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More Than We Imagine

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Chapters 10, 11, and 12 of Daniel are one, long, extended vision. Ideally, we’d take these three chapters together, read through them in their entirety, and see how they fit together as one big piece.
But this, by my estimation, would take hours. And while I believe there’s nothing more important than opening God’s Holy Word and hearing from Him, I do respect the fact that you would like to eat lunch at a decent hour, that you have other stuff to do today, that you have places to go, people to see, naps to take. I get it.
So, for our purposes here, we’re going to look at Daniel 10 this week, Daniel 11, next week, and Daniel 12 the week after that, Lord willing. I will try to tie them all together as we go along. Just remember: Daniel 10-12 is all one vision, all one revelation.
>The first verse of Daniel 10 sets the stage for the entire vision:
Daniel 10:1 NIV
1 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision.
This verse is the heading for all of chapters 10-12. Keep that in mind. This will bear some significance as we move forward.
The translation of this verse varies depending on which version of the Bible you’re reading from.
NASB: And the message was true and one of great conflict.
ESV: And the word was true, and it was a great conflict.
KJV: and the thing was true, but the time appointed was long.
NRSV: The word was true, and it concerned a great conflict.
Some think that this refers to the conflict/trouble Daniel had upon hearing this vision, that it was too much for him to handle, too much for him to understand.
It’s certainly true that Daniel had a difficult time with this vision (you can see this throughout chapter 10). But I think this means something else.
This revelation given to Daniel was true, it was a long way off (in the distant future), and it concerned a great war.
Conflict or war comes from a word which means “army” and “warfare”, but in a more general sense, it refers to “hard service.”
I’ve come to prefer the more general reading of the verse: Its message was true and it involved great suffering.
The vision Daniel saw and understood was true—he could believe it, bank on it, count on it. And the vision he saw involved great tribulation, great suffering.
I believe what Daniel realized here, or was reminded of thanks to this vision, is precisely what we need to realize, what we need to be reminded of; namely that:

Faithfulness may be more difficult than we imagine (v. 1)

A revelation was given…it’s message was true and it concerned a great war (it involved great suffering).
Remember, this verse is the introduction of the entire vision (chapters 10-12) and it serves as the heading for all of it.
Chapter 11 is almost entirely focused on warfare. So does this vision have something to do with wars? Yeah.
Is severe suffering involved? Yes, sir. You bet your sweet bippy!
It’s a little startling to stop and think about this vision being introduced by this verse: that the thesis of the paper being written is “there will be great suffering.” That means the whole thing—Daniel 10, Daniel 11, and Daniel 12 and the time-frame of those chapters—will involve great suffering.
Now, for us who live in this country and for other Christians who live under similar governments, we can tend to forget. We can tend to forget that the fact that, though our government is largely ungodly in its behavior, our government doesn’t perpetrate overt persecution—we can tend to forget the fact that we are in a rather unique situation.
You see, our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in North Korea or Sudan or Myanmar or Pakistan or Iraq—our brothers and sisters across the globe are “hated and hunted, savaged and ravaged” for Christ’s sake.
If it’s hard for us to think about suffering for Christ, we need to understand our situation is abnormal. We live a relatively cushy life, all things are considered.
We don’t, yet, have to fear religious persecution in this country. We still, for the moment at least, have the right to gather here without wondering if the authorities are going to break in and haul us off. I can preach the gospel without threat of imprisonment, for now. We can carry a Bible to work or to school without consequence, as of this moment.
It is not so in large parts of the world today. Can you imagine what life is like for our fellow Christians in those parts of the world where persecution is the norm? Can you imagine what gumption and courage and faith it would take to remain faithful amid the hatred, the death threats, the torture?
You see, what Daniel saw was exactly this—the message was true and it involved great suffering.
In light of the great suffering realized today by many Christians; in light of the great suffering that we will face some day for the sake of Christ, let us understand that faithfulness may be more difficult than we can imagine.
As we struggle to remain faithful, let us recall that both faith in Christ and suffering for Christ are equally gifts of grace, as it is written:
Philippians 1:29 NRSV
29 For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well—
What’s more, affliction/suffering is the identification mark of God’s people. It’s simply what is characteristic of them; it’s what sets them apart.
Paul wrote proudly to the Galatians of his identifying suffering, saying (Galatians 6:17), “For I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.”
The opening verse of Daniel’s final vision underlines and highlights and circles this truth: the future history of the people who belong to God in Christ Jesus will involve great suffering.
Suffering is simply par for the course. This is the normal, normative, to-be-expected situation for us who belong to Christ. We who proudly say, “I am a Christian,” should expect and faithfully endure suffering and persecution for the sake of Christ.
The future for people who belong to God in Christ Jesus will involve great suffering.
We are told this not to break us down, but to brace us up; not to sadden us, but to prepare us to be faithful for the long-haul.
>Let’s continue on:
Daniel 10:2–3 NIV
2 At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 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.
Why is Daniel mourning? And mourning for three weeks?
Daniel’s fasting from food, abstaining from drink. And I love this: no lotions at all for three whole weeks.
I’ve gone three whole decades with no lotions at all. “What’s the big deal, Daniel?”
All of this, somehow, is part of Daniel’s mourning: no food, no wine, no lotions. Why is Daniel mourning?
Verse 12 makes it clear to us that this was, for Daniel, an extended time of focused prayer. Daniel is praying, and to his praying he had added (the most neglected spiritual discipline of our time): fasting.
Daniel is fasting and praying. He’s pleading with the Lord, intensely petitioning the Lord for something...
What is Daniel praying for? Why is Daniel praying? Daniel’s prayer teaches us that:

Prayer is more crucial than we imagine (vv. 2-3, 12-14)

We’re not told specifically the content of Daniel’s prayer here. We don’t know for certain what he’s praying for, but we can take an educated guess:
I think Daniel might be praying for understanding about what the future holds for the people of God.
At the end of the vision in Daniel 8, Daniel writes:
Daniel 8:27 NIV
27 I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.
Daniel didn’t quite understand the vision of the ram and the goat. And, like us, he might have still been trying to put together the revelation we looked at last week (9:24-27).
Daniel has (v. 12) set his mind to gain understanding, so says the heavenly messenger who came to explain to Daniel what will happen to [his] people in the future (v. 14).
2. Daniel might be praying, fasting, pleading with the Lord because of the reports from Judah.
No doubt, news was filtering back from the exiles who had returned to Judah. News from those who had returned to Jerusalem from exile got to Daniel who had stayed in Babylon (certainly the Lord had placed Daniel in Babylon for a reason; so Daniel believed and so Daniel stayed).
The exiles had returned from Babylon to Judah in 537 B.C. It’s now the third year of Cyrus. And two years after their return, things aren’t going well.
Ezra 4:4–5 NIV
4 Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. 5 They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.
The enemies of God’s people didn’t want them to build a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel. So they did all they could to prevent it from happening.
Hearing of his people’s distress drives Daniel to fast and to pray. So Daniel, the pray-er, prays.
What good was Daniel’s prayer? Of what use was Daniel’s prayer and fasting and pleading with the Lord?
Verse 12 has the answer:
Daniel 10:12 NIV
12 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.
Your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.
Wow.
The implication of this verse being: the visitation from the heavenly messenger would not have happened if Daniel had not prayed specifically.
And, AND, the heavenly messenger continues in verse 13, implying Daniel’s prayer was working in a behind-the-scenes victory over Persia.
Herman Veldkamp describes Daniel’s prayers like this:
“As we shall see, Daniel’s prayers succeeded in drawing angels from heaven to earth. These angels formed an invincible heavenly guard around the people of the Lord, with the result that the plans of the enemy failed. In the mighty battle then being fought between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world, Daniel succeeded in mobilizing the angels as a spiritual air force against the satanic powers in the air.”
But why does God do it this way? Why does God bring His help through the weeks-long process of Daniel’s prayers? Why doesn’t God answer Israel’s troubles directly? Why doesn’t God just step-in and fix it?
The answer to that last question is that sometimes He does. Check out Numbers 22 sometime. Israel has no clue she’s in danger from the king of Moab. There are no prayer groups meeting over the matter, no Wanda to send out an email alerting everyone to the need.
The Lord simply goes to work on His own, using a donkey, a vision, and a threat to stop Balaam in his tracks.
So, often, though, God seems to take the long way ‘round; the time-consuming way.
We see this almost first thing in the book of Genesis. God knew that Adam wasn’t going to be okay without Eve. God knew that it was not good. God could have plopped Eve right down in front of Adam, “Here…you need this.” But He didn’t.
Instead, God put the man through an extended process of assessing the nature of all the creatures in God’s great green kingdom until he realized there was none corresponding/suitable to him.
The Creator, often times, takes a leisurely approach and allows us to catch up to His omniscient (all-knowing) ways by discerning His will and our true need.
God seems to choose this “inefficient”, time-consuming way in Daniel 10. God moves His servant to pray for his people, then in response to the sweat and struggle of prayer, God brings help to them.
I have come because of your words…Daniel prays, and the angels go to war.
Prayer is more crucial than we imagine.
Let us be careful, though, when we speak of the power or cruciality of prayer. I need to qualify what I mean when I say prayer is more crucial than we imagine.
1. The only prayer which has power is that of a righteous person (James 5:16)—a righteous person, like Daniel.
Prayer is not a piece of magic, a secret trick that we can use however we like.
The only prayer that has any power is that of the righteous person who walks in covenant relationship with God.
2. The power of prayer does not belong to the praying or the prayer or the pray-er.
The power belongs to God and to Him alone. Prayer has no power in and of itself; prayer is wholehearted dependence on God. Prayer is a confession that we can do nothing and that God alone can work. Prayer is drawing on God’s power to aid us in our weakness.
Daniel prays as an expression of his and his people’s utter dependence upon God. And God graciously, amazingly hears the prayers of His people, not because He’s bound to them, but because He wants a relationship with His people.
Prayer is crucial insofar as it aligns our hearts and wills with the Lord’s. And the Lord uses our prayers, answers our prayers, responds to our prayers to show us just how powerful He is.

History is far more complicated than we can imagine (vv. 13, 20-21)

The messenger that’s speaking to and dealing with Daniel has been delayed for a time:
Daniel 10:13 NIV
13 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.
The prince of the Persian kingdom must be an evil angelic power. The messenger who is speaking with Daniel is engaged in warfare against the prince of the Persian kingdom—a demonic power who is responsible for Persia, possibly in control of Persia; a powerful, evil spirit assigned to work through Persia to bring harm to God’s people.
The heavenly angel has some work to do after he leaves Daniel.
Daniel 10:20–21 NIV
20 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; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince.
His battle with the prince of Persia is not over. And then, when he’s done with Persia, the prince of Greece is coming.
War goes on, behind the scenes of history; in the secret where we don’t see and where most don’t even know. Unseen evil powers influence and control the kingdoms and governments of this world in order to inflict harm and wreak havoc on the people of God.
There’s what we see on the surface, like the tip of an iceberg. And then there’s this whole unseen arena.
It’s as Abraham Kuyper writes:
“If once the curtain were pulled back and the spiritual world behind it came to view, it would expose to our spiritual vision a struggle so intense…that the fiercest battle ever fought on earth would seem, by comparison, a mere schoolyard game. Not here (on earth), but up there—that is where the real conflict is waged. Our earthly struggle is but an echo, a whisper, a shadow of what’s taking place in the heavenly realm.”
The events of this world cannot be interpreted by historians alone. The historian studies events and traces the sequences of cause and effect, as far as one can.
But for all who have eyes to see and ears to hear—spiritual eyes, spiritual ears—this much is clear: There is more going on behind the scenes than we can fathom.
Friend, this is true in your life. There is a cosmic battle being waged at this moment.
Ephesians 6:12 NIV
12 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.
History consists not of words on a page; it’s far more complex than that. There are multitudes of the heavenly host waging war on our behalf. Behind the scenes of history, there is an ongoing battle.
We need to be strong, just as Daniel need to be strengthened.
We need to be strong and realize: we are not alone. The Lord and His mighty warriors are fighting for us. Day after day, year after year, powerful heavenly forces are engaged in fighting on our side of the struggle.
We might just despair, we might give up altogether if we didn’t know about heavenly messengers like Daniel’s, like Michael, like the legions Jesus spoke of. We might just despair if we didn’t know about them, but we do know, and we take heart.
>In the midst of all of this, Daniel needed to be reminded that:

God is far more powerful than we can begin to imagine (vv. 4-9)

Throughout the course of this chapter, Daniel is dealing with some heavenly being. Better yet, some heavenly being is dealing with Daniel.
Daniel 10:4–6 NIV
4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 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.
There’s a good amount of debate about who this is.
Some say this is Gabriel, the heavenly messenger from the last vision. If this was Gabriel, I think his name would have appeared.
Some say this is a theophany or a Christophany (that is, a manifestation of God or of Jesus). But I have trouble, and even take issue with the idea that God or Jesus either one need any help. And in verse 13, this heavenly messenger says, “Michael came to help me,” so this can’t be God and it isn’t Jesus.
For these reasons, I hold that this heavenly being is an unnamed angelic figure. And this unnamed angelic figure packs the splendor, the power, and the dread of the God he serves.
The one Daniel sees and visits with represents the Lord God, reflects His glory, and does His bidding.
The point and purpose of this angelic being? What’s the message here?
God is absolutely sufficient to meet the needs of His people. Even God’s messengers, His angels, are much more powerful and much more present than we realize.
We are hemmed-in on every side. We are safe and secure. We are protected by the only omnipotent, all-powerful God.
For all Daniel would face, for all Daniel’s people would face, the All-Powerful God was with them.
For all you will face, for all that Christ’s Church will face—and face it we will until the Lord returns—we are held and secured and protected by the Omnipotent, All-Powerful Lord of Hosts: Lord Sabaoth His name, the One who commands angel armies to care and look after His people.
God is far more powerful than we can begin to imagine.
Fear not, be strong, be of good cheer: the God who is more powerful than any can begin to imagine is fighting for us.
Armed with this knowledge, Daniel and his people would be able to face whatever was coming.
So, too, can we face whatever comes, because God is far more powerful than we can begin to imagine.
>As we struggle to remain faithful, as we participate in the crucial work of prayer, as we come to understand the complexity of history, we must realize that God is powerful over all these things.
And we must trust that He is able to do far more than we can begin to imagine. He is able to exceed our imaginations of what is possible, and we know He has done so in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
We don’t know exactly what history will hold, what the future will bring. But we know, because Jesus has come and because Jesus is coming again that our future is certain, our salvation secure.
Ephesians 3:20–21 NIV
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
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