Sunday 20th September

Daniel – Cosmic Battle

This week we’re continuing our series in Daniel, exploring what is involved in being Jesus’ disciples today & to discuss practical ways of following Jesus more deeply in our own lives.

The reading will be from Daniel 7:1-28

One of the things that is very prevalent in the book of Daniel is dreams. I don’t know how many of us have dreams, but sometimes they can be a bit weird. Often they’re about things that have been going on in our mind or things we’ve experienced or people we’ve met. They’re often relevant to our lives. Daniel was given the ability to interpret peoples dreams, and today we’re coming to a time that he has dreams which he doesn’t understand and is himself in need of an interpretation.

Daniels ability to interpret dreams was perhaps reflective of the fact that he was close to God – despite being in exile. His hearts desire was to serve the God that he knew. That must have been in his mind all the time. When was able to interpret and when he had those dreams, it must have been related to what God was doing in his life at the time.

Song: Lord reign in me

Reading: Daniel 7:1-28

The events of these two chapters took place before those of Daniel 5, while Belshazzar was still king in Babylon. These chapters mark a change in the book from stories of historical events to accounts of strange dreams and visions concerning the future and end times. These writings are known as apocalyptic literature.

‘In his commentary, Tremper Longman III devotes considerable energy to explaining the nature of apocalyptic literature and how to interpret it. A very brief summary is that we should not push the imagery too far and try to make sense of every detail. Also, numbers and timings should be read symbolically and not taken to refer to precise dates and times.

Daniel was ‘deeply troubled’ and ‘appalled’ by what was revealed to him, and he struggled to understand. We have the benefit of some history and many scholars’ research, but some things remain imponderable. However, these chapters are not in the Bible to confuse us – they are there to add to our conception of God.

In Daniel 7, evil powers represented by fearsome mutant beasts terrorise and oppress humankind. Suddenly, the scene changes and the image of God in His judgement hall appears. The last beast is destroyed. The climax is when One ‘looking like a son of man’ comes to inaugurate His eternal kingdom. This illustrates again the comforting theme of this book. Even though it looks as if evil is having its own way in this world, the reality is that God is in control and He will demonstrate His victory in His time.

Two years later (Daniel 8), the angel Gabriel and our knowledge of history help us to make sense of some of the imagery. The ram with two horns is the kings of Media and Persia, and the goat represents Greece. The ‘little horn’ (Daniel 7:8) and the ‘fierce-looking king’ (Daniel 8:23) have been identified as Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who attempted to eradicate the Jewish faith and in 167 BC ordered that worship in the Temple should cease. He also murdered many Jews. He was an exceedingly nasty piece of humanity and as such was a forerunner of a worse destroyer who will appear in the last days – the Antichrist. (We will learn more of this individual in Daniel 11.) God dealt with Antiochus. He died in 164 BC (Daniel 8:25).

God’s message to us in these chapters is one of reassurance that in the midst of so much evil and oppression, He has His own timetable for deliverance. Right from the beginning, we know that He has fought for His people. As Exodus 15:3 puts it: ‘The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.’

Daniel overview

It would be good at this point to have an overview of the book of Daniel, although we’re half way through it gives a good overview of how it all fits together.

God’s message to us in these chapters is one of reassurance that in the midst of so much evil and oppression, He has His own timetable for deliverance.

When we read about people who seem to specialise in evil, we can be tempted to feel somewhat smug and think, ‘We would never do things like that.’ However, Scripture teaches us that ‘there is no one righteous, not even one,’ and that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:10,23).

Maybe our sins are less visible and seem more respectable than oppression and mass murder, but we are all still in dire need of God’s forgiveness. Thank God that we can be ‘justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus’ (Romans 3:24). The description of this cosmic struggle gives us a glimpse of the real battle raging for people’s precious souls. Our forgiveness and redemption have been bought at the highest possible price.

Jesus is coming back ‘in blazing fire with his powerful angels’ (2 Thessalonians 1:7). Fire symbolises judgement, a day of reckoning.

How can you prepare those around you for that day? Befriend them, support them, pray, if the opportunity arises, share your testimony and answers to prayer with them, lend them books, invite them to church or an Alpha course?

Imagine the thrill of meeting people in heaven who run up to you shouting, ‘I’m here because of you!’ The prospect for those who don’t repent is so ghastly that most of us probably prefer not to think about it. They will be ‘shut out from the presence of the Lord’ (2 Thessalonians 1:9). It is not our responsibility, or within our power, to make them turn to Christ. Our role is to ensure that they those around us understand there are choices before them.

Song: These are the days of Elijah

At the centre of all this cosmic battles that are going on is Jesus.

Daniel 7:13-14 is the first reference to Jesus as ‘son of man’. He is the only one of the Trinity who knows what it is like to be human. He is fully God and fully man – a unique combination. He can empathise with our humanity and its attendant weaknesses, but He has all the divine resources necessary to help us to live as His people in this world (Hebrews 4:15-16).

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to feel sympathy for our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

We are encouraged to approach His throne of grace with confidence and receive His help; but alongside this equally is the fact that he God and we need to recognise and worship him as such.

Song: Open the eyes of my Heart

Song: Jesus shall take the highest honour