Oh Daniel, Did You Know, Did You Know?

Pity the poor prophets who had wonderful visions but probably never knew what those visions meant. If they did know, how disappointed they must have been not to see the fulfillment of those dreams.

Daniel is lying down on his bed and God sends him a dream. Among the many fascinating things he sees, the most glorious must have been this:

"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. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated and the books were opened. Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.) In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed" —Daniel 7:9-14, NIV.

Sound familiar?

As it happens, God granted Daniel an explanation of his vision (9:15-27). Daniel was troubled before the interpretation was granted. He was also troubled (9:28) after his vision was explained, a situation that intrigues me. Why would Daniel be disturbed by the wonderful declaration that God will reign and that his saints will reign with him?

Daniel saw God in his vision. He saw Jesus Christ return to heaven to be received in triumph. He saw the enemies of our souls crushed. What's to be troubled about?

I suspect that it wasn't the outcome of the dream that worried Daniel, but the death and destruction that would come before its fulfillment. How could anyone not be concerned about: "…this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them,…" (9:21) and "He [the horn] will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time"  (9:25).

To some extent some of what Daniel saw and heard wasn't so surprising. He, after all, had been taken into captivity to Babylon as a young man. He understood the price a nation would pay for rejecting its God. He also well understood the price to be paid for following God–he could still remember the foul smell of lions' breath and his three friends probably never stopped talking about their miraculous escape from that fiery furnace.

God understands the force of human nature that drives us to focus on the negative and worry about what's to come. Just before going to the cross, Jesus warned his disciples that they would not have it easy as his followers (John 15:18-16:32). They would be hounded to death. Then comes the statement that echoes the picture that Daniel saw: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" –John 16:33, NIV.

In the midst of the inevitable, look to the undeniable, the unsearchable, the unmovable. Look to the Ancient of Days and the One who, after having been through all the trouble the world could dish out, now sits on the throne of heaven as King of kings and Lord of lords.

It's the end that's important, not the middle.

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