Text: Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3
Date: September 28 & 29, 2019
Event: The Festival of St. Michael and All Angels
Daniel 10:10-14, 12:1-3 (EHV)
10Then a hand touched me and pulled me up, trembling, to my hands and knees. 11He said to me, “Daniel, you are a highly valued man. Understand the words that I am speaking to you. Stand up where you are, because now I have been sent to you.” When he spoke this word to me, I stood up, shaking.
12He said to me, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, because from the first day that you began to commit your heart to gaining understanding and to humbling yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come in response to your words. 13However, an officer of the kingdom of Persia was standing against me for twenty-one days. Yet Michael, one of the chief officers, came to help me, for I had been left there against the kings of Persia. 14I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the latter days, because the vision concerns days still to come.”
12:1Then at that time, Michael, the great prince who stands over your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress that has not happened from the first time that there was a nation until that time.
At that time your people will be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. 2Many who are sleeping in the dusty ground will awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame, to everlasting contempt. 3Those who have insight will shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who bring many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever and ever.
Do Not Be Afraid
Have you been feeling afraid, lately? Fear is everywhere. News stations use it to drive up their ratings. Politicians use it to get people onboard with their cause. Parents might use it to motivate their children, or teachers their students. But why is fear used so often and by so many different people and groups?
Because it’s effective. Want the world to be clean and sustainable for your future or your children’s future? Well, you better give careful thought to the way you treat God’s creation around you. Don’t want a ticket? Well, you better drive the speed limit. Don’t want to be called out and embarrassed in class? Well, you better do your homework well and be ready to answer questions. Don’t want some politician or political party to run roughshod over the country? Well, you better tune into this 24-hour news cycle to stay up to date on everything! Even here at church it would be easy to fall into this line of thinking and messaging. Don’t want our ministry plan to change? Well, you better give more money in your offerings!
Fear is effective, but often only in the short term. If you get that speeding ticket, more often than not, you watch the speedometer in the car more closely, right? You look at the people flying past you on the freeway with some envy but also just hoping they learn the same lesson you learned by having a police officer just happen to catch them at the right moment. But what happens when you get a few weeks or months removed from that speeding ticket? The fear starts to wear off, doesn’t it? You start to not think about it so much and maybe fall back into old habits until, perhaps, you have to be reminded again of what the consequences for those actions are.
Our festival today takes us to something that perhaps we don’t often think about, but something that left unchecked could easily bring a good bit of fear to our lives. There is a spiritual war raging all around us, a war that we often do not see. In this spiritual war, in a way that almost sounds like something out of some cheap paperback novel, the fate of our souls is at stake. But it is not cheap fiction. It is reality that the Lord tells us about, but one about which he also says, “Do not be afraid.”
Our lesson from Daniel for this morning takes place during the late part of Daniel’s life. He’s living in Persia, around the time when God’s people from the southern kingdom of Judah were allowed to return to Judah and its capital city of Jerusalem by Persian King Cyrus. But things had not been going well for them. As we’ll see in our midweek Bible Class starting this week studying the history of the book of Ezra, the initial groups of people faced fierce opposition to the rebuilding of their homes and especially the temple of God. Part of this vision before us in our lesson is God answering Daniel’s question about why that was happening.
Daniel is speaking to a fierce looking warrior in our lesson. His exact identity is not nailed down, but from how he speaks it’s clear that this is God, and his descriptions earlier in the vision very closely resemble descriptions of Jesus in the book of Revelation, so we might well conclude that he’s speaking with Jesus, just some 500 years before his incarnation and birth in Bethlehem.
Daniel was greatly troubled by the hardships his people were facing in Jerusalem and so he pleaded with God on their behalf. And those prayers did not fall on deaf ears. God says, “From the first day that you began to commit your heart to gaining understanding and to humbling yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come in response to your words.”
So, God had come to get Daniel some clarity. Things should be going better for God’s people! Things should be easier for his people! God had promised that they would return home. Even King Cyrus was really excited for God’s people to return to their home (perhaps in part because of the evidence of God’s power he had seen somewhat recently in Daniel’s miraculous safety while in the lions’ den). So why the hardship and turmoil? God says that his plans were meeting with some fierce opposition, “An officer of the kingdom of Persia was standing against me for twenty-one days.” Somehow, in someway, Satan was using the earthly government in an attempt to thwart the God’s plans, and perhaps especially God’s plan of salvation. After all, if God had promised the Savior would be born in Bethlehem but Satan could somehow prevent God’s people from ever resettling there, wouldn’t Satan have won the war against God?
While details in this scene are vague, this scheme on Satan’s part is seen much more clearly elsewhere in Scripture. The abuses the Israelites faced in Egypt before the Exodus, the folly and false worship that Israel’s own kings led the nation into, King Herod trying to wipe out any remnant of a young king born in Bethlehem, or the Roman oppression of the gospel. Satan was not above then (and certainly isn’t above now) using secular powers to inhibit God’s plans and his will.
And so a battle takes place. Michael, one of the chief angels (sometimes called “archangels”) comes to help in this battle, likely bringing a force of other angels with him. God and his angels take their stand against Satan and his angels. And what are they fighting over? Us!
It would be easy to be very scared by all this. Who are you and who am I to stand against these sorts of spiritual forces? What ability do we have to ward off the attacks of Satan and his demons? What can we contribute to the battle that Michael and the angels fight for us?
At first glance, it would appear to be nothing. For we can’t contribute anything to our salvation, right? We are totally hopeless and helpless on our own. We can’t solve our sin; we can’t fix our relationship with God. We actually, by nature, find ourself on Satan’s team, battling God in everything we say, think, and do.
But God changes that. He rescues us from our war against him. He brings us to himself. He saves us from ourselves, from our sins. Jesus battled for our souls on the cross. It was a fierce battle. We sing about it in that Easter hymn, “Christ, the victim undefiled, God and sinners reconciled. While, in strange and awe-full strife, met together death and life!” (Christian Worship, Hymn 150, s. 3). Jesus comes out the victor. He defeated sin, death, and even Satan himself as he paid for our sins and gave us his life. We are free; we are safe.
But it doesn’t feel that way all the time, does it? It feels like we’re on the losing team. It feels like Satan holds all the cards, has all the power. You look at the world around you and it probably looks a lot like it did to Daniel: God seems to be losing; everything that is against him seems to be winning.
But when God started speaking to Daniel he didn’t say, “I’m going to be real with you. Things look bad. I’m not sure how this is going to go.” No, none of that at all! How did he start the conversation? “Do not be afraid, Daniel.” The immediate term looks dicey, but there is no question about the ultimate outcome of what is going to happen.
And that is largely the point of the second part of our lesson. What’s going to happen? How is this all going to end? Then at that time, Michael, the great prince who stands over your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress that has not happened from the first time that there was a nation until that time. Great... if things look bad now, just wait! Even as God’s protective forces stand over us, it’s going to look like all hell is breaking loose and we will have no hope. But God goes on, “Many who are sleeping in the dusty ground will awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame, to everlasting contempt.” This is the Last Day, this is Judgment Day. All those who had died will be raised to life, a huge number. And then it will happen just as God had said. Those who had Spirit-given insight and thus trusted him for forgiveness will be in everlasting life; everyone else will be sent to shame, to everlasting contempt.
God’s victory is not in doubt. But his victory does not mean that things will always be wonderful in our lives. In fact, just the contrary. We are in the midst of a battle. A spiritual war wages on around us and, at times, even within us. If you were at our meeting last Sunday or looked through the materials we sent out, you can see that true for our ministry here. While we are in this world, challenges to gospel ministry, challenges to the Word going forward will come. Those challenges, those attacks, will be vicious and frequent. That, however, does not mean that God has abandoned us or that he is not in control.
As we face these challenges today as a congregation, what is the message that God has for us? As we struggle with fear over the things that plague our families, our friends, even our own bodies, what does God say to us?The same thing he said to Daniel, “Do not be afraid.” No matter what it looks like, no matter what it feels like, we will not lose. His Word will not return to him ineffective. He continues to send his angels to protect us from the attacks of the forces of evil. And the end result will be eternal victory for us with our Living Savior.
Satan has lost the war, he’s going to spit and fight in this final battle to try to get something, anything for his trouble. But you, my brothers and sisters, are safe. You will not be harmed at all by him and you need not fear. As we strive to share this gospel, this good news, with those around us, we will face trouble and hardship. But the Lord will work all things for our eternal good and nothing can stop his will from being done. Thank God for his protection! Thank him for his forgiveness! Amen.