason for it, but not the what of our dreams. Psychiatrists can give us reasons from personal experience that dreams play out in our mind, but not why we dream. Dreams are one of the miracles of life that are attributable to our Creator. Sometimes, He gives us dreams of our future and we do not realize it until we get that feeling that we have been in this same place, having this same conversation, with the same people before. Ever had that feeling?

 

Sometimes, too, have you ever noticed that people who have been suddenly taken from us in a tragic accident have done some odd things right before they died. They have told people that they loved them when they have never done that before. They take care of certain affairs of their life that normally you would not have expected them to do otherwise. Some may accept Christ as their Savior in a matter of weeks before their accidental death. All of these things may be perceived by some as random and unconnected coincidences. I have seen these very instances happen in people’s live right before a tragedy took them from us. To me, God often operates at a subconscious in our minds to provide us with input that we would not recognize or accept in our conscious mind. He does give us messages in dreams, in thoughts that appear out of nowhere, and sometimes through the thoughts, actions, and words of others. He can speak to us in our dreams. In our dreams, we suspend disbelief. In our dreams, the laws of physics and nature are often suspended to allow us to understand messages that we might otherwise reject. In dreams, nothing is what we normally count on in our wakened state of reality. Scenes shift without warning. We are in one place one second and in another the next. Dreams can change characters and subject matter in a split instant. So, each of us, have come to expect the unexpected in our dream. We accept the unexpected as the norm in dreams. Why cannot God speak to us in these moments? We are already open to the unexpected in our dream states of sleep. Dreams free us from our predispositions. Is not most often that devout Muslims living in a Islamic country have had dreams, visions if you will, about Jesus Christ coming to them in a dream and making them understand who He is and leading them to become a Christ follower. God can speak to us through our dreams. He created the landscape of our minds after all!

 

So, to say, that Daniel’s dream is just some fiction made up by an author trying to explain historical events or was borrowed from some other society’s mythological genre is just plain meanness by someone who is predisposed to bashing the Bible rather than being open to the possibilities that God did, indeed, speak to Daniel in his dream.

 

We begin the last half of the book of Daniel today, the prophetic half (chapters 7-12). We will dive into the meat of Chapter 7 beginning tomorrow. But I wanted to open up this journey through Chapter 7 by talking about dreams. We all accept that we dream (whether we are believers or not). We all accept that in dreams anything is possible (whether we are believers are not). If we accept those things, then we must be open to the concept that God can give us visions in our dreams. We must be able to accept that because of the unique nature of dreams that dreams are God-given anyway and then that He can speak to us in this manner. He is God. He is God.

 

So, let’s just read Chapter 7 today. No thoughts of application to our daily lives. No thoughts of what the chapter means in the prophetic future of mankind. Just read the words and allow them to conjure up images in your mind that match the words. Let the words create the dream images. Be a witness to the imagery that Daniel is creating about His vision from God. Then, let that ruminate in your mind all day. Tomorrow, then, we get into the guts of this chapter. But, I think it is important to allow yourself to dream today. Let the images become vivid in your mind today. Meet me back here tomorrow. Here is Chapter 7 below:

 

 

7 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.

 

2 Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. 3 Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.

 

4 “The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it.

 

5 “And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’

 

6 “After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.

 

7 “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

 

8 “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

 

9 “As I looked,

 

“thrones were set in place,

    and the Ancient of Days took his seat.

His clothing was as white as snow;

    the hair of his head was white like wool.

His throne was flaming with fire,

    and its wheels were all ablaze.

10

A river of fire was flowing,

    coming out from before him.

Thousands upon thousands attended him;

    ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.

The court was seated,

    and the books were opened.

 

11 “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. 12 (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)

 

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

 

The Interpretation of the Dream

15 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. 16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this.

 

“So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. 18 But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’

 

19 “Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. 20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. 21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.

 

23 “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.[b]

 

26 “‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’

 

28 “This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”

 

May God grant us the ability to see these images in full detail today and let these vivid images in our mind help us to discuss this passage over the next few days. Amen and Amen.