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Stand Firm and Take Action part 1

God Is In Control  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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All my life I’ve lived in either Washington or Oregon.
Both boast the most natural beauty of anywhere I’ve visited...
But, both are places where the majority of the state’s residents apparently don’t agree with me politically or socially, and thus, my vote typically doesn’t add up to much, especially on a national level.
In that context, it can become very easy to get discouraged and negative. And, I don’t know about you, but when I’m discouraged and negative I tend to express that in whining...
However, when I look either historically or internationally, my whining seems pretty pitiful, when at least I still have freedoms others couldn’t even dream of.
But, what are God’s people to do when it seems like the powers that be either treat us like we are insignificant or they are against us?
That will be something we will explore as we finish the book of Daniel over the next few weeks.
Daniel 11-12
Key verse of this section, v. 32: “…but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.”

Daniel 11:2-20

How I’m going to approach this...
Verses 2-20
Persian kings...
Probably: Cyrus the Great, Cambyses, Darius I, and then Xerxes I (aka Ahasuerus).
What about the years between Xerxes and Alexander? (over 126 years)
It was Xerxes that really began taking the fight to Greece, which historically would stir up a hornets nest that would eventually lead to the fall of Persia. Xerxes would experience some victories for sure, but long-term, Xerxes created a powerful enemy in Greece.
Mighty king...
Alexander the Great.
Alexander not only unified the warring states of Greece, but he most notably conquered all the lands held by the Persians, which had been the largest empire the world had ever seen.
Alexander basically took over the empire of Persia and claimed it for Greece.
Alexander died suddenly in 323 BC at only 32 years old.
He likely died of malaria, though it’s possible it could have been from a stomach ailment or even poisoning.
Alexander was a man who loved to conquer by day and party all night. So, the fact that he died young probably isn’t as surprising as one might assume.
He had no plans of succession, so his family members were soon killed and his generals individually attempted to lay claim to the kingdom.
Divided kingdom...
The Diadochi
While there were multiple claimants to the throne of Greece, only five really had much influence:
Cassander in Macedonia
Lysimachus in Thrace and Asia Minor.
Antigonus in Babylon (before his war with Seleucus)
Seleucus in Syria and Babylon (eventually).
Ptolemy in Egypt.
Thus, the Greek Empire fractured into multiple warring dynasties.
However, each of them claimed to be the true rightful heir to Greece and each pushed a different form of Hellenism, which is vitally important for biblical history.
The king of the south...
Ptolemy I: The King of the South
Ptolemy I was a childhood friend of Alexander and one of his most trusted generals.
He was wise enough to recognize, upon Alexander’s death, that Egypt had great potential for him to not only take control of, but to hold on to it, as it was much more difficult to attack. Most importantly, it was wealthy (over five billion dollars in modern currency).
And, importantly, Alexander had already begun building the city of Alexandria, one of the most important cities in the ancient world.
Every preceeding king of the Ptolemaic Dynasty would be named Ptolemy.
Modern conventions number each one for ease of identification. But each has a Greek name or title connected with them, which they either gave themselves or was given to them by their people.
The king of the north...
Seleucid I: The King of the North
The prince who was greater introduces us to Seleucus.
Another of Alexander’s generals, his claim was on Babylon and Syria. However, in 316 B.C. he was challenged by Antigonus, another of Alexander’s generals. This forced Seleucus to seek refuge with Ptolemy.
Ptolemy would make him a general, and with the help of the Egyptian army, Seleucus would defeat Antigonus. This would give Seleucus control of the largest swath of Alexander’s conquered lands.
Over two hundred years of fighting...
The Seleucids and the Ptolemies would be constant rivals to one another over the next two hundred years.
I’m not going to go through each of the examples here, but every single one of these verses point to a historical event that actually happened. In fact, it is stunning how accurate each of these are.
Leading to “a contemptible person”, one of the greatest enemies of Israel...
Next week we will be reintroduced to Antiochus IV and his wickedness towards Israel.
Was this a prediction of the future, or a look into the past?
Since Daniel’s account is so historically accurate, some modern scholars argue that it was actually written after the fact, 400 years later under the pseudonym of Daniel.
Of course, there is another option: that God gave Daniel a vision of the future and that the Bible, as God’s revelation of Himself and His will, is perfectly trustworthy!
Why was this important for God’s people to know?
In this first section, Israel seems to play almost no part in it. In fact, throughout it the Promised Land would change hands multiple times…the Ptolemies would be in control, then the Seleucids, then the Ptolemies, then the Seleucids, and on it would go.
In fact, all we see of Israel is in verse 14, where some of the people would side with Antiochus III in his efforts against Ptolemy V…which would utterly fail.
God’s people would seem to be just the inhabitants of the land without real importance in the geo-political sphere. Or, as I said earlier, insignificant.
But, they were not insignificant to God.
They mattered enough to be given this vision of the future…one that will ultimately have a resolution to Israel’s benefit.
They mattered enough to be forewarned of the one who would come who would try to destroy the people; both to warn them about him so they wouldn’t fall for his traps and to give them hope that his reign would be limited and his end would come in God’s good timing.
And, something would happen historically during this time that isn’t written about here, but becomes vitally important for biblical history…the LXX would be written in Alexandria during the time of the Ptolemies.
The LXX is the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures.
The LXX became the Bible of the people in Jesus day and was absolutely vital for preserving the Jewish faith for future generations, and the Christian faith after the time of Christ Jesus.
It’s a reminder that often God’s greatest work is done behind the scenes!

So What?

God’s Word can be completely trusted.

This is not a look back, it is a look forward. Daniel wasn’t written after-the-fact, despite the fact that this is so accurate to history. The reason it is so accurate is because it is a prophecy of God!
Thus, God’s Word can be completely trusted.
Why would God give such a detailed vision of the future to Daniel?
Because what they would experience during that time would be frightening. They are to remember not only that this was prophesied by their God, but that He has a place for His people in all His future plans.
Passages like this should encourage God’s people not to be afraid of current events, because God is still at work in the present and into the future.

God’s people must trust the Lord completely.

Speaking of trust, one thing that history tells us is that human kings cannot be trusted. Absolute power certain corrupts absolutely. But, even more corrupting is the quest for absolute power.
Men, throughout history have been willing to commit unspeakable crimes against their fellow man in their quest for power.
As God’s people, we must not put our confidence in them. We must trust in the Lord, completely.
America is waiting for Superman to come and save us...
Failing to recognize that the only “superman” who ever walked the earth was nailed to a cross around 33 A.D. And He didn’t come to save us from our earthly enemies. He came to overcome our greatest enemy, which He did on that same cross!
A hard truth for today is that America’s best days may be behind her. I hope that’s not the case, but I’m not brimming with confidence when I look at our current circumstances, and even more so when I see the younger generation of Americans (“What one generation tolerates, the next generation embraces…”). It is very possible that we are a nation on the decline, like every great nation before us.
Whether that is true or not, God’s Kingdom is never on the decline!

God’s people need to stand firm and take action with the time we are given.

Historically, God’s people can often feel like they are pawns in a game they aren’t even playing.
Because, by-in-large, God’s people are pawns in a game we aren’t even playing!
Yet, in the midst of that truth, remember the key passage for this section: “…but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.”
How to stand firm?
In trust in God’s Word...
In faith...
In actions stemming from our faith...
In Christian fellowship...
What action to take?
The actions God calls us to in His Word...
The actions that He gives us opportunities for...
The actions the Spirit moves us to do...
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