Daniel 10:1-11:1 Daniel Sermon #16 May 29, 2016
Sermon Series: “The Lord is King”
Sermon Title: “Where the Real Battle is Fought”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
It is Memorial Day weekend, and we remember the American soldiers who gave their lives in horrible battles and terrifying wars, in order to secure freedom for us and other countries.
But I would like us to think about a different kind of battle and war, the type that we can’t see, but is far more deadly. I am referring to spiritual battles and our war against Satan and his hosts of darkness, for this is where the real battle is fought, and won. What does God want us to know, to believe, and to act upon, in this ultimate of battles?
Daniel chapters 10-12 have much to teach us on this matter, as God gives Daniel a vision of the great spiritual battle that’s going on behind the scenes of history and rulers. Please note that these three chapters, Daniel 10, 11 and 12 should be seen as one unit, with three parts to it:
Chapter 10 is the prelude to the vision;
Chapter 11 is the explanation of the vision; and
Chapter 12 is the postscript to the vision.
For this morning, let us understand the narrative of Daniel chapter 10, and then seek to discern the Biblical principles underlying the drama.
Verse 1 gives us the historical setting. It is the third year of the reign of Cyrus, the king of Persia. We know that Cyrus became king in 539 BC, so this is the year 536 BC. And why is that important for us to know? It is because of what’s happening to the Jewish remnant who Cyrus has allowed to return to Jerusalem a few years earlier. After 70 years of exile in Babylon, with the Temple and the city of Jerusalem in ruins, and no sacrifices being offered, finally God had graciously fulfilled His promise and caused Cyrus to permit some Jews to return to the Holy City! This is what Daniel was praying about in chapter 9. But after a short time in Jerusalem, these returnees encountered strong opposition. We read in Ezra 4:1-5 that the people who surrounded the Jews there sought to discourage them and made them afraid to continue their rebuilding of the Lord’s temple. Ezra 4:24 tells us that these enemies of the Jews succeeded in their opposition, for the work on the House of the Lord came to a standstill for another 16 years.
It is almost certain that this is the bad news that Daniel is responding to in Dan. 10:2, and why he undertakes a three week period of mourning and (partial) fasting. That is, Daniel undertook an ascetic diet for 21 days, to help him focus on praying for the discouraging situation in Jerusalem, and especially that the work on the Lord’s House had been brought to a standstill. To give you a feel of what that would be like for us today, imagine that we received news that all the seminary translation work that Chuck and Nancy Snyder had been working on for deaf pastors had come to a standstill, and would not progress for 16 years, because of opposition to their ministry. You can see why Daniel would be mourning, fasting, and praying. It was his way of both intensifying his prayers for them and of identifying with those suffering in Israel. He was suffering with those who were suffering, and he was interceding for them with deep cries and pleadings to the Lord.
But after three weeks of praying, fasting, and mourning, God tells Daniel that his prayers have been heard, and He does so by sending a messenger to Daniel from heaven. (See vv. 4ff., and v. 12 “Your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.”)
The fascinating part of God’s confirmation of His answer to Daniel’s prayer is how long it took to notify him! There was a three week delay in receiving the answer, though God heard Daniel’s prayer on day one. Why this delay? V. 13 tells us: “But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me 21 days.” Wow. So on the one hand, the earthly king of the Persians, Cyrus, is moved by God to give orders that the Jewish people may return to Jerusalem and rebuild their city and their temple, but on the other hand, the prince of the Persian Kingdom had the power to delay God’s messenger from telling Daniel that his prayers on behalf of Jerusalem had been heard and answered! It might be helpful to think of a split-screen TV, in which you are seeing both action on the earthly realm and also action in the spiritual realm.
Now this “Prince of Persia” was strong enough to delay God’s messenger, but not strong enough to thwart him or overcome him. For when Michael the arch angel came to help, the original messenger/angel was able to complete his task of reaching Daniel.
Daniels’ response to both the initial appearance of the heavenly messenger (vv. 4-11) and to the opening words of the angel (vv. 15-19) is that he is overwhelmed and blown away; he is weak and helpless. And if this is the reaction of a holy prophet to a mere angel from heaven, how much greater will be our response be to the revelation of Jesus Christ Himself, when He returns to earth in all His power and glory!
The end of this prelude to the vision (10:20-11:1) tells the reader that there are other princes of darkness, over other countries, such as Greece, but that the angel Michael is the special prince assigned by God to support and protect Daniel and the rest of God’s chosen people. Obviously there is far more to these angels and territorial demons than figures in red costumes with pitchforks, or than Roma Downey posing as a benevolent angel, helping people like a cosmic Girl Scout. No. The Scriptures present a much more terrifying and powerful view on the players involved in behind the scenes battle between God and Satan.
That’s an overview of the narrative of Daniel 10.
Two Biblical Principles:
Let me highlight two of the more important Biblical principles in this narrative. The first has to do with spiritual warfare, and the second has to do with our prayers.
First Principle: You must equip yourself against spiritual forces that are behind all the opposition to the Gospel.
Daniel heard the reports of the local opposition to the rebuilding on the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem, and although he had some political clout, Daniel knew where the real struggle and the real power was. He knew that this was ultimately a spiritual battle, and that’s why he chose the weapon of prayer and fasting, to plead with the God of the universe to act. But it wasn’t until this angel from heaven came to Daniel that he more fully realized the depth of the spiritual struggle going on behind the scenes! Daniel already knew he needed to fight this battle on his knees, but this further insight of seeing behind the curtain of heaven made prayer an even more vital weapon!
Dutch Prime Minister and Reformed Theologian Abraham Kuyper once commented: “If once the curtains were pulled back, and the spiritual world behind it came to view, it would expose to our spiritual vision a struggle so intense, so convulsive, sweeping everything within its range, that the fiercest battle ever fought on earth would seem, by comparison, a mere game. Not here, but up there – that is where the real contest is waged. Our earthly struggle drones in its backlash.”
In other words, if we really grasped the extent and the depth of the spiritual and cosmic battle that goes on as Satan and his hosts seek to oppose the Gospel, destroy the church, and defeat Christians like you and me, we too would faint like Daniel and be speechless.
Iain Duguid’s comments here are also instructive: “The angel’s words opened up a whole new vista on the difficulties facing God’s people who were trying to rebuild Jerusalem. They were not simply facing human opposition… but opposition on the part of powerful spiritual beings in the heavenly realms. This explains why the progress in rebuilding their city was so slow.” That is, the local opposition to God’s word in Jerusalem was part of a universal battle in the heavens.
What does this mean for you and me today? It means that when the gospel is opposed by earthly forces, (whether it be in the form of Supreme Court rulings or the increasing persecution of believers as we proclaim and live out the truth of Jesus as Lord and Savior,) we must understand that Satan and his minions are behind all this.
Therefore the ultimate power struggle is not between the Democrats and the Republicans; it is not between the liberals and the conservatives; it is not fought in Washington DC, Moscow, or the Middle East. No. For all the world’s wars and political power struggles are but reflections of the older and fiercer conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. And we as believers are caught up in this battle, as Daniel was. The opposition against the gospel that we experience on earth is the counterpoint of a great spiritual war that is going on in the heavenly realm. This should make us flee to the Lord and put on the full armor He has provided (See the bulletin cover from Eph. 6:10ff.). Let me ask you: Are you properly equipped, with God’s armor and weapons, against the spiritual and cosmic forces that are against you and the Gospel? Do you daily put on God’s Word? Believe the promised of the Gospel? Cry put to God for His mercy and help? Without the power of God the Holy Spirit at work in and through us, we are helpless and ineffectual before Satan.
Second Principle: Prayer should pervade all your spiritual warfare.
Daniel’s vision helped him (and us) understand the power of prayer. Remember from chapter 9 that it was reading God’s Word that drove Daniel to pray in that situation, and here in chapter 10, it is his awareness of the opposition to the Lord’s Work in Jerusalem that motives the prophet to again plead with God. Prayer pervaded and saturated all of Daniel’s life and ministry. You may recall that in Ephesians 6:10-20, where Paul describes the various pieces of spiritual armor and weapons which the believer in Christ is to put on, that he does not name prayer as a separate weapon, but rather it is seen as a weapon that is to pervade all our spiritual warfare. It should be like breathing, bringing life to all the other parts. John Stott put it this way: “Equipping ourselves with God’s armor is not a mechanical operation; it is itself an expression of our dependence on God, in other words, of prayer.”
We see that Daniel’s pleading with God influenced the events of history. Yes, it was God who moved Daniel to prayer in the first place, and God is not dependent on our prayers. Yet at the same time, God works though our prayers to turn back the opposition to the gospel. He uses our prayers to protect and strengthen missionaries and pastors. The Lord loves to hear us plead with Him, and then show forth His mighty power and glory in answer to our intercessions! God takes our puny prayers of faith and moves mountains with them! Scotsman Sinclair Ferguson wrote that “Mary Queen of Scots is reputed to have said that she feared the prayers of John Knox more than she feared an invading army.” Now wouldn’t it be great to hear our president or our governor say something similar today. Such words would be an encouragement to pray more. Yet the truth is that our prayer meetings are the worst attended meetings of almost every church.
Now we know that the real power does not reside in the prayer itself, nor in the one praying, but in God alone. Prayer has no power in itself; prayer is rather us acknowledging to God that He has all the power and that we ourselves are powerless. We pray in a posture of weakness.
(1) You must be aware of Satan’s work behind all opposition to the Lord’s work
(2) You need to put on the whole armor of God, believing that Christ has already secured the final victory.
(3) We are not terrified, helpless bystanders, watching this heavenly battle. No. We are engaged in it, and the main way we do so is through our prayers, as Daniel did. Our puny prayers are magnified a million times as we pray in faith, in the name of Jesus Christ, according to His Word! Therefore let us pray for missions and the advance of the Gospel. Let us persevere in our praying for persecuted Christians! And let us always remember where the real battle is fought- in the heavens, and on our knees!
Let me conclude with one more thought from Iain Duguid. He writes that ultimately, the victory does not depend on our prayers, or on the angels in heaven. No. It is Jesus Christ alone who has gained the victory!
As the gospel songs reminds us “In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus, we have the victory! In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus, demons will have to flee.”
Jesus Christ took the worst that Satan could throw at Him, at his suffering and crucifixion, and then He rose victorious from the grave! Therefore, nothing can separate us from God’s love, in Christ! He is our Great Intercessor! He has won the decisive battle against Satan! He is our victory! Let us flee to Him in prayer and in faith. Amen.