Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Son of Man

Part 7 of Our God Reigns

Text: Daniel 7




“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him” (v. 13). 


The End Is Coming

Some people have said that Donald Trump becoming President is a sign of the apocalypse. People have all sorts of ideas about how the world might end (nuclear war, zombies, aliens). It’s true that one day this world as we know it will come to an end. But it won’t be zombies that will bring the world to an end. God is in control, and he will be the one who will put an end to this world as we know it. The book of Daniel can be broken into two parts.

The first half of the book (chapters 1-6) contains stories. The second half of the book (chapters 7-12) contains visions. [1]


Daniel's Nightmare

In Daniel’s vision, he sees “four great beasts [coming] up out of the sea” (v. 3). What is the meaning of these four beasts? Daniel is told that the “four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth” (v. 17). [2] People often try to identify the four kingdoms, [3] but perhaps it’s best to see the kingdoms as simply four kingdoms that will succeed one another.

Daniel is especially curious about the four beast and the little horn. Out of the head of the fourth beast grows “a little [horn],” which has “eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things” (v. 9). Many scholars believe that the little horn is the antichrist. “He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High” (v. 25). But his kingdom, like the other kingdoms of man, will be destroyed.


One Like a Son of Man

When God finally puts an end to the kingdoms of man and establishes his eternal kingdom, he will give authority of that kingdom to someone whom Daniel describes as “one like a son of man” (v. 13). Who is this person? Those of us who are familiar with the Gospels know that Jesus often referred to himself as “the Son of Man.” What does this title mean?

When Daniel describes the person in his vision as “one like a son of man,” he means that the person looks like a man. “Son of man” and “man” are synonymous. For example, Psalm 8:3 says, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” But the “one like a son of man” is obviously more than just a man. In Daniel’s vision, the “one like a son of man” comes “with the clouds of heaven.” In the OT, God is the one who rides on the clouds. “[The LORD] makes the clouds his chariot” (Ps. 104:3). “Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud” (Isa. 19:1). “The clouds are the dust of [the LORD’s] feet” (Nah. 1:3).

When Jesus was questioned by Caiaphas the high priest regarding his true identity, Jesus finally declared, “From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). Jesus was saying, “I am the Son of Man in Daniel’s vision!” [4] What was the high priest’s reaction? He accused Jesus of blasphemy (v. 65). By calling himself the Son of Man, Jesus was claiming to be both human (“one like a son of man”) and divine (“with the clouds of heaven”). 

In the Old Testament prophecies, we often only see the mountain peeks. We see the mountain peek of the Messiah's coming into the world. And we see the mountain peek of the Messiah's reign. What we often don't see is the valley into between those two mountain peeks of prophecy. Jesus' followers were shocked when he was crucified. Before Jesus would come “with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26), he would come as a humble servant. He declared, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).


Remain Faithful

The book of Daniel encourages God’s people to remain faithful. We are sometimes tempted to give up. Why should we remain faithful?
  1. God is in control. 
  2. God loves us. The Son of Man died for us! 
  3. God will have the final victory. The Son of Man will come again!
Before this year, the Chicago Cubs had not won the World Series since 1908 (108 years ago!). But people remained faithful to the Cubs, hoping that each year would be the year the Cubs finally would win. Faithful Cubs fans (including 108 year-old Cubs fan Mabel Ball) were finally rewarded this year with a World Series victory.

We should remain faithful because God has promised (Cubs fans had no guarantee of victory) that one day he will have the final victory. The chaos and evil of this world will come to an end. Jesus will reign. And we will reign with him!

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[1] The genre of Daniel 7-12 (like Revelation) is apocalyptic. Apocalyptic writings are filled with symbols and often difficult to interpret.
[2] The vision of the four beasts is similar to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the great image (Dan. 2).
[3] One popular interpretation is that the four beasts represent Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.
[4] “Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man” (Rev. 14:14; cf. 1:13).nbsp;

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Faith in the Lions' Den

Part 6 of Our God Reigns

Text: Daniel 6:1-28




Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” (v. 16). 


God to the Rescue

The theme of the book of Daniel is the sovereignty of God. “In spite of present appearances, God is in control.” [1] If God is in control, do that mean that God always will rescue his people? No, God doesn't always rescue us. Sometimes we feel like the psalmist when he wrote, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Ps. 10:1).

But sometimes God does rescue his people. Daniel 6 tells the story—a very famous story—of a man who was rescued by God.


Daniel Gets into Trouble

At the end of chapter 5, Babylon was defeated by the Persians (with the help of the Medes). Now “Darius the Mede” (5:31) rules over Babylon. [2] And Daniel—who is now over 80 years old—becomes one of Darius’s favourite people. Darius likes Daniel so much that he plans to “set [Daniel] over the whole kingdom” (v. 3). This causes the other government leaders to become jealous of Daniel—so jealous that they want to get rid of him somehow.

Daniel’s enemies try to dig up some dirt on Daniel. But they (unlike the enemies of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton) can’t find any dirt on Daniel. Finally they say, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God” (v. 5). What an incredible testimony to have!

So Daniel’s enemies trick the king into making a law that they think Daniel won’t obey: “Whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions” (v. 7). What does Daniel do? Does he stop praying to God? No, he continued to pray like he had prayed before—three times a day. [3] After his enemies spy him praying, they report Daniel’s disobedience to the king. Darius realizes that he’s been tricked, but the law can’t be changed. [4] So Daniel is cast into the lions’ den (v. 16).


The Den Was Not the End

If you rearrange the letters of “den,” you can spell “end.” But the den of lions was not the end for Daniel. The king yells to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” (v. 16). And that’s what God did. After a sleepless night, Darius rushes to the lions’ den to see if he’s still alive. [5] He calls to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” (v. 20). Daniel answers, “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me” (v. 22).

The story of Daniel and the lions’ den is very similar to the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. God is able to rescue us from any danger, but he isn’t obligated to rescue us (“But if not,” 3:18). Biblical faith is not confidence in what I think should happen; it’s confidence in God. We are to trust God and do what is right no matter what the outcome might be.


A Rescue for All of Us! 

“For every Daniel, whom God delivers from the lions’ den, there are hundreds of nameless martyrs whom God did not deliver.” [6] When a rescue doesn’t come for us, we can identify with Jesus. He prayed to be rescued from the cross: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me” (Luke 22:42). But he still died.

There are many similarities between Daniel and Jesus. Both Daniel and Jesus had jealous enemies who conspired to have them killed. Both Daniel and Jesus were arrested while at prayer in a private location. Pilate, like Darius did for Daniel, worked for the release of Jesus. But in the end, both Daniel and Jesus were turned over to be executed. Both Daniel and Jesus were put inside a sealed pit. The big difference between the two is that Daniel emerged from the lions’ den without a scratch, while Jesus was dead when his body went into the tomb. The superiority of Jesus over Daniel is that, though Jesus died, he emerged from the tomb alive!

Daniel’s rescue foreshadowed a greater rescue to come—a rescue from the consequences of our sins through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus was not rescued so that you and I could be rescued!

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[1] Tremper Longman III, Daniel, 19.
[2] Skeptics try to discredit the Bible by saying that there is no historical record of “Darius the Mede.” But remember that for many years people said the same thing about Belshazzar.
[3] Does this mean that people who live in a place where it’s illegal to practice Christianity should pray in public? No, description is not necessarily prescription.
[4] According to “the law of the Medes and the Persians” the injunction could not be revoked (v. 8). 
[5] It’s ironic that Darius was the one who had trouble sleeping that night.
[6] Iain M. Duguid, Daniel, 102.
[7] The Jesus Storybook Bible says, “God would keep on rescuing his people. And the time was coming when God would send another brave Hero, like Daniel, who would love God and do what God said—whatever it cost him, even if it meant he would die. And together they would pull off the Greatest Rescue the world has ever known” (159).

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Handwriting on the Wall

Part 5 of Our God Reigns

Text: Daniel 5:1-31




“This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (vv. 26-28). 


The Handwriting Is on the Wall

Did you know that there are about 250 phrases in the King James Bible that are used today in the English language. Here are a few examples:

  • “By the skin of your teeth” (“I am escaped with the skin of my teeth,” Job 19:20 KJV) 
  • “Drop in a bucket” (“the nations are as a drop of a bucket,” Isa. 40:15 KJV) 
  • “Go the extra mile” (“whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain,” Matt. 5:41 KJV) 
  • “How the mighty have fallen” (“how are the mighty fallen,” 2 Sam. 1:19 KJV)
  • “Wit’s end” (“They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end,” Ps. 107:27 KJV) 
  • “Sour grapes” (“The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge,” Jer. 31:29 KJV) 
  • “Feet of clay” (“his feet part of iron and part of clay,” Dan. 2:33 KJV) 
  • “The handwriting is on the wall” (“In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace,” (Dan. 5:5 KJV) 

When we say, “The handwriting is on the wall,” we mean that it looks certain that something bad is about to happen for someone. In Daniel 5, the handwriting on the wall foretold that something bad would happen to a man filled with pride. His name was Belshazzar. [1]


Party Crasher

Belshazzar throws a huge party. History tells us that while Belshazzar was partying, the Persian army was outside the walls of Babylon. Belshazzar realizes that his life could suddenly come to an end. What happens when people realize that their lives will soon come to an end? They feel the need to do something that will make their lives significant. People try to gain significance in three things.

People try to gain significance in achievement. “If I could do something great….” At Belshazzar’s party were symbols of Babylon’s power: “the vessels of gold and silver… taken from the temple in Jerusalem” (v. 2). People try to gain significance in romance. “If I could find someone who would love me….” At Belshazzar’s party were his wives and concubines. People try to gain significance in religion. “If I could gain acceptance with God….” At Belshazzar’s party, he “praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone” (v. 4).

God crashes Belshazzar’s party! “The fingers of a human hand” appear and write on the wall of the king’s palace (v. 5)! And Belshazzar is filled with fear (v. 6).


Found Wanting

Belshazzar was a man filled with pride. He had not learned from the example of Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel says to him, “And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven” (vv. 22-23).

Daniel interprets God’s handwriting on the wall: “MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (vv. 26-28). God’s message to Belshazzar: “You’re not a man of significance.” God had “weighed” (i.e., judged) him and Belshazzar was “found wanting.”

For all of us, the handwriting is on the wall. Our days are “numbered.” When we are “weighed” by God, our sin causes us to be “found wanting.” And our “kingdom” (i.e., all of our possessions) will one day be divided and given to others. How can we gain significance?

Our lives gain significance when we humbly confess our need for God’s grace. The only man who was never “found wanting” was Jesus. And He died for me—I’m significant to God! God loves me! When we put our trust in Jesus, we are given his righteousness—we are no longer “found wanting”! We become a children of God—that’s significance!

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[1] For many years, skeptics didn’t believe that Belshazzar was a real person. “Today we have abundant textual witness [e.g., the Nabonidus cylinder] to the fact that he was the son of Nabonidus. More than that, Belshazzar was coregent and actually in charge of Babylon during his father’s ten-year absence from the capital city, thus explaining the reference to him as king” (Tremper Longman III, Daniel, 135).