By Simon ManchesterSunday 1 Sep 2013Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes
St Thomas’ Anglican Church
Daniel – Behind Everything
Our loving Father we thank you again for giving us scripture and your spirit,and we pray that you,who inspired this part of your word,would help us to grasp it and live in the light of it,and we ask it in Jesus’ name,Amen.
Our chapter this morning is chapter 10 in the book of Daniel. I want to introduce it by telling you that for three years I was privileged to work at a church in London in the early eighties. There was a kind man at the church who was on the Wimbledon board,and he gave us in our first year two tickets to centre court,pretty well front row seats,and Kathy and I found a babysitter and we caught some buses and trains and helicopters and ships,and made our way to Wimbledon for the first time. And it rained all day and we sat in our seats under an umbrella completely alone in Wimbledon centre court and took some photos of the covers,and took some photos of the covers. If you would like to see those,I will show them to you. We still felt very privileged and the kind man wanted us to have something better and so he found us,and he took us through secret doors into the players accommodation and we wandered through with him and saw all the great ones sitting and playing cards or talking and waiting for the rain to stop.
I mention that to you because the book of Daniel that we are studying has got some centre court action,which we have seen in chapters 1-6,and it has some behind the scenes privilege which we’ve seen in 7-12. Chapter 1 – 6 of Daniel are the battle ground where God’s people live their lives in the strength of God for the glory of God. We’ve seen those great famous chapters. Chapters 7 – 12 are where we are taken behind the door,behind the curtain,and we see something of the very real heavenly world. We’re given a picture you may remember in chapter 7 of the throne of God,and then in chapter 8 we’re told some of the players who are yet to come onto the stage of world history,and then we saw last week in chapter 9 that Daniel gets down to pray for mercy for the people of God in the face of such a great conflict. Now we find it difficult,I find it difficult and you find it difficult,to be people who remember the seen and the unseen. To walk by faith in the word of God and not just sight is a difficult thing. It is easier for me to walk by sight and not by faith because we are much more visual people,and the philosophy which is drummed into us all the time is “things are natural,supernatural is sort of for weird people”. And we believers in Jesus don’t want to appear to be nutters do we? – talking about unseen little people. I wonder if you can imagine therefore what it would be like to travel with the Lord Jesus in the first century,the wisest,the most wonderful,the sanest person the world has ever seen,and as you’re travelling with the Lord Jesus he gets you into little groups of twos and he sends you off to a village,and after you’ve had a pretty faithful and useful mission you come back and you tell him some of the great stories and he says to you,”I saw Satan fall. As you did your mission it was a preview of Satan falling.” Or some people come up to Jesus and they criticise him and they say,”We know where you get your power from,you get your power from the devil.” And he turns to them and he says,”Why would Satan cast out demons,it’s in his interests to possess people?” And he talks about Satan as if he is a political leader in a nearby country. Or you are sitting at the last supper and he turns and he looks at you and he says this as he looks you right in the eye he says,”Do you know that Satan asked for you? Satan asked to sift you,to reduce you,but I have prayed for you.” What a shock to our system,astonishing from Jesus isn’t it,this awareness of the unseen world,the spiritual issues. And as Jesus talks about these things,and as the bible talks about these things,you never get the impression that God is nervous,as if the battle is evenly poised,it is not evenly poised,He will win it. And you never get the impression that He is casual or He wants us to be casual about the battle as if it’s a non issue,because people are moving to two destinations all the time,and friends people are moving to two destinations all the time and they never emerge from their final destination.
So as we come to Daniel chapter 10 we are not just behind the curtain for these last 3 chapters,we are being taken into a very significant meeting. Have you ever been taken to a very significant meeting,where something is going to be said which is not going to be said to the ordinary person,but now it is going to be made available to the ordinary person? And in this significant meeting of Daniel 10,11 and 12,we’re going to discover that there is a clash which God has scheduled and it will be played out on the center court of the world,but the real issues are much,much,bigger than what will be seen in the world. Whatever players you see in history,whatever battle you see taking place in front of your eyes that is just a representation of a much greater cosmic battle.
So look at Chapter 10 verse 1,you’ll see that Daniel verse 1 is given information of a great war,a great battle. What we are going to do today,we are going to look at chapter 10 which just introduces the battle,and then in chapter 11 we are going to look at the description of the battle next week,and then chapter 12 what to do in the face of the battle. And I have to confess to you I’ve not found anybody,I’ve never met anybody,who has just preached a sermon on just Daniel 10 because it is too unusual. And so what people generally do is that they preach a sermon on 10,11,12,which is the whole battle issue. But we’re attempting the ridiculous this morning which is just Daniel chapter 10,and what I’m going to do is I’m going to break it up into three lessons from the chapter which mark kingdom people.
OK,the first one is that God’s kingdom people believe in the seen and the unseen. We actually believe in the seen world and the unseen world. Now I don’t need to remind you that Daniel was a man who lived in the real world,he sweated,he bled,he was a normal human being. In chapter 1 we see that he is caught up in the political wiles of joining the club or not,he understands politics. In chapter 2 we see that he understands religion,he has to come face to face with all the gurus and the astrologers like we do. In chapter 4 he understands power games,he sees Nebuchadnezzar the leader go way up and then be brought way down. We see in chapter 5 that he understands secularism,he knows what it is to be brought in to a real ripper of a party,Belshazzar’s party. And in chapter 6 we see that he is aware of life and death because he is thrown into a lions den. He is a man who understands the real world all the issues of the real world. But he also understands the real heavenly world. How do we know this? – Because he has to grapple with information which you can’t pick up from the world. He has to keep grappling with the scriptures,he has to keep grappling with visions that he didn’t ask for,and so he is a man who is face to face with the real heavenly world. And what we discover in these first few verses is that Daniel is very serious,verse 2 and 3,he is serious about God,and God takes seriously,doesn’t he,people who take him seriously. And in verses 4,5,and 6,God reveals something or God reveals someone to Daniel which is extraordinary. “On the twenty-fourth day of the first month,as I was standing on the bank of the great river,the Tigris,” it looks as though he is in Egypt. This is probably him in some kind of transported sense in Egypt,and he says,”I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen,with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite,” which is a very translucent stone,”his face like lightning,his eyes like flaming torches,his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze,and his voice like the sound of a multitude.” I can only say to you that if you get a vision like that,a real vision,it leaves it’s impact. I don’t think that we should hesitate to say that this is a vision of Christ. This is what is called a Christopheny. Daniel is being allowed to see something of the second person of the Trinity before the incarnation,the reason I think this is because we have already seen the Son of Man in chapter 7,it is appropriate to see this person called Jesus before the great battle which Jesus will be key to,most importantly I think this is a picture of Jesus because chapter 10 verses 5 and 6 is almost identical to Revelation 1,verses 13-15 where John sees Jesus. The descriptions are almost identical,the effect is almost identical,the two men fall and are humbled,and the comfort is almost identical. In Daniel the hand,the word of comfort ‘be not afraid’,in Revelation 1 the hand,the word of comfort ‘be not afraid’. I am sure we are seeing here in these two apocalyptic books some vision of Jesus. Now why does God do this? Well because something very significant is happening,a very serious cosmic battle is going to be described,and before that happens God gives his servant a vision of His greatness. It is the sort of thing God does again,and again,when God calls Moses to a difficult job he sees the glory at the burning bush,when He calls Isaiah to his very difficult job he sees the holiness of God,when He calls Ezekiel,when He calls Jeremiah,when He calls Daniel,when He calls the apostle Paul,a vision of God’s greatness. And the bible records these biblical visions of biblical people so that you and I will be helped to walk in the world by faith and not just by sight. Is this a crazy way to live? Is this a naïve way to live? Not at all,Jesus says it is a blessed way to live.
You know for example the story of Thomas and he had not seen the risen Jesus and the others had seen the risen Jesus,but he had been told of the risen Jesus,and he’d been told by these disciples who he knew and trusted pretty well,and they said,”we have seen the risen Jesus”,and it would have been entirely appropriate if Thomas had said at that point,’well I haven’t seen him but I trust you. He is risen.’ And that would have been sensible faith,it would have been reasonable faith,and Jesus says it would have been a blessed position to take. That is the position that I myself take,that Jesus is risen,I have never seen him,but reliable witnesses have seen him and have recorded the fact for me and for you. And John says in chapter 20,”these are written that you may believe Jesus is the Christ,and that by believing you have life in His name”. So we don’t have to see everything. There are hundreds of decisions made everyday by what we hear and don’t see,and God’s kingdom people are meant to take seriously reliable witnesses and especially Jesus. I’ll give you one example,do you like the fact that Jesus says,”In my Father’s house are many rooms”? Does that warm your heart to think of that? Are you prepared to trust him? “In my Father’s house are many rooms”? He’s the most reliable person in the universe and so it is entirely reasonable for us to trust him. He is not a liar or a deceiver is he? And Paul says,”Therefore,we fix our eyes on what is unseen (told to us by God),for what is seen is temporary,what is unseen is eternal.” Now friends we need to help one another to do this,I want you to keep reminding me about the unseen realities and I am going to keep reminding you about the unseen realities,and I do want some of you to model your commitment to the unseen realities,pray because the unseen is real,give because the unseen is real,labour because the unseen is real. If I was to get a private detective to follow you any week of my choosing would they be able to come back to me and say to me,’I am absolutely persuaded that this person believes with a priority in the unseen world.’? It is a good test isn’t it? And if they came back and said that ‘there is no evidence whatsoever that this person is anything but a temporal man or a temporal woman’,how do you know that your talk is not just talk today,and your singing is just empty rhetoric? Somebody said to me that they were enjoying the Daniel series,the sovereignty of God,important,yes it is now I want to believe the sovereignty of God is so real,and so special,that it effects every minute of every hour of every day. God’s kingdom people believe in the seen and the unseen.
Second,God’s kingdom people believe that God is sovereign and fighting. Sovereign and fighting,I mean that God is victorious and yet he is in a battle. You see the picture in verse 5,it is a very,very,impressive person isn’t it? The robe of a king,the golden belt of a king,transparent in appearance,face,eyes of fire,arms,legs,bright and strong,a voice like a crowd of a thousand people. This is the Lord of glory,He is absolutely unbeatable,who could possibly beat Him? Who could stand up against Him? If He says be gone,you must be gone. When we see somebody like this so great and so glorious as one commentator says,”we realise what Jesus put aside when he became a man,and what he put aside when he became a sacrifice.” What humility! And this vision of one so sovereign makes us think well trouble could not possibly exist,but trouble does exist and there is a battle going on. And I want you to look with me now from verse 12 at a very unusual section.
Daniel is told that his prayers have been heard,and that someone has come in response to his prayers,but look at verse 13,I am going to read it and then I am going to tell you what it means. “But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael,one of the chief princes,came to help me,because I was detained there (with the king of Persia.) Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future.” Now that bizarre little piece of scripture,this is what it means,the messenger who may well be Jesus or it may be an angel now,basically says to Daniel we’ve heard your prayers and we’ve come to answer them but we were held up. We were held up because there was something going on in the unseen world which involved the prince of Persia,which means the angel who represents Persia,and you’ll see in verse 20 there is prince of Greece as well,and there is the prince of the people of God called Michael,something has been going on in the heavenly world which has basically delayed us. We had to solve something in the heavens before we could do something on the earth. Well isn’t that a humbling thing to be told? We think everything is just about here and now,and somebody comes and says there has been a delay in your plans,there has been a delay to your prayers,there has been a delay to your wishes because actually something bigger was going on which would be almost impossible to explain to you. What a humbling piece of information. And I want to ask you whether you can believe that what we see in this world might be a micro version of what is going on in the unseen. Can you believe that?
I don’t want to be a nutter any more than you,but the bible seems to teach very plainly that in the unseen world where God rules there is a battle that takes place which makes the battles of this world look little. Nobody has put this better than Abraham Kipper who was a great Dutch theologian and was the prime minister of the Netherlands in the early 20th century,and he has written this,”If the curtain were pulled back and the spiritual world came to view it would expose to our vision a struggle so intense so convulsive,sweeping everything within it’s range,that the fiercest battle ever fought on earth would seem by comparison a mere game. Not here but up there is where the real conflict is waged and our earthly struggles drone in the backlash.” In other words,says Abraham Kipper,brilliant man the man who founded the university of Amsterdam,founded his own newspaper,set up the labour union of the Netherlands,and was the founder of the Christian Democratic party the first Christian Democratic party in the world,but because he read his bible seriously this is what he came to,this was his conclusion,it’s big up there. It’s big up there. The point however I want you to notice is that the sovereign God described in verses 5 and 6,is controlling a warfare,verses 13 and 14,which goes on in the present but will be gone in the future but in the present there is God and war,there is victorious sovereign God and fighting,both are real. We need to hold onto the two because it is very easy like an unbeliever to say,”I see the trouble and therefore I remove God from the equation.” And the believer is tempted to say,”I take God seriously,I cannot understand why He does not remove the trouble.” It is a natural thing to say,How long O Lord? How can you wait this long? And the bible says the sovereign God wages a war which He will remove,but we must wait for His timing.
The time will come as we have seen in the action of Daniel 1-6 when God’s enemies,and the great enemies of sin,and sickness,and death,and grief,and evil,will be removed and righteousness,Christ centred living,Christ centred heaven,peace,joy,fellowship,delight,will be reinstated forever. The clearest proof of this that we have ever been given is when Jesus came into the world and demonstrated as clearly and as simply as he could what he is capable of and will fully do. And no better example,of course,of His power than winning the victory over evil,and death,on Calvary. So there’s you see two marks of kingdom people. We are people who believe in the seen and the unseen. We’re realists. We are also people who believe in the sovereign God and the battle. We are discerning.
And the last thing very briefly – God’s kingdom means that we are weak and strong. Daniel is weak,he is old,but when he comes face to face with Jesus,we read in verse 8,he had no strength and he was helpless. And we read in verse 17,”My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.” People who see something of the sovereign God in the bible never have a fun time,have you noticed that? They’re always crushed by it,overwhelmed by it,impressed,equipped,but it is really in the strict and literal sense it is actually an awe-full experience,isn’t it. And Daniel feels great weakness,he’s been expressing his weakness in prayer,he now feels physically weak in the face of the Lord Jesus,but the Lord is full of strength and in verse 18 he gives strength to Daniel and he gives strength to Daniel so he can cope with the message verse 21,which is the Book of Truth,the message which is to be told. And this is typical of the people of God in every age,it pleases God to use people who know they are weak,and we express our weakness best in prayer. Daniel in chapter 10 is never weaker,we never see him look so weak,and yet he is never so effective,and he is never so productive,and he is never so proactive,as when he expresses his weakness. Now friends we are very weak. I keep thinking I am strong,which is why I am such a bad prayer,you keep thinking you’re strong too which is why you struggle with prayer,but we must remind ourselves not only is there an unseen world and there is a battle,but we are weak which is why Jesus taught us to pray on a daily basis,”Lead us not in temptation but deliver us from evil.” We’re weak! We are even too weak for worldly powers aren’t we. Well you may have seen this week that Google has decided,although they are quite happy to put advertisements on their internet for abortion clinics and anti-religious advertising,they will not put a Christian advertisement on which offers an alternative or help in the face of abortion,they just won’t put it on. We’re weak aren’t we,but our biggest problem is when we think we will solve it ourselves,we’ll solve it with some earthly strategy,we’ll solve it with some personal resources,and we don’t go simply in prayer and we kneel before the one who is described in chapter 10 verses 5 and 6 as very,very,great and wonderful. What a wonderful thing you can go home,whatever you’re facing you can go home,and you can get out down on your knees beside your bed and you can pray to the one who is described in chapter 10 verses 5-6 and you know that He is for you. What a wonderful thing.
Well,people of the kingdom believe in the seen and the unseen. Three people that I know have died this week – a relative,a former colleague,a friend,all died in the last week. They’ve moved from the seen to the unseen. I absolutely expect to see two of them again,it would be wonderful to see three but I expect to see two. And those two who have gone of to meet their Lord,will get that wonderful welcome into the inheritance,the unseen realities which are imperishable and can never spoil or fade. What a wonderful reality it is. God’s kingdom people also grasp that we are in a battle under a sovereign God. He is in complete control,never the less we walk a rocky road don’t we? And we don’t always get things done as quickly as we’d like them to be done,because we don’t understand all the issues,but He does,and His timing is perfect. And God’s people,kingdom people,also recognise hopefully that they are weak and He is strong,and they call to Him and He strengthens them,and He enables them to be extremely useful,loved,helped,strengthened and useful.
Well let’s pray,let’s bow our heads. Our gracious God we thank you this morning together for revealing to us something of the great unseen realities,more wonderful,more solid,and we pray that you would help us to fix our eyes on these things. We thank you too that in the midst of a battle you are sovereign,you do things wisely and wonderfully,your timing is perfect,we pray that you would help us to trust you. And we thank you too that although we are weak you are strong and you share your strength with the weak and we pray that you would enable us and stir us to kneel before you and bring our weakness and all the needs of the world to you,gracious and great. Thank you for this part of your word and please feed us with these truths and help us to live in the strength of them this week. In Jesus’ name we pray,Amen.