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TEXT: Daniel 8:1-27
SUBJECT: Daniel 9: Wait on the Lord
It's good to be back! In the almost thirty years of my pastorate, I've never had more than two weeks away from the pulpit, and now, after a six weeks' absence, I'm humbled, thankful, and overjoyed at the opportunity to preach the Word of God once again.
I'm especially happy to preach this particular word, because it speaks as directly and helpfully to God's People today as it did when it was first written some two thousand-five hundred years ago. So, let's get to it, and may the Lord open our minds to understand His Word and our hearts to love it. Amen.
TIME AND PLACE
The chapter begins with a date--
In the third year of the reign of Belshazzar.
Or, some time around 550 BC, two years after the vision of Chapter 7, where Daniel saw the Kingdom of God sweeping away the beastly rule of men.
Where was he at the time? He doesn't say, but as a high official in Babylonia, I assume he was in the capital, where, not long after, he would read the Handwriting on the Wall.
In the vision, however, Daniel is not in Babylon, but standing next to the Ulai River in Susa, then a fortified city, but soon to be the capital of the Medo-Persian Empire. This may be a hint that Daniel would outlive the Babylonian Empire, which he did, serving it until--
The first year of King Cyrus.
As he stood by the river, a Ram appear with two strong horns, one higher than the other. This was an aggressive beast, tearing off in all directions and killing every animal that challenged it. How many did, we don't know, but none succeeded. The ram was a sovereign beast, doing whatever it wanted to--when, where, and how it wanted to.
Its dominance seemed permanent, but it only seemed that way. As Daniel watches in horror, another beast appears--
A male goat with a notable horn between its eyes.
The goat's maleness may suggest his desire to dominate, to keep and expand his territory. His greatest asset is speed--he runs so fast that his feet don't even touch the ground, he's a flying goat, you might say. But he's more than fast. He's also powerful--having a large horn--and full of rage, not just willing, but eager to kill and destroy and trample under foot any who stand in his way.
When the goat is at the height of its power, the large horn is broken. Horn stands for 'power', and the goat will never regain what he once had. But he hasn't lost it all either. In fact, what happens is the large horn is replaced by four smaller horns.
Three of which are not important to the vision and are not mentioned again. One of them, however, is important.
He's called a little horn, but what he lacks in stature or power, he makes up for with ambition! He wants to duplicate the achievements of the male goat, moving--
To the south, the east, and to the Glorious Land.
The south and east are of little concern here; it's the Glorious Land that matters. When it gets there, the Little Horn begins bragging, claiming to pull down the stars, and not only that, but also blaspheming, with a claim of Divinity.
To his way of thinking, if he is God, the Lord isn't. And this means, the daily sacrifice would be stopped, the Temple would be desecrated, and the Truth of God's Word must be silenced or perverted.
Daniel is sickened by the vision and wonders how long the Little Horn will be allowed to get away with it all. A Voice answers him--
For two thousand-three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.
Scholars differ on how the 2,300 days should be interpreted. Some take it more literally, others less, but whatever we make of that, one thing is sure: His days are numbered! For His own mysterious purposes, The Lord allows evil to flourish in the world for a time, but not forever! Jesus said, God will avenge His elect speedily! It may not seem speedy to us, but the Justice of God must and will prevail! In God' good time.
The dark vision ends with hope. Though the Little Horn will do terrible things, in the end, his power will be taken away from him, and the People of God will be free to worship the Lord.
If you find the vision puzzling and incomprehensible, don't kick yourself for being stupid. Daniel didn't get it either. He sought to know what it meant, but he couldn't piece it together.
But God wants him to know what it means, and an angel down to explain it. The angel is Gabriel, the Lord's must trusted spokesman (other than Christ).
He starts off by telling Daniel the time frame. The vision is some kind of prophecy, it speaks of some future time, but which one? In vv.17, 19, he tells us--
Understand, son of man, the vision refers to the time of the end.
I am making known to you what shall happen in the latter time of the indignation; for at the appointed time, the end shall be.
What does this mean, the end? We're prone to read it as 'the end of time', and most Evangelical Christians today do that. To them, Daniel 8 is still future--not just future to Daniel, but future to us as well. When I was a boy, all my pastors assured me that this would be in the 1970's or the 1980's at the latest.
Preachers are saying the same thing today, of course, though they've pushed the dates a few years ahead.
Obviously, the words, the end or latter time could refer to 'the end of the world', when Jesus comes back to usher in the Eternal Age. But, if it does, it makes the rest of the interpretation nonsense!
The vision starts with a Ram. Who's the Ram? v.20 tells us, they're the kings of Media and Persia. Who's the Goat that destroys the Ram? v.21 tells us it's the kingdom of Greece. Who was it's first king (or Emperor)? History tells us it was Alexander the Great. When did Alexander fall? At the height of his power; who took his place? Four generals who became kings of the north, the south, the east, and the west.
The end spoken of here, therefore, does not mean 'the end of the world', but to the end of something else. What else is hinted it in v.19--
The latter time of the indignation.
The indignation is God's indignation with Ancient Israel. He sent them into Exile because He was justly mad at them for their idolatry, immorality, and other vices. The Exile in Babylon ended long before the rise of the Greek dominance, but even then, some two-hundred years after the Vision, Israel was in spiritual exile. I'm not fudging the facts to fit my interpretation, either, for even the rabbis who live between the Old and New Testament eras confessed that, though they were back in the land (some of them were, at least), they were still slaves to pagan powers and not--
The freeborn sons of Sarah.
The Vision is about the latter days of Israel before the first coming of Christ when the People of God were set free by the saving acts of Messiah.
As for the Little Horn? Most scholars identify him with Antiochus IV, a Greek tyrant who ruled in and around Israel from 175-164 BC. Why him and not someone else? If you read the Apocryphal book of I Maccabbees or Josephus, you'll see he fit the description to the T.
He named himself Ephiphanes, which means 'the coming of God'. He forbade circumcision, ended the daily sacrifice, set up an image in the Temple, offered a pig on the altar, and killed tens of thousands of brave Jews who protested his sacrilege. Jay Adams has called him
The Old Testament Antichrist.
He misruled the people for eleven brutal years, but then died, perhaps by poisoning, to the relief of every Jew at the time, and many Greeks as well, for even they hated him and changed the name Ephiphanes (i.e., God with us) to Epimanes (i.e., the madman).
To Daniel, the Vision was in the distant future, more than three hundred years, but to us, it is in the past.
This makes many people wonder why it's in the Bible at all, or what possible use they could make of in their own lives. What's an Ancient Prophecy fulfilled more than two thousand years ago got to do with us?
If read in isolation, Daniel 8 is very hard to apply to our lives. But what if you Chapter 7 first? Then you've got something!
What's Daniel 7 about? It's about the victory of God's Rule over the kingdoms of men who are acting like animals and monsters. It promises us that a Son of Man will come and set things right, that the beasts will be put down and the order of Creation will be restored.
When Daniel first learned this, he must have jumped for joy! For surely, the Coming Kingdom would come soon. Maybe not in his lifetime, in the lifetime of his children or grandchildren, but then all would be fulfilled. He may have felt this way for two full years, from the first year of Belshazzar's reign to the third.
Then he learned better. Human Empires would be swept away by the Kingdom of God, but not anytime soon. The wait for Heaven's Rule would be marked by many setbacks and much suffering. Daniel lived between the promise and its fulfillment.
So do we. The Lord has promised us a full salvation, but we don't have it yet. We are 'being saved' at the moment, but the fullness of our salvation, up to and including the Resurrection of the Body, the Life Everlasting, and Heaven are still future to us.
People say 'the future is uncertain', but this is not true: the future is certain, and, in the short run, it's shot through with disappointment and failure, sickness, feebleness, and death.
Like Daniel, thinking about these things will--
Make us faint and sick for days.
But, you notice, he didn't stay that way. He got on with his life because, though the future was full of bogeymen, God's Promise was sure! You have to admire his faith; he had nothing to go on but we Word of God.
And though that's something, we've got more than he did. We have more than the promise of a New World, a world without disease or death or sin. We have a Man who has entered that world! Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and when He rose to life, it wasn't the life he had before. It was nothing less than the Life of Heaven. He is presently enjoying that Life and will never lose it.
And faith brings us into union with Christ, and that means, gives us a share of the very same Life.
You don't know when the Lord is coming again, and don't listen to people who say they do: nobody does! Be content that He is coming again and that when He does, you'll be like Him, for you shall see Him as He is.
In the meantime, live your life in hope, in good cheer, and simple obedience. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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