Posts Tagged ‘Daniel 11’

Read: Matthew 2; Psalm 2; Revelation 12; Genesis 12

I thought a little more about that genealogy from Matthew chapter 1: "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham." So, in some way, Jesus is related to David and Abraham. OK. And the Lord made promises to Abraham ("I will bless all nations through you") and to David ("Your offspring shall forever sit on the throne of Israel"). Now Matthew tells us these promises are somehow fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. So I'm thinking…hear me out…maybe the promise to Abraham originally was that God would bless the world through a king, a ruler. Maybe all along the plan was that God would be king of not only Israel, but of the nations.

Later Jesus says that 'all authority on heaven and earth has been given to me.' Why would he say such a thing? What could such a thing even mean? Well, I think it's fairly clear what he means: I am the King. Now, keep that in mind and let's see Matthew 2.

What is amazing about chapter 2 of Matthew is the mention of Herod: "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'" Well, this is all very, very tantalizing isn't it? But it doesn't stop there because Matthew goes on to give us a fairly good description of just who this Herod was.

Ten different times Herod is mentioned in this chapter and we are not given a glowing report. He was 'troubled' by this report that another king had been born and that people wanted to worship him. He summoned the wise men secretly and questioned them–intrigue (see Daniel 11). He was so dangerous that the wise men had to be supernaturally warned (12)! We are told that he wanted to 'search for the child, to destroy him' (13). He becomes furious that he was duped (16) and ordered that all babies 2 years old and under be slaughtered. And, finally, we learn that he died (15, 19) and that his offspring, Archelaus, evidently worse than his father, was ruling.

Here's my point. From his very birth, Jesus was in conflict with the kings of the earth. Why? "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?" Right there is your answer. There was conflict because Herod saw that he had a rival for the hearts and affections of the people of Israel. Herod, like Belshazzar in Daniel 5, saw the writing on the wall. The question the chapter is opening up for us is this: Who is the rightful king of Israel? Who is rightfully the heir of David, the son of Abraham (1:1)?

All we learn about Herod in Matthew 2 is that he was a fearful man, paranoid, secretive, prone to anger, violence, murder, that he died, and left offspring to rule who was, evidently, worse than Herod himself. That's what Matthew tells us about him. Herod was so fearful and unworthy of his position that he murdered innocent children. He did not rule in love, but by fear.

Then Matthew goes on to give us 26 more chapters concerning Jesus–the one we were told in chapter 1 is the rightful heir to the throne of Israel. I don't think this means Jesus is necessarily opposed to earthly kings or rulers. And I don't think those rulers who rule with justice and righteousness need to worry much either. But there is a conflict because Herod rules this way: the sword, fear, aggression, violence. Jesus rules another way: by dying. Jesus is the one who would later say to his disciples, "Put your sword back in its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:52). Jesus would surrender to violence at the appropriate time, but not until then (see Revelation 12). Jesus would demonstrate his rightful kingship by surrendering to the violence of Pilate, Herod, and others and eventually overcoming it in his Resurrection.

Jesus stands in marked contrast to the kings of this earth because on the mountain in Matthew 28 he said, 'All authority has been given to me.' All. "The point is that now, with Jesus's death and resurrection, the rule of the king of the Jews has been established over the nations, as in Isaiah 11 and Psalms 2, 72, and 89. His followers are to go and put that rule into effect" (NT Wright, How God Became King, 115). Yep.

So what? Well, here's the thing: Jesus is either king of the entire world or someone else is, but if Jesus is king then no one else can be. Herod tried to cling to that title, but he didn't understand that his rule was derivative. That is, like Pilate, he had no authority except that which was granted him by God (John 18-19). The kings of this world do not recognize this either in our day. They just don't. They think the world is their plaything and that they can do as they like, when they like, with whomever they like. Humans are stupid like that. Jesus' point is very simply this: the kings of the world did their worst to him, they tried from a very early age to kill him and end his rule before it began, but Jesus undid them. He exposed them for what they are. He triumphed over them at the cross and the Resurrection.

We have one king. It is not a president. It is not a prime minister. It is not a high priest or a pope. It is Jesus. He rules because he lives. Kings will come in conflict with him and they will lose because at the end of the day all authority belongs to Jesus. And no one else.

So what? The question is: Who is the rightful king of Israel, and consequently, the World? And: To whom have you given your allegiance: Jesus or or someone else?

There's only one king.

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One of the last acts I performed as a member of Facebook was to follow a link to a blog post and read the blog post. It had something to do with Daniel 11 so I thought this would be a good thing–given that I am currently neck deep in a study of Daniel in preparation for weekly Bible school lessons and, further down the road, teaching it at a small undergraduate college nearby.

Then I got there.

I'm sure the blogger's intentions were good. Maybe not. Personally I think that if a person has to go to that much trouble to understand what Scripture is saying then the person probably has no idea what Scripture is saying. That's my opinion, but I'm pretty sure that the Bible can be understood on its own terms without the help of charts and graphs and overlays and all other such 'helpful' things. Take Daniel 11 for example which should be read closely on the heels of chapter 10 of Daniel.

Chapter 10 is a conversation between Daniel and one who 'looked like a man.' This one strengthens Daniel. Speaks to Daniel. And reveals things to Daniel. Chapter 10 is a prelude to what he says in chapter 11. It may well be helpful when reading Daniel 11 to think in big pictures instead of small pictures…that is, see the forest through the trees. There are trees and if we like it may prove a fun exercise to wander through the woods and attempt to identify all the different species of trees that we see, but there is a bigger picture in chapter 11 that the identity of one small tree cannot overshadow.

The cycle in chapter 11 goes something like this:

  • A king will rise up somewhere in the world.
  • This king will do as he pleases. He or she will do whatever necessary to gain and consolidate power for themselves.
  • This king will wreck the holy people of God.
  • This king will come to an end.

It is there. Over and over again it is there. 11:4. 11:6. 11:17-19. 11:20. 11:24. 11:26-27. 11:45. Everyone of these verses speaks to the downfall of some king who thought he was the cat's meow. Every single verse. Every king who has ever lived, every kingdom ever established on earth–all of them from the greatest to the least–comes to ruin.

It seems to me that this ought to give us pause for more than a moment. It seems to me that our reaction ought to be more in line with that of Daniel who 'trembled', who 'was overcome with anguish because of the vision,' and who 'mourned for three weeks, ate no choice food, drank no wine, and used no lotions.' I'm not sure this is our christian response when we see the world afire. Ours is typically not a response of repentance, but one of indifference. It starts with me.

I repent.

It seems to me it ought to give us pause to think about our own situation here in the United States because many Christians seem to think that somehow or other our kingdom is different. I think this is why we are fond of seeing the trees instead of the forest when we read Daniel. That is, if we can learn the true identity of the 'king of the North,' or the 'king of deception,' or the 'king of the South' as people who lived hundreds or thousands of years ago then, well, think about it: if that is the only thing true about Daniel's prophecy then it must not apply to our kingdom here in the USA, right? I'm sure it's important to know about Antiochus and Alexander and Ptolemy and the rest. That's the trees.

But don't you think it's also important to know who these people are in our world? That's the forest. And it seems to me that it is far more important to see the forest just now than it is to see the trees since, of course, we are living now and not then. Don't you think it is important, right now, today, to understand the fate of every single kingdom that has ever arisen on this earth? Doesn't this help us understand why now, even now, the world is afire with death, destruction, and hatred?

I'm thinking about my allegiance to Jesus. I'm thinking about how being a citizen of the USA affects my counter-cultural identity as a citizen of heaven–a much better country (Hebrews 11:16). I'm thinking that during this Lenten season, I need to reorient my eyes, my mind, and my heart so I will be guided by three passages of Scripture.

First, Hebrews 12:2: "…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." My vision needs to be clarified. My focus needs to be fixed. If the world is afire, I need to have a steady gaze. There is a greater joy than the shame of suffering. Jesus is at the right hand of the throne of God. All the kings of the world will come and go, but Jesus remains. (Which is a key to understand the entire book of Daniel.)

Second, Romans 12:1-2: "Therefore I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to daily  offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is true worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is–his good, pleasing, and perfect will." My mind needs to be clear and sober. My body needs to be holy and pleasing. If the world is afire, I must be ready to endure. Giving my body and mind to Jesus every day is the best way to be ready.

Third, Mark 8:34-35: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and the gospel will save it." I think we have to make up our minds whether or not we want to be Jesus' disciple. If we want to then Jesus tells us what being a disciple entails. Give up your life. Deny what the world tries to tell us our body needs. Take up your cross–which does not mean to simply endure the burdens and drudgery of life, although it means that as well–taking up your cross means head to Calvary with Jesus. Daily. Make the sacrifice. Daily. Give your life for something more than yourself. Lose your life for Jesus as he gave his life for you.

If the world is afire, I had better make up my mind right now whether or not I want to be Jesus' disciple. And if I want to, then here's what I had best be prepared to do and how I best plan to live. Like Rick said in Sunday evening's episode of The Walking Dead, "we are the walking dead." We are.

So this Lenten season there is a lot of turmoil in the world. There's a lot of death. There's a lot of hatred. Kings are coming; kings are going. Empires are rising; empires are falling. Look at the forest…what looms on the horizon of our own nation? What preparations are you making should this great empire we live in here in the USA be the next kingdom to collapse under the weight of its own hubris?

Fix your eyes.

Offer yourselves.

Die with Jesus.

Daily.

God bless you on your Lenten journey. Come back often for more updates and reflections on this life with Jesus.

I went back through my old notes, the ones I managed to save after the church fired me, and found that I have written two separate sets of daily devotionals on the book of Daniel and and entire series of sermons. Now I have a new project where I am doing preliminary work through the book of Daniel. These blog posts are part of the development of this project and as such represent a prolegomena to the larger study which will manifest itself later.

In his short book The Justification of God, theologian P. T. Forsyth wrote, "It must be something historic which enables us to believe in the last reality, deep rule, and final triumph of goodness in spite of history" (98). He also wrote, "If civilisation collapsed, the Divine Kingdom is yet immune from its doom" (82). Forsyth says many such things in the course of his book and I wish I could spill all of them here in this short post. Forsyth seems to have had a keen eye for noting the differences between this world where we live and kingdom God established in the cross. Yet Forsyth also expresses that this necessarily means the church must be missionary in nature. He insists that the earth has a goal and that there is nothing that can prevent us from arriving at that goal and that God will stop at no historic convulsion to get us to that goal. 

When we read Daniel 11 (and perhaps Daniel 10 should be included here too) we see a fourth major interpretive point for understanding Daniel. The other three (there are two kingdoms, the two kingdoms are at war, and those who hold fast to God will live) are briefly developed in another post. To those three I add a fourth: the kingdom that set itself in opposition to God is violent, aggressive, blasphemous, and destructive in nature. All throughout Daniel's book the reader sees this. Consider:

  • Chapter 1: the kingdom of Babylon invades Jerusalem and takes captive people and articles of the temple.
  • Chapter 3: God's people are thrown into fire for not worshiping a statue.
  • Chapter 5: Belshazzar is a blasphemous king with no respect for God as is evidenced by his drinking from the gold goblets
  • Chapter 6: Daniel is thrown to lions for failing to stop praying to God.

It becomes worse when we read chapters 7 – 11, but essentially those chapters all follow a similar pattern: kingdoms rise; kingdoms fall. While they are empowered, they are violent and blasphemous. Yet every single one of them comes to an end at the hands of another kingdom. This was foreshadowed for the reader in chapter 2: "In the times of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever."

In my opinion, this verse is key to understanding the book of Daniel because this is exactly the pattern we see over and over and over again in the book: kingdoms rise; kingdoms fall. And what we know from this verse is that it is the hand of God that is somehow involved in the wrecking of all these kingdoms. This is especially so when we get to chapter 11 of Daniel.

Chapter 11 is a stellar example of being so concerned with looking at trees that we miss the forest. The problem, I think, with so much of the interpretive energy expended on Daniel is that exegetes work too hard at trying to identify the specific people that the author of Daniel is writing about in chapter 11. Maybe he's talking about Alexander. Maybe he's talking about Antiochus. Maybe he's talking about the Seleucids or some others. My question is: who cares? And my point is: those people are all dead and gone and Daniel must speak to you and me, right here, right now.

Now, to be sure, I'm not saying that the identity of those people Daniel wrote about is historically meaningless. Their identity does serve some purpose in establishing the veracity of the book and the credibility of its author, but as far as the overall point that the author is making, their identities are meaningless because the pattern never changes: kingdoms rise; kingdoms fall. And in truth it does not matter if it was 600 years B.C. or 200 years B.C.: if Daniel matters, it matters now and we who read it now do well to pay attention to the forest: kingdoms rise; kingdoms fall. This pattern never changes; the character of the people running the kingdoms never changes; the position of God's people within those uprisings/downfallings never changes; and God preserves his people despite this constant fluctuation.

Even a cursory look at chapter 11 demonstrates this. I won't list the sketch from my journal, but some general points can be made nonetheless.

First, not one kingdom/king written about in chapter 11 of Daniel survives. Every last one of them meets his/her end. There is no alliance they can make that will save them. There is no tax they can impose that will secure them. There is no war they can wage that will sustain them. From first to last, these kings and their kingdoms will perish from the earth. Proof? Look around. Do you see any of them in existence? So, then, do we have any reason to believe that kings/kingdoms of this present world will end any differently than those described in chapter 11 of Daniel? I think the answer is a clear and resounding No.

Second, not one of these kings or commanders achieves anything righteously. Quickly survey how they get things done:

  • Power through wealth (11:2)
  • Alliance through marriage (11:6,7)
  • Through rage (11:11)
  • Levying of taxes (11:20)
  • Through intrigue (11:21)
  • Through deceit (11:23)
  • Through bribery (11:24)
  • Through lying (11:27; they don't even tell each other the truth!)
  • Through violence against God (and God's people; 11:16,30,31; 36-39)
  • Through flattery (11:32)
  • Through self-exaltation (11:36)
  • These kings do whatever they want (11:36)
  • They blaspheme the God of gods (11:36)

And this isn't even to mention that every single one of them does what they do through violence, aggression, and war. Every king mentioned has blood on his hands. They do what they do through war. Yet we exalt these people and continue to lend them our voices in their attempts to secure power for themselves. How else can we justify the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars during political campaigns? The real question is this: do we have any reason to believe that the leaders of this present world are any different than those described in Daniel 11? I think the answer is a clear and resounding No.

The third point I would make about chapter 11 is this: How are the holy things, the holy people of God treated by these kings, rulers, and commanders in Daniel 11? Read it again and note how the holy things of God are treated in Daniel's book. Chapter 1, the temple vessels are put in the pagan temple and the holy people are taken to a pagan city; chapter 3, holy people are thrown to fire; chapter 5, the blasphemous character and actions of Belshazzar speak volumes about the kings of earth; chapter 6, holy people are thrown to lions; chapter 8, the truth is thrown to the ground; chapter 11, the beautiful land becomes a haunt for pagan rulers (v 16, 41), the temple is desecrated (v 31-32), and just read verses 36-45 to see the nature of one of these rulers. They feign righteousness and speak a pretty word about how they have the best interests of their constituents in mind, but I think it is fairly easy to read Daniel's book and see that neither the kings nor the people they serve have the righteous and holy things of God in mind as they rule.

Thus the question becomes: do we have any reason to believe that this side of the cross that the rulers of this earth are any different than the ones Daniel was specifically writing about in his book? I think the answer is a clear and resounding No. We see all the same such hubris and violence and warmongering as Daniel did. We see the same 'want to power' Daniel did. We see the same intrigue, the same flattery, bribery, and self-glorification as Daniel did. Times have not changed. Only the names.

What's ironic about so much of the interpretation of this chapter is that when we see Jesus speaking of it later on in Matthew's Gospel, we find him making the same (or at least similar) points: Kingdoms of earth rise, kingdoms of earth fall; the kings of earth do not have the righteous things of God in mind; and the holy things/people of God will be the ones who will have to endure their wrath. But also the command is the same and what the Man in Linen in Daniel 12 tells Daniel Jesus tells us in Matthew 24-25: Watch out, hold fast, resurrection awaits: "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life" (24:46).

Again, this is all preliminary and I have a lot of studying to do yet. This means I have a lot of clarifying to do of some of my major points of exegesis, but at this point I'm sticking with the forest instead of the trees. I get that without trees we won't see a forest, but taking a longer, wider view of the landscape demonstrates to us that sometimes general principles arise that are significantly more important and relevant than trying to dredge of history and match faces to no-names.