Archive for the ‘27-Daniel’ Category

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.

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.