November 23, 2015

November 22, 2015 - Daniel 7:13-14

Theme: You can Stand before the King
1) Not fleeing by fear
2) Confident and joyful by faith

It’s been said that people display one of two characteristics when facing adversity: fight or flight. If you’re a fighter, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re prone to violence. Rather it shows that you’re willing to face challenges head on and you’re not afraid of problems. On the contrast, if you’re more timid or meek you would take flight in adversity; choosing to re-group and stay out of the fray until another day.

Most people fit into one of those categories. There isn’t one that’s necessarily better than the other, often it depends on the situation. We’re getting a taste of that recently with all the talk of Syrian refugees. Some people are willing and ready to receive them. These people who qualify as having a fighter’s mentality; not because they want to wage battle with the refugees but they’re willing to tackle the problem. Those who have flight opinion in the matter are more cautious and not ready to accept thousands of foreigners into our nation given the risk of unknown intentions. I’m not here to argue one side against the other; only to point it out as an example of these two differing attitudes that we experience on a regular basis.

What I’d like to ask you is this. If you saw God today, what would your reaction be? Fight or Flight? Are you confident enough to face Him or would you shy away in fear? I ask, because soon we will all face Him, so we should think about what our response will be. But I also ask because that’s the place Daniel found himself in our text. Put yourself in his shoes and consider how you would feel if you saw this:

Daniel 7:13-14 I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.

Imagine how Daniel must have felt having not only having heard this prophecy of the Final Day but having seen it. He was given a glimpse of images that are still yet to be revealed. And his reaction tells us how he felt. In verse 15 we’re told that Daniel was grieved in spirit and body and was greatly troubled by this vision. But really, what did Daniel have to fear? He trusted in God. He knew the truth. Shouldn’t he had rather been overjoyed that he could see a vision of the Lord’s victory in the future?

It’s easy for us to say that having only read the words of our text and not actually having experienced them. Think of other occasions in the Bible where God revealed Himself to mankind or even simply revealed His will. The giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai is near the top of the list; given its importance in the grand masterpiece of history. In Exodus 20 we’re told that when God descended upon the mountain there was thunder and lightning and a thick cloud. Also, there sounded at trumpet so loud that all the people of Israel trembled with fear. As the scene continued Jehovah descended in fire and the entire mountain shook (Exodus 19:16,18). Quite a scene to read about but one that would leave us fearful too.

We could also think of the times that God sent angels to reveal a message to people. In every case, the first thing we’re told is that the people were greatly afraid at the sight of God’s holy messenger. If that was the normal reaction at the sight of angels, how much more so in view of the Almighty God!

The way in which Daniel describes God clues us in to just how Almighty He really is. Daniel uses a title that is unique to this revelation; in fact unique to this very chapter of the Bible. He calls God the “Ancient of Days.” Nowhere else in the entire Scriptures is this name used. We naturally wonder why Daniel would use such a phrase to talk about God. If we called our superiors “Ancient of Days” we might get an odd look or even a scowl. It most likely wouldn’t be deemed as a term of respect. But Daniel wasn’t trying to insult God. Quite the contrary actually. In the simplicity of faith he was trying to put into human terms what he was seeing and the best that could be done was to call God the “Ancient of days.”

This title isn’t used to tell us that God is old and outdated; that He’s outlived His usefulness for mankind. Rather, it’s an indication of His enduring, eternal nature. Throughout the entire Bible, the theme of God’s eternity stands out. Remember how he revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush. When Moses asked God who he should say sent him, God’s reply was, “Tell them I AM has sent you.” God is the I AM God. He’s not the God that was, or simply is now, or the God who will be. He is eternal. He is I AM; always existing and always in control. When Daniel calls Him the “Ancient of Days” it is saying the same thing. God was here long before any humans were. He was in control long before we were. It’s always important for us to remember that and to keep that perspective in humility.

God’s eternal nature doesn’t always leave us with a cherry picture though, which surely played a role in the way Daniel was grieved after this vision. This is because the eternity of God reminds us of the opposite in our lives. It makes us think and wonder about our futures, because we are so clearly mortal. What does the future hold? This is undoubtedly a question that all people face at some point in life, usually when we’re older. Knowing that God is eternal is certainly nice, but what comfort does it really hold? What does that mean for our lives? When you add into that the fact that we also know what God demands from us, we are doubly perplexed because we often don’t measure up.

Many people in life try to run from the answers to these difficult questions. Haven’t we done the same from time to time? Trying to find purpose and meaning in the daily activities and affairs of this life? Always looking for something more to give us fulfillment, rather than facing the hard truth that we have no hope on our own before God, and from the very moment we entered this world our days are counting down to that one day when we will see Him face to face. When that day comes, is it fight or flight? We feel pressure from God because He created us that way in the hope that we would seek Him and find Him. But so often people never find God because they don’t want to. They don’t like listening to the inner conscience so they look for whatever they can find to drown out its noise. 

We know what it feels like, because we’re sinners with a conscience too. And we also see here Daniel’s own reaction. He was right on the edge of flight. He was perplexed and terrified at the sight of the Ancient of Days because he was facing righteousness with his own futility. And he was right to feel that way, just as we are when we get nervous at the thought of God’s almighty and eternal power. We are sinners and rebels who deserve nothing; and what we have been blessed with we so often forsake and despise.

What holds this terror at bay? What keeps it from consuming us? Who is more appropriate for there was another that Daniel saw in this vision. The One who came to the Ancient of Days and received the dominion, glory, and kingdom. The One whom all peoples, nations, and languages will serve. We’re more familiar with His title because He Himself used it many times; the Son of Man, Jesus Christ. Daniel probably didn’t understand the full extent of everything he saw in this vision, and so he was met with fear. But we see clearly through the lense of Scripture.

What Daniel saw is the same as what Paul records in his letter to the Philippians concerning the work of Christ. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11). Daniel was the first and only one, so far, to witness what this scene will be like. But all Christians have always been fully aware that the day is coming where Christ will fully display all of His power. On that day, no one will be able to deny or mock Him as they so blasphemously did on the path to Calvary. On that day, none of us will be able to hide in the shadows of our sins; nor will we want to.

Because the dominion and the victory and the kingdom came at a cost. Jesus will display all of these things because He alone has earned them. Back up in the letter to the Philippians, just prior to the verses we read, and it tells us why: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8).

When Daniel’s vision becomes reality, your reaction will be different than his. You won’t be grieved and perplexed because of sin. Nor will your first inclination be to flee and run and hide. You will stand with confidence because you have Jesus; the Son born as a man for all mankind; the perfect Substitute between eternity and time, between the Ancient of Days and the Mortals. He bore His Father’s righteous wrath on the cross, the greatest form of humility ever witnessed. But even in that setting, the final victory was always in sight. Remember what His final reply was to Caiaphas the High Priest. “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven (Matthew 26:64).” Sounds familiar to our text doesn’t it?

One day we’ll be there with Caiaphas, Daniel, and the rest of the world. There will be no flight, because the Son of Man won the fight over sin. On that day we will have a peace more serene that the warmth of sunlight on a cloudless summer day. We will finally have victory and rest from the nagging ailment of sin. We will stand confident and joyful before our King, and bow in grateful devotion. No longer on the run, no longer grieved and paralyzed by fear; but at peace. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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