Daniel 8: The Ram and the Goat
Last Instructions - Daniel's Reaction
Does God not answer your prayers?
The verses we are dealing with today are about a sick, rejected and confused Daniel who received an awesome prophecy, and the impact of the experience sent him to bed for several days. Nevertheless, the prophet didn't throw in the towel. He rose, continued with his duties and - very important to us who are blessed by the book of Daniel - kept on praying, receiving prophecies and giving us insight about God's heart and about God's purpose with Israel and with all of the human kind.
How did he manage to get through? How can we?
In 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 the apostle Paul wrote:
"Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil"
To "quench" in this passage comes from Greek "sbénnumi" which means to extinguish, quench, suppress, thwart, stifle, repress. This is a very singular command, because God is Almighty, God is Omniscient, and God is the King of the World. How could we "quench" Him? Suppress Him? Repress Him? Extinguish Him? Even so, the verse still commands us not to quench God. Why?
You'll never find an answer if you believe in the "totalitarian God". The "totalitarian God" is the wrong idea of God many people have, consisting in an old king sitting on his throne and observing mankind from a distant place, who says, "those ones there will never come to heaven, they will never be saved. Send them to hell! But those other ones there are my chosen ones. They will be saved and be with me".
The God of the Bible is not a totalitarian who plays God. He is a loving Father who created us, who knew that many of us would go astray, and who is eager to save us, ALL of us. The God of the Bible doesn't make the decision for us, but calls us to make the decision to love Him, follow Him and obey Him. He gave the Hebrews a law to live by, in order to keep them holy, so that they could be saved. He gave us His Son to make us holy, so that we could be saved. No one is beyond God's reach. The will of God is our sanctification, not our condemnation. If you understand there's no salvation without God's intervention, that's right. But if you believe God will do everything and will demand nothing from you, that's very wrong. God gives us a salvation offer - it is to receive His Son as our Lord and Savior - but we have to make the decision.
It is in this context we are called to receive God and to not reject Him. To quench the Spirit is to reject His voice calling us. And one of the ways to do that is in the same passage of 1 Thessalonians, "Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil". To test all prophecy, hold on to what is good and reject evil is to exercise discernment. We fail to discern - according to this passage - by:
1) Trying prophecies with contempt ("this is not worthy a second thought", "I don't care", etc.)
2) Not holding on to what is good (not obeying God)
3) Not rejecting evil (keeping in following Satan)
That Daniel didn't try the prophecy with contempt is evident because he wrote it and kept praying about more revelation, probably to dissipate the confusion.
Daniel 8:26-27 show us the angelical command and the prophet's reaction:
"The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future."
"I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding"
The original Hebrew sounds like this:
"Umaré haéreb vehabóker asher neemár emét hu. Veatá, setóm hekhazón ki leyamím rabím"
"Vaaní Daniél nihyéti veneheléti yamím, vaakúm vaesé et-melékhet hamélek. Vaeshtomém al-hamaré, veén mebín"
"Veneheléti yamím" is to be sick for some days - not just tired - as it's being translated in KJV and other versions. For the rest, NIV has a literal rendering.
What does it mean to "seal up" the vision?
To seal up has several meanings in the Scripture. One of them is to keep something inaccessible to others. That's why king Darius sealed the entrance to the lion's den with his royal seal and the seal of his nobles, in order to forbid that anyone should change the decree. And that's why God commands John in Revelation 10:4, "seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down". God reveals us personal things and messages for others as well.
Because of these associations, many commentators think that Daniel should keep the prophecy as a secret, because the fulfilment was very remote. But Daniel did write the words, and even elaborated upon this original vision in other chapters. Did he disobey God, or did "seal up" mean something else to him?
This is an example of seal in ancient Babylonia:
The cilinder was to be rolled to leave the impression we see in the right image. Together with signet rings, it was the most common kind of seal.
The seals were used in ancient times not only to keep something closed, inaccessible. Other reasons to seal up something, e.g. a document, were:
1) To give a proof of authenticity (even today this is a common use of seals and stamps) The formal ratification of a deal through some document was usually "sealed up" this way, e.g. the deal in Jeremiah 32 where the prophet buys a field.
2) To show the authority by which the document is to be received (a decree, edict, order, etc. coming from any person in authority should be sealed)
3) As a mark of ownership. In figurative language it is used for Christians or Jews as "God's own", when the Scripture says we are sealed by the Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30, Revelation 7:4)
4) To preserve (a document) in order to be opened and read by the authorized one (e.g. the scroll with seven seals in Revelation 5)
We can clearly see how these meanings apply to that prophecy. A long time would pass until the fulfilment took place - try kind of 400 years! - but the book of Daniel with this prophecy included was to be preserved and tried as a prophetical word of God.
Daniel preserved the prophecy. Both Jews and Christians have preserved this book in the biblical canon as a word of God. And it is a source of power for us who believe. We are sealed by the Spirit of God and bearers of God's Word. As Daniel got up and carried on, so we can, by the anointing of the Holy Spirit deliver God's message for those who need strengthening, encouraging or comfort.
Daniel chapter eight shows us the story of the evil enemy of the Jews who wanted their religion to dissapear, but who didn't succeed. In the same way, a final evil enemy of the Jews will rise in the end of times with the same purpose, but he will be defeated at the Second Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who will come and establish the Kingdom of God.
Next chapter is about Daniel's prayer for his people Israel and the amazing prophecy God gave him through the archangel Gabriel about the Messiah and the end of times. Keep reading!
May the Lord bless you!
In the love of Christ, your brother
PS. Jesus is coming soon!