Daniel - A Dream and a Vision - Hope 103.2

Daniel – A Dream and a Vision

By Simon ManchesterSunday 11 Aug 2013Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes


St Thomas’ Anglican Church
North Sydney

Daniel – A Dream and a Vision

I am going to pray a short prayer before we start which is an old prayer of Calvin’s,where he asks God to teach us and we have reverence and humility. Let’s bow our heads. Lord and heavenly Father in whom is the fullness of light and wisdom,enlighten our minds by your Holy Spirit and give us grace to receive your word with reverence and humility,without which no one can understand your truth. For Jesus Christ’s sake Amen.

Today we come to a point in the bible,a part of the bible which most people would avoid. We’re for the next few Sundays on quite a rare journey. This is a part of the scriptures which as I say some avoid,some get over excited about,Daniel chapters 7 through to 12. These chapters will stretch us and I think fascinate us,and they will certainly feed us. The literature of Daniel chapter 7 to 12 is called apocalyptic literature. It is full of visions and dreams and symbols and battles and even beasts. It is a different way of describing the world. If you ever go to a science fiction movie you see a battle portrayed which is very different from a historical battle. If you see the cartoons in the newspaper you see political points made in a very different way from the editorial. And apocalyptic literature is teaching real lessons but using very gripping pictures. It was especially written in times of crisis for the people of God,which is why historically the people of God under persecution have greatly loved and turned to sections like Daniel and the book of revelation. This section Daniel 7 to 12 is the earliest sustained apocalyptic literature in the bible,in other words,it’s the groundbreaking apocalyptic literature. It can be the playground for nutters and we fear this,it can also be the playground for people who love to make sincere forecasts,people who will liken the beast in one passage to the European Union or the Gulf war or something like that. We’re all familiar with that sort of church talk. But if we read these chapters humbly and carefully they do provide us with very clear truths and very comforting truths. The word apocalypse literally means revelation,it’s the opening or the parting of a curtain in order that we would see what has happened or what is happening or what will happen. And I want to urge you never to fall for the popular idea that apocalypse just means something in the future,World War 3,Armageddon type of thing. Time magazine this year has written,”apocalypse means destruction and the whole world ends.” Well that’s completely wrong. Apocalypse means revelation,and it means that the people who look at the revelation,what God has unveiled and revealed,will see what He is doing,past,present,and future. When we come to Daniel 7 we’re leaving behind chapters 1-6. And chapters 1-6 have been the historical chapters – three men in a furnace,Daniel in the lions den; now we are coming to chapters which are like historical overviews. And I want to look at the chapter under two headings,verses 1-14 – Who really runs this place?
And the second question verses 15-28 – Who cares who really runs this place?

Who really runs this place? Whether the issues on your mind are small,or whether the issues are huge,does somebody run this place? If you look at verse 1 it says,’In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon,Daniel had a dream and visions past through his mind as he was lying on his bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.’ Here is Daniel,remember Jewish exile in Babylon,having a dream,writing it down. You’ll notice from verse 1 that this is a flashback in time,we’ve gone back to the Babylonian Empire,we are now back before the Babylonians fell to the Persians. You’ll notice that this dream comes at a very important time because Belshazzar is beginning his rule as king,and Belshazzar,if I might put it as bluntly as this,was a fool. He was not like his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar who feared the Lord. Belshazzar is about to run  Babylon as a pagan would run a country. And because there is a tough road ahead for Daniel and the people of God,God strengthens him and them by giving them information which they need to know in order to walk the road.
You remember when Jesus was at the last supper sitting with the disciples,and it’s really hours before He will be crucified,and of course He has a dreadful road ahead of Him but He is concerned for them because they are troubled,and He says to them knowing that they have got a difficult road in front of them,’Don’t let your hearts be troubled’,and then remember what He says,’in my Father’s house are many rooms.’ In other words the ultimate future has been fixed. You will arrive at the house of God. And then He says in the immediate,’I will come to you. My Holy Spirit will come to you. He will stay with you. He will comfort you. He will teach you. He will help you. He’ll use you. He’ll strengthen you.’ Immediate,ultimate,the road says Jesus,is under control. And what Jesus did for the disciples God does here for Daniel. The wonderful timing of God to give the information for the people of God that they need. And it was done through a dream. God spoke to him through a dream. Immediately we may think this is stupid,how can sophisticate people possible take a dream seriously? But we all know that dreams can be very revealing. There wouldn’t be any of us here today who haven’t been taught a little bit about ourselves by our dreams. And the fact of the matter is that God is able to use whatever He wants and He did use them right through the bible for many important moments to communicate information. He did not write letters up in heaven and just drop them out of the sky. He didn’t write across the sky,he caused information that he wanted to communicate to be put into the heads of various people and He said exactly what He wanted to say. And we have to be very careful that we don’t dictate to God how He must dictate to us.

Well what was the dream that Daniel had? Verse 2,’In my vision I looked and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea,four great beasts each different from the others came up out of the sea.’ Just stop and think about that for a moment. Imagine having a dream like that,the sea is churning and out onto the beach come one after the other,four incredible beasts. Daniel himself doesn’t know what this is all about and in verse 16 he asks,’What is this all about?’ And we will come to in a minute what he is told. But just notice from the very beginning that he sees the sea,and the sea was the unruly,unpredictable world in those days only mastered by God himself,and out of the sea comes a lion,a bear,a leopard,and a terrifying beast. They seem to be the standard ferocious beasts of the time. They seem to be the standard powerful beasts of the time. It is interesting in the next book of the Old Testament,in the book of Hosea chapter 13,God says that if His people don’t obey Him,he will come upon them. And He says,’I will come upon you like a lion,like a bear,like a leopard,or like a wild animal.’ He uses exactly the same four so it is possible that these beasts are the big four of that particular time.

Well the four beasts that Daniel sees represent four kingdoms. How do we know? Because he is told in verse 17. ‘The four beasts represent four kingdoms.’ The first one is a lion,this is the animal which was used to describe Babylon a number of times in the Old Testament. And the way this lion is put onto his two back feet and given a human heart sounds very like what happened to Nebuchadnezzar. Those of you who have been coming over the Sundays,when king of Babylon was basically put humbly by God on his feet and changed,transformed into a humble man. The second beast that comes out of the sea is the bear. This could well be Persia because Persia came after Babylon,and Persia conquered 3 nations which could very well be the 3 ribs that are in its mouth,verse 5. The third beast is the leopard which could well be Greece because Greece came after Persia,and under Alexander the Great you probably know that Greece moved incredibly fast,like a leopard,like a leopard with wings,to conquer the world around it. The fourth beast which is unspecified,or not described,could be Rome. It is the kingdom or nation which came after Greece,and it was very strong,you notice in verse 7 that it had iron teeth reminding us of the iron kingdom back in the dream of chapter 2. And this beast had 10 horns,a horn was a symbol of power,10 horns is the symbol of comprehensive power,and Rome was extremely powerful. So the four kingdoms sound exactly like the four kingdoms which Nebuchadnezzar dreamt of back in chapter 2. The big difference is that where Nebuchadnezzar dreamt of them in their temporariness because they fell and disappeared,Daniel’s dream is about their evilness. They are beastly,destructive. The tricky part of the interpretation which I have just given you is that the beasts could be Babylon,Persia,Greece,Rome,is that in verse 8 there is a little horn that appears,and this little horn verse 21 is extremely destructive to the people of God. Daniel wants to know about the little horn,and the little horn seems to emerge from Rome,and that’s quite difficult for people to work out what that could be. I mean is this horn that grew up from the Roman Empire something like Herod? Is it Pontius Pilate? Is it Judas? Is it one of the Emperors? Or has time moved on and so we’ve come really to the anti-Christ? I want to sort of step back and say let’s just deal with what is perfectly obvious. And what is perfectly obvious,the plain and obvious thing is that the kingdoms of this world,the beasts,are hostile to God and they are hostile to the people of God,  which doesn’t mean that they always killed the people of God,but they never liked the people of God. And the hostility probably increases because of this escalation you see among the beasts,and therefore we must not expect the world to improve and suddenly begin liking Jesus,or liking Christian people,but look at verse 9,in the very middle of this very fearful dream Daniel is allowed to look up and he sees God. He sees the Ancient of Days seated totally,totally in charge. He is ruling everything on His throne. He is white because He is clean and pure,He is fiery because He is powerful and the judge,and He’s majestic thousands are serving Him,and millions are before Him. And as Daniel sees God ruling everything,just imagine if the roof of this building could be lifted off and the sky pulled back and you and I looked up and we actually saw the Ancient of Days sitting on His throne,would it not transform your day today? That would be an experience. And as Daniel looks up and he sees this king,God Himself on the throne of the world,on the throne of the universe,in verses 11 and 12,he sees the beasts destroyed. Which I presume doesn’t mean that they all disappeared immediately,but he is given some kind of preview,that in face of God who rules,all earthly power will in the end disappear,and that is what the bible says. The bible says if you set yourself up against God it is just a matter of time. You can be as brave as you like for as long as you like but it is just a matter of time before everybody set up against God,and every kingdom set up against God comes down. So for all the chaos in verses 4-8,God is effortlessly in control in verses 9-12.  

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A few weeks ago I was speaking to the women on Tuesday and I used an illustration if you forgive me repeating it,it is quite a childish illustration but if you were to visit Luna Park as a complete stranger to Luna Park and you walk in and suddenly you are face to face with one of the most aggressive rides at Luna Park and there are people in their little sort of booths,and they are all joined to some octopus kind of thing,I haven’t been to Luna Park for a long time,but they are shooting in all different directions and people sitting in their little cars of the ride. Some of them are laughing having a fantastic time,some of them are scared and some of them are screaming,and you stand and you look at this and you ask yourself the question,’What is this? You know,is this a game? Is this a treat? Is it a torture? How long is it going to last for?’ And your eye turns to the little box next door to the ride and sitting in the box next door to the ride is a man,and he has his hands on the controls,and he knows exactly how the machine works,how the ride works,he knows exactly why it moves in this direction,why it  turns,why it turns back,he knows exactly how long it is going to last,it is running down the seconds and as soon as he pushes the appropriate buttons the ride is all over. Well multiply that weedy illustration by billions and billions and what Daniel is given is a window,a vision into the control room of heaven. And in the control room of heaven it is not empty,it is not as though the booth has been unoccupied,but in the control room of heaven sits God. Exactly the same window is given to John in the book of Revelation,he is allowed to look up and see the control room of heaven has somebody seated who understands and runs everything. There isn’t a movement taking place that is not understood by them or under their control.

Now just as importantly look at verse 13,’one like a son of man approached the Ancient of Days,and he was given authority,glory and sovereign power,everyone worshipped him,and his kingdom is forever and indestructible.’ This is an incredibly important part of scripture. If you were to go to theological college and you were to ask your lecturers what are probably the five key chapters of the bible,this one probably comes in the top five. One writer says that of all the Old Testament concepts the sacrifices of the Old Testament,the judges,the prophets,the priests,the kings,the rescues that took place,this phrase ‘son of man’ has produced more literature than any other Old Testament phrase. But I want you to notice the obvious,this kingdom which we are being privileged to look at is ruled by a person. Someone approaches God to be given authority and it is not a beast. It’s a person. He doesn’t come form the sea,he doesn’t come from the earth,he comes in the clouds,he’s heavenly. He does not seize the kingdom as a beast would seize a kingdom,it’s given to him by God. It is God’s decision that he would have the kingdom. And it is not a kingdom for a short time or for a part of history it’s forever and it’s indestructible. Now friends no wonder,no wonder,when Jesus came into the world and used the phrase ‘son of man’ continually to describe himself he knew exactly what he was talking about. There is only one time in the gospels where ‘son of man’ is not used by Jesus and that’s in John chapter 12 where the crowd call out,’Who is this son of man?’ Otherwise Jesus used this phrase ‘son of man’ to describe himself. And when he used it to describe himself he is claiming everything. He is claiming to be the one who belongs to heaven,but appears as a man. He has the right to approach God and stand in His presence,he has the right to receive glory,honour,and power. He is given the kingdom and people begin to worship him,and his kingdom is indestructible and forever.

When did this take place? When did Jesus approach the Ancient of Days? I am absolutely sure that he approached the Ancient of Days after he had conquered. He lived the life perfectly,he went through the cross,he rose from the grave,he ascended as the bible says,he came face to face with God,the victorious king,and he was given his position,his honour,his throne forever. The writer of Hebrews says,’After Jesus had made purification for sin he sat down at God’s right hand.’ And do you see that Jesus therefore did what the human race failed to do? We were given dominion at the beginning,and the human race turned on God and said,’No we’ll do it ourselves,our way.’ And everything failed. And into the world came Jesus and he did everything faithfully,and he has been given the right to sit on the throne and to have the dominion forever,and ever. And we read in the second half of this chapter he shares his dominion with his people. So who rules the cosmos? Simple answer: Jesus Christ. You may think,as somebody said to me this week that he is doing a very ordinary job. I want to urge you to be very careful to question Jesus Christ and be very careful to criticise Jesus Christ as the world is run because he knows infinitely more than we do.

Second question,Who cares who really runs this place? verses 15-28. Yesterday as I was trying to pull the threads together of this Daniel 7 a crowd gathered in front of our house for the auctioning of the house next door. It is a very interesting thing to watch the crowd gather in front of your house and realise that your neighbours are about to be picked right in front of your eyes. And I have been praying for the people who are moving into the house next door,I have had two requests,one is that they play no musical instruments and the second is that they are ripe for the gospel. Those people who have come into our house next door,they have been much prayed for. And there was the crowd bidding you see for the auction,and I am looking there with my human eyes and there’s one guy that looks like Genghis Khan with his family and I’m thinking,’I hope they don’t move in!’ And then there’s scary lady over here with her family and I think ‘I hope they don’t move in either!’ – all 16 kids. And then I see quiet little couple,very quiet little couple bidding as well and I think humanly,’That’s the couple!’ Well thankfully that was the couple,they’ve got the place next door,but you see you care and I care when things impinge on us. When things get close to our property we care who exercises influence. And I want to say to you today you must,must,must care about who runs this place,this world. You must care about that. Daniel certainly did. He asks in verse 16,What’s it all about? What are these beasts about? And he is told,verse 17,they’re four kingdoms one after the other. Look at something more significant in verse 18,’the saints will possess the kingdom’. Who are the beasts? They’re four kingdoms verse 18,but the saints will possess the kingdom. He then asks about the fourth beast particularly,and the ten horns,and the aggressive little horn. See Daniel is a normal person he wants to know what all these weird things are. And the only thing I want to say for certain from the answer that he is given,is that the fourth beast,and the ten horns,and the little horn,indicate that there is increasing hostility to God,and there is increasing hostility to God’s people. We get to verse 25 and we discover that this little horn,whoever he is,maybe he is a figure of history,maybe it’s somebody still to come,is marked by blasphemy,persecution,trying to change the very laws of the world. You see in verse 21 he attacks God’s people. You see in verse 25 he enslaves God’s people for a short time,a limited time,but then verse 26 the evil is doomed. And the saints,verse 22,are favoured by God,and verse 27 the saints are given the kingdom.

I don’t think we actually spend much time meditating on the fact that the believers will get to share the kingdom. It seems too ridiculous to us doesn’t it. It seems too outrageous that Christians would be able to share the kingdom. I mean sure,we are privileged to enter it by faith in the king,and one day we hope to enjoy it without any sadness,or sickness,or suffering,but the idea that we would part own it just doesn’t seem to occur to most of us. We’re very grateful that Jesus shares his sacrifice with us so that we can be forgiven. We’re very grateful that Jesus shares his priesthood with us so that we can be heard in our prayers. We’re very grateful that Jesus shares his authority with us so that we can know the promises,but to share the kingdom? And yet that is what the bible says Old,and New,Testament that Jesus will share his kingdom,his rule with his people. This is what he says at the last supper in Luke 22,”I confer on you a kingdom just as my father conferred one on me,so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones.” What an incredible privilege to be one of Christ’s people. So here is Daniel chapter 7,Daniel is told there will be persecution,bursts of persecution,there will be much security,there will be great victory,and Daniel,verse 28,finds the whole thing exhausting.

Well I just want to draw some threads as we close this morning. I want to draw together a few obvious conclusions. First,the book which you have in your hands,the Bible,is the key to the plans of God. You can lose your keys,you can forget your keys,you can misuse your keys,but the proper use of the key is extremely profitable. And the proper use of this bible is that God has given to the world the key that explains what He is doing. And I can only say to you that whenever I take this word seriously and there are many times when I don’t take these words seriously,but whenever I take this word seriously it seems to me to fit the key in the lock precisely. It really does explain the world. It really does enable a person to live in this world and trust in this world with joy. So take seriously what God has told us here in this chapter.

The book of Daniel,and the especially this chapter,and the whole of scripture tell us that the backdrop on which we live is not just space and time. We mostly think don’t we that we live on the backdrop of space and time. There’s a lot of space,we occupy a little bit of space. There’s a lot of time,we occupy a little bit of time. The bible says that the backdrop to space and time are the plans of God. The backdrop of space and time is the purpose of God which is bigger than space and time. God’s purposes are bigger than space and time. So if you picture the world,and all over the world are the little dots that are bibles,tiny little specks almost invisible,it’s so easy isn’t it to look at the world and think there is a tiny little dot called a bible over there. The bible says the world is a dot on the backdrop of the bible. ‘Heaven and earth’,said Jesus,’will pass away. My word will never pass away.’

Third,the ruler of the universe is a person and if you want to understand why you are in the world,you need to know this person. The ruler of the world is not a beast. The ruler of the world is not a part of creation. The ruler of the world is not a person like you or me,it’s a heavenly person. And we’re going to find our purpose in the world when we find that person and that person is Jesus Christ the son of man. He is the one who will help us to know God our maker. He is the one who will help us to know God our provider. He is the one who will help us to know God our Father. If you search for the purpose of this world in yourself you will implode. If you search for the goal of this world in the world you will implode. You need to go out and up and recognise the one who is on the throne and then everything falls into place. When you take seriously the one who sits on the throne called Jesus Christ,when you take advantage of his gift in verse 22 which is that you might know God’s favour,you’ll relate to him. And of course the gift of God’s favour is made possible because at the cross Jesus took on himself God’s disfavour which we deserve,in order that we might have God’s favour which he deserved. And it is made available through the gospel to everyone who believes. The favour of God forever. When you know and enjoy the favour of God it saves you hugely doesn’t it from racing around to get everybody else’s favour.

And the last thing I would say by way of drawing threads together is that because there is one king of the universe and because God has given you one heart,how do you think you will have the most peaceful,joyful heart? There’s one king,you have one heart. Well friends it’s not going to be by dividing your heart. It’s not going to be by saying,’I’m going to have some love for God and some love for this,which is anti God. I’m going to have some love for God and I’m going to have my own kingdom.’ It’s not going to work like that. You’ll just be destroyed by that. There’s nothing more dreadful than the divided heart,it’s the way to be restless,it’s the way to be empty,it’s the way to be lost,it’s the way to be arrogant. But the way to be found,and the way to be loved,and the way to be integrated,and the way to be joyful is to say to Christ the king,’Have all my heart. That’s where my heart belongs,and that’s where my heart is integrated.’ Jesus said,and I close with this quote from Luke chapter 12,”Seek his kingdom” and then he said to those who seek His kingdom,”and don’t be afraid little flock for your father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

Let’s pray. Our gracious God we thank you this morning for giving to us a window into heaven itself,to see the one who sits on the throne and to whom all honour and glory and authority is due. And we ask that you would incline our hearts to you so that we would be people who worship you with one heart,and are devoted to you with one heart. And we pray as we live in this world marked by much opposition to you and much opposition to your people,you would give to us the joy of knowing the truth,and the courage to witness to the truth. And we pray that you would help us,as your people this week,to walk with the blessing of the king of kings. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.