“And he said to me, ‘O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.’ While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling. Then he said to me, ‘Do not fear Daniel, for from the first day that you set you heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words…Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.'” Daniel 10:11-12, 14
The tenth chapter of Daniel was surprisingly difficult for me to wrap my head around; then again, it wasn’t an easy experience for my namesake, either. The chapter is filled with heavenly glory, angelic warfare, and it’s so out of this world, the great prophet Daniel has a hard time comprehending it himself. From our perspective, it’s a little easier to understand; the final chapters of Daniel act as a sort of trilogy, with one message spanning all three.
To begin, Daniel is at the very end of his life – in his late 80s/early 90s by this time. Only two years earlier, the Babylonian captivity ended and the Jewish people were allowed to go back to Canaan. Daniel stayed in Babylon, and in those days he received a vision of such significance that he put aside all pleasures (fasted, in a sense) and set himself to seeking God to understand what he had seen. He no doubt had heard of the opposition the Jews in and around Jerusalem were facing, and both this and the vision troubled him deeply; he felt the need to deeply seek God’s counsel, for there seemed to be a new trial around every corner.
Weeks later, Daniel sees a vision of what I can only describe as a Transfiguration moment; he saw Jesus in all His heavenly glory (compare the description here to the one found in Revelation chapter 1), then heard again from the messenger angel Gabriel. God heard Daniel’s prayers at the very beginning of this recent time period, but there was demonic resistance that prevented Gabriel from arriving right away. There was a battle for the heart of Cyrus, the Persian king who had allowed the Jews to return home; he must have been wondering if he’d done the right thing and whether he should allow the restoration of Jerusalem to continue. Had he chosen to restrain or stop it, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zerubabbel would have had no chance to fulfill God’s plan for their lives and the nation. Once that battle was won (though the war would continue), Gabriel came to inform Daniel of the meaning behind what he had witnessed, which will take us into the final two chapters.
Several times through the chapter, Gabriel tells Daniel to be strong and not fear/be afraid. There is no doubt that what Daniel saw greatly astonished him, and even after all he’d seen and done, he was overwhelmed by it all. Like Isaiah and others who stood in God’s presence, Daniel immediately saw his own imperfection and felt unworthy in the presence of the Holy One. In the midst of his weakness, God reached out through Gabriel and touched Daniel, stilling his fears so that his capacity to understand would not be hindered or diminished by them.
What can we take from this passage? God cares greatly about His children, and He responds when we ask Him for understanding. As the King of knowledge and light, He has no desire for us to walk in ignorance and darkness; that was one reason Jesus came to Earth – to remove sin’s influence on us, so that we might see and live in godly fullness as we were created/designed to. It isn’t easy to live for God – besides our own fallen nature, demonic forces work to make us fall. The good news is, God has made a way for us to be and created an army of angels who fight on our behalf, to uphold and encourage us as Michael and Gabriel did in Daniel’s time. We never fight alone – God is on our side, and He will always be with us in the trials and tribulations of life, providing us with strength and comfort so that the troubles are never able to truly overcome us.
One last thought before I close: even in his old age, Daniel put everything else in his life on the sidelines to seek understanding from God and draw closer in relationship with Him. Will we be willing to do the same – will we give God the #1 spot of our attention and energy? If so, start practicing it now – don’t wait until later in life, because a) you may not have that long, and b) godly habits are best established early in life, as Daniel and his friends chose to do.