Daniel’s visions make an interesting topic of discussion. If you were to google them, you would find a plethora for diagrams, descriptions and lectures on what they mean, how they were fulfilled and with whom, where or when they correspond. There are many people who have spent much time studying the historical nuances of these prophecies and I am not going to go into them here. Instead, I would like to focus on the way Daniel converses with and responds to God. There is a real sense of intimacy we see here, what I would call an honesty in conversation. As Daniel writes down the visions and revelations he receives, we can also note the following things:
- What Daniel is doing at the time of receiving revelation
- How Daniel responds to the glory of God
- How Daniel responds to the mysteries set before him
- How God responds to Daniel’s questions
- What God tells Daniel – (1) signs of the times, (2)what God will do/how He will reveal Himself, (3) what Daniel is to do
To explore these points further, we are going to look at RECEIVING, RESPONDING to, and RECOGNISING revelation.
What is Daniel doing at the time of receiving revelation?
We are given a few glimpses at the life of Daniel, times at which he received revelation. Daniel 7:1 reports that Daniel “… had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed…” Daniel 10 says that Daniel had spent three weeks in fasting when he saw a glorious vision which caused the other men with him to flee so that he was left alone, and “…in a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground.” Daniel 9 describes how Daniel was “…speaking, praying, and confessing [his] sin and the sin of [his] people Israel, and presenting [his] supplication before the Lord [his] God for the holy mountain of [his] God.” This was in the context of Daniel understanding the words of the prophet Jeremiah concerning seventy years of desolation in Jerusalem. He responds to this revelation by turning to God and interceding on behalf of the people.
“Then I set my face toward the Lord my God. And made confession, and said, ‘O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgement…” [Daniel 9:3-5]
As the book of Daniel records the visions Daniel receives during his time in Babylon, we see once again the faithfulness of Daniel to God in his everyday life. The kings of Babylon change, the administration of the cities might change, but Daniel remains a strong follower of his God, and the spirit of excellence continues to dwell in him. God’s response to Daniel’s supplication is one which highlights the intimate relationship Daniel has with God. The angel Gabriel is sent to him swiftly and says, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have now come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision.” [Daniel 9:22-23] The Lord tells Daniel that he is “greatly beloved” and will be given understanding of God’s mind – things that will come to pass. When Gabriel told Mary she would bear the Messiah, he also called her “highly favoured one” [Luke 1:28] When Jesus was baptised and the Spirit of God rested on Him, a voice was heard to say, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” [Matthew 3:17] It seems that God shares His plans with those who are beloved, and well loved by Him. We know that God loves every person in the world with an unrelenting love, but we also know His heart is moved by those who seek Him. Proverbs 8 speaks about the excellence of wisdom which dwells with God. Verse 17 says:
“I love those who love me,
And those who seek me diligently will find me.”
Daniel places himself in a position to receive revelation from God because he loves God and seeks him. He make a lifestyle of humbling himself before God and takes time to come before the Lord, whether in crisis (like when Nebuchadnezzar sought to kill all the wise men of Babylon), in daily life (as was clear to the jealous satraps who worked with him), with intercession, or with thanksgiving. The revelations he receives are not just literal prophecies of times to come, but also understanding of God’s nature, and the representation of His glory. On multiple occasions, Daniel is overwhelmed but what he sees – he falls on his face, he becomes speechless and he cries out to the Lord because of the knowledge of God that he receives.
What can we do to place ourselves in a position to receive revelation of God?
- Know God’s love. Know He desires to speak with us. Know that we can hear his voice.
- We have a pursuing God, and a doting Father. God continually lavishes His love on us. He loves to tell us things about Himself – how he sees us, how he has made us, and about the plans he has. The first step of receiving revelation is to know that we CAN receive revelation. God sent Jesus to earth, as a man, to walk with us, talk with us and to make a way for us to be brought into communion with him. Jesus says that those who know Him, also know the Father [John 14:7], the Holy Spirit takes what is God’s and makes it known to us [John 16:14], and Jeremiah 29:13 says, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” There are so many more verses, and passages which confirm God’s desire to reveal Himself to man. He longs to tell us His mysteries, to show us His glory, to share the things on His heart with us. He loves us! Daniel knew God listened, heard and acted according to His love and faithful promises. That is why Daniel was not afraid to appeal to God, to intercede, and to ask for answers. He knew God loved him, and he knew God loved Israel. Do you know that God desires to draw closer to you? Will you let Him come, and will you listen for His voice?
- Make a lifestyle of following God.
- The word of God has been heard, but not listened to by those with deaf ears, and hardened hearts. Hebrews 3:12 describes this as “… an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.” It is possible to know that God speaks, yet not recognise His voice. The Pharisees, religious as they were, did not recognise God in Jesus because they did not really know God. They had a religious lifestyle, but it was not a lifestyle of following God. Hosea 6:6 says, “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” We have the word of God, and the Spirit of God that guides our hearts and minds in Christ. Loving God is more than just confessing it with our mouths. We also demonstrate this love in keeping His commandments [1 John 5:3]. Daniel lived a lifestyle of loving God – he spoke his love to God (prayer), but also demonstrated it (his spirit of excellence, refusal to worship idols, in fasting, and in pursuing the holiness God had ordained for His people Israel). This kind of lifestyle is not easy and not always accepted by others, but it is acknowledged and rewarded by God. Chose today who you will love, serve and follow – God, or the world.
- Ask, and keep asking.
- It is a short and simple instruction. In Matthew 7:7, Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Our relationship with God is exactly that – a relationship. That means both parties contribute. Part of building a relationship is communication, and part of communication is asking, and receiving an answer. Daniel asked God many questions and God was glad to answer him. Ask away – ask God about Himself, ask about His word, ask about yourself, about your circumstances, about your friends, about your country and about God’s plans. Ask, and keep asking – God will answer!
RESPONDING TO REVELATION:
How does Daniel respond to the glory and mysteries of God?
We see a couple of responses Daniel has when he receives visions and revelations from God:
- He falls flat on his face, in a deep sleep [Daniel 8:18, 10:8]
- He is grieved in his spirit, and troubled [Daniel 7:15]
- He wants to know more and asks for understanding [Daniel 7:19, 8:17, 12:8]
- He is astonished [Daniel 8:27]
- He faints and is sick for days afterwards [Daniel 8:27]
- He trembles and is afraid [Daniel 8:17, 10:11]
- He is speechless [Daniel 10:15)
- He is breathless [Daniel 10:17)
- He feels weak [Daniel 10:8, 17)
If I were to summarise the effect of God’s visible glory on Daniel, I would describe it like this:
Daniel, in his heart, longs to understand more of God, and more of His plans. Yet, in his human body, he can hardly behold the full glory of God – the glimpses he sees overwhelm him. Daniel cries out to God, and God increases his capacity to understand him and his mysteries. His responses to seeing the glory of God remind us of how magnificent and omnipotent God is. This is God whose light shines brighter than the sun, and whose light is enough to shine over the whole earth so that there is no darkness anywhere.
When Daniel responds to God, he is honest about his weakness. He sees the power of God and he sees his own weakness. Yet, this does not cause him to give up on understanding what God shows him, nor does it cause him to hide in fear. Instead, Daniel continues to ask questions and to speak with God. The Bible describes how Daniel “wished to know the truth”, “was seeking the meaning”, how he “heard, [but] did not understand”, yet asked, “My lord, what shall be the end of these things?” In Daniel 10:12, we are given insight into the heart of Daniel.
“…Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.” [Daniel 10:12]
One way in which Daniel responds to the revelation of God, is that he sets his heart to understand. He is not frightened, and he does not give up, but he earnestly seeks God, and desires to understand all of who He is.
Daniel also shows that he grows in relationship with God as he receives revelation. We see this in how he speaks back his revelation of God – that He has “great mercies”, is “great and awesome”, “keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him and with those who keep His commandments”, and that God has “strengthened [him]”. Another way Daniel responds to the revelation of God, is to speak back to God the mysteries and understanding revealed to him. He worships God. Not only does it consolidate what God has done, but it builds faith in Daniel, and intimacy in his relationship with the Lord, as he is declares who God is.
Let us, like Daniel, set our hearts to understand, and to humble ourselves before God. Let us recognise His strength, and His grace. Let us fall before Him in worship, and declare all that He is, and all He has done.
“O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.”
– [Psalm 63:1-2]
How does God respond to Daniel?
God reveals His character as He responds to Daniel’s seeking. The revelation Daniel receives is much more than a vision or dream – it is the revelation of who God is. God sees Daniel’s desire for understanding and commands that he should indeed understand more. He is swift to respond, speaks truth, strengthens and tells Daniel who he is – “greatly beloved”, that he “shall rest, and will arise to [his] inheritance at the end of days.” What revelation of God can we glean simply from looking at the way God interacts with Daniel? Here are some of my reflections.
- God knows the desires of our heart and acts accordingly. He is ALL KNOWING, and full of LOVE. This is God who loves to give good gifts to His children [Matthew 7:11], to give us the desires of our hearts [Psalm 37:4], and to lavish upon us every spiritual blessing in heaven and in Christ [Ephesians 1:3]. Psalm 139 describes how He knows our thoughts, our words, our going in and out. God knows us, and He calls us “beloved”. He knows, and loves us despite our sins and failures. He knows and loves the desires we have towards Him. God saw that Daniel desired understanding. He heard all of Daniel’s questions, and He answered His prayers. God also allows us to recognise the desires of our heart. When we seek, and speak with God, wrestling with purpose, situations or understanding, He brings us to a place where we can see what He sees, and we become aware of what we truly desire in our heart.
- God is swift to respond. When Daniel lifts his voice in supplication to God, Gabriel is caused to “fly swiftly” to deliver an answer. God is moved by our prayers. It is Daniel’s prayer and supplication that triggers a chain of events – the command going out from God, Gabriel being sent swiftly to Daniel and delivering an answer. In Revelation 8, which speaks about the seventh seal, the prayers of the saints are offered with incense upon a golden altar, the smoke rises before God, and the judgement of the seventh seal is poured out (noises, thunderings, lightnings and an earthquake). God HEARS and He ACTS. Jesus Himself says He is coming back soon. What then is the point of laboring in prayer? Well, there is still a purpose in this! God is swift to respond, but we do not always see it immediately, or in the way we expect. His ways are higher than our ways, and He is not bounded by time as we are on earth.
- God is TRUTH. In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Daniel says he wants to know the truth about some of the images he saw in his vision. Every time God give him understanding of something, it is true or accurate –God is who He says He is, and what He says about the times of the end will come to pass. Indeed, we have historical proof that Daniel’s visions were accurate. Is that all truth is, however? What does it mean that God is truth? When Jesus says He is “the way, the truth, and the life”, I believe that is exactly what He means. His word is TRUE – He IS the only way to the Father, and in Him IS life. So then, God’s truth is HIS WAY, and HIS LIFE. It is interesting how these are the very things our world distorts. People are going this way and that way chasing after new ideals of life, new ways to build a successful career, a successful marriage, a fulfilling life. The Babylonian society Daniel lived in taught many ways of living that were contrary to God’s law. Daniel, however, recognised and believed that God was truth and as such, he counted it worthwhile to follow what God said, rather than to immerse himself in Babylonian culture. If we really know God is truth, and that he answers us in truth, how will that influence the way we live? Do we know what His truth is?
“… If you abide in My word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” [John 8:31-32]
“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” [1 John 5:20-21]
- God is STRONG. In Daniel 10:16, Daniel describes being overcome by sorrows because of the vision, having no strength left in him. Because of this, he feels unable to speak to “his lord” – note this is thought to be refer to the angel who comes to speak with him (the Hebrew “adon” used as a term of respect, or in referring to a master or superior, but “Adoni” which donates Lord/God). The angel touches and strengthens Daniel so he is able to speak and learn more about what God has prepared for him to hear and understand. Imagine what it is like when God Himself touches and strengthens us! He sends angels to minister to us and also tells us to cast all our cares on Him. He is God of the impossible and we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us [Philippians 4:13, Matthew 19:26] God’s strength helps us to overcome since His power is above all other powers and dominions. Psalm 138 says, “In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and mde me bold with strength in my soul.”
- God is ETERNAL and GIVER OF OUR IDENTITY. Yes, we are Christ’s own, we bear His Name, and will be with Him for eternity. What an amazing insight Daniel received when he was told he would rise to his inheritance at the end of days! Who would be there with him? This is the inheritance of eternal life with Christ [1 Peter 1:3-4, Ephesians 1:13-14] God affirms Daniel’s faith and relationship with Him. He speaks to Daniel about the plans he has for him, and affirms that Daniel belongs to Him. We belong to God and our identity is wrapped up in Him. He is the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the everlasting and eternal God.
In the end, as we read through the lives and decisions of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, one thing shines through. The stories of their faith, character, challenges and perseverance all point to one thing – that is, the character of the TRUE, ALL-KNOWING, and ALL-POWERFUL God. Do you know who He is?