Rejoice in the Lordís Sovereignty

Explore the Bible Series

August 21, 2005

 

Background Passage: Daniel 7:1-8:27

Lesson Passage: Daniel 7:2-3, 8-14

 

Introduction:

 

Some years ago, during a difficult period of my life, I read a wonderful book by Jerry Bridges, Trusting God Even When Life Hurts.The book primarily addresses the thorny issue of human suffering, but an important auxiliary theme runs through every chapter: the sovereignty of God.This controversial topic troubles conservative, Bible-believing Christians because it seems to set the Bible against human experience.How can a loving and tender God allow suffering in the world he created?In particular, how can this loving Father allow his children to suffer at the hands of wicked, ungodly people?

 

Some people ďsolveĒ the problem by questioning Godís sovereignty.This may be attempted in one of several ways.For instance, some of my acquaintances have asserted that God has chosen to limit his sovereignty in light of the free will of man (I must confess that the notion of ďlimited sovereigntyĒ puzzles me a bit). Others affirm Godís sovereignty but address the issue by denying the Lordís perfect knowledge of all things that will occur.†† They reason, as I understand their argument, that God knows all things as they are; however, God cannot know what does not yet exist.The actions of free moral agents, therefore, cannot be predicted even by God.Once the event occurs, God knows it perfectly, but he does not, indeed, he cannot know events before they happen.This position, of course, proves too complex to address fully in this forum; nevertheless, Bible students should ruminate on the biblical doctrine of Godís sovereignty as they study Daniel Seven and Eight.I recommend a couple of resources for additional study.

 

A.W. Pink. The Sovereignty of God.After all of these years of reading Pink, I still find his writing very helpful (reprint 1976).

 

John Piper. Justin Taylor, Paul Kjoss Helseth. Beyond the Bounds. (2003).This scholarly work helps define and refute the Open Theistís arguments.

 

As we consider the seventh and eighth chapters of Daniel, consider how Danielís prophecies address the issue of Godís knowledge of the future.

 

 

Outline of the Background Passage:

 

I.                    Danielís Dream of the Four Beasts (7:1-28)

A.    The occasion of Danielís dream (v. 1):Apparently Daniel experienced this dream about 556 B.C.; therefore, this vision occurred between the events recorded in chapters four and five.It appears that Daniel may have been around 65 years old when he received this dream.The text claims that Daniel was troubled by the dream (See v. 15), and he wrote the vision down as soon as he awakened.

B.     The Four Beasts (vv. 2-8): The sea, perhaps, represents the mass of sinful, restless humanity.As in Revelation Seven, the sea is troubled by powerful winds.From the tumultuous sea, four beasts arise.

1.      The Winged Lion (v. 4): The first beast had the body of a lion and wings like an eagle.The lionís wings were plucked off, and the beast walked on the earth like a man.He also was given a heart like a man.Most commentators agree that this refers to the Babylonians.

2.      The Bear (v. 5):The ravenous bear was raised up on one side, and had three ribs between its teeth.Someone commanded the bear ďto devour much flesh.ĒBible scholars largely agree that the bear represents the Medo-Persian Empire.

3.      The Winged Leopard (v. 6): Next, Daniel envisioned a leopard with four wings and four heads. The winged leopard symbolizes the Greek Empire, and four heads signify the division of Alexanderís kingdom (Macedonia under Cassander, Egypt under Ptolemy, Asia Minor under Lysimachus, and Syria under Seleucus).

4.      The Identified Beast (vv. 7-8): A fourth beast appeared to Daniel: fearsome, dreadful, and powerful.It had iron teeth, and the beast tore, devoured, and trampled everything in its path. This frightful beast had ten horns, and a small horn grew up to displace three of the original horns.This smaller horn had eyes like a man and spoke pretentious. Some believe this unidentified kingdom refers to the Syrian Empire that reached the apex of its power under the wicked King Antiochus Epiphanes (second century B.C.); however, most Old Testament scholars believe this beast represents the Romans.

C.    The Ancient of Days and the Son of Man (vv. 9-14)

1.      The vision of the Ancient of Days (vv. 9-12):God is referred to as the Ancient of Days in this chapter of the Bible alone.It speaks of Godís timeless majesty. He eternally reigns over creation, and no one can measure his days as one would a man.The Lord stands, as it were, above the scope of time and history.Time does not confine him as it does finite beings.Note: This is one of my most profound puzzlements with Open Theism.Doesnít the Open Theism paradigm imply that God is constrained by time and history?He, in their system, experiences events in much the same way that men do: sequentially, chronologically, and serendipitously.Danielís designation for God does not seem to fit that perspective.Notice, the Ancient of Days is seated (the position of authority and power), and his clothing is as white as snow.Judgment, symbolized by the stream of fire, issues form his throne, and innumerable angels form his retinue.Moreover, court is apparently ďin sessionĒ for the books were opened, and the small horn and the other beasts are destroyed before the Lord of Hosts.

2.      The Son of Man (vv. 13-14): Jesus used this term to refer to himself with great frequency in the Synoptic Gospels (one resource cited sixty-nine such references), and there can be little doubt that Daniel intended his readers to envision a Messianic figure in this text.Unlike the small horn and the other nations, the Ancient of Days receives and delights in the glory of the Son of Man (See v. 14).This resplendent one is given dominion and glory.

 

D.    The Interpretation of the Dream (vv. 15-28)

1.      Danielís troubled heart (vv. 15 and 28): Daniel trembled at the word of the Lord. Men who frequently traffic in the word of the Lord should guard their hearts against complacency.Daniel was not a young man when he received this dream; nevertheless, his familiarly with Godís word did not breed a contemptuous, flippant disregard for revelation.May God ever stir our hearts to know the fear of the Lord.

2.      The identity of the Four Beasts (vv. 16-28):One standing nearby told the prophet that the Four Beasts represented four kings that would arise out of the earth.Daniel had particular interest in the Fourth Beast.Many scholars believe the ďLittle HornĒ foreshadows the rise of the Antichrist, at the end of the age.The Apostle John observed that the spirit of the Antichrist already surfaced in the First Century A.D. The enemies of God, in all generations, will persecute the church, and, it may well be that such a person (a particular individual) as the Antichrist will arise at the end of the age, and severely persecute the people of God.†† He shall wear them out for a season of time (See v. 25), but the Most High will judge him and vindicate the people of the Lord (See vv. 26-27).

 

II.                 The Vision of the Ram and the Goat (8:1-27)

A.    The vision described (vv. 1-14):Two years after Daniel received the dream of the Four Beasts, the prophet had a vision while he resided in the Babylonian capital of Susa.Daniel envisioned a great ram standing on the bank of the Ulai Canal.The ram had two horns, one larger than the other.From the west, a goat speedily crossed the earth without touching the ground.The goat had a single great horn between its eyes, and it attacked the ram with great fury.The goat killed the ram but, in the process, broke its horn.The broken horn was replaced by four horns.Out of the four horns another single horn emerged and grew to great power and prominence.The horn aspired to godhood, and committed great abominations that continued for a lengthy period.Finally, the sanctuary of the Holy Place was cleansed from these abominations and restored to its previous glory.††

B.     The interpretation of the vision (vv. 15-27): The angel Gabriel appeared to Daniel to explain the vision.The angel revealed that the ram represented the Medo-Persian Empire.The great goat, on the other hand, was the Greek Empire. After the death of Alexander the Great, as we saw before, the Greek Kingdom was divided among four generals.The horn that emerged from four horns may depict Antiochus Epiphanes.This cruel tyrant oppressed the people of God throughout his wicked reign (See v. 24).Antiochus may very well serve as a symbol and foreshadowing of the Antichrist.

 

 

Discussion Questions Concerning the Lesson Passage:

 

1.      What does this passage reveal about Godís knowledge of and sovereignty over the nations of the earth?

2.      Discuss the ways Daniel described the sufferings of the Lordís people at the hands of the wicked nations.How does this passage relate to II Timothy 2:1-13 and Revelation 6:9-11?

3.      What is the responsibility of Christians during times of great suffering for the sake of the Gospel?