Our Picture of Hope
It was 2010, in the middle of his deployment to Afghanistan. My brother, an Army medic saw a bizarre and fascinating sight one day and I’m glad he wrote home about it. In the midst of many horrible things all around him, on this particular day, he saw a picture of hope.
While on patrol he happened to glance out the window of his armored vehicle at just the right moment. He saw a large pile of military, combat grade, razor wire. The mountain of wire was a mess, waiting for some unlucky person to receive an order to move it somewhere.
But the wire was stacked in such a way that there was a small clearing in the middle, like a small bubble of safety. Inside that bubble stood one miserable sheep. With nowhere to go and nothing it could do to save itself, the sheep was trapped.
If it tried to get out, it would get mangled in the razors and die. If it stayed in the bubble, it would also die. The sheep faced an impossible situation.
In that moment, my brother saw something else, someone rather. A disheveled, Afghan man in a dingy robe and flip flops, was climbing up onto the wire. At great risk to his own wellbeing, he was slowly making his way to get his sheep.
And the sheep was waiting for its shepherd to come over that wire and save it. Because of the shepherd, the sheep could wait. Because of its shepherd, the sheep had hope.
If you’re like me, you may often feel like that sheep, surrounded by a mess of razor wire, with no way out, humanly speaking. And if you’re like me, you may be tempted to focus more on the razor wire, than on the Shepherd – the problem, not the one with the Solution.
We all face overwhelming situations in life. It’s hard to look at the perplexing, fallen world and wonder how God will turn it out for good. It’s discouraging to face recurring illness, the loss of loved ones, financial struggles or any number of difficulties. It’s overwhelming when we hear about our Christian brothers and sisters persecuted across the world for the name of Christ. It’s overwhelming when a friend rejects us, saying harsh things about us to others. It’s hard to face the same persistent temptations to sin that hound us day after day after day after day.
The Bible addresses this and says that we, God’s people, are in “exile,” waiting for the King’s return (1 Peter 1:1). It would be good for us to know how do we survive this exile? How do we live faithfully in the here and now? How do we survive in the midst of overwhelming and confusing situations all around us?
The Old Testament prophet Daniel, who wrote the verses we read just a moment ago, offers us help. Like my brother’s picture of hope, that shepherd and sheep, Daniel gives us a picture of hope in the verses we read this morning.
In Daniel 7, Daniel received and recorded a vision that feels more like a nightmare at first. But after the bad news, Daniel comes to the verses we read of the Son of the Man, the true King. He draws back the curtains and shows us, the reader, that in the midst of trouble (the razor wire) there is something more true, more real, and more powerful than the darkness.
Because of the Person in his vision, the true King and because of his final victory, we have hope amidst the overwhelming world.
There are two main points from the text this morning that point us to hope. In these verses we will see aspects of the true King, that we need to consider.
Consideration 1 – The identity of the true King (v 13)
Consideration 2 – The authority of the true King (v 14)
These two things make all the difference in the world.
However we may be feeling right now, let me invite us all to let Daniel take us by the hand and show us why we have hope today. Let’s begin, though, with a little background of Daniel and the verses we are looking at this morning.
Daniel was a man familiar with trials and difficulty. About 500 years before the birth of Christ, he was taken as a prisoner from his home in the country of Judah. The Babylonian Empire had conquered and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, taking many people away into exile. Daniel lived the duration of his adult life as an exile, serving in the government administration of the Babylonian and Persian empires, modern day Iraq and Iran. In the midst of his exile, he lived a faithful life to God. He faced opposition for his faith, some of it small and some of it life-threatening.
He wrote his book, called Daniel, with true stories and prophetic visions reminding God’s people that in the midst of the chaos of history, God is sovereign, God is powerful, God is kind, and God is good. In Daniel 7, where we will camp at today, Daniel experienced a vision, or you might say a nightmare. Here was Daniel, in the midst of exile and opposition, he goes to bed one night and sees a picture of beasts, a terrifying picture of four beasts rising out of a dark sea (7:1-8). Later in the dream, an angel told him that the beasts represented actual kings and kingdoms opposed to God and his people (7:17).
One scholar/preacher (Ligon Duncan) put it well, “Now remember there are debates about these particular kingdoms. The point is, however, that these kingdoms represent the attempts of world empires to set up a lasting and beneficent and almighty rule on earth amongst the sons of men and they stand thus in contrast to the kingdom of God.”
The fourth beast was a particular monster with an obsession to fight against God’s people (7:19-22). God would judge all of these four beasts, representing opposition to God. In fact the second part of the dream (7:9-12), describes God’s judgement. God sat on the throne proclaiming judgement against these four monsters. In judgment, God destroyed the fourth kingdom, whom Daniel saw intent on destroying God’s people (7:11).
We know that God was not just going to destroy the beasts, but that he was going to send someone, a figure, whom he would use to establish his own glorious kingdom on earth, that figure is known to Daniel as the “one like a Son of Man” (7:13). Now enters the hero. And leads us to our First Consideration.
Consideration 1 – The identity of the true King – Daniel 7:13
This Son of Man, would be an agent through whom God would bring victory to God’s people. The Son of Man was not just a messenger, but someone who would rule. God would use the Son of Man to accomplish his purposes. We might ask, “Who is this Son of Man? Who is this agent?” No doubt Daniel wondered. No doubt his first readers wondered. But they knew someone would come.
Perhaps you remember that in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), which present to us Jesus Christ, perhaps you remember that Jesus used the title “Son of Man” over and over and over again to refer to himself.
Now the expression “Son of Man” could be used in the Bible to simply mean “person.” The Old Testament does this on many occasions. But Jesus used it in a special way. At his trial, near the end of his life, Jesus said this about himself, “from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). Jesus revealed to us that He is the Son of Man whom Daniel saw. He is God’s agent, sent to establish God’s kingdom on earth. He was sent to rescue God’s people.
Daniel’s nightmare turned out for good, because of Jesus. We can have hope in our nightmares because of Jesus. When our souls can make little sense of our circumstances, we have to keep looking at who Jesus is. We have to fight to keep the things Daniel shows us of our Lord and Savior close to our hearts.
Observe that Jesus, the Son of Man entered Daniel’s nightmare and brought the power of God. God the Father did not stand aloof towards Daniel’s confusion. He did not leave Daniel to the beasts. He did not leave Daniel only with a picture of judgment. God the Father sent God the Son into the midst of the nightmare to bring light. That illuminates reality and our lives as well. God did not stand aloof to our predicament in sin. He graciously and kindly sent Jesus into our world, hope against hope, to save us. And Jesus, gladly came. Galatians 2:20 says of Jesus that he “loved me and gave himself for me.”
Jesus has already entered our very worst of nightmares, the darkness of our sin. He will continue to help us in all of the confusing, overwhelming circumstances. Not only this, but Jesus has already faced the Beast that is behind all the Beasts, the Dragon, Satan, the Devil. The Lamb of God defeated the Dragon by dying on the Cross. Our King is the King who came to slay the Dragon. Our King faced the Devil so that we never have to face him alone again. Whatever beast we face in this life, whatever demonic oppression, whatever perplexing, overwhelming situation, Jesus our king is with us and will bring us through it. Whatever beast we face, cannot do us ultimate harm, because of Jesus. Not even the beast of our own indwelling sin. Let your heart be filled with love for Jesus today.
Daniel notes that the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven. This King, is like no other King Daniel has ever seen, and he saw great human king. Jesus, the true king, rules with all the power and majesty of God. Notice the reference to clouds in verse 13.
In the West, a deceptive lie has crept into our imaginations, that heaven is a place where cute, little angels, appearing like babies, fly around on the clouds, shooting love arrows. These clouds couldn’t be farther from this idea. In the Ancient world, clouds were a sign of divinity.
In the Old Testament, clouds often represent God’s presence and power. When the Israelites left Egypt, God led them and protected them from the Egyptian army in the pillar of cloud. Moses wrote, “the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them” (Ex. 13:21) Psalm 104:3 says that the LORD, “makes the clouds his chariot.” Isaiah says in Isaiah 19:1, “Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud…”
When Daniel saw the Son of Man coming with the clouds, he received a picture of Jesus in his power and glory, with all the power of God. Only one who is God can ride and command the clouds. The fact that Jesus can ride the clouds means he shares equality with God the Father.
One day he will return to this world with all power and majesty. Until that day, he is with us, until the end of the age (Matt. 28:18), sustaining and empowering us. Take heart, in the midst of this world, Jesus Christ our God and Savior. As the Apostle John wrote, the One in Us is Greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). In the midst of your nightmares and overwhelming situations, look up, because he has entered your nightmare.
Not only is Jesus the Son of Man truly God, He is the true and perfect man! Catch the point that Jesus is able to stand in the presence of God. No sinner could dare do such a thing. Jesus is no mere man and no sinner. He is the model of righteousness and perfection. He is the one with no sin. He is the spotless lamb of God. He became as we are, in order to rescue us from our sin, our very selves, our curse.
The author of the New Testament book of Hebrews says, “For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:16-17).
When in the midst of trouble, we want to have someone who understands, and we want someone who has the ability to help. Jesus has both understanding of our weakness and the power to do something about it. He came to help. We need to stir up our hope this morning as we look to him. While in and of ourselves, we are not worthy, but Jesus Christ is worthy to stand before God. And the good news is that Jesus Christ has given us his righteousness.
This month, I have been painfully aware that I am far too preoccupied with myself. It’s as if I’m holding a spiritual mirror up, all the time, examining myself for some shred of worthiness or bemoaning how sinful I am. One minute I’m complimenting myself, the next, I’m despairing. All because I’m looking at myself in a mirror, when I should be looking at Christ through a the telescope of the Gospel.
The Holy Spirit is offering us a telescope right now to gaze at someone far greater than us, Jesus, the Son of Man. Throw down the mirror.
I’ve been freshly amazed at the miracle of our salvation recently because one of our recent PC classes discussed the Doctrine of salvation and it’s details of our salvation. If you find yourself struggling today, a fresh look at what the Bible says about our Salvation can cheer and warm your heart.
Remember that at the moment of our salvation, God declared us forgiven, declared us justified, and made us his children. There is no more sin to pay for! We were forever united to Jesus Christ in such a miraculous way that we will never relate to God apart from Jesus the perfect Son of Man ever again. He who was worthy to stand before God has united us to himself.
You may have come in today with a degree of weariness. Many things could be weighing on our hearts this morning. Maybe illness is working through your family and exhausting your soul. Maybe last week was marked by more failure than success. Maybe that certain temptation got the upper hand again. Maybe anxiety possessed you more than the peace of Christ. Maybe your job has been more a trial than you ever counted on. Maybe your dreams have become nightmares. Maybe the headlines caused anger, fear, worry, or grief.
Look to Jesus, the radiance of the glory of God, who made an end of all our sin, and who gave us all of his righteousness forever. God sees us as we are in Jesus Christ. Let that cheer your heart and cause you to look more at the perfect Son of God today as you strive to follow him.
There’s an old Hymn, called “The Solid Rock” where we sing these words, “When all around my soul gives way, he then is all my hope and stay.” Jesus is all our hope and stay. He is our hope and stay, because of who he is. And because of the authority that he alone possesses.
Nearly 2,000 years ago, a Christian named Stephen, prepared to be the first Christian to give his life for Christ. In his dying moments he said that he saw “the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, with all authority. This vision of the Son of Man sustained Stephen, it sustained Daniel, and it will sustain us in the perplexing world.
Point 2 – The Authority of the King (Daniel 7:14)
In verse 14, we see the authority of the King. God gives the Son of Man, Jesus, dominion, glory, and a kingdom. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion.” His kingdom will never “pass away.” His kingdom will never “be destroyed.” The four beasts, powerful as they were, would only last for a moment in history. The monsters and beasts today, powerful as they seem and powerful as they think they are, will not last forever. But Jesus is the eternal King!
He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. After his resurrection, he told his disciples that he had all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18). In Revelation 5, we get a glimpse of a heavenly worship service. The Apostle John writes that he, “heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).
The kingdoms and rulers of this world may not believe that their terms are limited, but we know the truth. The reigns of chaos, confusion, and the curse in this world will not have the final word. Even our own indwelling sin does not get the final word. Jesus’ kingdom will never end and will one day be visible for all to see…forever.
Not only will Jesus’ kingdom endure forever, it will exist unrivaled forever. No one can destroy his kingdom. No one can strip him of his authority and kingship. God has established him as king, let all look to him and bow their knees to him. We have hope in the midst of the overwhelming, turbulent, chaotic world, with governments, people, and Satan acting like beasts and oppressing God’s people. Our hope has a name, Jesus Christ.
Hear these words from the Apostle John, one who knew Jesus well and saw him in his glory. He said, “Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth” (Revelation 1:5). The Scripture tells us that even now, Jesus is on the throne of heaven. It may not feel like it, but this is the Word of the Lord. It is true.
And one day soon, He will return in glory and will set all things right. Now, we trust that he rules over all things and is ruling for the sake of the church and the advance of the kingdom among all peoples, nations, tribes, and languages. In fact, Daniel says in verse 14, “that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.” Now, this word “serve” is an interesting word that means “to serve.” But if you trace the idea of serving in Daniel, it is almost always attached to serving and worshipping one’s God or gods.
Earlier in the book of Daniel, he tells the story of his 3 friends (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) who would not serve, or worship Nebuchadnezzar’s gods and they faced the fiery furnace because they would not serve the idol. Another king, named Darius, recognized that Daniel served his God continually.
Daniel and his friends would only “serve” their God. Here we see that the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, receives the kingdom from God that he might receive the service, or we might say the worship from all peoples, tribes, and tongues. The biblical Jesus has all authority. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords, whom God calls all people to worship!
It is not enough that King Jesus should have the worship of one people group. He deserves and will have people from across the globe, from all the nations. And this directly touches each of our lives, because in this very room, we represent the nations. Most if not all of us are not Jews. We are not fellow Israelites with Daniel. We are the Gentiles, Americans, descended from a variety of ancestries. We are the nations! And Jesus came after us, to put us in His kingdom!
And it doesn’t stop with us, because there are still peoples and nations and languages that have not heard and do not know and do not worship Jesus. I love this quote from John Piper, in his sermon entitled, “At the Price of God’s Own Blood,” John Piper said this:
“By his blood he has ransomed persons from every people group in the world—every tribe, every language group, every culture, every ethnic cluster. The reward of his suffering is the ingathering of the elect from all the peoples of the world. In other words, the blood of Jesus was shed not just to purchase your holiness and your zeal for good deeds; but the holiness and the good deeds of all the worldwide church of God including those sheep that are not yet in the fold.”
This drives the church on in the task of global missions. It fuels us in our efforts at local evangelism. Jesus has people whom he died for, who have not yet heard the Gospel, whom He plans to save. We don’t share the Gospel with the Lost because we need to earn grace. We share the Gospel with the lost because we have grace. Jesus loves us, and love for Jesus overflows from us in talking about Him to others.
The Lamb of God suffered on the Cross to save us and to save others who have yet to hear about Him. There are presently lost people for whom Christ died all around us and scattered across the globe. Jesus desires for sinners to come to him and to join the throng of worshippers, joyfully serving and loving him. Because we want Jesus to receive the worship from more and more people, we tell people about Jesus.
We tell our non-Christian co-workers about what Jesus has done in our lives. We tell our Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu neighbor that Jesus is the only way to God. In love, we tell our non-Christian family member again that Jesus died for sinners. And that God raised him from the dead to show there is no more wrath for those who believe and turn to Christ.
Perhaps, you’re sitting here today, unsure about your own soul. Perhaps you’ve heard about Jesus your whole life, but have never truly believed him for yourself and turned away from your sin. Maybe you’re family has told you about Jesus, but you’ve never cried out to him for yourself, to save you and forgive you, and make you his. Jesus wants you today. He commands you to believe in him and to turn away from your sins to Him alone. Believe. Repent. Worship Him. He welcomes any and every sinner who calls out to him with faith, turning from sin to the Savior.
Revelation 5 shows us the very throne room of heaven erupting in praise to Jesus Christ with these words, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).
In the midst of the overwhelming chaos that this world brings our way, we would serve our souls well if we focus less on the chaos and more on Jesus and more on his kingdom, helping others, Christians and non-Christians to do the same.
Remember Jesus final words to his disciples in the Great Commission, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:18-20).
Let’s be clear, Jesus is it demanding all Christians become missionaries. Jesus is charging his people to make disciples by proclaiming the Gospel in every place he has sovereignty sent us. It is his authority and his presence with us that makes the Great Commission possible. Because in seeking to obey him, we will face opposition. Becca and I have neighbors who live in the apartment above us. They are friendly neighbors, but they have a German Shepherd who hates me. Yes it hates me.
Our neighbors have a very long leash. So long that they can stand at the top of the stairs going up to their apartment while the dog is already on the ground. Last week as I left our house for class, the timing was perfect. I stepped out the door, and the dog lunged at me, barking with hatred. I jumped back. The neighbor yelled. The dog kept barking. And then I realized, the German Shepherd didn’t have enough leash to reach me.
He could get close, close enough to scare me, but not close enough to hurt me. The leash was too short. So I quickly made my way to the car. Though the dog barked, he really couldn’t touch me. As long as the neighbor held the leash. The beasts of this world are ferocious. And as we go about our lives, seeking to love Jesus and make him known to the world, they are going to bark. But they are on a chain. They will bark. They will rage. They may cause great harm to God’s people. But their power is limited. So we look to Jesus even as they bark. And we try to help others look to Jesus, even as the beasts howl. Remember, Jesus, has already won the war.
May we all, wherever God places us busy ourselves with helping others to see and make much of Jesus. He has guaranteed the end results. We get the privilege of making Him known.
In the days of Alexander the Great, he would send messengers ahead of the army to proclaim he was coming and was close. To any who would surrender and lay down their arms, Alexander would reward, favor, and include in his kingdom. To those who refused, he would destroy. The messengers would proclaim this news to all the peoples.
We must not let the enemy so lull us that we forget the fact that Jesus is coming. His reward and his judgement are far greater than Alexander the Great’s ever were. Not only that but Jesus’ rewards and judgment will arrive here very soon.
We are his messengers now to the people groups, the languages, the places, the neighborhoods, the prisons, the families, the children, all who don’t know Him. As we look to Jesus ourselves, it leads us to worship. As we look at Jesus, and worship him, it lead us to helping others, both lost and believers, is to see and savor the Savior. Christ’s desire and our desire is that all those Christ died for might be added into his kingdom and family.
This text is different than something in the New Testament with a clear application for us to take away immediately. Yet, this text is not without clues to how we should apply it in our lives. I pray they have been evident this morning.
Studying this text stirred up my affections for Jesus Christ, the glorious Son of Man. I pray these verses have stirred your affections for Christ once again, or for the very first time. Daniel reminded us of who Jesus the Son or Man is, and that because of Him, we have reason for great hope. Daniel wrote these words, for people God’s people to trust Him even as the world seems like it is spinning out of control.
These verses speak to any and every situation we will ever face as believers. Whether we are facing oppressive temptation from the Evil One. Whether the opposition we face is ferocious and malicious from cruel people, or if it is the struggle of living in a fallen and troubled world, look to Jesus today. Beasts without or Beasts within. We must look at Jesus.
Daniel has taken pains to show us true reality. Jesus, not the beasts, will have the final word. Jesus is the anchor and bedrock of our faith and hope. Look to his kingdom that now has truly begun and will one day be fully visible for all to see. Rest that one day we who love him and obey him will be welcomed into his kingdom with great joy (2 Peter 1:11).
2,000 years ago, one of the most impressive structures in the world was the Temple of the Roman goddess Artemis in Ephesus, in modern day Turkey. Artemis was the goddess of fertility. Her temple was so impressive that today it is considered one of the ancient 7 Wonders of the World.
One scholar notes, “The magnificent temple of Artemis (Diana) stood just outside the city in a lush valley. It was 342 feet long, 164 feet wide, and featured 100 outside columns each over 55 feet high. The temple’s roof was a white marble tile. A month long festival to Artemis drew a half million pilgrims annually from all over the Mediterranean world.”
In the days of the early church, as the Apostle Paul was preaching the gospel to Gentiles and as Christianity was slowly growing, the people of Ephesus became angry and rioted. You can read this in Acts 19. A silversmith, who made idols of Artemis, got angry because the Gospel was causing people to stop buying his idols (Acts 19:24-27). His business was tanking because of the influence of the Gospel.
So he led a riot against Paul and against Christians. For 2 hours, the mob shouted in the city’s amphitheater, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:34). The pagans thought that this pep rally for their goddess Artemis would put her back on the throne and get them their business back in order. Their business of entangling people’s hearts. Well, they couldn’t have made a worse mistake.
It didn’t happen immediately, but something very ironic happened. The church expanded to more and more people, while the “great” Artemis” and her “great” temple collapsed. Literally.
A few years ago, I had the privilege to see the site of the Artemis’s temple. It’s in a field, outside of a small Turkish town. All that’s left today, is a swamp and a few ancient stones surrounded by an empty field. This temple and this goddess were not so great after all. But Jesus Christ remains powerful, remains sovereign, and remains on the throne with no power of hell overcoming his church!
The Son of God became man. Jesus died on the cross in our place, to bear all our guilt and sin. He rose from the dead, and now he sits on the throne of heaven, hearing the prayers and cries for forgiveness from all who ask.
Because he is mighty, worthy, glorious, powerful, and because he is with us in the chaos, look to Jesus Christ, the Son of Man today.
Look to Him. Worship him. And help someone else to do the same today.