DUNCAN/Blessed is the one who waits
Please turn in your Bible to Daniel 12:1-13. As we come to the last chapter of Daniel, we see a revelation both of God's future purposes and the application of that truth for Daniel's life. Just like in other places in the Bible, we see a divine instruction for Christian living in light of our future hope. The divine directives for our daily Christian living are based on our understanding of God's promises for the future and supported by our Christian hope in those realities. And so in this chapter, God calls on us to live our lives in the light of His promises for the future. There are three things that we learn in this passage. First, we see that God powerfully comforts His people in the time of their trials. Secondly, we observe that God's people must be prepared to persevere to the end. Thirdly and finally, we see that God's people must be content to trust Him in His refining providences.
I. God Powerfully Comforts His People In The Time Of Their Trials.
In verses 1-4, we are assured that no matter how difficult the times become, the Lord is still the protector of His people. It is a typical pattern that, when an Old Testament prophet foretells trials for God's people, he also simultaneously gives them comforts so that they can endure under those trials. Notice in verse 1 that Daniel is told in the vision, “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise.” So even though it is going to be a time of distress like has never been seen before in the history of the nation, even at that time Michael the archangel, will arise because the Lord wants Daniel and his people, and us, to have hope and comfort because of the promise of His protection. The name Michael means “who is like God?” Thus, Michael, the archangel, is a symbol of how God cares and protects His people. This reminds us that we do not live in an impersonal universe. The forces of history are not controlled by impersonal mechanisms. God is personally involved, and through the instrumentalities of His angels, He is protecting His people.
But we are also told at the end of verse 1 that God's people must be prepared for trial and tribulation for the sake of the kingdom. However, there is comfort, even in tribulation, because in verses 2, we read that “many of those who sleep, will awake”. Even though God’s people fall under the hand of wicked persecution, a great multitude, which no man can number, will be raised from the dead at the last day. God will resurrect the faithful. In verse 3, we are also told that God is going to bless the faithful and that those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven. His providence controls all the events of their lives so that even in the midst of all this turmoil, God's people are not victims. God is reminding us in this passage that every trial is purposed for our blessing and His glory.
II. God's People Must Be Prepared To Persevere To The End.
In verses 5-7, Daniel overhears two other figures questioning the man who was dressed in linen who had given the vision to him. And they are asking a question in verses 5 and 6, that Daniel really wants to know, which is, “How long will it be until the end of these wonders?” Notice that the question is not, “When is this going to happen?” but “How long are your people going to have to endure under this, O Lord?” I want you to understand the sweetness of this. The response is one of the most solemn moments in the whole book of Daniel. A two-handed sacred oath is taken here. Not only does the man in linen raise his right hand, he raises his left hand up to heaven and he swears by the One who lives, that the words that he says are true. Then he utters the phrase “a time, times, and half a time.” This phrase indicates an extended period of time, but it also indicates God's control of all events. When evil has done its worse and the hopes of the people of God seem shattered, then God will act. The grim work of the oppressors will roll on and on, but at the appropriate moment God will intervene. This reminds us of the truth that when the people of God seem like they are in the most desperate situation, God intervenes.
III. God's People Must Be Content To Trust Him In His Refining Providences.
In verses 8-13, we find that the Lord's people will be purified. The message that we learn here is that God's people must be content to trust Him even in His refining providences. In verse 8, Daniel asks the outcome of the events of God’s providence, and the answer that Daniel gets in verse 9 is a little bit frustrating. God tells Daniel that it is not for him to know. However, in verse 10, God tells him that no matter what happens, His people are being refined and re-conformed to the image of Christ. And in verse 12, God goes on to tell Daniel that he needs to be prepared to wait, to persevere, and to endure a long time. He says, “How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1335 days.” These days are exactly known by God, but they are unknown to us. They will seem like a long time, but we must trust to the end. The message of those verses is that we are to keep the faith, we are to endure to the end, and we are to live for the kingdom now. We are to recognize God's reign now, work for the sake of the kingdom in the world, and we are to persevere to the end. In verse 13, we have a beautiful personal promise for Daniel and for believers where he is told, “As for you, Daniel, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age.” So Daniel is to persevere, enter into rest and be raised to a reward at the end of the day. And it reminds us of those words that Jesus’ said in Matthew 25:21, when the Lord speaks to His faithful servant and He says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into the rest that I have prepared for you.” What a glorious promise for Daniel and for us at the conclusion of this great book. May this become a reality in our lives by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
The Rev. Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III is Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. He can be reached at 601-923-1600 or by email.