Repulsion, Confusion, and Conviction: Daniel 8 (Sermon)
I am pastor Rob. It is great to worship with you today.
WHAT IS THIS A PICTURE OF WHAT?
What is this a picture of? Yeah, it is public enemy number one. We will never look at a kleenex or hear a sneeze the same. I bring this up because it makes us sick, although we cannot see the Corona19 with our naked eyes. We can see it through a microscope, but we don’t completely understand it. Scientists are still figuring it out; yet, life marches on. We have to go to work, go to school, do chores, and shop. We can’t stop living because we don’t have everything figured out. That’s life in the 21st Century and 550 B.C.
We have been studying the book of Daniel. He didn’t have COVID19, but he had a vision that made him sick. He didn’t understand it but had to go on with his business. He set a good example for faithfulness in hardship.
If you have your Bibles, we are moving through the Old Testament book of Daniel. Daniel was a prophet abducted by a foreign power as a child. His captors moved him 900 miles away from his homeland and educated him to serve their king. He wrote around 530 B.C. We are working through it chapter by chapter. This morning, let’s look at chapter 8, starting at verse 1. P.H. is going to read for us.
In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal. I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great. (Daniel 8:1–4)
Thanks. Let’s pray.
Dear, God. We need you. I need you. May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of our hearts be pleasing to you, our Rock and Redeemer. Amen.
Let’s zoom out before we zoom in. We pastors summed up the complete book of Daniel in one sentence. Does anyone know what that sentence is? Kingdoms rise and fall, remain faithful to the king who rules over all. Great. That sentence is in your bulletins on the graphic. Do you see it? Let’s read it together if you have a bulletin. Kingdoms rise and fall, remain faithful to the king who rules over all. Great. Judah fell in chapter 1 to the Neo-Babylonian Empire. The Babylonians fell to the Medes and Persians in chapter 5. Chapters 2 and 7 predict the Medes and Persians falling. God kept revealing to Daniel there would be more kings and kingdoms, with God’s kingdom eventually reigning supreme forever. Chapters 1 through 6 follow chronological history, walking us through the life of Daniel and a few of his friends. Chapters 7 through 12 jump back in time to kickstart Daniel’s series of dreams and visions.
WHAT IS GOING ON?
The big idea of chapter 8 is God gives us a peek at reality from time to time that can be disturbing and confusing, yet our job is to continue. So let me say that again, God gives us a peek at reality from time to time that can be disturbing and confusing, yet our job is to continue.
Let me show you how I got there. Verse 1, what does it say? It tells us it was the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign. Who was he? You may remember Belshazzar was the king who threw a party with 1,000 lords and his girlfriends. During the party, he took holy objects from God’s Temple and used them to worship the idols of gold, silver, and other precious metals. That was a no-no. During the festivities, a disembodied hand wrote on the wall, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN, or my paraphrased interpretation: You Are Dead. He was. That very night God took him out. (One secondary thing we learn from this book is don’t mess with God.) Chapter 8, verse 1 tells us that this chapter happened prior to chapter 5 in the year 449 B.C.
Verse 2 tells us where this took place: Susa. Let me clarify that this is not a prophetic shoutout to the patron saint of the marching band: John Phillips Sousa.
We spell Susa S-U-S-A, not S-O-U-S-A. Here is a picture of Susa. It is in the middle of the region of Elam, modern-day Iran.
Nehemiah 1:1 mentions Susa. Nehemiah was there in the citadel a hundred years after Daniel. The book of Ester takes place in the Susa. It was the central city in the Persian empire.
What did Daniel see there? He saw a ram on the bank of a river. Not this
What did that ram do? We read in verse 4, I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great (Daniel 8:4). If we remember anything about Daniel’s visions, we can guess that this ram represented what? A king or kingdom. It did. The vision went on. Verse 5.
As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. (Daniel 8:5)
I found this picture of a goat online. However, Daniel’s goat was not your typical one. This goat flew and was a unicorn.
WHAT IT DID
The vision keeps going. Look at verses 6 through 8 and hear what this animal did. P.H. would you read these next few verses for us, please?
He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath. I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power. Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven. (Daniel 8:6–8)
The goat was on a successful warpath. “The goat became exceedingly great” (Daniel 8:8). However, that success didn’t last. Verse 8 goes on to tell us, “But when he was strong, the great horn was broken” (Daniel 8:8). Four horns replaced the one. Go to verse 9.
Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land (Daniel 8:9).
Where is this glorious land? What do you think? What do you think Daniel and his readers would consider the “glorious land?” He uses a similar phrase three times in chapter 11. He was talking about Israel, the Promised Land. This was the place where God’s Temple was, and God had a special presence. Two weeks ago, we read Daniel had a habit of stopping what he was doing and praying three times a day. The text tells us he prayed towards Israel, Jerusalem, the Temple, this glorious land.
Let’s get back to the vision. This little horn grew great in the direction of Israel. Verse 10.
It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them (Daniel 8:10).
So out of the four horns came a little horn that grew to be exceedingly great. It moves towards Israel and assaults heaven and its beings. Now read verse 11.
It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression, and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper. (Daniel 8:11–12)
This exceedingly great horn became as great as the Prince of the host of heaven. This is not good. The exceedingly great horn overtook the “sanctuary,” and obliterating the sacrificial system. How long would this last? Daniel overheard angels discuss this question.
... “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” And he said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.” (Daniel 8:13–14)
The angels or host of heaven told Daniel this horrible offense would last 2,300 evenings and mornings (For an explanation of 2,300, go to https://biblearchaeology.org/research/the-daniel-9-24-27-project/4362-understanding-the-2-300-evenings-and-mornings-of-daniel-8-14). That means this desecration of worship will end and proper praise will start at the appointed time. That was Daniel’s vision in the third year of Belshazzar, 449 B.C. How did he process this? What would you do if after church you had this odd dream about a ram, a flying unicorn goat that kept losing and growing amazing horns? Find verse 15. What does it say Daniel did?
DANIEL SEEKS TO FIGURE IT OUT
When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it (Daniel 8:15).
It didn’t make sense to him. Not entirely. So, he sought clarity. It is good and okay for us to seek answers. God gave some direction, but it didn’t make sense. Jesus encouraged us to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:8–9). Daniel pressed into this vision instead of explaining it away or ignoring it. Verse 15 continued.
...And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man's voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.” (Daniel 8:15–17)
Someone with authority over Gabriel, who had the appearance of a man, commanded the angel Gabriel to answer Daniel’s confusion. (Who might that be? Who has an appearance of man and commands angels?) Possibly this was Jesus.
GABRIEL - FEAR
Daniel then saw Gabriel and fell in fear. Now, note when someone meets an angel in the Bible, they are not chubby babies with wings shooting arrows making people fall in love, nor are they super-models with wings. Whatever they look like, usually they are frightening.
EXPLANATION - END
Gabriel explained what this vision meant. He said this “Vision is for the time of the end.” He did not mean the end of all time, judgment day, rather the ending of that time. We know this by the next few verses. Verse 18,
And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up. He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. (Daniel 8:18–19)
This period Gabriel called the “indignation.” The Bible uses the word “Indignation” twenty-two times and can mean “fury,” “wrath,” and “insolence.” It was a bad time to be under this specific king. He was a maniacal king.
MEDES AND PERSIANS
Gabriel goes on to explains the first animal, the ram in verse 20. "As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia" (Daniel 8:18–20).
GREEK - ALEXANDER THE GREAT
In verse 21, Gabriel explains what the goat represented. "And the goat is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes was the first king" (Daniel 8:21). Historians tell us that the Greeks rose to power under the reign of Alexander the Great in 336 B.C. He was the first king of the Greek Empire. In thirteen years, he dominated two million square miles making the Greek Empire one of the largest in history.
I think the clarity and accuracy of the prophecy in the book of Daniel are the reason PBS dates Daniel’s authorship to 164 B.C. (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/apocalypse/explanation/bdaniel.html a researched response to this https://www.evidenceunseen.com/bible-difficulties-2/ot-difficulties/daniel-amos/authorship-of-daniel/ ). Why? They don’t believe Daniel had this encounter with Gabriel. They call it a “Legend” on their website. Why would the Public Broadcasting Service promote that? Because they have a non-Christian professor tell them this. Why would they trust him, opposed to another Biblical scholar or the traditional historical understanding, or even the plain reading of the text? PBS promotes a later date because of anti-supernaturalist bias. Daniel is having a vision that won’t occur for another two hundred years, and it will happen just as Gabriel says.
Here at church, we believe God exists, he acts and speaks, and the Bible is true. Therefore, God being God, can do whatever he wants, and whenever he wants. So this chapter predicts a future series of events that would happen for some readers. For the rest of us, we can look back and verify what God said would happen, happened. God is faithful and his Word is true.
Gabriel goes on to tell us that this Greek conquering king would die. After him would come four other kings; they parallel last week’s four-headed leopard in chapter 7. This is another historical, verifiable fact. When Alexander the Great died at age 32, his four generals took over, fracturing his kingdom. Verse 22. "As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, but not with his power" (Daniel 8:22).
What happened next? P.H. would you read verses 23 through 26 for us? Thanks.
And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand. The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.” (Daniel 8:23–26)
Gabriel was clear; this vision “refers to many days from now.” It was more like “many years.”—Moses wrote, “4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4).—Gabriel explained at the tail end of the Greecian Empire; another king would arise. One who would stand out. He would be
Destroying the mighty and the holy (24)
Prosper Deceit (25)
Oppose the Prince of Princes - basically God (25)
Like the little horn in chapter 7, Daniel learned this little horn would be bad news for God’s people (14). He would be like Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar but worse. He would be powerful, prideful, and blasphemous. Scholars agree this description perfectly matches Antiochus IV (215 B.C.–164 B.C.). "In 168 BC, the Greek king Antiochus IV Epiphanes invaded Jerusalem and captured the city. He marched into the Jewish temple, erected a statue of the Greek god Zeus, and sacrificed a pig on the altar of incense" (https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/abomination-temple). Remember, pigs were unclean to the Jews. God commanded people only to worship him. Antiochus IV didn’t care. He was making a statement through his idolatrous abomination. A coin exists with his name on it, calling himself the ”Manifest God.” (https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/tools/image-gallery/a/antiochus-iv-epiphanes-coin). From this period, we have a historical account called 2 Maccabees talking about this horrible leader. In chapter 5, it documents this:
Raging like a wild animal, he set out from Egypt and took Jerusalem by storm. He ordered his soldiers to cut down without mercy those whom they met and to slay those who took refuge in their houses. There was a massacre of young and old, a killing of women and children, a slaughter of virgins and infants. In the space of three days, eighty thousand were lost, forty thousand meeting a violent death, and the same number being sold into slavery. (2 Maccabees 5:11–14)
This made Daniel sick. Verse 27.
Destroying the mighty and the holy (24)
Prosper Deceit (25)
Oppose the Prince of Princes - basically God (25)
LOOKING AT EVIL
And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king's business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it (Daniel 8:27).
Chapter 8 ends. Daniel was upset and confused. I think there is a lesson for us. What is that?
WHY IS THIS PASSAGE HERE?
This vision reminded Daniel that things were going to get tougher before they would get easier. How does that help us? Daniel can trust God even in those difficult times. Recall, Gabriel told Daniel that Antiochus IV’s reign would end, not by human hand. One scholar saw the encouragement for us in this passage. She wrote,
“This fact is an indication that we are being introduced to a recurring historical phenomenon: the clever but ruthless world dictator, who stops at nothing in order to achieve his ambitions. The book proclaims that such rulers cannot ultimately succeed. Though they talk and act big, and though they cause great suffering to many, their end is sure.”— Daniel (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries Book 23) by Joyce G. Baldwin
What does Daniel do with that sure end? Look closely at verse. “He went about the king’s business.” Was he serving a republican or democratic king? Or was he a libertarian king? No, he was the wicked king Belshazzar who would do wicked things. The king didn’t remember Daniel. He served in obscurity. Daniel faithfully went to work. He didn’t complain, resist, or protest. He didn’t start a smear campaign or coup. He worked. He was faithful. Friends, we have it good in America compared to our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan, China, and North Korea. Your reality may already be really hard and scary now personally. Either way, where is your trust and where is your hope?
Let’s press forward with our faith. Let me end with one last quote. 550 years after Daniel’s vision, 150 years after Antiochus IV desecrated the Temple and slaughtered all those people, Gabriel appeared again. This time he spoke to a young teenage girl. He gave her an explanation and prediction that relates to Daniel and us. He said,
...“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30–33)
Where is your hope today? What do you do with your questions and concerns and things that make you sick? How do you move on in a world with injustice? Friends, go to God. Look forward. And faithfully go about your business trusting in Jesus. Let’s pray.