Daniel 8

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An Uncertain Future

Today, as previously noted, marks the 21st anniversary of the attack on New York City, the Pentagon, and the crash of an airliner in Pennsylvania that was headed to Washington DC. This week most of us paused to mourn the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, who was 96 years old and had reigned for 70 years.
As one author noted her death ‘underscores continuity in an era of disjunctions.’ Think of all the disjunctions in our lives since 2001.
A near constant state of war, the advent of social media, economic challenges not experienced since the late 1920’s, the rapid shift away from traditional understandings of marriage, the COVID pandemic, and … well the list could go on.
In an age of disjunction, an era of unceasing change and the challenges that come underline the need for something stable, something unchanging to which we can hold.
Though Daniel lived more than 2,000 years ago in a far away land among a people to whom he was always an outsider, we can find something - or more accurately- someone , to whom we can hold.

The Vision Described

Read Dan 8:3-12.
In this vision Daniel saw animals he could more easily recognize, animals that he and those who would read his account could easily visualize.
The ram plays a small role, but the central character of the vision is the little horn that grows from among the four horns on the goat from the west. More in a moment.

The Key Questions

One OT scholar suggests that the OT can be read as an ongoing dialogue between Israel and God. One of the often asked questions is:
How long?
Psalm 35:17 (HCSB)
Lord, how long will You look on?
Rescue my life from their ravages,
my only one from the young lions.
(Quoted from Brueggerman, Theology of the OT, in
Ernest Lucas, DANIEL, APPOLLOS OT COMMENTARY, Editors: David W Baker & Gordon J Wenham (Intervarsity Press:Downers Grove, ILL, 2002) 223.
Listen carefully to the two angelic beings - Gabriel and the other, unnamed angel:
Daniel 8:13–14 HCSB
Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the speaker, “How long will the events of this vision last —the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and of the host to be trampled?” He said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be restored.”
Immediately I can hear all your gears turning - 2,300 days comes out to approximately 3.5 years, therefore the angels must be talking about the last 3.5 years of the Great Tribulation.
Please turn off your calculators, put away your pencils, and close your calendars. How many days are in a year?
365 - most years
…or 366 - leap years
…or 360 - a strict Jewish calendar (30 days x 12 months)?
Scholars who study the Hebrew language are unsure of what these numbers mean.
2,300 days comes out to approximately seven years.
Or, as some scholars do, divide the 2,300 in half and it equals about 3.5 years. I’ll come back to this in a moment.
Regardless of the number the question is important? How long will God allow these events (Dan 8:9-12, 23-25) to go unchallenged?

The Four Horns…and the horn that grows and grows and grows...

Daniel 8:20–22 HCSB
The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy goat represents the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes represents the first king. The four horns that took the place of the shattered horn represent four kingdoms. They will rise from that nation, but without its power.
Most scholars understand that the vision pertained to a ruler who would rule several hundred years after Daniel.
Alexander the Great:
The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Conquests)
Alexander the Great (356–323 BC) was one of the greatest military conquerors of all time. In less than 13 years, he gained control of all of Greece in the west and extended his rule into the Tigris and Euphrates Valley in the east (Arrian, Anab. 7.28.1; Diodorus, Bibliotheca historica 17. 8.1–2; 17.65.5; Plutarch, Alex. 11–12). Having conquered Persia, he pressed the attack further to the borders of India (Strabo Geogr. 14.4.27; 1 Maccabees 1:1–7; Diodorus, Lib. Hist.17.85.6–7). His advance into the subcontinent was not halted by opposing forces, but by his own war-weary generals, who refused to heed their ambitious leader and declined to cross the Ganges River (Plutarch, Alex. 71.1–5; Arrian, Anab. 7.8.1–3). Nevertheless, in a short period of time, Alexander had redrawn the map of the ancient world—all before he was 30. Perhaps more importantly, Alexander crafted a strategy for conquest and control that would serve as the blueprint for world rulers in the ages to come—especially for the Romans.
When Alexander died, his kingdom - expansive as it was - was divided into four regions with four different rulers - Daniel 8:22
Daniel 8:22 HCSB
The four horns that took the place of the shattered horn represent four kingdoms. They will rise from that nation, but without its power.

Great Power…Broken by…?

This last king is the one that draws our attention. Listen to the vision:
Daniel 8:9–11 (HCSB)
From one of them a little horn emerged and grew extensively toward the south and the east and toward the beautiful land.
It grew as high as the heavenly host, made some of the stars and some of the host fall to the earth, and trampled them.
It made itself great, even up to the Prince of the host;
it removed His daily sacrifice and overthrew the place of His sanctuary.
The interpretation of this horn is given to Daniel in Daniel 8:23-2
We could spend hours speculating about all that these verses may say.

History Unveiled

A brief history lesson is important at this point:
First, the little horn in Dan 7 represents the end-time antichrist. The little horn that grows so extensively and powerful in Dan 8 is not.
Rather, this ruler is understood to be one Antiochus IV - a descendant of one of the four rulers who inherited Alexander’s kingdom.
Antiochus IV began persecuting Jews in Israel (some hundreds of years after Daniel’s vision). He began ruling over Jerusalem and the surrounding area in 170 BC and he ruled about seven years.In 168 BC he desecrated the temple - the one rebuilt we read about in Ezra and other OT prophetic books after Daniel. It took a little over 3 years for the Jewish people to rally and restore the Holy of Holies so it could once again be used as an appropriate place for worship.
Seven years - 2,300 evenings and mornings? (The Jews understood the day to begin at sunset and run through sunset the next day)
3.5 years - 1,150 days.
Antiochus ruled for seven years. The Temple was unusable for 3.5 of those years.
Daniel was given the vision of what his people would experience in the future - much like Ezekiel, Isaiah, and other OT prophets were given understanding of what would happen in the coming centuries.

Why Look Into the Future?

Daniel’s vision, reveals some information for God’s people in the generations that followed Daniel.
A. To fully understand God’s Word: We need God’s Assistance
An angel named Gabriel is assigned the task to explain all Daniel had seen.
We don’t need angelic assistance because God has given all believers the indwelling Holy Spirit through which He gives Himself - if we take the time to ask!
We should always pause and ask for God’s Holy Spirit to guide us as we read and study His Word.
B. Understanding God’s Word prepares us for what is coming
Like a good road map we can discern what routes to take, what routes to avoid if we pay attention to what is yet to come.
Daniel was writing for a generation yet to be born. They would need the assurance that even in the midst of terrible persecution God would not be absent, God would act in a way to reclaim His people.
It has often been stated that you are either in the middle of a storm, heading out of a storm or heading into a storm. Life is often a series of storms - crises - that seem to flow into one another. Like the angels, like Daniel we find ourselves asking, How Long?
The vision describing how powerful this ruler named Antiochus has a rather abrupt ending:
Daniel 8:25 (HCSB)
Yet he will be shattered—not by human hands.
Knowing that God will act, knowing that God is more powerful than even Antiochus IV reminds us, we can endure!
C. God’s Word, though often overwhelming, challenges us to persevere.
Daniel 8:27 HCSB
I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was greatly disturbed by the vision and could not understand it.
John Wesley (1703-1791) tirelessly rode all through Great Britain preaching to crowds in outdoor areas because the Church of England refused to acknowledge his ministry and most churches were closed to him.
As he was riding to a preaching opportunity
he was stopped by a stranger who asked him what he would do if he knew Christ was going to return at noon the next day. Wesley reached into his saddlebag, retrieved his diary, read out his engagements for the next day and said, ‘That, dear sir, is what I would do.’
Quoted from Sinclair Ferguson, in Daniel L. Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Daniel (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2017) 105.
There are more changes ahead of us. There will be difficulties and challenges. Like Daniel, we may be greatly disturbed and perplexed by all that we read in God’s Word.
That is no excuse to hide at home, that is no reason to avoid serving the Lord wherever you live, and speaking about Jesus and the coming Kingdom every opportunity.

To What/Whom do you hold?

Passages like Daniel 7 - 8 are not easy to grasp. Just ask Daniel!
Perhaps part of Daniel’s success and longevity as an advisor to kings in his era is rooted in his willingness to be God’s person in a time of constant change.
Kings and rulers come and go. Events now and those yet to come may overwhelm us.
Another leader of God’s people who had survived multiple challenges reminded God’s people of this timeless truth:
Only carefully obey the command and instruction that Moses the Lord’s servant gave you: to love the Lord your God, walk in all His ways, keep His commands, remain faithful to Him, and serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.”” (Joshua 22:5, HCSB)
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