Anticipated Destruction

Daniel 8

In Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, God warned the Hebrews coming out of Egypt and those entering the promised land of the consequences of breaking the covenant, of worshiping false gods, of turning their back on the God who had rescued them. The curses of the covenant were not meant purely to be punishment for breaking the law…like a loving Father, they were meant to discipline the people, to bring them back into fellowship with their God. The worst discipline would be expulsion from the land…being taken captive by their enemies and led into exile.

Daniel was writing to a group of folks who had experienced the “nuclear” option up close. Remember that King Jehoiakim of Judah was given into the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar. It was an act of divine discipline. Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, experience that discipline although they are model Israelites. They conduct themselves with integrity and uncompromising faith even in life-threatening circumstances. Daniel’s message…don’t give up, don’t give in, God wins. Ironically, while under God’s divine discipline, the people sin still more. They give up on their faith and give in to the culture. So God gives them over (Romans 1)…they turned their backs on Him, so He allowed them to experience Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

This vision of Daniel’s should have served as a warning to that future generation, but they ignored it. Instead of choosing to fear and obey God above all else, they chose to conform to the culture, to avoid making waves, to blend in. Sound familiar? Sadly yes. It sounds eerily like too many churches today.

The church has historically taken four different approaches to interacting with the surrounding culture…the first is the fortress mentality. Let’s build a Christian subculture where we don’t have to be influenced at all by the world. We’ll have our own Christian radio stations, our own movies, our own guide to businesses…never have to intentionally interact with an unbeliever again. We may avoid being influenced by the world, but we also fail to influence it for the gospel. We’ve made ourselves irrelevant.

The second approach to culture is condemnation. I picture it as the bullhorn mentality, where culture is vehemently opposed and condemned. The world can go to hell. It’s about what we’re against rather than what we’re for. The truth may be spoken, but definitely without love.

The third approach to culture is conformity…giving in to the status quo. If you can’t beat’em, join’em. A scary trend among evangelicals is the shifting views on the biblical definition of marriage. Taking our cue from popular social trends, we make truth relative…no longer is the Genesis 2 definition of marriage, the definition that both Jesus (Matt. 19) and Paul (Eph 5) affirm, consider the church’s stance. Instead we allow the Supreme Court and popular opinion to define marriage very differently. No truth, but the appearance of love. Let me say clearly that we are all broken people, and the church is a place for broken people. Jesus came to save sinners…that’s all of us. God has created each of us in His image, and He loves us with an indescribable love…love that was demonstrated at the cross. We welcome all who come to our church, and we love them; but it doesn’t mean we will give up on the truth of God’s Word.

The fourth approach to culture is engagement. This has rarely been done well. Truly engaging culture…entering into the debate. It means being intentional (8-15). It’s what we’re called to do. It’s what Daniel did.

How did he do it? He was available to be used by God, and he was intentional…he boldly yet compassionately pointed his 8-15 to the God of heaven. We are called to engage our culture…not to run from it, condemn it, or conform to it. For most of us that happens one person at a time. So who are you engaging?

While Daniel’s vision is primarily about an evil king who contends against and persecutes God’s people because of their disobedience, God’s mercy is abundantly clear as He limits the days of the evil king’s persecution and will ultimately destroy him. God who reveals the future will rule the future…may that be a comfort for those of us facing a seemingly uncertain future based on a turbulent present.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Daniel series entitled Reclaimed. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Weekend Passage – June 20

Daniel 8

Vision of the Ram and Goat

In the third year of the reign of Belshazzar the king a vision appeared to me, Daniel, subsequent to the one which appeared to me previously. I looked in the vision, and while I was looking I was in the citadel of Susa, which is in the province of Elam; and I looked in the vision and I myself was beside the Ulai Canal. Then I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a ram which had two horns was standing in front of the canal. Now the two horns were long, but one was longer than the other, with the longer one coming up last. I saw the ram butting westward, northward, and southward, and no other beasts could stand before him nor was there anyone to rescue from his power, but he did as he pleased and magnified himself.

While I was observing, behold, a male goat was coming from the west over the surface of the whole earth without touching the ground; and the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. He came up to the ram that had the two horns, which I had seen standing in front of the canal, and rushed at him in his mighty wrath. I saw him come beside the ram, and he was enraged at him; and he struck the ram and shattered his two horns, and the ram had no strength to withstand him. So he hurled him to the ground and trampled on him, and there was none to rescue the ram from his power. Then the male goat magnified himself exceedingly. But as soon as he was mighty, the large horn was broken; and in its place there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.

The Little Horn

Out of one of them came forth a rather small horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Beautiful Land. 10 It grew up to the host of heaven and caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it trampled them down. 11 It even magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the host; and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down. 12 And on account of transgression the host will be given over to the horn along with the regular sacrifice; and it will fling truth to the ground and perform its will and prosper. 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that particular one who was speaking, “How long will the vision about the regular sacrifice apply, while the transgression causes horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host to be trampled?” 14 He said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored.”

Interpretation of the Vision

15 When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it; and behold, standing before me was one who looked like a man. 16 And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai, and he called out and said, “Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision.” 17 So he came near to where I was standing, and when he came I was frightened and fell on my face; but he said to me, “Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end.”

18 Now while he was talking with me, I sank into a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me and made me stand upright. 19 He said, “Behold, I am going to let you know what will occur at the final period of the indignation, for it pertains to the appointed time of the end.

The Ram’s Identity

20 The ram which you saw with the two horns represents the kings of Media and Persia.

The Goat

21 The shaggy goat represents the kingdom of Greece, and the large horn that is between his eyes is the first king. 22 The broken horn and the four horns that arose in its place represent four kingdoms which will arise from his nation, although not with his power.

23 “In the latter period of their rule,
When the transgressors have run their course,
A king will arise,
Insolent and skilled in intrigue.
24 “His power will be mighty, but not by his own power,
And he will destroy to an extraordinary degree
And prosper and perform his will;
He will destroy mighty men and the holy people.
25 “And through his shrewdness
He will cause deceit to succeed by his influence;
And he will magnify himself in his heart,
And he will destroy many while they are at ease.
He will even oppose the Prince of princes,
But he will be broken without human agency.
26 “The vision of the evenings and mornings
Which has been told is true;
But keep the vision secret,
For it pertains to many days in the future.”

27 Then I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for days. 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.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation (www.lockman.org)