At the Appointed Time


Daniel 11:1-45

Turn to Daniel 11, we will not be reading any lengthy passage from it but I will make some illusions to it and I will be reading from other places in scripture in the sermon.

I want to say that from the beginning that behind Daniel 11 is the eternal purposes of God. We run into phrases throughout the entire book, but especially here in Daniel 11, that God has a plan. God has determined what is going to be the outcome of matters and brings them to pass.  If you will look with me at this phrase, we will see it repeated three times, at the end of v. 27 just four words, “at the appointed time.” Somebody is appointing time and it is none other than the God of the universe. Then the first four words of v. 29 “at the appointed time” such and such will happen. Then again at the very end of v. 35 are the very same words “at the appointed time.” And then again in our text we considered this morning the very end of v. 36, not the very same words but the same idea “for what has been determined must take place.”

Daniel 11 is one of the longest if not the longest chapters of detailed predictive prophecy we have in the scripture. God foretells what he has foreordained and the Bible clearly reveals our God as a foreordaining God. And so the shorter catechism rightly asserts “The decrees of God are his eternal purpose according to the council of his will whereby for his own glory he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” “…he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”

Now some will say, “Does he really?” Some in the mainstream evangelical circles will say, “Does he indeed?” Some doubt this teaching and they reason if God foreordains everything then how can human beings be responsible for their choices? If God foreordains everything then he is responsible for evil, is he not? These are logically fair questions and deserve a response and tonight I want to briefly sketch my response to this.

This past spring the Senior High Youth Group and I encountered this teaching when we read excerpts from a book entitled “Letters From a Skeptic”. They were letters a believing son, who was a pastor, wrote to his unbelieving father. In this correspondence, the believing son was witnessing and defending the Gospel. We sometimes, often at the beginning, found ourselves agreeing more with the unbelieving father than we did with the believing son because the son is an Open Theist. An Open Theist is one who believes that in order to protect human responsibility and the goodness and innocency of God, then God must certainly not know and ordain the future. They say in order for man to be truly free God not only does not ordain he does not know what choices we make until we make them. In other words he did not know what I would preach on until he saw me working on the evening sermon. He learns what our choices are when we make them and not before. God did not actually know that Lisa Mills and I would marry until the Rev. Mark Killam pronounced and declared that we were husband and wife around 3:35 in the afternoon on June 7, 1986. He doesn’t know what you and I are actually going to do tomorrow until we do it. This is Open Theism and the Bible has serious problems with that view.

What are we to do with Daniel 11? If God does not know the future, he certainly cannot predict it and yet the Bible is filled with predictive prophecy. All the places where God predicts the future should be ripped out of the Bible; they must be a hoax if Open Theism is right. As I understand this false doctrine it seems to me that what is at the bottom of it is either an ignorance of or an unwillingness to embrace the Bible’s method of presenting us with truths that we must hold in tension. You have heard this often from Dr. Rayburn.

The Bible teaches us that God is sovereign. It also teaches that man is responsible all over the place. Perhaps the most classic popular example is in Romans 9 and 10. Chapter 9 in the book of Romans teaches that God is sovereign in election and everyone whom he chooses will be saved, nothing can prevent it, it is all God. In the very next chapter the Bible teaches that unless we are responsible and do evangelism people will not be saved. To the question of how people get saved the Bible gives us two answers, God elects and people witness. The question is not which of these chapters is true, but will I embrace both truths taught in both passages. If we don’t embrace them both, we either have to do some serious theological gymnastics to explain our way around the clear meaning of the text or we ignore one of them which is the same thing as mentally ripping more passages out of our Bible and our Bible gets smaller and smaller, thinner and thinner. No, we are called to embrace both – God knows and foreordains and man is responsible.

Listen to these few very clear passages. The first one is from Psalm 139:4 and 16, “Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely O Lord. …All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” That does not sound like a God who waits for me to make my decisions and then knows what I am going to do. Before a word is on my tongue he knows it completely. Isaiah 14: 24 and 27, “The Lord of hosts has sworn as I have planned so shall it be and as I have purposed, so shall it stand for the Lord of hosts has purposed and who will annul it?” We could cite passage after passage of unmistakably clear text that teaches that God knows and ordains the future. We could do the same with us being held as responsible agents, being rewarded or punished and disciplined for our choices and actions, they super abound.

The Bible everywhere asserts that God is sinless, innocent, perfectly just, fair and good. Every good and perfect gift comes from him and he cannot even be tempted by evil, James 1:13 and 17 remind us. Moses celebrates in song in Deuteronomy 32, “He is the rock, his works are perfect and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” Clearly he is good and does no wrong and yet the Bible also portrays him as more than tolerating evil. “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose even the wicked for the day of evil.” Proverbs 16:4.  “When times are good, be happy, but when times are bad, consider God has made the one as well as the other.” Ecclesiates 7:14. We see him sending evil spirits on Saul and sending a spirit of deception on prophets so their audience will believe a lie. What are we to do, what are we to say about the Bible’s teaching on this except that he is sinless and yet uses sin sinlessly. The Bible teaches he ordains and purposes all, everything, even evil and it also teaches he does no wrong.

The classic example that God designed even the evil acts of men and yet holds them responsible is the crucifixion. Take note of these two texts both found in Acts 2:23. “This man, Jesus, was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge: and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” You are responsible, you did this and yet it was God’s purpose and foreknowledge all along. Acts 4:27 and 28, “Herod and Pilot met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel to conspire against your holy servant Jesus…They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” Men are responsible for their deeds and choices and yet God working behind the scenes using sin sinlessly. All of this is fairly easy, I say fairly easy, to accept as doctrine until the difficult, hard and painful providences come to us. God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass, even the painful things that come to us.

You have heard the name Steve Saint before he is the son of one of the five missionaries that was killed by the Auca Indians along with Jim Elliot. Listen to his coming to grips with what God did.

“I don’t think God merely tolerated my dad’s death. I don’t think he turned away when it was happening, I think he planned it. Otherwise I don’t think it would have happened. This was a hard realization for me to come to. I once said that while speaking at a church and a man came up afterwards and said ‘Don’t you ever say that again about my God.’ Afterward I found these verses [one of these that I just read from Acts 2] “Men of Israel listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through him in your midst just as you yourselves know. You know that he was God you nailed him to a cross you godless people but he was delivered up to you by the predetermined plan of God.” Then I thought don’t anybody tell me that this can’t be. If God could plan the death of his own righteous Son, why couldn’t he plan the death of my dad?”

We all have heard about Steve Saint’s father and the Lord taking him, but did you know that the Lord also saw fit in his infinite wisdom to take Steve Saint’s college-age daughter? This is how he tells that story. “I believe God planned my daughter’s death as well. Ginny [who is his wife] and I had three boys and then we finally had a little girl. I made her promise me that she’d never grow up. She broke her promise and went away to college. Youth for Christ asked Stephanie [his daughter’s name] to travel around the world for a year with one of their groups sharing the Gospel. It wasn’t worth it to me, I wanted my daughter home. She was Ginny’s bosom friend, she was our baby. She started traveling around the world and it was a painful year but finally the year was over and she was coming home. Ginny and I met her at the Orlando airport. Then we headed out for a welcome party. It was a joyous time. A little while later, the same day, Stephanie had a headache and while I was praying Stephanie had a massive cerebral hemorrhage and would die later on that same day. I watched my sweet wife accept this as God’s will and God’s plan.” He ends this chapter in this book, “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God”, with a poem that deeply ministered to him. It is written by Martha Snell Nicholson.

I stood a mendicant [a beggar of God] before his royal throne
And begged Him for one priceless gift which I could call my own.
I took the gift from out his hand, but as I would depart
I cried, “But Lord this has a thorn and it has pierced my heart.
This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me.”
He said, “My child, I give good gifts and gave my best to Thee,”
I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurts sore,
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace,
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.

Infinite wisdom decides whatsoever comes our way, infinite wisdom.

I love A.W. Tozer’s definition of wisdom. “Wisdom is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve those ends by the most perfect means. It sees the end from the beginning so that there can be no need to guess or conjecture. Wisdom sees everything in focus, each in proper relation to all, and is thus able to work toward predestined goals with flawless precision.”

The Bible teaches that our God is working toward his infinitely wise predetermined goals with flawless perfection and that kind of God is worthy of our worship. Amen.