Thursday, November 10, 2016

Daniel 8: Carrying on the King's business

As we begin our look into Daniel 8, we need to remind ourselves about the language in which this book was written. There was that point, getting into Chapter 2, when the book switches from Hebrew to Aramaic--thus, the emphasis of the content being more driven to a Gentile audience. Here, in Chapter 8 and throughout the rest of the book, Daniel reverts back to writing in Hebrew--and so, the message contained here and for the remainder of the book is largely for a Jewish audience. We will read many things about the various kingdoms of the world, but the implications of the events and future happenings were meant to resonate with the Jews.

Why is there all this turmoil at this time? Why is everyone trying to take over the world? This has been a question in the last couple weeks within my group. Honestly, I'm not sure things are that much different today. In our lifetime--even in the lives of those most senior in our families--hasn't there always been someone looking to have "one/new world order"? Conquering the world was a reasonable goal for certain folks. It was Alexander the Great's full-time vocation!

Alexander studied under Aristotle. His father, Philip, was a great reformer of Greece, in that he conquered large areas of Macedonia (northern Greece) and updated the military with the latest equipment. Alexander came up as his natural successor and completely dominated the world map for a bit. Nebuchadnezzar's situation in Babylon was similar, although he didn't conquer as much and his kin didn't fare as well either. Alexander was "two" strong for the Medes and Persians, who could not hold their own alone or together (thus, the splitting of the ram's horns so soundly by Alexander's goat). When Alexander died (at 33)--leaving his entire kingdom to four generals who became kings [Note to better think things out in the will!]--Antiochus, the "little horn" would emerge from the goat's Syrian domain with the same determination to conquer but with a much more evil intent.

That's the short summary of the world scene with some of Daniel's received imagery thrown into the mix. Would that be frightening to you? Even though he received an interpretation, Daniel still didn't know the time all of this would begin nor who the actual players were. It covers a couple hundred years of history! The Medes and Persians rule for 100+ years. (Esther isn't made queen in Persia until 478 B.C., and Nehemiah doesn't try to get support from the Persians to help rebuild Jerusalem for 30 years after that.) Alexander the Great is present in the early 300 B.C. years. World conflict exists for a long time on a major scale--and then Jesus comes!

"The Jewish church, from its beginning, had been all along, more or less, blessed with prophets, men divinely inspired to explain God’s mind to them in his providences and give them some prospect of what was coming upon them; but, soon after Ezra’s time, divine inspiration ceased, and there was no more any prophet till the gospel day dawned."
--Matthew Henry

It must seem like I'm digressing a bit, but I think it helps us step into Daniel's head as we read about what he experienced. God gave him this vision--a 2nd vision--to explain the course of human events, especially as it pertained to his people, the Jews. This gives us perspective on God's hand in the events of the world (i.e., "I DID tell you this would happen") and how monumental a time the arrival of Christ into the darkness of world domination should have been. Something to think about as we get ready to celebrate Advent shortly!

"They are not expressly named, or prophecies must not be too plain; but they are here so described that it would be easy for those who understood scripture-language to know who were meant; and the Jews, having notice of this before, might be awakened to prepare themselves and their children beforehand for these suffering trying times."
--Matthew Henry

Most of what we read is now familiar; the images in the vision have changed. Statue-Beast-Ram/Goat/Horns are all pointing to the shifting in power. But, the description of the "little horn" becomes something to look at more intently, especially as it relates to the Jewish people. The horn itself grew "toward the Beautiful Land" which your Bible may have identified as Palestine--which, a long, long time ago used to be called Canaan, aka "the Promised Land." As mentioned a bit ago, this is the rise of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, which means "the illustrious," says Matthew Henry. But, some folks called him Antiochus Epimanes ("the furious"). He ruled in the Syrian part of Alexander's empire, which contained Palestine.

Antiochus had it in for the Jews, and verses 8:10-14 speak of the things he would do to the people of God, not the least of which was that he [it] "magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the host." This is the direct opposite of what Jesus says of His relationship to God in Philippians 2:6--"...Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage."

Keep in mind that the Temple had been completely rebuilt, but Antiochus took the daily sacrifice away.

"No doubt he took away all other sacrifices, but only the daily sacrifice is mentioned, because that was the greatest loss of all, for in that they kept up their constant communion with God."
--Matthew Henry

He would desecrate the Temple in 168 B.C. All of this to gain control of more land (and beat the Romans to it) by unifying all of his territories to a single cultural, social and religious framework and mindset. The Temple funded his military. But, when the Roman Empire threatened, Antiochus backed off, and he beefed up his rule and aggression of his own kingdom. Internal rebellion at the hands of those he appointed led to Antiochus killing thousands of Jews and abolishing Judaism. (Facts from My Jewish

I know, we're getting away from Daniel, right? But, we aren't, really, because this was the vision he was told to keep "secret, for it pertains to many days in the future." (8:37) As horrible as the future looks, God is giving His people that look. What a gift! Which is why we wonder if God still speaks to us through prophecy. Will someone in our future look back and say our times are a fulfillment of x? [I know; some are already talking like that, right? Pray, ladies! Pray before going there....]

There's a really important phrase to pull out in the midst of this--"And on account of transgression the host will be given over to the horn...." (8:12a, emphasis mine)

"God would not have permitted it if his people had not provoked him to do so. It is by reason of transgression, the transgression of Israel, to correct them for that, that Antiochus is employed to give them all this trouble. Note, When the pleasant land and all its pleasant things are laid waste, it must be acknowledged that sin is the procuring cause of all the desolation."
--Matthew Henry

As difficult as it was to hear of the little horn's work, how sorrowful for Daniel to hear that the transgression stems from the people themselves. Have you worked for a cause for yourself or for others only to see things fail because of your own doing or the sins of the group? God's discipline takes various forms. Remember that this discipline, via Antiochus, comes after 70 years of captivity. After all the prophets had spoken.

Not that Antiochus was simply a pawn. He met his own discipline from God when he was struck with a bowel disease (worms; dropping flesh; stench; UGH!) and said, "It is meet [suitable, proper] to submit to God, and for man who is mortal not to set himself in competition with God." (Ussher’s Annals, A.M. 3840, about 160 years before the birth of Christ)

Again, is it any wonder "...Daniel was exhausted and sick for days"? (8:27a) A most difficult vision regarding his people. The presence of an angel--Gabriel, of all the angels!--to deliver the message. Hearing the voice of God (8:16). And then being told to keep things under wraps.

"Then I got up again and carried on the king's business; but I was astounded at the vision, and there was none to explain it." (8:28)

We may be astounded by the works of God. We may be at a loss to explain why things are happening the way they are. We may have received a word from God that forthtells some difficult times in our future. We may be exhausted and sick for days of what life looks like. What do we learn from Daniel? We get up again and carry on the business of the king.

Let's go, gals!....