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Strength in the Upside Down

Date: Oct. 29, 2017

Author: Bob Henkins

Daniel 10:1-11:1

Key Verse: Daniel 10:19

“‘Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,’ he said. ‘Peace! Be strong now; be strong.’ When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, ‘Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.’”

What do you think of when you hear the word strength? Probably most would say physical strength. What do you say when I ask you, “What is your strength?” In that case maybe you might say, my talent, or skill is my strength. Or maybe your character, or values, is your strength. For others maybe, your resources are your strength. Then what if I asked you, “How do you gain strength?” what would you say? When I asked Google it overwhelmingly responded with different ways to increase your physical strength with weight training such as the article “The 10 Strength-Building Strategies That Will Never Die by MensFitness.com.” Others may take testosterone or steroids to gain physical strength. And then I ran across another article titled “3 Exercises That Build Mental Strength in Just 5 Minutes A Day” on PsychologyToday.com. Still others may gain strength from an inspirational speech one of my favorites is from William Wallace in Braveheart when he says, “Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you'll live -- at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!!!” As you may have already guessed, today’s passage deals with strength, that’s why I titled it “Strength in the Upside Down” because it will reveal where Daniel gets his strength from living in a crazy mixed up world.

Today’s passage seems to be another response to Daniel’s life of prayer similar to last week’s message. In chapter nine, we see how Daniel poured out his heart in prayer and repentance before God. And immediately his prayer is answered while he was still speaking. In chapter ten, Daniel once again was seeking God however this time the answer to his prayer was delayed. As Daniel struggles in prayer, we catch a rare glimpse into the heavenly realm as the spiritual curtains are pulled back just a little. The message that Daniel receives knocks him to the ground leaving him weak and pale. What was the message that affected him so strongly? Why did God give it to Daniel and how did he respond? May God grant us his word through this passage.

Let’s take a look at verse 1. “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision.” This passage happens about two years after chapter nine. One of the first things you might wonder is why is Cyrus mentioned in this chapter and Darius mentioned in chapter nine. It is said that “Darius the Mede” was the Babylonian throne name of Cyrus the Persian. Cyrus was half Mede and half Persian, which is why he was able to unite the two nations. (list of Persian kings near 1Kings chapter 1) Daniel is given a revelation from God about things to come. This revelation came as an answer to Daniel’s prayers. By the time Daniel finished writing his book, (around 530 BC) the Jewish captives had started returning home. Six years earlier, in 536 BC, the exile had ended with the first wave of Jewish exiles going back to Jerusalem. However, the return wasn’t going as well as it could have been. Only a little over forty thousand Jews had returned at this point, not as many as Daniel hoped. Not only that, opposition was forming trying to stop the Jews from returning to Israel. So, Daniel sought God in prayer for wisdom concerning the future of his people.

In verse one we see that God gave Daniel understanding of his message. However, when he understood the message it affected him deeply. Verse 2 says, “At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.” After receiving the message, Daniel mourned for three weeks. (What is the longest period you mourned after receiving some news?) This news Daniel received must have been serious, serious enough to mourn. I heard that the word here for mourn has the same meaning as mourning for the dead or some great calamity. Daniel didn’t eat any choice food, or use lotions for his body. Boooo hooo he didn’t use any lotion you might say, but what this really means is that he didn’t treat himself to special things, like good food and he didn’t bath or shave, it was kind of like what Darius did when Daniel was in the lion’s den.

In verses 4-6 Daniel receives a heavenly visit from an angelic being. Take a look at the verses.

On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.  It is interesting that Daniel was standing on the shore of a river and suddenly he has this vision of the angel hovering in the air. His description was vibrant and imposing. Apparently, Daniel wasn’t the only one present when this vision begins to occur. There was this sense of terror & helplessness that overcame everyone there. Verses 7-8 say, I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless.  Daniel’s initial reaction to the angel’s message was one of a deep sleep. “Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. 10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees.” Daniel was held in such high honor that he was given the privilege to hear inside information. This wasn’t gossip but insight into the spiritual realm and what that would mean to Daniel and his people. Take a look at verses 11-12. “11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” Daniel was highly esteemed because he was humble before God and sincerely wanted to know God and have a personal relationship with him. This just wasn’t lip service Daniel did everything he could to get knowledge about God.

This chapter in Daniel is one of the most interesting chapters in the Bible because we learn so much about the heavenly realm and the lives of angels. Even the fact that angel can be detained. Verse 13 says, “But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.” Finally, Michael (whose name means “who is like God?”), one of the most powerful and important angels, (apparently there is a hierarchy among the angels as he is called “one of the chief princes”, came to the interpreting angel’s aid. Evidently the reason that Michael became involved and not another powerful angel was that Daniel was interceding for Israel, a nation especially entrusted to Michael’s care (v. 21). Evidently not only do we find out that angels have order, they also have regional assignments. This seems also to be true of demons as the prince of Persia has influence in the Persian area. Verses 14-15 give a glimpse of the future of Israel. “Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.” 15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless.”

All this information was too much for Daniel to handle. He was overwhelmed. Take a look at verses 16-17. “Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, “I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.””  And here is the conclusion and climax of our message this morning. As Daniel was in the presence of this heavenly being he was in anguish and drained of strength. He’s been up and down and on his hands and knees, deathly pale and trembling. He’s suddenly fallen asleep and been breathless, speechless and helpless all while in the presence of this angel. This really shows the weakness of our humanity before the angels. It seems like Daniel is flopping around like a little rag doll. And this is in the presence of one that is friendly, imagine what he would be like if he was with one that was his enemy.

What encourages me here is how the angel takes care of Daniel. In verses 18-19 the angel strengthens Daniel take a look, “18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 19 “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.” When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.” With a touch the angel gives Daniel strength. The angel has this awesome power, but the power of angels comes from God. The angel encourages him not to be afraid. Fear robs us of our strength. Fear paralyzes us. We must overcome our fears otherwise your fears will control you. Fear keeps us from living by faith. Next the angel gave him peace of heart and mind and then he encourages Daniel to be strong because what he was going to say next Daniel would need his strength. The angel then begins to speak of the great war to come take a look at verses 20-21, “20 So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince. 11 And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him.)” In this statement, the angel gives us a glimpse of what is going on in the world. There was a great spiritual war going on and Daniel and all of Persia was in the midst of it. Daniel may have not been near the king any more since the first year. As the angel mentioned earlier, he had been detained in Persia and soon would return to continue the fight.

The prince of Persia mentioned here was either a demon sent by Satan, or Satan himself, that was in charge of influencing Mede & Persia. They are trying to stop Israel from being restored. For if it is, that would set the stage for the Messiah to come. And Cyrus was a crucial person in this battle. Listen to what the prophet Isaiah wrote about 150 years before this, “This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:” (Isa 45:1)

“I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the Lord Almighty.” (Isa 45:13) And amazingly God told Isaiah exactly what would happen to Israel, “I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, … who carries out the words of his servants and fulfills the predictions of his messengers, who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’ of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be rebuilt,’ and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’ who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry, and I will dry up your streams,’ who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.” (Isa 44:24-28) Cyrus was mentioned by name nearly 150 years before this event takes place. We see recorded in the book of Ezra how the Lord moved Cyrus’ heart to make a proclamation throughout his realm to let the people of Israel return to Jerusalem. And the king even provided all the articles the Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple. (Ez 1:1-10) But Satan and his spiritual forces around there were fighting desperately to stop this from happening. We know that the angel Gabriel was a messenger and we find out that the angel Michael, known as a great prince, was the protector of Israel. And so, we find that the battle in heaven is also affecting what happens on earth. For those people who don’t believe this happens, remember what happened in chapter 6 when Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. I believe that it was this prince of Persia’s influence that stirred up the hatred of all the satraps and administrators against Daniel when they went to king Darius and had him issue the decree that God Daniel in trouble and had him spend the night with the lions. (and I don’t mean the Detroit Lions)

Imagine the pressure Cyrus was under being the focal point of this huge spiritual battle. That’s why the angel was detained for 21 days, he was there to support and protect king Darius. Maybe one reason Daniel was in anguish was that he caught a glimpse of this intense spiritual battle and what it could do to mankind. Couple that with the fact of how helpless he was in the presence of angels Daniel could have fallen into depression or despair. However, I mentioned earlier, how I am encouraged by the care and protection God provided Daniel through his angel, multiple if needed. (Maybe the concept of guardian angel is not so far off and Cyrus needed two of them.)

The angel also took care of Daniel. In this passage he is strengthened by the angel. When God speaks to us, we are strengthened. In the beginning of this passage Daniel was afraid and overcome but after he received the word of God through the angel, he is changed and strengthened. As I talked about in the beginning of the message, it is good to increase our physical strength, but even if you are the strongest person in the world, you are doomed if your heart is crushed and you have no motivation. And while we are moved by inspirational speeches they can lose their power if you’ve heard them over and over.

So where can we get real strength, strength that will last? The prophet Isaiah gave us the answer. He said, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:29) God is the source of all strength. He created the heavens and the earth, all things lie under his control. The prophet Samuel gives us more insight, “But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. … Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.” (1 Samuel 2:30, 33) This shows how important our relationship with God really is. No one knew this better than king David. Throughout his life, King David faced extreme adversity. Time and time again he returned to this source because he knew exactly where his strength came from. Where did it come from, take a look, he said, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” (Ps 28:7) And he said it so beautifully “I love you, Lord, my strength.” (Ps 18:1)

From this passage several important facts are evident concerning angels: (1) angels are real; (2) there are good and evil angels; (3) angels can influence the affairs of human beings. Particularly this passage teaches that angels inspire human governments and their leaders. Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who was described in chap. 8 (also chap. 11), was certainly encouraged by demonic forces in his attempts to eradicate the Jewish religion. The antichrist will also be satanically inspired (cf. 2 Thess 2:9; Rev 13:2). In Daniel’s day Persia ruled the earth. Satan would naturally have attempted to influence the decisions made by the Persian government because policies made there would affect the whole world. Today, Satan continues his attempts to sway earthly powers, and he focuses his attention on nations of the world that have the most influence. On the other hand, this passage demonstrates the positive activity of holy angels on governments through Cyrus. There is an invisible, spiritual warfare being waged that involves angels and all believers. The apostle Paul rightfully said, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12). This warfare is an ongoing struggle as the battle moves from Persia to Greece (v20) and I believe right into our time. God’s angels act on behalf of his people, those who believe and trust in him. Here they are instrumental in delivering to Daniel a message from God, maybe when we get to heaven we’ll be surprised to learn of the many acts performed for them for us.

I’ll leave you with this one last thought, the apostle Paul, who also went through many spiritual battles said, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) And especially in light of this passage, the spiritual battle we face, St Paul said, “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3) And finally Jesus strengthens us all when he says to us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33)

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