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DANIEL 7:1-28
Series:  Courage - Part Seven

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June11, 2006

How many of you watch American Idol?  Do you know who Taylor Hicks is?  Taylor Hicks is the newest American Idol winner.  He’s 29 years old and has gray hair.  Shocking.  Apparently gray is the new style trend.  Not blond - brunet - or red - but gray.  Some of us have been in style for years.  By the way I’m working on a new trend.  Bald.  Thinning hair maybe?  

Would you agree with me that there are times when this world doesn’t make sense?  Especially with more serious issues - like war and poverty and some of things that go on here - even in Merced.  Where we shake our heads and just wonder at how things like that happen.  There’s a line in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World - Ethel Merman says,
“The reason things like that happen is because when things like that happen people say things like that happen.”

What we’re coming to here in Daniel - starting off in chapter 7 - is the part of Daniel that focuses on making sense of a pretty mixed up world.  Chapters 1 to 6 focused on Daniel and his friends - on living Godly in a ungodly society.  Chapter 7 begins section that focuses on prophecy - future history and the sovereignty of God - the ultimate triumph of God’s people.  All of which we want to look at in thinking about courage - what courage looks like - where courage comes from.  How we can live courageously for God in a really mixed up world.

Please look with me at Daniel 7 - starting at verse 1. 
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel saw a dream and visions in his mind as he lay on his bed; then he wrote the dreams down and related the following summary of it.

You’ll remember that when Nebuchadnezzar died he was succeeded by his son who was assassinated by his brother-in-law who was succeeded to the throne by his son who was murdered nine months later.  A guy by the name of Nabonidus leads a revolt - captures the throne - marries Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter - and they have a child named Belshazzar.  With me?  Talk about the family business.  Politics is murder.  These are mixed up - chaotic - dangerous - uncertain times in Babylon.

We saw Belshazzar in chapter five - the feast - the handwriting on the wall - Babylon being conquered by the Medes and the Persians - Belshazzar being assassinated.  So we’ve stepped backwards in time - about 10 years before the handwriting on the wall.  449 BC - the first  year of Belshazzar’s rule.  Bottom line - Daniel is given this vision in the midst of all this uncertain - dangerous - craziness.

Verse 2: 
Daniel said, “I was looking in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea.  And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another.  The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle.  I kept looking until the wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind was also given to it.  And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear.  And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, ‘Arise, devour much meat!’  After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.  After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth.  It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.  While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts.”

On your sermon notes you’ll see a chart that ties together this vision in chapter 7 with the statue vision given to Nebuchadnezzar back in chapter 2.  We’re going to see - as we keep reading here - that these beasts are actually kingdoms and that its reasonable to identify the kingdoms - or beasts - here in chapter 7 with the kingdoms identified in chapter 2.  So that’s the chart.  Which should help you to visualize all that.

Before we go on, there are two things that we need to grab onto from this vision.

First - these beasts are beastly
.  They’re human kingdoms.  But they’re described as beasts.

Man - male and female - is created in the image of God.  The whole process of God bringing animals before Adam to have Adam name the animals - remember this?  That whole process proves that not one of the animals corresponds to Adam.  Adam bears the image of God - is unique in that respect.  Eve - also created in God’s image is Adam’s partner - corresponds to him - bone of my bones - flesh of my flesh.  Rulership - dominion - authority - over the earth - over the beasts of the earth - is given by God to man.  There is a uniqueness and a dignity - a regality - given by God to man.  The highest realization of our humanity is found as we seek after who God has created us to be.

When man assumes dominion - authority and rulership - apart from God he rejects the basis of his humanity and his God given authority to rule.  Man setting himself up as the authority - not God - humanism.  Looking at our mixed up world today - how man governs man - increasingly man is rejecting the absolute authority of God - even that God exists or may have something to say about what we do down here.  Are you still with me?

If you’re not human you’re an animal.  Reject God’s gift of being human - bearer of God’s image - set yourself up as a god - and you become what’s left - a beast.  Kingdoms being described as beasts means that  they’ve rejected God.  They rule - not as God intends for human authority to rule - but they rule in opposition to God - under their own authority - even following after the dictates of Satan. 

Second - These beasts are destructive

Not one of these kingdoms is described as cocker spaniel.  Fluffy doesn't make the list.  Lions and bears and leopards, oh my.  These are predators.  With claws and teeth.  Ripping and tearing.  Each beast is more dangerous than the one before it.  The last one doesn’t even get a comparison animal .  Its just dreadful - terrifying - extremely strong - with large iron teeth.  It devours and crushes and tramples whatever’s been left over from the previous carnage.

Doesn’t that describe human history?  War has always been with us.  But the ability to wage war - to subjugate peoples - to destroy and maim - to express our inhumanity - every generation gets better at it.  The greatest technological advances come as a result of designing better ways for us to kill each other.  We’ve come a long way from throwing rocks at each other.

Verse 9: 
I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow and the hair of His head like pure wool.  His throne was ablaze with flames, its wheels were burning fire.  A river of fire was flowing and coming out from before Him; thousands upon thousands were attending Him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; the court sat, and the books were opened.  Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking - back to beast number four - the little horn - the boasting words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.  As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.  I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.  And to Him was given dominion, glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and his kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”

Let’s pause there.

First - notice the contrast

In contrast to all the ripping and shredding and destruction thrones are set up.  God - the Ancient of Days - the One who exists -timeless - before the dominion of man - the Lord of History calmly sits on His throne.  He alone is the absolute sovereignty.  He wears white.  His hair is pure.  He is pure - sinless.  His throne is ablaze with fire.  There’s power here - authority to eliminate whatever is unworthy or impure.  Innumerable attendants are at His service.  Myriads stand before Him.  The court is seated.  God is sovereign.  He is in control.

Second - notice the judgment

The little horn never shuts up.  It just goes on and on yapping - boasting with arrogance and pride until the horn and beast number four finally get bar-b-qued.  The whole scene is very similar to what the Apostle John saw in Revelation - chapters four, five and twenty.  God on His throne - the 24 elders around Him - passing judgment on the affairs of man.  This is final absolute judgment - no reprieve.  Those who’ve rejected God will spend eternity apart from God in torment.

Third - notice the Son of Man

On the night of His betrayal Jesus was taken before Ciaphas - the high priest - and the Jewish religious council.  Ciaphas asks Jesus,
“Tell us if you’re the Christ, the Son of God!”

Jesus quotes Daniel 7:13 - ties His deity as the Son of God - with His humanity - the Son of Man - applies Daniel’s vision to Himself.  Jesus says,
“After this you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  (Matthew 25:63,64)

The Son of Man is Jesus.  God in human flesh.  In contrast to the beasts who’s dominion is taken away - the dominion of Jesus is
“an everlasting dominion which will not pass away...His kingdom will not be destroyed.”

Verse 15: 
As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me.  I approached one of those who were standing by - probably an angel - and began asking him the exact meaning of all this.  So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things:  ‘These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth.  But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.’

In Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the statue - chapter two - at the end of all the kingdoms - a stone representing Jesus comes and crashes into the last kingdom.  All that man aspires to and measures himself by - the kingdoms of the world - all the authority and dominion and power and wealth - all of it is blown away like chaff - like dust in the wind.

But Jesus reigns eternal.  The saints of the Highest One - Jesus - will receive
the kingdom - singular - they will possess the kingdom - singular - for all ages to come.  Everything that’s worth desiring - seeking after - possessing - is found in the one kingdom - God’s eternal kingdom.  This is the ultimate triumph of God’s people.  What are the kingdoms of this world compared to the eternal joys and future hope of God’s people?

Verse 19: 
Then I desired to know the exact meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its claws of bronze, and which devoured, crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet, and the meaning of the ten horns that were on its head and the other horn which came up, and before which three of them fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering great boasts and which was larger in appearance than its associates.  I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom.  Thus he - the angel - said, ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it.’

If you look on your sermon notes - you’ll see that the fourth beast is compared to the bottom or last part of the statue - which we identified in chapter two as the Roman Empire - or what parts of Rome survive today - in our law and architecture - language - religion - culture.  Somehow - from what’s being said here - that survives until this coming judgment.

Verse 24: 
As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom - Rome - ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings.  He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time - which is a cryptic way of saying 3½ years - But the court will sit for judgment - same court as back up in verse 9 - God’s court - and his dominion - the little horn - his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever.  Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.’

There’s a lot here we don’t understand.  How’s that for an understatement?  However, there are a few relevant observations that we can make with reasonable certainty.

:  The little horn comes out of the Roman system - represented by beast number four.  Somehow he subdues the other ten horns or kings that also come out of the Roman system and takes his place at the leader of the whole thing.

:  He not only has eyes - but a big mouth.  He’s constantly - even to the end - speaking out against God.  Which shows us his true nature.  He’s anti-God - anti-Christ.

:  He’s going to come after God’s people and for a time will prevail against us.

What if you could blame all the problems of your country on a group of people and convince ordinary citizens to round these people up and put them into camps for extermination.

Or try this.   Right after 9/11 it was amazing how quickly the comparison was made between conservative fundamentalist Muslims - as the enemies of civilization as we know it - and conservative fundamentalist Christians.

:  He’s going to try and change human history and law.

What is that statement,
“He who controls the present controls the - what?  the past.”  How hard would it be to get people ignorant of history to believe that Jesus and Mary Magdalene ran off to southern France and started a line of French nobility and that the Roman church suppressed the whole thing because it threatened their power.  Obviously people would never take anything like that seriously.

What if you could rewrite God out of history and replace Him with yourself?  Who needs AD and BC if we’ve got the Common Era?

:  Whatever pre-eminence he has - his time is limited - 3½ years.  Four times we’re told what happens to him - judgment - his dominion is taken away - and he burns for eternity.

Scripture repeats things so what?  So we don’t miss the point.  Whatever is going on in this mixed up world - whatever is against God’s people - and ultimately when the horn arises - the anti-Christ who is against God’s people - GET THE POINT:  His days are numbered and he’s going to get toasted forever.

On the other hand - we’re told twice - verses 18 and 27 - get the point - everything worth having in this world - which the kings and peoples of this world have devoured each other to obtain - it all gets handed over to God’s people.  We reign eternally with God in His Kingdom.

Four thoughts of application
.  How all this can help us this morning - especially when it comes to having courage for the stuff of life.

First:  God’s Sovereignty
.  Say that with me, “God’s Sovereignty.”  Have you heard that before?  Here in Daniel that gets said over and over.  We need to hear it over and over.  Because - we get this intellectually - but knowing it in our hearts is harder.

There’s a poem that goes like this:

Humankind had  a lovely beginning,
But we ruined our prospects by sinning.

We know that the story
Will end with God’s glory,

But at present the other side’s winning. (1)

Daniel is living in a time when it seemed like the other side had all the good cards.  Sometimes it seems like that - doesn’t it?  A lot.  Whatever we may think of what we’re reading in the headlines or the daily disasters in our lives - God is still God.  He hasn’t lost His power or authority.  He’s calmly seated on His throne.  We need to repeating this.  God is sovereign.  He’s got it all under control.     

Second thought:  God’s Judgment
.  Say that with me, “God’s judgment.”

One day that final court session will take place.  Books will be opened.  Justice will be dispensed.  Things will be put right - forever.

Do we live our lives focused on the beastly things of this world - clawing and scratching for things that are as valuable as dust.  Keeping our little tally sheets of what others have done to us and what we’re justified in doing to them.  Do we hang onto our little sins - keep our little perks and prerogatives.  Collecting toys.

Or do we judge life as God judges life - balancing life on the scale of eternity?  There are things to focus on in life that count forever.  Are we investing our time - energy - money - in what endures?

Third thought:  God’s Inheritance
.  Say that with me, “God’s inheritance.”

If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ - given your life to Him - trusting in Him as your personal Savior - you are an heir to the Kingdom of God.  That’s something huge to look forward to.  The Ancient of Days - in control - sovereign God has great things in store for us.  Things we can’t even begin to get a handle on now.  Awesome - eternal - beyond anything we could possibly imagine.

Sovereignty - judgment - inheritance.  The fourth thought of application comes in verse 28: 
At this point the revelation ended.  As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face grew pale, but I kept the matter to myself.

Daniel is given this incredible vision of future history.  Knowing that God is sovereign - that God judges - that God has an incredible inheritance waiting for Daniel - in the midst of courage demanding circumstances - why is Daniel so stressed - greatly alarmed - feeling faint?  Where’s this guy’s faith?  He should be trusting God more.  What kind of spiritual wimp is this guy?

Fourth thought of application:  Its not what we do but who we are that counts most
.  Try that with me, “Its not what we do but who we are that counts most.”

Some people have this idea that studying prophecy is all about figuring out if Osama Bin Ladin is the anti-Christ - or having this long list of future historical events to check off as they go by - or selling everything, moving to Montana to live in communes debating eschatology.

There are some who tell us that we need to be ready - and we need to be telling others that Jesus is coming back.  Which is true.

But what is most important is not what we do but who we are.  Hear this:  The purpose of prophecy is to move us closer to God.  Even giving courage to God’s people.

That’s why I appreciate Daniel’s response.  There are times - when thinking about the world we live in - all the carnage and ripping and tearing and clawing - when God allows us to glimpse the bigger picture - when we see God - the Ancient of Days - moving behind history - and its overwhelming.  Courage is often times lacking.  And we need to know that its is okay to struggle with all this.  That people are not born spiritual giants.

Courage - moving closer to God - trusting in His sovereignty, justice, and inheritance - is a process.

Ten years after this vision is the scene with Belshazzar and the - what?  the handwriting on the wall.  Daniel interpreting the message.  Belshazzar drapes Daniel with purple clothing - a necklace of gold - proclaims Daniel the number three ruler in the empire.  Stuff that people today are killing each other over.  And Daniel says,
“Keep it.  Don’t need it.  Its all dust anyway.  I’m trusting God.”

That’s process.  Getting closer to God.  Processing God’s truth - repeating the truth over and over - meditating on it - prayerfully looking for how it applies in every situation - until it becomes a part of who we are.  Till His truth governs our lives - how we live and respond to this world.

Its who we are that counts most.  People learning to trust God - to step out in faith - to turn to Him rather than to run away in panic.  To understand in our hearts that He is the Ancient of Days and that we are His.

When we get the who we are part - then the what we do part will come.  We will be able to stand - during the times that require courage - we will be who God calls us to be.

When you come up against what’s around you in life - or you may be loosing sleep over what you may think will happen tomorrow - let me encourage you to ask yourself a question. 
“How am I responding to this?  Am I running around all panicked and trying to figure things out by my own cleverness - trying to save my own bacon - or am I living for God - trusting Him.”



1. From a sermon by Steve Zeisler, “Four Beasts From The Sea”

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE
®, Copyright© 1960,1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.