Daniel: Being a stand up person in a bow down world (week 13)

Daniel: mighty rivers, mighty heavenly warriors and mighty men. 
Daniel 10:1-27

Chapters 10-12 form the last section of the book of Daniel.  Chapter 10 is a lengthy introduction to the final vision that is revealed to Daniel. And as we meet Daniel in chapter 10 we catch him in a bit of a crossroads and crisis moment. Though some of the exiles have returned to rebuild Jerusalem the building project is not going all that well and is being contested (Ezra 4).
And  so whilest Babylon continued to flourish, Jerusalem still lay in ruins. Daniel’s nation was still homeless, scattered and opposed. In addition, he had received three direct revelations from God that foretold continued hardship and suffering for His people…and the latest in Daniel 9 although offering hope of a final restoration conveyed the notion that the ultimate it would still take some time. At the same time it was month of Nisan, the first month on the Jewish calender and around the time when the Jews celebrated the Passover feast.  Historically it had been a time of great celebration and joyfulness for the Jewish people as they remembered God’s deliverance of them from slavery and how He had formed them as His people but at this time Daniel wasn’t celebrating, Daniel began to mourn.  He began to fast and pray for a period of three weeks… And at the end of these three weeks he found himself by the banks of the mighty tigris river..
The flow of rivers had become symbolic amongst the poetic and prophetic writers of Israel symbolizing the flow of history.  The idea that history flows and is an unstoppable force that no-one can control.  And it is right there in the midst, as he reflects the current reality, where he has come from, all he has experienced in his life, the mysterious visions that God has given him, the current circumstances that his people are facing, the future suffering they will have to face… that he continues to ask these questions and continues to feel the weight and burden for his people…still confused….still uncertain…things still a mystery to him…where will hope come from?  How will it be found? What’s he to make of the disturbing content of these visions? What about all the twist and turns that his people have endured? What part is he meant to play in it if any?  What had his life meant?.in that same moment is when he has an encounter with what can only be described as the transcendant. As Daniel stood by that river feeling incredibly troubled, trying to make sense of everything – God ministered to him and offered him both insight, reassurance and hope.God told him that he was loved…in verse 11 and verse 18 the unnamed angelic being communicates to Daniel that he is greatly loved by God. 
As the unnamed angelic being comes to Daniel he says to him in verse 11, Far from being rejected for asking questions these questions of God, he is told that he is much loved by the source of all love. To hear that we are loved by God brings stability and hope into even the worst of situations.The second thing that God wanted him to know is that God is sovereign and working out his purposes in this world even if they remain a mystery to us. 
What will be revealed to Daniel by the heavenly messenger is that the future is already written down in the “book of truth” (v21) – Whilest things remain a mystery to Daniel and are difficult for him to make sense of, nothing is a surprise to God. It might not always appear to be the case but God is working in the flow of history.  And there is things going on that are unseen to us that impact that flow.

In this passage Daniel is told the details of a spiritual battle that has been taking place in response to his prayers. In our world where  naturalistic and materialistic worldviews are popular, it is easy for us even as christians to underestimate and live relatively unaware and naïve of the reality of a spiritual realm…a spiritual realm that has an impact on our earthly existence.  Paul picks up on this in Ephesians 6 when he writes:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
This life is largely impacted by what we do not see, what is going on underneath the surface but at the same time we need to remember that if we are on God’s side of the battle we are ultimately on the winning side.  These forces are in no way equal to God..God is more powerful, sovereign and to be feared then what we can imagine.

In verses 5-6 there is a description of a heavenly man…he is dressed in linen, belt of fine gold, his body as hard and shining as topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze and his voice amplified. Whilest some commentators think this man is Gabriel I personally believe that Daniel has an encounter with the preincarnate Christ.  The description given here is remarkably similar to Revelations 1:13-16, the vision of the resurrected Christ that the Apostle John witnesses.  In both instances, both John and Daniel have a very similar physical response to this being that they see…. So physically impacted almost on death’s door.   In fact all through out this passage as Daniel and also his friends encounters the spiritual realm their physical + psychological responses tell us something about who God is…God is uncontainable and incomprehensible by us…even his angels reflect something of His terrifying power and glory.     And Daniels reaction to what he witnesses tells us that it is difficult for us as human beings to fathom let alone be in the presence of God’s transcendant glory and holiness…the natural response is that of terror and fear.

As we witness Daniels response it reminds us to not confine God to our limited and finite understanding…to not be under the allusion that we can somehow comprehend everything about God and that he is under some kind of obligation to reveal everything to us.  Because in reality, if we try to confine God to our own understanding and there is no mystery about Him and How he works in the world then we are worshipping a man made idol and not God.

The third thing that God wanted to Daniel to know was that He was  responsive to his prayers..

Remember that Daniel was amongst the brightest, most intellectual, administratively and strategically gifted, obtained the highest levels of influence within society, spiritually gifted, able to give answers when others could not, he had witnessed God do incredible and miraculous things but none of it was a source of pride. He had rubbed shoulders with what was at the time the worlds most mightiest and proudest of men…with kings and emperors, those who commanded armies and conquered nations, those who thought they had supreme control.  And God had humbled those so called mighty and powerful men, but God didn’t need to humble Daniel.  . Daniel was in the habit of humbling himself…and because of that his prayers were powerful.   In verse 12 the angelic being says:
“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.
Daniel humbled himself by mourning…….he humbled himself by abstaining……. he humbled himself by waiting – for 3 weeks he fasted…and he humbled himself by praying.  And because of this when Daniel prayed, Angels were unleashed and demons set up a resistance ..Clearly Daniel was someone on the devils watchlist. The devil had this older gentleman under his surveillance because he knew that when this man prayed…things happened in the heavenly realm.  What puts us on the devils watchlist?  When you are living for God’s name and not your own…  When you practice humility in your life and not pride..when you are brokenhearted not for yourself but for the those in the world… If your living for your own name, the devil doesn’t have to watch you because he already has you doing what he wants…we do not pose a threat to him because he already has us concerned with our own little wills instead of God’s will.

We make a mistake if we think it is the best and the brightest who will have the greatest impact on this earth…eternity will tell a different story – it will tell that it was those who humbled themselves before God whose choices really mattered and whose lives made a lasting impact on the world both seen and unseen. Daniel needed to know that His prayers were being heard and were making a difference even if he didn’t see it first hand.

There will be times in the flow of our lives when we are faced with unsolvable difficulties and unanswered questions…there will be times when what God is doing in our lives won’t make any sense to us..and we will wish that he would make things less unclear + uncertain.. What we can hold onto when life makes no sense.  There are three things we can hold onto.

  1. God so desperately love us…
  2. that God is powerful and in control and there are things going on behind the scenes that we may never be aware of…
  3. that if we humble ourselves and sincerely seek our heart towards understanding God’s will and seeing His will done in the world that our prayers will make a difference.

Listen to the sermon here

For discussion in communities:

Question to open discussion:

How would you help someone who is skeptical about the existence of spiritual dimension understand what is like and why you believe it exists?

Read together Daniel 10

Q1.  Who do you think the heavenly figure is in verse 5-6?  Read revelation 1:13-16 what similaririties do you see between the two..
Q2. Why do you think Daniel is so physically impacted by what he sees?
Q2. Read Ezra 4:1-5 why do you think Daniel goes into mourning for 3 weeks?  What do you think he is doing in that time?
Q3. In verse 12, the messenger tells Daniel that he has come in response to his words, if Daniel had not prayed do you think God would have sent a messenger?  How do you think God’s will and our prayers work together?

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.  What are you brokenhearted for at the moment?
Q2.  How could you practise humility more in your life?
Q3.  Where are you seeking God for understanding?

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