By Simon ManchesterSunday 8 Sep 2013Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes
St Thomas’ Anglican Church
Daniel – A Time to Rage
Our Gracious God we have been thinking of kindness of many today and your kindness,and we pray that you would be kind again as we hear your word explained and unpacked,that you would cause it to be to us a word in season,a word that helps,a word that strengthens,a word that illumines and a word which pleases you in the way we respond,in Jesus’ name we pray,Amen.
You may remember the story of the school inspector visiting a high school on one occasion and drops in on a class and the class turns out to be a scripture class and he decides to test them on their knowledge of the Old Testament,and especially Old Testament battles. And he asked the question who knocked down the walls of Jericho? The answer to the question in case you haven’t read the story is God himself. But there is a long pause and eventually a little boy puts his hand up and he says,”Sir,my name is Billy Brown I want you to know that I had nothing to do with it.” And the inspector thinks this is a very cheeky answer and when he catches up with the headmaster he tells the headmaster of this particular conversation and there is a long pause and eventually the headmaster says,”I happen to know Billy Brown sir,he is a very fine boy and I don’t think he would have had anything to do with those walls.” The inspector cannot believe that the biblical ignorance is so great among the staff as well as the students and he tells of these conversations in his report back to the education department and he receives a letter from them saying,”We’re sorry that you couldn’t get proper answers to your questions,please send a list of expenses to the walls and we will see if we can do something about it.”
Biblical ignorance is a very dangerous and growing phenomenon in our community,however there are some parts of the scriptures that we would not expect pretty well anybody to know,and today we have come to a chapter,which is Daniel chapter 11,and we’re in a series for these 12 weeks,next week we finish,I would be surprised if 1 Christian in 1000 could tell us what Daniel 11 is all about unless you’ve been doing some reading and some private study. It’s got 45 verses Daniel 11,most of the chapter is a description of battles which took place between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In other words it is what is called inter-testamental history,and this is of interest to you if you want to know what that blank page in your bible represents. Every bible has a white page with nothing on it between the Old and the New Testament. What happened between Malachi and Matthew? What happened in those 400 years? Well Daniel 11 actually tells us a pretty good summary of what took place in those years. However,the chapter is very cryptic in its detail,it’s difficult,it’s complicated. One commentator has said,”Not particularly interesting”,but I disagree with him. If you like history and especially the battles of history it is interesting. Another commentator says,”Do not preach a sermon from this chapter!”,but he is wrong also because it is on our roster and we can’t break our preaching roster it is down for today. I want us today to get this Daniel 11 into us,it’s good food,and before I give you my two headings,or my two points,I want to help you to get on board with where we are up to in case you are a visitor today,and I know some people are visitors. We have been studying Daniel,for this is our 11th week,and many of you will know of course some of the famous stories of Daniel,Daniel in the lions den. Chapter 1-6 are the historical events of the book of Daniel,famous events,but the second half of the book,7-12,are not historical stories so much but they are visions,or important pieces of information where God pulls the curtain aside and He shows us that He is on the throne of the world,and that He has plans for the world,and some of them unfold in the telescope of these chapters. So Daniel chapters 10-12 for example is one big battle issue. It is introduced last week,described this week and the conclusion’s next week. And what Daniel is doing is he is looking down the telescope of God’s permission and he is seeing a big battle,a big earthly battle,and then the telescope goes even further down and he begins to see that there is a cosmic battle,and then comes the end of the chapter. We might say for example that Gallipoli is a battle of real history,which it is,but it also could be a symbol,a symbol of bravery for bigger issues,and the events of this chapter,chapter 11,are God’s people in the promised land and they’ve got two kingdoms,one above them and one below,north,south,Syria,Egypt,and sometimes they are being protected by these bookends,kingdoms,and sometimes they are being kicked like a football and attacked,and this Daniel chapter 11,instructs the people of God for every generation how to cope,how to trust God,how to obey God,when things are good and when things are terrible.
So two points this morning for Daniel chapter 11,the first is ‘Human Battle and Divine Power’,Human Battle and Divine Power,and we are looking at verses 2-35. Now if this was a classroom this morning and you were really keen,some of you are,and I had 60 minutes for a lecture,which I don’t,I’ve got 20,but if I had 60 minutes I could show you I think how all the details of this chapter fit with history,one or two of them are a little mysterious but pretty well all of them fit with history. For example verses 2-4 describe the end of Alexander the Great,verse 3,”A mighty king will appear”,this is Alexander the Great,verse 4,”After he has appeared,” Alexander the Great died,died at the age of 33 cut down mysteriously in his prime,and then it says in verse 4,”his kingdom will be broken up and parcelled out…It will not go to his descendants,” and that is historically completely accurate. Alexander the Great had a brother who was described by historians as being a dim wit,and he had a child who was born to him after he died,and therefore it was impossible that his leadership could be handed over to his brother or his child,and it was actually taken up by his four generals and they took four sections of the empire,and they set up their own four little empires,and the two that we are interested in are north above the promised land,and south below the promised land,Syria and Egypt. But there is a historical detail,it was not given over to Alexander the Great’s descendants,it’s true.
Now verses 5-20 describe the two kingdoms north and south,and although I would like to go through verses 5-20 and show you how every detail was historical we don’t have time for that and you don’t have the interest for it. Some of you don’t have the interest for it,some of you may. But basically these verses 5-20 describe rulers in the north,rulers in the south,coming and going,fighting each other occasionally,and remember,God’s people are right there in the middle of the fight,caught up in the fight,and occasionally the north and the south cooperate. So verse 17 is a good example,the king of the north “will make an alliance with the king of the south. And he will give him a daughter in marriage”,this daughter happened to be Cleopatra. Verse 18 is interesting too,the ruler of the north becoming very powerful,”will turn his attention to the coast(lands)…but a commander will put an end to his insolence.” This commander happened to be a Roman commander. Rome on the rise,knocking back this king of the north. So Daniel chapter 11 is full of historical details but you would need to read the history books in order to link up every little phrase in the chapter with the historical events. It is when we get to verses 21-35 we come to the real,in a way,the real point of the chapter,and we have come to a key person,not so famous in the history books but very famous in the scriptures,and we have already had reference to him in chapter 8,and he is described in chapter 11 verse 21 “the contemptible person”,he is the Hitler of his day,his name as many of you know was Anticus Epiphanies IV,and he was the leader of the north,he was a man of evil and he was a symbol of evil. You’ll see in verse 21 he was not a royal he seized the throne. His evil was that he invaded the promised land and he seized the promised land. You see in verse 24 he did what neither his father nor forefathers had done. And in verse 25 he attacks the south,he moves all the way down beyond the promised land to attack Egypt,and look at verse 29,”At the appointed time…Ships of the west(ern coastlands) will oppose him,and he’ll lose heart…he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant”,that’s the people of God,but he will “show favour to those who will forsake the holy covenant.” Now behind this is a very interesting incident which actually is relevant to us today,and it goes like this,Anticus in the north was winning everything and he was moving south,when he got however down to the south and there he was near the coast some ships came,Roman ships,and they sent a delegate,a senator,a man called Papelius,and Papelius marched out alone and stood in front of Anticus and all his troops and said,’In the name of Rome I command you to go home.’
And Anticus of course with his troops behind him was ready to laugh at this but he suspected that he would lose. And when he stalled to give an answer the senator stepped forward and with his staff he drew a circle around Anticus in the sand and he said,’You are not to step out of that circle until you give me your answer.’ And Anticus gave his reply which is,’OK I’ll go home.’ Very humiliating! And so like kicking the dog he went back up through the promised land and on the way he vented his fury against the people of God,he took out his anger,his frustration on the people of God,and he caused many of them to give up the faith in God,but many of them of course stood firm. You see in verse 32a,many gave in to save their lives,many stood firm,verse 32b.
I was reading some of this during the week and in one terrible description a mother and her 7 sons are brought to Anticus’ torturers,I won’t go in to the details of the torture it was absolutely dreadful,but the way they did it was they took the oldest son and they tortured him in front of the six brothers and the mother in order to get the six brothers and the mother to renounce faith in God. Remember these are Jewish people. The older brother said,’you remove us from this present life but the king of the universe will raise us to eternal life.’ When he was dead they took the second brother,the second brother said,’do what you please,but do not think that God has forsaken us,and He will deal with you.’ When they tortured the second they took the third and he said to them,’This is a brief suffering but how will you escape the judgement of the Almighty,all seeing God?’ and they moved through the brothers like that,when they got to the last brother the mother said to her last son,’Do not fear this butcher but trust God and I will get you all back again.’ So this is you see the picture of great evil to the people of God. This is what the chapter is building up to in a way,a ruler who is a symbol of anti-God,he’s against the covenant of God,he’s against God. In the face of such evil does chapter 11 say anything or does it sit there sort of dumb? And the answer is that three times it categorically explains that God is totally in charge of everything. Verse 27,He’ll do His work “at the appointed time.” Verse 29,He’ll do His work “at the appointed time.” Verse 35,it will come to an end “at the appointed time.” It is not a pagan leader who’s in charge of the universe,but God. It is not fate,but God. It is not chance,but God. It is not luck,but God. God runs the universe to the second and to the detail. And inside the framework of the plans of God,which are more complex than we could ever understand,He brings a tyrant onto the world stage and then He removes him exactly when He wants to.
Now just as I put this little note on my page yesterday in my study,a very noisy fly came into my study. And I’m breeding a spider out the front of my house,and I thought I would catch it for the spider. So I closed my door,totally now in charge of the fly,can of fly spray,a little squirt in the air,and I waited for the fly to die and I took him out to my spider. There I am you see the master of a pesky fly. And God is the absolute master of every tyrant who ever sort of buzzes around this globe. The career of Anticus Epiphanies IV is in the control of God,the career of Judas Iscariot is in the control of God,the career of the devil is in the control of God. They operate for the time that God appoints,they do what God has determined,remarkably He uses them for purposes,sometimes we see and sometimes we don’t,but as Jesus said to Pontius Pilate,’You have no power over me except what is given you from above.’ And we know from this regular meeting on Sundays and from the hymns we sing,and the bibles we read,that God took the worst possible suffering in all the world which is the killing of His own son,and allowed His son,although He could have stopped it,to suffer and die in order that from the suffering and dying of Jesus would come the offer of eternal life to all the world. So there is you see human battle,but there is also divine power.
That’s the backdrop,now let’s come to verses 36-45 my second point this morning,’Human Evil and Divine Mercy’. I wonder if you have ever thought why does the bible make something of Anticus Epiphanies IV,when he doesn’t really make the history books? There was something especially sinister about Anticus and that is why the bible does make a lot of him. He attempted to do something particularly evil which nobody had done before,or at least there had been a couple of little glimpses in the book of Daniel.
But what Anticus attempted to do was outlaw faith in God,and make compulsory allegiance to his God. Now in the past with God’s people you know they’d been captured in Egypt but they’d been allowed to worship their own God. When they got to the promised land they were surrounded by other gods and they were tempted but they were allowed to worship their own God. Anticus introduces something entirely new which is the worship of God is outlawed,and the worship of his god is compulsory. You see in verse 36,he exalted himself and uniquely blasphemed God. He had no interest in the popular gods,verse 37,including the god Adonis loved by the women. But he had his own god,verse 38,the god of fortresses. Very hard to work out what that means,and he was the first person,Anticus,to put his face and god on the coins of the day. What Anticus believed,he enforced. You will not worship the God of Israel. Now even in this summary of his pride you can see in verse 37 that God’s time will come for him,and Anticus according to history was on a reckless mission to rob a temple and he came to an untimely end,in his prime.
When we come to verses 40-45 which is the end of the chapter I want you to know that these verses look like history but their not history. I want to explain this to you,if you were to read verses 40-45,you would think that it is just going on describing more history but none of it fits history because verses 40-45 is not history. Verses 40-45 is like,listen carefully to this,it’s like a picture not a photo. It’s like a map not a battlefield. This is a sketch,this is a cartoon,it is not the reality of history. And therefore verses 40-45 suddenly reach an absolute climax,we’ve seen normal battles take place,we’ve seen Anticus do his worst,and now we move in 40-45 to something which is just a picture of general fighting,and the success of evil. That is what 40-45 is all about. Verse 40,evil succeeds hugely,verse 41,the believers are being attacked but the unbelievers are being rescued,everything’s upside down. Verses 42-43,everybody seems to come under his control,verse 44,suddenly he’s called away. He gets a message and he has to go. It reminds us of an incident in the Old Testament where an enemy of God’s people was just about to completely dominate God’s people and got a message and had to leave,and the people of God were miraculously spared. And verse 44,he is called away. Verse 45,just as he might attack Jerusalem,the holy mountain,this evil is finished and there is no one there to help him. So verses 40-45 is a picture of all evil for all time which looks so often as if it is in total control. And how can God possibly be there? And how can God possibly be in control? And how can God possibly cope because everything is against Him? And everything is dominating and He seems to be losing,and His people seem to be losing,and bang,with one moment of God’s appointed time all the evil comes to an end. He’s done it before,He does it regularly,He’ll do it again. That final phrase in the chapter 11 of Daniel is a dreadful phrase isn’t it? I can’t think of anything more dreadful than being at the end of your life,the end of your journey and there is no one,no one to help you. This phrase describes exactly where somebody stands like an Anticus who refuses God. They may not do it as viciously as Anticus they might just do it very sophisticatedly,very quietly,very gently,but they say no to God,they say I do not want you as my king,I do not need you as my saviour,I do not want you as my solution,I do not need you as my hope,and suddenly they come to the end and there they are all alone in the universe and the one person who offered His help and made eternal help available has been refused and there is now no one to help. That may absolutely describe a person in this building today,you’re a good person but you’ve refused the saviour,you’ll come to the end of your journey and you’ll find yourself before your maker with no one to help,it’s a dreadful phrase. But it is a very wonderful phrase in a way because it also reminds us of Jesus Christ who died on the cross with no one to help,no disciple helped him,no family member helped him,no soldier helped him,no Jew helped him,no Father helped him. He died on the cross with no one to help him and he endured that,he endured that loneliness,and he endured that separation from God in order to provide a rescue for us,so that we might have through his provision a fellowship with God and an intimacy with God which would begin in this world and would go through the grave and would never come to an end. And since Daniel 11 describes the world which is full of battle,and full of struggle,and full of trouble,and there are waves of trouble,and waves of opposition,and some of it’s physical,and some of it’s mental,and some of it’s spiritual,and since behind the physical battles there is a big spiritual battle YOU NEED JESUS! You need him,you can’t get out of here without him,that’s what this chapter remind us.
And when we turn in faith to Jesus Christ so wonderfully he welcomes us,and he welcomes us forever and he says,’Never will I leave you. Never will you be alone. Never will I forsake you.’ That’s why Daniel chapter 11 which looks so strange is actually an impossible to escape chapter,it’s all about the world in which we live,and it’s all about you and it’s all about me.
I’ve been preaching through Daniel now this is my 11th week,I’ve been telling you this is some history,and this is some theology,and this is about the kingdom of God,and this is about the clash,and the battle,and the troubles,and all that sort of thing. Friends I have never been so conscious in the last 10/11 weeks of the struggles of being in the world. For 10/11 weeks I don’t know if I have ever been as conscious before of a spiritual battle which has it’s own intensity,and absurdity,and trickery. It’s been a very interesting 10/11 weeks,I don’t know if it is just me because I’ve been preaching it,or whether some of you have been experiencing it as well,but it has been an unusually intense 10 or 11 weeks. It is difficult to be a Christian,it is painful to be a Christian,there are battles outside and there are battles inside,there is pain that is cause to us,and there is pain that us caused by us. And Daniel chapter 11 says yes there is a battle and God is sovereign,and God is loving,and God is wise,and he’s in control of the whole universe,and he’s in control of all the details of your life,even the things that overwhelm you. And every now and again God send things that overwhelm us because He wants to teach us to turn to Him and to trust Him more deeply. And we don’t do that if every thing is easy and everything works well,and so He brings to us things that we just cannot solve quickly and easily. God is in charge you see of the good and He is in charge of the bad. We regularly thank Him I trust for the good but we can even thank Him for the bad in this sense that it is used by Him to build up our trust in Him. It causes some people to turn to Him for life and it causes many who have turned to Him to grow in their appreciation for Him. You may feel,there may be some of you here today who feel that things are really falling apart,it’s just a bit more than you can really cope with,and God tells us through the book of Daniel that He is totally in charge of the seconds and the details,he is sovereign,he’s wise,he’s loving,he’s able and he says to you through the gospel of the Lord Jesus,’I am with you. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. I give you my word I never will leave you,I never will forsake you,and I will use what you are going through in the present and I will bring you through.’
Let’s bow our heads. Our gracious God we thank you today for this chapter of the scriptures. We thank you that we see in this chapter something of the struggles of the world and your perfect control. We thank you that we see even one who is a tyrant and yet your perfect control. We thank you that we can see in this chapter the regular battle of life,and you are in control. We ask that you will give to those who hear this message today the wisdom and the humility to kneel before you and to seek you as their refuge,and for the many who enjoy you as refuge we pray that you would continue to teach us of your goodness,and your greatness,of your purposes and your power,of you mercy of your faithfulness,so that we might grow in appreciation for you and faithfulness to you. We ask it in Jesus’ name,Amen.