Sermon April 17, 2016 Daniel 8:1-14 “Wars, Wickedness, and Waiting – How Long?”

Daniel 8:1-14                            Daniel Sermon #11                         April 17, 2016

Sermon Series: “The Lord is King”                                                                  

Title: “Wars, Wickedness, and Waiting – How Long?”

Pastor Louis Prontnicki    Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church

    Intro: Imagine that God comes to you, and in a vision He reveals what major military and political events would unfold, for the next 400 years! Imagine if God were to show to you what was going to happen to the nations of the world through the year 2416, and the impact of it on the church of Christ.  What if the Lord showed you the rise and fall of countries that are barely on the map right now, and the rulers who would conquer the world, and other kings who would severely persecute the church, almost 400 years from now?

How would you would feel, and what would you do with such knowledge?

This is what the Lord showed to Daniel in this chapter. And I want us to come alongside Daniel, and let this dramatic vision grip us.

Let’s read Daniel 8:1-14

An Outline of Daniel 8:1-14

The Time of Daniel’s Vision (v. 1)

The Place of the Vision (v. 2)

The Drama of the Vision (vv. 3-12)

I. The Wars: The Ram and the Goat (vv. 3-8)

The Ram with Two Horns (vv. 3-4)

The Goat with a Great Horn (vv. 5-7)

The Great Horn Broken Off, Replaced by Four Horns (v. 8).

II. The Wickedness: The Small Horn That Grew in Power (vv. 9-12)

Assaulting God’s People (v. 9)

Storming Heaven (v. 10)

Striving for Divinity (vv. 11-12)

III. The Waiting: The Time until the Restoration (vv. 13-14)

How Much Longer Must We Endure? (v. 13)

In God’s Mercy, the Time will be Limited (v. 14)

 

The Time of Daniel’s Vision (v. 1)

The “third year of King Belshazzar’s reign” is the year 550 BC, so this is about 11 years before Belshazzar will be shown the handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5). So this vision is not concerned with Babylon, but begins by looking to the rise of the second beast, the Bear of Daniel 7, the Medo-Persian Empire. [In fact in the year 550 BC, Cyrus the Great had just established the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians].

Indeed, unlike Daniel’s vision in chapter seven, which covered nearly a millennium of future time, this vision deals more narrowly with the four centuries between 550 BC and about 165 BC, with most of its focus on the kingdoms of Medo-Persia and Greece (including the Seleucid branch of it.) There is no mention of the 1st beast, Babylon, nor of the 4th beast, Rome.

The Place of the Vision (v. 2)

Daniel sees himself in the citadel of Susa. Remember, he is living in Babylon, some 230 miles west of Susa, so Daniel is not physically there, just as he is not in the future centuries that he will see; but that’s where the vision is located. So let’s ask: Why Susa? Well, this is part of God’s amazing foretelling of the future.  For in Daniel’s time, Susa was just another city, but as the Medo-Persian Empire grew, it became one of the royal cities of the Medo-Persian Empire, where the king lived. (See Neh. 1:1; Esther 1:2). So this would be like one of the Pilgrims in 1620 getting a vision that is set on the banks of the Potomac River, anticipating our nation’s capital in the late 1700s!

The Drama of the Vision (vv. 3-12)

Please keep in mind that every detail in this vision is God foretelling what will happen in the next 400 years. In fact, the details are so accurate that skeptics think that this chapter must have been written after these events occurred. But those skeptics deliberately repress the truth that our sovereign God, who holds all nations and rulers in His Almighty hand, is easily able to foretell the future, as He controls all events, all peoples, all rulers and kingdoms, and all the outcomes!

Let us therefore stand in awe of our God, who inhabits eternity and holds time in His hands!

 

I.  The Wars: The Ram and the Goat (vv. 3-8)

   The Ram with Two Horns (vv. 3-4)

Daniel sees a ram with two long horns, with one longer than the other, and this ram was charging all around. We are told later in v. 20 that the two-horned ram represents the kings of Media and Persia, and we know that although Persia developed later, it became the dominant partner.

But why use a ram to symbolize this kingdom? (A ram is an adult male sheep.)  A ram seems like a let-down after the ferocious bear of Dan. 7!  So let me ask you: what comes to mind at the word “Ram”? For some, you think of the animal; for computer geeks, RAM is an amount of computer capacity; for military historians, it’s a battering device used to tear down castle doors and walls; and for sports fans, the Rams are a football team!  But we need to know that the ram (animal) is renowned for its butting or ramming ability. In fact, the heads of some battering devices were carved in the shape of a ram’s head. (Or picture the helmets of the St. Louis Rams, and a huge lineman butting people’s heads on the football field.)

So why does God use a ram to symbolize the Medo-Persian kings? Because these kings, such as Cyrus and Great and Darius the Great used a ram-like battering of nation after nation, to conquered one people group after another. That empire ruled eventually over the modern equivalent of 38 existing nations today. Like a ram, they methodically wore down all their enemies. Their relentless progress in conquering kingdoms suggests a ram goring every beast that he came against. “No animal could stand against him, and none could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.” (8:4)

    The Goat with a Great Horn (vv. 5-7)

Next in his vision Daniel sees a goat, with one prominent horn, coming from the west, and it appears to cross the whole earth without touching the ground! (v. 5) We see in v. 21 that this goat represents the King of Greece, but again we might ask the question: “Why represent the King of Greece (Alexander the Great) with a goat?  Well, goats are some of the best mountain climbers on earth. They are able to traverse terrain that is impossible for humans. A mountain goat can climb more than 1,500 feet in 20 minutes, and it can clear 12 feet in a single jump.

In a similar way, Alexander the Great moved his army like a nimble mountain goat scrambling up a hillside, barely touching down. In 334 BC, He crossed into Asia Minor, Persian territory, with 25,000 men, when he was just 21 years old. He defeated the Persians in battle after battle, despite being outnumbered, and then he finally defeated them for good in 331 BC at the headwaters of the Tigris River. This is the meaning of v. 7b: “The ram was powerless to stand against him…and none could rescue the ram from his power.”  Moreover, in just 12 years he had conquered the entire Medo-Persian Empire. This was truly amazing, and it was all foretold by the Lord. [By the way: Imagine Alexander at the climax of his career (see v.8) and ask the question: “what does it matter if a man gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”]

   The Great Horn Broken Off, Replaced by Four Horns (v. 8).

After that, Daniel saw this great horn broken off and replaced by four other horns. We know that after Alexander had conquered (what was for him) the whole world, up to the border of India, he died of a fever, in June of 323 BC, at age 33. The “great horn” was broken off, and his empire was divided among his four generals, thus, the meaning of the four horns. (Also see v. 22)

Joyce Baldwin comments: “The sight and sound of horns breaking off typifies the brittle nature of political might, especially as the goat had his great horn broken when he was “at the height of his power” (v. 8). The audio-visual impact of the vision has continuing relevance: great power, resulting in self-importance, invites a great reversal (See Luke 1:52a – “He has brought down rulers from their thrones…”)

 

II.  The Wickedness: The Small Horn That Grew in Power: (vv. 9-12)

What Daniel sees next is more specific, wicked, and blasphemous.  He sees a horn (a king) that comes out of one of the four horns, and though it begins small, it has great and self-glorifying ambitions, attacking not only other lands, but engaging in warfare against heaven itself!  While we don’t have time today to analyze all the details of vv. 9-12, we can see this horn’s ambitions directed in three main areas:

Assaulting God’s People [the glorious or beautiful land refers to Israel] (v. 9); Storming Heaven (v. 10); and Striving for Divinity (vv. 11-12)

Joyce Baldwin writes: “The conflict between power and greater power (in vv. 5-8) develops now into a trial of strength between a man and God Himself.” The small horn takes atheism to its full and logical conclusion.

So who is this small horn who tries to set himself up against the heavens? Who will fulfill all this wickedness?  We’ll look at this more next week in vv. 23-25, but for now, it is generally agreed that the little horn is Antiochus Epiphanes IV, of modern day Syria. He was the king of the northeastern part of the former Greek Kingdom, called the Seleucid kingdom, from 175-164 BC. Antiochus was an extremely wicked man, who seized the throne through murdering his brother. He gave himself the name “Epiphanes” which means “God made manifest.” (A little egotistical, you think?)  When he became king, he sought to unify his kingdom by forcing all his subjects to adopt Greek cultural and religious practices. So, for example, in Judea, he banned circumcision, he brought an end to the daily offering of sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem (167 BC), and then deliberately defiled the altar and the temple by burning a pig on the altar and placing an object sacred to the Greek god Zeus in, of all places, the Holy of Holies! Antiochus also burned copies of the sacred scriptures and killed 100,000 Jews who sought to remain true to their faith in the Lord. (See more in 1 and 2 Maccabees, in the Apocrypha.)

Therefore Antiochus was the exact fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy here, of a stern-faced king (v. 23) who was completely wicked, and sought to destroy Israel and the worship of the Lord.

 

III. The Waiting: The Time until the Restoration (vv. 13-14)

 How Much Longer Must We Endure? (v. 13)

After all these wars and wickedness, the holy ones whom Daniel sees in this vision speak up, asking: “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled?” (v. 13). The holy one replied (either to the other one or to Daniel): “It will take 2,300 evenings and morning for the sanctuary to be restored/ reconsecrated.”

“How long, O Lord?”- See Ps. 6:3, Isa 6:11; Hab. 1:2; Rev. 6:10. It is a question that the saints have been asking God for millennia. So what’s the answer?

In God’s Mercy, the Time will be Limited (v. 14)

The answer to “how long?” is both precise (2,300 days, or perhaps 1,150 days, if you count the morning and evening sacrifice as one day) and it is hopeful, because it will be limited. Baldwin comments that the question “how long?” presupposes that God will limit the triumph of evil.

If we understand the time remaining as 2,300 days, this comes out to less than 3.5 years, which not only is a short time in the big scheme of history, but symbolically, it is roughly half of seven years, a period that is used for full completion. After that, the sanctuary would be restored and God’s people vindicated. This is the mercy of God; he will not test us beyond what His grace can sustain us.

We’ll look at this more next Sunday, Lord willing, but for now, this answer would have given hope to the people of Israel, especially after Antiochus desecrated the temple and they were unable to offer sacrifices on the altar. But this answer also gives hope to believers today, if we suffer persecution for the name of Christ.

Iain Duguid comments that “This chapter gives us hope in the darkest of times, in the face of the worst of our sins and failures, and against the worst attacks of Satan. In Daniel 8 we see the affirmation of God’s victory even in the face of the worst that Satan can throw at us.” For the Jews of the second century BC, it would have been Antiochus Epiphanes; for some believers today, it might be ISIS or Boko Haram. God’s sovereign purposes will never be thwarted!

And do we not see the same pattern at the cross of Christ?  Again referencing Duguid: What worse abomination could there ever be than crucifying God?  Yet at the cross, when Satan did his worst to Jesus, the final result simply brought about precisely what God had planned from the beginning of time!…Three days later, God “rebuilt” the temple that the Jews had desecrated, by raising and restoring the body of His Son from the grave….Today, through the power of the cross, the Lord is building Jews and Gentiles together as living stones into His new temple, the church, turning former rebels and enemies into God’s friends and family, through the gospel, cleansing us from our sin and rebellion (Eph. 2:14-22)

And so in the midst of warfare and wickedness on every level, we wait – in confident hope – for the final time of ultimate restoration, when Christ returns in power and in glory.  See the blessed hope in Titus 2:13-14.