Shine the Light: “Seeing with New Eyes” – Daniel 8

brown eyesI don’t often do this, but I want to begin on a very frank, but very negative note. Don’t get worried, I have a purpose in mind…Let’s be honest. It doesn’t take much observation of evil on the news to make a believer feel sick. We can so easily become indignant when we watch the movement of evil in our time – and we have had to face it many, many times. Most of us feel a sense of moral collapse in the society around us – and it makes us at least mad, and at worse physically ill. Did you ever look at the sickness of our world and really question Heaven? Have you ever thought: “God, why don’t you stop this? Why do You let these terrible things go on?”

No, I am not depressed, and I am not grumpy. The fact is that I am certain most of us have asked the question, and often we find ourselves not really grasping the answer – but that ISN’T BECAUSE GOD HASN’T GIVEN ONE. Here is the truth: God is often at work in ways we don’t recognize when evil seems to be collapsing the bulkheads of our society. He seems like He is “letting evil get away with things” when that isn’t really what is going on at all. That is what it APPEARS, but that is not WHAT IT IS. Heaven is more subtle than earth, and God more restrained in His work than most learn to see.

Let me show you an example of that truth from God’s Word. Go back in time to ancient Babylon, and join the Jews in captivity. God was on the move, and showed His selected Prime Ministerial prophet the future of evil domination and pagan revelry against God – but even the veteran believer named Daniel couldn’t really grasp it, and didn’t like what God was doing. Before you read the passage, look at the end of the chapter. It simply says:

Daniel 8:26 “The vision of the evenings and mornings which has been told is true; But keep the vision secret, For [it] pertains to many days [in the future].” 27 Then I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for days. Then I got up [again] and carried on the king’s business; but I was astounded at the vision, and there was none to explain [it].

Did you see the reactive words… “exhausted”… “sick for days”…”astounded” – is that the reaction you would THINK a prophet would get from God exposing the future of things to him? The vision we are about to see is from two years AFTER the one we looked in in the chapter before it (Daniel 7). I want to remind you of the end of that last vision to set the theme of our lesson today. Look at how that one ended:

Daniel 7:28 “At this point the revelation ended. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face grew pale, but I kept the matter to myself.

Unless he was deliberately trying to get his heart rate up or lose some color in his cheeks – these prophecies don’t seem to be drawing Daniel into warm and fuzzy feelings about God and His work among men! Sometimes we think that if we UNDERSTOOD more of what was going to happen – if we could clearly see the prophetic truth of what lay ahead – we would be MORE CONTENT. That doesn’t seem to be true. Daniel saw ahead. God uncovered future truth to him – and it made him SICK. Why? It made him sick for the same reason that injustice viewed in today’s new MAKES US SICK!

Like us, Daniel was tempted to fight the wrong battle – the one that captures the culture of his day with moral behavior, rather than a work that excitedly shares the truth of the existence of the spiritual world and God at work. Daniel learned that not only did he not WANT to see God’s tolerance of evil in the world, but that God’s patience made him physically ill. Yet, Daniel couldn’t see what God saw…

Key Principle: The mature believer’s view of the world should not be fixated on the temporary dominance of darkness, but rather on God at work – moving history toward His purposes.

Before we jump into a complicated prophetic scheme – let me say it plainly. Even the most mature believers are too easily focused on the wrong things. We are distracted by the site of the march of pagans and immorality – and we don’t recognize what God is doing through the darkness of men to bring His eventual and certain victory. I don’t want to spoil the message by tipping my hand too soon, but consider that what Daniel saw was not what God was trying to say – and that is why he got sick.

Daniel’s visions of chapter two and chapter seven were about four pagan and powerful political systems – Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. Each had all the requisite characteristics of a government: inequity, inefficiency, graft and corruption, etc. In the first vision the four were revealed in a big statue that was made of different metals from head to toes. In the second vision, four beasts represented the four kingdoms. Stepping away from both, Daniel learned that GOD WAS GOING TO TOLERATE MUCH in the kingdoms of this world, and He even intended that damage be allowed against His own people in the process. That sickened Daniel, because he couldn’t see the REASONS BEHIND WHAT GOD WAS DOING. Let me crack that door open on just a few of the things God would do…

Daniel saw a Persian kingdom overthrowing the Babylonian Empire… but God was going to use a Persian king to finally rid the Hebrews of an ancient Amalekite enemy from the family of Agag by unfolding a plot by Haman as recorded in the book of Esther. God was going to fulfill a prophecy given to Moses, through a girl named Hadassah (Esther) under a Persian King named Xerxes.

• Daniel saw the despotism of Persian kings over the Jewish people… but God was going to elevate and educate the Jewish people through the terror and threat of a Persian edict. The threat against their lives became the landscape of learning to take God seriously.

Daniel saw the rise of a swift pagan ruler of Macedonia (Greece) infecting the west with pagan philosophy and immorality… but God was going to use the life of Alexander the Great to unify the Mediterranean world– giving a common bond of Greek to allow the Gospel to flow across the Mediterranean in due time.

Daniel saw a Greek dictator who exercised power relentlessly – even inserting himself into ancient cultures and building pagan cities… but God was going to use the academy of Alexandria, a city founded by Alexander the Great, to produce the LXX translation of the Hebrew Bible – allowing the truth of God to move out to the world. God was seeding the ground for the message of Jesus – but that was hard to see. God is often at work in ways we don’t recognize when evil seems to be collapsing the bulkheads of our society.

Step back in time with me, and let’s see if we can identify what Daniel learned from this, his third vision…

First, the text offers the timing of the vision from Daniel (8:1).

Daniel 8:1 In the third year of the reign of Belshazzar the king a vision appeared to me, Daniel, subsequent to the one which appeared to me previously.

Daniel is careful to point out that this vision is an expansion of a previous one (chapter 7) given two years before. Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus the King of Babylon, who ruled three years from that city before he left his throne to his son while as he devoted himself to the worship of the moon god Sin in a desert oasis – a spiritual pilgrimage of sorts. Belshazzar became co-regent in 553 BCE, and was supposed to attend to Babylon’s defense during his dad’s journey. The year of the vision of chapter eight of Daniel either corresponds to the leaving of Nabonidus for his spiritual journey, and the ascension to sole ruler of Babylon by Belshazzar in about 550 BCE, or three years later (meaning the third year he was alone on the throne). By 540 BCE, Nabonidus returned when he heard the Persians planned to take the city of Babylon from his son by force. Nabonidus marched to face Cyrus the Mede, but was defeated and on October 10, 539 BCE, when he surrendered to Cyrus. Two days later the Persian armies overthrew the haughty city of Babylon that was engaged in a drunken party as Daniel recorded in our earlier lesson on Daniel 5. In any case, it is likely that Belshazzar was “flying solo” by the time of this vision.

Next, we are given the description of the vision by Daniel (8:2-14) along with the interpretation (which I have dropped in for simplicity sake from 8:15-24 after each part of the vision).

The record opens…Daniel 8:2 “I looked in the vision, and while I was looking I was in the citadel of Susa, which is in the province of Elam; and I looked in the vision and I myself was beside the Ulai Canal.” Apparently, Daniel was on a trip away from his normal dwelling, perhaps on some administrative duty. In any case, he was just living life, and God interrupted again – to help him see what the Most High was doing among men.

The vision he described had three main elements: A two-horned ram, a horned buck goat and a specific horn that caught Daniel’s attention. Right after explaining the three parts of the vision, Daniel shared HOW HE GOT THE INTERPRETATION, and then what each symbol meant. He wrote:

Daniel 8:15 When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it; and behold, standing before me was one who looked like a man. 16 And I heard the voice of a man between [the banks of] Ulai, and he called out and said, “Gabriel, give this [man] an understanding of the vision.” 17 So he came near to where I was standing, and when he came I was frightened and fell on my face; but he said to me, “Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end.” 18 Now while he was talking with me, I sank into a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me and made me stand upright. 19 He said, “Behold, I am going to let you know what will occur at the final period of the indignation, for [it] pertains to the appointed time of the end.

This passage contained the first of the five passages in God’s Word where the angel Gabriel was named. The next is found in Daniel 9, with all the remaining found in the first part of Luke’s Gospel. Gabe explained that the vision wasn’t about something happening right away – but rather it extended into the time of TRIBULATION, and the time of the END. That detail helps us recognize the prophecy had implications for a time yet in our future – so this won’t simply be a “history lesson” for us.

In this lesson, we will add the interpretation to each part of the vision to make it clear and simple.

First, there was a ram with two horns (8:3-4).

Daniel 8:3 Then I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a ram which had two horns was standing in front of the canal. Now the two horns [were] long, but one [was] longer than the other, with the longer one coming up last. 4 I saw the ram butting westward, northward, and southward, and no [other] beasts could stand before him nor was there anyone to rescue from his power, but he did as he pleased and magnified [himself].

• Two horns
• One higher than another
• Pushing in three directions
• Unstoppable greatness for a time.

In the section on the interpretation, Daniel was told simply in Daniel 8:20 “The ram which you saw with the two horns represents the kings of Media and Persia.

This means the vision was NOT going to contain any focus on the Babylonian kingdom as the previous visions in Daniel 2:19-45 and Daniel 7 had done. This vision began with the Medo-Persian Kingdom – matching the breast and arms of silver in Daniel 2, and the lop-sided bear of Daniel 7. Every time Daniel saw a vision with Medo-Persia, the heavenly view saw two uneven powers joined together. Here, it was one ram, but two uneven horns. The beginning of this kingdom was dominated by Media, but fifty years later the same kingdom was dominated by the Persians. The Medo-Persian Empire was vast and powerful, as the descriptions of Esther chapter one attest under Ahaseuras (or Xerxes). Yet, for all its power, as it drew nearer to its end, it kept facing a much smaller force of hoplite Greek armies, and losing:

• It started when the Athenians, with their democratic ideas, helped the Ionian cities of western Turkey revolt Persian king Darius I (550-486 BCE) and the Persian king swore to have revenge on Athens when he found them. He crushed the Ionians (494 BCE), putting down the revolt near Miletus, but needed to withdraw his army and not move on at that time against Athens to conquer a new people.

• Four years later, the Battle of Marathon was set in the end of August and beginning of September of 490 BCE, as Darius sent a naval task force across the Aegean, to take the Cycladic Islands and then attack Athens. Taking many islands, the Persians sailed for Athens, landing in nearby Marathon. Athenians marched to Marathon to meet the Persian advance and blocked the two exits from the plain of Marathon. After a five day stalemate the Athenian hoplites attacked the Persians, devastating the Persian infantry. The Persian force retreated to Asia, showing the Greeks that the Persians could be beaten. Although dubious, the legend of a Greek messenger Pheidippi’des running from Marathon to Athens with news of victory – a distance of just over 26 miles – and collapsing following the announcement, which became the inspiration for the so named athletic event introduced at the 1896 Athens Olympics.

• Darius began raising a huge new army with which to return to Greece; but faced an Egyptian uprising in 486 BCE. He died the same year in October of 486 BCE.

His successor and son, Xerxes I (Ahaseurus of Esther) prepared a face saving second invasion of Greece. The preparations for that army were set at the party of Esther 1. By 483 BCE, more than one half of that year was spent on the massive and impressive party that staged the backdrop of the military planning sessions for the second invasion of Greece.

In the summer heat of 480 BCE, the Greek city states found themselves under attack again. Xerxes amassed a huge army and navy, and set out to conquer Greece and redeem his father’s defeat. The Athenian general Themistocles proposed that the Greeks block the advance of the Persian army at the pass of Thermopylae, while blocking the Persian navy at the Straits of Artemisium.

• The Greek force of approximately 7,000 men thus marched north to block the pass in the summer of 480 BCE against a Persian army, alleged to have numbered over one million.

• Though vastly outnumbered, the Greeks knew the terrain and held off the Persians for three assaults over a week long period. King Leonidas I of Sparta blocked the only road by which the massive Persian army could pass. After the second day of battle, a local resident named Ephialtes betrayed the Greeks by revealing a small path that led behind the Greek lines. Aware that his force was being outflanked, Leonidas dismissed the bulk of the Greek army, and remained to guard the rear with 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians, 400 Thebans and perhaps a few hundred others, the vast majority of whom were killed.

• After the defeat on land, the Greek navy at Artemisium evacuated Athens and withdrew to west of the island of Salamis, in the Saronic Gulf southwest of Athens. The Persians found an evacuated Athens, and followed the Greek ships – seeking decisive victory over them. The smaller and more maneuverable Greek fleet attacked the Persian warships, and decimated them at the Battle of Salamis in late 480 BCE. Xerxes was forced to withdraw with much of his army to Asia Minor. The following year (August, 479 BCE) the Persians were decisively defeated the Persians at the Battle of Plataea and Xerxes army returned home humbled.

• Since Esther was taken to Xerxes in December of 479 or January of 478 BCE according to Esther 2:16, the setting of Esther 2:1 and the “After these things” included the Greek wars and the news of the defeat of Xerxes army – along with the accompanying humiliation. The fought the inferior Greeks, and were defeated in the field. It was only a matter of time before the Greeks decided to fire back… and under a great leader they eventually did about 150 years later in 333-323 BCE.

Second, there was a buck goat (8:5-8) that was to follow Medo-Persia – the Hellenic Kingdom of the Greeks.

Daniel 8:5 “While I was observing, behold, a male goat was coming from the west over the surface of the whole earth without touching the ground; and the goat [had] a conspicuous horn between his eyes. 6 He came up to the ram that had the two horns, which I had seen standing in front of the canal, and rushed at him in his mighty wrath. 7 I saw him come beside the ram, and he was enraged at him; and he struck the ram and shattered his two horns, and the ram had no strength to withstand him. So he hurled him to the ground and trampled on him, and there was none to rescue the ram from his power. 8 Then the male goat magnified [himself] exceedingly. But as soon as he was mighty, the large horn was broken; and in its place there came up four conspicuous [horns] toward the four winds of heaven.

• From the West
• Notable single horn
• Victory of the Buck Goat (8:7)
• Breaking of Great horn- rise of four horns (N,S,E,W)

In the section on the interpretation, Daniel was told simply in Daniel 8:21 “The shaggy goat [represents] the kingdom of Greece, and the large horn that is between his eyes is the first king. 22 “The broken [horn] and the four [horns that] arose in its place [represent] four kingdoms [which] will arise from [his] nation, although not with his power.

God’s revealed word here was no mystery – Greece would decisively destroy the Persian armies and take over when the time was right. Tracing the swift movement of Alexander the Great between 333-323 BCE is not difficult. Suffice it to say that at the end of one decade on the road, Al had subdued Egypt, the Holy Land, Turkey, Iraq and Iran, and was standing on the edge of the Indus River having conquered more land in faster time than any army in the history of the world. Yet, the focus of the last part of the vision appeared to be dedicated to a specific vision of four rulers from within the kingdom that broke up the power base, and finally one specific ruler who rose with certain designs on God’s people. That ruler became the third part of the vision…

Third, there was a little horn (8:9-15-4) that deserved specific attention.

Daniel 8:9 Out of one of them came forth a rather small horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Beautiful [Land]. 10 It grew up to the host of heaven and caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth, and it trampled them down. 11 It even magnified [itself] to be equal with the Commander of the host; and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down. 12 And on account of transgression the host will be given over [to the horn] along with the regular sacrifice; and it will fling truth to the ground and perform [its will] and prosper. 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that particular one who was speaking, “How long will the vision [about] the regular sacrifice apply, while the transgression causes horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host to be trampled?” 14 He said to me, “For 2,300 evenings [and] mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored.”

I suspect that what we are looking at is actually a dual description – first of the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV (cp. Daniel 11:21), and a future ruler in the world that has not yet been revealed – but who will show himself during the time of the Great Tribulation, as indicated in a literal reading of Daniel 8:19. If I am correct, we are reading about TWO MEN, each a type of the other.

• One came out of the four Diadoche Generals (Antiochus IV).
• He swept south and east and became great.
• He involved himself in the Holy Land’s affairs.

Those traits applied to Antiochus – but there were more traits listed – and those appear to be something greater than the violations of the second century BCE ruler… they appear to be of another FUTURE ruler. That one:

• Caused some of the host and some of the stars to fall (8:10). This could be a reference to some type of air war in which Daniel saw firepower that was unfamiliar to him – but I suspect it was a foray into explaining the DEMONIC POWER behind his rise.
• He stopped sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem and interrupted the lives of the observant Jewish people (8:11).
• Some of the host (army) of heaven was given to him (8:12) – probably a reference to his command of forces in the unseen world as well as his political power.
• His term of office was determined by God (8:13-14). Measuring the time based on a 360 day calendar of ancient Jewry – this one was in office for between six and seven years – but well short of the seven. The idea may have been to communicate that he would not make it to the end of the seven years of Tribulation.

If the entire description we just read was meant to poetically describe Antiochus – that is fine. Some of it looks like more to me, but I cannot be sure. What is clear is that by 8:23 Daniel’s record appears to be pointing to a time much later than the ancient Greek ruler. He wrote:

Daniel 8:23 “In the latter period of their rule, When the transgressors have run [their course], A king will arise, Insolent and skilled in intrigue. 24 “His power will be mighty, but not by his [own] power, And he will destroy to an extraordinary degree And prosper and perform [his will]; He will destroy mighty men and the holy people. 25 “And through his shrewdness He will cause deceit to succeed by his influence; And he will magnify [himself] in his heart, And he will destroy many while [they are] at ease. He will even oppose the Prince of princes, But he will be broken without human agency.

It is clear that the ruler is at a later period of time. It is clear that he attains the office with some trickery and underhanded tactic. It is also clear that his remarkable power will be backed by more than meets the eye. He will do fierce damage –even to some who were well known to be powerful. He will harm the Jewish people. He will be self-aggrandizing and self-reliant. He will also be on a leash of life that God will pull back when the Father decides he is finished his damaging work.

Finally, we see the troubles of Daniel (26-27). Daniel found himself overwhelmed with the vision and near exhaustion, needing inspiration and help.

Daniel 8:26 “The vision of the evenings and mornings which has been told is true; But keep the vision secret, For [it] pertains to many days [in the future].” 27 Then I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for days. Then I got up [again] and carried on the king’s business; but I was astounded at the vision, and there was none to explain [it].

Daniel became distracted by the site of the march of pagans and immorality – and lost the ability to recognize what God was about to do through the darkness of men to bring His eventual and certain victory. God answered a question Daniel held in his heart: “What is God going to do with His people if there are yet this many terrible pagan rulers and programs ahead?” Remember, the vision’s record is in the Hebrew language, which may mean that it was not for “public consumption” of the pagans, but focused on God’s dealings with His own people.

• We must remember that a spiritual battle rages behind what we are seeing in the headlines, and God hasn’t left the scene… He is weaving the tapestry of history to present His story to the cosmos. Even when politicians stab at God’s moral standards and defame God’s people – God is working out the story. He hasn’t lost control – He is DOING SOMETHING.

• We must also remember that the story has a SINGLE WINNER. In the end, God will settle all accounts. There is no power to match His. If you are standing with Him, you are already siding with the winner.

Enza was born into poverty, the product of an unknown father paying for minutes with her crack using mother. She was born in a flop house on an old mattress, and that would be some of the best of what she could expect from her early life. Unloved and unkempt, she struggled to gain basic nutrition and hygiene in her first years of life. Her mother was attentive one day, absent the next, guilty and weepy the third and on and on it went… Another young woman saw the struggling child and began to take a daily interest in seeing to it she was fed, clothed and clean. Life was hard, but Enza grew, watched and learned. By the time she was eight, she learned to hide from her mother when men came to visit, because her mother would have sold away her body for another hit of a drug. Even before puberty, this young girl learned about life, exchanges, and controlling men. By the time she was an adult, she was jaded with a darkness that draws a curtain over hope and lived the life of a struggler and hustler – believing that life was all about negotiating away what you have to get what you want. Enza met Jesus the first time in the eyes and heart of Carl, a young man that offered her his sandwich because he said she looked hungry, but didn’t ask for anything in return. This was a new experience in her adult life with men – kindness. Carl saw her a number of times, and always he smiled, helped, and was kind. He asked for nothing, and she concluded that he must not have wanted women – and left it at that. After a time, she asked him, “Why are you always nice to me?” He replied: “Well, two reasons. The first is because I like you. I think you are really wonderful person!” Feeling a bit stupid about receiving a compliment, she interrupted, “What’s the second reason?” He turned and looker her in the eye and said these simple words: “Because I have been where you are. I have lived through the hard life, and met a friend Who rescued me.” Carl shared Jesus with Enza, and she listened in half disbelief that One would come and die for her. Her disbelief wasn’t so much about His loving character, but more about His Sovereignty. “If there is a God like you say, where has He been in MY LIFE?” Carl smiled and said. “Bringing you to this bench, walking you to this minute, hurting for the abuses but knowing that today you would meet Him, and that would all change.” Enza began to tear up. Could it be true? She found out that it was – because Carl showed it first, and spoke it second. (RS: names changed).

Stop for a moment. What would have happened if Carl had decided that God was simply unfair in HIS LIFE? What would have happened if HE focused on the injustices rather than on God’s deliverance from his own rebellion? Carl would have become exactly what we become when we get angry and sickened by injustice of this world – he would have become ineffective as a witness. He would have missed out on a new life, and Enza would have missed out on his effective witness. Carl knew what Daniel was learning…

The mature believer’s view of the world should not be fixated on the temporary dominance of darkness, but rather on God at work – moving history toward His purposes.