This Saturday, February 6, at 10am, The Table is join the Happy Valley Neighborhood Association to Bless the hood w/ a trash clean up. Meet in the parking lot of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church (1720 Harris Ave.). There will be no worship gathering on Sunday, February 7th. Our next worship gathering will be February 14th. Our next worship gathering will be on February 14th.
I read a study this week that involved about 2,000 men and women in the UK b/t the ages of 18 and 30. The study revealed that when it comes to taking photographs, 39% preferred taking pictures of themselves, rather than their family, partner, or pets. The research showed that over half of young people take selfies at least once a week, with 73% of photos going primarily toward social media. By comparison, only 45% used their pictures for online dating profiles and 32% used them to document life events in online diaries and blogs. When the regular selfie-takers were asked how they felt about their appearance and relationships, only a shocking 13% said they felt confident in their own skin, with 60% having low self-esteem. The reasons why any of the subjects posted selfies ranged from capturing the moment when they look their best to communicating their mood instead of updating their profile status, but most common was to get attention from likes and comments. The primary researcher said: For the selfie addicts, it is important to make sure that they do not base all their self-esteem on a few comments or likes on a picture. There is a lot more to a person than their selfie. This study jumped out at me b/c it highlights the fact that we are insecure people. We are broken and desire recognition, and our insecurities seem to dictate many of our actions.
We are now into the 4th week of the season of Epiphany. If you remember by now, in the season of Epiphany we celebrate the presence of Christ in our midst. And we have been asking the question: Now that Messiah is here, what shall we do? And, the answer is Worship. In light of this, we have been examining the different aspects of our worship gatherings. Why do we eat together, or offer prayers and songs, and why we study scripture together? Today we will skim the surface of why we take the Lords Supper every week.
There are 4 primary views about what is present or not in the Lords Supper. I am hoping to offer a simple overview to each, knowing there are more nuances and detail than what I will give. The 1st view is the ROMAN VIEW. The Roman Catholic Church holds that the presence of Christ in the sacrament happens in a physical sense, that the bread and wine literally change into the body and blood of Christ. This is called transubstantiation. This view is based primarily on a literal interpretation of the words of Jesus, when He said: this IS my body. The LUTHERAN VIEW is similar but nuanced. Their view is called consubstantiation. Luther believed that Christ is literally present in the serving of the Lords Supper, but that the bread and wine remain what they are, just bread and wine. They believe that as one receives the bread and cup, it is Jesus Himself who serves it. The whole person of Christ, body and blood, is present in the moment but not in the elements. The 3rd view is the ZWINGLIAN VIEW. The Reformer, Zwingli, denied the bodily presence of Christ in the Lords Supper, and emphasized the Lord’s Supper being a memorial of what Christ did for sinners and as an act of profession of faith. The bread and juice are just bread and juice, and Jesus is present only in one’s faith in Him, so they take communion to remember His work. The final view is the REFORMED VIEW. John Calvin took a middle position to the previous views. Instead of the physical presence, he emphasized the spiritual presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper w/ a deeper significance of the mystical communion which the believer enjoys in it. He saw it as a seal and pledge of what GOD did for the believing participant rather than a pledge of the BELIEVER’S consecration to God. In all of these views, they are asking about the presence of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. So it makes sense for us to consider the presence of Christ in our lives in general.
To do this, lets look at Psalm 102. I see this Psalm as having 4 sections. As we look at the Psalm together, we are going to label the sections, and I hope that will aid us in our discussion of Christ’s presence among us. The 1st section of Psalm 102 is vs. 1-11:
1 Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you. 2 Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. 3 For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. 4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. 5 In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones. 6 I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. 7 I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof. 8 All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse. 9 For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears 10 because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside. 11 My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.
WHAT IS GOING ON AND HOW WOULD YOU SUMMERIZE IT? I would say that in this section we see life w/o Him and His hope. We get a picture of life outside of His presence. There is a plea to be heard, followed by various pictures of desperation. In this section we see the human condition of insecurity.
The 2nd section is vs. 12-17:
12 But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. 13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come. 14 For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity. 15 The nations will fear the name of the Lord, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. 16 For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory. 17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.
WHAT IS GOING ON AND HOW WOULD YOU SUMMERIZE IT? In this section we see who God is, and what He does. We ultimately see the answer to the human condition of insecurity. Here the Psalmist praises of God for His promise of presence and deliverance and sustenance. We see that God is present and moving to deliver.
The 3rd section of the Psalm is vs. 18-22:
18 Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: 19 The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, 20 to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death. 21 So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem 22 when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord.
WHAT IS GOING ON AND HOW WOULD YOU SUMMERIZE IT? In this section we see the answer to the question of: What shall we do? In light of God’s presence, we are to remember the presence and the promises of God. If we are living in the condition of vs. 1-11, of despair and anguish, and believe in the activity of Jesus among us, as seen in vs. 12-17, then we are to build up our faith in Him, by remembering and seizing His promises, and tell the story of His redemption again.
The final section of Psalm 102 is vs. 23-28. If the 1st section showed us our condition w/o God, and the 2nd section proclaims who God is and what He does, and the 3rd section shows us what to do, then WHAT IS GOING ON AND HOW WOULD YOU SUMMERIZE THIS SECTION?
23 In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days. 24 So I said: Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations. 25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. 27 But you remain the same, and your years will never end. 28 The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you.
WHAT IS GOING ON AND HOW WOULD YOU SUMMERIZE IT? In many ways this final section is the Summery of the entire Psalm. v. 23 = vs 1-11, showing us our condition. vs. 24-27 = vs. 12-17, and show us the greatness of God and what He does. And, v 28 = vs. 18-22, showing us how we live in response to God’s presence.
I love this Psalm, b/c it is very real. In it we see that we are broken, flawed and insecure. It confirms what we see in our culture, including the condition of selfie addicts. And in the Psalm we see that God’s response to our condition is His presence. In His presence we are secure. When Jesus uttered the words, “It is finished” and died upon the cross, our security in God was secured. We are secure in His presence.
And so, just as in the Psalm, we respond w/ building our faith. , by telling the story of redemption again, and posturing ourselves to receive His blessings. This is one reason why we take the Lord’s Supper each week, to remember the benefits of Jesus’ work on the cross.
The Heidelberg Catechism is a confession of the Reformed tradition and has helped folks throughout the centuries meditate and build up their faith. In it, it speaks of the Lord’s Supper and asks the question: How does the Lord’s Supper remind you and assure you that you share in Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross and in all his gifts (Q. 75)? Part of the answer states, “First, as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup given to me, so surely his body was offered and broken for me and his blood poured out for me on the cross.” In other words, we are reminded and retell the story of redemption again. Second, it says “that as surely as I receive from the hand of the one who serves, and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, given me as sure signs of Christ’s body and blood, so surely he nourishes and refreshes my soul for eternal life with his crucified body and poured-out blood.” In other words, just as the bread and juice could sustain us physically, in the Lord’s Supper, Jesus also feeds us spiritually, posturing us to receive His blessings again. As we receive the Lords supper, these 2 things happen: we are spiritually fed, and we remember and participate in His work on our behalf. We accept with a believing heart the entire suffering and death of Christ, and, by believing, receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life. In addition to this, we are also united w/ Christ’s body, and are therefore posturing ourselves to live on governed by His Spirit. Hebrews 2:14-15, says: Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil- 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.As we do this together as a community, we also declare that we, as a people, are united under Him. In the Lord’s Supper we celebrate the reality that Jesus is present among us, interceding for us.
The good news is that in His presence we are secure and free. And in His presence we thrive. As we live under His security, our identities reside in Him, not our images of ourselves, our selfies if you will. In Christ, we live in His freedom and peace. So my prayer is that as we participate in the Lord’s Supper, it would allow us to realize His presence among us, and we will be fed.
 Louis Berkhof’s Manual of Christian Doctrine.
Join us this Sunday, January 31, for a worship gathering at the Walters (contact us for directions). We will begin at 5:30pm w/ a shared meal (so bring something to share if you are able). This week we will continue our Epiphany study on worship, looking at the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, asking, “Why do we do this?” Hope to see you then!
Do you remember the story of the cheating marathon runner back in 1991? The headline in the newspaper, when the story broke, read: “Marathoner Loses by a Mustache.” You have heard of people losing or winning races by a nose, but a mustache? Well, in 1991, an Algerian runner named Abbes Tehami entered and won the Brussels Marathon. He won by a long shot, easily defeating all the other racers. But as folks were congratulating him on his victory, they began to wonder where his mustache had gone. It appeared that he had started the race w/ a mustache and ended the race w/o one. Checking eyewitness accounts, it quickly became evident that the mustache belonged to Tehami’s coach. It turns out that his coach had run the first seven-and-a-half miles of the race for Tehami, and then he dropped out of the pack and disappeared into the woods, where he passed off the race number to his pupil. Race officials said they looked about the same, only one had a mustache. Needless to say they did not collect their winnings. These 2 men thought their scheme could win the day, and it did. But, their wisdom did not turn out, and they reaped what they sowed. You wonder what series of events or thinking lead them to that point.
The truth is we all long for fulfillment and recognition. We thirst for enlightenment, like a dry sponge. And if we are not careful, we soak in the easiest or most accessible thing that feeds that fulfillment, and end up receiving a poor substitute that feeds falsehood, and does not satisfy.
We are now in our 3rd week of the church season of Epiphany. In Epiphany we celebrate the presence of Jesus among us. And we have been asking: Now that Messiah is here among us, what shall we do? The answer we have found is Worship. So we have been examining why we do what we do at our worship gatherings. Why do we eat together? Why do we sing songs and offer prayers? And this week we ask: Why do we study God’s word when we gather? We will do so by looking at Psalm 119? My hope is that by examining the various aspects of our worship gatherings we will find our greater authenticity in worship, and we will grow in our relationship w/ Jesus.
Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the entire Bible. It is an acrostic poem that focuses on the 2 things: The transformative role of submission to God’s instruction, and the desperate need for God’s help. Each of the 22 stanzas of this poem offers a meditation on different aspects of God’s word. I want to focus on 3 of these stanzas. But as an introduction, lets look at the 1st 8 verses of Psalm 119. It says:
1 Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. 2 Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart- 3 they do no wrong but follow his ways. 4 You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. 5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! 6 Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands. 7 I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. 8 I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me.
It says how blessed or joyful are those who live according to Gods ways. These folks discover joy, and are blessed w/ integrity because they follow His commands. v. 4 serves as an introduction to the entire Psalm, saying in the NLT: “You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully.” From here, the Psalmist goes on the hash out the various benefits, reasons, and thoughts on following the ways of God. So I would like to offer a sample platter today of Psalm 119, asking: What is gained by studying Gods word?
The 1st stanza on our sample platter is Psalm 119:25-30:
25 I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to your word. 26 I gave an account of my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees. 27 Cause me to understand the way of your precepts, that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds. 28 My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. 29 Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me and teach me your law. 30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws. 31 I hold fast to your statutes, Lord; do not let me be put to shame. 32 I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding.
WHAT IS GAINED FROM STUDYING SCRIPTURE? Here we see the humility of the Psalmist. He is weary, beat down, and full of sorrow. But where does he place his hope? He asks for preservation of his life, clinging to the promises of God found in His word. In the face of weakness, he is asking for strength and understanding of God’s law. He has decided that the answer to his sorrow and weakness is a focus on God’s ways. God’s ways have given him encouragement. He has the empowerment to live rightly, keeping him from deceit and unsatisfying answers. God’s words allow the Psalmist to keep truth, so when deceitful practices present themselves, he is not lead astray, but rather gains understanding. If I were to answer the question, WHAT IS GAINED FROM STUDYING SCRIPTURE, from vs. 25-30, I would say God’s ways offer us empowerment in the midst of sorrow, to keep going while we rest in God’s hope.
The 2nd stanza on our sample platter is 119:33-40. In this stanza we see again how the Psalmist is leaning on Gods help to make it.
33 Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end. 34 Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. 35 Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. 36 Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. 37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. 38 Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared. 39 Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good. 40 How I long for your precepts! In your righteousness preserve my life.
WHAT IS GAINED FROM STUDYING SCRIPTURE? The Psalmist is asking God to help him follow God’s ways. He asks for understanding, so he might live w/ integrity. He asks for help b/c he has found that living as God directs has brought him delight and happiness. vs. 37-40 tells us that God’s word will help him preserve his life, and renew his life. If I were to answer the question, WHAT IS GAINED FROM STUDYING SCRIPTURE, from vs.33-40, I would say that it brings about right living – not b/c we are good boys and girls and follow the rules, but b/c through studying God’s word we get to know Him. We are reminded of His promises and covenant w/ us, and we see His goodness, and as a result we cannot help following His ways. We avoid being seduced by selfish gain (v. 36), receive protection from disgrace, and receive sustenance.
The last stanza on our sample platter is 119:89-96. This stanza again displays the trust of the Psalmist in God, and the benefits of His ways.
89 Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. 90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. 91 Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you. 92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. 93 I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life. 94 Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts. 95 The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes. 96 To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless
WHAT IS GAINED FROM STUDYING SCRIPTURE? Here the Psalmist proclaims the glory of God, declaring the endurance of God’s word. In v. 92, he declared that if he had not delighted in God’s law, he would have died in his affliction and sorrow. On the other side of the coin, in v. 93, he declares that God’s ways not only save him from death, but give life. This is why he cries out for God to save him. If I were to answer the question, WHAT IS GAINED FROM STUDYING SCRIPTURE, from vs. 89-96, I would say Salvation – not that the words save, but the One giving the words. God’s ways bring rescue, both today and in every day living, and also eternally.
So that is our sample platter for Psalm 119. We have seen from that God uses His word to give: Empowerment, Right living, and salvation, both today and forever. Psalm 119:105-112 serves as a good summery statement. It says:
105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. 106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. 107 I have suffered much; preserve my life, Lord, according to your word. 108 Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws. 109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law. 110 The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts. 111 Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. 112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.
God’s word is light on a dark path. He uses it to preserve and give life. v. 109 in the NLT says: “My life constantly hangs in the balance, but I will not stop obeying your instructions.” When danger arises and temptations come, the Psalmist places his hope in God’s ways. God uses His word to allow us to stay focused and not fall into deceit, and uses it to bring life and true enlightenment.
The truth is, that by nature we are thirsty to be enlightened, and by nature we gravitate to the path of least resistance. Our culture today craves information. Cable networks specialize on certain interests or perspectives (ex. The Food network, The Game Show Channel, conservative and liberal news stations, etc.). Social media is full of top 10 lists for everything under the sun – from the 10 favorite Seinfeld quotes, to the top blunders of the NFL season. Social media is full of one sided, unbalanced articles on politics and religion. And then we confidently assert opinions we agree w/ from these sources, as if they are authoritative. We believe more information brings clarity to life, but we tend to gravitate toward information and opinions that we already hold and will affirm our already preconceived notions. If our sister has highlights in her hair, we go to her to see if we should get highlights. If our neighbor has a sweet new Ford pickup, we go to him first and ask him if he would recommend Ford to us. We do not ask the guy fighting hard to get out of debt his opinion about whether we should get a loan for a new boat.
This reminds me of the story of the schoolteacher lost her life savings in a business scheme that had been elaborately explained by a swindler. When her investment disappeared and her dream was shattered, she went to the Better Business Bureau. “Why on earth did you not come to us first?” the official asked. “Did you not know about the Better Business Bureau?” “Oh, yes,” said the lady sadly. “I have always known about you. But I did not come because I was afraid you would tell me not to do it.”
The truth is, that by nature we are thirsty to be enlightened, and gravitate toward the path of least resistance. And often times, we know where the life giving answers lie, but we do not turn there for fear of what it will say. The good news is that God uses His word to bring life and true enlightenment. Placing our hopes in cable news or social media as the source of life will leave us dry. Relying on our own unchecked personal opinions leads to selfishness, at the expense of community, family, and self. The reason we study scripture is b/c God uses it to bring life and real clarity. And true life in God brings down strongholds, and gives freedom
In Epiphany we celebrate the presence of God in our midst. And now that He is here among us we are called to worship Him. An aspect of the worship is orienting us in God’s ways, in God’s word. And, as we are rooted in His word, God reveals Himself to us and we grow to know Him more, which brings empowerment in the face of sorrow. It brings about healthy and wise living. And, it orients us in His hope, His salvation. These are things that cannot be found in ourselves alone, or other information sources. So may we be known as a people of His word, who live out His ways. In midst of a world of false promises, may we be found faithful to the promises of life found in Jesus alone.
 Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 119:33–40). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
The Table is gathering for a worship gathering this Sunday, at the Walters’ (contact us for location details). Starting at 5:30pm, we will begin w/ a shared meal. This week we continue our study of the Psalms, looking at Psalm 119, asking, “Why do we study scripture?”
Invite a friend to either of these events; everyone is welcome!
Epiphany is a season on the church calendar that begins with the commemoration of the magi visit the Christ child. The season of Epiphany is one where we celebrate the presence of Jesus among us. In contrast, during the season of Advent the church is in a posture of expectation for the coming and return of Messiah. Whereas in Epiphany, we celebrate that He is here.
At The Table, this season we are asking the question, “Now what?” Now that Messiah, jesus, is among us, what shall we do. The answer we see is Worship. Now that Christ is living among us, we are called to worship. So during the 5 weeks of Epiphany, we are examining the different aspect of our worship gatherings: eating, singing/praying, studying His word, receiving the Lord’s Supper, and going out w/ a blessing. Our prayer is that we would move and worship with greater authenticity as we walk through this season of Epiphany.
We would love for you to join us in this journey!
The Table will not be gathering on the weekend of December 27th. Our next regular gathering will be on January 3rd, at the Fairhaven Library.
Over the last 3 weeks I have been very anxious about a few different things. The details of these situations do not matter, but I have not had very good emotional boundaries these last 3 weeks. I have been owning things that are not mine. Every time the phone rang my heart would sink, wondering what was going to happen next. I was carrying weight on my shoulders, unnecessarily. I was living like I was responsible to solve these situations, like a little lordling, owning something that was not mine to own. Can you relate to that? Have you ever owned something, metaphorically, that was not yours to own? I think we all have to some degree or another, and as a result we become weary, anxious, and fearful. And this time of year it may feel like we are just trying to get through the season, for our sake or for those who are on our hearts.
So I have been in that spot over the last 3 weeks, during this Advent season. The advent question we have been asking has had some real significance to me. This advent, we have been asking: Why is His coming good news? Why is the birth of our messiah something to celebrate?
We have been asking this question and looking at the latter half of Daniel. Today we are looking at Daniel 10-12, so grab a Bible and turn to Daniel 10. It has seemed fitting to look at this apocalyptic book of the OT in this season of expectation. In Daniel we get visions of the future that were given to help those in despair find hope.
So as we look at Daniel 10, remember that Daniel is in exile, away from his homeland, longing for restoration, and God blesses Daniel and his people w/ this vision. Look at Daniel 10 w/ me, starting in v. 4:
4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like topaz, 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.
All these descriptions show us that this man was heavenly, either an angel of God, or God Himself.
7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. 10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees.
Here Daniel sees this being and is overwhelmed, so much so that he falls to the ground, but Daniel is about to encouraged.
11 He said: Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you. And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.
Daniel fell and this heavenly being picks him up
12 Then he continued: Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 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. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.
These words are encouraging to those who are weary, crying out for God to hear their prayers. This angel says: you are precious and your humble prayers have been heard, and not only heard, but also answered. The angel battled against spiritual darkness to bring the answer of these prayers to Daniel. For those who are weary, know your humble prayers are heard.
15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me: I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak.
Overwhelmed, Daniel was unable to speak. So the angel touches his lips and Daniel confesses his anguish.
17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe. 18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength.
Daniel is weary; his strength is gone, but the angel speaks and Daniel is strengthened. God is encouraging his anxious servant. The angel continues this encouragement and says in v. 19:
19 Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed, he said. Peace! Be strong now; be strong. When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said: Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength. 20 So he said: Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince. 11:1 And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him.)
The Book of Truth, mentioned in v. 21, figuratively refers to Gods plan for Israel and the world, but overall these verses set up the actual message of the vision. Daniel enters the vision weary, anxious, and w/o strength, but in response to each of his shortcomings, the angel enlivens him. When he falls, God picks him up. We he cannot speak, God gives him a voice. When he is weak, God strengthens him. And what an encouragement this would have been. What an encouragement in the moment for those of us who are weary!
The angel has strengthened Daniel so he can now receive the meaning of the message, which comes in chapters 11-12. In chapter 11, the angel gives Daniel a series of historical visions. If you remember from a couple weeks ago, we saw a vision that included Alexander the great and how his empire was divided into 4 kingdoms after his death. In chapter 11, many scholars believe vs. 2-20 have to do w/ a conflict b/t 2 of those kingdoms. These scholars believe that vs. 21-35 have to do w/ the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV, who looted the temple in Jerusalem, and set up Greek worship there. Then somewhere b/t 11:21-12:2, the vision transitions from Antiochus IV to antichrist and the end of the age.
Daniel 11:36-12:13, I believe, is the meat of this final vision given to Daniel. This angel of God has strengthened the exile Daniel so he could hear these words of encouragement. The king in these verses refers to the antichrist at the end of the age.
11:36 The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. 37 He will show no regard for the gods of his ancestors or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all.
This anti-Christ will blaspheme God, believing he is greater that God and anything. He is the opposite of the humility we saw in Daniel.
38 Instead of them, he will honor a god of fortresses; a god unknown to his ancestors he will honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts.
Honoring a god of fortress, means that the only thing he has regard for is military power and might
39 He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god and will greatly honor those who acknowledge him.
In other words he is making attacks against God Himself
He will make them rulers over many people and will distribute the land at a price. 40 At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships.
The kings of north and south simply represent the alliances of nations at the end of time
He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood. 41 He will also invade the Beautiful Land [The Promised Land]. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. 42 He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape. 43 He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Cushites in submission. 44 But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many. 45 He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.
- 45 is basically saying that at the very end of the antichrist will he sets himself up as God, but that will be the end of him. God wins.
The vision continues in chapter 12.
12:1 At that time Michael, 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.
Given to a people in exile v. 1 says, at that time Michael will arise, and Gods people will be rescued. What good news to those who are weary and anxious – freedom from oppression, Freedom from anxiety and the unknown.
2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
This is one of the only blatant references to the resurrection of the dead in the OT. And it speak to the final judgment, when things will be made right again and the righteous will shine – again, good news to the weary. In the remaining verses, Daniel dialogs about the timing of the end of time. And typical to apocalyptic writing, it happens in highly symbolic language. But the bottom line about that is in v. 9, where it says the answer of timing is sealed up. We are reminded of the words of JC in Matthew 24:36, when He said: But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. The angel concludes his vision to Daniel w/ another encouragement, saying in v. 13, As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance. To a weary exile, the angel encourages Daniel to keep truckin. To the tired exile, the angel gives a promise of rest. To the foreigner living away from home, the angel promises life and inheritance.
In chapter 10, Daniel is strengthened after his weariness to that he can properly receive the vision for his people and for us. The good news is that God is Lord. He is sovereign and powerful. And, this sovereign God rescues the faithful, lifting them into salvation. What an incredible message to those in exile!
The problem however for those living in exile is the problem of waiting. Waiting is one of my biggest pet peeves. 12:13 tells Daniel to go his way, to live w/ purpose, to live in humility, and live in hope of the coming of messiah. It was only after waiting w/ purpose that he received the rest and inheritance promised to him. But waiting is something we are not good at. And so we live as little lordlings, trying to create solutions on our own. We have imaginary conversations in our minds, imagining uncounted scenarios of how things could play out. As a result, we become weary, and anxious, even fearful, living as a lordling over property we do not own. This was my issue these last 3 weeks. I was living like a little lordling, emotionally owning things that were not mine to own. As I wait for the Lord to move in these anxious situations, I worried, paced the floor, waiting for the next disaster. Not waiting in confidence in the sovereign God. Can you relate to this? Much of the greater church does not help. Instead of calling Gods people to focus on messiah and growing in Christ-likeness, we are often given tips on healthy living. Instead of calling Gods people to humble ourselves before the Lord of the universe, we are encouraged to be better lordlings of lands that are not ours to own. And so in all of this we find ourselves weary, anxious, and fearful. That is how I have felt these last 3 weeks. And so you can see why this advent’s question has been personal for me.
This advent we are asking: Why is His coming good news? In the face of my feelings of anxiety, why is the coming of messiah reason to celebrate? And in the face of it all I rest in Daniel 12:1: But at that time, your people will be delivered. The good news is that the powerful God of the universe, who is greater than anything you face, that God rescues the faithful, lifting them into salvation, giving them rest, and a peaceful inheritance. That is good news.
So what shall we do? Here, we are invited to rest in His lordship, and not settle for lame answers. 2 Peter 3 says: But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. And asks: What kind of people ought you to be? And answers: You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. My last 3 weeks have been tiring. Its exhausting being a little lordling, owning other peoples stuff. The good news is that HE is Lord, not me. I can do what I can do for my friends, w/ His help, but I am not called to own what is not mine; it’s tiring. I would rather rest in the knowledge of knowing that He Lord, that He is working for the good of my friends, and will call me to help. But He is Lord, not me.
So, may we be found as 2 Peter says: Looking forward to the coming of messiah, making every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with God, not being carried away, but growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
 Miller, S. R. (1994). Daniel (Vol. 18, p. 289). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Join us this Sunday at 5:30pm at the Fairhaven Library (1117 12th St) as we celebrate the 4th week of Advent, w/ a theme of joy. We’ll start w/ a shared meal (so bring something to share if you’re able). From there we’ll pray, sing, and continue our study of the book of Daniel. This week we’re in Daniel 10-12, asking why is the coming of Christ good news?
Invite a friend, everyone is welcome!