Thursday, 15 October 2015

Daily Reading: Daniel 10 'The Response of the King'

When you look at events in the world, when you listen to the news, or read the front half of the newspaper what is your reaction to what you see or read? Who is in control? If you just look at these images you can see some events from the news in the last month. Who is in control?  Does a force larger than ourselves bid us our direction? …or is it God who intervenes keeping us safe?

Daniel gives us the answer.

“For he is the living God
and he endures for ever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed,
his dominion will never end.
He rescues and he saves;
he performs signs and wonders
in the heaven and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel
from the power of the lions.”
Dan 6:26-27

That confession from king Darius summarises chapters 1-6 of Daniel and Daniel 7-12. God is sovereign even as Israel is carried into exile, he is on his throne, and Daniel and his friends have entrusted themselves to this sovereign God even in Babylon. As a result God has shown through them that he is the King again and again, saving his people, revealing that even in exile God reigns, even as they are put into the fire God reigns, as kings and empires rise and fall God reigns, as Daniel is put in the lions den God reigns.  The dreams and visions that make up the last half of the book look at the future both for Israel and the world and conclude that God is sovereign, his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end, he rescues and he saves.  Daniel 10-12 are the final vision, chapter 10 sets the scene and as we look at it God reminds us again that he reigns and calls his people, us, to live our lives in the light of that knowledge.

1. Sharing God’s concerns

Time has moved on since chapter 9 where Daniel prays for the return of the exiles to Israel. Cyrus is king and it is the third year of his rule. And (v2-3)Daniel is mourning and fasting and the question is: why?

In chapter 9 Daniel prays for the return of the exiles and between 9:27 and 10:1 that has happened. Ezra 1 tells us that in the first year of Cyrus’ reign God moved Cyrus to allow Israel to return. So you’d expect Daniel to be joyful, to be celebrating not mourning. Do you notice to how specific Daniel is about the date? The first month was significant for Israel because it was Passover, a time of joy and celebration at God’s deliverance. Surely Daniel should have been partying not mourning, feasting not fasting?

So why is he mourning? Because the return has been disappointing, only 42000 of the exiles have returned many more have preferred, have chosen to stay in exile. To make matters worse there is opposition to the rebuilding and the returned exiles are discouraged and down hearted. This does not seem to be the joyful, God glorifying return Daniel had prayed for and anticipated.  Daniel mourns because he cares for God’s people. But it is also because he is concerned for God’s name.  Daniel connects God's name with. If Jerusalem is in ruins so is God’s glory, if God’s people look insignificant that reflects on God and his glory. The exile was meant to bring the nations pouring into Jerusalem to worship God having seen his glory in the city and its people. But that is not what is happening and Daniel fasts and mourns because he cares about God’s name and God’s glory.

Do I care about God’s glory, a glory connected to the church that bears his name?  Daniel wasn’t with the exiles, they are miles away but his concerns are God’s concerns, what about mine? Do I pray as fervently for the persecuted church in China or in the world as I do for my own church? Is my concern that God’s name will be glorified?  Our temptation is to be concerned with our little patch, Daniel’s concern is for God’s glory, do I share God’s concerns? Will I mourn and pray for God’s glory be it in Doncaster, London, Paris or Beijing? Is God’s name my concern?

2. Remember God is sovereign

In answer to Daniel’s prayers and fasting he is given this vision of one whose description goes way beyond that of Michael or Gabriel, beyond descriptions of angels. The description (5-6) pulls together terms to convey power, majesty, and splendour. They are the most precious and powerful things known, and yet there is a sense in which they fall short, he is like that yet it doesn’t do him justice.  Who is it? In Rev 1:13-15 there is a similar description of Jesus Christ in all his glory. This is the Son of Man figure from chapter 7 this is the second person of the trinity, it is God the Son.

How does Daniel react? He is left helpless and overwhelmed, yet (10-12) Daniel is cared for, this vision is the result of Daniels prayers and concerns for God’s name and glory born by his city and his people.  (v12-14) Daniel is reminded that this world is not all there is, that behind the scenes of history there is a spiritual battle that is taking place, behind the powers of the world there is opposition to God, but the encouragement for Daniel is that God is sovereign, even over the rise of Greece and the fall of Persia. There is a battle raging but God is sovereign, the outcome is never in doubt no matter how it looks.

It is crucial that Daniel gets this view of history given the vision that he is about to see, it is to bring him peace despite the battle. God is sovereign yet he cares for you, Daniel. Do you see the Sovereign God’s care for Daniel; God hears him (12), he gives him the vision, the strength to listen and see, and Daniel is to write down these events before time to enable God’s people to stand.

God is sovereign, mighty, powerful, awesome, yes. He is engaged in a battle, yes. But he loves and cares for his people. Sending them his word before hand so that they will know he is in control over everything that happens, as they face their darkest days, as they are in the midst of despair and persecution God remains sovereign.

When we hear of persecution and opposition to God and his people we should pray that they know that God is sovereign, his throne is not threatened. That they would be reassured as Daniel was that God is sovereign and he cares for his people. We should pray that God would intervene on behalf of the oppressed, the persecuted and the violated.

God’s word warns of persecution, it is an inevitable part of the battle we are engaged in as God’s people. God is sovereign and he cares. We need to be praying for our brothers and sisters there that they would know God’s sovereignty and love and entrust themselves to it.  God is sovereign and he cares for us, we need only ever look at the cross to be assured of that and of the ultimate victory.

Whatever situations we face God remains sovereign, he is on the throne and he rules, he rules as Daniel is thrown into the lions den, just as much as he rules as he reveals this message to Daniel. He cared just as much for Daniel as he is thrown into the lions den as he cares for Daniel here as he strengthens him and enables him to stand.

God is sovereign and he rules we need to remember that this week as we face circumstances that may seem beyond our control. As things take us by surprise they do not surprise God, as things throw us they do not throw God. And behind it all God is working out his purposes for his people for his glory. And we just like Daniel are called to live in the light of the sovereignty of the God who loves us, maybe the sometimes the you are tempted to doubt that love. God’s love meant he left heaven and went to the cross for us, when we doubt God’s love that is where we need to look. And as his blood bought children we are called to share his concerns to care passionately for his glory and name as we pray, act and speak.

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