Day 212 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in Daniel.
Daniel 7 – In chapter 4, King Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of successive world empires represented in a great statue with a head of gold, shoulders of silver, belly of bronze, and legs of iron. Then, a rock—representing the coming messianic King—came and struck the statue’s feet of iron and clay, causing the entire form to topple. In this parallel dream, Daniel sees four beasts rise out of a churning sea: a lion with wings, representing Babylon (an image still prevalent in modern Iraq); a bear, representing Persia, the nation that would defeat Babylon in Daniel’s lifetime and allow the Israelites to return home; a leopard, representing Greece, the nation that would conquer the civilized world with amazing speed under Alexander the Great; and a final beast, not identified except to say that it has five times the normal number of animal horns—a powerful beast with teeth of iron, probably representing the Roman Empire. This last empire would become the most powerful of Israel’s ancient opponents and would contain her most vicious nemesis: the “little” horn, which most commentators identify as Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a Seleucid ruler who came under Roman control and did great harm to God’s people, from 175–164 b.c.
Daniel’s expansive vision reassures us that God knows all that will occur and has not lost control over any of it. God’s sovereign will rules over all kingdoms, leaders, and events with utter authority and divine wisdom. He is worthy of our praise—and our trust.
The four beasts are brought before the judgment seat of God (the “Ancient of Days”), who destroys the dreaded little horn but allows the rest of the beasts to live for a season. Commentators will debate the details, but no one questions the message of the big picture: God calls every nation that opposes Him into judgment and destroys them, although He may allow His purposes to be fulfilled by them for a time.
The grand purpose of the Ancient of Days is to give dominion over “all peoples, nations, and languages” to one “like a son of man,” who comes “with the clouds of heaven” in the establishment of an eternal kingdom “that shall not be destroyed.” The image so closely parallels Jesus’ description of Himself (Matthew 24:30; 26:64; Acts 1:11) that we must conclude Daniel here is seeing the ultimate victory of the messianic kingdom that gives every Believer hope in a world often dominated by great evil.
Daniel remains “anxious” and “alarmed” because his vision allows for the enemy kingdoms to have their season. Moreover, the vicious little horn that “made war with the saints and prevailed over them” succeeds “until the Ancient of Days came” and “the saints possessed the kingdom.” One of the heavenly hosts seeks to calm Daniel with two truths: (1) the ultimate demise of four evil empires, including the dreaded fourth beast and its little horn; and (2) the ultimate and eternal rule of God’s people.
Alarming aspects of Daniel’s vision are yet future to him, but our peace comes from knowing of the ultimate victory of our Savior and our eternal rule with Him (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 20:6).
How does this remind you to trust God’s perfect timing?
Daniel 8 – Daniel says that he is writing in the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign. This means the Jews are still captive to the Babylonians, the writing on the wall has not yet occurred, and the conquering Persians have not yet come. Thus, Daniel’s future revelations in this chapter are a special gift from God.
Daniel envisions a battle between a raging ram and a victorious goat, whose horn is broken, then multiplies, and finally produces another horn responsible for greater havoc. One “having the appearance of a man” has Gabriel explain the vision to Daniel, which reminds us of how our Lord has graciously provided His Word for our understanding.
Understanding the vision is not difficult; accepting it is. Gabriel explains that the ram with the two horns is the Median and Persian Empires. Then he says that the goat is Greece. The level of detail provided for these successive reigns defies natural explanation. Readers are able to discern the direction of the empires’ campaigns, the length of their occupation, and the specific details of their evil. To believe Daniel is writing prophecy, as he claims, and not merely an interpretation of events already past, as skeptics of the Bible claim, requires acceptance of supernatural inspiration. Since God so speaks to His people in His Word (2 Timothy 3:16–17), we have the gift of His abiding voice in the church and the great responsibility of listening and obeying.
After the vision is explained, Daniel is sickened by the revelation and struggles to understand. We similarly struggle when we learn that, even in God’s great plan, evil may have its day—as Babylon, Persia, and Greece did. But Daniel arose and went about the king’s business with this further assurance from his vision: God will have the final say. Of the most destructive horn that rises up against “the Prince of princes,” Gabriel says, “he shall be broken—but by no human hand.”
God will ultimately prevail over the worst of evil, giving us the grace needed faithfully to serve God’s purposes even in trying circumstances. The clearest example of God working His redemptive purposes through adversity and pain is the cross of Jesus, where acute suffering secured unfathomable grace.
There are times when we struggle to understand God’s ways–how do you trust Him anyway?
Daniel 9 – Daniel learns by reading Jeremiah that the 70 years of captivity will soon end. He begins to pray in preparation, confessing his own sin and the sin of his people. Daniel includes himself as a sinner needing the grace of God because he knows how righteous and holy God is. Daniel’s words remind us that, in light of God’s holiness, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Daniel repeatedly acknowledges the abiding mercy of God. Yahweh (i.e., the Lord), the name for God that designates His covenant relationship with His people, though not used elsewhere in Daniel, is used seven times in this chapter. The people have been faithless, and yet Daniel counts on God’s covenant faithfulness, saying, “For we do not present our pleas before You because of our righteousness, but because of Your great mercy.” Forgiveness comes not on the basis of human deserving but on the basis of God’s gracious character.
Gabriel, the Lord’s representative, responds swiftly, personally, and lovingly to Daniel’s confession, reminding us how God responds to humility (Isaiah 66:2).
Gabriel promises rescue for this sinful people. There are varying views of the timing of the rescue, but the mysteries should not obscure the obvious gospel truths.
First, God will rescue. Second, while the timing of the rescue is difficult to understand, the nature of the rescue is not. The events will “finish the transgression,” “put an end to sin,” “atone for iniquity,” “bring in everlasting righteousness,” “seal [i.e., confirm] both vision and prophet,” and “anoint a most holy place [or Holy One].” Daniel’s vision is, unquestionably, ultimately about Jesus’ gracious work in behalf of His people.
Jerusalem and the temple will be restored, followed by a time of trouble, culminating in the appearance of the Messiah, who Himself will be cut off before Jerusalem and its sanctuary are destroyed. These details align with Cyrus’s release of the captives, Jerusalem’s rebuilding, Jesus’ coming, His crucifixion, and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem by the future Roman emperor Titus in 70 a.d.
This verse is extremely difficult to translate, and analyses should be set forth humbly. Legitimate interpretations allow that the “he” could be Jesus, who by His death ended the need for temple sacrifice, or the Roman leader Titus, who by his conquest destroyed the place of temple sacrifice. It may well be that these events are also meant to establish a recognizable pattern of future, end-time events (as the exodus set a pattern for subsequent divine rescues), but a natural first reference is to the events surrounding Jesus first incarnation. God does not give the vision in order to puzzle us, but to comfort sinful people with the assurances of triumphant grace.
How do remember that God has already rescued you regarding what matters most?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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