As I write today I am battling grief, fear, anger and angst for our world.
I grieve over the loss of what once was our nation. There was a time when by and large the worst things I faced over Christmas was controlling the look on my face when I received Aunt Marge’s annual, awful fruit cake or perhaps learning to navigate the holiday missing a loved one. The weight of what our country faces today, feels more imminent now than ever before.
I fear what’s beginning to feel like a new normal. Radicalism consumed with hate and violence grows, and I watch it happen. And let’s not pretend this kind of radicalism is relegated to only one walk of life. In just a few weeks’ time we’ve seen Paris, Planned Parenthood, and an unsuspecting workplace party viciously attacked, among many more in war-ravaged, desperate nations in the Middle East and around the world.
I’m angry when I see our world leaders responding in fear and rhetoric, rather than turning to God. God wants nothing more than our hearts, but we stubbornly refuse him. We make our plans as if we know better. The higher we build our walls and the deeper we fill our cache of ammunition, we become more and more vulnerable. But this isn’t new.
Judah’s defenses have been stripped away.
You run to the armory for your weapons.
You inspect the breaks in the walls of Jerusalem.
You store up water in the lower pool.
You survey the houses and tear some down for stone to strengthen the wall.
Between the city walls, you build a reservoir for water from the old pool.
But you never ask for help from the One who did all this. You never considered the One who planned this long ago. (Isaiah 22:8-11 NLT)
And I’m anxious when I read the text we are studying today in Daniel, because I see our world mirrored in its words. Is this it? Have we arrived? What do I do with this?
THE TIME OF THE END
Daniel ends his writings with a final vision. In the previous lesson, we covered the first part of the vision that most scholars believe to be largely fulfilled already. The latter part of chapter 11 and chapter 12 seem to be talking about Antichrist and his rise to power, which still remain in the future.
The king will do as he pleases, exalting himself and claiming to be greater than every god, even blaspheming the God of gods. (Daniel 11:36a NLT)
We are told that this ruler will be a man of war and violence, and that he will conquer many lands and nations. We are also told that his days are numbered and he will succeed in everything he does for a predetermined period of time.
He will succeed, but only until the time of wrath is completed. For what has been determined will surely take place. (Daniel 11:36b NLT)
It will be a time of great anguish, but not devoid of grace and salvation.
But at that time every one of your people whose name is written in the book will be rescued. (Daniel 12:1b NLT)
The heavenly messenger tells Daniel that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and that some will rise to everlasting life and some to everlasting shame. (Daniel 12:2) He also tells Daniel how long these things will last, “for a time, times, and half a time,” (12:7) and later he says that from the time the daily sacrifices are stopped 1,290 days will pass (12:11). And yet despite all the detail, the vision is still shrouded in mystery.
I heard what he said, but I did not understand what he meant. So I asked, “How will all this finally end, my lord?” (Daniel 12:8 NLT)
So it’s with this question I want to settle today, “What if we hear what God says, but we still don’t understand what he means?” If you can identify, you are not alone!
WHAT DO WE UNDERSTAND?
From the outset of this study I have talked about the pattern of God’s will. It’s displayed multiple times throughout scripture, and if you look closely, you’ll see it displayed in your own life as well, probably more than once. The pattern is this:
Israel’s purpose when they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land was to make God’s name known among the nations, to be a light to the world. God chose these people as his own, so that when he set them apart as holy, the entire world would begin to know God through the picture of Israel. He uses the Church in much the same way today. One dramatic difference: Christ lives in each of us today, and when we step into our purpose and calling, we individually and collectively make Christ visible to the world.
In conjunction with other prophetic texts, we know that when this time of wrath has completed, Christ will return, the dead in Christ will rise to be transformed and those who are still alive will also be transformed. Christ will then establish his Kingdom and rule with love. When Christ returns, all purpose will be completed in full. There will no longer be a need to make his name known to the world, because he will be known.
For the scriptures say, “’As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ’every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.’” (Romans 14:11 NLT)
I go back to this pattern of Captivity -> Preparation -> Purpose, because even if we don’t understand all that God has planned and all that God has revealed, if we understand this much, we can still move actively into the story of God’s redemptive plan. When Daniel said he heard what the messenger said, but didn’t understand, the response to Daniel was telling.
But he said, “Go now…” (Daniel 12:9 NLT)
Daniel didn’t get a direct answer to his question. In fact, he was told the answers were going to be kept secret until the time of the end. The messenger then reiterates his command in verse 13.
“As for you, go your way until the end.” (Daniel 12:13a NLT)
He’s telling Daniel to keep walking the path designed for him, and leave the rest to God. So even if we don’t understand all that we hear God saying, we just need to keep on following what we do hear from him. Easy enough, right? Right…until the doubts creep in about the path we’re on and we start asking God, “what if?”
WHAT IF… I’M NOT EQUIPPED TO WALK THIS PATH?
If you’re asking this question, you are not the first. Moses asked it and so did Jeremiah. God doesn’t often call the equipped, he typically equips the called. You can be sure, that if God has called you, he will supply you with all that you need to follow him.
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. (Ephesians 1:3 NLT)
This is a great place to start, because it means each of us is the perfect candidate to be called by God. He has supplied with all spiritual blessings, ALL, which means they don’t come in installments. They are all there from the moment of faith. Blessings like forgiveness, grace, eternity, gifts and insight from the Holy Spirit, and most of all power to follow God. These blessings are a pretty good foundational start to any and all callings.
When I first heard the call to write, it surprised me, and my first reaction was, “surely not.” But now that I have pursued this for a couple of years, the Lord has brought to my memory writing classes that I took in college, and literature classes that I loved. I had all but forgotten that I entertained a desire to major in English and Literature for a short period of time, but quickly dismissed it because it just didn’t make sense. Even then, God was preparing me.
As you consider your life up to now, you might begin to see that God has worked in a similar way. All the threads will eventually weave your story. Follow the path faithfully, and your journey will provide you with the necessary experience and qualifications to keep moving forward.
WHAT IF… I’M NOT STRONG ENOUGH TO WALK THIS PATH
When Israel approached the Promised Land and was told of the incredible bounty within, they could only hear the reports of the giants. Fear told them they were not strong enough to defeat the giants, and how irresponsible it would be to cross over with little children in their care.
Let’s just get this one out of the way. You’re not strong enough to walk this path. None of us are. But God still calls us anyway.
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (II Corinthians 12: 9-10 NLT)
There were many, many times God told Israel to show up to a battle ill-equipped or he asked them to send the majority of their soldiers home. He told Gideon, he didn’t want Israel to think they won the battle in their own strength. He wanted them to understand it was through the power of God. To be clear, every success, every victory we claim, is ALL through the power of God.
WHAT IF…I SUFFER ON THIS PATH
Suffering is very possible, in fact very probable. However, trials and suffering are uniquely designed to equip, strengthen, and to ultimately create extreme effectiveness. By the way, this is also called worship, and worship is the only way to abide in Christ.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4 NLT)
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. (Romans 5:3-4 NLT)
Daniel doesn’t mince words. Terrible suffering will mark the time of the end for God’s holy people. But what does God say about that?
Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined by these trials. (Daniel 12:10 NLT)
We can trust that any trial we walk will bring great glory to God and then that glory will be reflected back on us.
WHAT IF…I CHOOSE NOT TO WALK THIS PATH
There is certainly a great cost to following God, and many of us wonder if we can afford it. And we wonder if we can afford it, because we’re comparing the cost of following God to the lie that there is no cost if we choose not to follow. There is a cost, and it’s called opportunity cost.
Israel chose not to cross the Jordan River because they feared the cost of going into a land of giants. What they didn’t fully factor was the cost of missing the promise God held for them on the other side of the river.
The Apostle Paul also talks about opportunity cost in his first letter to the Corinthians. The context here is Paul’s concern for sin among the believers and their commitment to holiness.
Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? (I Corinthians 6:9a NLT)
While I want to be careful to maintain the context of this passage, I do believe we can find an application for God’s call on levels of our life. His call for our life will typically follow the pattern of his will as I mentioned earlier.
When we are held captive by sin and death, outside of a relationship with Christ, his call on our life will be to place our faith in him. If we reject God’s call to salvation, then we will most definitely not inherit any form of the Kingdom of God.
After we’ve placed our faith in him, he will lead us into a period of growth and renewal. His call on our life is to holiness. He will teach us and heal us, and will prepare trials and hardships to cleanse and purify our lives. If we reject this call, misusing the liberty we have in Christ to continue sinning, our sin will prevent the continual expression of the Kingdom in our lives today. The Kingdom is expressed through the blessings referenced in Ephesians that I mentioned earlier. Paul was very concerned for the Corinthians in this area.
We are all being prepared for a purpose. His call on our life, our purpose, is as unique as our DNA. If we are earnestly pursuing Christ and his holiness, God will guide and direct our path into a purpose that will make his name known to the world. If we reject this call, it’s not so much a missed inheritance, but rather a missed opportunity to experience and realize the vast fullness of the Kingdom of God that is available right now. We might experience some of it, but not all of it. If you’ll follow me, that opportunity cost is essentially missing the inheritance that he has for us.
We don’t have to understand everything about the Bible, or everything about prophecy, or everything about evangelism to walk the path before us. That much is clear from Daniel. We have everything we need to begin, and will be supplied with what we lack to continue, and are continually empowered by the Holy Spirit to get up and go. Now go.