My father was a large man. It was hard for him to find clothes that fit. But my feet fit right on top of his as we waltzed with the Big Bands on his HiFi. When I was afraid, his hand was the perfect size for mine. There’s something wonderful about having a father so big that his size wraps you up in safety and security. Daddy wasn’t a perfect father, but he helped me find my way into God’s arms.
Safe is what I feel after reading this passage today, not because of the words in it so much as what the words force me to do–look to God. If you’ve read this passage in Daniel, maybe like me, you’ve thrown up your hands as to what it means. There are a number of unclear passages in the Bible, and this is one of them. I’m learning that when I throw up my hands, God somehow grabs hold of them.
There are two things about this chapter that encourage me, and really, this is why I wade through the events in the Old Testament, to find the nuggets of God’s love and truth that are there. Before I get to those, I’ll mention the context for this chapter, because it helps me, too.
It’s thought that the vision Daniel describes in chapter 11 is about events that would come in the next three and a half centuries, from the time the exiles return to Jerusalem until the Messiah came, (Guzik, http://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/daniel-11/). The promised Messiah was the desire of every Jewish heart because he would mean, as they understood it, an end of their suffering and the beginning of God’s promised prosperity and peace.
Zooming out and remembering the overall context of a passage helps it make sense. So as a reminder, we’ve been reading through Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Ezekiel, learning about the coming–and then final–overthrow of Jerusalem.
While Jeremiah and Lamentations were God’s words to those in Jerusalem and Judah, Ezekiel contained God’s messages to the Jews who were taken from Jerusalem to Babylon. They’re referred to as “exiles.” Daniel was an exile from Judah. His book backs up a bit in history and begins sometime during the events in Jeremiah, and is mainly about his life as one who distinguished himself in Babylon and became a top official in the king’s government.
It makes sense that the angel of Daniel’s vision gives this information to him since he’s a God fearing official in what is now Persian controlled Babylon. God gives Daniel a heads’ up about what’s ahead for the exiles returning to Israel, not only because he has a special connection with heaven, but because he has the necessary political clout in Babylon to make sure his vision-story is relayed to Jerusalem.
And while the vision is not good news, being told ahead of time about events of the future would be better than being blindsided by them. There would be comfort in knowing that what was ahead had to take place in order for the Savior to come. What was ahead was basically an all out fight between Syria and Egypt over Israel’s land between them.
What I’m noting here is that with Daniel’s vision, God gives his people a peek into his planner, so they could see that these events aren’t random and unforeseen or because he’s lost control of the world’s scene. It’s what he’s got planned, down to events as specific as a political wedding of an Egyptian King and a Syrian Queen, 11:17; as changeable as national debt payments, 11:20, 24; as awful as abominations in their rebuilt temple, 11:31. God has his reasons for what’s coming that will bring about his glory and bring the Messiah for their good in ways they cannot imagine.
God is in control.
And this is the message that encourages me today, one I keep bumping into as I read Daniel. God is in control. There are two other places where it grabs me in this chapter.
Here’s one: the angel who speaks to Daniel about the future speaks confidently with full assurance of the facts. Even though they don’t add up for me, I’m glad to know that “somebody” knows them well and understands them. “Somebody,” namely God Almighty, is bringing all of history into one final conclusion where he wins and his people live with him forever. He’s got it planned out to a T, because God is in control.
People wiser than I can identify that much of what is foretold in chapter 11 happened in the years between 546 BC and Jesus’ birth, and that what hasn’t happened, is attributed to events that will happen during the time of the Antichrist still to come, (Guzik). I don’t really like to think about what’s still to come concerning him, but if God’s written it down, it must matter for us to know. But which of the details are about him and which are about people who have already come and gone is hard to discern, and frankly is beyond me.
But I don’t have to be afraid of what I don’t understand. Even Daniel didn’t understand his own vision, and he was hearing it first hand, Da 12:8. Besides, the angel tells him to “close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end,” Da 12:4. Commentators say that this means it’s not meant to be understood until it’s needed during the end times (Guzik). Maybe we can’t understand it because we’re not meant to, because what’s described is still a ways off. There’s a little piece of comfort in that.
Here’s another: The last verse of this chapter says, “Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time,” Da 11:35. What does this mean? The end of time will come right on schedule, exactly as God intends, regardless of anything else. God’s got it all figured out. No matter what happens among men, it can’t mess up what God’s got planned. God is in control and there’s nothing that can change his plan.
This is always a relieving thought, but it seems especially so when the world feels a little shaky. Covid-19, unresolved election results, racial tension, job losses, Wall Street’s numbers, Zoom School…there’s a lot in flux. With the unsteadiness around us, what do we hold onto?
David asked that same question in Psalm 11, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” He answers himself in the very next verse: because God is on his throne, we are safe. “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne. He observes everyone on earth; his eyes examine them…the upright will see his face,” Ps 11:3-7.
When everything shakes, God says to find him as our refuge and strength, our Rock, our fortress. If we belong to him, he gives us what we need to bear any situation–whether to be saved out of it or to grow through suffering it. We can trust that whatever circumstances we are in, they’re the ones He’s designed for us for our good, to secure our faith and trust. He’s the only sure thing we have in life or death.
He is enough.
“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging…
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.'”
Psalm 46:1-3, 7, 10
1 John 3:7-24
John is big on “this is how we know” information. In this passage he says…
“This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are:”
–Do what’s right.
–Love their brother
–Don’t do what’s right.
–Don’t love their brother,
1 Jn 3:10.
“This is how we know what love is:”
–Jesus laid down his life for us.
–We lay our lives down for our brothers,
1 Jn 3:16.
“This is how we know that we belong to the truth (God),
and how we set out hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us:”
–We love with actions and truth that support our words,
“This is how we know that he lives in us:”
–We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
–We know it by obedience to his words,
1 Jn 3:24.
God, my offerings of love and my assurances of belonging to you based on real deeds are pretty meager, especially when I compare them to yours for me. Thank you for outgiving me and for not measuring your giving to me by mine for others.
Open my eyes and ears, heart and hands to other’s needs and to meet them as I’m able. Give me balance so that I don’t go on a crusade and make it about me. Let me help and not hurt.
Help me to release my time to you. I’m such a hoarder of my minutes and my money and my presence. These are maybe the three things hardest to share. Would you turn them into my strengths? Only you could change this in me, and I’m really not even wanting you to. So do that first.
Change my wanting.
This psalm is about gathering as a body of believers. Its context is Jerusalem and the temple of the Old Testament. Gatherings of believers since the New Testament have been at churches.
I’m challenged by three heart attitudes of the psalmist:
–He’s glad to go,
“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord,” verse 1.
God, work in me so that I’m glad to go and am focused on others who are there, not on me.
–He desires peace for his brothers and sisters there,
“For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, ‘Peace be within you,'” verse 8.
God, work in me so that I promote peace among my church family and not conflict or complaint.
–He seeks prosperity for God’s house,
“For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity,” verse 9.
God, work in me so that I do my part to make our church prosper.
My take away today is the church, my place to worship and serve and send out true love in “deed and truth.” I can’t save the world, but I can give what I have to my little church, supporting it’s reach into our community and world. Because God is in control, I don’t have to feel the weight of every hungry person on the planet, but I can feed the ones who come my way.
Thanks, God, for letting your people be your hands and feet, your eyes and ears, watching out for one another while we wait for your return. Thanks for letting us stand on your feet as you do the skillful steps to bring about the world’s healing by your love, Jesus’ blood, and the Spirit’s peace.