Answered Prayer?

Sixty-six years. Daniel had been in captivity for sixty-six years. He had come to Babylon as a young man and now was quite old. Most of his friends were gone…they had died somewhere along the way. Yet Daniel was unwavering in his hope that God would restore the nation. Reading the prophet Jeremiah, he came across the passage where God had mentioned the Jews being in captivity in Babylon for 70 years before judgment came upon the Babylonians. And now the time was near, or so it seemed. So Daniel began to pray, confessing the sins of the nation and asking God to restore them just as Moses had instructed in Deuteronomy. And suddenly an angel appeared, Gabriel in fact. And Daniel’s prayer was answered in a most surprising way.

Daniel 9. First Daniel’s told that 70 7’s had been decreed for his people and the holy city, “to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.” It turns out that the 7’s are years, so 70 7’s would be 490 years. According to the following verse, 69 of those 7’s (483 years) would span the time from the rebuilding of the city (time of Nehemiah) to the appearance of the Messiah (Jesus’ triumphal entry). But then Messiah would be cut off by the same folks who would also destroy the city. In the final 7 (tribulation) there would be a covenant made and then broken by a mysterious figure, a prince of these folks, who would then be destroyed.

Good news for Daniel: the righteous rule of God would be established. Bad news: not anytime soon. We are still in the time between the 69th and 70th 7. We’re waiting for the end of transgression and sin, the entrance of everlasting righteousness and the sealing up of prophecy. In some ways these things have been accomplished…in Jesus who is the “Stone cut without hands” and the “Son of Man” who comes up to the Ancient of Days. In His first coming, He made atonement for sin and paved the way for everlasting righteousness for all who believe in Him. But still we wait. We wait for the final revelation of the Son as the White Horse Rider and the ultimate end of sin, death, pain, sorrow, etc. And as we wait, like Daniel, may God find us just as faithful to impact our culture and point others to Him.

Until next time…stay salty.

 

Wicked Nightmare

What a wickedly vivid nightmare! Four fantastical beasts, each one, in some ways, more terrifying than the one before. A lion with the wings of an eagle. A bear leaning to one side with three ribs in its mouth. A four-headed leopard with four wings. A horrific beast with iron teeth and bronze claws, having a number of horns, that bites and tears and devours. But then a radiant throne and the Ancient of Days sitting in judgment. And finally one like a Son of Man riding a cloud and coming up to the Ancient of Days to receive authority and a kingdom. Such was Daniel’s dream. And it deeply troubled him.

Daniel 7. When Daniel asked for the interpretation, he was told that the four beasts represented four successive kingdoms…much like Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2. Like the head of gold in Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, the lion with the wings of an eagle represented Babylon. That much Daniel could be sure of. But at the time of the dream, he was still living in the time of Babylon’s rule so the identity of the remaining kingdoms would have been a mystery. From world history, we know that the kingdoms that followed Babylon were Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. But the curious thing is…Rome never actually fell to another world power. For sure the city was sacked by the Visigoths and the Vandals from the north in the fourth century AD, but the kingdom itself faded into the background and became the European states that we know today.

The interesting thing for us in this vision is the fact that the final kingdom falls to the “One like a Son of Man” by whom the little horn that speaks out blasphemies against the Most High is cast into burning fire. This hasn’t happened yet. The little horn is also predicted to make war with the saints and overpower them – probably what terrifies Daniel…evil winning and good guys loosing. This we may think we have seen, but not to this extent. And so we wait. While it looks like following God is losing, we wait. While persecution intensifies, we wait. While our physical lives are seemingly thrown away like so much garbage, we wait. We wait for the eternal kingdom. But we also seek to engage the cultural now. We fight back the darkness and make it harder to go to hell. The Judge is coming, and when He arrives it will be too late for those who are His enemies. So we wait and we work and we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”

Until next time…stay salty.

 

Game Changer

A group of friends and I started studying the book of Daniel last night. By way of introduction I referenced a sermon I preached on the book of Daniel called Resetting Expectations. What follows is a recap of that sermon written by a friend of mine and long-time missionary Betty Snell. Enjoy.

Last Sunday, Matt Dumas began his message “Resetting Expectations”, based on Daniel’s vision of the four beasts in Dan. 7, by asking: “What do you remember from the book of Daniel?” “The three guys in the fiery furnace.” “Daniel in the lions’ den.” Over on the far right a sweet little voice said very clearly: “Daniel and the giant.” The barest flicker of “How do I respond to this one” passed over Matt’s face but without missing a beat he said: “Right! The great big statue of gold the King made!”  None of us mentioned Daniel’s vision of the four beasts but that’s where we’re going right now!

So come in and have a seat over in the far right section of the Worship Center. As you see, it’s divided into four sections. Those folks over in the extreme left section under the banner of the winged lion are the ancient Babylonians whom God sent to conquer, kill and carry into captivity His chosen people. Move over to the section left of center where the Medes and Persians who conquered the Babylonians are gathered under the banner of the bear with the three ribs in its jaws. To the right of center under the banner of the leopard with four wings and four heads are the Greeks made most famous by Alexander the Great who conquered the known world and wept that there were no more kingdoms to conquer. And you and I, over here on the extreme right under the banner of the fourth beast “different from all the others”, are living among the leftovers of the mighty Roman empire which crushed and trampled and devoured the whole world but was never taken over by another power.

Now turn around and look up at the balcony.There, Daniel tells us, the Ancient of Days sits enthroned on high, his throne flaming with fire with thousands upon thousands attending him. “One like a son of man” approaches Him and is “given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worship him. His dominion [will be] an everlasting dominion that will not pass away and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” But it hasn’t happened yet!  And that’s why we’re still sitting here in our section of the broken world left crushed and trampled by the “beast different from all the others”

When the children of Israel lived in the land Yahweh had given to them, they lived under a theocratic rule. Things made sense. Do the right things and good things happen. Do the wrong things and bad things happen. It’s the whole premise of Deut. 28: blessings follow obedience; curses follow disobedience. Over here  where we’re sitting, things don’t make sense. Doing all the right things is no guarantee that good things will result. In fact, doing the wrong things often looks like a quick trip to prosperity. [Reminds one of Psalm 73!]  So why this vision to Daniel and why at this time in his life? Daniel had been used to living in a theocratic kingdom and now he’s living in a kingdom ruled by a beast. He had his own version of the American Dream. The 70 years of captivity were almost over and he’d get to go back to the land from which he’d been carried away. But God had to reset Daniel’s expectations. He had done all the right things and now he’s told he’ll die in captivity and never see Jerusalem again. That his hope lay only in a resurrection!

We have our own versions of “the dream”, too: Go to the right school > get the right job > marry the right person > have great kids > live in the right house and drive the right cars > have the world’s greatest grandkids > live happily ever after. We baptize it and call it Christianity. And when we’re crushed and trampled on we’re surprised! How could this happen to me? Why didn’t it work? Why does it all blow up in my face? What did I do wrong? We forget that we live under the dominion of the 4th beast!  Suffering is a part of the deal and the more we follow Jesus, the more intense the suffering. When we sign up to follow Him, we’re thinking we’re signing up for the party at the end! For winning the game! Daniel gives us a picture of what it means to follow Jesus!
1) Don’t give up! Even if we die, it’s worth it. The eternal Kingdom will last!! 2) Don’t give in! Daniel did not give in to the culture around him. Every time he and his friends did something right, they got punished for it—and God got praised! In the 4th kingdom, when your light shines, men are going to hate you! 3) God wins! When we look around at the 4th kingdom it looks like we’re losing but one day it’ll be evident to the whole world that Yahweh wins! Matt’s final Q.: “How is life going for you under the 4th beast?”

I came away with a most welcome perspective on the current world scene. (If it’s a mis-application, Matt or someone, please correct me!): a) Regardless of whether the economy is weak or strong, the so-called American Dream, properly understood, is a fantasy that never has been and never can be a reality in a 4th kingdom world. b) Properly exercising our right to vote, serving honorably in public office and seeking to use our influence for good (aka being salt and light) in our 4th kingdom world, just as Daniel did in his 1st kingdom world, are good things, but trying to use secular means to set up a theocratic climate in a 4th kingdom world is a mis-guided exercise in futility. To say nothing of expecting 4th kingdom subjects to act like subjects of the Ancient of Days until they, too, worship Him in spirit and in truth!  May you have a God-blessed weekend!  Betty

Until next time…stay salty.