Shine the Light: “Sock Puppets” – Daniel 10

puppet2I have always been fascinated by puppets. I love marionettes in particular, as they were a staple of entertainment for nearly two thousand years in villages and towns of the western world. If you ever get the opportunity to travel to Palermo in Sicily, one of the oldest marionette puppet museums can be found in the “Opera dei Pupi” that opened in the thirteenth century, and still maintains some of the traditional shows and themes. The detail of each marionette, particularly that of the soldiers and courtiers is stunning.

I don’t believe that I could operate something that complicated, but I do understand the principle of pulling strings, and manipulating the movements of the puppet. My level of puppet operation lends itself better to “sock puppets”, however. If that were the level of skill required, I believe I could attain real accolades as a champion… but my dreams are probably misplaced. At any rate, isn’t it incredible how quickly we can transfer living character to something as simple as a sock or piece of paper-mâché? We can watch a puppet “move”, and listen to it “talk” as though it had its own personality. We KNOW that within it there is a puppet master’s hand – but we seem to easily forget that when we are watching. Anyone who grew up on a diet of “The Muppets” will quickly agree…We seem mesmerized and quickly tricked into believing that controlled devices are “self-driven” beings – and that is a lesson we should not shake off too easily… In fact, our enemy counts on that trick in daily life to discourage us. Let me explain.

There is a verse in 2 Corinthians that I have come to believe was ABSOLUTELY TRUE when the Apostle Paul wrote it, but I am almost certain is NOT TRUE if he were walking through life with believers that inhabit the planet now. I don’t believe Paul would write this if he knew the church and her people today… He was writing on the subject of forgiveness to one who was disciplined by the church and he made this passing comment in 2:11 “…so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” Really? Paul said that people who served Jesus and traveled with him were able to see how the enemy was at work in the world – they could peer through the breach between the physical world and the spiritual world and spot the “puppeteer that was pulling many strings” behind events in their world… I find that amazing. In fact, if you look even deeper, you will find the ability to recognize the agenda of the hidden world was a key factor in his ability to stay encouraged when things weren’t going well in his life and ministry.

Key Principle: We gain courage and proper perspective when we recognize the physical world is not the only world, and in fact, not the REAL world. What we see, feel and experience is often caused by something we cannot see from a spiritual world well hidden.

Paul knew he was primarily a spiritual being. He recognized and taught that the eternal and spiritual world is the real (or lasting) world, while the temporal world is the shadow we are passing through in our “earth time”. That knowledge gave him strength and endurance – and it will do the same for us as well. On our way to Daniel 10, let’s thing about that truth and its implications for a moment….

beaten-with-rodsSay what you want about the Apostle Paul… but the guy knew how to “take a punch” and stay on his feet until the final bell rang. In 2 Corinthians 11:24 he offered a “quick trip down memory lane” of battles fought during his thirty one years of ministry on earth from the time he received Christ in 36 CE up to the time of his third mission journey that ended in 58 CE (during which he wrote the account in 2 Corinthians). What an unbelievable twenty-two years! He wrote about the events…:

11:24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine [lashes]. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 [I have been] on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from [my] countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 [I have been] in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

Wow! That sounds like a mission brochure bound to get new recruits to sign up, don’t you think?

Here is my question…How did a guy passing through these kinds of tough persecutions keep an un-jaded perspective, and press forward toward honoring Jesus with his life regardless of the circumstances? He had some secret many of us don’t seem to have – and yet both Paul and Daniel long before him shared it. Listen again as Paul wrote to Corinth to explain his encouraged heart in spite of his physical circumstance.

2 Corinthians 3:15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away…18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 4:1 Therefore … we do not lose heart…7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8 [we are] afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed… 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh….16 …we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Did you catch the secret to his encouragement? He focused, along with his companions, on the world NOT SEEN, because he knew it was the REAL WORLD. It would last eons after the physical world was nothing but a distant memory…In fact… he wasn’t the only believer that got COURAGE and REINFORCEMENT from the other side of the veil – from the eternal and “spiritual” world. Great men and women of God know this secret – they recognize the NEED TO LOOK BEYOND the physical world to find the TRUTH about events. Daniel did it as well… in fact he was a great example of this idea…and that story is captured at the end of Daniel’s writings.

Daniel 10

Let’s take a few minutes and finish our studies in the book of Daniel by going to the chapter that should be LAST if the account were collected chronologically. It is organized thematically, therefore chapter 10 is not at the end – but in TIME and ORDER of events it SHOULD BE LAST chapter of the book – so we are looking at is to end our series..

Mourning Prayer (10:1-4).

Yet another story opened with the practice of Daniel to seek God’s direction and understanding of life as he prayed. This time he also fasted, and was deeply struggling with a message from God. It wasn’t that the message didn’t make sense – it was simply a hard message to stomach. He wrote:

Daniel 10:1 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar; and the message was true and [one of] great conflict, but he understood the message and had an understanding of the vision. 2 In those days, I, Daniel, had been mourning for three entire weeks. 3 I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all until the entire three weeks were completed. 4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, while I was by the bank of the great river, that is, the Tigris…

There are three specifics Daniel offered about the time he spent seeking God:

First, he reminded us of the period of time (10:1a):

The year was 536 BCE, some sixty-nine years after Daniel was taken captive into Babylon. He was in his eighties, and near the end of his life. The time block was a full three weeks of mourning, fasting and praying to gain understanding of God’s message. Note that Daniel took his query to God on his knees, and remained there. He sought and sought God’s clarification and response. Need we ask why he was so very strong in his witness for so long, and under such extraordinary experiences?

Second, Daniel made clear the pains of trouble (10:1b-2):

Sometimes we feel uncertain because we don’t KNOW what God wants us to do about something. In Dan’s case that wasn’t it! Daniel understood a vision from God, but suffered because he was troubled about how God was going to work. Have you ever been deeply troubled by God’s Word? There are wonderful parts of the Word that relate to Heaven, blessing and God’s powerful saving and transforming work in me –and I cherish those passages! Yet, there are also other places, where God speaks very specifically about those who reject Him – even those among people I love deeply – and those parts are hard to read when I have my friend or loved one in mind. If saved is a reality, then so is lost. If acceptance of Jesus and His work at Calvary changed my destiny, then I must also understand the direction I was already headed when it was changed, and acknowledge that many in my life are still on that path!

Third, Daniel specified the practice of seeking (10:3):

Daniel set aside the good food that God provided him, and even the daily bathing and normal hygiene of his life. He didn’t go out among people, and he waited on God. Proverbs 27:9 offers these words: “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” Daniel set aside the delights of this world to focus on the message from the other world. He took his spiritual life, and the Words of God about reality to heart – and God used him powerfully.

Magnificent Person (10:5-13).

Not only did Dan’s journal tell us about his prayer, it also related the story of a “magnificent person” that visited him from the eternal world to help him grasp what God revealed, and allow it to inform him without wounding him further. Daniel described the visitor, detailed his response to the appearing one, and then offered us an opportunity to glimpse into the spiritual world of which he was a part.

First, look at the description of the visitor (10:5-6):

Daniel 10:5 I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with [a belt of] pure gold of Uphaz. 6 His body also [was] like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult.

Bible students immediately catch the similarity to the vision of the Risen Christ found in Revelation 1, as John the Apostle met Jesus on Patmos. Many descriptions are so similar, that some students conclude this is the same person, but I don’t think so. I believe this is an angelic servant that served in Heaven’s Tabernacle and bore a resemblance in dress because of that function. The visitor was:

• Clothed in linen. (As in Rev. 1:13, where the description is “one who looked as a man with a robe that reached His feet.”)
• Girded with a golden sash as a priest was supposed to be in Lev. 16:4 and as Jesus was in Rev. 1:13b.
• Though he appeared as a man, his color was clearly different than Daniel – with descriptions of his body “like beryl gemstone” (Tarsheesh: yellow gemstone as chrysolite; the color of the wheels of God’s moving platform from Ezekiel’s vision of chapter 1:16; as well as the color of part of the garb of Lucifer before his fall from Heaven– Ezekiel 28:13. That color seems to be an indicator of Heaven and beings from that place. Note that some of the foundation stones of the heavenly city were beryl –cp. Revelation 21:20).
• The face of the visitor shone as lightning. The description is not clear: was the visitor bright? Were they white in color as in Revelation 1:14?
• The visitor’s eyes blazed with fire, just as we see in the description of Jesus in Revelation 1:14. This may denote a holder of God’s revelation of truth, but clearly had something to do with the knowledge and understanding of the individual.
• The visitor’s arms and feet appeared to be made of polished brass, and matches the description of Revelation 1:15 as Jesus’ appearance.
• The visitor brought God’s voice, as is indicated by the multi-voiced sound of the words of Jesus in Revelation 1:15.

Clearly, Daniel knew this wasn’t a distant relative from his homeland – but a Heavenly messenger – a revered visitor that required his complete attention.

Second, Daniel noted his response as a servant of God (10:7-11).

Daniel 10:7 Now I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, while the men who were with me did not see the vision; nevertheless, a great dread fell on them, and they ran away to hide themselves. 8 So I was left alone and saw this great vision; yet no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. 9 But I heard the sound of his words; and as soon as I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground. 10 Then behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said to me, “O Daniel, man of high esteem, understand the words that I am about to tell you and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling.

• Daniel made clear that he alone saw the visitor, but others experienced a dread that caused them to flee – and he was left alone with his Heavenly friend (10:7).
• He had been fasting, but just as John before Jesus, he experienced such a drain on his energy that he was totally without strength (10:8).

Don’t miss this detail – because it is terribly important. Strength in THIS WORLD doesn’t denote strength in the other world. Standing before a visitor of Heaven, men are drained of their physical might – for that might has little effect on the eternal world. Those who are mighty here must not anticipate that might to be great there. The kind of strength one exhibits in Heaven comes from a different source, and is manifested differently.

• Daniel notes that he had a discolored face. The blood drained from his coloring, as he collapsed into a deep sleep.
• Slumping down as if he fainted or fell into a sleep – he was face down (10:9) until set up on “all fours” (10:10) by the touch of the visitor.
• He stood when instructed to do so, but found himself trembling, without the ability to stop (10:11).

Finally, Daniel included the revelation brought by the visitor (10:12-13)

The visitor arrived with purpose, and in response to Daniel’s prayer. Listen to the account of the beginning of the conversation:

Daniel 10:12 Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding [this] and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. 13 “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia.

There are two important details found in those words:

• First, Daniel’s prayer was IMMEDIATELY heard (10:12) in Heaven. Though a battle exists in Heavenly places during this time, the lone voice of one man in a room crying out to God reaches Heaven. Don’t ever forget that!
• Second, the delay in the response was not in any way related to Daniel’s piety, some lack in his person or prayer – but explained SOLELY by spiritual warfare in Heavenly places. The Archangel “Michael” is the noted one who (with much help) cast out Satan to the earth in Revelation 12:1-9 as the war eventually will take a turn in the future.

When Daniel mentions these “princes,” we are left to wonder who they are and what role do they seem to play in the events which take place on earth? We have only shadows from God’s revealed word, but it appears as though they are not human rulers, but angelic powers. In the case of Michael, he serves as Israel’s “prince,” in the Word, and is a faithful servant of God. The princes of Persia (10:13) and Greece (10:20) appear to be fallen angels, whose dominion is restricted to a particular geographical and political nation. This follows the pattern of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, where the descriptions of Satan are begun as odes to political rulers, and then the Satanic power behind their moves is revealed in metaphoric terms. Don’t forget, when demons encountered Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, they begged Him not to cast them from “their country” (Mark 5).

If you continue reading, it becomes clear that there was a purpose for the arrival of the visitor that was declared (10:14):

Daniel 10:14 “Now I have come to give you an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to the days yet [future].”

Daniel had deep respect for the spiritual world, and his strength was sapped from him. His paralysis and anguish was expressed, as it was clear that he needed angelic help to bear up in this circumstance (10:15-18):

Daniel 10:15 When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and became speechless. 16 And behold, one who resembled a human being was touching my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke and said to him who was standing before me, “O my lord, as a result of the vision anguish has come upon me, and I have retained no strength. 17 “For how can such a servant of my lord talk with such as my lord? As for me, there remains just now no strength in me, nor has any breath been left in me.” 18 Then [this] one with human appearance touched me again and strengthened me.

The account continued, as the prophet gained strength and encouragement from the visitor, and Daniel requested the visitor deliver his message (10:19):

Daniel 10:19 He said, “O man of high esteem, do not be afraid. Peace be with you; take courage and be courageous!” Now as soon as he spoke to me, I received strength and said, “May my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”

The visitor offered an important and unusual glimpse into the spiritual world before he departed (10:20-21):

Daniel 10:20 Then he said, “Do you understand why I came to you? But I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am going forth, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come. 21 “However, I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth. Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these [forces] except Michael your prince.

Obviously the account in truncated, and we don’t have everything that passed between the two – prophet and visitor. What we do have is incredible. We have one of the most clear glimpses through the veil over the spiritual world that we will see in the Word, as it relates to the active battle in that world.

Go back to the beginning of the whole account. It started with Daniel becoming aware, by God’s power and revelation, of a GREAT CONFLICT. Something was brewing in Heavenly places, and Daniel was made aware of it. It put him on his knees, kept him from his bath, and left him weak and hungry. The demonic world was at work pressing Cyrus the ruler and the angel came to tell Daniel that mortal men of God could be knowledgeable and helpful in the conflict.

The passage does not reveal any specific VISION of future events, nor words of direction for the Jewish people. This story wasn’t about the FUTURE, but about the PERSPECTIVE and RECOGNITION that the other world that is engaged in the fight right now. It is about grasping that MORE IS GOING ON THAN MEETS THE EYE. It is about knowing that our physical world is not the REAL WORLD, but merely exhibits the symptoms of a deeper world – a spiritual world. We gain courage and proper perspective when we recognize the physical world is not the REAL world. What we see, feel and experience is often caused by something we cannot see from the REAL WORLD.

That is why we cannot simply fight politically and expect to win back territories with truth – the battle isn’t always being fought where you think it is. Prayerful engagement is a threat to those we battle against, while prayer-less political action is ineffective.

Listen thoughtfully and reflectively to the words of Paul to the Ephesian church. Don’t recite the words in your mind. LISTEN to their message:

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of wickedness in the heavenly [places]. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. … 18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints…

Do you want the church to stand firm in the faith against the tsunami of moral compromise of our day? Spiritually, we must “armor up”! We must see the battle in Heavenly places, and drop to our knees. We must pray for ourselves and other believers – that God’s church will persevere and fight in spiritual ways! We must ask God to give the churches strength, the believers, endurance, and power to stand against the pressure to buckle to the world’s mold.

We gain courage and proper perspective when we recognize the physical world is not the REAL world. What we see, feel and experience is often caused by something we cannot see from the REAL WORLD.

Sometimes the warfare looks like opposition to someone hearing about Jesus and salvation. Paul warned in 2 Corinthians 4:4: “The God of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers”. You try to share the Gospel, but feel like you hit a wall – because you did.

Sometimes you just feel incredibly guilty and condemned by things long forgiven by God. You can’t see it, but like Joshua the High Priest of Zechariah 3, Satan islobbing mud at you in the spiritual world – that is why they call him “Accuser”.

You hear about a tragedy or experience intense pain and even after many years of following Jesus, you find yourself suddenly doubting God’s goodness. You start muttering: “I don’t know why I’m the only one who has this constant financial challenge!” or “I don’t know why I should have kids who didn’t follow what I told them.” The deceiver may well be at work discouraging you.

One day you get so angry at someone that you just want to walk away for good. You don’t think about what you can accomplish together for God – just your personal peace (as if distance will fix everything). You forget the Bible revealed, “Don’t let the sun go down while you are angry, and don’t give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27).

Men and women, the other world is at war, and we are seeing symptoms. It isn’t “spooky” and we shouldn’t be embarrassed to admit the truth. We must look with knowledge and understanding. We must pierce through prayerfully. Not everything adds up here, because it didn’t all happen here. The war ends when God declares it will, but the whole story is not yet told. Don’t miss the truth by focusing only on this world – that isn’t where the secret is.