Year 3 Day 25
Read - Daniel 7v1-12
Message - Scott Woodburn
The book of Daniel is incredibly beloved and well known by Christians. We have heard the stories from childhood about the golden idol, the fiery furnace, the mysterious hand and the lion's den. But as we turn to chapter seven, suddenly the book shifts from familiar stories to strange, colourful visions. Indeed it jumps from Darius and takes us back in time to the days of Belshazzar the king of Babylon (v1). In those days Daniel was laying on his bed when he received a vision by night (v2).
Daniel saw four great beasts coming from the sea (v3). In prophetic books the sea is a place of chaos, danger and storm. The first beast represented Babylon. It was like a lion with eagle's wings denoting its strength and speed of growth. Yet the wings were plucked off and beast was given the mind of a man and made to stand on two feet (v4). This is a reminder of Nebuchadnezzar's insanity and the eventual weakening and fall of Babylon.
The second beast was like a bear which like the lion was another dangerous animal. It was raised up on one side ready to pounce on any opponent and it had ribs in its mouth showing that it was fierce and had already devoured some enemies. It was told to arise and devour much flesh (v5). The bear was the coming Persian empire which would become the dominant world power after Babylon's fall.
The next beast was a leopard with four wings and four heads (v6). The number four in prophetic books denotes creation - think about the four points of a compass - this leopard would have dominion over a vast area of territory and would be swift in its rise to dominance. The leopard was the Greek empire under Alexander the Great. Alexander's empire was huge in scale and he had achieved it rapidly, dying when he was only thirty-two. After his death his empire was divided between his four generals represented here by the leopard's four heads.
The fourth and final beast was terrifying, dreadful and exceedingly strong with iron teeth in its mouth (v7). This beast was different from the others and Daniel didn't compare it to any known animal. Indeed this beast had ten horns. Just as four denotes creation and seven denotes perfection then so too does ten denote a number of great size or fullness. Peter would later ask Jesus if he should forgive his brother seven times (Matthew 18v21-22). The Lord replied "seventy times seven" or in other words we are to forgive consistently and completely. Seven times ten is seventy and seventy multiplied by seven is four hundred and ninety. Jesus wasn't teaching that we should forgive four hundred and ninety times and then stop. His point was our forgiveness should be of great a scale, it should be fulsome.
Here Daniel sees an image of the coming Roman empire. It's ten horns show that Rome would be great in power and size and scale and from Rome would come a "little horn" (v8) with eyes like a man and a boastful mouth (v8). Here we see Rome's emperors who would eventually declare themselves to be "gods" and demand the worship and adoration of their people.
Despite Daniel's terror at the four beasts he would soon have his eyes lifted away from temporary empires to the throne room of God Himself. Daniel looks and he sees "the Ancient of Days" taking His throne. This is an image of Almighty God whose clothes and hair are white as snow. He is holy, He is pure, He is without sin. He sits on a throne with fiery wheels showing that He is omnipresent - there is nowhere that our God does not reign. From His throne the Lord sends forth a fiery judgement upon His enemies (v10) and He is served by millions of angels and redeemed sinners (v10).
Rome's leaders may have boasted in their own greatness but they were no match for the Ancient of Days who destroyed the fourth beast and took the power away from the rest (v11-12).
In this extraordinary vision we catch a little glimpse of heaven. There is no panic in Paradise as the beasts rage upon the earth. Instead the Lord God is in complete and utter control. There was no one from the days of Babylon to Rome and no one since who has ever caused the Lord an anxious thought. Nebuchadnezzar couldn't, Alexander couldn't, Nero couldn't and Putin certainly can't. Brothers and sisters, if you find yourself increasingly anxious at the state of this world - look up. The Lord reigns. You can rest.
Q30 How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ? The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.