Permanence: Daniel 7 – 12

Daniel discusses The End. A series of visions reveals how it will all go down. Four kingdoms will rise from four corners of the Earth and battle. The Redeemer will be martyred in horrible fashion. Another leader will arise – this one evil in purpose and deed – who will actively lead the world astray. He will be held accountable. He will perish, and the kingdom of God will reemerge, never to be destroyed again.

These messages come in the form of harrowing dream sequences of impenetrable metaphors. A lion, a leopard, and a bear meet a shrouded, dark animal with large iron teeth battle until the latter is set on fire. Kings slay one another after years of war. Times and days ticking down, numbers upon numbers and dates, prophesy, mumbled phrases of dread, and pitch. All these are dominoes falling in a row until the last one drops, ending the activity. Stillness and fright.

Daniel responds:

“This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.” (7:28)

But this will not do, because we demand permanence. God birthed man with a severe defect, a desire a fear an apprehension. Nothing lasts. It is so much more than death – some mistake it as a dread of death, but it is not. It is permanence, it is transience. Do not let yourself become addicted to permanence, for you will find yourself disappointed, even distraught, at the transience with which we live.

So what will the end look like? Sulfur and horsemen and judgment, but no no it is just plain old destruction of what we have grown accustomed to, this life all of it. It is justice. Since when has justice felt any good? It is the time that we are stacked up against one another and the spiritual yardstick measures us from the top of our wisdom down to the floor. For all are unworthy, except some. And all have fallen short, but some have dug in by the nails of their fingertips.

Some will end. Some will not.

I never had an issue with the end. Endings tend to be the best part for the ability to leave us in want of more. And this existence has made us addicted to continuity – a series of moments strung together to form a narrative – a life. The ending of that is okay; it does not boggle my mind. It is after, that guaranteed after. Eternal and unending happiness – but is that life? No it is something else entirely, and we are told it is better. But it is not life. It is not continuity what is it?

It is something else entirely.

That is the leap of faith. Not that you need to change your life now to access the after; it is that you have no idea what the after is. Because it is not life.

The Better God: Daniel 1 – 6

Daniel is an iconic figure in the Bible, much like Abraham, Moses, and David, even though his narrative is contained to a scant 12 chapters (to be clear, I am not complaining about the brevity). Even so, these stories are iconic – clear in their presentation and message. Let’s take a look at them – six chapters, six stories, all contained.

Refusal of Foods
King Nebuchadnezzar orders the men of his court to eat grand meat and drink fine wine, but as this is defiling to God, Daniel and his fellow Jews refuse. He convinces an advisor to let him eat nothing but vegetables and water for ten days and compare their health to those others eating extravagantly in the court. After the time, Daniel proves himself correct, as the Jews look much better than their gluttonous appetites. Praise to Daniel’s God!

Nebuchadnezzar’s Troubled Dreams
Violent dreams trouble Nebuchadnezzar, so he demands the magicians and fortune tellers of his court to not only interpret the dream but also psychically recount it without being told. When they fail, Daniel approaches and fulfills the wish. Nebuchadnezzar promotes Daniel and praises God. Praise to Daniel’s God!

The Blazing Furnace – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
Nebuchadnezzar orders all the men of Babylon to worship a false golden idol in the center of the kingdom, but three Jews – Shadrach Meshach, and Abednego – refuse. He orders them thrown in the furnace, but an angel of God protects them from death. Nebuchadnezzar is overwhelmed by the power of God. Praise to their God!

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream of the Tree
Another troubling dream – this time of a large tree that falls to the ground – confuses Nebuchadnezzar, so eventually, he sends for Daniel. The interpretation is bleak however, as Daniel predicts Nebuchadnezzar’s downfall for his insolence and refusal to praise God. He rushes out into the wilderness, where he eventually repents. Praise to Daniel’s God!

The Writing on the Wall
Belshazzar – the new king of Babylon – is dumbfounded when a strange severed hand writes confusing words on the wall. He demands the magicians and fortune tellers to interpret the words, but none can possibly translate the text. Daniel comes by, reading them as an omen of Belshazzar’s downfall. He repents immediately (and then dies that night). Praise to Daniel’s God!

Daniel in the Lions’ Den
Darius – yet another king of Babylon – is tricked by jealous attendants into making a rule that no one is to pray to any gods besides him. When Daniel does his ritualistic prayers that evening, the attendants demand he be punished according to the law. They throw him in a lions’ den, but God protects him from any harm. Praise to Daniel’s God!

So what did we learn boys and girls?

My God is better than yours!

They make that point loud and clear in both fantastical and relatable fashion. The point is so well made that King Darius issues this decree:

I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
Daniel 6:26a (NIV)

That’s one way to win converts.

On Monday, we dig into the second half of Daniel, which contains all of his prophecy.