A Humble Man and An Awesome God that Listens and Answers
I was reading the only piece of English that I could find in my hotel room with Jenny one night – it was from the Sunday Telegraph that she brought over. In it was an article about words that have lost their meaning through overuse. The one that had most lost its meaning was the word AWESOME
It can be used to describe the taste of an ice-cream, to the power of a car, to the sound of a rock band, to the destruction of a Tsunami. There is no doubt that it is an over-used word. But it is the correct word to use to describe God in this passage.
Now you or I are not going to be in a Tsunami. Neither are we going to be confronted by what confronted Daniel. So to help us to visualize Awesome, here is a short video clip from last night’s movie ‘Twister’, to see Hollywood’s interpretation of AWESOME.
Daniel was not an easy man to scare. He had served the Lord for 70 years – going through the worst years for Judah – the exile years.
Daniel had been tested in every possible way:
* He had been conspired against.
* His three young friends had stood up to the worship of Nebuchadnezzar’s gold image, and risked the fiery furnace. Now that is awesome.
* Twice he had interpreted dreams for Nebuchadnezzar, once for Belshazzar. Twice he directly had a vision in the reign of Belshazzar, and twice at least he proclaimed bad times for a king, directly to the king himself – normally enough to get yourself killed. Now that is Awesome.
· Last week in Chapter 9 we see Daniel taking personal responsibility for the whole kingdom of Judah, with that incredible prayer, that we separately studied during the Jer 29:11 Project that Tim took us through in those purple binders. Now that is awesome!
But now this Daniel in Chapter 10 sees something right at the end of his life – right at the end during the reign of Cyrus king of Persia. He sees something that causes the colour to drain from his face, and to fall flat on his face. If that happens to Daniel, who has been through all these moments before – whatever you call it, AWESOME is a description that you can use without fear of wearing the word out.
Last chapter – Chapter 9 – Mr W was talking to us last week. Started with Daniel thinking about Jeremiah’s prophecy of 70 years of exile. Since it was coming to an end, he was ready for a king to be returned to power in Judah.
But it is not to be. Daniel has to wait a long time. The prophecy in Chapter 9, given to Daniel indicates that it will be 7 times longer – nearly 500 years – till there is a rightful King once again on the throne in Israel. He is told exactly in Ch 9 : 69 times 7 or 483 years.
King Artaxerxes 1 (mentioned in Ezra Chapter 7, as starting the return to Jerusalem – in around 458BC, and if you add 483 to that you get to the time of Jesus’ public ministry – 25 – 30AD! A fantastic, exact prophecy.
For us, we know that this means Jesus, the man born King, the Saviour! Daniel is a tremendous book for pointing out to us, again and again, that the whole of the Old Testament ultimately bears testimony to the coming Jesus – who would be both King and Sacrifice.
So let us move to Chapter 10. It starts the last section of the book, running all the way through to chapter 12.
Here is my break up – starting at 10:1 and finishing at 11:1
- A humble man and an Awesome Vision - V1-9
- 3 Touches, and 3 Actions V10-11, V15-19
- Truths Told and Battles Fought V12-14, V20-11:1
Let us read the first few verses together:
In the third year of the reign of King Cyrus of Persia, Daniel (also known as Belteshazzar) had another vision. He understood that the vision concerned events certain to happen in the future—times of war and great hardship.
When this vision came to me, I, Daniel, had been in mourning for three whole weeks. All that time I had eaten no rich food. No meat or wine crossed my lips, and I used no fragrant lotions until those three weeks had passed.
The first thing that I want you to notice is Daniel’s preparation. The first month of the year is the Passover. Daniel was having a fast from fancy food – which included pastry, meat and wine, and from fancy living – no washing, deodorant or perfume. My guess would be that this was Daniel’s yearly custom. Until he saw the restoration of Israel, with a King sitting on the throne, that he would reach out to God in the fast from luxury, in order to pray, as he had in chapter 9 for understanding for the happenings in the nation of Israel.
It is one of the things that we have been able to admire right throughout Daniel’s book. He never seems to have allowed his personal habits to get in the way of his relationship with God – instead he has trained himself to be exactly the opposite – they enhance his relationship.
You will remember, of course, Daniel’s insistence on praying to God regardless of what the rules were in the time of Darius. He was a man of consistency, of passion, consumed with following God. It is a tremendous example to me.
I would follow that up by acknowledging Rich Hoyt as an example of someone who has personal habits that enhance his abilities. He doesn’t take shortcuts in his service. When it was ruled that his satellite internet was potentially a problem, he instantly turned it off, and we removed the cables together.
It isn’t a form of righteousness that is going to get him browny points with God, but I think it is rather that he tries not to have obstacles between him and God.
What obstacles do you have between you and God?
What personal habits limit you as far as your christian walk goes? Daniel was very useful over his entire life, because of his refusal to allow those obstacles to occur. Here Daniel is showing what service is about: After 70 years we could humanly excuse him for starting to take it easy. Daniel is showing that he is still active in wanting God’s way.
What a challenge that represents for those of us who are young, and what a challenge it is to those who are in the middle, or those of us who are elderly. What a model of consistency Daniel represents!
2ndly, humility is never an end in itself, it is always to make us useful. Here Daniel is fasting, and has gone on a trip – between 30km and 300km – to the River Tigris. When the first awesome thing happens – the vision: Let us read about it.
4On April 23, as I was standing on the bank of the great Tigris River,5I looked up and saw a man dressed in linen clothing, with a belt of pure gold around his waist.6His body looked like a precious gem. His face flashed like lightning, and his eyes flamed like torches. His arms and feet shone like polished bronze, and his voice roared like a vast multitude of people.
Here is a description where it seems that the language of Daniel is struggling to put into words what he is seeing. Think of that scene from the twister movie – how hard is it to describe a natural phenomena which is just a product of God’s handiwork – when experiencing it is so full of sensory overload – your body getting pushed around like a rag doll – and all the subtitles can say is “Twister Thunders Loudly”. It doesn’t matter how you describe it, it can’t really do it justice – we don’t have the soundtrack, and we don’t have the visions. Daniel has seen visions, he has interpreted dreams for kings, and has served the most powerful kings in the world for his whole life. But all we get are flat words on the page.
Remember Paul talking about his vision – 2 Corinthians 12 – I saw I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.
There are two ideas on who is shown here. The first is that the person who appears is the person that has the conversation with Daniel later – and he is an Angel. The second is that the person who appears in v10 is an angel, while the vision is of the Glorified Jesus. I think the second view for a few reasons, but I don’t want to go into them now, as it is a complex argument, and not easy to follow.
Firstly, Daniel has already seen a vision of the Lord Jesus as Judge in Daniel 7. But I think it was a vision at a distance. Daniel notices the throne, the clothes and his hair. Fiery throne, clothes of white and hair of white.
Here it is a vision close up – Daniel sees his features – his body, his legs, his belt, his face, his eyes, his arms, his voice. It has a feel to it of Revelation 1, but different. But one thing is similar – John’s reaction in Revelation 1 was to fall down as though dead. Here Daniel has the same reaction – let us read about it:
7Only I, Daniel, saw this vision. The men with me saw nothing, but they were suddenly terrified and ran away to hide.8So I was left there all alone to see this amazing vision. My strength left me, my face grew deathly pale, and I felt very weak.9Then I heard the man speak, and when I heard the sound of his voice, I fainted and lay there with my face to the ground.
Who is this man in the vision? Only the Glorified Lord Jesus – the King – can evoke that sort of reaction. The men with Daniel flee in terror, even though they can’t see anything. Daniel himself – confronted with God close up, is left with nothing. How like that are men of substance – remember Job – when confronted by God has nothing to say. When John sees Jesus – who adopted Jesus own mother Mary! He sees the Glorified Jesus and collapses. So we see here Daniel doing the same. This was no angel – this was God himself!
2nd section 3 Touches - 3 Actions First is in V10
10Just then a hand touched me and lifted me, still trembling, to my hands and knees.11And the man said to me, “Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.” When he said this to me, I stood up, still trembling.
Here there actually two encouragements: the first is not verbal – the man touches him and lifts him from flat on his face, to being on his hands and knees, trembling. Secondly, he tells Daniel that he is precious to God, and to stand up. Daniel then under his own strength, gets to his feet but still trembling.
Two things remain for Daniel in his humility, his eyes haven’t looked up, and he hasn’t uttered a word.
Let us drop down to V15-17
Second touch, second reaction
15While he was speaking to me, I looked down at the ground, unable to say a word.16Then the one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing in front of me, “I am filled with anguish because of the vision I have seen, my lord, and I am very weak.17How can someone like me, your servant, talk to you, my lord? My strength is gone, and I can hardly breathe.”
Daniel is now able to talk, since his lips have been touched, but he has no strength, he is trembling
Third touch, third reaction v18
18Then the one who looked like a man touched me again, and I felt my strength returning.19“Don’t be afraid,” he said, “for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!”
As he spoke these words to me, I suddenly felt stronger and said to him, “Please speak to me, my lord, for you have strengthened me.”
Daniel is encouraged by the third touch, and is enabled by the angel’s words of comfort and command.
For the second time, Daniel is both touched by the angel, and encouraged with words – You are very precious to God.
Strengthened now two times, Daniel has gone from flat on his face, to standing mute with his head bowed, till now Daniel is both looking at him in v18 (he looks like a man), his strength has returned and he is able to speak.
This is very much like Isaiah – in Chapter 9 – Woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.
Heavenly Battles Pt 1
12Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer.13But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia.14Now I am here to explain what will happen to your people in the future, for this vision concerns a time yet to come.”
We see here the battles that happen behind the scenes, that we don’t know about. Daniel was just going about his business – praying, fasting and humbling himself. But there is this whole level of warfare between us and God.
In the New Testament Paul tells us in Romans – we read that our battles are not with flesh and blood, But against the principalities and powers.
Heavenly Battles Pt 2
Let us read the second part:
20He replied, “Do you know why I have come? Soon I must return to fight against the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia, and after that the spirit prince of the kingdom of Greece will come.21Meanwhile, I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one helps me against these spirit princes except Michael, your spirit prince. 11:1I have been standing beside Michael to support and strengthen him since the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede.)
We judge our effectiveness here as a church often by our numerical growth. I was asked as a young leader some time ago to give a guarantee that we would grow as a church. I made a comment once to the effect that we could grow very quickly, but that there were no guarantees. Belief that growth can happen I think is essential. Vision depends upon seeing the possibilities what God can do.
Yet there is something else that is very important here to illustrate the point:
Jenny and I had a breakfast a few weeks ago with Carl and Sandy Hodges TEAM leaders in Chad, and with Peter and Sally Maclure AIM team leaders in Chad. The conversation got around to what the home churches expectations were. Peter and Sally talked about a couple that had arrived from South Korea as missionaries. They are working in the Muslim-dominated North. The home church sent them out, and then sent them some money to build their first 4 new churches, since they had now been in Chad for more than one year. Now a few months later they wanted to hear about the progress from these new churches.
Peter and Sally were amazed that the Korean church had not the faintest idea about the battle that had been joined. Fighting against the muslim world in the North of Chad is totally different to a Korean church that has had decades of very strong growth. They had their battle – their 21 days – some years ago, and then after the battle the rewards shone through.
In the North – they are in the midst of the 21 days of battle.
There is not much to show for it, but the battle is raging – and it is a spiritual battle.
I am reading a series of books about Rome, and of course it is filled with stories of wars, because the Roman Empire, like the Babylonian Empire, like the founding of Israel – was founded upon warfare.
When you are in a war as a soldier – you don’t get the privilege of knowing what part of the battle you are in – whether you are at the start, when the battles can be won or lost. As Christians, God places us where he sees fit.
But our job, wherever he puts us, is just like Daniel:
To humbly present ourselves for duty, looking at the world around us, seeing the needs, and admitting that we have no ability in ourselves to do any fighting. After 21 days of plain food and prayer, Daniel was presented by a vision that left him on his face on the ground.
Yet God provided him with those touches, and each time Daniel responded, strengthened for battle.
Ultimately God’s is the battle. It is him who ought to speak through us. Paul said – I delight in hardships and weaknesses – for when I am weak, then am I strong.
In my opinion, this little Chapter in Daniel provides us for everything we need to assure us of three things:
1. We are precious to God
2. We can actually be agents of change – God’s instruments
3. God retains Sovereignty in everything, in timing, and in results.