Daniel chapter 12
We began this book saying that if we were to hold a newspaper against our nose we would find it hard to read anything apart from a few blurred words. In all probability, we would not see the whole picture or understand the story being told. On top of this, we would also be in danger of ‘filling in the gaps’ so to speak, as we built the whole picture from the few fragments we possess. I remember reading of a national newspaper that did this many decades ago when it presented an artist’s impression of ancient man based on a recently discovered tooth. It was later discovered that the tooth was that of a now-extinct pig. It is very easy to build the wrong picture.
However, in going back to our newspaper illustration, if you move the newspaper to arm’s length you begin to see the whole story, or at least as much as there is on that page of history. In a time of exile, Daniel was reminded that the dominion of God and those who are His is not something which is far off in the future, it is in the world here and now: God allows the pages of history to turn and, like a perfect chess-master, can bring the world to an end at any time he likes.
Throughout Daniel we see that the bigger story not only encompasses Daniel’s life, but also the whole of human history and as the camera brings chapter twelve into view, we find the conclusion of the previous revelation and reminder that God will prevail. Although man is responsible for his actions and so often abuses those around him, ultimately God will bring all things to a conclusion when He finally calls time as we know it to an end. The question is; do we seek God?
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near”.
In chapter twelve verse one, we read that Michael (the great prince who protects) will arise and yet there will be a time of distress such as has never happened from the beginning of nations until then. The ‘beginning of nations’ probably refers back to the table of nations (Gen 10) also reminding us that Israel was called to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 51:4).
The time of distress (v1) points us from Antiochus Epiphanes to the sacking of Jerusalem in 70AD. Yet, in the hell of man’s inhumanity to fellow man, God knows those who are His. All who have turned to the Messiah will be saved, even if they lose their lives and all who have sought to save their own lives by their own means will be lost. This picture also points beyond the events mentioned to the end-time resurrection of all: to fellowship with, or separation from God. It has been recorded (as in a scroll) and therefore will be brought to pass. In all trouble and difficulty, God does not lose sight of one person.
In his book, ‘The Compassionate God’ Choan-Seng Song speaks of how religion has made God something He is not and how we need to get back to the suffering Christ. He writes:
“The church has alienated Jesus from the people, dressed him up in golden splendour, hoisted him high above the altar in that awe-inspiring chancel, and sealed his mouth with solemn liturgies and eloquent sermons. He has been the captive saviour of the captive church.”
Choan-Seng Song in, ‘The Compassionate God’ page 112.
There were those in Jesus’ day who knew of the scriptures, yet had very much made God in their own image. The same problem can be found in the church today where church-goers’ view of Jesus may be anything and everything apart from the right view. We do not serve a living Saviour who is far off but the One who walked where we walk and suffered so that we might find freedom and live.
Let us remember that at Calvary, the very point where evil appeared to have triumphed, we see victory. This victory comes through the One who came in the weakness of the flesh, allowed the enemy his ‘hour’ and the triumphed over all the powers of darkness. No matter the ‘victories’ of the multiple Antiochus’ through history, God will prevail.
Wisdom and Light
Those who are wise (Dan 12:3) are those who accept what God says; who see the whole picture and act accordingly in putting their lives in His hands through repentance and faith.
Wisdom is about knowing whose we are: we do not belong to ourselves. It is about knowing that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Genesis 1:27-8, Psalm 139:14), and acting accordingly. It is about seeing God as He is (Prov 9:10) and ultimately knowing Him as our Father (Ps 68:5, Matt 6:6, Eph 2:18).
Wisdom is about engaging with God through Christ, (even when we feel totally powerless), and knowing that He will never leave or forsake us (Deut 31:6,Heb 13:5) and will never turn us away (Romans 8:1; Heb 4:16). Wisdom also speaks of seeing others as made in the image of God and understanding our calling to reach out to all people in the power and love of God. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens (Prov 4:18).
“To our most bitter opponents we say: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we shall continue to love you…Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you…One day we shall win freedom but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”
Martin Luther King Jr in, ‘Strength to Live’.
Many centuries before Daniel breathed his first breath; God took his forefather, Abraham, outside of his tent and told him to look at the night sky. He then said that Abraham’s offspring (those who truly place their trust in the Lord) would be more numerous than the stars in the sky (Gen 15:5-6). Centuries after Daniel breathed his last breath on this side of eternity, there will be a resurrection of all who have ever lived on this planet, some to eternal life and others to eternal separation.
Sealed Scrolls and sealed by the Spirit
Daniel is then told to close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end (v4). In the Ancient Near East documents were closed and sealed, denoting a finished work, they also conserving the interests and rights of the parties involved. God is involved with this world and will bring about all that He has promised: it has happened or will happen. Concerning the usage of the word ‘seal’, it is also worth commenting on Ephesians chapter one by way of encouragement.
In Ephesians chapter one, Paul tells us that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13). At the time of Paul’s writing, Ephesus was a bustling seaport and an important trade centre. When orders were placed on goods arriving in the port, they were checked (to see that the order was complete) and then sealed with a mark denoting a finished transaction. Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit as a seal because the transaction between Father and Son concerning our salvation is complete from God’s side.
The Holy Spirit is spoken of as a seal because Jesus has satisfied the just demands of God’s holy Law. The transaction is complete. We are sealed in Him. We do not have His seal of ownership on us because we are perfect, but because our standing is now in the perfect work of God’s one and only Son.
“Both his humility and his superiority derive from service. The commission that he received from God was one of service, and in this vicarious task he was led by way of the path of suffering to death on the cross. At the cross the sacrifice was consummated, the ransom was paid, and the many were reconciled with God and freed from the tyranny of sin and death. We see in him the one who unites all this in his person, not merely a figure of ideal manhood, but the living Christ as a God-given reality.”
Anders Nygren in, Christ and His church, page 68.
As already mentioned, documents were sealed denoting an official and unchangeable transaction. Daniel would not see the outworking of history, but was secure in the One who was going to bring all things about in His perfect timing. Daniel was a man amongst millions and was known and loved.
In verse five we read of Daniel then seeing two other angelic beings standing on either side of the Tigris (a figure of Persian power as was the Nile to the Egyptians). The reason there were two angelic servants is probably because in the ANE, the minimum number of witnesses to an oath was two. We also read of another being that was clothed in linen and was over the river, this being done as a reminder cornering who really stands over all power and authority; God. The imagery of the one in linen points to a priestly role and also forwards to the fulfilment of the priestly role in Christ (Heb 9:11). Ultimately, everything will come about as God decrees.
The man in linen is then asked how long it would be until the end of the events mentioned would take to be fulfilled; He lifts his hands and makes an oath.
Time and times
In the Mesopotamian mindset, times and laws were governed by the cosmic decrees embodied in the so-called ‘tablet of Destinies’. This was a clay tablet impressed with seals and regarded as a legal document conferring supreme authority on Enlil, the so-called ruler of the Universe.
However, it is the God of the Bible who is ultimately able to exercise control over all kingdoms, nations and timescales whether specific periods of time (time), the whole of time (times), or at any particular point He chooses to reach into this world (half a time). God knows all things, speaks as and when He wants to and communicates anywhere and at any time that He sees fit.
“The prophetic literature is not like yesterday’s newspaper, filled with speculation about Israel’s future 2,700 years ago and superfluous now. Nor is it tomorrow’s news with speculation about the planet’s future and useless to readers in ancient times. It is not like today’s vague horoscope that can be applied to any circumstance, or a ventriloquist’s dummy that can be made to say anything we want to say…..the books of prophetic literature record Spirit-empowered communication from God through human messengers, equally relevant in the past, present and future.”
K.Kandiah in ‘Route 66’ page 104.
Unlike the mention of the ‘abomination that causes desolation’ in Daniel 11:31, the phrase in Daniel 12:11 does not contain the definite article (the). Therefore the verse can read, “From the time that the daily sacrifices are abolished and an abomination that causes desolation is set up…” As we have already stated, there will be many who are not Antiochus Epiphanes yet have the Epiphanes heart and desire to destroy all that is of God. The words in Daniel point (in one sense) forward and encompass all that would oppress the people of God, yet cannot prevent what God is doing.
“Jesus – He made no promise that those who followed Him in His plan of re-establishing life on its proper basic principles would enjoy special immunity from pain and sorrow – nor did He Himself experience such immunity. He did, however, promise enough joy and courage, enough love and confidence in God to enable those who went His way to do far more than survive. Because they would be in harmony with the very Life and Spirit of God they would be able to defeat evil. They would be able to take the initiative and destroy evil with good.”
J.B. Phillips in ‘Your God is too Small’, p 95
In Babylon at the time of Daniel, there must have been many occasions when it looked as if evil had won the day. The same could be said in looking at North Korea, parts of China and other countries where believers are persecuted; it looks as if evil has won the day.
Yet ultimately, every day belongs to the Lord and many who go through suffering continue to testify to God’s presence and power no matter what they face. Take as an example the following story.
Baroness Caroline Cox, who was once a deputy speaker in the House of Lords, worked extensively in the field of human rights. On one occasion she spoke of entering a Dinka village shortly after the Sudanese Liberation Army had departed. There were over one hundred dead and many villagers had been carried off into slavery. Crops had been destroyed, huts burnt down and all that was left were a few women, many of whom had been raped. What happened next really spoke to Baroness Cox, as it does to all of us.
Many of the Dinka women were Christians and they started to make crosses and place them in the ground. The women said that these crosses were not memorials to the lost but a statement saying that they still followed Jesus. The promise is that evil will not triumph.
In continuing through Daniel, we next read of the completion of all things, ‘when the power of the holy people has finally been broken’. This power cannot refer to God’s power because the power of the Creator cannot be broken. Therefore it must refer to God’s people doing things in their own strength, this being seen at many points in Israel’s history, as well as in the church. In the events occurring at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes and the sacking of Jerusalem in 70AD, we see great destruction.
When Jesus came, He did not come to abolish the law or the commandments; He came to fulfil them and remove what they had become in the hands of religious men. Israel had been set apart by God to be a light to the nations, yet as Paul writes, not all descended from Israel are Israel (Rom 9:6). We can also say that not all who go to church are automatically Christians; after all you don’t go into McDonalds and become a cheeseburger! Nothing that man builds in his own strength will last (1 Cor 3:13-15). Yet God always knows those who are His. Those who threw themselves on His mercy in repentance and faith were saved, whilst those who relied on their own strength are eternally lost. There is no middle ground. As history continues to the end what God will bring about, there is a need to recognise that it is only those who place their trust in the finished work of Christ that are able to stand in His strength and authority.
“At the cross is revealed how his kingdom comes about: not with the might (of weaponry), or by power (of worldly means), but by the Spirit of sacrifice (Zech 4:6); not by the subjection of multitudes to slavery, in the manner of the great rulers of this world, but by the service of the Son of Man (Mt 20:25-28); for the kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36). The way of the kingdom requires that it spread most unobtrusively, by spiritual influence. It conquers people’s hearts, by their unconstrained acceptance of, and adherence to, the Word, its preaching and its call.”
Dr H. Blotcher in, Evil and The Cross130.
During this intervening period of time, the people of God will be refined in their faith and purified in their motivation through the testing that they will endure. Yet many in the world will continue along the path of destruction.
Wickedness will continue because there will be those who refuse to seek the truth, and there will also be many who come with the heart of an Antiochus as history has revealed through the likes of Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and a whole host of others. Yet the ‘empires’ these men sought to build crumble and fall and they have returned to the dust of the ground yet will be present at the judgement seat of God when their ‘lostness’ will be sealed for ever. As Isaiah writes, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands for ever." (Isaiah 40:7-8).
The book of Daniel is couched in the events of the centuries leading up to Christ (for example the daily sacrifice has to refer to that which is before Christ), yet also beyond as the daily temple sacrifice continued until 70AD. As we have noted in our journey through Daniel, there is much by way of typology that goes beyond earthly events to the culmination of all things. This world has a ruler who is holy, merciful, gracious and all loving. This world will not be allowed to continue in its present state forever. God will call time as we know it, yet for those who are His, there is an eternity of blessing (Mat 25:46, John 14:2).
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
1 John 5:13
Why speak of the future?
In looking at the latter part of Daniel some would ask the question, “Why bother speaking of a future that is far beyond the reach of those hearing about it in the present?” The answer to this is not difficult to grasp.
Throughout Daniel, we clearly see that the kingdom of God overarches the whole of history with the One spoken of as the Alpha and Omega (the beginning and the end) being in overall control. In Daniel we see the world as it really is and the way heaven interacts with earth through angelic intervention, dreams, visions and wise men that yield to the leading and guidance of the Spirit of God. Daniel, like John on Patmos, is privy to this, as are we.
“John saw that the world was not simply this mad, unsafe place where there was no room for people, for love and humanity. Even in the midst of that naked, frightening reality, he told them, Remember, Jesus Christ is Lord and he is Lord of life.”
Allan A Boesak in, Comfort and Protest, page 42
Why all this evil?
Over seventy million human beings were uprooted, enslaved or killed in the 20th century alone. All languages have a word for ‘evil’ and when using the word ‘evil’ people refer to its unjustifiable reality. It has been said that evil is, “Something that occurs in experience and ought not to.” For us it is the opposite of what is good and yet much more than an inconvenience to man: it is transgression of God’s perfect laws for life.
We live in a world where there are over twenty-seven million slaves. We live in a world where we spend billions on sending probes into space whilst millions and millions starve each day. Our suffering clearly comes about from man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.
The Bible presents a worldview where there is a God who chose to create beings who would be able to love and be loved. Adam and Eve were created and given freedom of choice since without freedom one cannot truly understand or give love to another. Instead one would be little more than the plant that has to grow towards the light. With freedom of choice being given, there is always the possibility that the wrong choice can be made.
“The theist does not say that God caused evil or that he is unable to prevent evil, but that he allows evil as a consequence of free will. The Bible tells us that evil will not exist forever, and that a lifetime in the midst of evil and suffering is insignificant compared to eternity in perfect peace with God. The apostle Paul said it this way: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18).
Prof N. Geisler in, ‘False God’s, p56.
Scripture reveals that God is fully aware of the paths that man will take. Yet this does not mean that He foreordained those paths. For example, I know that one day a child will become an adult, yet this does not mean that I have foreordained that event.
God knows the future because He knows us intimately. A doctor knows us more intimately, in some respects, than we do. God is the ultimate knower of all things. God knows all the future paths we could take because He knows us intimately. For example, if a young child watches a horror film one afternoon, we have a good idea of what might happen when they go to bed that night. He or she may be too frightened to go to bed, or want to go bed with the bedroom light left on, or sleep in their parent’s room.
At a much deeper level God knows us. He knows what has affected us and He alone know what the true ‘us’ should be like anyway. God also knows the future because He is the future and will bring events about as and when he sees fit. Yet if God knows all these things and knew evil was going to come about why did He not prevent it in the first place? Without going into too much detail we can note one simple point. If God had stepped in and prevented evil from the outset it would only prove that he was the stronger party and that there was no possible way out for man should evil enter the universe. Instead we see God’s absolute mastery over evil at every encounter.
Evil was not a necessary part of God’s plan since man did not have to fall into sin. He could have learned the consequences of wrong-doing from illustration around him. For example, a pear falling from a tree could be used to illustrate the separation that is ours through rebellion and sin, God is the perfect communicator and man did not have to learn through experiencing evil; neither did evil have to be present for man to understand the consequences of wrong doing.
As sinners it is impossible for us to obtain eternal life by our own good works. We are imperfect and can never pay a perfect price, no matter how hard we work. We cannot escape from the righteous condemnation of all sin wherever it is found in us. We are free to make decisions yet this does not deny God’s omnipotence since He can still reach even the worst in society as born-again ex occultists, cultists and those form other religious backgrounds testify along with the Nebuchadnezzar’s of the wold. God’s omnipotence is also seen in that there are always consequences to freedom that shows us that boundaries are in place and that God is in overall control.
We also see that evil is defeated by a perfect man – Jesus Christ - showing that evil was not necessary in the first place. This man had no advantage over Adam before the fall, because Christ came to live under His own law and could only be man’s representative if He lived as man lived, apart from sin.
Evil is an intruder and contributes nothing to life whatsoever. It does not increase our awareness of good since God is already wholly good. Neither does the actual presence of evil enable motion and testing in an otherwise static universe. Choosing the right path is in itself a test, as choosing to do what is right over alternatives that at times may seem very lose to the truth. Neither does the presence of evil cause us to question God’s existence since at every single step of the way, so to speak, God can master the effects of evil in whatever form He chooses. Although there is a huge amount of evil in our world it does not have to be presence since God had placed laws in position, decreed a way of life that is right, and enabled us to have this life so that evil can be minimised and eventually destroyed.
If a man does not use the tools he has been given to dig the garden in the job he has been given he may be sacked from the job. The termination of his employment cannot be blamed on the employer who provided all the resources necessary to complete the work. In a not too dissimilar way we cannot blame God for what has always been of our own doing, yet what do we find?
God stepped into our mess and used the evil of the cross to bring about the salvation of mankind. In the incarnation (Is 53; Phil 2:5f) the pre-incarnate Son of God enters the human race and clearly reveals His complete mastery over all evil, as a sinless man. Whether facing hostile crowds, demonic powers or the agony of the cross, Jesus was always in control as a son who constantly sought His father’s will and operated in the power of the Holy Spirit. His way of living shows that God’s way of living is the right way. Jesus In Him and Him alone we see what it means to be truly human and have the power to stand against all evil.
“The empire we face is created by humankind; it is not divinely sanctioned, God given, or historically determined; it is not irreversible, unchangeable, or unchallengeable, as it is claimed,…We are called instead to discern the anti-Godlike spirit that drives this reality. And because it is anti-God, it is antihuman.”
Allan Boesak in, Dare we speak of hope, p59-60
We are all seekers
A Christian teacher spoke at the University in Shikesvah, Hungary, shortly after the Berlin Wall fell. He’d been asked to debate an atheist astronomer and try and prove that God exists.
On the day of the debate, the University Dean said that his opponent had unexpectedly been called away but the University would still like him to speak. He was then led into a lecture hall full of Professors and students at all levels of academia. When the question time arrived, a student spoke of how Russian cosmonauts had gone into space and not found God. In light of this, the students question was, “Have you seen God and if you have not, how can you believe?”
The teacher replied by asking a question to the faculty of Professors. He asked (leaving faith and God out) all the students and lecturers about how much knowledge they really had. For example, it is well known that there are over two thousand languages in the world and in New Guinea alone there are over seven-hundred dialects. How many questions could the students answer on these dialects? How many questions could they answer about the family of the thirteenth Ming Dynasty in China and, if thousands of new books were printed each day, then how many had they read?
The teacher then asked, if knowing everything was seen as 100%, then how much knowledge did they have in the lecture hall full of hundreds and hundreds of academics? Was it 95%, 90% or 50%? He then asked the lecturers if it was possible that they and their students might have 5% of the knowledge of the world and was told that it might just be possible. He then asked, “Is it possible that God exists in the 95% they do not know? They answered “Yes”.
The teacher then said that everyone has two alternatives. Either you lived as an advanced and slightly more intelligent animal which eventually died and that was it, or, there is a loving God who reaches out and seeks to care for people. You can’t necessarily explain all that goes on in the world, but you know that this God desires the best for you and also offers life after death. He then asked if both were believable and which view they would choose: living on your own or living with a real sense of worth and meaning in the sight of a supreme being. If you had to choose one of these alternatives, which would you choose? The faculty replied that it would be foolish not to choose the view of worth and meaning in the sight of a supreme being.
Next the teacher told them told them that they could not be an atheist because they had agreed that God could possibly exist in the 95% that they do not know. He also said that at best, that would leave them as an agnostic, but they were not agnostic either.
An agnostic does not really care about whether there is a God or not – but they do. Therefore they are really seekers. Over the next few hours, many students and lecturers took Bibles, with some coming to Christ. God reaches out in unexpected ways. All across the world we find people from the most diverse of backgrounds reaching out to Jesus Christ through sometimes ordinary and sometimes extraordinary ways; reaching out to the One who is still involved in our world. Yet let us also remember that, as Christians, we are all still called to be seekers of God with hearts open to receive all that is already ours in Christ.
“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
2 Cor 1:20-22
God works in amazing ways
Throughout the book of Daniel we see that God is involved in the events of the world and also the life of the individual. We also see that He turns up in what, in human terms, is often unexpected ways. God speaks into Nebuchadnezzar’s mind through dreams, visions and the voice of His servant Daniel; He also stands with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in a blazing furnace. God opens the mind of chief officials (Dan 1:9) and closes the mouths of lions (Daniel 6:21). He bypasses the defences of the most powerful kingdom on earth and writes on a dream-wall (Dan 5:5) and allows an exiled servant to see the heavenly court (Dan 7:9). God knows the stars by name (Psalm 147:4) and is aware of the number of hairs on our head (Matt 10:30). He will one day come with a heavenly army (2 Thess 1:6-7), the power of which has never been seen before on planet Earth, yet He is also the One who wept at the pain and distress of two struggling sisters at the grave of their brother (John 11:35). God moves in incredible ways and often speaks through the most extraordinary and yet sometimes most ordinary of situations to reach the lost. Take, as an example the following story:
“I remember meeting a sceptical non-Christian a number of years ago in Oxford. He had asked many questions about the Christian faith and had found some answers, but was still uncertain about who exactly Jesus was and whether we could trust the source materials about his life. As he read one of the Gospels, he found himself questioning some of the miracles but was stunned to read that some of the original followers of Jesus were fishermen. When he read that fishermen saw the miracles and followed Jesus, he found himself strangely stirred. When I asked him why that was, he explained that he came from a family of fishermen in Scotland going back over many generations. He knew that these were earthly people not given to hallucinations or being taken in by fraudulent miracles. He finished by saying, “If those fishermen saw it, I believe they knew what they were talking about. I know people like that – they wouldn’t be taken in easily, that is enough for me.” This is probably one of the stranger reasons I have been given for someone wanting to become a Christian.”
Amy Orr-Ewing in, Why Trust the Bible, page 28
Throughout Daniel, we see that there are only ever two perspectives of the world we live in; we see it as our plaything as we wrestle to master it in our own strength or we see that it belongs to someone else, as indeed do our lives. There is one choice to make, yet two possible outcomes. We either accept God’s verdict of our life and our need for His forgiveness, or we live with the consequences of our choice to reject the offer of life. There is no middle ground. We either accept the hand of grace, mercy, power and love or we turn from the King who has stooped low in order to save us.
In Genesis we see that everything good is a result of God’s creative act. In Revelation we see that everything which disturbs harmony and peace in God’s world will come under judgement; only those in Christ will be saved. Our security and strength is in God alone.
There is a spiritual battle going on and there is a heavenly host that is involved, when and how God decrees. Seeing the expanding view of history that God gives through Daniel encourages us in our faith and challenges many to think about whose side they really want to be on: that which turns to dust, or that which shines forever.
As the final chapter of Daniel clearly reveals, there will be a universal resurrection of either blessing through Christ or condemnation through a rejection of a salvation offered in grace which can only be received as a gift in repentance and faith.
The voice of the Son of God is so powerful that it reaches all parts of history and all parts of the world. He is the One who brought the widow of Nain’s son out from death and also Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter. One day He will speak and every single person who has ever lived will stand before Him. For those in His work, there will be eternal blessing, whilst those who reject the offer of life find eternal judgement. Daniel is allowed to foresee this resurrection, hence his words:
“Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt."
Daniel is a book that encourages us through reminding us of just who it is that is in charge of history. In a world that is increasingly out of control, we are made aware that God has not left us and that His rule is being brought to bear on this world: God is with us.
This world continues to reap what we have so willingly sown and the fruit of this is seen in the many wars, exploitation of life and countless broken families all around us and littered throughout history. However, those in Christ will ultimately reap what God has sown through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Empires like Babylon, Medo-Persia, the Greeks and the Roman Empire have come and gone and like Antiochus Epiphanes, many individuals have risen to prominence through the exploitation and destruction of others. Yet, as history clearly reveals, God is the truly all-powerful One.
“A lion wanted to prove his supremacy. So he went to various groups of animals asking: “Who is the king of the animals?” Trembling, they all acknowledge, “You of course.” But when he approached an elephant with the same question it did not reply. So the lion repeated his question a second time and a third. At that the elephant wrapped his trunk around the lion, lifted him up in the air and smashed him to the ground. Humiliated, the lion shambled of mumbling, “You don’t have to be angry just because you don’t know the answer.” The story is a metaphor for the humiliation that awaits Satan in his battle against the Lord and humanity at large.”
T. Adeyemo (General Editor) African Bible Commentary, page 1010.
We are part of His plan; we are His workmanship
The Holy One opened Daniel’s mind to events he could not fully understand, yet one thing was absolutely obvious: Daniel was aware of just whose plan he was really a part of: Gods. As God-centred Spirit empowered people, our calling is not to bring Jesus down to the level of our plans and ideas, but to open our hearts to this truth; we are part of His plan, cherished and dearly loved. In a world where we are often more aware of our smallness than ever before, we are reminded yet again that we are seen and known and cared for.
We are God’s workmanship and need to learn to live from His world, so to speak, to ours. But what does this look like?
Living from His world towards the visible world means that I allow His words to define life and all that goes on and not my own experiences or view of self that life around me has foisted on my thinking. We have covered this before, but I believe it is well worth repeating.
Living from His presence means that I accept who I am in Him no matter the circumstances I find myself in. I accept that I am made in the image of God (Gen 1:27), I am adopted into His family (Eph 1:5) and sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30) who is spoken of as a deposit (Eph 1:14), guaranteeing the life to come. I am empowered by His Spirit (1 Cor 3:16, 2 Cor 3:18) and, if I am open and willing, strengthened by His power in my inner being (Eph 3:16-20). I also need to recognise that the purpose of this indwelling and empowerment is not, first and foremost, so that I can do things for God, but so that I can fully grasp the love of God and know this love in such a way that I am filled with the fullness that the Lord desires for me. Out of this, I am able to grow and serve as an anointed son or daughter of the Shepherd King.
“If we understand and are confident in our identity as the House of God, we can do great exploits. No power of darkness I any realm of creation can stop our fellowship with the Father. There is an open heaven over each one of us, from the newest Christian to the most mature…I have been to many cities that are known for their darkness. Yet the practices of occult leaders cannot block the open heaven over any believer who abides in Christ. Even the demonian, as tormented as he was, couldn’t be stopped from his “God encounter” as he fell at Jesus’ feet…”
B. Johnson in the Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind, p 59
If I am not prepared to spend time with Him and get to know what He is really like through the scriptures and meditation, then I am going to forgo much of the power and blessing that is mine through Christ. I become like a hungry person who does not see the food in front of me, like a thirsty person who does not see the well beside me and a powerless person who does not realise that His power is present. Power is strength in action and those who trust in and conflate their thinking with the Lord will exchange their strength for His living presence (Isaiah 40:31; Mt 28:20). Everything stems from my relationship with God because He has made a way for me to know Him through the work of the ‘sin-free’ man; Jesus Christ.
The amazing truth is that we have come into fellowship with the awesomely Holy One (Ps 89:18), the Father of heavenly lights (James 1:17) who is the source of all blessings (Num 6:24-6). The One who painted the dawn in a myriad of pastel colours (Ps 19:1-2) is our Father (Mat 6:9). He is the One who halts all destructive building programmes that reach into our lives and who removes the rubble of our failure as we are raised up in newness of life. He is the One who helps His people to build their lives and the lives of others no matter what is going on. This can be seen in the following testimony from, Chris Plekenpol, who was an officer in the American Army and who lost many friends during the troubles in the Middle East. Writing about the importance of the presence of God at all times, he says…
“God created this perfect order of things, and when our sin entered, it became a place of terror. Sin unchecked is a terrible thing. God exists in those moments to show us how desperately we need him, how he can redeem us, change us, give us new life. In combat you see that. There are places in life where God is an afterthought. You are driving down the road and life is pretty much all worked out, but in battle God is so much more real…I always come back to this one thought, life is short. It’s so urgent. I have this need to share the hope of Jesus with people who have no clue, who are still enemies of God. I want them to know that God took the hit for them. He has this irrational love for us, I just can’t understand it. It doesn’t make any sense to think that the Son of God would come down out of heaven and die a criminal’s death for people that hate him. But he did it. He died for our enemies.”
I Am Second, Ed: D. Bender and D Sterrett, pages 159-160.
The book of Daniel reminds us that we belong to another world and to One whose rule and reign of restorative love and justice is breaking through right now; right this very minute. Daniel was not going to see the events that were revealed through dreams and visions; they were beyond his horizon, yet neither did he have to. Daniel, like so many before him, sought God above all else.
“All of these men were certifiably human. They experienced serious adversity and hardship that they survived only through the personal intervention of God. There are two other traits they seemed to share: they were all incurable, chronic God Chasers, and they were personally involved in praying for and ministering to others…Noah, Daniel, Job, Moses, and Samuel – they all drew close to God in spite of impossible crises and adverse circumstances.”
T. Tenney in, ‘Experiencing His Presence, p 168
In sometimes unusual and often seemingly normal ways, God continues to reveal Himself. He is the One who is beyond the horizon of the horizons, the everlasting One who reveals His will so that we can rest in His plan and not feverously try and build our own and then get Him to endorse them. Our life-journey has an eternal destination with Him and His kingdom is breaking through right now.
Through Jesus’ work we are the ‘brought home’ and ‘being brought home’ ones (Eph 2:6) and time no longer has to be viewed as that which limits or imprisons us. Time has, in a sense, been invaded by the All-Compassionate One and we are on a journey, an incredible journey, with the One who redeems time and encourages us to keep in step with the Spirit (Gal 5:25). This keeping in step comes through resting in Him – a re-orientation of our hearts and minds so that we can draw from the soil of all God’s promises for us which are all ‘yes’ in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 1:20). No matter how we may feel, our lives are not trivial or insignificant in any way. Every moment is important and every moment is in His hands; the hands of the One who sees and knows all things and all people. That ‘all’ includes you and I so let us be encouraged.