“An Unseen Battle” (Daniel 10:1-11:1)
Listen to the Sermon:
10 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict. And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision.
2 In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. 3 I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks. 4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris) 5 I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. 7 And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. 8 So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. 9 Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.
10 And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, 14 and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”
15 When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was mute. 16 And behold, one in the likeness of the children of man touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, “O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength. 17 How can my lord’s servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.”
18 Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me. 19 And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” 20 Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come. 21 But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.
11 “And as for me, in the first year of Darius the Mede, I stood up to confirm and strengthen him. Daniel 10:1-11:1, ESV
This is the word of our Lord. If you are anything like me, I think when we encounter periods of crisis, whether it be the current coronavirus crisis that we are experiencing and all the uncertainties that may entail, or any other type of crisis we faced in our past or will face in our futures. I think there is something about our experience with crisis that tends to skew reality.
I have found in my own life that periods of crisis tend to slow down time. Expected resolutions rarely come as quickly as we would like them to come. Moreover, when I’ve walked through crisis, a sort of tunnel vision sets in too. That may be true for you as well. Even if we tend to be planners, in times of crisis all of our focus and resources are reallocated and narrowly targeted to get through whatever it is we need to get through in that moment.
It’s often a challenge for us to approach those seasons with long term clarity or optimism. To a certain degree, some of that is understandable, we can’t ignore crises before us. Crises are going to interrupt our plans in one way or another.
The question to ask ourselves during times of crisis is whether our tunnel vision has also made us susceptible to ignoring the spiritual realities behind the scenes.
When we open up to Daniel chapter ten, which is the beginning of this fourth vision in the apocalyptic section of Daniel seven through twelve, we learn through one more visionary experience in Daniel’s life a bit about how God calls his people, Daniel, and by extension you and me, to navigate through periods of crisis.
In a few moments we will talk about the crisis that God’s people were facing during this season in their lives. Leaving that aside for the time being, the lesson that Daniel learns in this text, and the lesson for you and me to take ahold of, is that in whatever crises we face we mustn’t be unaware of spiritual realities that lurk behind the scenes.
The tunnel vision that we are so often accustomed to may make us approach seasons of crisis without much sobriety. Daniel ten reminds us that until we grasp the spiritual realties at work in our past, present, and future, we will never truly appraise the things in our lives the way that we should. This is the message of Daniel chapter ten. We learn in this chapter that behind whatever crises or conflicts we face in this world, lies a more potent spiritual conflict. A conflict that requires spiritual weapons and in particular prayer.
It’s also a conflict that we will not face alone. Daniel receives assurance in this text that at the same time there is this terrifying conflict behind the scenes, at the same time that he is abandoned by the people who were with him, he is reminded, and so are we, that we have a God who is more than capable of handling the crises of the past, present and future.
Our big idea is this in great conflict we have greater support.
As we work through this text, we are going to see three things about this conflict as the veil is pulled back for us.
1. The Weapons for the Conflict
2. The God Above the Conflict
3. The Nature of the Conflict
The Weapons for the Conflict
We are looking at verse one through three here. To begin, let me set the scene for us for just a moment. We learn that when this text opens that it is now the third year of Cyrus King of Persia. In terms of the literary progression of Daniel seven through twelve, we have now moved forward about two years from the previous vision in Daniel nine, which was the first year of Darius who is the same person as Cyrus.
At this point in their history, the third year of King Cyrus, the first wave of exiles has already returned back to the land of Judea. If you remember from our study a few weeks ago in Daniel chapter nine, it was during the first year of King Cyrus, shortly after the events of Daniel nine, that Cyrus issued this decree that allowed the Jews in Babylonia to return back to Judea to begin rebuilding the temple, reinstituting proper worship, and getting their lives back together as they had been called by God.
Now we are in the third year of King Cyrus. Some good things have happened for God’s people back in the land. By this time, they had set up the altar to resume sacrifices and they’ve even rededicated the temple. Yet it wasn’t very long until the ran into some problems.
Shortly after their return they began to face some sinister opposition, such that they were forced to cease rebuilding the temple for about fifteen years. We learn in the book of Ezra that when adversaries of Judah and Benjamin were back in the land and sought to rebuild the temple.
4 Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build 5 and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
Ezra 4:4-5, ESV
So, as exhilarating as it was to return to the land, they were given this fresh of start of sorts. Very quickly we learn from other Biblical texts that life in the land quickly ran over some speed bumps. In the words of Daniel nine, it’s already revealing itself to be for them a troubled time. This explains Daniel’s despair when Daniel chapter ten opens.
Some commentators suggest that Daniel, as a high official in the courts of Cyrus, may have heard reports that were flowing back to Babylonia that the returning exiles were now facing some mounting pressures. That’s why we find Daniel mourning, and fasting, and praying when the text opens.
If could be as simple as knowing from Daniel nine from hypothetical reports that life in the land for these metaphorical sixty-two weeks are going to be a difficult time, a time of crisis, and that’s why he’s mourning. Simply the realization of what is going to happen is striking him time and time again.
Or more likely, it might be a combination of the two. Hearing reports and considering what he had already heard before. Whatever the catalyst, we see Daniel in this text doing something we see time and time again; that is when trouble mounts, Daniel prays.
Looking at this text, we see Daniel was engaged in fasting, mourning, and prayer. It’s not a total fast from all foods, but it is a fast in solidarity with the people back in the land. Moreover, we learn in verse four that he fasts in a season that was typically reserved for feasting. All this happens within the first twenty-four days of the first month, which in the Jewish ceremonial calendar was the feast of Passover. Yet during this feast where God’s people were called upon to celebrate God’s great deliverance in the Exodus, we find Daniel fasting and mourning.
We also learn from verse twelve, which makes this clear that this was also a long season of prayer for Daniel. We are not told exactly what Daniel was praying for, perhaps he prayed to understand the reason that God’s people were experiencing back in the land. Maybe he prayed to understand how long, O Lord their suffering would last.
We are not told explicitly what he prayed for. Yet whatever it was, Daniel’s actions reveal that he knows that times of conflict, times of crisis and despair, require not just pragmatic tools to get through them. They also require spiritual tools.
In this early stage in this text Daniel still hasn’t seen the behind the scenes vision of heavenly warfare that are going to come about later. He intuitively knows the truth of what the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “the weapons of our warfare are not of flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”
Daniel knows that the real power to affect visible realities in this world is the invisible sovereign and covenant God. So, what Daniel does is what we have seen him do time and time again, Daniel prays. More than that, he prays, and he fasts, and he mourns, not just for himself, but for God’s people and for God’s kingdom.
It’s clear at this point that Daniel didn’t return to the land with many of his fellow Jews and exiles, he’s still in Babylonia. He’s working as a high official in the Persian courts, we learned that from Daniel chapter six. We don’t know why he didn’t return, but whatever the reason was it clearly wasn’t because he no longer cared about God’s purposes and God’s kingdom.
We see here someone who is deeply invested in the kingdom of God, even from a distance. Daniel is nearing the end of his life at this point. He wouldn’t witness the demise of Persia or witness the rise of Antiochus of Epiphanies. Daniel, though we don’t know for sure, probably didn’t even live out to see the completion of the temple some fifteen years down the road.
Yet we find Daniel as someone who prays, and fasts, and mourns for the purposes of the kingdom of God. His cares and concerns orbit around the cares and concerns of the Lord. This attitude of Daniel is one that’s also echoed down through the ages in the experience of very ordinary Christians who have also prayed fervently and deliberately for the kingdom of God to come and for God’s will to be done.
It’s an attitude anywhere where Christians pray and invest in global missions for unreached people groups around the world. It’s an attitude that you and I are called to emulate as well.
I think there is something about times of crisis, times like what we are in right now, that threatens to make us into functional atheists in the sense that we forget so often the spiritual horizon of our current conflict. I will come back to that later in the text.
Therefore, because we forget about this horizon of this spiritual conflict, we forget to make use of the spiritual weapons available to us like Daniel. There is also something about crisis that can narrow all of our prayers and attention to our needs alone. Of course, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t be in prayer for our needs, we should continually pray for our daily bread. We also know the needs of our brothers and sisters in our church are equally important. Do we pray for those needs as well? Do we know the experience of the church around the world and do we regularly engage in praying for them as well?
Even in the midst of our personal crises, whatever they are, even in the midst of this coronavirus crisis, when you face crisis how do you respond? Do you engage the weapons of our spiritual warfare or do you not?
This is the first lesson that we learn in this text. As Daniel fasts, and mourns, and prays, it’s not terribly long before he’s given some reassurance that even in this crisis, and in every crisis, that God’s people have a God who stands above these things with sovereignty and power.
The God Above the Conflict
Here we are looking at verse four through nine. We learn in verse four, for whatever reason, Daniel is standing on the banks of the great river Tigris, about fifty miles from Babylon. We gather also from verse seven that apparently there were other people with him, we don’t know who they are. As Daniel stands by the banks, he looks us and sees,
“a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6 His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. Daniel 10:5-6, ESV
Once again, we meet in Daniel another mysterious figure who leaves quite the first impression. On the other hand, it leaves us also somewhat puzzled. Who is this individual? What does he represent? What are we supposed to make of him?
One answer given in the history of interpretation of this text is to see in this linen clad man as the preincarnate Christ, or a Christophany, that is a manifestation of Christ some 500 plus years before the incarnation. If you remember back in Daniel three and the mysterious fourth figure that was in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, just as some have assumed that too was the preincarnate Christ, we said at that time it wasn’t;, so too here people make the same arguments.
While that may be possible here because Jesus is described in similar ways in Revelation, I think there are reasons in the text of Daniel to question that interpretation. For one thing, when this linen clad man opens up his mouth and speaks in verse thirteen, he indicates that he was engaged in a great battle and he was unable to come to Daniel’s aid until he received help from the angel Michael.
Some have pointed out from that, and I think correctly, that it doesn’t seem fitting that this need for angelic help or qualities at this point could be ascribed to Christ. So, for that reason among others, I’m inclined with most commentators to see in this figure not the pre-incarnate Christ, but an angelic being, perhaps even the angel Gabriel who we’ve met before.
Now we also find some of the descriptions that are applied to this figure are present elsewhere in Scripture to describe angels and cherubim. Ezekiel one is one text that comes to mind. So, to answer this question who is this figure, well I think there are good reasons that suggest this mysterious figure is an angelic ambassador sent by God.
Just as any good ambassador represents the one who sends him, this angel is a heavenly ambassador who represents the Lord. Not only does he declare the Word of God, but he also images in some sense the Lord himself. In the words of Dale Roth Davis, “this angelic ambassador packs the splendor power and dread of the God he serves and therefore to look upon this angel is to see not just an autonomous heavenly being doing his own thing and going about his own business. It is also to see something about the God who sends him.”
As a brief aside we also encounter something similar, a similar movement, in the book of Revelation where angels who serve the Lord are sometimes described in similar ways that Christ is described. They too reflect the one that they represent. So, when Daniel looks upon this celestial being, he’s also confronted with something about the God who sends him, the God who hears Daniel’s prayers, who answers Daniel’s prayers, and who is sovereign the crisis that vexes him.
So, with that in mind notice a couple things about this angel from the text of Daniel. First, we read that he’s clothed in a linen garment. In the Old Testament is the same attire that was worn by priests, and in particularly the high priests, whenever the priest would enter into the holy places in the tabernacle and later in the temple to offer sacrifices to the Lord. This is thus imagery that signals the God who hears Daniel’s prayers. The God who this angel represents, and serves is the holy God who is Daniel 9 told us we’ll make atonement for the sins of his people.
Second this angelic emissary is described in imagery that elsewhere in Scripture symbolizes the glorious appearing of the Lord. That’s what this reference to lightning signals. As one commentator in my studies pointed out this week, I think rightly so, the references here to lightning and fire and flames in his eyes are especially noteworthy echoes of the Lord’s appearance at Sinai at the giving of the law in the book of Exodus.
Now even though this angel is not the Lord, the recognition that he nonetheless represents the Lord in these ways and others explain why those who were accompanying Daniel, whoever they were, fled. Because to be in the presence of someone who is arrayed in such resplendent glory and holiness as a people who are unholy, powerless, and impure is a terrifying thing indeed. Now some have suggested that the only reason that Daniel doesn’t run and turn and flee in this movement is because he’s too old at this point and he can’t run, and there might be something to that.
More importantly the appearance of this terrifyingly glorious figure is the initial unexpected but essential answer to Daniel’s prayers. You see, Daniel has been lamenting and petitioning the Lord for answers and action. Even though an explanation hasn’t yet come, we’ll have to wait till Daniel eleven for that, Daniel was nonetheless confronted in an instant the reality that whatever the crisis, in whatever time and in place, the God this angel serves is the God of the covenant. He is the one who is more than capable of dealing with whatever menacing threats come their way. The imagery employed is striking here because it reminds Daniel that the God who has so often delivered his people from other crises throughout their history is the same God who will speak and act to deliver them now.
Well the significance of some of this imagery, Sinclair Ferguson writes this, “The God of the past of the covenant at Sinai and the sacrifices at Jerusalem, that imagery we’ve just talked about looked back to the covenant of Sinai and the sacrifices of Jerusalem, was still all sufficient to meet the needs of his people. By reminding Daniel of the past, God was giving him encouragement to trust his adequacy for a future that looked increasingly bleak.”
Friends while we may ride the waves of crisis in our lives, we have a God who stands above the waves and the vicissitudes of history. He is the all sovereign God and king over all it. He’s the God who delivered his people from dire situations in their past when things look bleak. He’s the God who has preserved his church all around the world, even today when powers that had been resolved on its destruction have raged. He’s the God who executes all of his purposes and all of his promises for his glory and for the good of his church.
What we see in this text is only a reflection, a mirror, of the glory that belongs to God alone and it’s a vision that even in that form terrifies Daniel. This is the God who calls us his people and who we have the privilege of calling upon as our God. He’s the God who preserves and secures as you and me as dearly beloved children, such that nothing in heaven above or on the earth beneath will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So, the first thing Daniel needs to know is his prayers and concerns about the crisis at hand isn’t necessarily how this crisis is going to materialize. He’ll learn some of that in chapter eleven, but the first thing he needs to know is come rain or shine the God of the covenant, the God of the past, is also the God of the present and of the future. Now that he learns this important lesson, in picturesque form, the final thing he needs to consider is that there is also this great battle that rages behind the scenes of the present crisis his people face. So, this leads to the final point.
The Nature of the Conflict
Here we’re looking at verses ten all the way to the end of our passage. So thus far in the apocalyptic sections of Daniel, Daniel has a glimpse into the future. In Daniel seven, eight, and nine he knows that there are many long days and nights ahead for God’s people in the form of empires and kingdoms that are going to rise and fall. Along the way use God’s people as pawns on the chessboard to advance their own political ends. It wasn’t clear in those earlier visions that those kings and kingdoms were also pawns in a much greater spiritual conflict, Daniel was reminded again that the primary conflict God’s people face, in whatever epoch of history they’re in, is a spiritual conflict.
In the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:12, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic power is over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” This is the message, the primary message, impressed upon Daniel in the final part of our passage.
First after falling prostrate to the ground in verse nine, this same celestial being approaches Daniel, gently touches him, and reminds him that he is greatly loved. That is a balm to the soul for anyone who’s immersed in crisis. Then he explains why it took him three weeks to come in response to Daniel’s prayers. If you remember back in Daniel chapter nine, as soon as Daniel began praying his prayer of confession, a word went out and the angel Gabriel came in order to explain important matters to Daniel about that curious seventy weeks that we looked at.
Now this linen clad angel explains to Daniel that in this instance, he was delayed three weeks. He didn’t come in this instance immediately. We read in verse thirteen quote,
13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia.
Daniel 10:13, ESV
So cryptically this angel explains that he was delayed because he was engaged in a battle in the spiritual realm. He was battling with quote “the prince of the kingdom of Persia”. Now this isn’t a human figure like Cyrus or one of the other kings of Persia who would follow in succession, rather it refers to a demonic spirit who was somehow behind the ungodly exploits of the kingdom of Persia.
Apparently, there was this great battle in the heavenly places and this angel was engaged in this battle against the demonic spirit behind the Persian Empire until this other angel Michael came to his aid to continue the battle while he goes off and communicates these important things to Daniel.
Later we learned that Persia isn’t unique in this respect. When we get to verse twenty another angelic figure, might be the same one as this linen clad individual but I think it’s somebody different, then speaks to Daniel and tells him, “but now I will return to fight against the Prince of Persia and when I go out behold the Prince of Greece will come”.
You see what we learn in this is that behind kings and kingdoms and the events of human history lies spiritual forces that rage and influence powers that be on this earth. Which was threatening the destruction of God’s kingdom and God’s people. In this Daniel learns that the crisis his people face isn’t exclusively or even primarily one that’s against flesh and blood, but it’s spiritual.
Now whenever this topic of angels and demons and spiritual warfare comes up there are basically two ways that we could get into some trouble. Now on the one hand some of us may have an excessive or unbiblical interest in these matters. Such that we may even imagine that all of the sin and the temptations we face in this world are really the work of demons, manipulating every thought of our minds, twisting our hearts at every turn, and leading us into all kinds of temptations we face.
At one extreme way we may even fail to own our sin the way we should the way Daniel does in Daniel nine, because we reason that may be a demon made me do. It it’s like blaming the dog who ate your homework, we may blame the demon who led us into sin.
On the other hand, the opposite error would be for us to completely fail to recognize the presence of these things and instead only offer naturalistic explanations for everything we encounter in the world. These are two equal and opposite errors that we could fall into and these errors are precisely what C.S. Lewis warns against in the preface to his popular work the Screwtape Letters.
So, the challenge for us is to recognize that only one hand not everything we encounter in this world, or in our lives, is the direct influence of demons or demonic activity. The Heidelberg Catechism reminds us that we have three sworn enemies; the world, the flesh, and the devil. We need to make sure our understanding of demons and spiritual forces are influenced by the scriptures. That we don’t oversell the presence and the power of such forces, even though by all accounts they are rather potent.
Yet powerful as they might be, they are in no way on equal footing as the Lord. He is the one who created all of these spiritual beings and the one who stands as the only omnipotent, that is all-powerful, omniscient, that is all-knowing, and omnipresent, that is everywhere, sovereign above all of these spiritual forces.
The same thing goes for angels too. You see, as glorious as angels are, and we encountered several of them in the book of Daniel, they are ministers and ambassadors of the Lord. The author of Hebrews tells us they are, “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.” Despite some of the popular assumptions that you might have encountered that are out there, we don’t become angels when we die. Angels and other created beings like seraphim and cherubim the scriptures tell us actually long to look into the things that we as image bearers, as humans, have available to us in Christ.
As redeemed image bearers, we have a cosmic advantage over angels. So just as we need the Bible and the Word of God to shape our view of demons and spiritual warfare and of angels, we have to be careful that we don’t oversell their activity. So on the other hand, again, there are real malicious spiritual forces at work in this world which are at work in powers that set themselves against the Lord and his anointed.
I mentioned earlier C.S. Lewis’ popular book The Screwtape Letters. If you’ve never read that book it is essentially this series of fictional letters that purport to be from one senior demon named Screwtape to a junior demon named Wormwood, basically instructing him how to deceive and lead astray his human patient. In one of those letters Screwtape, senior demon writes, to Wormwood, the junior demon, with these words of advice (keep in mind these are fictional demons one writing to another), “I wonder you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the patient in ignorance of your own existence. That question, at least for the present phase of our struggle, has been answered for us by the high command. Our policy for the moment is to conceal ourselves.”
Then as this character Screwtape continues his advice to Wormwood he writes, “the fact that devils are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind suggest to him a picture of something in red tights and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that, it is an old textbook method of confusing him, he therefore cannot believe in you.”
Let me stress one more time that Lewis is writing here a fictional account. But as fictional as it is, Lewis creatively captures here, I think, an important principle and that is we mustn’t be unaware of the nature of our conflict. Our battle is fundamentally spiritual, and it requires that we employ spiritual weapons such as prayer just like Daniel.
More than that, we also have to know that the result of this battle isn’t hanging in the balance or isn’t in anyway dependent upon you and me. From where we sit this battle has, in fact, already been won. This archangel Michael who appears on the scene in Daniel chapter ten is going to show up again later in Scripture. In fact, he’ll show up in the book of Jude once and then he’s going to show up finally in the book of Revelation, in Revelation chapter twelve.
In Revelation 12:7 we are told that a great battle also arose in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against Satan, who’s pictured in that text as this terrifying red dragon. But even though this dragon and his angels fight against Michael and his angels, Michael in Revelation twelve, ends up being victorious.
Here in Daniel we know that there is a battle underway with Michael, but in Revelation twelve we hear the message that Michael and his angels from won. The dragon and his angels were defeated and as a result they were cast down from heaven.
And as soon as the apostle John, writing Revelation, seeing this vision, sees all of this transpire he writes in Revelation 12:10,
10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. Revelation 12:10, ESV
You see from Daniel’s perspective in Daniel chapter ten, this battle is going to continue to rage with the same degree of potency and force through the kingdom of Persia and then through the kingdom of Greece. Eventually the final blow would be dealt to the wicked forces that rage against the Lord and history. Revelation twelve tells us in visual and symbolic form that this happens with the work of Jesus Christ. The victory was always certain, but in the wisdom and providence of God the final blow was struck against the powers of death and the devil when Christ Jesus was struck at Calvary.
Now that’s not to say spiritual warfare no longer exists or times of crisis, animated by these forces of evil, no longer persist. They do. But when Jesus ascended on high these powerful forces of evil were also in some sense cast down to earth. Their dominion and power would be bound in some sense in that they wouldn’t be able anymore to prevent the propagation and the reception of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Although they do rage on this earth and they do continue to make war against the saints and against this church, their destiny is certain and it’s only a matter of time. It’s only a matter of when, not if, Christ Jesus will come again on the clouds and heaven and earth will be one.
Friends, the nature of our conflict, like Daniel, is spiritual. When the veil is removed it might seem terrifying and dreadful. It may seem like evil demons are positioning themselves around every corner of life, but this is not a conflict without it. It’s not a conflict that hasn’t already been won by Christ Jesus the Lord.
So, know the nature of the conflict. Don’t discount the evil forces we face in this world but know too that the victory has already been sealed and in Christ you too, like Daniel, are greatly loved.
So, how do we apply this text and what are some things that we can take away it from it? Well I have three applications, three takeaways, three things to consider as we prepare to close.
1. Arm yourself with spiritual weapons. You see in a time like this, I’ve said this before, most of us are understandably focused, maybe even narrowly, on what we need to get through quarantine. Food, toilet paper, maybe you’re also finding yourself ridden with anxiety over the volatility of things that at one point seem so secure. Believe me I understand. But as we plan for what we can, were also called to entrust whatever fears or concerns that can weigh so heavy upon our hearts to the Lord.
Friends we may not have access to the answers we want right now, but we do have access to the all sovereign God and our prayers really do have power. James tells us in James 5:16, “the prayer of the righteous person has great power as it is working.” Daniel’s prayers in Daniel nine bring Gabriel. Here in Daniel ten they bring an angel temporarily off the front lines in a cosmic battle to aid Daniel in his understanding.
As one commentator writes, “Daniel succeeded in mobilizing the angels as a spiritual air force against the satanic powers in the air.” So, brothers and sisters, do not underestimate the power of prayer. The Lord uses our prayers and he especially shapes us by our prayers. So that’s the first application, the first takeaway for us; arm yourself with spiritual weapons.
2. Know that the power is cloaked in kings and kingdoms of this earth are no match for the God who is. Just like the beasts that raged in Daniel seven, so too the Prince of Persia, the Prince of Greece, and the dragon of Revelation twelve, and whatever other spiritual powers stand behind and animate evil forces or institutions in this world, they are still created powers who are subject to the uncreated eternal God.
They came into existence at a certain period of time and even as they rage on this earth, their final destiny is decreed by God. They will not rage forever, and they will not stand forever. They are held in check thoroughly by the God who is.
2. Take heart because you are greatly loved. Just as these words, these important words, were spoken to Daniel in Daniel nine by the angel Gabriel, so too they’re spoken to him twice in this passage. As we mentioned back in are studying Daniel nine, these are also words in Christ Jesus for you and me.
When Daniel see is this linen clad man and everyone flees, he must have felt, like he did so often in this life, alone and weak and helpless. At this point he’s an old man without the vigor of his youth, he’s probably in his 80s. He may have even thought, as he laid on his face, that this is it. But with a gentle touch and a word of assurance, Daniel slowly rises to see once again that he is not alone.
Friends in quarantine we may feel isolated and alone. I get to speak to a camera this morning, I don’t get to see any of you and that’s heartbreaking. In crisis we may ask ourselves too whether we should take in every man or a woman for himself or herself approach lest we put ourselves and our families at a disadvantage. Well friends we are not alone.
Again, as the author of Hebrews puts it, we have ministering spirits sent out to serve us, those who are to inherit salvation. We have a church family that many of us have bound ourselves to by vows. But more importantly we have a God who has secured us to himself and nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Pray with me.
Almighty God we give you praise, and we thank you for the promises that are found in this passage. We know that the things that we are engaged in right now, the present crises, the present conflict, seems unbearable. It seems quite frightening frankly. Lord we pray that you would help us in our unbelief. Help us trust what we hear declared in this word. To soberly recognize that behind whatever vicious powers rage on this earth is a spiritual conflict, but it is a conflict that you have entered into, that you have already won. As a result, we get to share in that victory as your people who you have brought to yourself through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. We give you thanks and praise for who you are. We pray all this in Christ’s name. Amen.