Reading Daniel 7-12 is somewhat like reading Jonah 3, 4. We rarely do it. These are often neglected chapters because they are difficult chapters. But they contain important content for both comings of Christ. Daniel would need a strong faith to receive these teachings. This text might be appreciated more thematically if we move backwards through it.
A Strong Faith from Outside
Daniel 10:18, 19
Jim Valvano was the head coach of the 1983 North Carolina State championship basketball team and an award-winning sports broadcaster. Jim was diagnosed with cancer and died at age 47. When he was very weakened by his cancer, he was asked what got him through. He responded, “I found a strength outside myself.”
If we include verse 17 with this section, some form of the word strong appears six times. Daniel knew that his strength came from the Lord (see Psalm 121:1). The strange visitor that came from Heaven (an angel?) touched Daniel for a third time in our text. This time the touch engendered strength instead of fear (v. 10) or purity (v. 16). There are two words here translated strengthened or strong. They are very similar and mean, “firm, power, or grow hard.” The angel reminded Daniel of how highly esteemed (loved or deemed precious) he was. Daniel received this angelic word and was at peace because he found a strength outside himself.
A Strong Faith and Fear
It is appropriate that the largest section of our text deals with strength and fear. Some think that if a person is strong in faith, fear flees. Not so. Daniel had plenty of healthy fear. The visions that he had received contained painful details. These details worried Daniel greatly and affected him emotionally. In fact, he was overwhelmed with anguish (v. 16), and he could hardly breathe (v. 17). Even though Daniel was told by the angel not to be afraid, the experience left him with his face toward the ground and . . . speechless.
Daniel’s study of the Scriptures (the book of Jeremiah in particular), the revelations he received from God, and his prayers (chapter nine) all fed his fear. He knew that if the things predicted came true, many people would suffer. In addition to this, he learned from the angel about events that took place in the real but unseen world revealing pockets of resistance to Israel’s true king. One from that unseen world is identified as the prince or king of Persia. This cannot be an earthly king because the battlefield is the heavenly realms. Michael, the only other named angel in the Bible besides Gabriel, came to this angel’s assistance so that the angel would not be hindered in coming to Daniel, since there had already been a 21-day delay.
There are many aspects of this experience that we most likely do not understand. We face enough challenge figuring out God’s will on earth, let alone how it is played out among principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:10-13). But this we know: The experience left Daniel feeling pretty helpless. Good thing for him that the angel touched his lips, which purified his ministry (see Isaiah 6). Even though he felt genuine fear, he maintained a strong faith in God.
A Strong Faith and Humility
Daniel 10:10, 11
Our text begins as Daniel was overwhelmed by a vision of an angel (Daniel 10:2-9). In the previous context, the angel Gabriel gave Daniel a prophetic message about the seventy weeks—probably the most controversial text in Daniel. The prophet tried to understand what it all meant, and was as bewildered as we are today. This grieved him, and he fasted and prayed for three weeks. Later that month Daniel had this incredible encounter with another angel. He was left speechless and sleepless.
But the angel meant no harm. The angel reached out and touched Daniel. This did not bring comfort. Daniel was scared to death. This was the normal response when humanity came into contact with divinity. But Daniel was quickly reassured that he remained highly esteemed. Instead of allowing Daniel to remain face down, the angel called Daniel to stand up (see Acts 10:26; Revelation 22:8, 9). Daniel had a job to do and he had to prepare to do it. Even then though, Daniel stood but did so trembling.
This underlines Daniel’s genuine humility. Sometimes bold people are not very humble. Sometimes humble people are not very bold. Daniel knew that an appropriate posture for serving God was a bowed head, bent knees, and closed eyes. Those qualities take strong faith.
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
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