Coram Christo


Daniel 10:1-21

Please turn with me to Daniel 10. This is the introduction to the seventh and final vision that Daniel records for us. We are to view chapters 10, 11 and 12 as a unit. Chapter 10 is a prelude to the vision. Chapter 11 is the vision of the great war only alluded to in tonight’s passage. Chapter 12 serves as a conclusion of sorts.

As I pondered how to preach chapter 10 I asked myself what is being stressed here and what is unique? So I read and re-read and I compared and contrasted this vision with the reporting of the previous six. What I discovered was that 4 to 5 times as much attention is devoted to the physical and psychological impact that this Messenger has on him. In most of his visions Daniel says nothing about its physical and psychological impact on him. In two previous visions he will say something like “I was terrified and fell prostrate,” or “I was exhausted and lay ill,” and that is all. In chapter 10 we are given 8-10 references to the physical/psychological trauma that Daniel feel in the presence of this Messenger. Because of this emphasis, I conclude that the Messenger is really the message of this chapter.

Daniel 10 is much like many other places in the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation it does not satisfy our curiosity about all the questions it raises such as the identity of the prince of the Persian kingdom or the identity of Michael whom we assume is the same archangel mentioned in the book of Jude. It simply mentions names like these and either assumes we know who they are or it doesn’t care if we know who they are. I’m going to leave those interesting but peripheral details alone and concentrate on the Messenger and His impact on Daniel.

Who is this Messenger? It is generally accepted that this Person who appears to Daniel is none other than the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ, a theophany or Christophany. The strongest argument for that is the striking similarity between the description found here in verses 5 and 6 and that of our risen conquering King in Rev. 1:13-16. I’ll mention some of that later.

Daniel finds himself in the traumatizing presence of the pre-incarnate Christ, Coram Christo. Follow along as I read and notice the many references to his physical and psychological agony to this awe-ful figure speaking to him.

Read Daniel 10.

What is the most important thing about us as an individual, as a church? This is A.W. Tozer:

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us….because worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God…For this reason the gravest question before the church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them an undimmed and undiminished noble concept of God.”

All that Tozer says about God in general can of course be said of the Lord Jesus Christ as well. Unconsciously we tend to reduce the exalted Christ to manageable terms. “We want to get Him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him. We want a God we can in some measure control.” A.W. Tozer The perimeter of our concept of Christ must be continually pushed out further and further until our little minds have the most exalted, lofty, noble, worthy and biblical vision of Him that it can hold.

Before we begin considering what this passage reveals about the pre-incarnate Christ, let me say a few things to orient us to the description words Daniel uses again I quote from Tozer. “We learn by using what we already know as a bridge to what we do not know. The biblical writers were compelled to use a great many ‘like’ words to make them understood. When the scripture would acquaint us with something that lies beyond the field of our knowledge, it tells us that this thing is like something we already know.” And so it is with Daniel and his vision of Christ. We read His body was ‘like’ this, His garb was ‘like’ this, His voice and eyes and face are ‘like’ this. He uses objects that his readers would be familiar with to describe the unfamiliar to them.

So, let’s begin. What does this vision disclose of the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ? The Lord tells us something of Himself by His dress, by His body description, by His voice and by His location. Daniel 12:6,7

  1. His dress.

Our dress says something about us. We communicate something to others by how we dress. A clown dresses a certain way, oversized shoes, bright, loud colors, big hair, large, ball shaped nose. Why, to convey humor and to create a jovial mood and aura, to entertain. A prostitute dresses a certain way to seduce and allure men. A speed skater dresses a certain way to pierce the wind in order to get around the track faster. A bride and groom dress a certain way on their most important day. Our dress says something about who we are and what we do and to what occasion we are attending.

Here we are told He is “…dressed in linen with a belt of the finest gold around His waist.” 10:5. The garments of the Priests were made of fine twisted linen we are told in Exodus to set them apart from the others. We are told that the priests were to dress this way for dignity and honor. His clothing was meant to impress upon Daniel that he is in the presence of Dignity with a capital D, Honor with a capital H, Importance with a capital I.

Years ago when I moved to Minneapolis on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ our leadership team, John and Chris Sather, had two small children at the time. Ryan was three and one-half and Claire was under a year. John and Chris were getting out for a much needed date and they asked Ryan’s godmother to baby sit for them that evening. Claire was quite easy to manage. She was very compliant and did everything that Mrs. Walters, the godmother, wanted her to do. However, Ryan, was I suppose we may say a typical three and one-half year old boy. Rambunctious, had his own agenda and gave Mrs. Walters a hard time. It came time for the bath and to wash his hair. He protested violently. She decided that before using any type of corporal punishment or the threat thereof to use her old trade of pulling out the card of, “Do you know that I am your godmother?” Once she said that to Ryan in the bathroom he proceeded to take off his clothes, get into the bath and he was all compliance. She could wash his hair and do whatever she wanted and when the bath was over he got his p.j.’s on and went swiftly to bed. She thought, “Wow, I’m going to have to use that again!” Later on when Chris and John came home they checked on the children and found that Ryan wasn’t sleeping. Chris asked, “Why aren’t you sleeping?” Ryan with big eyes looked at his mother and said, “Mom, did you know Mrs. Walters was God’s mother?” From the moment he understood who she was he was all compliance, he was all submission.

Daniel is face to face with One of utmost dignity and honor. His clothes tell us so. We are in the presence of One of utmost dignity and honor and one of our first responses should be submission whatever He demands.

  1. He tells us something of Himself by His body description (body, face, eyes, arms & legs).
  1. “His body was like chrysolite,” v. 6. We read in Rev. 21 that chrysolite was one of the 12 precious stones used to adorn the city wall of the New Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem will be perfect in every way! The saints will be perfected and all other living creatures will be perfect. The Lord is perfecting a glorious place for Himself to dwell in the midst of His people for eternity. Chrysolite, or at least something that appears like chrysolite, is being used to adorn the stately walls of the perfected City of God. He uses only the choicest of all He has created to adorn the city walls and here in our text the Lord’s body appears like chrysolite.

    What makes a stone precious? What makes one stone more precious than another? No doubt its inate beauty enhanced by rarity drives its desirability and worth up and up. Whatever chrysolite looks like it is meant, here, to convey beauty perhaps spectacularly beauty.

    One winter evening I was driving home to Minneapolis from Fargo, North Dakota on the highway. All of a sudden I noticed cars in front of me pulling over and stopping. Some even getting out their cars and I thought maybe an ambulance was coming and I looked behind to see and saw no ambulance but something up here in the corner of my eye caught my attention. I looked again and I had to pull over like the rest of the cars and get out and see what this thing was in the sky. What I saw were rainbow colors, brilliant, vibrant colors dancing as it were and filling one-third of the sky, arresting everybody that noticed. Spectacular, spell binding beauty the Northern Lights of course. I had heard people talk of the Northern Lights but I had never seen the Northern Lights before until that evening. No description matched what I saw that evening.

    Daniel is face to face with One of spell binding beauty! Beloved, we live and move and have our being in the presence of One with spell binding beauty! One of our first natural reactions should be to pull over, park and adore. His body was like chrysolite.

  2. His face was “like lightning,” Rev. 1 says it was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. Just as water is used by every culture for cleansing so lightning is universally understood to convey terror. Fierce terror. Anybody who has been caught in a thunderstorm or has seen lightning strike nearby knows exactly what I mean, terror.

    As a 7th and 8th grader I picked cherries for my summer employment in upstate New York. Big thunder storms in upstate New York in the early summer. My good friend David Johnson and I were dropped off every morning by his father who had to be at work early so were the first ones in the orchard. We saw a storm gathering, we were pushing our bikes up the orchard hill and the storm was nearing. We heard the thunder and saw the bolts and the bolts appearing sooner and sooner after the thunderclap building a dreadful anticipation in our hearts. Then suddenly this oversized bolt etched through the sky we stopped dead in our tracks, looked at each other as if we were about to die and the next thing I knew we were face down on the ground. Amazed that we were still alive, terrified that we were still alive. I have never done anything as fast in my life as hit the ground. Nobody had to tell me, “Rick, you might want to think about taking cover now.” There’s a storm coming and the body just took over.

    This picture of the Lord’s lightning face conveys fierce terror! Not only do we live and move and have our being in the presence of One of spellbinding beauty, but One of fierce terror and one of our first reactions must be reverence! His face was like lightning……..

  3. His eyes are “like flaming torches,” (blazing fire, Rev. 1) Torches, of course, are used to give light to see by. The larger the flame the more can be seen, these are ‘flaming torches’ all meant to give the impression of all seeing and penetrating insight. When these flaming torches peer into us, we can hide nothing from them, it is futile even to try. His light exposes our darkness – our dark thoughts, dark deeds done in secret that if they become known we shrink in shame and cower in guilt and embarrassment – to say we are made painfully uncomfortable by these flaming torches would be a gross understatement.

    We think our thoughts, we speak our words and do our deeds in the penetrating presence of these flaming torches and one of our natural responses is to give careful thought to all of our ways.

  4. His arms and legs are “like the gleam of burnished bronze,” (Rev. 1 states the feet are like bronze glowing in a furnace.)

    While never having seen “the gleam of burnished bronze” or “bronze gleaming in a furnace,” it is safe to assume they are meant to depict brightness, brilliance perhaps even hint of unapproachable light. Light that makes you shield your eyes and stop you where you are and come no closer.

    Maybe you remember that scene where Jimmy Stewart’s character in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” where he used light bulbs in his camera, flashing them to temporarily blind his assailant. When the light bulbs flashed the assailant covered his eyes, disoriented, and could move no closer until his sight returned only to be blinded again by another flash.

    The Lord of glory dwells in unapproachable light the Scripture says and one of our responses is to respect the distance between us. We approach Him and know Him only as He permits, as He wills and discloses Himself to us. His garments and His body description are meant to tell us something of the One we worship and so is His voice.

  1. His voice is “like the sound of a multitude,” (Rev. like the sound of rushing waters)

A multitude of what we wonder? We are not told. The corresponding picture in Revelation is that His voice is “like the sound of rushing waters” perhaps what is meant is the sound of a multitude of waters, Niagara-like. All of this gives the impression of volume and power and authority.

I grew up two and one-half hours from Niagara Falls and one cannot get close to the falls and see and feel the vast multitudes of rushing water plummet hundreds of feet to the rocks below without a sense of raw, unharnessed power. The volume itself reverberates within our chest. If you have been there, you have felt it. This is an all powerful authoritative commanding voice. When this Voice speaks, it cannot be ignored, it cannot be talked over, and it cannot be bargained with nor argued against. When this Voice speaks, there is only one correct response – instant obedience!

  1. Finally, His location is also suggestive. We did not get that in our text. We find out at the end, in chapter 12, that this figure is “suspended above the waters”, vv. 6-7, while those he is speaking with are on the river bank, He Himself is “suspended above the waters.”

He is over all, not on the same level as the creatures He has made. In short, He alone is sovereign. If this book is about anything, it is about the unchallenged sovereignty of God. We have been seeing that on every page.

So what we have before us is a composite of utmost dignity and honor, spellbinding beauty, fiercesome terror, with all seeing penetrating eyes, who alone dwells in unapproachable light, who speaks with a commanding voice ruling over all He has made. That is what Daniel sees. How are we to respond to this revelation of who Christ is in all His glory?

Consider the impact on Daniel, but before Daniel, let’s consider the impact on the men who were with Daniel at the time of the revelation. We read in v. 7 “…such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves.” These men, these grown men, however many there were, ran for their lives. They never even saw Him! They never saw the vision and they ran for their lives. They didn’t even know what they were running from.
Here they are on the 24th day of the first month on the bank of this great river, the Tigris, when suddenly an awful dread descends and invades their space seizing them and crippling them with inescapable terror. What could make these grown men run like third grade school boys from a haunted house? Coram Christo Horror, Christ the All Terrible!

Now note the impact on Daniel, godly Daniel, holy Daniel, highly esteemed Daniel! “I had no strength left,” v. 8, “my face turned deathly pale,” v. 8, “I was helpless,” v. 9, “trembling on my hands and knees,” v. 10, “speechless,” v. 15, “overcome with anguish,” v. 16, “helpless,” v. 16, “My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.” v. 17 The sum total of all that Daniel saw was not one of eye popping, jaw dropping wonder at the glorious Christ but fear and trauma. When we set before us this picture of the second Person of the Holy Trinity our responses will be, they must be, submission,, reverence, and obedience.

Just like Jill’s was when she found herself Coram Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ book “The Silver Chair.” Jill is a friend of Eustace who is the cousin of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. I’ll pick up reading just after she finds herself in Narnia for the first time, separated from Eustace who has been there before, exceedingly thirsty and confronted by a talking lion.

“If I run away, it’ll be after me in a moment,” thought Jill. “And if I go on, I shall run straight into its mouth.” Anyways, she couldn’t have moved if she had tried, and she couldn’t take her eyes off it. How long this lasted, she could not be sure; it seemed like hours. And the thirst became so bad that she almost felt she would not mind being eaten by the Lion if only she could be sure of getting a mouthful of water first.

“If you’re thirsty, you may drink.”

They were the first words she had heard. For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, “If you are thirsty, come and drink,” and of course she remembered what Eustace had said about animals talking in that other world, and realized that it was the Lion speaking. Anyway, she had seen its lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man’s. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way.

“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion. “I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill. “Then drink,” said the Lion.
“May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic. “Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?” “I make no promise,” said the Lion. Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer. “Do you eat girls?” she said.

“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were anger. It just said it.

“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill. “Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion. “Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.” “There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion—no one who had seen his stern face could do that—and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, began scooping up water in her hand. You didn’t need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once. Before she tasted it she had been intending to make a dash away from the Lion the moment she had finished. Now, she realized that this would be on the whole the most dangerous thing of all. She got up and stood there with her lips still wet from drinking.

“Come here,” said the Lion. And she had to. She was almost between its front paws now, looking straight into its face. But she couldn’t stand that for long; she dropped her eyes.

Submission, reverence, obedience.

Jesus is a friend of sinners we relish that truth but He is more than just a friend of sinners. He swallows girls and boys, men and women, kings and emperors, cities and realms and He does so without apology and without explanation.

When we set this Christ before us there will be—there must be—more trembling and intense silence, more fear and reverence and more unquestioning speedy obedience in our living and worship. Until we do our worship will always be stunted.

We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them an undimmed and undiminished noble concept of Christ.

We owe it to our children—we owe it to ourselves—but most importantly, we owe it to the One suspended above the Tigris river.

Amen!