Beginning of the End | Daniel 10:1-21
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Daniel 10:1–21
Good Morning! This week we are continuing the second part of our series in the book of Daniel. GOD and the End of the World. While this second part is filled with grotesque visions of the kingdoms of man warring against each other and ultimately God, we see a God who is in charge of world affairs and personally engages with His people. What do these times reveal about your character and your hope is? Where do you go for rest or clarity when you’re unsettled? Last week we saw Daniel’s desire to process the world around him lead him to read his bible, pray, confess sin, plea for mercy and God answer with a vision.
PART I | Verse 1-3 | Freedom Fading
Daniel 10:1-3 | In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict. And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision. 2 In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. 3 I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks.
We are now three years after Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9. Roughly 535B.C. this is just a few years before Daniel’s death. This is the 2 minute warning of Daniel’s 4th quarter. He has receive many visions, but what he is about to have revealed is a more comprehensive than any previous. This vison covers chapters 10-12. The date of this vision is noteworthy for us to understand what Daniel is bothered by. Ezra 1 Tell us that in Cyrus’ “first year” he sent out a decree that “a house” for God should be built in Jerusalem. That all who had been in exile can be released to restore the city and temple. More than merely being granted freedom to leave exile and return to Jerusalem the decree also said that those who left Babylon and returned are to be equipped with silver, gold, supplies and animals. Anything they would need for they journey and for the mission they would be equipped with. All the vessels of worship Nebuchadnezzar had taken were also returned. This is like the fall of the berlin wall! This is it! The power of the state is used and the laws have been changed now the political environment appears to be overwhelmingly in favor of God’s people flourishing and God’s glory being pronounced through the known world. Glory returned, captives released, surely all of God’s people would joyfully respond. Some did! Nehemiah, Ezra, and a whole crew of others return and begin the task before them. But multitudes do not. Countless stay in self-imposed exile, while many who have answered the call are now discouraged and are fading away.
God what could possibly be keeping your people from fully embracing the new freedom that has been decreed, the new mission you’ve called them too. Why would so many remain in self-imposed exile? God what is happening with all the mounting opposition to the rebuilding of your temple and your holy city? God your people are facing great opposition. The people of the land around Jerusalem are actively discouraging God’s people. The people are afraid and frustrated with the opposition and the apparent lack of progress. Your people are exhausted. Many have given up on the mission and abandoned they building and city. Additionally after Cyrus decree, he went overseas and left his son Cambyses and he issued a new edict that essentially forbid the building of the temple. All work on the temple actually did cease for a period of 15 years until Haggai come to tell the remnant to get back to work. THE key issue is not with the laws but with the willingness of people to follow God. If the glory of God is dependent on favorable human laws being in place then it can be easily extinguished. Is God going to fail?
You’ve got this little detail of Daniel being referred to as Belteshazzar. That is his exile name. Daniel, still resolute, still faithful, still serving, is also.... still in exile. Some have grown to love Babylon and are no longer interested in the promise of holy restoration if it costs them earthly sacrifice and challenges. It is a grieving thing to see people who have the opportunity to engage in a purposeful mission or who have been called to a specific mission fade away, disengage, or completely ignore the call. Daniel’s mourning includes specific fasting I am not going to enjoy the good things of this world because I am so concerned with the people of the world. He is praying for a blessing he will not receive and for active work he cannot even see. Daniel has been given clarity of vision from God as to what is happening. He is going to be shown there is more going on that acts of government or the actions and affections of a people.
PART II | Verse 4-9 | Revelation by the River
4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris) 5 I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. 7 And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. 8 So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. 9 Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.
After a period of prayer and fasting that included the Passover festival; Daniel is out of Babylon traveling with a crew of guys at the Tigris river. There he is met by a striking figure. Who is this? Right we all want to know. This could be an angel, or a theophany (appearance of God) or Christophany (appearance of the preincarnate Christ. The most compelling interpretation is one of the later. I believe this is Jesus. This description lines up with descriptions of Jesus in Ezekiel 1:26 and Rev 1:12-15 there is great consistency. Daniel interacts with him differently than the angels or other visions, calls him Lord 3 times and Col 1:15 says Jesus is the “Image of the invisible God.” If this appearance seems familiar in some way it should. This is a Damascus Road like experience. Daniel is with other people on the Tigris river. The other people he is with can tell something is happening, they know it is mighty and powerful they respond by fear, fleeing the scene. They cannot handle being in the presence of greatness. Daniel is left alone Encountering God is not something that is to be a great self-esteem builder. The first reaction is one of being humbled, brought low.
All of the details of belts and eyes etc are not as important as two big idea this vison conveys. First he is in linen, like a priest would be. This figure is holy, clean, set apart representing all that is good, right, and pure. All those are attributes of God. Second there is the description of his figure, the intensity of his eyes. There is a brilliant radiance in his face. His torch like eyes his bronze body. Looking like lightening is tied to the arrival of the Lord in many verses. His voice is like a multitude. It is so intense all Daniel can hear is the “sound of his words” Like the peanuts teacher. This is a man defined by supernatural and overwhelming power. The opposition God’s people are facing seems so overwhelming, Daniel needs a vision of God that is even more impressive. It’s often said, when you’re struggling with something. You need to get closer to God! Yeah, that might not be what you need to do if God is holy and powerful and you are neither. Daniel is incredibly close to the image of God and how does he feel? He is trembling, he has no strength he is nearly scared to death, completely knocked down and out for the count. He has gone from personally radiant (an interesting description for man in his eighties.) To being “fearfully changed” We can think we’re pretty awesome, until we meet God. There is no room for pride when we are powerless.
PART III | Verse 10-21 | Conflict Resolution
10 And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, 14 and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”
15 When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was mute. 16 And behold, one in the likeness of the children of man touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, “O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength. 17 How can my lord's servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.”
18 Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me. 19 And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” 20 Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come. 21 But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.
There is a lot here that is confusing and may yield more questions than can easily be answered. We can look to Verse 20 helps us understand this whole section as we begin to see the purpose of the visit. “Even though I am engage in a great conflict I will come to reveal what is true and right about spiritual realties you cannot see or know behind the active events you are seeing in History. Daniel has been brought low by the reality of what he sees in the world and even more so by his encounter with the presence of God and he needs restoration, clarity, and to be built up. Meeting God brings us low, but he can and does restore. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” God is FOR you and He is orchestrating history for His glory. The world has discouraged you. I am placing my hand on you, telling you, “you’re a man greatly loved,” (That is the only identity that matters) showing you what is true and giving you courage.
We see God responding to Daniel but he also appears to be delayed for 21 days. It’s not a 3 week trip from heaven to earth. Jesus didn’t get sidetracked and pull off to see the world largest ball of twine, or “get stuck in traffic.” Nor should be believe that Jesus is being ultimately thwarted because for us he appears to tarry. We are finite and liner, we experience the world in the passing of time . God is infinite and eternal over it all the time. The response contrast with chapter 9 where Daniel prays and God sends an angel instantly that answers very quickly. God’s delay in engaging with Daniel reveals several things:
1. It provides Daniel with the opportunity to more deeply engage with the suffering of his people. He got to fast from delicacies ointment, etc. The delay, while uncomfortable and even difficult didn’t ultimately harm Daniel. It merely brought him to a place of greater dependence and empathy.
2. It reminds Daniel what his relationship with God is. God is God and Daniel is not. This wasn’t Daniel saying “I prayed God, why didn’t you answer me instantly.” This is God saying “I’ve come to give you vison and understanding about things happening; you have no idea about on my timing.”
3. It reveals God is engaged in more things than we can comprehend at any one point. We believe the world revolves around us so when things don’t function in a way that we like we assume there is something wrong or God isn’t actively involved in our world. We may not be God’s #1 priority.
4. God can and does hear us at all times, is active at all times, but can choose to respond in His time while still being completely and perfectly loving. “Fear not, for from the first day you sent your heat understand and be humble you’ve been heard. Moreover, God has responded in love and to bring encouragement based on His character. We see this in how Jesus responds to the death of Lazarus. He knows what pain is being caused AND he knows what he will do. The story ends well.
5. The inevitably of God’s overwhelming victory should stir us to resist evil and sin and engage in spiritual battles with greater confidence and assurance.
There is more going on that we can see or understand. Prince of Persia is better translated “angel prince of Persia” meaning the clearest way to interpret this is that there is evil spiritual forces at work in and over the earthly conflicts we can’t readily see. Daniel has now had some of the curtain pulled back so what he sees means looking at the worldly conflicts is no longer limited watching the news but recognizing there are spiritual things at play. Not a devil or demon behind every corner but there is a legitimate struggle between evil and darkness (forces actively opposed to God and His reign) and goodness and light. God is the giver of life and light. The conflict is not momentary, it is perpetually going. But it will come to an end.
Even if he’s left the battlefield it doesn’t seem like he’s suffered at all. When you watch war movies and you see guys on the front lines they are weary, dirty, beat up, even if resolute. This figure is “clean” and intense. Not marked up or even dusted up. Us experiencing God delayed not us seeing God defeated. There are moments in our lives where God lifts the veil a bit to allow us to have an understanding of the conflict that is always present. The conflict of the Bible is brought into the story very early. Genesis 3 shows that while there are human actors and agents there is a spiritual battle at work. Sin has clouded all relationships with God so we cannot see what is true and right about God without Him showing us.
2 Cor 4:3-5 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.
While we in Christ serve the prince of peace that peace comes with the acknowledgement of a very real conflict. He says he’s going to go and fight. Jesus fights for us. Jesus solves the great conflict between a holy perfect God and a sinful rebellious people. Not by killing but by dying. While Jesus fights for us it doesn’t mean we are not engaged in the battle. The first step is actually acknowledging you are actually in a battle. Pretending you’re in at peace when there is a war is deadly. Starbuck verse McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts. You are in a battle whether you want to be or not.
The Christian life is one that will be “in this life” defined by season of prolonged conflict. One of the best examples I read was Normandy verse the end of WWII. We will be engaged in conflict. It is not an optional activity for Christians. Ephesians talks about who our battle is with and how we are to be equipped. We see we are to take on the whole armor of God, to engage in ways we would not normally. Eph 6:12 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
So what happens is when we find ourselves in conflict we pull back when we are called to press in. You have no idea what the spiritual realities are the surround the conflicts you see or find yourself in. You don’t want conflict? Surrender to the world and be a causality and know the promise is defeat. Surrender to the King of Creation and you will be enlisted in a new battle that rages still and know you’re engaged in a struggle that is assured of ultimate victory. For many people even showing up to church on Sunday is a battle of epic proportions. When adversity comes upon you, when challenges overwhelm, or when evil seem to be winning, do not avoid community to not neglect communing with God. You cannot fight alone.
Daniel comes to this place of great distress “I have pain because of what you have shown me and I have no strength. Verse 18 Again Daniel is ministered to and given strength. God engages and God speaks and what he says is “O Man greatly loved, do not be afraid, you see conflict but I am going to give you peace in the midst of conflict so you can be strong and courageous. Jesus is our strength, we are incredibly dependent people. The power isn’t in prayer it is in our confession that we are totally dependent on God. There is victory decreed here “after I’m done with the angel prince of Persia (victory is assured) another angel prince will rise up through Greece.” But Daniel has already been shown how that one will end too.
Col 2:13-15 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
The battle is real, we have lost, our defeat was taken and nailed to the cross, in resurrection His victory is declared, the enemy is disarmed and disgraced, our God has won! We are called to join the battle, and we share in his triumph when we Trust Jesus.