What kind of God do you believe in? Daniel 10

What kind of a God do you believe in? What kind of a faith do you have? What kind of a God do you serve? I’ll explain what I mean by those questions towards the end. Until then I will just leave them hanging. What kind of a God do you believe in? What kind of a faith do you have? What kind of a God do you serve?
We come this evening to Daniel chapter 10. Different interpretations of this chapter have caused more controversy than for almost any chapter in the Old Testament. We are going to focus on just two aspects of the passage. Like chapter 9 it comes as a testimony by the prophet Daniel himself. As Daniel was fasting for three weeks, a vision came to him. The first aspect of that vision was
An overwhelming encounter with God.
4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz round his waist. 6 His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.
Daniel saw a vision of a man. We are obviously reminded of the description of one like a man who appeared in the blazing furnace alongside Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. We also call to mind the appearance of the Ancient of Days in the vision of Daniel 7.
9 ‘As I looked, ‘thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.
10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him.
This then takes our thoughts to the “one like a son of man” who also appeared in that vision in Daniel chapter 7, prophecies fulfilled in Jesus himself. We aren’t told if this was an angel appearing to Daniel in chapter 10. Or was it a Theophany, a Christophany, an appearance of the Son of God himself in human form, before the incarnation at Bethlehem more than five centuries later? With hindsight we are also reminded of the later appearance of Jesus at his Transfiguration, and of the “one like a son of man” who appeared to the apostle John in exile on Patmos at the beginning of the Book of Revelation. Because of what we will read in a few minutes about a spiritual battle, I think in this case that Daniel saw an angel. Daniel saw gold and topaz, lightning, flaming torches and a voice like a multitude. Daniel had a dramatic encounter with the Living God. What is of particular interest to us tonight is the effect which this vision had on Daniel.
7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. 10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees.
No strength left. My face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. I fell on my face into a deep sleep. Trembling and falling down. The experience of being struck speechless in the presence of God. Daniel explains some more about his experience lower down.
15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face towards the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, ‘I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.’
An experience of the presence of God which completely overwhelmed Daniel. A precedent which might be repeated. Indeed this kind of experience was not unique to Daniel. Over the last hundred years, countless believers have claimed to have encountered God in similar ways and turned to Daniel chapter 10 to explain and justify their experiences.
It started gently enough with the outpouring of gifts of the Holy Spirit early in the 20th century, creating the Pentecostal churches. In the mid 1960s – when charismatic renewal began to break into ordinary churches across the UK, speaking in tongues and other gifts of the Holy Spirit became a part of the spirituality of many Christians in every tradition. But then just as people thought they knew what was going on, along came John Wimber in the mid-1980s with his teaching on Signs and Wonders and the Third Wave of charismatic renewal. Vineyard churches and others such as St Andrews Chorleywood brought a real expectation of miracles of healing and deliverance into the mainstream charismatic churches. They brought into the lives of churches that simple prayer which invites God into our midst and invites God to surprise us – “Come Holy Spirit.”
Then in 1994 the Toronto Blessing hit England through Holy Trinity Brompton. Here were new experiences of the Holy Spirit, holy laughter, falling to the ground under the influence of the Holy Spirit, overwhelming experiences of joy or love or holiness, and other dramatic forms of encounter with God. Experiences which had only been seen in the fringes of Pentecostalism burst out into the lives of ordinary believers all around the world! Many people had experiences of being “slain in the Spirit” (the classic Pentecostal label) or “resting in the Spirit,” (as the Toronto Blessing preferred to call it). These people look to Daniel’s encounter with God in chapter 10 as the pattern legitimising their own experiences of God. They also point to the similar experience the apostle John had when he had a vision of one like a son of man in Revelation 1:17 “ When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” I know many Christians who have had such an experience (and usually not once but many times) and who testify that it has been a great blessing to them. What they say happened to them sounds very similar to what happened to Daniel and to John.
Overwhelming and dramatic encounters with God. But are these experiences reserved for special individuals? Are these just for a few Bible characters? Or can ordinary believers expect to meet with God in such ways as well? “Resting in the Spirit”? “Slain in the Spirit?” I wonder how you react when you hear of people who claim to have had similar experiences of falling down or “resting in the Spirit”? Would you welcome God or would you resist God if He wanted to touch your life in such ways? What kind of a God do you believe in? What kind of a faith do you have? What kind of a God do you serve?
Daniel’s overwhelming encounter with God came in
A vision which revealed a great war
Daniel 10:1 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war.
A revelation concerning a great war.
10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, ‘Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.’ And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.
12 Then he continued, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.’
The rest of the Book of Daniel consists of visions describing the great war going on in the world. It is a battle between good and evil, between God and all those people and those nations who oppose God. Depending on when interpreters choose to date the Book of Daniel, it is either predictive prophecy about what is going to happen or looking back over history at what did happen in the three and a half centuries following the Return of the Exiles back to Jerusalem. I prefer to see it as predictive prophecy written down in the sixth century BC.
But either way, Daniel’s vision in chapter 10 reveals that the battles which will take place between empires on earth are just echoes of a far greater battle going on in heaven between angelic beings.
Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.
In Jewish understanding, Michael is an archangel. He is the leading defender of God’s people against the powers of darkness. Revelation 12 tells us this about Michael.
7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient snake called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
To be able to challenge Michael, and to be able to oppose the figure who had appeared to Daniel, “The Prince of Persia” must therefore be a spirit of equivalent power, Michael’s evil counterpart. In Daniel’s time the battle was against Persia, but in due course it would be against Greece. It would be a mistake to think that these evil supernatural beings, the Prince of Persia and the Prince of Greece, had control over particular countries. It is better to understand them as princes over the people of Persia and Greece and their sociopolitical structures rather than over their respective geographical boundaries. But the picture is still very clear. Behind all the battles on earth and the struggles which believers in every age have faced, there are supernatural beings fighting spiritual battles. That is exactly the picture Paul paints in Ephesians.
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
There’s a war on! Our battles on earth are only echoes of spiritual warfare in heavenly places. We see the same picture in other places in Scripture. Jesus described Satan as `the prince of this world’ (John 12:31). Paul says Satan is `the God of this age (who) has blinded the minds of unbelievers’ (2 Corinthians 4:4). The tenth plague of the deaths of the firstborn was in God’s words `judgement on all the gods of Egypt’ (Exodus 12:12). Isaiah and Ezekiel imply that there may well have been demons behind the earthly kings of Babylon and Tyre (Isaiah 14:12-14, Ezekiel 28:12-16). Some passages do suggest that some demons are tied to particular geographical locations. The demons who called themselves Legion seemed to fear being sent out of `their’ region (Mark 5:1-20). The Book of Revelation describes Pergamum as the place `where Satan’s throne is’ (Revelation 2:13). So some people argue for the existence of “territorial spirits.” Spiritual battles behind the scenes of human conflicts.
18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 19 ‘Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,’ he said. ‘Peace! Be strong now; be strong.’
When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, ‘Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.’
20 So he said, ‘Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince.
11:1 And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him.)
So Daniel’s vision is a revelation of a great war. But that war is not limited to the physical world. Behind and beyond what we can see and touch, there is also a supernatural conflict against the kosmocrats, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Daniel 10 is one of the most important passages for our understanding of this spiritual war. But how do you see the world?
Daniel chapter 10 is so controversial because many people don’t believe that people can have dramatic encounters with God. And they don’t believe in the devil or evil spirits. They would say that these ideas of spiritual warfare and territorial spirits are just myth and superstition. Many people will remind you that the second half of the Book of Daniel, like the Book of Revelation, is written in apocalyptic language. It is all symbolic, they say, and not meant to be taken literally. But what do you think? What kind of a God do you believe in? What kind of a faith do you have? What kind of a God do you serve? What place is there for the supernatural in your faith and your Christian life?
I am perfectly happy to read Daniel chapter 10 in a literal way. I am happy to believe that some Christians will have dramatic and even overwhelming experiences of God’s love and joy and holiness. But what do you think? And my experiences of the Christian life, and not least in the ministry of driving out demons, lead me to believe that we are indeed all in a spiritual battle against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places, the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, (NLT) “a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.” (Message) But what do you think? How does the supernatural fit into your faith and your Christian life? What kind of a God do you believe in? What kind of a faith do you have? What kind of a God do you serve?

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