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Different is Good

Oct 25, 2020 | Ted Voltmer

Develop Your Inner Grit

Daniel 7:1-8

Good morning, I’m Ted Voltmer, one of the pastors here at The Chapel.

Have you ever wondered what sets one person apart from another person? Why two people with similar education, background, and opportunities can end up with two completely different outcomes?

Angela Duckworth is a psychologist and researcher who’s actually studied this. During her time as a teacher she wondered why some of her students excelled and went on to successful careers, while others struggled – even though they started from basically the same place. So she decided to research this, and found that the most successful students had GRIT – a passion and perseverance to stick to their long-term goals. These are people who see life as a marathon and not a sprint, who don’t give up when faced with challenges and difficulties.

We’re taking this year’s Common Ground series to go thru the book of Daniel, and GRIT is definitely a character that we see in his life. No matter what challenges he faced, Daniel stayed true to serving God and living his life according to God’s ways. And if you and I are going to stand firm when things get difficult, if we’re going to stay strong in our faith when life gets hard, if we’re going to stand out in a noisy, crowded culture – we need to develop our INNER GRIT – that inner strength that comes from knowing how things will turn out, if we can just persevere thru the challenges and hardships along the way…

Today we’re in Daniel 7, and there’s an important thing to know: There’s a shift in the writing with this Chapter: The first six chapters have been Historical - Daniel is telling us what happened to him and his friends while in Babylon; the next 6 chapters are mostly Prophetic, with Daniel telling us what to expect in both his future and OURS. Some of these prophecies have not been fulfilled yet, so it’s important that we know what to expect in the days ahead so that we can persevere thru them.

Follow along as I read from Daniel 7, beginning in verse 1:

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, [SIDE NOTE: So this happened BEFORE the events of Chapter 5 that Pastor Dave preached on last week…] Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.

Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.

“The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it.

“And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’

“After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.

“After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

“While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

This is God’s Word.

 

Wow. Lions and Leopards and Bears – Oh my… What is going on here??

I said before that Chapter 7 shifts into PROPHECY of future events, and John Walvoord, one of my professors at Dallas Seminary, said that Daniel 7 “provides the most comprehensive and detailed prophecy of future events to be found anywhere in the Old Testament” and this isn’t just any prophecy, this is Apocalyptic prophecy – prophecy about the end times.

Whenever you study future prophecies like this – whether it’s here in Daniel or in the apostle John’s Revelation – keep in mind THREE things:

            1). First, Apocalyptic books use a lot of metaphors and similes to teach by analogy. They want to teach us about difficult concepts and events by relating them to something we know from common experience. So the images are true and accurate, but maybe not as precise as we’d like. These images are also meant to communicate feelings and not just facts – and we’ll see that in the descriptions of these four beasts.

            2). Second, the writers are people just like you and me. Daniel and John are being carried along by the Holy Spirit as they write, but they’re still just men, with limited experience and limited vocabulary… They are being shown EXTRAORDINARY things that happen at some future time, and they may not have the words to describe what they’re seeing {PAUSE}, Imagine if your great-great grandparents were shown a video of the Apollo 11 mission going into space, with Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon, and they had to describe that to their friends – What would that sound like? What could they possibly compare it to from their day??... That’s the challenge authors of Apocalyptic literature face…

            3) Third, we don’t study prophecy to set a date for when all this will happen, or to identify “WHO” the prophecy is talking about – No one knows that except God alone. We study prophecy to see things from God’s perspective and to be ready for what He’s telling us will come…

 

So with that in mind, let’s unpack Daniel’s vision – And we actually have some help with this. While he’s having this dream, Daniel is able to interact in it, so he asks an Angel to explain what’s going on while he’s seeing it. We actually find out later that this is Gabriel, the same angel God sends to Mary and Joseph to announce the birth of Jesus… In verse 17 the angel explains

“‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth…”

 

So we know that these four beasts represent actual earthly kingdoms, and with the benefit of looking back in history, most scholars agree on who they were. The first one – the Lion who had its wings removed – is Babylon, the kingdom Daniel currently served in.

The second beast – the Bear – represents the Medo-Persian empire. Babylon would fall in 539 BC, about 14 years after Daniel’s vision, and the Medo-Persian empire would exist for almost 200 years.

The Medo-Persians were then defeated by Alexander the Great and the Greek empire, represented by the third beast – The four-headed flying Leopard. Scholars say this fast beast represents the speed with which Alexander conquered the world, and when he died, his kingdom was divided among his four generals…

You might be thinking that this sounds a little familiar – You’re right. King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream in Daniel 2 about a Statue that represented these same Kingdoms – Pastor Dave preached on that a few weeks ago. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the Statue was a vision of what would happen politically with these 3 kingdoms. Daniel’s vision reveals what is happening behind the scenes spiritually, and we’ll look at that in a minute…

So we know from history that the first three beasts represent kingdoms that existed for a time and then were absorbed into the next kingdom that followed, but that’s not the case with the fourth beast.  It was more terrifying than the others, and it had 10 horns, and then another horn with EYES AND A MOUTH appeared…

Daniel had no idea what to make of this, so he asked the angel Gabriel for help. Here’s what he said – verse 23

23 “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.”

So, we’ve had three beasts already, each representing a kingdom that is worse than the one before it. Now there’s a fourth beast that’s more terrifying than any of the others – This kingdom will do the most harm. And we find out later that while the other 3 kingdoms no longer exist, this fourth kingdom has not ended – it’s still around in some form today. Scholars think that the fourth kingdom started with the Roman Empire, but the part with the 10 horns has not been fulfilled yet. The angel tells Daniel that these ten horns, which represent 10 kings, will emerge out of this fourth kingdom. An eleventh king – the little horn – rises to power. He’s different from the others, and he replaces three of the earlier kings then takes over the whole world. This king “speaks boastfully” which eventually becomes blasphemy against God and His people, and he “oppresses the holy people – believers; you and me – and the word “oppress” here means to wear down, mentally. Finally, he goes even further, trying to “change the set times and the laws” – we’re not sure HOW this will happen but the meaning is clear: He wants to set himself up as a god and change the natural order of things that God has established. So while the other kings were focused on THEMSELVES and building THEIR kingdom, this last king goes even further – bragging about himself, and then blaspheming against God, and finally trying to overthrow God’s order…

 

Let’s pause here for a minute: Can you believe what Daniel is seeing? I never have dreams like that, with so much detail… Barbie – my wife – has incredibly detailed dreams, and she remembers everything. MY most terrifying dream is actually one that SHE has: She’ll have this dream that I’M CHEATING ON HER – that I’m having an affair, and the next morning she’ll wake up totally convinced it’s true… I wake up “Good morning!” and she’s like “I can’t believe you did that!!” and for the rest of the day I have to watch my back… Talk about terrifying…

 

Ok so back to Daniel: We have this empire with 10 kings, then another king rises up, eventually taking over the world. He speaks against God, oppresses his people, and tries to set himself up in God’s place… The Bible tells us this is the antichrist, and his rise to power signals the coming end of the world. And this is where Christian authors and speakers sometimes get into trouble, because people want to know WHO the antichrist is, and is he here now and what’s going to happen next?? And the answer is, we don’t know. Jesus himself said in Matthew 24 that NO ONE knows the hour or the day – the angels don’t know – only God himself knows.

But still every generation points to some terrifying world leader and asks “is He the antichrist??” Is it happening now?

After Jesus rose from the dead and then ascended into heaven, his disciples continue to build the church, and King Herod – of the Roman Empire, by the way – wanted to stop it. So he beheaded James, one of the disciples, and told his men to throw Peter in jail. At some point the disciples had to think “Is this it – is Herod the antichrist and are we in the end times??” Not yet…

And it continues thru history: Hitler. Stalin. Saddam Hussein. Osama Bin Laden… Whenever someone EVIL comes into power, we wonder if it’s starting. We know from these verses that he’ll try to set himself up as God, and Revelation 13 gives us more detail: He’ll be able to perform “great and miraculous signs” and he’ll set up some new system to control what we can buy or sell… And no, it’s not Amazon or Walmart…

And we know that this will go on for 3 and a half years – that’s what the “time, times and half a time” means in verse 25. I believe from other Scripture that believers will be spared the worst of this – but we need to know it WILL happen and things will get worse before Christ returns…

We run into trouble when we try to pick the date this will all happen. Many of you remember Harold Camping… He was a Bible scholar and the president of Family Radio – his radio shows were followed by millions. He predicted the world would end on May 21, 2011… Nope! When that didn’t happen, he changed the date to October 21 and then when that day came and went, he finally admitted it was wrong to try to pick the date… The damage was done, though, and he lost all credibility…

TRANSITION TO VERSE 9ff:

So why did God give Daniel this vision if we’re not supposed to identify who it is and when it happens?

He wants to teach us something about Himself, and in doing that He’s giving us what we need to be ready for what happens next… He’s giving us an ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE. He’s helping us develop GRIT…{PAUSE}

When we read today’s passage, I skipped over a whole section. I want to go back to that now. While Daniel is watching this vision of the FOUR BEASTS, it suddenly CUTS to a whole different scene. This one takes place in Heaven during the end times. Follow along beginning with verse 9:

9 “As I looked,

“thrones were set in place,

    and the Ancient of Days took his seat.

His clothing was as white as snow;

    the hair of his head was white like wool.

His throne was flaming with fire,

    and its wheels were all ablaze.

10 A river of fire was flowing,

    coming out from before him.

Thousands upon thousands attended him;

    ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.

The court was seated,

    and the books were opened.

 

11 “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. 12 (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)

 

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

 

And then further down, this is what the angel explained about this part:

26 “‘But the court will sit,[that’s what we’re seeing here…] and his power [the little horn’s power] will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’

 

Remember we said that apocalyptic literature uses images to communicate feelings and not just facts? What do you feel when you read about this scene? It’s SERIOUS of course – there’s about to be JUDGEMENT – but it’s also CALM, a feeling of being IN-CONTROL – right? Contrast that with the previous section about the four beasts: CHAOS. DESTRUCTION. TERROR…

 

Daniel sees God here, gathering His court and preparing to JUDGE the nations. This is the only place in the Bible where God is called “Ancient of Days” – nowhere else, and I love that name for Him. There are over 200 names for God in the Bible, and each one reveals something different who He is and what He’s like. In this passage Daniel’s description of God highlights His Wisdom, and purity and holiness: the white hair, the white clothes, the flaming throne.

Listen to what Psalm 90:2 says about God:

           

“Before the mountains were born

    or you brought forth the whole world,

    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

 

And Psalm 102:25-27:

In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,

    and the heavens are the work of your hands.

26 They will perish, but you remain;

    they will all wear out like a garment.

Like clothing you will change them

    and they will be discarded.

27 But you remain the same,

    and your years will never end.

 

That’s the Ancient of Days we’re seeing here. Daniel’s reminding us that God is ETERNAL, that He is IN CONTROL. He’s seen it all before and none of this is happening without His knowledge or consent. God isn’t phased by what He sees – HE’s calm; He’s in control.

Psalm 90 goes on to say that a day is like a thousand years to Him, so when we’re stuck in a months-long pandemic worrying about an upcoming election, God is in Heaven seeing everything unfold as He planned it thousands and thousands of years ago… He’s got this, and knowing that gives us peace and security… {PAUSE}

 

When I was just starting out, my father took me to lunch. I think I had just gotten married, started a new job, and he said to me “You know, there’s nothing you’re about to go thru that I haven’t already experienced. If you find yourself in a difficult situation, I’ve already been there so you can always ask for help…”  Just hearing that gave me peace and confidence – knowing that He’d already gone thru something and come out all right made me feel safe somehow…

 

Knowing God is in heaven – the Ancient of Days who’s already seen all this play out in eternity past – gives us confidence that HE is IN CONTROL, that everything will work out in the end. And knowing that gives us the INNER GRIT we need to persevere another day…

 

So the Ancient of Days gives us security and peace, and then the Son of Man gives us HOPE. In verse 13 Daniel sees Jesus – called here the Son of Man – entering the court and approaching God. Did you know that while He was on earth, the name Jesus used the most when talking about himself was “Son of Man”? Others called him Christ or Lord, but whenever Jesus referred to himself it was mostly “Son of Man”.

And at the end of his time on earth, when he was on trial before the Jewish leaders, they asked Jesus if he was really the Messiah, the Son of God. In Matthew 26 we hear his answer:

64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

 

Jesus is quoting from Daniel 7. As his time on earth is ending, He’s looking forward to His future Kingdom. Let’s go back to verse 14:

14 He [Jesus – the Son of Man] was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

 

Daniel writes about this kingdom here, then Jesus quotes him when He promises to return, and that should give us HOPE. We don’t know the hour or the day, but we know God is in control and Jesus is coming back to rule forever – so what does that mean for us? How should we live today?

 

There’s a scene towards the end of The Lord of the Rings – maybe you’ve read the books or seen the movie…Frodo has been given a special ring that he has to destroy to save Middle Earth from evil. But he’s had enough, and he’s afraid and wants to give up. He says to Gandalf “Why do I have to do this? Why me? Why does it have to be so hard? I wish none of this happened…” and Gandalf says “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

{PAUSE}

That’s why God gives us prophecy – to help us decide what to do with the time He’s given us. He gives us prophecy so we look at history – so we look at what’s happening today – from HIS perspective, not our own. And seeing THAT perspective, we have to decide what to do with the time we have…

 

Let me leave you with 3 questions to help you think thru this:

  • Do I believe all this? IT really starts and ends with that, right? We either believe it, or we don’t… We either believe that God is in control, or that something else is. Maybe you think YOU’RE in control – good luck with that, it’s never worked out well for me…We either believe that Jesus saves us, or something else does… If you DON’T believe it, you owe it to yourself to ask “WHY” and wrestle thru that… If you DO believe it, then it should affect how you live your life…
  • Do I see things from MY perspective, or from God’s perspective? Do you have a NOW perspective, or an Eternal Perspective?
  • Does how I live line up with that perspective? So if I say “yeah I see things from God’s perspective…” does my life reflect that? Here’s two easy ways to test that – but you might not like them. First;
    1. Where am I spending my time? Galatians 6:8 says “Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Where are you sowing your time, energy, resources – your heart? Are you spending your time on things of TODAY, or are you investing your time and energy in things that will last for ETERNITY?

And second…

  1. Where am I spending my money? Matthew 6 says “19Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” There’s something about MONEY that has such power over us – How we treat money is a good indicator of what’s important to us, of where our Heart is… Does your money go towards things TODAY, or are you investing in ETERNITY??

 

Now, I know that some of you are going thru a lot right now, and you might be thinking that It’s easy for me to say all this – I get it. I’m relatively safe right now, I’m relatively healthy… my family is good. {PAUSE} But knowing what God has planned for the FUTURE – Knowing that HE is in control -  Helps me see that any trouble we have, any suffering we go thru, is part of God’s bigger plan to make everything RIGHT. We don’t have to get stuck in the “right now”, we can look forward to something better…

Knowing that gives us peace and security – Knowing that gives us the INNER GRIT we need to persevere thru challenges and hardships as we look forward to what God has in store for us… And God doesn’t leave us without HOPE – and He doesn’t leave us without HELP. HE sent His Son Jesus to the cross to pay the penalty for OUR sins, just so we could have a relationship with God that will last into ETERNITY – A relationship with God that will withstand any trial we face, because Jesus is IN US giving us the power we need. We celebrate Communion together to remember the sacrifice Christ made for us, to be reminded of His presence with US – and we’ll do that now…

Series Information

We’re living in a world where there’s tremendous pressure to fit in. What does it mean to follow Jesus in a culture of conformity? As an exile in Babylon, Daniel shows us that different is good. He demonstrates not only how to resist the influence of culture, but how to be an influencer of culture, bringing grace and truth to the relationships and communities where God has placed us. 

 

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