Touched by an Angel - Daniel 10
We have been working our way through the visions in the last part of the book of Daniel and chapter 10 is the first part of the last vision in the book. In this chapter we are given an introduction to the vision, in chapter 11 we see the vision and in chapter 12 we see the postscript and the conclusion to the book.
In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision. (Dan. 10:1)
These words are followed by a description of Daniel the serious period of mourning or fasting for three weeks that Daniel was engaged in when the vision came to him. We wonder what was going on. In chapter 9 Daniel prayed that God would fulfill his promise to bring Israel back to its homeland. This chapter is after that return has taken place. Two years have passed.
When the Jews returned to Jerusalem one of the first things they did was clear the temple area and resume daily sacrifices. By the following spring the foundation of the temple was laid with a great sense of celebration. However, when the neighboring people began to oppose them, the work on the temple stopped. Under Nehemiah the walls of the city were rebuilt but the temple itself (the symbol of God’s presence) was delayed for 15 years. Daniel may have received word of the work stoppage and this may have prompted Daniels prayer and vision
We are told the vision concerned a “great war”. That war may be referring to the resistance the Jews were facing; it could refer to the end of the world at the time of Judgment, or it could refer to a spiritual war taking place. What is interesting about this chapter is what we can learn.
The Awesome Character of God
5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. 6 His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.
7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. (Daniel 10:5-9)
In verses 15-17 we read
15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a manb touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, “I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I am helpless. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.”
Daniel saw a majestic being (similar to what is in Ezekiel 1 and Revelation). The rest of the story has to do with an angel so either the angel revealed a glimpse of God to Daniel or the angel reflected God’s glory to Daniel.
What is interesting is Daniel’s response. He can’t speak, he can’t stand, and he has no strength. This is a pretty typical response from people in who catch a glimpse of the splendor of God’s greatness.
Perhaps when you were young you encountered someone that made your heart flutter. They were stunning in appearance and you were immediately drawn to them. I remember those early days of attraction to girls. No matter how smooth and cool you wanted to be, if you tried to talk to them, it seemed like your tongue had swollen and you couldn’t say anything that made any sense at all. Why? because you were overcome by their presence.
Take that experience and multiply it several million times. Daniel had been asking God to help the people of Israel. Yet, when Daniel saw this supernatural figure; when he saw his beauty, when he realized his strength, when he understood his own smallness and sin, (seen in the incredible light of Heaven) he fainted from fear.
Bart Millard of the group Mercy Me has captured the magnitude of such a time,
I can only imagine What it will be like When I walk By Your side
I can only imagine What my eyes will see When Your face Is before me
I can only imagine I can only imagine
Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for You Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
Please understand something: a proud, arrogant, and self-righteous Christian is a person who knows more about religion than they do about God! A person who has grasped God’s greatness is humble before Him.
Don’t miss what happens next! The angel we are told said to Daniel
“Do not be afraid, O man highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.” When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.” Daniel 10:19)
This mighty being gave strength to Daniel. He also told Daniel was “esteemed”. God not only noticed . . . but also cared for Daniel. Let this sink in. God cared for Daniel and he cares for you and me. It would be like having the Presidential limo stop in front of you along the parade route and have the President call your name and say, “Hop in, I’d like to visit with you.” You would feel important, special, esteemed.
How much more esteemed we should feel when the Creator of the Universe calls our name. He sent His own Son to rescue us so that we could become a part of His family. We say those words all the time but if we really thought about what the implications of those words we would find ourselves a little weak in the knees and at a loss for words. Ponder the greatness of God.
Lessons in Prayer
There is a second lesson here. Verse 12 gives us a real insight into the nature of prayer.
Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard (12)
Let’s be honest. One of our greatest frustrations in prayer is that deep down we wonder if our prayers are being heard. Daniel was told that his prayers were heard and as soon as he prayed God sent the angel to answer his prayer.
It wasn’t the words of Daniel that are focused on, it is the attitude of his heart. The angel described Daniel’s mindset this way: He “set his mind to gain understanding and to humble himself before God”. Daniel was asking for wisdom and for understanding. He was claiming God’s promise but not in an arrogant and demanding way. Daniel was not “telling God what to do”. He prayed humbly. He submitted to God’s superior wisdom even as he sought an answer to his prayer, he never forgot to whom He was talking.
God tells us to pray boldly because we know He is all-powerful. However praying boldly is not the same thing as praying arrogantly. We are to pray the promises of God but we must do so with the realization that we may not understand the promise correctly; we may be short-sighted in our understanding of our need. Daniel’s prayer was effective because He approached God the right way. He knew that God responded to the sincere and humble heart.
This encourages me because it seems to teach us that God is much more concerned about our heart than our words. If our heart is right, He has promised that the Holy Spirit will pray for us in “groaning too deep for words”. Our job is to come before God who is sufficient to meet every need we have and humbly make our requests, trusting that He is going to do what is right.
A Glimpse of the Unseen Battle
Perhaps the most interesting lesson from this text is the reason given by the angel for the delay in his appearance found in verse 13,
But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.
In verse 20 he says
Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come.
The first thing we see is that there is a supernatural battle going on that we cannot see. Most likely this “Prince of Persia and the Prince of Greece” were not earthly leaders. It is likely that these were spiritual beings associated with these empires (since this angel needed the help of Michael a chief angel).
The Bible teaches that there is a spiritual dimension to life of which we are largely unaware. We see this in a number of other places in the Bible. Angels appear, demons are cast out, people have visions, and great supernatural events take place.
As you read the Bible you learn that there were angels who are loyal to God and serve His purpose and will and there are fallen angels or demons who oppose His will and His people in a desire to set up their own Kingdom.
These supernatural beings do not die, but they are also not eternal because they were created by God. Angels have a power greater than man but not anywhere close to the power of God. Jesus identifies the leader of the hostile angels as Satan.
We learn a couple of things about these spiritual beings from our text:
Satan and his army apparently have assignments or territories. Think of it like a political campaign that is going to spend their resources where they believe they can make the biggest difference or a military command who devotes the most amount of resources to the areas of greatest impact (such as the shores of Normandy in WW II). Satan concentrates his forces where he feels he can do the most damage.
There are different “ranks” of angels and demons. This angel needed the help of Michael, sometimes called an archangel.
There is a lesson in all of this: if the angels (who have more power than we) sometimes need help to overcome these forces, it only stands to reason that we cannot gain victory over these spiritual forces without help. The Bible warns us that Satan is the “Father of Lies” (John 8:44). He will twist the truth, and He will make evil sound attractive. He is an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:4) which means much of the time he presents himself (and his army) as attractive. We don’t always recognize Him as evil. He is called an “accuser” (Zechariah 3:1) and will work hard to get us to focus on our sinful state rather than on God’s gracious gift. He wants us to believe that there is no possible way we can be right with God.
So we need help. The help we need is not the laws or power of men. We need the help of God’s Spirit and God’s angels. So how do we find that help? Let me give you some ideas.
We must anchor ourselves to the truth of God’s Word rather than popular opinion. God’s Word does not change. It is a solid foundation. The opinions and even the ethics and morals of popular culture are inconsistent and unreliable.
We must do what God tells us to do. A soldier learns to trust their commanding officer. They trust that this officer is better informed and equipped to make decisions. We must adopt that same attitude when it comes to the commands of Scripture. Even when we don’t understand or when we resist what the Bible teaches we must trust the One who knows the way to victory in this spiritual battle.
We must daily remember that our salvation and our hope is found in Jesus Christ and not in our goodness or in the society we are building. Satan wants to turn us away from Christ. Even as a believer He will try to make us so self-conscious that our effectiveness is negated.
We need to be people of peace rather than purveyors of conflict. Nothing helps the Devil more than a contentious spirit. Satan loves to see church conflicts, strife between believers, conflict in the home, and a divisive spirit. Even when we must confront sin and error we must do so in love and out of a desire to promote peace rather than strife.
We must keep working at prayer. We can’t fight this battle on our own! We need the power of God and the help of His Spirit and His angels. It is said that Satan fears nothing more than a praying saint. Prayer is the channel of communication between us and God. It is the way we tap into His power (as Daniel so clearly understood). It is easy to get discouraged in prayer. We sometimes give up because: we can’t concentrate; we don’t know what to say; we don’t seem to be getting any answers. However, just like communication between a husband and wife, we have to work to learn how to best communicate with the Lord. Prayer is the bunker that keeps us safe during the attacks of Satan and his army. Prayer is our life-jacket when we feel like we are drowning. Don’t give up! Keep developing a life of prayer!
We need to keep our focus. In the movie “For the Love of the Game”, Kevin Costner played the role of Billy Chapel, a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. When he pitched and the crowd became loud he would take a moment and remind himself to “clear the mechanism”. He shut out everything and focused only on the task at hand, the batter. We need to do the same thing in our spiritual life. We need fight the distractions of the Devil (such as unjustified guilt, feelings of inadequacy, and the uncertainties of difficult circumstances) and “clear the mechanism” so our focus remains on the Lord and His Word.
Finally, we need to help each other. Soldiers are often called “a band of brothers”. Soldiers know they need to “watch each other’s back”. They work effectively only as they work together. God has created us so to need each other. We need each other for encouragement; to warn each other of danger; to remind each other of the promises of God; and to deepen our relationship with the Lord. That is the way God designed it. Develop your Christian friendships. Be an active part of the church. Get involved in a group that will support you and help you in the battles of life.
Like Daniel, we will all face times of discouragement. Please understand that Satan wants nothing more than to keep you from faith in Christ. He will use every device in his arsenal to get you to turn away from the Lord. He wants your damnation! If He can’t achieve that He will try to so marginalize your effectiveness that you are no threat to his purposes.
It’s possible that you may be in this “battle for your soul” today. Perhaps you are drawn to Christ but are hindered by a whole truckload of excuses? Please understand that you are in a spiritual battle! Reach out to the Lord for strength. Dare to trust Him. Jesus came for you and for me. He wants to make us new. I pray that God would help you to say yes to Him today.
Most of us will never actually see an angel standing before us. However, that doesn’t mean that they are not at work in our lives. The battle we are engaged in is greater than we realize. Yet we do not battle the temptations of Satan alone. God has given us His spirit and has given us angels whom the book of Hebrews tells us are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation.”
Do you know what this means? It means you and I face NOTHING alone. Even when no one else is around there is a supernatural world that is cheering us on, giving us strength, and leading us home.
Our God is an awesome God. The more we truly get to know God, the more humbly we will follow and serve Him. The more we learn to trust Him, the stronger we will be. The better we learn to communicate with Him, the more convinced we will be of His love. The more we draw upon His strength the more of an impact we will make on our society.
This passage in Daniel 10 is not just an interesting story . . . it provides a strategy that will help us in life and lead us to eternity.