Hope for the Future
Devotional Reading: Hebrews 6:13-20
Lesson Scripture: Daniel 7:9-14
Lesson Aims: To explain Judah’s (and our) need for encouragement; recognize that God is in control of all things; and rejoice because the Son of Man will reign forever and ever.
Background: The book of Daniel can be divided into two sections. Chapters 1-6 recorded court stories and chapters 7-12 focused on God’s restoration. Both sections asserted the sovereignty of God. The latter section, known as apocalyptic literature will be our focus for the first three lessons this quarter. The small but thriving nation of Israel began to crumble during the reign of Solomon (970 -930 BC). Shortly after his death, the kingdom split – Israel (10 tribes) in the north and Judah (two tribes) in the south. Both kingdoms turned their backs on God by living like their neighbors. God sent prophets to warn them about their behavior and His coming Judgment unless they repented.
For the most part, the kings ignored the prophets as they continued a downward spiral of corruption, greed, and apostasy (rebellion against God). A few kings initiated revivals but each was short lived. Judgment came to Israel in 722 BC when the Assyrians conquered them. They were scattered throughout the empire. Judah was harassed by the Assyrians but remained intact. They failed to return to God, even in the face of what happened to Israel. More prophets were sent, but nothing changed. Finally, the Babylonians invaded Judah (God’s Judgment) beginning around 605 BC. Each time they invaded Judah, captives (from the upper classes) were taken back to Babylon. Daniel and the three Hebrew boys were in the first deportation (605 BC). Probably a teenager, Daniel’s ministry lasted throughout the captivity, which ended around 536 BC. Now captive in a foreign land, the people needed to have hope in the Promises of God. Daniel was equipped by God to keep the fires of hope alive for them.
Lesson: Daniel’s gift to interpret dreams serves him well in the court of the kings. He becomes an advisor to Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Cyrus (Persian). Today’s lesson actually comes before chapter five chronologically. The nature of his vision is apocalyptic. “That simply means that it is characterized by symbols, focuses on end times (eschatology), a messianic figure is present, and a cosmic struggle between good and evil” (Bible Expositor and Illuminator). Four beasts ( a lion, a bear, a leopard and a fearsome unnamed one) are mentioned.
Scholars generally agree that each one represents a world power. After seeing this, he is immediately transported to the heavenly throne room of the Ancient of Days (God). The Ancient One is an old man wearing a white robe (authority). He has great powers and is attended by a thousand thousands. The Ancient One’s glory, majesty and power are obvious! No matter how strong and powerful the world powers (the beasts) are, God’s power excels them all! His Judgment is hot like a river of fire against the fourth beast (strong and arrogant). The others lose power but are allowed to live for a period of time. The Son of Man (Jesus) appears before the Ancient One. Jesus uses this term a lot in the New Testament. Authority, glory and sovereignty are given to Him as the everlasting kingdom will be established with all people worshiping Him in spirit and truth.
Application: Corruption is on a rampage. Greed is ever present from the lowest to the highest in society. The wealthy continue to exploit the poor and working classes. The courts seem to care more about appearances than justice. Government leaders who profess God do the opposite in practice. All sorts of bizarre behaviors can be seen everywhere. You may feel like all hope is gone.
Before you give up; remember that God still controls everything. Daniel’s vision gives us the faith to keep going. If you would finish chapter 7, the vision is explained there for the prophet. We may not see it, but evil will be defeated and the Son of Man will reign forever. God promised that it would happen. He is a promise keeping God. There is none like Him! Life may seem unbearable but hold on to your faith; it gives hope and peace that passes all understanding. World powers come and go, but God is forever!