By Simon ManchesterSunday 15 Sep 2013Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes
St Thomas’ Anglican Church
Daniel – How the Wise Live Now
We come this morning to the last chapter in the book of Daniel,chapter 12. We’ve been working through for this 12th of the twelve Sundays,and we come to our last morning in our travel through the book. I hope that some here have actually done the whole course,the whole twelve,and if not I want to dare to suggest to you that you get some of the CDs of the chapters that you don’t really know,or don’t really understand. I appreciated hugely going through the book for myself especially to do the last chapters 8 -12 which are less well known,almost everybody knows the story of Daniel in the lion’s den,and the story of the three men thrown into the furnace,but Daniel 8,9,10,11 and 12 are much less known and it has been good to study them. The two things that have really impacted me as I have studied the book are to be reminded,and more seriously aware,that God is in charge of everything. The sovereign God is in charge of everything,He directs everything. Just as the sun in the sky affects everything in the world,and the big things like the seasons,and the little things like the leaves,so God,the kingdom of God,affects everything in the world,and of course He is not just a planet He is a person,and He is not just affecting the heaven He is affecting the earth,and He is not just affecting eternity He is looking after time as well,that has been a great reminder to me. And I have also been reminded as I have studied the book that you the believer have a role in the big cosmic and eternal plans of God,because when Daniel prays his prayers are almost like fuel into the machinery of God,his prayers are heard,the prayers of a believer are heard. And you may remember in chapter 2 of Daniel that the King has demanded that people tell the dream that he’s had,and of course nobody can do it,and Daniel sends up his prayer that God would help him and give mercy,and God answers his prayer,and it is such a formative prayer,it is such a formative moment. And then in chapter 6 Daniel is praying because he doesn’t want to stop praying,he doesn’t want to give up his prayer life,and for that he is thrown into the lions den,and God vindicates him. And then in chapter 9 you remember after Daniel is told that there will be great trouble and persecution for the people of God,Daniel gets to prayer for mercy. And it is a long chapter,chapter 9,all about asking God for mercy,and God in His mercy gives to Daniel this magnificent vision which unfolds in 10,11 and 12,and that’s what we have been looking at the last two weeks and we come to the 3rd week of it today.
The vision is the vision that there is struggle to come,historical struggle,not too far down the track for Daniel,and heavenly struggle beyond what Daniel can probably understand,but struggle. Last week we finished chapter 11 with the great news that the destroyer of God’s people will come to an end. Of course the destroyer is a big word and it sometimes means a tyrant in local history,but it also would cover to mean the devil himself,at some stage,will be destroyed. The destroyer of God’s people will be himself destroyed. And we open chapter 12 with this wonderful verse 1 which tells us that God’s people will be delivered,so the destroyer will be destroyed,and God’s people will be delivered. As we come to chapter 12 this is the climax of the book,Daniel has been allowed to look down the telescope of time and in this chapter he goes right to the end,in fact he goes off the edge he goes off into resurrection,that’s what this wonderful chapter does.
Our title this morning is ‘How the wise live now’. How do the wise live now,and there are two main answers in Daniel chapter 12. The first is Hold God’s Word,and the second one is Walk God’s Way. That is the two answers that we are going to look at this morning,hold God’s word,walk God’s way. I hope you will remember the two little phrases,they’re not just words,they’re not just talk,they’re actually truths,and if this morning you know what it is to doubt,or if you know what it is to panic,or if you know what it is to be in despair I hope that you will remember these two little phrases. What should I do? Hold God’s word,walk God’s way. That’s what God asks us to do.
Let’s look at the first one Hold God’s Word,verses 1-4,and the key word as I say in verse 1 is that God will deliver. “At that time Michael,’ verse 1,’the great prince who protects your people will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people – everyone whose name is found written in the book – will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life,others to shame and everlasting contempt.” At that time,and that time of course is the time of great battle,the time of great struggle for the people of God,it is everything which has been described in Daniel 11 and now into 12. It is where things hot up,and there comes great distress for the people of God. And at that time,says the book of Daniel,this person Michael will arise,and we know from chapter 10 that Michael is the prince,or the angel,who has some special role with God’s people. I know this is bizarre to us,I know this is a shock to us,I know that we have grown up thinking that we have a little angel who looks after us. The bible says that there seems to be some prince,or some major figure,within the heavens who has a special responsibility for the people of God,and you see this as you read the scriptures. Again and again it is the angel who takes some lead or plays some role in the people of God. We’re familiar a lot more with this aren’t we around the Christmas time with some spell binding figure who comes as a messenger. And at that time this particular angel,this protective angel,called Michael will arise,and we read as he stands,as he arises,God’s people – all whose names are in the book of life – they will be delivered.
Now what does it mean to be delivered? It is a very pregnant word isn’t it? You see one person get spared,one person get martyred,one person escape their sickness,one person succumb to sickness. What does it mean to be delivered? Well,I want to say to you very quickly about deliverance,that the reason that any believer would ever be delivered is because of Calvary. It’s because of Jesus at Calvary. When Jesus died on the cross the bible says He disarmed the opposition. Colossians chapter 2 – he triumphed at the cross disarming the powers and the authorities. So that’s where deliverance finds it’s power,at the cross. The goal of deliverance of course is ultimately that the believer would end up in glory,in heaven,with God,to the glory of God,that’s what verse 2 is all about,people waking up and finding themself in the everlasting reward. However,the scope of deliverance goes back through BC and forward into AD because God is a God who delivers His people in all of time. And sometimes of course in BC He would deliver His people from nations,and sometimes He would deliver His people from tyrants,sometimes He would allow them to be overcome and then deliver them,and in the AD period of history of course God is able to deliver His people from trouble and from persecution,and sometimes He allows his people to go into trouble,and into persecution. But in the end you see He decides and ultimately He delivers because He is the sovereign God,and this deliverance is a pregnant word. When Daniel talks about deliverance you can be absolutely sure that any deliverance is ultimately traceable to Jesus and his work on the cross. That’s the gospel the key to the bible,and when Michael stands up and enemies fall down,whether it has got to do with a tyrant in the Old Testament or whether it has got to do with the devil in the future,it is because Jesus lived,died and rose. And if your trust is in Jesus Christ,and therefore you are part of God’s book,the book is the name of the people who believe,then of course you will be delivered. You see in verse 2,multitudes will awake from the dust,and those of you who know their bible’s well will know that back in the Old Testament in Genesis chapter 3 the penalty for sin was “to dust you’ll return”,and now everything has been reversed – “from dust you will arise”. And why does it say multitudes will awake? Why doesn’t it say everybody will awake? Well it is possible that he means that multitudes of those who were martyred will arise,or it is possible that he does mean everybody will be there but multitudes will be walking the face of the earth,and multitudes will have been buried,but everybody will get up. And I wonder if you know this? I wonder if you know that everybody in the whole world is going to come face to face with Jesus? It is not necessarily true that you will pay taxes again,Jesus may come,you may go to him. It is not necessarily true that you will die,he may come. But it is absolutely certain that everybody will stand face to face with Jesus and when people stand face to face with Jesus,as he says in John chapter 5,he’ll give the word and everybody who’s ever been conceived will get up and face him,and you will receive a reward when you face him and do you know what it is based on? It is based on your receiving. It’s not based on your achieving,it is based on your receiving.
The billion dollar question is have you received Christ? If you have received Christ,he’ll receive you. If you have refused Christ,he’ll refuse you,it is as simple as that. It’s got nothing to do with achievements,its got nothing to do with good deeds,its got nothing to do with being a good person,its got to do with whether you’ve received the saviour,and if you’ve received the saviour,you’ll be received by the saviour,and you’ll receive your everlasting reward which is,you see,either life or contempt.
So this verse Daniel chapter 12:1-2,they’re extraordinary in the Old Testament. One commentator says,”this is the most developed resurrection statement in the Old Testament.” So when you are reading your Old Testament and you see some of the great glimpses of the resurrection you know,”I know that my redeemer lives”,says Job,”I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”,Psalm 23,or Psalm 16 “You’ll fill me with joy in your presence”,or Isaiah 26,”You who dwell in the dust,wake up”. They’re glimpses of the resurrection,but this one Daniel 12:2 is the clearest of them all. And you need to remember as you read your Old Testament that the Old Testament writers had no clear Easter event to go by,and sometimes they wrote as a pessimist. Job as a pessimist says,you know when you are dead,you’re dead,Ecclesiastes as a pessimist says,when you are dead,you’re dead,but they didn’t understand properly what God has planned. So this apocalyptic language in Daniel chapter 12 is extraordinary,some commentators can’t believe it that its here,and they say its got nothing to do with the resurrection and its just got to do with the renewal of Israel,but it seems pretty plain doesn’t it that its got to do with everlasting life or everlasting contempt,it goes way beyond the world. And God gives to Daniel you see a word to hold onto,he says verse 4,seal it,which means secure it,grip it,and it is a word for you and me to hang onto as well,that this life is not what it is all about. God’s plans go way beyond this world,they have got to do with His son who has gone way beyond this world,and when you’ve put your faith in Him you’ll join Him way beyond this world. We also see that in the Old Testament what we see again and again in the New Testament,that when you’ve got the resurrection in your head priorities of this world make sense. Once you’ve got the resurrection clear,you know what is important in this world. And if you want to be a good witness to Jesus Christ in this world,do not give your neighbours the impression that your treasure is here. If you give your neighbours the impression that your treasure is here what does that say about your convictions of God? But you and I must give our neighbours the clear understanding that God is the treasure of the universe,and He is greater than this world. Once the resurrection is clear we know what is important,and you see in verse 3 of Daniel 12,the wise will shine and they will lead many to righteousness,which means that you and I are going to seek by our life,and by our prayers,and by our words,to be a sign-post for other people to God,because He’s righteousness. And when a person turns to Him and receives His mercy he is then given His righteousness. And that is the most important thing,role,that we can play in this world,to help a person to righteousness.
You remember in 1 Corinthians chapter 15,the great chapter about the resurrection,fifty-seven verses on the resurrection and then suddenly remember what Paul says at the end? ‘Therefore my beloved brethren be steadfast,immoveable,always abounding in the work of the Lord,because in the Lord you know your labour’s not in vain.’ Why? Because of the resurrection! Or 2 Corinthians 5,’We long’,says Paul,’to be at home with the Lord,and therefore we’re ambassadors in the present,we want people to be reconciled with God through Christ.’ Or John’s gospel chapter 20 there’s Thomas,’My Lord and my God,yes you’re alive,you’re risen,ok I believe.’ Chapter 21,fishing,’Feed the flock.’ There’s a mission you see that flows out of the resurrection,and it is recorded here again in Daniel chapter 12. In the light of the resurrection you and I must seek to shine for Christ because we know the way to God through Christ and we want other people to know the way to God through Christ,and those who lead others to righteousness,says the writer here,will shine,not that they’ll be heroes,they’ll be stars,not that they’ll be applauded,but they will be vindicated because they’ve lived wisely. Anticus in Daniel chapter 8 reached for the stars – what a fool he was,and missed of course,and was humbly brought down to earth.
But the wise Christian,the wise believer in this world knows that he or she is here because God wants him here,wants her here,and the great role that you and I can play is to honour Him and help others to trust Him and God will honour those who think and live like that. So there is this great hope in these four verses,and there is this great task – Hold God’s word.
Second,Walk God’s way,verses 5-13 these are even more difficult verses,so I hope you are working this morning! This is a hard chapter,chapter 12. I want to begin these last verses by just reminding you of an incident in the New Testament where Jesus has risen from the grave and he’s meeting with his eleven disciples and they are having breakfast. And as they are having breakfast you’ll remember that Jesus reinstates Peter who denied him,and Jesus says to Peter,’Feed my sheep,feed my sheep,feed my sheep.’ And then he says something very cryptic,he says,’Peter there is going to come a time in the future where you will be led where you don’t want to go.’ And there is a vague illusion to Peter’s martyrdom. And Peter who is intrigued by this asks a very typical Peter dumb question,he turns and looks at John and he says,’What about him?’ And Jesus says,’Forget about him. You follow me.’ There are questions which God shouldn’t answer,and there are questions which God wisely doesn’t answer. And there are two of them here in the last bit of Daniel,the book finishes with two questions. One is asked in verse 6 by someone and it gets a very cryptic answer,one is asked by Daniel in verse 8,and it gets the answer,’Don’t worry about that.’ And that is where,and how,we are going to finish this book today.
Look at verse 5,”Daniel,looked,and there before me stood two others,” it could be two angelic beings “one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank.” It is very fitting isn’t it as he is thinking of the future that he see these two people on each side of the river. And one of them asks a question,verse 6,of the man clothed in linen,and this man clothed in linen we met him earlier in chapter 10 verse 5,and he is undoubtedly the one that we identified as Christ. In chapter 10 the man in linen is described like Christ,glorious,majestic,splendid,fits the description in Revelation chapter 1. And one of these angelic beings asks this great person the question,”How long (will it be) before these astonishing things are fulfilled?” Well Jesus is the right person to ask that question to,how long? And it is a very good question because we would like to know how long persecution and trouble will go for,and we would like to know how long history will go for,but the answer comes back very cryptically. There are no numbers,there are no dates,it is the same in the Old Testament and in the New Testament,you just don’t get the dates,you don’t get the numbers. And you see in verse 7,the man,this great person raised his right hand and he raised his left hand,normally in scripture you only had to raise one hand if you were making a solemn oath,but here he raises both as if to make an extremely solemn promise and he gives this cryptic and frustrating answer,”It will be for a time,times,and half a time.” And at that point you say,’Thanks for nothing!’ because it is just too weird isn’t it – “time,times,and half a time”,why is this in the scriptures? Now either this is a little phrase which is just a nuisance,or it is just a phrase that is toying with us,or teasing us,or it is helpful. I want to suggest along with Calvin that this is helpful. The more you think about the little phrase “time,times,and half a time”,the more simple it is,and the more helpful it is. The answer to the question ‘How long will there be trouble?’ is ‘It will last for a time.’ In other words,’You are going to have to wait!’ And it is also going to last for times,it is going to stretch,and it will maybe seem just too long for you,and it will also last a half time – ‘I’ll cut it short. I’ll step in,’ says God,’I’ll do something.’ So although this is a weird little phrase “time,times,and half a time”,doesn’t it say exactly what we need to know? – which is,the troubles that God allows,and the troubles that God even uses in this world,mean that His people will have to be patient,in fact they will have to be very patient,but they can be absolutely sure that there will be a finish. That is what it says – it will go for a time,you will have to be patient,it will goes for times,you will have to be very patient,it will go for half a time at the end,God will intervene and cut it short. And I reckon that we ought to revive this phrase around the church. When somebody says how long do I have to struggle with this particular problem? How long do I have to put up with this minister? How long do I have to put up with this congregation? How long do I have to go through this painful time? How long ’til I go on holidays? How long Mum and Dad do I have to do the homework? The answer “time,times,and half a time”! Be patient,be very patient it will come to an end. I think it is a terrific phrase,it sort of satisfies me,but you will see in verse 8 it did not satisfy Daniel.
“I heard,but I did not understand. So I asked (another question),My Lord,what will the outcome of all this be?” and I think he is asking not who will win the battle,he knows that it will be God,I think he is asking the question ‘what is going to be the outcome for my people? I am concerned for my people.’ You remember Daniel has always been concerned for God’s people,but that is too big a question for him to be given the details of,and the answer comes back in verse 9,”Go your way.” I am not answering that question,”the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end.” You won’t find out until the end,go your way,walk the path,do your job. The principle of verse 10 – during the time of trouble many will be purified by the trouble,many will be made spotless,they will turn to God in the trouble,but sadly many wicked will continue to be wicked. And we know this to be true,don’t we? We watch people they go through dreadful things,and for some it is the wake up call it is the megaphone of God,and they hear God saying to them,”life is short,turn to me. Come to your senses,wake up.” And other people it makes them just the same,harder,more bitter,nothing happens. Same thing in the book of Revelation chapter 9 where dreadful troubles are impacting unbelievers,and sadly there is no wake up,there’s no repentance,there’s no change,there’s no care,there’s no softening,there’s no humbling,there’s no blessing,and then suddenly there comes some numbers,verses 11 and 12,and I’m sure these numbers are symbolic,I’m sure they’re numbers which are basically saying,”I know the number,and will you be patient. Could you be patient,” says God,”for 1,290 days?” it is a symbolic number. In other words could you be patient for a reasonable amount of time? But a limited time? And then verse again 1,335,could you wait a little longer? How long can you wait,can you persevere? That is what God is asking. And of course behind the perseverance of the believers is the persevering God,He enables us to persevere. He keeps refreshing us,and renewing us,and reminding us,and restoring us. And so there is this great principle at work in the book of Daniel and we can’t miss it – trouble stretches ahead but it is measured by God,and it is limited by God,and it won’t be a day too soon,and it won’t be a day too long. And the word comes in verse 13,”Go your way.” Second time go your way,walk God’s way. It is exactly what God said to Elijah when he was really depressed and wanted to give up and God said to him,’Go back. Keep going. Walk the road.’ It is exactly what Jesus says to Peter,when Peter wants to know about somebody else,Jesus just says to him,’Follow me.’ And here in Daniel this is what God says,’Walk the way.’ Walk the way,that’s the way! And when of course you come to the New Testament and Jesus describes himself as The Way,this takes on brand new meaning doesn’t it? Because we discover that Jesus Christ is the way. We discover that Jesus is the way of peace,and the way of usefulness,and the way of safety.
And the final word in the book of Daniel is the message to all God’s people when you’ve walked through a difficult world,but quite short in terms of eternity,you’ll rest and you’ll rise. You’ll rest and you’ll rise,you can write RIP on your gravestone because yes you will rest in peace,but you will also rise in power. CS Lewis finishes the Narnia stories with this little paragraph,and I will finish our series with this little paragraph,he says at the end of the stories,”For us this is the end,but it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world,and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page. Now at last they were beginning chapter one of the great story which no one on earth has read,which goes forever,and in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
Let’s pray,Our heavenly Father we thank you for this remarkable chapter in the Old Testament of your word. We thank you for the glimpse,the very clear,and wonderful glimpse,that we get of the end of the battle,and the resurrection,and the joy. We thank you this morning for the Lord Jesus who has reversed the process of returning to the dust,and has made it possible for people to rise. We ask that you would help us to hold onto your word and to live in the light of your word. And we also thank you this morning for these cryptic but helpful answers to questions,that in the end all the processes of this world,all the difficult processes and all the good processes,are guarded,and guided,and governed by you. And that you completely,sovereignly rule the timing,the days,the details and all the issues. And we pray that as we walk with the Lord Jesus you would help us to keep trusting him and to keep obeying him.
And we look forward,our heavenly Father,to the chapter which will begin face to face. And we ask it in Jesus’ name,Amen.