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Daniel (2010)

History Foretold

Daniel  11:1-35

Lesson audio

The Prophecy

This section of Daniel is unique: practically every commentator agrees on what this section means. For all that, it is still a section of controversy.

Preliminaries

in reading this passage of Scripture there are a few ground rules we must observe.

·         The passage is "Jerusalem-centric." That means that North and South, for example, are to be taken relative to Jerusalem. The suffering indicated is that of the Jews who lived in Palestine.

·         Titles like "King of the North" are parallel to titles today such as, "Queen of England." They mean the same Royal rank and location, but not necessarily the same person.

·         Indeed, given this interpretation, liberal scholars are adamant that the date of writing must be after 150 BC. Why? Because the prophecy is so accurate and so detailed they feel it must be written after the fact. Of course if you believe that prophecy is possible, then there is nothing wrong with the traditional date. This fact however does tell you that the prophecy in question is quite unique --- and very detailed.

Table of events

The table in question is taken from John Stephenson at this hyperlink.

Why is this prophecy in Daniel?

The prophecy is so detailed that one may ask, "why is this here at all?" There are lessons to be learned:

·         The first set of lessons concerns the nature of God. It is good for the Christian to know the character and the power of God. In particular, we see that he is omniscient, omnipotent, and ruling through divine providence.

·         The second set of lessons we learn concern the nature of the Scripture. We must learn to see it as being revealed (rather than written after the fact); accurate, even when we are not dealing with the past; and in all cases instructive.

·         Finally, this section is here so that you may be confident of the prophecies God has given. This is not an impractical point. Christ teaches us to be ready for his return at any time; human nature says, "but not just yet." Prophecy exists to warn us that he will return just as he says.

Lessons learned

Scripture is instructive; so let's see what we can learn from these Kings and the people they ruled.

Concerning Kings

In normal human existence the life of King is well beyond that of his subjects. It seems as if the rules just don't apply to our rulers. But this is not entirely so:

·         First, they are human beings too. They have emotions, they get jealous, they do stupid things, they commit crimes, and in short do the same things that we use policemen to correct.

·         Next, they all die. It sometimes looks like their reign will go on forever, and that we will always Be oppressed. But they will die.

·         Finally, despite all temptation, Machiavelli did not get it right. The scheming, murderous, conniving King does not prevail. It may seem so for quite some time, but the universe is a moral place.

Concerning people

it would appear that people in those days are very much like people in our time. In particular,

·         The sins of the rulers are visited upon their people. It's well known in the Army that the private pays for the general's mistakes.

·         As if that weren't bad enough, the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children. You can see here that often enough the children appear to have no option but to attempt to avenge their fathers.

·         Suffering is inevitable for the people --- but so is God's triumph.

About God's dominion

Examining this, we see 300 years of history in which the people of God are constantly being washed over by waves of invasion; oppressed by various rulers, and generally have a hard time. Why does God allow this? It seems as if politics are of no particular concern to him; or rather, that they're just not important to him. This is in fact correct. The ruler of the universe, the Almighty one, does not see politics the way we do. His purpose is to prepare his people for their ultimate blessing; therefore, a little dirty politics along the way doesn't seem to be a major problem.

But God is righteous; therefore, why does he allow such evil? The question is an old one. Discuss as you please, but note these things:

·         First, he has a plan for the universe. His will ultimately will be done.

·         But this must be reconciled the concept of free will.

How do we reconcile this? Perhaps Rabbi Akiva put it best: "all is surveyed, and the power is given."

Religion and Politics

The relationship of religion and politics has been a controversial topic since our earliest days. In this short lesson we will attempt to give some guidance as to how the to should relate.

Red Herrings

May we begin with a few red herrings? Here are some thoughts that you will hear which actually distract from our understanding of religion and politics.

·         "You can't legislate morality." Of course you can. We do it all the time. For example, is bank robbery immoral? Of course it is. But that doesn't prevent us from passing a law against it.

·         "Separation of church and state." This is taken to mean that anything the church (meaning of course, Christians) happens to think is right must be ignored. Our founding fathers intention was quite the reverse; they wanted to keep the state from you over the church. They had plenty of historical examples of why this was a good idea. It is only recently that liberals have claimed the church should have no business in the public arena of ideas. This is nonsense.

·         "Morality can be kept in tiny little compartments." The example most cited is Bill Clinton; his affair with Monica Lewinsky is dismissed as being in a separate compartment from his ability to keep his promises (including the one to his wife.) This goes over well with the Liberals, who see sex as being a separate compartment of the rest of the human being. May I give you a counter example? Mike Duvall was an assemblyman from Orange County, California. He made the mistake of bragging about his sexual conquests into an open microphone; his constituents, being mainly conservative, took this to me that he was not worthy of his position. A promise is a promise; a politician should be able to keep one.

The Classic Christian View

It may come as a surprise to some, but there exists a classic view of the Christian relationship between church and state. Its main points are as follows:

·         In most normal circumstances, the government is considered to be an agent of God. For example, we hire policemen. They exist to catch criminals. We hired judges to try and sentence the criminals. All these things are done to reduce crime or prevent crime. It is clear to see that these employees of the state are doing God's work in a minor way. The duty of the Christian is to support them in this.

·         It does happen that we find rulers over us who are evil. We are warned that this is going to happen. The Christian response to this is to suffer, not revolt. The exception to that is when the ruler begins to take himself as being like God.

·         The operating principle is given to us by Christ: "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God’s." In short, we are to find out what duties we have to the government and perform them faithfully and cheerfully; and likewise to be sharply aware of our duties to God. The problem, of course, is in the details.

Problems in Democracy

A democracy presents some unusual problems for the classic Christian view. There are three particular types of problem:

·         First, it is possible for the church to co-opt the state. An example of this in the United States would be the temperance movement. Whatever your views on temperance, it is clear that the movement was a religious one, particularly Christian, and rode a tide of victory to the abolishment of alcohol. In the process, much of American political life was skewed based upon the politicians preference as to temperance. It got rather ugly. The saving grace is that when the church co-opts the state there is a limit to what can be done. It is hard to imagine a democracy taken over by a theocracy.

·         Second, it is possible for the state to co-opt the church. This is the much more common case. The usual symptom is division in the church, between those who are cooperating with the authorities and those who are defying them. An example of this in the early church history would be the Donatist controversy.

·         The worst-case is when the state thinks itself supreme, and takes upon itself the responsibilities of God. The phrase, "the Fuhrer is always right," is not part of a comedy routine. In the earliest days of such a domination, the persecution of the church indirect. Taxation and regulation are the usual forms; it's made clear that those who wish to advance in this world had best change their ways. When that fails (not if) the more powerful means are employed. Christians are arrested and locked up. Sometimes they're shot. If you don't think this can happen now, consider that picketing an abortion mill is almost a certain guarantee of being arrested. Announcing from the pulpit that the Bible declares homosexuality to be a sin is now considered "hate speech". It can happen here.

Perhaps the most important point of this lesson is this: as Americans, we are accustomed to freedom of religion in a quiet country which honors God. That is an extraordinarily unusual circumstance. I fear that we are now moving to a time when the relationship between church and state will be more normal by historical standards. Oppression and martyrdom occur for good late in church history. And church history is not over yet.

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