Pastor Mike Schumann
In our context, it is a very common thing to put on a face that suggests all is good and right in our world, even when it is far from being true. Many people do it — they might feel stressed, hurt, disappointed, and yet the look on their face, their posture, their presence, would suggest otherwise
Here, in our text we meet a man who holds no such pretense. Having mourned for three weeks his eyes would have looked tired, his face downcast. Having fasted from rich foods and wine for three weeks his appearance would have looked gaunt and thin. Having kept oils from his body his desert-beaten skin would have shown signs of much neglect. His serious, and yet broken countenance — if you were to see him outside, see him sitting in his home — it would stop you, sober you, and prompt you to wonder, “Oh Lord, what happened here.” And yet, this is our hero, Daniel.
And verse 4 states, Daniel’s been conducted this mournful fast, of all times, throughout the first month of the Jewish Calendar. Do you know what is celebrated during the first three weeks of the Jewish Calendar? More joyful than a birthday, more meaningful than a graduation — this was the season of the Passover! And Daniel is mournful and fasting. Can you even imagine what would provoke a man to brush such heavy, dismal tones over so great a canvas at the Passover? This is the great celebration where Jewish men and Jewish women would come from all over the known world and fill the streets and highways of Jerusalem to celebrate the day God saved his people from slavery in Egypt. And Daniel has been mourning through the whole season.
Why? The text doesn’t say why. But it does tell us when. During the third year of Cyrus king of Persia. But do you know what great, awesome, joy-inspiring event happened in the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia? I’ll read it out of Ezra chapter 1: That the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Pause, what? You mean to tell me that God took thee most powerful man in all the world, the one who just freshly took over the reins of world-conquering Persia, and moved in him in such a way that he’d act to build a house for God in Jerusalem? Yeah, that’s what our God does — and he breaks no sweat in doing it.
So why is Daniel, two years later, mourning? For one, Daniel is in Babylon, near the Tigris river. He didn’t go back. Was he too old? Did he feel a need to stay and encourage his remaining Jews? We don’t know, all we know is that he stayed. And though he stayed, he likely heard about what has been going on in the two years since some of the Jews returned home — as the rest of the book of Ezra tells us, the Israelites’ return home was far from glorious — constant opposition from neighboring peoples, lack of motivation from their own people — the Temple was far from being restored to its former glory. And Daniel, I believe is mourning that fact. Such high, 70-year prolonged hopes, unfulfilled.
What happens when we mourn and pray to our God?
Does he hear us, personally?
Do our prayers hit his ear immediately, or do they take some travel time?
Does he act on them immediately?
Do his actions have power, or do they sometimes get overpowered?
These are not foolish questions. They are not mere academic questions. These are questions that strike at the heart of every man and every woman whose ever found themselves, like Daniel, on their knees begging, crying, asking God — change this, fix this, provide this, help me to understand this. Like Daniel, three weeks go by, or more, and you see nothing changed, nothing fixed, nothing provided and wonder, “Is God hearing me? Is God caring for me? Is God acting for me?
What we have today is a narrative — one man’s story. It is not meant to function like a systematic textbook — teaching us exactly what prayer is, what prayer does, how prayer works, every time. We want to be careful to not take the details of this chapter and say, “See, here’s proof, this is what happens all the time, every time, when a believer prays to God,” That said, this text, I believe, opens windows through which we can look and perhaps see a little more into what happens when a lover of God prays.
That’s our aim here: Understand the text rightly, in order that we might open some windows and see just a little more into what happens when a lover of God prays.
Who is the being?
Daniel’s on his knees in mournful prayer, and unlike most of us I imagine, Daniel receives a frightening vision. Verses 7-9 tell of a celestial being in radiant, other-world glory. Such glory that it sucks the very strength right out of Daniel, carves a look of fear upon his face, and he faints down to the ground. The guys accompanying Daniel, they don’t even see the vision, but the very feel of its awesome, radiant glory sends them running for the hills. That’s amazing. Really amazing. So amazing, that right from the get-go it feels natural to say, “That being in Daniel’s vision has to be God — just look at the effect he has on Daniel.” And that conclusion is not without biblical grounds. In fact, throughout the Bible, God’s appearing before man has such a near-fatal effect.
• In Exodus 33, Moses is pleading with God — “Lord, show me your glory.” And God answers him, “I will make all my goodness pass before you…but “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”
• In Judges 6, Gideon, sees the Lord, “Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.” But the LORD said to him, “Do not fear; you shall not die.”
• Isaiah 6, Isaiah sees “the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up…and his immediate reaction is “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and…my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
The biblical pattern is that when a mere human sees God — in all his glory, all his splendor, all his holiness — it has a near-fatal effect. And it seems, we have that type of phenomenon here. So, many confidently assert, this being must be God….But I’d be hesitant to make such a bold claim.
For, while God does have a near-fatal effect on people, so do God’s angels. This makes sense.
No, angels are not eternal, they are created beings.
No, angels are not Divine
No, Angels are worthy of worship.
But, angels do bask in the radiant glory of God most High each and every day. They stand around his throne crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty” — each and every day! Can you imagine the effect that might have? Moses, Moses (Exodus 33) got to meet with God in the tent of meeting, and Moses merely being in the presence of God, in the shadow of eternal glory, it caused his face to shine such that the people were afraid to come near him.
So take that idea, beings who’ve been in the presence of God’s awesome glory radiate, reflect, that awesome glory. Take that idea and put it on an angel, who is in God’s presence every day. Imagine what their appearance would be like.
Actually, don’t imagine, just read the book of Revelation. Not once but twice, chapters 19 and 21, John sees an angel and falls down to worship him. He’s so enraptured by the angels brilliance he starts to worship him — thinking he must be God. Both times the angels cry out, says, You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.”
What I’m getting at here is that Daniel’s reaction to this being — losing his strength and falling to the ground — does not automatically mean this being is God. I’m not saying it can’t be God, I’m just saying that we need to dig a little further before we draw such a conclusion. So, let’s look at the description of this being, captured earlier in verse 5: “I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like Beryl, his face like the appearance of lighting, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like a multitude.” That is an awesome vision. A man — legs of burnished bronze, eyes like flaming torches, face like lightning, voice like the roar of many waters. It must be God! Right? Again, not necessarily.
In Ezekiel chapter 1, we see a description of four supernatural beings who also...
What about Revelation 1. Here John sees one man, just like Daniel saw one man, whose “Clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and this face was like the sun shining in full strength.”
In my opinion, this description seems just too similar to Daniel 10 to deny. The being in Revelation 1 is that same being in Daniel 10. Who’s the being in Revelation 1 — Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. I could totally be wrong here, but that’s my guess.
Does it matter? Does whether this being is Jesus, or merely one of his angels really matter? Yes, I think it matters very, very much. For, if this Being is Jesus, then what do you do with that when you get to verse 13, where the being had just gotten finished saying, “Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.” (Verse 13), “The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia.”
Came to help me, for I was left there, I was stuck there, I was held up. We have major problems if the being that is talking right now is Jesus. Jesus needed help! Jesus got stuck! Jesus needed an angel to give him a hand. Does it matter who this Being is? Yes, for the Bible says,
...Jesus is the one by whom all things in heaven and earth, including angels, were created.
...Jesus is before all things and in Him all things, including the heavens and supernatural realms, hold together.
...Jesus is the one before whom every knee (whether human, or supernatural) every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow.
That same Jesus was held up, stuck, in need of angelic assistance?
No. When Jesus shows up at the end of time — all of Hell, Satan, all of his demons, every one of them go down. Jesus doesn’t get held up, Jesus is in no need of assistance.
Here’s is the view some scholars suggest and I happen to believe. This figure we see in verses in the beginning of this vision is, in fact, Jesus. I just think the relation to Revelation 1 is just too similar to think otherwise. But. But. Look what happens to Daniel. He passes out. He sees the vision, he starts hearing the words, and he passes out. He’s then woken up by someone, and though he’s still weak, made able to stand and hear the prophecy of chapter 11. I think when Daniel passes out it is an angel that awakes him and delivers the rest of the message. I think Jesus is far too much for Daniel to handle. Far too much for him to take in, and so an angel who had been sent, held up for three weeks, shows up and delivers the remained of what we see in chapters 10-12.
This is what angels do. Angels are “Ministering spirits sent to serve those who, like Daniel, will inherit salvation.” Daniel awakes, it’s no longer the face of Jesus he sees, but an angel. It’s still an awesome sight, a frightening sight, but we might say, toned down enough so that Daniel can at least retain consciousness and hear the prophecy told him in chapter 11. That is what I think happens here. Now, regardless of your take on this, the question now becomes, what do we do with this?
There are three takeaways, or windows, through which we can view the nature of a believer’s prayers.
First, if Jesus is the love of your life, if Jesus is the king of your world, then delight in the good news that God hears you, immediately hears you, when you call to him. “O Daniel, man greatly loved…Fear not, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard.” Oh Christian, you who come to the Father clothed in the perfect righteousness of the son. You are greatly loved, and heard, immediately when you call to Him. For his “eyes are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.” God hears you, immediately hears you, when you call to him. Your words to him don’t get delayed. They don’t get buried in an inbox. God hears you, immediately.
Second, When God hears your prayers, he hears them as from a man, a woman, whom he greatly loves. For Father does not merely put up with his son. He does not merely tolerate his Son. The Father loves, cherishes, enjoys the son. If you are covered in the righteousness of the son — God receives you as he receives his son, Jesus. “O Daniel, man greatly loved.” Fear not, peace be with you, be strong and of good courage, o man, greatly loved.”
Third, because God hears your prayers immediately, because he hears your prayers as from a man or woman he greatly loves, we can trust that if his God delays in answering your prayer — he does so because he loves you. In His great wisdom he knows it is more loving for Him to delay, then answer now. It will bring more glorify to Him, and more joyful for you, long term, if he wait.
Nothing was holding God back from answering Daniel’s prayer immediately. He heard Daniel immediately. He loved Daniel fully. He had and has all the power in the world. And yet, in his surpassing wisdom, he decreed, it would be more glorifying to Himself, and more beneficial to Daniel, to, hold his arsenal of angels back, hold his archangel Michael back, and send just one angel he knew would get caught up for three weeks. Those three weeks were, strange as it sounds, a display of God’s perfect love for his beloved Daniel.
And this brings us to the table where we remember God’s beloved Son, Jesus, praying in the garden of Gethsemane. Drips of anxiety-induced blood dripping down his brow. Crying out, Father, would you take this cup away? How could the most loving Father in the history of the universe deny such a request? Did he not love his own son enough? Did he not have power, as Jesus himself says, to call down a twelve legions of demons to come and save him? And yet, Jesus the Son, God the Father, from all time decreed, “For the joy set before him, he’d endure the cross.” Son, it is not my will to take this cup away, but it is my will for you to receive the fullest of joys. And Jesus prays, yes Father, thy will be done, I trust you.