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"Heavenly Conflict III"

MESSAGE FOR NOVEMBER 25, 2007 FROM DANIEL 10:10-21

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          The world has all sorts of ideas about prayer that are rooted in its various worldviews.  One worldview that still holds some influence looks at prayer as being mostly harmless—an unenlightened but probably benign practice.  It’s not a bad thing, but it’s certainly not going to accomplish anything other than give the one who is praying some temporary psychological comfort.  This worldview, influenced by enlightenment thinking, holds that if there is a God, he certainly doesn’t involve himself in this material realm and there is nothing we can do to get him involved.  These folks assume that prayer is at best a warm blanket, an opiate for the gullible.  If you feel the need to pray, you’re free to do so—but it’s largely a waste of time.  That modernist worldview still has some influence in the west. 

It would however be more common today for the world in our post modern period to actually affirm the importance of prayer.  The typical postmodern person would probably confess—perhaps proudly confess to praying too.  Many would consider prayer to be a vital part of their spiritual life and even recommend the practice to others.  At the same time, they would reject any truth claims by evangelicals that dictate that you have to pray to a specific God who alone can answer prayer.  Their idea of prayer may be calling out to the tree stump in their back yard or to the cosmos—to some mystical, unknowable god about whom you can be certain of nothing.  They might very well take offense to any claim you or I would make that Biblical, truth-driven prayer is valid, but all other kinds of prayer are not. They would not be comfortable with any theology that impugns any spiritual expression outside of those taught in the Bible.

In part, because we have been influenced by those unbiblical world views, the events recorded in Daniel chapter ten that revolve around Daniel’s prayer might seem hard for us to believe and perhaps even bizarre.  Daniel ten and the truths it implies about prayer fly in the face of both of those worldviews.  The main truth from this week’s text in Daniel chapter ten is simply: God uses the prayers of his people to bring his sovereign rule to earth.   Although this text speaks specifically to global and political rule, we have also seen in Daniel that God powerfully uses the prayers of his people to bring his rule to the lives of individuals.  You’ll recall that the events recorded in this chapter occur just two years after the Jewish exiles had begun their return to Israel after their 70-year captivity.  Daniel is pictured in this chapter praying with much intensity and anguish for three weeks as he seeks to understand God’s plans for the future of his chosen people.  In response to his prayer and fasting, he is confronted with two supernatural beings, one of whom especially terrifies Daniel.  He is completely drained of all his energy as he experiences the glory of God manifest in the heavenly messenger he encounters.

In verse 10 of this chapter, Daniel is strengthened and comforted and manages to rise from the ground to his hands and knees.  Let’s pick up the dialogue there between Daniel and this heavenly messenger in verse 11.  Daniel says, “And he said to me, "O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you." And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling.  12Then he said to me, "Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.  13The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia,  14and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come."

15When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was mute.  16And behold, one in the likeness of the children of man touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, "O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength.  17How can my lord's servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me." 18Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me.  19And he said, "O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage." And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, "Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me."  20Then he said, "Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come.  21But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.

          The first and only point we will look at this week supporting this larger truth about God using the prayers of his people to bring about his sovereign plan is: Part of God’s sovereign rule over this earth is executed through an unseen spiritual world that through prayer impacts this material world.  This truth speaks of how God executes his divine plans and sovereign rule over this world.  The Bible speaks of several ways by which God brings his will to pass on earth.  We know that he changes human ruler’s hearts—the way they think and the attitudes they possess--so that what they decide ultimately fulfills God’s sovereign purposes.  Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”   No human ruler is ultimately autonomous. They are all subject to God’s work in their hearts even if they do not even acknowledge his existence.  This was certainly the case with Pharaoh during the Exodus.  We know from Exodus chapter four that his heart was firmly under God’s control.

God also exercises his sovereign rule over the earth by replacing one dominant regime or nation with another.  Job says of God in 12:23, “23He makes nations great, and he destroys them;  he enlarges nations, and leads them away.”  The world’s dominant powers remain on the stage of history only as long as it suits God’s purposes and that includes America.  Earlier in Daniel in 2:21, King Nebuchadnezzar concedes, “21He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings;”  The world’s rulers ascend to global prominence and descend into political oblivion by the sovereign decree of God.  

          That much we have repeatedly seen up to this point in Daniel.  In chapter ten however, God unveils yet another way he works in human history that is related to his other ways.  This sovereign work of God is accomplished by means of his activity within the unseen, heavenly realm where angelic beings exist—both good angels and bad angels—angels who serve him and angels who serve Satan.  We see references to specific activities within this unseen world in two places in this chapter.  First, in verses 13-14 where the messenger tells Daniel, “13The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, 14and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come."  The second two verses this angelic activity is mentioned are 20-21.  There the angel asks Daniel, “20…"Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come.  21But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.”  One question is—how do we know that the princes referred to here are angelic beings?

          First, Michael is referred to here as one of the heavenly combatants.  Michael appears by name in Scripture five times, twice in these verses.  In the Old Testament, Michael is called the “chief prince” or the “great prince.”  In the New Testament in Jude 1:6, Jude reveals an incident back in the life of Moses and he there calls Michael an “archangel” or, a ruler of the angels.  Because these other princes are contending against an angel, the context dictates that they too are angels.  Second, in several places in the Bible, angelic beings are given titles like “prince,” indicating that God has invested them with some spiritual authority over regions and peoples of this earth.  We see this in Ephesians 6:12.  Paul says, “12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” 

          In Colossians 1:16, Paul again refers to these angelic beings using terms that imply their authority.  “16For by him [Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”  Paul says there are two kinds of rulers, thrones, dominions, authorities and by implication, “princes.”  There are visible, political rulers on earth and invisible spiritual rulers in heaven and all of them were created through Christ and for him.  We know from Revelation chapter 12 that a third of these angels created by God rebelled against God under Satan’s leadership and were cast out of their exalted place in heaven.  Since that time, they have actively opposed God and his plans on earth.  We also know that through his death on the cross, Jesus dealt a mortal blow to these heavenly authorities.  Paul says it this way in Colossians 2:15, “15He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”  Though (as we will see next week) we must still engage the enemy spiritually, the decisive battle has been won by Christ’s defeat of the powers of darkness through his saving work on the cross.

          The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over this world and is working out his sovereign purposes.  The story of Job illustrates that Satan has never possessed absolute authority over this world, even though, through Adam and Eve’s fall, it bowed down to him. God, the Creator of this world never bowed down to him!  God didn’t lose any of HIS authority.  Humanity, whom God at creation appointed as his vice regents on earth, lost THEIR authority and Jesus came as a human to get it back.  Through Christ and especially his work on the cross, Satan was defeated and lost much of his authority over this world.  He now wields his authority primarily over and through his dark angels and those people who have not been redeemed by Christ and remain under his domain of spiritual darkness.  He is under the ultimate, absolute authority of God who, even in the midst of the horrific sin of this world, continues to work out his sovereign plan for humanity.  Satan will be stripped of all of his power at the return of Christ when Christ’s victory at Calvary will be fully consummated.  Until that time, Satan retains this limited power over this world and remains as Ephesians 2:2 says, “…the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.”

          A second question about this chapter is—why are the “prince”/“kings” of Persia and the “prince” of Greece specifically mentioned in this text?  Part of the answer is that these events took place in Persia.  Daniel was praying in an area under the spiritual authority of the prince of Persia.  Daniel is praying in Persia and is seeking to understand “what is to happen to your [Daniel’s] people in the days to come.”  This prophecy in chapter 11 was obviously something Satan and his demonic forces did not want revealed to Daniel.  There may be several reasons for their determined opposition to this prophecy being revealed, but Daniel scholar Ernest Lucas is succinct when he says, “The Prince of Persia tried to prevent the declaration of the message, because the declaration of God’s intention means its implementation.”

          When this prophecy is openly declared, it becomes one of the manifest decrees of God and the decrees of God are “God’s plans for history and they always happen.”  When God decrees something, it is as good as done.  The powers of darkness are, at the moment God’s plan is revealed, absolutely limited or circumscribed to work within the parameters God has decreed.  So, here is this message that Satan does not want Daniel to receive—a message that will encourage and strengthen the people of God.  Who does the enemy call on to raise opposition against the declaration of this message?  He doesn’t simply randomly select any old dark angelic power.  He selects those princes who are over the empires that have political control over the people of God, Israel.  One is the dark prince that has spiritual authority over Persia.  The Persians continued to rule over Israel even though they had allowed them to repopulate the Promised Land.  The Jews still very much answered to the Persians.

The Prince of Greece is also mention here.  The messenger asks Daniel in verse 20, “20…"Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come.”   One reason these two princes of Persia and Greece are mentioned together is doubtless found in what was occurring on the global scene at the time of Daniel.  As we have seen, Persia had ascended to world domination through their conquest of Babylon.  As you think through world history, what empire succeeded the Persians in world domination and more specifically, in their authority over the Jews?--the Greeks.  At the time of Daniel, Greece was in the wings, awaiting its time of world dominance.  The Greeks fought with the Persians several times from about 50 years after the Jews began their return to Israel until they finally defeated the Persians in 333 B.C under Alexander the Great.  That means the dark princes that held spiritual influence over Israel during both Daniel’s time and in the succeeding period of world history were enlisted by Satan to prevent the declaration of this message.  That’s why the princes of Persia and Greece play prominent roles here in opposing God and the declaration of his prophecy.

          The messenger reports to Daniel that “the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me 21 days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia [probably another name for these dark angelic powers over Persia] withstood me 21 days.”  The messenger is sent from God to deliver the prophecy to Daniel but for 21 days is detained by the opposition of the dark angelic rulers over Persia.  Michael, “one of the chief princes” is then detached as reinforcement for this other messenger of God.  It’s safe to assume from that designation, that Michael has more power than these regional princes of Satan.  He defeats these powers and the messenger is then free to deliver God’s message to Daniel.  In verse 21, we see that Michael is also called, “your prince.”  That probably refers to the nation of Israel and not to Daniel as an individual.  Michael, as the prince over God’s people, is sent to ensure the delivery of this message that will greatly encourage God’s people and establish this decree of God on earth.

          Next week, Lord willing, we will speak to the question—why does God execute his plan by use of this heavenly angelic battle?  We know from Scripture that he is all powerful and could with one divine thought instantly and totally annihilate all the forces of darkness.  So why does he include in the execution of his plan all this angelic fighting and sending in of reinforcements?  We’ll look at that later.  For now, we want to focus on one of the main points of this chapter and that is that all of the dramatic angelic heavenly activity we have just highlighted came about in response to the prayer of one man, Daniel.

Think about that.  As we saw last week, God sends out this gloriously attired, terrifyingly intimidating heavenly being who, when he finally appears to Daniel turns this man of God into little more than a pulsating bowl of Jell-O. In response to this glorious messenger’s mission, the Prince of darkness counters by dispatching his dark angelic powers ruling over the most powerful empire in the world.  In response to their opposition, the highest ranking angel mentioned in the Bible is then sent out to do battle against these dark powers. The original, awe-inspiring messenger is then liberated to come and deliver God’s prophecy to Daniel. That is an awesome chain of events transpiring behind the spiritual veil of the heavenlies.   All of Hollywood’s digital special effects artistry could not adequately communicate this angelic war in the heavenlies.  And what was it, from a human perspective that God used to set in motion all of that dazzling, supernatural angelic activity?  One 85 year-old man who prays and fasts for three weeks.

          Now clearly, this is an important moment in salvation history and Daniel is clearly not just any 85 year-old man.  I seriously doubt if Michael the archangel is enlisted to fight for God’s purposes in response to my prayer for relief of a hangnail.  That’s not the point of application—that we can have an archangel summoned in response to our prayer.  The point of application for us from chapters nine and ten of Daniel is: God will literally move heaven and earth in response to the persistent, impassioned prayers of his people

We know he moves on earth in response to the prayers of Daniel.  In chapter nine, Daniel discovers Jeremiah’s prophecy that the Jews will be in exile for 70 years.  As that time period was coming to a close, Daniel prays that magnificent, God-centered prayer of chapter nine, asking God to forgive Israel for their sin and allow them to go back to the Promised Land.  In response to that and doubtless other prayers from God’s people, the great Persian King Cyrus, seemingly out of nowhere, decrees that the Jews can begin returning to Israel right on God’s schedule.  In chapter nine, Daniel’s prayer moved the most powerful earthly ruler, Cyrus into action on behalf of God’s people.  In chapter ten, his prayers moved God to place his most powerful heavenly ruler, Michael into action on behalf of his people.  In chapter nine, God moves earthly rulers in response to prayer.  In chapter ten, heavenly rulers—God moves heaven and earth through the persistent, impassioned prayers of his people.  That is a powerful lesson we should all take away from these chapters in Daniel.

          If that is true--if we know that God sends these awesome supernatural forces into action in response to prayer—if the persistent, impassioned prayers of God’s people light up the heavenlies with God’s activity. Far more impressively, if God the Holy Spirit works in the lives and hearts of people—then why don’t we see prayer for what it is?  That is—a nuclear powered spiritual blessing that moves the very hand of Almighty God.  If God has invested this kind of power and authority in his people through their prayers, why do many of us begin to blush with shame when we share about our prayer life?  Do you suppose the enemy knows something about how God uses the persistent, impassioned prayers of his people?  Don’t you think he knows that the quickest way to render God’s people spiritually impotent is to hinder their prayer life?  Daniel chapter ten implies that if God’s people don’t pray, then Satan doesn’t even have to dispense any of his angelic beings—they can continue uninterrupted in their task of blinding the minds of unbelievers.  Christ died to defeat the power of darkness and rip the scales from the eyes of these spiritually blinded people, but we must bring his atoning work to bear on the lives of people and one way that is done is through prayer.

          The model we see in these chapters is the persistent, impassioned prayers of Daniel.  Notice, he doesn’t pray to rebuke the heavenly powers—he didn’t even know they were active.  That kind of praying is not modeled anywhere in Scripture.  What IS modeled is people whose hearts are ablaze for God, pouring out their burdens before him who don’t give up until God moves.  What are the seemingly immovable obstacles in your life this morning?  Maybe it’s an unbelieving spouse or rebellious child.  Perhaps it’s a boss or coworker who is impossible to work with.  It could be a neighbor who desperately needs the Lord or a broken relationship with someone in the church.  Perhaps it’s a legitimate financial need.  After what we have seen in Daniel chapter ten as God responds to the prayer of Daniel, do you believe God can use prayer to bring his sovereign rule into your life? 

          As a church, as we seek to repent of our lukewarmness and genuinely love each other in Biblical community—as we seek to plant a healthy, God-honoring church and be used in this community to bring many people now in darkness into the light of the gospel—as we strive to send out more families to the unreached people groups of this world—none of that will be accomplished apart from the persistent, impassioned prayers of his people.  May God give us the grace to pray with persistence and passion and in so doing bring the sovereign rule of God to our lives, this church and this world for his glory and our joy.

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