I’m going to miss Daniel. I feel as if I’ve got to know him afresh
and I’ve been in awe of his personal strength and the unquestioned excellence of his life and his walk with God.
Main message of the book
God is sovereign – and when we get that, at heart level, it causes us to be stronger in our faith than we ever thought possible.
Let’s sketch in the big picture
God allowed the utterly unthinkable to take place
He has promised his people a land of their own
A land where they could grow, worship, live by his laws and enjoy all the benefits of having God as their unseen king and close companion. (and that’s what he is for us!)
But God’s people had let the dark side of human nature dominate. They’d unleashed the beast in the basement ignored their God, fallen into sin. So God found himself with no alternative but to let them be invaded and go into exile – with the hope and expectation they would one day return to him.
Now the people in the exile who had any spiritual awareness of concern would have wondered – does God still care about us? Has He abandoned us? Is God still in control or have we been left to our own devices?
The book of Daniel is about the life of one exceptional man who was convinced that God had not abandoned them
that God had not lost his power or abdicated his sovereignty
Some aspects of this book have always been popular. E.g. the exciting stories in the first six chapters
Three friends braving torture by fire
Daniel surviving the den of lions
and the strange handwriting on the wall at Belshazzar’s feast
But we’ve seen there is much more to it than just exciting stories. The principles Daniel lived by have a highly contemporary resonance. 4 examples:
a) When the king tried to re-educate him,
he faced moral compromise – and he quietly, but determinedly, stood up for truth and high values in national life. Today we are encouraged to think that God is out-of-date or irrelevant. That rationalism is the only intellectually valid way of looking at the universe.
That idea is simply untrue and has no evidence for it. It is perfectly reasonable and intellectually tenable to believe in God and trust him with our lives.
b) he was bullied by his boss –
and in ch 2 we saw how the principles he lived by equipped him to face the bully at work
c) he was demoted –
but never became bitter. Many of us have experienced periods of deep disappointment in life
d) and when he was betrayed by people he thought were his friends
and that how he landed on the floor of a den of lions. Because he prayed to someone other than the state. In that moment he trusted God with his life (what else was left to him?!)
And the message that comes over time and time again is “God is sovereign” – still on the throne – no-one, however powerful (either politically or militarily) can thwart Hi purposes!
If the first part of the book tells everyone that God in on the throne in the here and now, then the second half is there to tell us that God is on the throne of the future too.
Nothing takes God by surprise!
Several people have asked me about prophetic interpretation. I have deliberately not majored on trying to fit individual future events to specific verses in Daniel
events in the past, yes! And Daniel is uncannily precise in his predictions.
Why not the future? – because I’m not convinced that’s why Daniel wrote it!
I don’t think he ever intended is writing to be used as a conundrum to be solved by well-intentioned futurologists! He has a much bigger purpose than that
Try and sit yourself in the shoes (or the sandals!) of someone who was reading (or hearing) Daniel for the first time
ask yourself – What messages do I hear?
Daniel starts talking about his past – six events
From the six events from Daniel’s autobiography – you hear that God really was on the throne of the universe!
Then you hear Daniel talking about the future – (ch7-12)
making some prophetic observations about God and about history
these prophetic observations contain enough detail for us to try an pin them down, but only because they are in our past and we can see them for what they were.
So if these predictions became reality, that confirms to me that God is still on the throne!
and that message energises me to trust him today – to lay my life at His disposal like Daniel did
to look at life as part of God’s great plan in which I am privileged to have a part to play – a role to fulfil!
OK, some detail
The stunning prophet
Persia and Greece (11:2 – 11:4)
v2 Three kings will appear in Persia and then a fourth
Look at historical & archaeological records and we can identify who they were
Cambyses (530 – 522BC)
Gaumata (522 BC)
Darius I (522-486)
And then a fourth King? … is Artaxeses I, who attempted to conquer Greece in 480BC
v3 Then a mighty king will appear who will rule with Great power
We can identify this as Alexander the Great
Daniel prophesied his rise in Chs 7 and 8
But Alexander the Great over stretched himself and his empire fell almost as quickly as it arose
v4 After he [Alexander the Great] has appeared, his kingdom will be broken up and parcelled out towards the four winds of heaven
[read 7:6 & 8:8 >>>]
Sure enough, in third century BC Alexander’s kingdom was divided four ways
Cassander – Macedonia and Greece
Lysimachus took Thrace and Bithinia
Selucus took Syria and Babylonia and other eastern territories as far as Indus
Ptolemy remained in possession of Egypt
So accurate is this prediction, once again, that it has caused some people to say that Daniel couldn’t have been writing before these events took place
but to say that is to assume that prophecy doesn’t happen and choose your interpretation accordingly
I believe that we have a stunning prophet here! a man who spent time in God’s word
Egypt and Syria (11:5-11:35)
v5 the king of the south will become strong and one of his commanders will become even stronger and he will rule his won kingdom with great power
Now we know the King of the south is Ptolemy in Egypt
and it was not long before Selucus, one of Egypt’s Satraps rose to power and asserted independence in the Northern part of Egypt.
the clock is now at about 300BC
“As we move into verse 6 the story is dominated for a long time by a series of interactions and alliances and wars between the King of the north and the kings of the south.
the kings of the south are the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt and the kings of the north and the Selucids based in Syria and Palestine.
their capital city became Antioch and the kings are sometimes called the Antioches
The events of v6 took place around 250BC
… and so we could go on!!!
Embedded in a key verse.
There is something going on in the Hebrew here that we don’t see so easily in English
All the way through this chapter there has been a Hebrew root that has occurred again and again – ‘amad’
= to be strong, to stand firm
In this chapter these kings are said to ‘be strong’ or to have ‘stood up’ for their cause – only to be defeated! by another kingdom
Kings rise and fall
So the message we’re hearing from the events Daniel is prophesying is “Kings may stand up, and be strong – but there will come a time when they will fall down!”
Enoch Powell one said “the danger of a political career is that it is bound to end in failure!”
In contrast – God is on the throne – and is never going to be removed!
And there is more!
One of the kings (whom we can identify as Antichus Epiphanes )
deliberately usurped the worship of the people by setting up a public idol (abomination that causes desolation)
This was both a historic act and a prophetic statement – Jesus talked about a similar abomination that would be erected in the last times.
But whereas other kings stand, and then fall, something very different happens
11:32 “With flattery he [Antiochus Epiphanes] will corrupt those who have violated the covenant BUT the people who know their God will stand up and do exploits [NIV has ‘firmly resist him’ – a convenient phrase but omits the match with the hebrew root elsewhere in the chapter]
Can you see it?
all these other kings will stand up – only to be knocked down again
the people who know their God, however, will stand up and not fall!
they won’t be defeated!
Unpack this verse. Who is being described here? People who display three characteristics
Know their God
Daniel is describing the effect of knowing God
Does this mean an extensive theology study? No (although it might help)
Does it mean going to a particular church? No (although being in fellowship with God’s people is vital)
Does it mean following certain rituals or worship practices? No (although regularly feeding your heart from God’s word and in worship will help you to grow)
In the OT the word behind ‘know’ is a very intimate one.
It carries the idea of a personal and regular knowledge of the Lord.
This is why teaching and soaking our minds in God’s word is so vital – they both help us to know him in as much depth as we can each manage.
There’s a chasm of a difference between knowing about someone and knowing them.
Will be strong
Literally “they will stand” – here’s that verb again!
The strength we have in mind here is not physical prowess. It’s the deep strength of mind, heart and personality that says “Lord, I will trust you whatever”
Do you remember the three friends of Daniel’s who were thrown into the furnace?
They knew the furnace could reduce them to dust in a matter of minutes, and in that moment they said two very significant things to king Nebuchadnezzar:
a) ‘Our God is capable of rescuing us from your furnace, O King” (you are not the sovereign here, the living God is)
b) “even if he doesn’t, we will not bow down to anyone other that the living God”
there is a shining example of men drawing on the strength the God gives in a dire, violent and unjust moment.
They were rescued from the fire – many other martyrs are not.
Whatever was about to happen, these men were going to be strong in God
We each know that there times when we need to be strong in God
When we need to dig deep in our personal resources to get through
If that’s you today, then hear what Daniel is saying “Know your God – and you will discover a you are strong!”
Various translations: “do exploits” “take action”
Whatever the English words we use, the message is clear
Those of us who know our God, draw on his strength are able to do things
things that may not have happened otherwise.
We talk about being ‘proactive’
The word ‘proactive’ began in the 1930s as a technical term in psychology. But in the 1940s a very influential book was published by an Austrian neuropsychiatrist Vikto Frankl. “Man’s search for meaning”
In 1944 he was taken to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp
Frankl was intrigued by the differences between people who survived, and even thrived in the German concentration camps and those who, although released, allowed the experience to break them.
Frankl, used the word to describe the survivors – the people who took responsibility for his or her life, rather than looking for causes in outside circumstances or other people.
This is a sweeping statement, but it sums up this concept:
Proactive people experience hardship and say “recovering is my responsibility, I will get on with it.”
Reactive people experience hardship and say “I can’t cope, It’s all someone else’s fault. I will look for something to blame”
He noticed that the proactive people were the survivors, the creatives and (very often) the leaders.
That’s the idea we have here behind ‘doing exploits’.
The kingdom of God is grown by people who get on with growing it!
It’s a prompt to all of us not to let things slide in our walk with God.
It’s the people who ‘know their God’ – who have strength to draw on to make the kingdom grow and to be resilient when tough times come – and they do for all of us!
The end of everything
Now look at the end of the book
It’s worth reminding ourselves that the Bible’s prophecies about the future usually turn out to be more complex than we think at first.
For example – Daniel sees the messiah coming in the clouds of heaven, but Zechariah sees the messiah coming into Jerusalem on a donkey!
So there are two distinct comings that are separated by a very large span of time.
I think of prophecy as like looking at a mountain range
we can only discern the individual peaks at a distance. But when we’re close up we can see them more clearly.
Why couldn’t the Bible have been more specific?
Because the purpose of prophecy is let us see that big message of Daiel that God is sovereign
b) prophecy is there to help us to live for him – to be strong and to do exploits
Here’s what the angels said to Daniel
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”
Promised by God …
Rest for the present!
Reassurance for the future
Because God is still on the throne!
Are you facing some unknown in your future
God is still on the throne
Are you facing moral compromise at work
God is still on the throne – so you can be one of the people who stands firm and achieves exploits!
Are you facing danger or even violence in your life?
God – your God is still on the throne – so you can be one of the people who stands firm and achieves exploits!
1 Corinthians 15:58
therefore my brothers and sisters – stand firm! Let nothing move you! Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain
Revelation 2:10 Be faithful right up to death and I will give you a crown of life!