In the new Daredevil series on Netflix the character goes to talk to his priest about his fight against evil in his city. Daredevil ask his priest if he believes the “devil” exist? The priest says while he was in seminary that he was very skeptical and came up with a biblical theory that the concept of the devil was just a literary device used by the biblical authors to describe evil in the world. But after sending some time in Rwanda as a missionary he met a holy man who was helping many refugees. The entire village respected this man. Many of the local militia, his own enemies, respected him and would not touch him. But when the commander of the militia heard about this man, he wanted to meet him. He met with for a few hours and then drug him out, murdered him, and his entire family to make a point. The priest tells the Daredevil, “So yes…I believe he [the devil walks among us, taking many forms.”
For some of you modern skeptics this is still not convincing enough. Some of you still might be thinking, “who is this young pastor? Does he seriously expect me to believe there is some spiritual superpower out there plotting to destroy us all?” Listen to this older wiser pastor than me expressing this a different way:
“Secular people see the world as made up of strictly material forces. There is no soul or spirit, no demons or angels. Everything has a natural scientific explanation. In this view, we can deal with evil in the world (if there even is such a thing) by educating the ignorant, changing social systems, and providing better psychological and pharmacological treatment. Yet time and again over the last century, Western thinkers have been shocked anew by the depth and power of the forces of evil in the human heart and in the world…the Bible…says that evil is more multidimensional, nuanced, and complex than the sciences alone can suggest. It maintains that, in addition to systemic injustices and personal ignorance and physiological imbalances, there really are forces of spiritual evil in the world—and behind them all, there is a singular supernatural intelligence.”—Keller, p. 108-109
I think our text today is attempting to help us see this truth…
Theme: When God pulls back the curtain of our lives we will see disturbing images, but they are meant to deepen our need for God.
1. The Setting—Daniel 10.1-4.
Daniel 10.1 immediately clues us in to the historical context. We are in the third year reign of Cyrus king of Persia. But to better understand this third year let’s look at what happened in the first year, which can be found in II Chronicles 36.22-23:
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.’”—II Chronicle 36.22-23
What we glean from this text is the concern from Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9 has been answered. Daniel and his family are aloud to go back to Jerusalem, and rebuild their city, temple, and way of life. But when we read Ezra 4 we quickly learn the non-Israelites in the land came and put a stop to the restoration project. I think this is what the author means when he says, “a word was revealed…the word was true, and it was a great conflict” (Dan 10.1). This would have caused Daniel and his people great anxiety. Daniel, probably along with his people, went into a depression. So what does Daniel decide to do? He decides to fast—READ Daniel 10.2-4. So as Daniel is standing on the river bank of the Tigris he receives a disturbing vision.
2. The Disturbing Vision—Daniel 10.5-9.
While there is much debate what happens here in verses 5-9, I believe Daniel encounters an angel. Some people believe this a pre-incarnate Christ or manifestation of God. While they make some compelling arguments I think this creature would not be a manifestation of God because this creature has trouble defeating a demon in verse 13. Jesus does not seem to have trouble with demons or even the devil himself in the Gospels. Sure angels come to minister to Christ, but that is after he has resisted the devils temptations (Matt 4.11). We also see in other passages across the Bible where people have encounters with angels and similar things are described:
As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. And the living creatures darted to and fro, like the appearance of a flash of lightning…And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.—Ezekiel 1.13-14, 28c
Even when we get to verse 16 we will see something similar to Isaiah’s experience when he encountered an angel:
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”—Isaiah 6.6-7
Now, if this is an angel, why is this a disturbing vision? First, put yourself in Daniels shoes. Can you imagine seeing this creature in person? I mean the rest of his crew take off they are so terrified (Dan 10.7). Second, Daniel is a good student of the Word and knows when people encounter angelic creatures a tough road is coming. For instance, when Isaiah and Ezekiel had their encounters with an angel they ended living a life of intense struggle and persecution. Having a full time ministry to administer the Word of God is a heavy burden to carry. When we truly encounter the emissaries of the Word it should floor us. Hearing from God can be an unbearable experience. Most people in the Bible who hear a direct Word from God have traumatic experiences. Understanding the Word comes through hardship, toil, struggle and not ease. Like Jacob, those who labor hard in the Word have struggled and come out with a limp.
3. Disturbing Comfort—Daniel 10.10-21.
As we continue to through the rest of our text today we can immediately see this angelic creature begin to comfort Daniel. By the end of verse 9 Daniel is in so much anguish he passes out from exhaustion. But when we get to verse 10 Daniel is at least back on his knees. How does this angel encourage Daniel, what word does he give him?—“O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have been sent to you.” Who is Daniel greatly loved by? Who sent these words to Daniel? Who sent this angelic emissary to Daniel? The answer to everyone of those questions is GOD. It is God who greatly loves Daniel. It is God who sent Daniel these words. It is God who sent Daniel this emissary to help him understand the words.
While Daniel is disturbed by what is happening during his time God wants him to understand that is more happening than he realizes. The war Daniel is feeling in his soul for the struggle of his people is worse than he realizes—READ Daniel 10.12-14. There are real demonic forces orchestrating the events Daniel and his family are going through. Can you see how this would be a disturbing image, but also a comforting one? It is terrifying that things are worse than Daniel could have imagined, but it is helpful to know what is going on. So what is Daniel’s response—READ Daniel 10.15-17. Daniel is in shock, so he asks for help. The angel reaches out to Daniel to strengthen and encourage him.
Imagine this scene with me for a moment. Here is Daniel being consumed with the vastness of what is being revealed to him, so much so he becomes physically exhausted. Yet the God of the universe is reaching out to Daniel in a very personal way, expressing how much He loves him, and giving him a fuller picture of what is going on. All of this is coming through a mediator between God and Daniel. Once Daniel realizes this truth our text says Daniel’s strength returns to him—READ Daniel 10.19.
Friends God has sent us a mediator as well. God did not just send an angel, no, He sent His One and Only Son to us. Jesus has come, pulled back the curtain, and showed us what is really happening in the world. While the world around us is crumbling we know God is slowly rebuilding it through His Son. Jesus Christ came into the world, humbled Himself before God, His strength was taken from, and He died experiencing intense physical, mental, emotional and spiritual exhaustion. Why did He do all of this? So people like you and me will not experience this type of suffering for eternity. In the words of CS Lewis the Gospel tells us, “that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead…Death itself would start working backward.”
Why is all of this important? What does this mean for you and me today? When I read this passage I think what God desires us to see is the same thing He was showing Daniel and his family. We must take into consideration that this world has much deeper issues than our mere mortal eyes can see and comprehend. There are forces beyond the naked eye that are seeking to destroy God’s people, His plans, and so much more.
But we also must not forget this is a part of God’s plan. For some of us that is comfort, but for others that is a source of torment. I want to briefly address that group. There are many times in Scripture where we can see the outcome of something because we are familiar with the story. But for the people in the midst of the story the pain and agony was very real and personal for them. Adam was placed in a perfect world and yet felt alone. God knew this would happen and aloud him to seek out a companion among created order. But Adam could not find a suitable companion. So, God sends him into a deep sleep and after he comes out there is Eve in all of her splendor. God could have just given Adam the woman and say, “Here you need this.” But He didn’t do that. No, God let Adam work through it, so when God provided what he truly needed Adam’s desires would be aligned with God’s. Many times God will take us through the process of suffering, torment, and disappointment of the soul to help our hearts see what He sees. And what do we need? GOD!