Advent Peace – Daniel 8

friarDiscouragement is something we all deal w/ at some level, and disappointment is one of those emotions we would rather avoid. There is a story of a trial that was happening in a small town. During the trial, the prosecuting attorney called his first witness to the stand. She was a grandmotherly, elderly woman. The prosecutor said to her: Mrs. Jones, do you know me? She responded: Why, yes, I do know you, Mr. Williams. I have known you since you were a young boy. And frankly, you have been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, you manipulate people, and talk about them behind their backs. You think you are a rising big shot when you have not the brains to realize you will never amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you. The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked: Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney? She replied: Why, yes I do. I have known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. I used to baby-sit him for his parents. And he, too, has been a real disappointment to me. He is lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. The man cant build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the shadiest in the entire state. Yes, I know him. At this point, the judge rapped the courtroom to silence and called both counselors to the bench. And in a very quiet voice, he whispered: If either of you ask her if she knows me, you will be jailed for contempt![1]

We all carry disappointments w/ us. People do not turn out like we would have hoped. Situations do not add up to the way they should go. Relationships do not live into the promise they start w/. And it is discouraging. It can feel like evil is winning the day. And the problem is that the power of evil brings despair, and feeds it. And for me, I get discouraged. And I find myself constantly praying for peace to be in my friend’s relationships, and brokenness, peace in their hearts, peace in their homes.

Peace is our Advent theme today. And it is timely, isn’t it? Advent is a season on the church calendar where we celebrate the coming of JC, and acknowledge that we are a people in waiting. Waiting for the day when JC will return and restore our world and lives to how they were intended. We are waiting for our messiah to ultimately bring all those advent themes into fullness. This Advent we are looking at the book of Daniel, as a place of dialog b/t our Advent hopes and the realities around us. And today we will look at Daniel 8, so grab a bible and turn it to Daniel 8.

Daniel is one of the prophetic books of the OT. But more accurately it is not so much a prophetic book as it is an apocalyptic book. In fact, it is the only Apocalyptic book in the OT. So what is the difference b/t prophetic writing and apocalyptic writing? One difference is that prophecy speaks from the plain ordinary mundane affairs, while apocalyptic writing speaks in highly symbolic, historical context, where Gods dominion clashes with the powers of evil. Another difference is to say the role of the prophet is to proclaim the word of God so that people repent. Whereas, in apocalyptic writing the role of the writer it to portray a vision of Gods future so that people may find comfort and hope.[2]

 

Text

All of this is seen in Daniel 8. And so lets look at that together. As we do so, ask yourself: Why is the coming of messiah good news?

In the third year of King Belshazzars reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. 2 In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal. 3 I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. 4 I watched the ram as it charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against it, and none could rescue from its power. It did as it pleased and became great.

5 As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between its eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. 6 It came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at it in great rage. 7 I saw it attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering its two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against it; the goat knocked it to the ground and trampled on it, and none could rescue the ram from its power. 8 The goat became very great, but at the height of its power the large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.

9 Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. 10 It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. 11 It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the Lord; it took away the daily sacrifice from the Lord, and his sanctuary was thrown down. 12 Because of rebellion, the Lords people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.

13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him: How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled -the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lords people?

14 He said to me: It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.

15 While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. 16 And I heard a mans voice from the Ulai calling, Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.

17 As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. Son of man, he said to me, understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.

18 While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet.

19 He said: I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end. 20 The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. 21 The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. 22 The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power. 23 In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. 24 He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people.

25 He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.

26 The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future. 27 I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.

In this text we see those characteristics of the apocalyptic genre. This is a highly historical prophesy written in a highly symbolic manner. In vs. 3-4 we see a Ram w/ 2 horns, which is dominating and powerful, defeating everything around it. We are told in the passage that this Ram represents the kingdom of Media and Persia, around 550 BC. This Ram is defeated by a goat in vs. 5-7. We are told in v. 21 that this goat is the Greek Empire, and we can discern that the prominent horn was Alexander the Great (born in 356 BC). The rest of the symbolism is not explained in the text but is clear from history. By 331 BC Alexander’s conquest of Medo-Persia was complete.[3] And in less than a decade his empire stretched from Greece to India. But at the height of his power he died suddenly of a fever,[4] just as it is stated in v. 8. And over time and through infighting, his great kingdom was divided into 4 kingdoms, one of which was the Seleucid Empire, which we read about in vs. 8-12. Under their king, Antiochus IV, this empire invaded Israel in the 2 Century BC. In this invasion, Gods temple was looted, and then replaced worship w/ Greek worship. This is what we read about in v. 11-12. Then in vs. 13-14, the question is posed of when things will be redeemed. This is the longing of advent, to long for redemption, to long for restoration and rescue. Historically we know that this took place in 166 BC when Judas Maccabeus rebelled, and restored the temple in 164 bc.[5]

At this point you might be thanking me for the brief history lesson, but wondering what this means to us. And if this has all been fulfilled then why the angel in v. 19 would say that the vision has to do w/ the appointed time of the end? It is true that historically we can see how this vision was fulfilled. But considering the genre this is written in there is another layer of reality at play. This historical prophecy was lived out in real time. But it is also symbolically being lived out today. It can have a dual meaning, for those in that time and for us today.

So what is the bottom line of the matter? What does this have to do w/ the coming of JC? What does this have to do our advent hopes of peace? In vs. 15-26, the angel explains to Daniel the meaning and relevance of the vision. In that explanation we see all that we have look at so far. But to me the good news of the passage, historically and symbolically, is stated so simply that I overlooked the 1st time around. In the face of all this despair, w/ kingdoms conquering and oppressing other kingdoms and people, the good news is simply stated and so very definite. In v. 23-25, the angel speaks of the fierce king who has beat down Gods people. It says, again:

A fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. 24 He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people. 25 He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.

Did you catch it? “Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.” The great king of evil brings devastation, destroying some of Gods holy people. He causes deceit to prosper, and stands defiantly before the prince of princes, our messiah. That’s the problem we face, the power of evil brings despair, and feeds it. But that’s not the end of the matter. The bottom line comes at the end of v. 25. It says: Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power. The great king of evil will be broken. In other words, God wins. God wins. That is the simple good news of this passage, that the strongest of human kings is broken by Gods power. God wins!

 

Today

But the problem for us is that when we are in the thick of our lives, we miss this simple beautiful message of good news. The power of evil brings despair, and feeds it, and we get discouraged when we do not see movement. We do not live into the good news.

A trivial, yet metaphorical, example of this was just last week. We are all Denver Broncos fans here, so I know this is a safe place to share my loyalty to them. Last week they were playing the New England Patriots, the evil empire of the NFL, if you will. It was an incredible game. Our team was down was 14-7 at halftime, not too encouraging for us Denver fans. But somehow, even w/ our prized quarterback out of the game, by the end of the 4th quarter it looks like we are going to win. But those dirty Patriots, by conjuring up something, tied the game taking it to overtime. In the moment we were all in great despair. Things were not shaping up as we would have hoped. Discouragement was setting in. Evil looked like it was going to win. But that was not the end of the matter. The evil empire was stopped by our defense after 3 plays. Our team then took possession and after a 50 yard run, evil was defeated. Good wins in the end! Now consider what happened to me Monday night. I knew the Broncos had won the game, I had seen the highlights a few times, enjoying seeing the evil empire lose. I knew it was a good game that ended in my teams favor. But on Monday, I stopped in to see a neighbor, who was watching the game for the first time. He was in the midst of the drama of the game, while I knew the end of the story. He was sitting on the edge of his seat watching the end of the 4th quarter, not sure what was going to happen. How different was that moment for him versus me? I knew the end of the story, but he did not. The drama of the moment was not there for me, b/c I knew the outcome of the game. How different it is watching a game when you know how it ends.

Daniel 8 clearly and simply reminds us again of the outcome of the game. God wins. Why is the coming of messiah good news? In Daniel 8 we discover that His coming means that despair is conquered, giving us peace in the midst of the drama of the game. Here we see that the strongest of human kings is broken by Gods power. God wins! And knowing the outcome of the game can give us peace in the midst of our disappointment and discouragement. It does not solve the problem in the moment. But it gives us hope knowing that what we are living is not the end of the story. As one scholar said: The fundamental message of Daniel is that through every circumstance of life, it is possible to live a life of faith and victory w/ Gods help. No matter how severe the persecution, the enemies of God cannot bring an end to His community of believers. God wins! Even in death, Gods people are victorious. All earthly kingdoms and powers are temporary, no matter how impressive they may look at the moment. Ultimately the Son of Man will usher in the eternal kingdom of God.[6] When evil is defeated peace reigns.

God wins so do not give up. Don’t give up. Don’t lose heart. You know the outcome of the game. God wins, so don’t give up!

 

Amen.

 

[1] http://www.snopes.com/legal/grandmacourt.asp

[2] Contours of old testament theology. By Bernhard Anderson. 1999. 302-303.

[3] Miller, S. R. (1994). Daniel (Vol. 18, p. 223). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Miller, S. R. (1994). Daniel (Vol. 18, p. 224). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[5] Widder, W. L. (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015). Daniel, Book of, Critical Issues. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Encountering the Old Testament, by Bill Arnold (1999), p. 432-433

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