Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Living Lives Of Purpose: Lessons From The Book Of Daniel, Day 31. Daniel's Revelation, Part Two

Living Lives Of Purpose:
Lessons From The Book Of Daniel
Day 31

Daniel's Revelation
Part 2

An angel has been speaking with Daniel regarding things to come. Daniel deeply desires to know the future of his people. He's concerned not only with their return to Jerusalem but with God's eternal plan for them. The angel fought his way to Daniel through a spiritual war and is about to go back onto the battlefield. But first, because Daniel is "highly esteemed", he gives him a revelation of things to come.

"So he said, 'Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince. And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him.)" (Daniel 10:20-21, Daniel 11:1) Yesterday we spoke about the fact that God answered Daniel's prayer for revelation as soon as he started praying, but the angel sent to him was delayed in battle with the "prince of Persia", who was evidently a demonic entity assigned to the Persian kingdom when it conquered Babylon. This entity was probably there to entice King Darius, a viceroy of Cyrus of Persia, to harm the Jews. If this was the fallen angel's purpose, he was not successful in stirring up a spirit of anti-Semitism in the heart of Darius, for the king who once cast Daniel into the lion's den later praised the God of Israel and was filled with gratitude toward God for shutting the mouths of the lions. I think it's possible that Satan rushed in to try and use Darius the Mede against the Jews because Satan knew Cyrus was a proponent of religious freedom and that when he took charge of Babylon he would not hinder the Jews from practicing their religion. Furthermore, Satan knows the Scriptures even better than you or I do, and he knew the prophecies from the book of Isaiah regarding a king named Cyrus who would set the Jews free. 

Freedom for the Jews was the last thing Satan wanted. As soon as the serpent learned in the Garden of Eden that One would come from Eve's line who would bruise his head, Satan sought to prevent the advent of the Messiah. He tried to destroy the line of Judah both from within and without. From within he tempted them with idolatry, hoping God would reject them and abandon His plan of redemption. From without Satan attacked them by the nations on every side and incited racial discrimination against them. The angel speaking with Daniel must return and continue fighting against the evil entity at work in Persia, then the kingdom of Greece will come and he will fight against the entity assigned to it. By his side fights Michael, whom the angel calls "your prince", because Michael is the archangel in charge of protecting Israel.

Now we are about to enter a section that involves a great deal of ancient history. The revelations the angel gives to Daniel likely made no sense to him in his day, but from our vantage point we can clearly look back through time and see that these prophecies have been fulfilled. First the angel tells Daniel of the fate of Persia, "Now then, I tell you the truth: Three more kings will arise in Persia, and then a fourth, who will be far richer than all the others. When he has gained power by his wealth, he will stir up everyone against the kingdom of Greece." (Daniel 11:2-3) 

At the time the angel speaks to Daniel, Cyrus is the king of Persia. The revelation is concerned only with the four kings who follow him: Cambyses II, Smerdis, Darius I Hystaspes, and Xerxes I. Xerxes I is a perfect match for the king who will be far richer than the others and will stir the people up against Greece. This king spent four years amassing a great army to fight against Athens for siding with the Ionian colonies in their revolt against Persia. The ancient historian Herodotus says the army consisted of two million soldiers and four thousand ships. Xerxes I was defeated in a series of major battles and limped back home, where for the rest of his life he levied heavy taxes against the people for his extravagant building projects, sending the nation into recession and decline. He was eventually assassinated by one of his own ministers. (On a side note, Xerxes I is considered a good candidate for the king of Persia in the book of Esther.)

The angel does not concern himself with any Persian kings after Xerxes I but moves on to the next great empire on the world stage: Greece. "Then a mighty king will arise, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases. After he has arisen, his empire will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the power it exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others." (Daniel 11:3-4) 

The mighty king is Alexander the Great, whose empire followed that of Persia. As the angel states, his empire did not go to his descendants. His sudden and untimely death left no clear heirs to the throne. His brother might have been up for consideration if he had not been mentally handicapped, but he was rejected on the basis of being unfit to rule. Alexander had a young illegitimate son but, since he was never married to the boy's mother, this heir was also rejected. At the time of Alexander's death his legal wife Roxana was pregnant with a son, but he too was rejected by the regents of Greece, who soon saw to it that both Alexander's sons were assassinated. His kingdom was then divided into four parcels by his generals. Cassander received the territory of Greece, Lysimachus received Asia Minor, Seleucus was placed over Syria and Babylon, and Ptolemy was to govern Egypt and Arabia.

Out of these four divisions of Alexander's empire the angel will only be concerned with the two that will have an impact on the holy land. In tomorrow's study he will provide Daniel with a prophecy regarding the kingdom of the south (Egypt) and the kingdom of the north (the Seleucid Empire). We will study the prophecies of these lands and their rulers and through it all we will have a sense of God's complete control over all world events. There have been periods of history when it seemed as if all was lost for the Jews, if one looked at the events without eyes of faith. But God gave these revelations to Daniel so they could be passed on to future generations, so that when a ruler like an Antiochus Ephiphanes or a Caesar or a Hitler afflicted the Lord's people they could take heart. God will keep His word concerning His people Israel. God will keep His word concerning the church. Kingdoms rise and fall, persecutions come and go, but God reigns sovereign forever. He is the only King who matters.

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