Verse 1- "In the
third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name
was called Belteshazzar; and the thing was true, but the time appointed was
long: and he understood the thing, and had understanding of the vision."
Daniel had been having visions of great wonder. But he needed more than visions. He needed to understand what God was trying to tell him. Today we "have" the Scriptures. In fact, more Bibles, churches and, yes, Christian websites than ever!. Owning a Bible in print or reading one online isn't enough. Hearing and reading the Word are a great start, but in the end, even like Daniel with his visions, we need understanding. Years after Daniel's time, the Apostle Paul said it this way to a young preacher named Timothy:
II Tim 2:14-16- "Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness."
Without understanding God's message, Daniel may well have been worse off than if he had never had any visions. So today, a lack of understanding of the Truth of God's Word can leave those of us who are "religious" as bad or worse off than some who have had little or no exposure at all to the Word. In the physical Church today we must be careful not to starve while standing right in the kitchen! The Bible will change your life , but only if you understand the truth off it and let God apply it into your life. That rule applies to the pauper and the Pope, the Deacon and those who are discarded by men. Daniel wasn't about to get left in the shadows of his own visions. He really fought to understand them. You'll have to fight too, beloved. Fight the Devil, and yourself, and your culture if you want to be set free by the Truth and live free in that Truth (see John 8:31-32). In a small way that's what these 10 years of Bible studies have been about, beloved: I have been trying (always with the Lord very much sustaining the effort) to help you and myself to UNDERSTAND (at least in part) the Word of God.
Verses 2-3- "In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled."
Daniel was in a struggle, and to understand God's message to us today, we must continue in that struggle . Can you feel for Daniel? Taken captive as a young man to Babylon, and did you notice that name they gave him back there in verse 1? "Belteshazzar" means devil worshipper. That's pretty cruel and ironic for a Holy Prophet, wouldn't you say? His name reminded him daily of his predicament, I'm sure. He was bounced around as the Babylonian Kingdom changed hands and leaders. But through it all Daniel prospered AND served His God. But it was a struggle.
Beloved, if you don't believe in Jesus at this point, I want you to know that I'm not trying to trick you into a conversion. A believer must accept many struggles as well as blessings, and you need to consider that. Of course I love you and want you to join the family of faith and live in Christ. But I don't want to pour too much sugar on it. There are struggles. This struggle to understand can be a cruel one. And victory often brings not health, riches, and happiness, but a new struggle when you try to act on what you've come to understand. There will be no tears in Heaven, but the real, practicing Believer soon discovers that our world culture is basically anti-Faith and anti-Heaven. This is seen so clearly in Daniel's story.
Well, let us continue in our chapter. Daniel had sought understanding with his whole heart and God is about to reward him. Now we are going to see that the struggles of Faith extend way beyond our personal struggles and our world:
Verses 4-7- "And in the four and twentieth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel; Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude. And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves."
This is the start of that peek behind the curtain. His companions will not get to see what's coming. Unlike Daniel, they had not prepared themselves or sought the Lord. But note carefully Daniel's reaction to this wondrous sight:
Verse 8- "Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength."
Visions weren't a totally new experience for Daniel, but this one really floored him. This was different. This wasn't a symbolic vision or a parable. Daniel had just busted through the curtain of existence and encountered a real Heavenly person! And he just fell apart. God put a curtain between us and Heaven for good reason. It's not to hide the Truth from us, but to hide the Truth about us. Which is that we, in our current state, can't handle the Truth!
Verse 9-11- "Yet heard I the voice of his words: and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground. And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands. And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling."
Some scholars believe that the "man" Daniel met here was Christ Himself in a sort of pre-Bethlehem visit to earth. I can't say who this is exactly, beloved. But he definitely is God's messenger. I apologize for my ignorance, but be he Christ or Heavenly Angel or other Heavenly Being , let us hear more from him right now:
Verses 12-14- "Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days."
So the struggle for us to understand the Lord extends all the way to Heaven! It's all out War! Do you see why a Christian can't just sit back and try to soak up blessing after blessing. You don't join the Marine Corps for the food, beloved. At some point, we all must take our turn on the front lines.
Verses 15- "And when he had spoken such words unto me, I set my face toward the ground, and I became dumb."
Let me just tell you, I'm not prepared to speak to a Heavenly Being as I write this. But some day, I believe God will make me a citizen of Heaven. And I'll fit in at that time. But mostly for now my place is on the earth side of the curtain. It almost killed Daniel to see this man.
Verses 16-19- "And, behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips: then I opened my mouth, and spake, and said unto him that stood before me, O my lord, by the vision my sorrows are turned upon me, and I have retained no strength. For how can the servant of this my lord talk with this my lord? for as for me, straightway there remained no strength in me, neither is there breath left in me. Then there came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me, And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me."
Beyond the curtain of our existence are beings who have to strengthen you, just to speak to you! People who think of going to Heaven without betrothal to Christ Himself are just kidding themselves. Man, you've GOT to follow Christ to be able to stand in Heaven. And all indications are that even then it will be extremely moving and humbling to have the privilege of citizenship There.
Verse 20- "Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come."
We are being told that somewhere there is a sort of Geography of demonic kingdoms apparently tied directly to a map of the earth and its nations. Persia, Grecia, and you can throw in the name of your nation, too, beloved. Is it any wonder that no matter how much "progress" human culture achieves, evil seems to persist and intensify? The Book of Revelation makes great follow up reading after the Book of Daniel (look at Rev 12:7 to start). The battle for real Truth is on-going. Yes, angels and demons as well as we struggle with Truth, evil, and dominion. But there's something kind of practical in all this too:
Verse 21- "But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince."
Daniel lived in the Persian Kingdom at this time we are considering, under the rule of King Cyrus. And this Persia had a chief Demon, the "Prince of Persia," as he is called in chapter 10. But God's messenger tells Daniel that his spiritual prince isn't that demon assigned to Persia, but the Archangel called Michael. This is really a good reason to believe, beloved. When we obey God by accepting His Christ, we switch teams, if you will, spiritually! Believers are subject to better allies and influences in the Heavenly realm than non-believers. And that's well worth considering.
Now I'm not saying that God and His Host don't ever watch over or aid unbelievers, but I can tell you, there's something very right about making the relationship official! I think that may be what the older saints meant in that hymn "...I've traveled far away from God, but Lord I'm coming Home!" Salvation is a home-coming. No matter what your current circumstances have been or become, like Daniel, you are already greatly beloved by God and well-known unto Him. He's not asking you to fix up your life or jump through a fancy hoop. He just wants you to come on home to Him.
Well, that's the end of this chapter and our study. We've had a peek behind the great curtain. I think I heard a preacher once say, "There will be no atheists in Hell." Think about that. One day the curtain will fall away for good. And the existence of the beings Daniel saw and heard about will be common knowledge. Faith is a struggle. Except by the power of Christ, no one at all would believe today. You've got to think and live beyond that curtain, and you've got to do it by Faith.
The New Testament tells us that Jesus is the Author of our Faith. I've always taken that to refer to the way Jesus lived and prayed during His earthly years of ministry. But this study makes me look at it another way too. Jesus had the Faith to pull back that curtain from the other side and step through into our world! What a struggle that must have been for Him. What a step of Faith that was! And He revolutionized both worlds on that day. The Kingdom of Heaven is yet very much at war. And believing will never be a cakewalk as long as that war rages.