Monday, February 6, 2017

Living Lives Of Purpose: Lessons From The Book Of Daniel. Day 30, Daniel's Revelation, Part One

Living Lives Of Purpose:
Lessons From The Book Of Daniel
Day 30
Daniel's Revelation
Part One

Now Daniel moves us farther in time and tells us of a vision he received during the reign of King Cyrus of Persia.

"In the third year of King Cyrus of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding came to him in a vision." (Daniel 10:1) Daniel tells us this happened during the third year of King Cyrus; however, this is what happened during Cyrus' first year, "In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing: 'This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: 'The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build a temple for Him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of His people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem." (Ezra 1:1-4)

Daniel is a free man. He can return to the place where his heart has remained all these long years of captivity. In Ezra 2 we learn that 42,360 left Babylon in the first wave of exiles, but Daniel does not go with them. As far as we know, Daniel spent the rest of his life in Babylon and is buried there. Why did he not return to Jerusalem? Was it because he was in his eighties now, too old to help with the work of rebuilding? Was is because he was faithful to his appointed government post in Babylon? Was it because God intended him to continue blooming where he was planted in Babylon, where he could remain a godly influence to both a pagan nation and to his own people who still lived in the land? Was it because he would not leave until the last person from Judah renounced the culture of Babylon and Persia and returned to the Lord? If it was the latter, he did not live to see such a thing. We find many men and women of Judah still in the land, assimilated into the foreign culture, when we get to the book of Esther, which I hope to study next. I tend to believe, though, that this latter explanation may hold true for Daniel. He didn't intend to leave Babylon until the last man, woman, and child from Judah was out. He would not leave them behind. Because he held such a high position in the government, he was a constant and visible example of godliness to the people. He was in a position to influence others and to give his testimony of the Lord. As long as one person from Judah still remained in the nation, I believe he purposed in his heart not to go home. But this doesn't mean he didn't long for Jerusalem and that his thoughts and prayers weren't with those who returned to rebuild. 

Daniel is a man of prayer and fasting, of mourning for the troubles of his people, of interceding for the people as a mediator in the style of Moses, and we find him in this type of spirit in Chapter 10. "At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over." (Daniel 10:2-3)

"On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude." (Daniel 10:4-6) The identity of this man has long been debated as to whether he is Christ or a very high-ranking angel. There are good reasons to believe this is Christ and good reasons to believe he is not. His description is similar to the Apostle John's when he received his revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ, who appeared to John as "someone like a Son of Man, dressed in a robe reaching down to His feet and with a golden sash around His chest. The hair on His head was white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of rushing waters". (Revelation 1:13-16) This description could certainly lead us to conclude the person who appears to Daniel is Christ; however, as we continue in Chapter 10 we find this person needing the assistance of the archangel Michael. We would not expect Christ to need anyone's help. This leads me to believe he is a very mighty angel, perhaps a top general in the armies of heaven, but we cannot be certain since Daniel himself does not appear to know. Daniel doesn't concern himself with identifying the man and since he didn't get hung up on the issue, we will try not to either.

"I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground." (Daniel 10:7-9) Daniel evidently faints at the sight of this man.

"A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, 'Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.' And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling." (Daniel 10:10-11) This unnamed person has been "sent" to Daniel. We get the feeling he is a messenger, an angel, and not Christ. When the Apostle John saw the Lord while in exile on the Isle of Patmos, he too fell to the ground like a dead man, and Jesus touched him and raised him up. But Jesus does not refer to Himself as having been "sent"; He comes to John on His own authority and clearly declares His identity by saying, "I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades." (Revelation 1:17-18)

The man goes on speaking to Daniel. "Then he continued, '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. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come." (Daniel 10:12-14) Daniel began praying twenty-one days ago, for he told us he mourned and observed a type of fasting for three weeks (twenty-one days). The very instant Daniel began to pray, an answer was sent out. This man, likely an angel, was dispatched as a messenger to Daniel. But another type of angel, a fallen angel, fought against him to hinder his work. The "prince of the Persian kingdom" is thought to be a demonic entity Satan placed in authority over the Persian kingdom to weaken the faith of the Jews there and to try and prevent Cyrus from allowing the captives to go free. While Daniel prayed for twenty-one days, waiting for a breakthrough, an angelic soldier of God was detained in a fierce battle on his way to Daniel. We so often think our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling when in truth God heard us the minute we started speaking. While we wait for our answer the forces of heaven are fighting for our victory. Battles are being waged in the spiritual realm. "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." (Ephesians 6:12)

Daniel is still overwhelmed. "While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, 'I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.' Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 'Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,' he said. 'Peace! Be strong now; be strong.'" (Daniel 10:15-19a) I can't tell you how many times that things have gotten me down to the point of giving up praying about them. I've become incapable of words, unable to make a sensible prayer come from my lips. Then suddenly I feel revived. I'm able to go on and fight another day. When we feel like this, could it be that an angel has touched us? Perhaps God has sent a messenger to whisper to us, "Peace! Be strong now; be strong."

Daniel feels revived. He's received a second wind. "When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, 'Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.'" (Daniel 10:19b) This reminds me of one of my favorite verses from the book of Isaiah, "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:31) 

We need to divide Daniel's revelation into parts because it is quite lengthy and detailed, so we will continue with it tomorrow. But if you're feeling weary today, the Lord says to you, "Peace! Be strong now; be strong." As soon as you started praying the Lord heard you. Battles are raging in the spiritual realm, plus our answers are sometimes held up because mankind resists the will of God. But as the Apostle Paul said, our true battle is not against our fellow man. The unseen forces of wickedness in the spiritual realm influence those who are rebellious and ungodly to resist the will of God. But we need not fear any enemy whether mortal or spiritual. Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4) Those who are with us are more than those who are with our enemy. (2 Kings 6:16) When it seems like our prayers aren't going anywhere, and when we are losing heart, that's exactly when we should take heart. When the prophet Elisha and his servant found themselves surrounded by enemies, his servant panicked, but Elisha knew the armies of heaven were on their side and he prayed, "'Open his eyes, Lord, that he may see.' Then the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha." (2 Kings 6:17) We need not faint in the heat of battle: the Lord fights for us. As David said, "Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer, You shield my head in the day of battle." (Psalm 140:7) We grow weary when we forget that the battle is the Lord's, not ours. Today let's draw our strength from Him, our Mighty Warrior. 

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