Take a moment to pray. Ask God to speak to you through his word—for his Spirit to convict you of sin, teach you the truth, and lead you in walking by faith.
Setting the Scene
Daniel’s 4th vision is all about preparation. God grants Daniel a vision that will prepare Israel in exile to walk through significant trials coming in their future. The message of this vision presupposes a paradoxical truth: God greatly loves us, and yet still sends us trials.
It is seemingly contradictory to say that God loves us and ordains persecution, or cancer, or unemployment. Sometimes it’s not even those more significant trials that derail us, but the lesser ones. God loves us and ordained a break up? Traffic? Crazy weather?
Daniel’s 4th vision also assumes God’s sovereignty over geopolitical events through angelic influence and intervention. Due to our culture’s anti-supernatural bias this truth is not popular in the church today, but it is taught in the Scriptures.
This vision is a bit long, so we’re going to tackle it in three parts. First, we’ll consider the preparation for Daniel to hear and pass on a hard message (Daniel 10:1-11:1). Next week we’ll look at the beginning of the vision itself (Daniel 11:2-35). Finally, we’ll examine the hopeful conclusion of the vision (Daniel 11:36-12:13).
As you read this vision, you’ll be challenged to prepare your faith to endure whatever trials the Lord may send your way. Don’t fear. Be at peace. Be strong. You are loved.
Dan. 10:1 In the third year of King Cyrus of Persia, a message was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. The message was true and was about a great conflict. He understood the message and had understanding of the vision.
The message of this last vision for Daniel is centered on a great conflict. In some ways this vision serves to sober Israel, because at this time (about 536 BC) the first exiles had already been given permission to head home to Israel. The vision is a prophecy about the Seleucid and Ptolemy kingdoms, and specifically how Israel will suffer in various ways during their reign. More on that next week.
Dan. 10:2 In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three full weeks. 3 I didn’t eat any rich food, no meat or wine entered my mouth, and I didn’t put any oil on my body until the three weeks were over. 4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up, and there was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like beryl, his face like the brilliance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude.
Daniel received this vision while fasting and walking along the Tigris river. During this walk, a shining figure appeared to Daniel. Commentators are divided over whether this figure is a theophany, an appearance of God, or an angel, a messenger of God. Some of these same terms are used here are also used for the appearance of Jesus in Revelation 1:12-16. Even so, given the way the figure speaks, it seems more likely that this is an angel. Either way, this is God’s Word for Daniel and Israel.
Dan. 10:7 Only I, Daniel, saw the vision. The men who were with me did not see it, but a great terror fell on them, and they ran and hid. 8 I was left alone, looking at this great vision. No strength was left in me; my face grew deathly pale, and I was powerless. 9 I heard the words he said, and when I heard them I fell into a deep sleep, with my face to the ground.
Daniel’s friends did not see the figure who appeared to Daniel, nonetheless they were scared away. Daniel himself was overcome and physically taken ill over the appearance.
Dan. 10:10 Suddenly, a hand touched me and set me shaking on my hands and knees. 11 He said to me, “Daniel, you are a man treasured by God. Understand the words that I’m saying to you. Stand on your feet, for I have now been sent to you.” After he said this to me, I stood trembling.
While Daniel was afraid, the angel reassures him that he is treasured by God. He has a job to do—to understand the coming vision and communicate it as instructed.
Dan. 10:12 “Don’t be afraid, Daniel,” he said to me, “for from the first day that you purposed to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your prayers were heard. I have come because of your prayers. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me after I had been left there with the kings of Persia. 14 Now I have come to help you understand what will happen to your people in the last days, for the vision refers to those days.”
The angel starts his message to Daniel by encouraging him not to be afraid. He relates that he would have come when Daniel was first praying 21 days ago, but he was locked in conflict with “the prince of Persia”- a reference to a demon who was influencing Persian rulers. The archangel Michael came to his aide, and so he succeeded.
Dan. 10:15 While he was saying these words to me, I turned my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Suddenly one with human likeness touched my lips. I opened my mouth and said to the one standing in front of me, “My lord, because of the vision, anguish overwhelms me and I am powerless. 17 How can someone like me, your servant, speak with someone like you, my lord? Now I have no strength, and there is no breath in me.”
The prospect of once again hearing about Israel’s difficult days ahead was too much for Daniel. Yet he cannot refuse. In fact, the angel tells him twice that he is greatly loved by God.
Dan. 10:18 Then the one with a human appearance touched me again and strengthened me. 19 He said, “Don’t be afraid, you who are treasured by God. Peace to you; be very strong!” As he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”
Again, the angel encourages Daniel to not be afraid. He reiterates that God treasures Daniel. He exhorts him to be at peace, and to be strong. Every one of these encouragements is designed to bolster Daniel’s faith as he will hear about the coming trials for Israel.
Dan. 10:20 He said, “Do you know why I’ve come to you? I must return at once to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I leave, the prince of Greece will come. 21 However, I will tell you what is recorded in the book of truth. (No one has the courage to support me against those princes except Michael, your prince.
Dan. 11:1 In the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to strengthen and protect him.)
One interesting assumption in the Bible about angels and demons is they have geographic/national jurisdictions (check out the “sons of God” in Deut. 32:8). Here the angel tells Daniel that with the help of Michael he must go and resume battle with the demon over Persia, and later the demon over Greece. He concludes by telling Daniel he had also fought alongside Michael against the demon over Persia in 538 BC. That was the year that Cyrus permitted the Israelites to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.
The Big Picture
The future for Israel would not be smooth sailing, but Daniel needs to interpret this bad news in light of God’s sovereignty. Here we see the paradox: God loves us and sends us trials.
When we pull back and consider the whole of the Bible, we see that the fundamental truth of God’s sovereignty is the foundation for our hope in trials. God is doing something. He is even directing geopolitical events, sometimes via angelic influence and intervention! God is active and reigning. Yes, there is a struggle, but his servants fight to accomplish his plan.
Looking forward to the work of the Messiah, we can see Jesus’ death as the prime example of the tension in these verses. The trials are hard, but just because they are hard doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you or have a plan. The Apostle Peter says as much in Acts 4:27-28. He points out that those complicit in Jesus’ death did “whatever your hand and your will had predestined to take place.”
At the bare minimum, the preparation of Daniel to hear this 4th vision reinforces this key Biblical principle: God is at work even in the hardest trials we will ever face.
Taking It Home
The reason why we struggle to embrace this idea of God loving us yet ordaining trials is because we love comfort too much. There’s no sense in desiring suffering, but 21st century Americans assume that we are entitled to be comfortable. I know I do. At that point comfort becomes a false god rather than a blessing.
So let’s acknowledge what we know to be true: God has ordained trials for us. We simply don’t know exactly what they are. What should we do in the meantime? Prepare.
Don’t fear. Fight your fear with faith in the sovereign God of the universe. Remember that his unlimited power and unmatched goodness are the ultimate authority in the world.
Be at peace. Don’t settle for anxiety. Don’t feed your worry. Take a deep breath, and focus on who you know God is.
Be strong. Maybe it’s time we toughen up a bit as Christians. Maybe we need to learn a lesson or two from the persecuted church around the world. Maybe we need a sobering reminder that our comfort is the chief purpose of God’s creation.
You are loved. Yes it will be hard. Yes it will hurt. Yes sin is ugly and destructive. Though the tears and trials don’t lose sight of the fact that God treasures you.
Finally, when we’re facing a trial, be it large or small, let’s remember that there’s much more going on than we can see. We can fight despair with the truth that God is at work. If only we could see the spiritual battles going on around us! God is doing something.
Next week we will continue Daniel’s 4th vision. Lest Daniel (or Israel, or we) doubt, the rest of the vision prophesies with remarkable accuracy what is coming down the pike.
- Praise God for sovereign power over this universe. As you pray, consider geopolitical events or headlines that seem out of his control. Pray for his will to be done.
- Ask God to prepare you to walk through trials by faith. Consider areas of your life where you struggle with anxiety, fear, and worry. Confess those to the Lord.
- If you are going through a trial right now, ask God to help you trust him with the outcome. Praise God that he comforts us with character in our hardest times.