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The Only Avenue: The Word of God
- October 27, 2017
- Jared Odenbeck
Let’s be honest. For many of us, when we read Scripture, a desire aches inside of us to proverbially bury our heads in the sand. What do I mean by that? There are two implications. One, we find what we read unpleasant and take offense to it, as it is not suitable to our own preferences and dispositions, or, two, we face a passage of seeming difficulty, a double-black-diamond on the unofficial perceived biblical difficulty scale. We would rather ignore it and go back to the familiar confines of the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament, bar Revelation of course. But the Bible is not just the New Testament – that’s only between a third or a fourth of the story.
The gold mine of truth and joy in the Old Testament is just as rich as that of the New for those who seek and find it, but perhaps for some of us, the means of access are unpleasant, as the road is steeper and the way can be rather arduous. I want to help you discover that it is a surmountable task. Now, I do not aim to champion self-sufficiency here, but rather, I invite you to join me in the perplexing yet rewarding journey of Daniel 10, and, along with Paul in Ephesians 1:17, ask “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.”
First, as with any passage, we must set the stage. It is easy to go completely off the rails in a book like Daniel if we fail to ask “what is going on?” So, what is going on? In Daniel 9, we see Daniel in utter lament as he prays to and pleads with the LORD to forgive a blatantly unrepentant and disobedient Israel. Additionally, we see the angel Gabriel meet Daniel to grant him “insight and understanding” (Daniel 9:22). He explains that “at the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved” (Daniel 9:23. The implications here are astounding. The LORD heard Daniel and came to his aid. If we would only cry out with pleas more often! If we only understood our position! We have a greater position than Daniel, as the chasm between man and the LORD has forever been bridged – nothing separates us from him.
As we turn to chapter 10, Daniel reveals that he mourns over the state of the nation “for three weeks” (Daniel 10:2) and that he fasts accordingly during that time (Daniel 10:3). He stands alongside several companions on the banks of the Tigris River and lifts his eyes, only to behold a man hovering over the water, “his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude” (Daniel 10:6). Although Daniel’s companions saw nothing, they scattered with trembling. Daniel collapses on the ground, laying unconscious face-first due to the raw power of the vision.
He awakes to a hand that lifts him to his hands and knees. Trembling on all fours, another man speaks to him. Here, we catch a glimpse of our standing before the LORD and heavenly hosts. The man, whom we will shortly identify, calls Daniel “man greatly loved,” and reveals that he has been sent to him (Daniel 10:11). Verse 12 should astound us. “Then he said to me, ‘Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words” (Daniel 10:12). From the time that Daniel aimed to understand and humbled himself, his words were heard, and this heavenly man came because of those words. We do not pray into emptiness. We do not plead with a vacuum. We do not ask of nothing.
Verse 13 reveals even more about the response to our prayer and lends understanding to seasons of waiting. “The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia” (Daniel 10:13). What on earth is this? Do not allow yourself to be flustered! Ask for the help of the Spirit. Consult a commentary. Ask a mentor. Seek and you will find (Matthew 7:7).
Notice that the “prince of Persia” withstood this heavenly man for twenty-one days, the exact time of Daniel’s mourning and fasting. We see the “prince of Persia” delayed the comfort and strength that this heavenly man sought to give Daniel, yet Michael, “one of the chief princes,” arrived at his aid to deliver him. Since we know that no human can withstand an angelic being, we can now draw things together and begin to connect seemingly fragmented parts. Since this heavenly being labels Michael, the well-known archangel, as a chief prince, we can assert that this “prince of Persia” is not a physical prince, but rather a spiritual being like Michael. And not only that, but we begin to understand why Daniel mourned and fasted for twenty-one days as he awaited an answer to prayer. The LORD saw fit for an evil spirit, namely, a spirit that presided over the kingdom of Persia, to do battle for twenty-one days against the unnamed heavenly being who was sent to strengthen and give understanding to Daniel. That is why Daniel had to wait. That is why Daniel suffered. And yet, we believe firmly in the undeniable truth that suffering is great gain for those who believe (Romans 5:3-5, 2 Corinthians 1:5, 1 Peter 4:13).
We see later on that “one having the appearance of a man” (Daniel 10:18) again reassures Daniel that he is “greatly loved,” and says “fear not, peace be with you, be strong and of good courage” (Daniel 10:19). Daniel says that “as he spoke to me, I was strengthened” (Daniel 10:19). In times of duress, in times of little, in times of need, in times of pain, we have one avenue to turn towards that produces strength, peace, and courage in us; the Word of God. The heavenly man finally explains to Daniel that he must now “return to fight against the prince of Persia,” and that “the prince of Greece will come” (Daniel 10:20). What a stunning picture of the warfare of the heavens, with the LORD holding all things in his hand at all times. Charles Ellicott offers a concluding point on Daniel 10 in his commentary Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers. “Perhaps no single verse in the whole of the Scriptures speaks more clearly than this upon the invisible powers which rule and influence nations. If we were without a revelation, we should have thought it congruent that God Himself should direct all events in the world without using any intervening means. But revelation points out that as spiritual beings carry out God’s purpose in the natural world (Exodus 12:23; 2 Samuel 24:16) and in the moral world (Luke 15:10), so also they do in the political world” (Ellicott).
You see! It can be done by the help of the Spirit. When we sit with a text and meditate on it and seek to understand it and press into it, we grow in wisdom and knowledge and understanding. We gain discipline. Most of all, we receive more of God himself.