DUNCAN/The vision of man
Please turn in your Bible to Daniel 10:1-21. In this chapter, we learn that Daniel has been given a vision from God while he was in mourning and prayer. This vision emphasizes the truth that human causes and effects are not the only forces or influences operative in this world. In fact, they are not even the most important influences in this world. The messenger of God came to Daniel to tell him something that would give him strength and peace, and this message is designed to give us strength and peace as well. In fact, there are three things that we can learn from this passage. First, we see that God wants us to have a heart for the people of God, and to express that heart in prayer. Secondly, we learn that God wants us to know and remember His greatness, forgiveness and faithfulness. Thirdly and finally, we see that God wants us to be aware of the greater battle behind our struggles.
I. God Wants Us To Have A Heart For The People Of God, And To Express That Heart In Prayer.
In verses 1-4, we get a glimpse of Daniel's heart and his concern for the people of God. Daniel was apparently still in Babylon, even though we know that in the first year of Cyrus some of the exiles went back to Jerusalem. And yet we learn from Ezra 1:1-4 that Daniel remained in Babylon. It is also significant that Daniel tells us that those three weeks in which he was fasting occurred during the feast days of Passover and unleavened bread. Those were not days for fasting. Those were days for celebration. Those were days meant for the people of God to remember the great deliverance that the Lord had given them in the exodus and the promises that He would pour out upon them. But Daniel is in sackcloth and ashes, abstaining from tasty food and in deep prayer and mourning. Why was Daniel still there and why was he fasting? It is probably because Daniel felt that the greatest thing that he could do for the work of the rebuilding of Jerusalem would be to pray for the people of God. He had heard of the opposition to the building program. He knew that there were many powerful forces established in the ancient places of Israel that were determined to keep Israel from rebuilding the temple and the walls, and so he devoted himself to praying the work of God through those days of crisis.
In fact, that was precisely what he was praying about when the angelic visitor came to him. He was praying for the people of God, and he was praying for the protection and the blessing of the work of rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple. In his personal sacrifice and spiritual commitment to a goal he would not enjoy, Daniel serves as an example to us. He was wholly devoted to seeing the children of Israel re-established in the worship of God in Jerusalem, even though he himself would never receive an earthly benefit from that work. We are also reminded in this passage of what a tremendous need we have in the church today for intercessors like Daniel. We live in a day where we are far more infatuated with programs than we are with prayer. But as E. M. Bounds once said, “The church is looking for better methods. God is looking for better men, for people are God's methods.”
II. God Wants Us To Know And Remember His Greatness, Forgiveness And Faithfulness.
In verses 4-9, we have this overwhelming vision of the heavenly visitor. In this vision, God teaches us that He wants us to know and remember His greatness, forgiveness and faithfulness. This vision itself is meant to communicate the all-powerfulness of the Lord, the all-gloriousness of the Lord, and the strength of His providence on behalf of His people. In verses 5-6, we read that the angel was dressed in linen, which was the clothing that the High Priest wore when he entered into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement to offer a sacrifice for the forgiveness of his people's sins. Daniel is being reminded of the forgiveness of God in this vision. Daniel has been pouring out his heart. He was confessing himself before God and wondering if God is just going to wipe His people off the face of the earth because of their wickedness. And what does God show him? The vision of a man in linen reminding him of the priest, and reminding him of the forgiveness which God has purchased for His people. By reminding Daniel of His past forgiveness and His continuing faithfulness, God was encouraging Daniel to trust in Him, even in a bleak time. Knowledge of God's great work in the past encourages us to trust Him in the future. We also see that the presence of God which He brings to Daniel in his hour of need leaves a mark on Daniel. When God draws close to Daniel, he is left on his face, trembling, prostrate, and then unconscious. And even when he is lifted to his feet by the angelic visitor, he trembles in the presence of the Lord. This passage reminds us that the presence of the Lord leaves its mark on us.
III. God Wants Us To Be Aware Of The Greater Battle Behind Our Struggles.
In verses 10-21, we see a picture of the spiritual battle for the kingdom. Daniel was always a man who thought beyond his own individual circumstances. He was preoccupied with the big picture of the people of God. And in this passage, God is letting Daniel know that there is something even bigger going on in the return from exile. In verses 12-13, the angelic visitor tells Daniel that there is a conflict behind the return from captivity which involves a spiritual battle in which Daniel's prayers are playing a part. The angel tells Daniel that he is battling with principalities and powers far above this earthly conflict who are working to prevent the return from captivity. As Daniel had prayed, God in heaven had heard, for God had set Daniel praying. Daniel's prayer was simply a reflection of God's own heart. And in God's decree, one was sent out to do spiritual battle in response to Daniel's prayers. This passage stresses to us the power of prayer. Now, it is important to note that the power of prayer is not in the prayer. The power of prayer is in God. For Daniel, though left behind by those faithful Israelites gone back to Jerusalem to rebuild the broken walls, was in the presence of God and he was not alone. There is a passage from this world to the heavenly world and vice-versa. And not only did Daniel use it, he lived at the point of contact between the two through his communion with God. May God also help us live in conscious communion with Him through prayer.
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.