Kingdoms in Conflict


Daniel 11:2-35

Please turn with me to Daniel Chapter 11.  We’ll be reading verses 2-35.  We are to view Chapters 10, 11 and 12 as a unit; they comprise his seventh and final vision.  Chapter 10 is a prelude of sorts to the message of the vision, Chapter 11 is the message proper and Chapter 12 functions as a conclusion.

Last time I pointed out that in Chapter 10 we were given four to five times the amount of verses devoted to the physical and psychological impact the Messenger had on Daniel and because of that I concluded the Messenger was being emphasized or the Messenger was the message of Chapter 10.

It has generally been accepted that this Messenger was none other than the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ.  Daniel had a theophany or a Christophany and found himself traumatized in the presence of the second person of the Holy Trinity.  He found himself Coram Christo.  We spent our time considering what the pre-incarnate Lord was revealing about Himself by His clothing, body descriptions, voice and where He was located—suspended above the earth.

I concluded that what we had set before us was a composite of a Person with 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 had made.  No wonder Daniel was traumatized!

What will this Messenger tell Daniel?  He will tell him about two critical moments, moments of crisis, still future to God’s people.  The first one is ushered in by a despotic ruler from the North, we know him as Antiochus IV or (A. Epiphanes), and the second crisis is ushered in by the antichrist.  We’ll consider that at another time.  Tonight we address the first crisis and the events that led up to it.  Follow along as I read Daniel 11:2-35 and note how elaborate and detailed this predictive prophesy is.

Read and pray.

Joseph J. Ellis begins his Pulitzer Prize winning book entitled “Founding Brothers” with the first chapter devoted to “The Duel”. The most succinct version of the story might go like this:

“On the morning of July 11, 1804, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton were rowed across the Hudson River in separate boats to a secluded spot near Weehawken, New Jersey. There, in accord with the customs of the code duello, they exchanged pistol shots at ten paces. Hamilton was struck on his right side and died the following day. Though unhurt, Burr found that his reputation suffered an equally fatal wound. In this, the most famous duel in American history, both participants were casualties.”

Let me offer a more succinct version of this prophecy supplying a few dates and names.  Between the years 530 and 164 B.C. power will shift between various kingdoms several times.  But eventually two superpowers will emerge and vie for domination.  One of those empires will locate North in Syria and be known as the Seleucid dynasty, the other will locate South in Egypt and be known as the Ptolemy dynasty.  Each of these two empires will combat and wrest power from one another for nearly 200 years.

The Lord’s people living in Palestine will be caught in the middle and find themselves subject to both.  Times will become increasingly hostile for them especially when a ‘contemptible ruler from the North’ known as Antiochus Epiphanes, frustrated by his inability to successfully invade, plunder and subjugate the Southern Kingdom, will vent his full anger on God’s people desecrating her temple, overthrowing her religious laws, humiliating, persecuting and slaying her inhabitants—some of the Lord’s people will accommodate to the times and abandon their faith—but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.

When we pause to consider how succinctly and generally this prophecy could have been told, we marvel at how elaborately detailed it was foretold.  It is as though the Lord wants to flex His predictive prophesy muscles!  “Yes, I could have disclosed all of this to you much more briefly and unspecifically, but I want to get an even greater name for Myself when it all comes to pass, right on down to the minute details.”

Fulfilled prediction of history is of course 20/20.  We can plug in name after name and place after place.  We could mention such notables as Darius and Xerxes, who would take Esther to be his queen, as well as Alexander the Great and Cleopatra the first, right on down to Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) and many, many lesser notables.  In fact, this prophecy is so full and fat, so specific and detailed that some interpreters are convinced that it had to be written after the events took place.  In his “Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books,” C.H. Bullock said, “The explicit nature of this prophecy, detailing historical personalities and events, is unmatched by any other Old Testament predictions, thus causing many interpreters to view it as written under the guise of prediction after the events had occurred.”  These critics say that an unknown author, claiming to be Daniel, wrote this around 165 B.C. in order to pluck up Jewish hearts during Antiochus’ persecution.

There is a lot at stake surrounding the questions who wrote the book and when.  Was it Daniel, living between 620-530 B.C. before the events occurred, or an imposter writing after the events approximately 165 B.C.?  The reliability, inspiration, and authenticity of the Scriptures is at stake!

But there is no good reason to doubt the authenticity of the Book of Daniel.  Critics doubt Daniel, not because of inherent inconsistencies and contradictions, though it has its difficulties to be sure.  They doubt it due to their a priori commitment that denies the supernatural.  They approach this book from a position of doubt that is they have placed themselves with human reasoning in the seat of judgment over this book.  They decide what from this book has value and what should be pitched.

We, on the other hand, approach this book from a commitment of faith.  We believe that this book is all that it claims to be, the very words of God.  We do not sit in judgment of it, rather it judges us and we seek to conform our beliefs and behavior around its teaching.  Christians are often accused of taking a “leap of faith” in order to believe in God, the Bible and the supernatural.  But I want to say that to deny the supernatural takes an even greater leap of faith!  Consider this brief formula: 

  1. Something exists.
  2. Nothing cannot produce something (you have to start with something to produce something).
  3. Therefore, something must have eternally existed.

 

Philosophers have been debating over what is that “something”?  There are two choices, a Personal Being or a non-personal entity, matter or gas.  Which of the two best explains us and the world we live in?  We know that like begets like.  Non-personal matter could never produce personal beings, non-rational matter could never produce rational beings, and non-living matter could never produce living beings.  It is intellectual suicide to believe that it could!

I realize that this simple formula is far from proving the God of the Bible is the “something that eternally exists.”  For a more comprehensive and convincing argument for the existence of the God of the Bible, I would encourage you to read, with highlighter in hand, the first 4-6 chapters of C.S. Lewis’ classic work “Mere Christianity.”  I only mention this brief formula to show we all use faith, we all take things upon faith, and to deny the supernatural takes a quantum leap of faith.  Let’s proceed with the conviction that this is the inspired Word of God, that this was predicted prophecy that all came to pass just as the Lord foretold!  What lessons might we draw from it?

First observation:

I.  Our God writes history.  It is His story.  He is the Author.  Every author gets to choose the plot and determines the outcome of his or her book.  Authors invent, create and develop their characters and they put their characters in interesting settings.  They confront them with dilemmas, obstacles to overcome and trials that refine and why?  They do so because they want to make a point.  They want to teach a lesson.  They have a moral to their story.

What is the moral of God’s story?  What is the ultimate lesson He wants to teach?  What is the main point of His story?  I believe it could be put like this.  “I am Who I am.  I am majestic in glory working wonders throughout this vast and enchanting cosmos.  I am utterly worthy of your eternal praise and the sooner you start living for My glory, the happier you will be.”  That is the main point of His story.

Now consider this.  God wrote you and me in His story!  God invented and created your character and my character and He has put us in this setting.  How will you and I respond to the moral dilemma facing us?  Will you and I overcome the obstacles in our path by walking in His ways?  Will you and I gladly submit to the trials He has orchestrated to bring about our refinement?  The sooner we do, the more clearly people can see the main point of His story, that my character was created to Glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever?  To live at cross purposes with the Author/Creator is sheer folly, stupidity and suicide.

God wrote you and me in His story.  He didn’t have to.  His story can go on engagingly, flawlessly and perfectly without me, but wonder of wonders, He invented my character and wrote me in His book.  How should we then live?  I don’t know about you, but I have always secretly wanted to be a hero in someone’s book.  Since my youth I wanted to be the soldier that crawls through the mine field and rises to my knees to throw the grenade that takes out the enemy in their strategically located foxhole that has prevented our troop from advancing.  I wanted to be the chivalrous knight that mounted his noble steed and rode through the ghoulish forest to rescue the king’s only daughter to be given her hand in marriage.

We want to be heroes.  That’s why it feels so good when we say or do something that makes our spouse or kids proud of us and why it is beyond unbearable when we say or do things that make them ashamed of us.

In our heart of hearts we all want to be heroes!  Here is another stupendous thought, God’s story is large enough, complex enough and grand enough for there to be more than one hero.  Indeed, there can be as many as 144.000 heroes, the symbolic number of the full complement of His saints.

Fathers, live to make your kids proud.  Husbands, live so that your wife can hold her head up high, not only in public but in her home.  Christians, live to be one of God’s heroes in the place where He had set you.  Live so that your character shouts, “I exist to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  Wouldn’t you like to know Him too?”

Second observation:  Our God not only writes history,

II.  He reveals history in advance.  Daniel sees this vision approximately 536 B.C., we have our historical marker in chapter 10:1.  In our passage tonight, Daniel 11:2-35, he is being told things that will take place in the next four consecutive centuries right down to the 170’s B.C.  But in verses 36-45 scholars believe the vision leaps way into the future to tell us about the antichrist and the last Great War.  We will leave that consideration until August.

It is as if Daniel was living in chapter 10 of God’s story and God told him what would take place in chapters 11, 12 and 13 and then leapt ahead and told him a few things that would take place in chapter 25 or near the conclusion of God’s story.  Why does God, the Author, reveal His story in advance?  Certainly to strengthen our faith when predicted things come to pass.  And to warn us of difficult times ahead so that we might prepare ourselves and steel our nerves, but I believe it was also intended to inspire us to live faithfully now.

Let’s imagine that we are a collection of families living in the times of Antiochus Epiphanes and he was terrorizing and ravaging Jerusalem and our families decided to meet in secret, like an underground church, that we might continue to worship unharmed.  The priest happened to be reading from our passage Daniel 11.  What would your reaction be when he came to verses 31 and 32 which reads, “His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress,” and you think to yourself, ‘That is kind of like what’s happening now,’ “and will abolish the daily sacrifice.”  Your eyes widen and you say, ‘That is what is going on.’  The priest continues, “Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation.”  You think, ‘I’ll bet that is a reference to the pagan god Zeus that Epiphanes placed inside our holy of holies.’  And it occurs to us all that there is way too much coincidence and correspondence to the days we’re living in and the words being read by our priest from Daniel 11. He continues, “With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.”

By the time you get home with your family you are all too agitated to sleep, you are disgusted with Antiochus and all the corruption he has introduced and you are scared for your family because you know people who have been killed.  You fluctuate between disappointment and disgust for the people who once walked with God, who once professed the Holy Faith, who once accompanied you to Temple and now have so easily acquiesced to the pressure and have accommodated to the corruption and you say to your family, “Not us.  Not us.  We are going to be numbered among the people who know their God and firmly resist!  We are going to be a part of the holy resistance.”

What is the prerequisite to firmly resist the overt corruption, the enticing worldliness and the sometimes subtle evil of our day?  The same as it was for them knowing God.  “Those who know their God will firmly resist…”  “What effects does knowledge of God have on a person?” J.I. Packer. The most clear and striking answer is provided for us in the book of Daniel.  He offers the four following propositions.

  1. Those who know their god have great energy for God. This energy is expressed not only in their reaction to the anti-God trends around them, but also in their energy to pray for God’s cause. If there is in us little energy for prayer, this is a sure sign that as yet we scarcely know our God.
  2. Those who know their God have great thoughts of God. Does this tremendous sense of his holy majesty, his moral perfection and his gracious faithfulness keep us humble and dependent, awed and obedient as it did Daniel? Do I know God?
  3. Those who know their God show great boldness for God. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stuck their necks out for God. This was not foolhardiness. They knew what they were doing. They counted the cost. They model for us the right course of action, might be agonizingly difficult, but once they are clear of it, they embrace it boldly and without hesitation. Do I know God?
  4. Those who know their God have great contentment in God. There is no peace like the peace of those whose minds are possessed with full assurance that they have known God and God has known them and that this relationship guarantees God’s favor to them in life, through death and on forever. “Lord, it belongs not to my care whether I die or live; to love and serve thee is my share and this thy grace must give. If life be long, I will be glad, that I may long obey; if short, then why should I be sad to soar to endless day?” Do I know God? If so, I’ll have great energy for God, great thoughts of God, great boldness for God and great contentment in God.

 

On the back of Stephen Ambrose’s New York Times bestseller “Band of Brothers,” we find this descriptive paragraph:

“As good a rifle company as any in the world Easy Co., 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army, kept getting the tough assignments responsible for everything from parachuting into France early D-Day morning to the capture of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest at Berchtesgaden. Ambrose tells of the men in this brave unit who fought, went hungry, froze and died, a company that took 150% casualties and considered the Purple Heart a badge of office. Drawing on hours of interviews with survivors as well as the soldiers’ journals and letters, Ambrose recounts the stories, often in the men’s own words, of these American heroes.”

One of the survivors, Mike Ranney, was asked by his grandson, “Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?” His answer, “No, but I served in a company of heroes.”

In tonight’s passage we saw that our God not only writes history, indeed it is His story, but He also reveals parts of His story in advance. I just can’t get over the fact that He wrote you and me in His story!

Let’s spur each other on to be a great company of heroes by glorifying God and enjoying Him forever on the pages of his story wherever He has seen fit to write us in. Amen.