Daniel: Being a stand up person in a bow down world (week 11)

Daniel: the powerful ram and the speedy goat.
Daniel 8:1-27

Daniel 2, 7 and 8 each in their own way explore the final manifestation of evil government that shall be destroyed by the coming of Christ.  They each take both a short view and a long view on history speaking both to times that have already occurred within history and times yet to come.  Daniel 8 while it concerns itself with the two empires of the Medo-Persians and the Greek Empire also casts shadows into a future yet to come and what we as God’s people can expect at the climax of human history.The main focus of the dream is the goat and the little horn that emerges and causes never before seen destruction for God’s people. In the interpretation we are told that the little horn represents a mighty king and a little lesson in history gives us the fulfilment of Daniel’s dream.  The Ram represents Medo-Persia and the male goat, Greece.  The large horn of the goat is Alexander the Great (356-323BC) who with rapid speed conquered the Medo-Persian empire building a vast empire from Greece to India.  Upon Alexander’s death there was no clear successor and so the empire was divided into four parts ruled by four governors. Then emerged Antiochus IV who reigned from 175-164BC whose cruelty surpassed those who had gone before him especially for the Jews.

Among the many atrocities included desocrating the temple by entering the holy place, removing the golden altar and lampstand and other sacred vessels. Attacking Jerusalem which resulted in the mass shedding of blood.  He also banned Jewish religious practises on a scale before that they had not experienced including sabbath observance, Jewish festivals and preventing the daily sacrifice in which a whole animal was burnt as a symbol of Israel’s single-minded devotion to God.  He banned the reading of the law of Moses and ordered that all copies be collected and burned.  He banned both observance of the law and circumcision upon penalty of death.  Jewish babies who had been circumcised were murdered, hung around the necks of their mothers and hurled down the walls of Jerusalem.  All of these atrocities climaxed in 167 BC when he desecrating the temple again this time having it rededicated to the god Zeus. (167BC) It came to be known by the Jews as the abomination that causes desolation.  Antiochus hated the Jews and the commitment to their God and was intent in breaking them as a people.

We can see in Antiochus the fulfilment of Daniels prophecy however Daniel is told that it also relates to a distant future.  And certainly the apocalyptic scriptures that we find in 2 Thess and Revelations ring an air of familiarity with Daniel 8.  In Matthew 24:15-30 Jesus refers back to Daniel 8 when he talks about the “abomination that causes desolation.” For Jesus the fulfilment of Daniel’s prophecy was yet future and connected to his return as the Son of Man.  There is a sense then that Antiochus gives us a kind of foretaste of the kind evil that will emerge at the climax of human history. John Lennox observes that “In Antiochus there were the seeds of an evil that will gestate and come to its fearful fruition in a time yet to come.”  What purpose then is there in us being aware of what is to come? Just as those Jews who faced suffering under the hand of Antiochus had been given warning through Daniel’s vision so too are we given warning.  In a way it is the kindness of a God that prepares His people for the things that they will have to face and to encourage them to remain faithful to the One who not only knows the future but who will ultimately abolish evil.

Listen to the sermon here

For discussion in communities:

Question to open discussion:

Would you rather know before hand that you are going to face challenging times or would you rather not know?

Read together Daniel 8:1-27 and 2 Thess 2:1-10

Q1.  What are some of the characteristics that you notice about both the ram and the goat?
Q2.  What characteristics do you notice about the mighty king that will emerge?
Q3.  Imagine for a moment being those Jews who had to face the persecution of Antiochus, how might knowing that God had spoken to Daniel about these things offer some comfort or hope?
Q4. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10 what similarities do you see between this passage and Daniel, between the man of lawlessness and the mighty king?
Q5.  How does knowing that Antiochus is a prototype of evil that will emerge at the climax of history prepare us as God’s people to face that reality?
Q6.  Daniel was appalled by the vision, what do you feel or think when you encounter the prophetic scriptures around the end times?  What emotions do they raise for you?  What questions do they it raise for you? How does it change the way you pray?

For accountability + prayer:

You can use these discussion questions either in smaller prayer and accountability groups or as a part of your own individual devotional life.

Q1. Spend some time praying for this nation and the world.  How often do you pray for Christians across the world that face absolute and oppressive evil?
Q2. Do you have a sense of the spiritual battle that we are living in?
Q3. How would you live differently if you were more aware of the evil powers that exist in this world?

Pray for each other that you might grow more aware of the spiritual battle that we daily face.

For personal devotion + study:

Monday: North Korea..

This week we are going to spend time praying for those Christians who are most persecuted across the world. The below information is taken from open doors 2019 world watch list.
Today let’s pray for those in North Korea.  Even after the Donald Trump-Kim Jong Un summit in June 2018, experts say there is no sign of any improvement in the lives of the estimated 200,000-400,000 Christians in North Korea.

Around 50,000–70,000 Christians are believed to be in labour camps.

Tuesday: Nigeria..
Today let’s pray for those in the north and Middle Belt (middle region) of Nigeria,where 3,731 Christians were killed for their faith. That’s almost double the number of Christians killed in Nigeria from the 2018 World Watch List. Villages were completely abandoned by Christians, forced to flee from the violence, as armed attackers moved in and settled. Persecution comes mainly from the nomadic, Muslim-majority Fulani Herdsmen, and the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

Of the 4,136 recorded deaths of Christians directly resulting from persecution reported in the 2019 World Watch List, Nigeria alone accounts for about 90% (3,731).

Wednesday: Russia..
Today let’s pray for Russia…during the past few years in Russia, the state developed tighter laws regulating religious activity, partly in response to the threat of violence caused by Islamic extremism.

Islamic extremist groups in the Caucasus region (near Central Asia) and the republics of Dagestan and Chechnya have increased their violent activity.

During the World Watch List 2019 reporting period, at least five Christians were killed in church attacks. In Muslim-majority areas, non-Orthodox Christians are also often targeted if suspected to be evangelising.

Thursday: China…
Today let’s pray for China where new religious laws in China seek to control all expressions of faith. In China, the situation is the worst it’s been in more than a decade; some even say since the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976.

On the 2019 World Watch List China rose from rank 43 to 27. Many churches have been forced to close down, crosses have been removed from a number of buildings and some believers have been sent to ‘re-education camps’.

Friday: Algeria..

Today let’s pray for Algeria, despite an increase in persecution seeing Algeria rise from rank 42 to 22, the church in Algeria is growing. Their increased boldness to share the gospel has brought a backlash from friends and society.

Saturday: Indonesia…
Today let’s pray for Indonesia where there has also been an increase in Islamic extremism in Indonesian society with suicide bombers attacking three churches in one day in the city of Surabaya.

High-profile Christian and former Jakarta Governor ‘Ahok’ was sentenced to two years in prison for a false charge of blasphemy. He is due to be freed in January 2019.