Sunday, November 27, 2016

Daniel 10: Angels Watching Over Me

Even though we did some combined work on these last 3 chapters, I'm going to break them apart for the purposes of writing. There's a lot to look at, even though all of this happened consecutively. (Thank you, Bible editors, for chapter breaks!)

We are in the time of Persian rule over Babylon. The Jews have been returning to Jerusalem since the time of the takeover. This is year #3 of Persian rule when Daniel receives this particular vision. We are also told that he has been in mourning for 21 days--a fact which doesn't mean much here but has great significance later on in the text.

My big question was "Why is Daniel mourning?" Not just a sadness kind of mourning, but what would seem an intentional time of mourning--denying himself food and wine, and not grooming. Remember, he's hardly a young man anymore. Not bathing for 3 weeks?! Why is he doing this?

"Some think that the particular occasion of his mourning was slothfulness and indifference of many of the Jews, who, though they had liberty to return to their own land, continued still in the land of their captivity, not knowing how to value the privileges offered them; and perhaps it troubled him the more because those that did so justified themselves by the example of Daniel, though they had not that reason to stay behind which he had. Others think that it was because he heard of the obstruction given to the building of the temple by the enemies of the Jews...."
--Matthew Henry

Matthew Henry goes on to comment that mourning accompanies one who so passionately loves the church. Daniel was steadfast in his prayers for his people, in their re-establishment of Jerusalem and the Temple, in their future--even if he would not be joining them. He would certainly want to know what and how to be praying for them.

It is in this time of mourning when Daniel receives a vision of "a certain man dressed in linen." In our group time, I likened him to the Oscar statue, because all the references to gold were overwhelming! But, there is actually some discrepancy as to who this "man" is. We pursued the text with the notion that he was the angel Gabriel. Certain commentaries--Matthew Henry's among them--suggest that the "man" is actually Jesus Christ. Wow, right!?

Can we be OK with not knowing, exactly? I hope so. Because what happens from verse 5 to the end of the chapter is not so much about the affairs of the world as it is about Daniel and his receiving of this word. Whomever he saw completely takes Daniel away from consciousness. God has designed the onset of this vision to be for Daniel's eyes only, somehow removing Daniel's earthly attendants from him.

"Then I heard the sound of his words; and when I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in a deep sleep, with my face toward the ground." (10:9)

Keep in mind these words as we continue on through this description of Daniel. The next voice he hears would not be the same as the one who uttered the words above. “...O Daniel, you highly regarded and greatly beloved man, understand the words that I am about to say to you and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you....” Whatever transfixed state Daniel had previously been in, he was going to be lifted from it with the help of an angel. Here, there is more general agreement that this is the angel Gabriel, as there is an air of familiarity with Gabriel and Daniel since they have encountered each other before.

"Note, Before God gives strength and power unto his people he makes them sensible of their own weakness."
--Matthew Henry

OH, I love this quote! Daniel definitely recognizes that he has been, literally, laid flat in the presence of the man in linen. With Gabriel, he is unsteady and "trembling" (10:11). Daniel may be in the presence of an angel, but he does not immediately receive strength simply by being in his presence. Do you recognize that with your own circumstances? I might have the Word of God open, and be praying and humbled, but that does not mean that I am suddenly strengthened and ready to head off into battle. Most of the time, I'm still pretty down. Not that I don't believe God is at work, but I am in a place in which I recognize my weaknesses--and that's a GOOD thing! Remember, we can do all things IN CHRIST who GIVES US STRENGTH! (Philippians 4:13, slight paraphrase, emphasis mine :-) .)

Gabriel comes to Daniel to encourage and strengthen him. He tells Daniel how greatly he is loved. How can you not be encouraged by hearing how much you are loved! "Highly-regarded," too, is Daniel. And then, those words that fill the pages of Scripture: "Do not be afraid." After all that Daniel had experienced, this vision may be one of the most personally devastating for a good way, which is what may well lead you to believe that the golden man is Christ. God recognizes this, because He knows Daniel's heart so intimately--so, He sends Gabriel to reassure him, twice. And, if that's not enough, the archangel Michael comes along, too!

...Peace be to you; take courage and be strong.” Now when he had spoken to me, I was strengthened....” (10:19)

"When he had spoken to me I was strengthened. Note, God by his word puts life, and strength, and spirit into his people; for if he says, Be strong, power goes along with the word. And, now that Daniel has experienced the efficacy of God’s strengthening word and grace, he is ready for any thing: “Now, Let my lord speak, and I can hear it, I can bear it, and am ready to do according to it, for thou hast strengthened me.”
--Matthew Henry

Don't we wish we could have the assurance of the angel Gabriel, speaking the life-giving words of God to us, every time we have a crisis? Oh, don't we wish we could be as truly committed to everything Daniel had committed himself to in the name of our Lord? I don't think it's impossible, gals. Not that we would have Daniel's calling, but God does call us to something for His Kingdom. When we need to be strengthened in what we're doing, do we remember the Source of our strength? He is the same as the Source of our peace.

At the end of the chapter, we get a glimpse into the spiritual world behind our world. Gabriel explains that he knew of Daniel's prayers, but he was fighting with the spiritual prince of Persia for the past 21 days. Aha! The same amount of time Daniel had been in mourning, praying, the angel Gabriel was carrying on spiritual warfare with a demon of Persia. Angels and demons do not have the same attribute as God to be in multiple places at the same time. Gabriel may have known or have been apprised of Daniel's state, but there wasn't much he could do about it while fighting this battle.

[And, no, I cannot explain the realm of the spirit world. Again, we get but a glimpse, and probably one of the larger glimpses that you'll find in Scripture. Just be careful what you read about the work of angels in places outside of Scripture. Thank Daniel for writing down his experiences and thank God for His preserving that text in His Word!]

Gabriel will continue to speak into Chapter 11, which we will tackle here as a whole next week. But, I can't leave Chapter 10 without a look at this wonderful word:

"Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words." (10:12)

When we want to hear from the angels, when we want to discern God's direction, we need to consider what His humble servant Daniel did. He set his heart on understanding. For Daniel, it was understanding God's will for His people, the future of the Church. He also humbled himself before God. Not just for a day. Really, not just for 21 days. Daniel lived humility! And, he was heard, and to him who was faithful came a response from the Lord.

When you sing "Angels from the Realms of Glory" this Advent season, consider the text from verse 4 of the song, and remember Daniel's vision. We should pray it for our own.

Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear:
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!