Sunday, 7 December 2014

(342) December 8: Daniel 8-9 & 1 John 5:13-21

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider how Daniel’s prayer and the vision are related.

To ponder:
This vision seems to be the next one Daniel has after that of the previous chapter (8v1). In it he is in Susa, the city of Esther and Nehemiah, and the center of the coming Persian kingdom. There he saw a ram with two long horns, of which the shorter one would grow later (the kings of Media and Persia, 8v20). It charged everywhere but east and none could be rescued from its power. The phrase “he did as he pleased,” is used to stress this power with respect to a kingdom (8v2-4, see 11v3, 16, 36). But suddenly Daniel saw a goat with a prominent horn come flying (probably implying speed) from the west, overcoming the ram and breaking his horns (the king of Greece, Alexander, 8v21). This goat then became great before his horn was broken and four others grew towards the four winds (8v5-8, Alexander’s generals who split his kingdom in four after his death, 8v22). From one of these horns came another horn which started small but grew in power to the south and east and towards Israel, described as the beautiful land. It is said to grow until throwing down and trampling on some of the starry host, and setting itself up against their prince (8v9-11). The later interpretation suggests the host are probably mighty kings or the people of God, and the prince, God himself who is prince of princes (8v12, 24-25, 12v3). His standing against God is particularly seen in stopping the daily sacrifice at the temple, bringing the sanctuary low  - ie. reducing its glory by ceasing its worship, and throwing down truth – ie. God’s law etc. 8v12-13 implies that this was as a punishment for the rebellion of the priesthood or people. Notably, “desolation” is also used to describe the earlier destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (9v2, 17-18). The sense is therefore that this will happen again, because the people have not reformed their ways. It’s a reminder to learn from these events, and ensure we don’t end up desolated.
            After the vision, Daniel hears an angel (holy one) asking another how long until this occurs. The response is that it will be 2,300 evenings and mornings until the temple is reconsecrated (8v13-14). This probably refers to the amount of sacrifices missed, meaning 1,150 days – just over three years, less than the total time of oppression noted in 7v25. Although the numbers are symbolic, they are astonishingly accurate in describing the acts of Antiochus Epiphanes (see notes on chapter 7).
            As Daniel watched he saw someone like a man who voice came from the canal, commanding the angel Gabriel to tell Daniel the meaning of all this. Daniel fell prostrate in terror, and Gabriel told him the vision concerned the time of the end. In context, that must be not the end of all history, but of the time leading up to the establishment of God’s kingdom through Christ. It seems he then woke Daniel from the sleep in which he was having his vision and raised him to his feet to be addressed. The period in question is described as the time of wrath, referring to this as punishment on the Jews for becoming completely wicked in the latter reign of the four kingdoms stemming from Alexander (8v15-19, 12-13, 23). It is noted that the oppressing king will become strong and be destroyed “not by his own power” – referring to God’s hand behind these events (8v24-25).   
            9v1 gives us the date 539BC and may imply Darius is another name for Cyrus (see Ezr 1v1). We learn that the book of Jeremiah was already considered scripture, and that Daniel regarded it as God’s word, gleaning that Jerusalem’s desolation would last 70 years. Counting from his exile in 605BC Daniel recognises the time is almost over and so fasts and prays that God would do as he promised – a model for us praying home God’s will. The prayer seems to start with a common introduction (9v4, Neh 1v5), appealing to God’s covenant love for those who love him. It also expresses solidarity with the people more generally, confessing their historic rebellion in refusing to listen to God’s prophets. It acknowledges God has acted righteously, the people are shamed for their unfaithfulness, yet God is still merciful and forgiving. Here, Daniel is clear that Judea’s unique disaster was a judgement according to the Mosaic law, and that the people haven’t as yet sought God’s favour by turning from their sins. Nevertheless, appealing to God’s power displayed in the Exodus, he prays God would turn his anger from Jerusalem, and look with favour on the desolate sanctuary and city. It’s a prayer that he would act not because the people are righteous, but because he is merciful – and for the sake of his name (reputation), which is tied to the fate of the people and city (9v5-19). In the book, the prayer clarifies why the original desolation occurred, whilst explaining why it would occur again if those who return continue in rebellion (as 8v23-25). It’s a warning to sections of the church too, that if they prove unfaithful they too may become desolate.
            It is while praying that Gabriel comes to Daniel again. It seems Daniel timed his prayers to the times the sacrifices would have been offered – this one being the evening. The note that Gabriel came with swift flight stresses how immediately God answered Daniel with an explanation because he was so esteemed (9v20-23). We have seen so far that numbers can be both symbolic and literal. So the seventy times seven years stresses completion of a key time period measured from the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. This may refer to that decree of 457BC (see Ezr 7v7-26 with 4v11-12 responding to it), or it may refer to a command unrecorded in scripture, when the work began. First, we are told an anointed ruler will come 69x7 years later. The sense may be that 7 of these (49 years) are given to the rebuilding amidst trouble (see Ezra/Nehemiah), and the remaining 62 (434 years) to the cities existence. Strikingly this would date to 26AD, the probable time of when Jesus began his ministry. We’re then simply told that “after” this time the anointed ruler would be cut off, and another ruler come whose people will destroy the city and sanctuary. This is a more extreme outcome than that prophesied regarding Antiochus Epiphanes (7v25, 8v11) supporting the suggestion that this is a different event. Nevertheless the principle is the same – rebellion of the Jews leads to a hostile ruler causing desolation in these two ways. This seems to be “the end” in mind. We are told war and desolations will come, with the implication that they will lead up to it. It is difficult to specify a period the final 7 of the 70x7s refer to (9v27). But it is possible to read a more literal 69x7s to stress God’s time is almost complete, followed by a longer 7 symbolising the final events (as in Revelation, where six events are followed by a long period to completion). The most straightforward reading is that the hostile ruler makes a forceful agreement with many (Jews?) for the whole period, ending sacrifice and offering half way through it, and set up some “abomination” on the top of the temple, before dying as decreed at some future point. Jesus’ clearly teaches this is fulfilled in some way in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD (Matt 24v3-28), which explains why he stresses people will be looking for the Christ (literally “anointed one” as Dan 9v25). This makes the hostile ruler the Roman General Titus. What is intriguing, is the reference of the three and a half years after the abomination is set up. Jesus certainly implies this is an even longer period stretching to his return (Matt 24v29-31). This compacting of history is probably why he says this will occur things happen “immediately” after (Matt 24v29). So after the entire 70x7s Jerusalem will have finished its transgression – presumably rebellion, sin will be finished, wickedness atoned for, everlasting righteousness begun, prophecy sealed – ie. authenticated by its fulfilment, and the “most holy” (Christ) anointed – presumably by the Spirit (as Dan 9v24).     

Praying it home:                                                    
Praise God for his readiness to have Christ cut off to atone for sin. Pray that you would be devoted to praying home God’s word as Daniel was.

Thinking further:
None today.

If you receive this post by email, visit and make a comment.


Post a Comment