Monday, 19 October 2015

Daily Reading: Daniel 12 'Living in the light of the coming King.'

Apparently - and rightly in my opinion - Britain’s best loved novel of all time is JR Tolkein’s ‘Lord of the Rings’. My hunch is that its place at the top of the three has as much to do with people watching the 3 movies as with reading the books themselves. But you can’t argue that they are great books, but having read them and seen the films I always find the ending a little frustrating. It should end in a blaze of glory not in the whimper of Frodo sailing off to the west.

As we read Daniel 12 I wonder what you make of the ending of this book. Daniel this great man who has resolved not to eat from the kings table, who has maintained loyalty and service of God even when threatened with death, who has trusted God even when facing lions is given a final vision that reveals the persecution and sufferings of God’s people. And we can find ourselves turning the page looking for ch13.  Which would contain what? Daniel again standing for God, maybe rescued from the furnace, rather than this slightly unsatisfactory ending. It just leaves us with so many unanswered questions – what next? What happens to Daniel? What will the outcome be of these visions? And so on.

We live in a very man centred world. We live in an age that encourages us to think about ourselves. We live in a world where God is put on trial for the way he deals with humanity. As we read this we naturally find ourselves doing the same and focusing on the pain and suffering people face, but actually the emphasis is on the purpose, people and glory of God. Actually the book of Daniel has shown us that it is God’s glory that matters.

And as the book ends the battle is still raging, in ch1 God’s people are carried off into exile and God’s promises look shaky, so it is here as we see the turmoil and the persecution (11:34-35) God’s promises look shaky, and as the image kaleidoscopes into one of all of history we are reminded that this battle still rages, even now.

Throughout Daniel never for one moment are God’s purposes in danger of failing. Daniel 12 encourages us to keep living as God’s people because it sets before us God’s glory, our future and calls us to live in the present in the light of the Kings coming.

Be in the book

What is the situation that Daniel sees in v1? “a time of distress such has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.” There has never been a time like it and the temptation is to despair, especially for Daniel who shares God’s concern for his people, promises and glory.   But actually the despair is the backdrop that throws into contrast the benefits of being one of God’s people. The pitch sucking blackness of the backdrop throws into even greater relief the splendour and security of God’s rescue of his people.

(1)It is in the time of distress that Michael comes, why does he come? “protects your people”. In fact whenever we meet Michael in the Bible that is what he is doing. Revelation 12 he is contending for God’s people against Satan, in Jude he is doing the same on behalf of Moses, in Daniel 10 he has fought so that the message of encouragement can get through to Daniel. Not only does God warn his people of the coming days of trouble but he promises and provides protection.

But that isn’t all that God does. (v1) God provides “deliverance” for “everyone whose name is found written in the book…” Every one of God’s people will be delivered, not one name will be missed out, not one of God’s people overlooked.  But what is the book? In Luke 10:20 Jesus tells his disciples to rejoice that their names are written in heaven and in Rev 20 we see the book of life opened. Daniel 12 is not just about Daniel’s future but about ours.

This is not a promise that life will be easy for God’s people, protection will not mean that we live in a safe little cocoon where suffering, and persecution will not touch us. It means that we will fulfil that purpose God has for our lives, it means that God’s people will see his deliverance. And God’s deliverance is not from death but out of death (v2-3), it is at the resurrection and the final judgement when our deliverance, God’s salvation, is fully realised as we share in his glory for eternity.

God wants his people be secure, to trust, to resist because they are his protected people and his deliverance is their destiny and his glory their future. That’s why this scroll is to be sealed – it’s not like today where we seal something so no-one can get to it, but in Persia once copies had been sent out one copy was sealed and placed in the library as a permanent record. God wants his people then to know, God wants us to know that even in the crucible of persecution he protects us and he will deliver us, our future and salvation are secure.

Only God’s people know that. How do you know that your future is secure? Your name is in the book. How do you get your name in the book – it is to live by faith, by faith for them in God’s promises to come for us in God’s promises fulfilled in Jesus. It is by faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord that your name is written in the book.  Is your name in the book? The focus here is on those who are protected and delivered by faith in Jesus. But it does not hide the contrast with those who are not, who will be raised but to face shame and everlasting contempt – eternity outside of God’s presence, glory and blessing. Who face the exact opposite of God’s deliverance.

Trust God not knowledge

I wonder if you feel a little like Daniel as the vision fades in (4). How can it stop there? There are so many unanswered questions; when? How long will it last? What will the final outcome be? How will God do it? What is Daniel to do now?

Daniel is given the answer to some questions but not to others, and the big lesson is to trust in the sovereign God not in what you know.  The big contrast in the chapter is between the wise and the wicked (10). The wicked will search for understanding as these events unfold but will not find it (4), in contrast the wise will understand and know how to live.

Why will the wise understand? Because to be wise means to live according to God’s revelation, it means that they will read these words and understand that God’s rule is never threatened, that as his people are secure and are to live for his glory, to resist, to share their wisdom with others. The wise person knows God and because of that they see and they persevere, they know how to live in every situation. Even when an answer is given it is cryptic (7) “a time, times and half a time…” but reminds Daniel and us that it is within God’s sovereignty, that God will end it according to his plan. Finally Daniel asks what the outcome will be, what answer is he given? (13) Daniel is told he doesn’t need the answers, but he is called to be wise to live according to God’s word and that his future is assured.

Daniel ends as it began, God’s purposes, his people may look in danger but God is sovereign and he protects his people and he will deliver them to a glorious future that is secure, unshakeable and eternal. His call is for them to live in the light of this, to know God and put their trust in him, in other words Daniel live as you have lived, know your God.

Daniel has called on us to see again and again that God is sovereign and he saves. It has called on us to know God – to live in the light of what he reveals to us of himself and his purpose and plans which we find in his word, and it has encouraged us to live for his glory no matter what.

It ends with this glorious vision of eternity with the God we have begun to know on earth, but will know more fully. It ends with the clarion call to live for your inheritance, not wedded to the world.

At first glance it may not seem like a great ending, but Daniel 12 reminds us that those who put their faith in God, who rely on the God who is sovereign and saves, who know their God, who live for God, who persevere are protected and will be delivered. That our actions now echo in eternity for God’s glory.

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