Subtle Hope

Last week we began the first chapter in our apocalyptic section of Daniel. We learned that during the first year of Belshazzar’s reign God had given Daniel a view behind the curtain of history. Today we will see that two years later God gave Daniel another glimpse behind the scene. But this time God gives Daniel more details on some of the scenes from Daniel 7.

This section of Daniel 8 opens up with Daniel being transported to another part of the world—READ Daniel 8.1-2. Let’s stop and think about what is being described here. In recent history the comic book world has made its way into movies. Some of you might remember seeing X Men: Days of Future Past a couple of years ago. There is a scene where Wolverine is attempting to get Professor X to use a machine to find someone across the world. This was a machine he quit using because he couldn’t listen to all the pain an suffering across the world anymore. They convince him to use it again but he ends breaking the machine. So, Wolverine tells him to look into his mind and talk to his future self. Professor X is mentally transported to the future and sees his future self. His future self attempts to restore his hope even though there is so much suffering. Friends God has mentally transported Daniel across the space time continuum to prepare God’s people for what is coming. God wants to restore their future hope.

 

Theme: God prepare us for hard times through subtle future hope.

 

1. Some Disturbing Images—Daniel 8.1-14.

The place Daniel is transported is called Susa, and we know from Nehemiah 1.1, Esther 1.1-2, and studying human history that Susa was an important city in the Persian empire. More than likely it was the summer home of the Persian king. So Daniel is transported and sees some disturbing images. In Daniel 8.1-9 the author uses the verb “saw” 6 times, which means he wants us to see what he saw.

The first thing Daniel sees is a ram standing on the bank of the canal (Dan 8.3). The ram has two high horns, but one is higher than the other (Dan 8.3). Everywhere the ram went no one could defeat him and he did as he pleased (Dan 8.4). If we were to stop here we would feel like, well no one can defeat whatever that is. But in Daniel 8.5 we are introduced to the second image, which was a goat that moves swiftly across the whole earth. The goat charges the ram and he had no power to stand against the goat, so he tramples to the ground (Dan 8.6-7). The goat becomes exceedingly great, but suddenly he falls and his legacy (which is symbolized through a “horn”) is split four ways (Dan 8.8).

The final disturbing image is “a little horn” which also became exceedingly great (Dan 8.9). What makes this final scene so disturbing is the author’s use of some specific language that would have reminded an Israelite of their people, their land, and their religion. I read this passage at the beginning so I am going to just point out a few things. The phrase “glorious land” would have reminded them of the Promised Land, so it would same that is the context of these verses. This goat with a little horn makes an intentional attack on God’s people and God’s Temple, which we can tell from Daniel 8.10-12. This final image is so disturbing that even angels begin discussing it in Daniel 8.13-14. But at the end of this section we see our first glimmer of hope in the phrase—“Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful place.”

 

2. Finding Hope In The Midst Of Hard Times—Daniel 8.15-27.

Finding hope in the midst of hard times is never an easy thing. I don’t think it is easy in our passage today, which is the author’s way of saying many times hope is subtle. We have seen how the angels respond to this vision, so let’s look at how Daniel does—READ Daniel 8.15a.

Once again God sends Daniel an angel to help him understand these disturbing images (Dan 8.15b-17). The angel Gabriel explains to him this vision is about the “end.” But some of you might be asking, “The end of what?” That is a great question. Some people believe this is an explanation of the second coming of Christ. I don’t think that is what is happening here. I think Daniel 8.19 is connected to the question in Daniel 8.13—“For how long…?” The concern is when are the Temple practices going to be restored.

Now this is our first subtle bit of hope for Daniel. Remember Daniel is living in Babylon at this time and the Temple he grew up going to as a little boy is in shambles. But the Temple seems to be up and running after the ram comes and even after the goat comes. Daniel was told in Isaiah 23, Jeremiah 25 & 29 that after 70 years God’s people would return to the promised and rebuild the Temple. This happens during the time of the ram, and according to Gabriel the ram is a symbol of the Persian empire (Dan 8.20). We know Cyrus king of Persia told the Israelites they could go back and rebuild the Temple and reinstitute their sacrificial religious system (Ezra 1.2-4; II Chron 36.22-23). This should have been a subtle piece of hope for Daniel.

Gabriel goes on to explain that the goat represents the Greek empire (Dan 8.21). As people who are on the other side of this part of history we know the Greek goat was Alexander the Great. He quickly conquered the known world in 13 years, but in his early 30s he died and his empire was be divided into four parts by his four generals. One of those empires was the Seleucids, and the leader of the Seleucids name Antiochus Epiphanes decided to attack Jerusalem on several occasions from 169-167 BCE. One occasion he destroyed the altar for burnt offerings and replaced it with an altar to zeus. He believed he was a manifestation of the god zeus, so Israelites should stop worshiping their weak God and worship him. I believe this is what Gabriel is describing to Daniel in verses 22-25.

But let’s notice some subtle clues from God here—READ Daniel 8.24. Notice how it says, “His power shall be great—BUT not by his power.” This is God telling Daniel this will be an abomination, but this is by My hand. God is allowing His temple to be destroyed and His sacrifices to be halted. But that is not the only thing God says—READ Daniel 8.25. God promises this dude is going down, but not by any human hand. God is going to take this guy out Himself.

 

3. Some Powerful Future Hope.

Some people believe this little horn is a description of the final antichrist, while do not believe that is what is being described here I think there are some principles we can still glean from this. Antiochus shares many of the practices of people who want to persecute God’s people and halt what God is doing. In Daniel 8.11 we see he takes away the burnt offerings. We are not doing burnt offerings, at least I hope not. Those who oppose God want what Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls “cheap grace.” They want grace without sacrifice. In his book The Cost of Discipleship Bonhoeffer says this:

 

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession...Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

 

The grace God has shown is costly. All who follow Christ will have crosses to bear, following Christ is living a life of sacrifice.

We also see in Daniel 8.11-12 that Antiochus wants to destroy God’s sanctuary by getting rid of truth. We are told in I Corinthians that those who have been grafted in Christ are now living temples. God now dwells in the heart of His people. But nothing causes more division among God’s people than those who throw truth to the ground. Paul planted a church in Ephesus, raised up elders/pastors there, and then warns those elders in Acts 20.30 that people will come into the church teaching twisted things. They will try to take disciples away. Paul talks about this same idea throughout the pastoral epistles (I and II Timothy and Titus). Listen to what Paul says in Titus 3:

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.—Titus 3.9-11

Paul skips the church disciplinary process because he believes false teachers and division is so serious. Paul thought division was so dangerous that he publically rebuked Peter to his face in front of all his friends in Galatians 2. Trying to move God’s people away from God’s Word and dividing His people is extremely dangerous. Here in Daniel 8 and throughout the rest of Scripture there are strong warnings about those who attempt to create a cheap Christless Christianity.

So, let hold myself accountable and go back to one final subtle way I believe we can see some future hope here. God did allow people to rise up who sought seek to destroy God’s ultimate sacrifice, and although it was the abomination of all abominations, we know it was ultimately God who chose to crush His Son. It was God who allowed His Temple to be destroyed. It was God who allowed His incarnate truth to be torn apart and thrown to the ground. But is was also God who broke all the power of our enemies had by raising His Son, Jesus Christ, from the dead. So while there will be days when we see the disturbing things, experience disturbing things, and may not understand it all, but we should eventually get up and go about doing the King’s business.