Introduction: As we progress in maturity as believers, (which is surely God’s will for all of as His church – to grow up in all things into conformity with our holy Savior Jesus), we begin to appreciate the hidden realities of God’s Kingdom in our midst. Though we do not see all of the ways His Kingdom operates on earth, we come to treasure every indication of its progress and triumph. In short, since in this world our struggle really isn’t with flesh and blood, but with “thrones, principalities and powers in the Heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12), we ought to appreciate what the Bible has to say about the struggle in the Heavenly places. As we turn to Daniel’s final vision in his prophetic book in order to learn about this spiritual warfare, may we learn to be watchful and prayerful every moment – even as hymn # 574 urges us to do:
Christian, dost thou see them
On the holy ground,
How the powers of darkness
Rage thy steps around?
Christian, up and smite them,
Counting gain but loss,
In the strength that cometh
By the holy cross.
Christian, dost thou feel them,
How they work within,
Striving, tempting, luring,
Goading into sin?
Christian, never tremble;
Never be downcast;
Gird thee for the battle,
Watch and pray and fast.
Christian, dost thou hear them,
How they speak thee fair?
Always fast and vigil?
Always watch and prayer?
Christian, answer boldly:
While I breathe I pray!
Peace shall follow battle,
Night shall end in day.
Well I know thy trouble,
O my servant true;
Thou art very weary,
I was weary, too;
But that toil shall make thee
Some day all Mine own,
At the end of sorrow
Shall be near my throne.
Mon/Tues: read Genesis 3:1-24. Before looking at the Lord Jesus arriving to help Daniel, “in the nick of time”, we turn for our first lesson about this unseen spiritual battle to the root sin and fall which caused this conflict in the first place. From the beginning of biblical history, the Son of God has been ever-watchful against every Satanic stratagem which threatens His people. He always and in the most needed way, draws near to protect His family. At every time of profound spiritual loss; when costly wounds cause His own to stagger and bleed; when unjust and even sinful alterations affect their lot in this world, (even when such alterations are their own fault because of pride and sinful unbelief), Christ shows His commitment to save and defend His own.
For example, do you remember how Adam and Eve threw everything away in the Fall – and then hid themselves in their rebellion from the probing eye of their seeking Lord? Ah, but then, what is it that they hear? Who comes looking for them in their lostness? It is the very ‘Voice’ or ‘Word’ of God! In Genesis 3:8, they hear this ‘Word of God’ walking in the garden, and calling out authoritatively and all-powerfully: “Where are you?’ (Note: Many translations of this verse imply that Adam and Eve heard the ‘sound’ of the Lord walking in the garden. But the word ‘sound’ can also be translated, ‘Word’, so that the sentence reads: Adam and Eve heard, “the Word of the Lord walking in the garden.” It was the Second Person of the Trinity who came seeking the lost couple!
This ‘Word’ walking in the garden of Eden after the Fall, is none other than the Son of God, who comes to find Adam and Eve at their lowest moment. How well-timed is His approach! He knows that, if they were to wander off in their sin, Adam and Eve would have no sacrificial forgiveness to restore them to God, nor the covering of God’s grace to maintain their relationship of faith with their holy Lord. They have also failed in bringing forth the Promised Seed! There will be no human nature for God the Son to take up if the line of the covenant dies out before any holy offspring is born! So the Son of God comes down at the moment of humanity’s greatest need!
Meditate and Pray: Give thanks for the Son of God’s timely intervention into our sinful world – again and again! Even before His birth in the manger, Christ stood between His own elect and their sure destruction at the hands of the world, the flesh and the devil. Sing about these timely deliverances with the following hymn by John H. Newman:
Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise;
In all His words most wonderful,
Most sure in all His ways.
O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight
And to the rescue came.
O wisest love! that flesh and blood, Which did in Adam fail,
Should strive afresh against the foe, Should strive and should prevail.
And that a higher gift than grace
Should flesh and blood refine,
God’s Presence and His very Self,
And Essence all divine.
O generous love! that He, who smote, In Man for man the foe,
The double agony in Man
For man should undergo.
Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise;
In all His words most wonderful,
Most sure in all His ways.
Wednesday: read Genesis 3:8-15. At the moment when Adam and Eve lost all that God so freely gave them, ensuring sin and death for the whole human race, as well as misery for the whole creation of God – at that very moment, with perfect timing, who should appear to take up their cause than the Son of God, called the very ‘Word’ of God! To paraphrase John Owen’s words about this momentous appearance:
“The Son of God, by whom all things were made, and by whom all were to be renewed … did in a special and glorious manner appear unto our first parents … Just as He later appeared in human shape after the promise of Genesis 3:15, instructing the church in the rest of the Old Testament through His appearances as the ‘Angel of the Lord’, so here, before the promise, He reveals His glorious person, as the eternal Voice or Word of the Father.”
Prayer: “Lord, in our study of Scripture, open our eyes to the glories of the grace of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Amen.” As hymn # 430 puts it:
I hunger and I thirst,
Jesus, my manna be;
Ye living waters, burst
Out of the rock for me.
Thou bruised and broken Bread,
My life-long wants supply;
As living souls are fed,
O feed me, or I die.
Thou true life-giving Vine,
Let me Thy sweetness prove;
Renew my life with Thine,
Refresh my soul with love.
Rough paths my feet have trod
Since first their course began;
Feed me, Thou Bread of God;
Help me, Thou Son of Man.
For still the desert lies
My thirsting soul before;
O living waters, rise
Within me evermore.
Thurs/Fri: read Gen. 3:8; Ex. 14:19-20; Josh. 5:13-15; Dan. 10:1-11. There are so many glorious verses that describe the appearance of our Lord and Savior Christ to His people in the Old Testament. The references listed here are just a few, including Daniel 10:1-11, which some scholars think describes an angel, but which we will take as yet another ‘theophany’, a Greek word meaning “an appearance of God”.
But first, consider the pattern of all these appearances. Whether in Genesis, Exodus or Joshua, the need for Christ to come to His people to protect and guide them – is an urgent need. When the holy Seed of Promise is threatened by destruction at the Fall, Christ appears to protect that Seed in Genesis 3:8. The Egyptians plan to destroy God’s people in the Red Sea, so the ‘Angel of the Lord’ appears in the pillar of cloud to protect and separate His own from the Egyptian army, (Exodus 14:19-20). In Joshua 5:13-15, Israel under Joshua face an insurmountable obstacle to inheriting the Promised Land in the defiant walls of Jericho. Once again the Son of God appears – in order to reassure the worshipping Joshua that He will command the ‘armies of the Lord’ so that the conquest of Canaan is secured. Without Christ to help Joshua conquer Canaan, without the Angel of the Lord’s presence with the armies of Israel, there would be no physical place in the Old Testament where God’s people could safely plant themselves and build their cities. Without this land, there would be no place for the Christ-child to be born! Without this Land, there would be no Jerusalem in which Jesus could come and worship and die for sinners. So, Christ appears to Joshua to ensure entrance for Israel into the Promised Land.
In the same way, there is a huge threat to the survival of Christ’s godly Seed in the Promised Land when the resettlement of the Land, (under Cyrus’ decree in Ezra 1:1-4), is halted by the “Prince of Persia” in Daniel 10:13 and 10:20-21. This “prince”, John Calvin and many others believe, is the Persian successor who took over the day-to-day rule of Cyrus’ kingdom. The first king, named Cyrus in Daniel 10:1, whose throne name is Darius, was strengthened by the Angel of the Lord in his first year of rule – so that the decree went out for God’s people to return to the Promised Land. This is the meaning of Daniel 11:1. The Promised Seed was secure in that first promising year of the rule of king Cyrus, when the Spirit of God moved Cyrus to pity Israel.
But in the third year of Cyrus in Daniel 10:1-3, Daniel is fasting and grieving. Why? Because good king Cyrus has been at war on the borders of his Persian kingdom for 2 years. His successor, ruling in his place, is the hostile Cambyses, who historians tell us halted the rebuilding of Jerusalem. He resents Cyrus’ decree in favor of the Jews, and instead listens to God’s enemies around Jerusalem – who urge him to stop the reconstruction of that city, (read Ezra 4:7-24). No wonder Daniel fasts and prays – knowing as he does that the very survival of God’s people in the Promised Land, (and of the Seed of the Savior to be born there), hangs in the balance.
No wonder, furthermore, that the Son of God, dressed in the very same glorious robes in Daniel 10:5-6 with which He appears to John in Revelation 1, comes urgently to Daniel to reassure him and to enable him to keep praying. Despite this ‘war in the heavenly places’, and the suffering on earth of God’s persecuted people – through the prayers of believers like Daniel, this wicked Cambyses would be overcome, and indeed was overcome – as the final rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple did in fact take place.
Meditate and Pray: Give thanks that the Son of God, ever since the first promise of the Gospel in Genesis 3:15, has been busy throughout the history of the Bible protecting God’s people from the Evil One’s plots to destroy them. This, in fact, is the main theme as we “sweep” through the bible: Christ at war against that old dragon, Satan, ensuring that one day, from the very offspring He successfully protected all through their Old Testament pilgrimage, He would arise as that Child of promise in order to crush the head of that serpent – which He did on the Cross! No wonder Satan tried to destroy the Promised Line of the Messiah all through Old Testament history! And no wonder he thought himself victorious, when he saw God’s Son die on the Cross. But how wrong that now defeated foe was – to despise the Death of Christ on the Cross!
Sat/Sun: read Genesis 6:1-8 and 2 Peter 2:4-9. Without indulging in unproductive speculation, we may ask: How was it that the ‘Angel of the Lord’ protected God’s people in the Old Testament? How, in short, did God use His Son to prove His power to “rescue” the godly from the evil threats around them (2 Peter 2:4-9)?
Well, to be sure – in the Red Sea it was the awesome power of the Son of God which both protected the Hebrews in the pillar of cloud, (Ex 14:19), and turned His fiery wrath against the drowning Egyptians, (Ex 14:24-25). But in the main, it was not through raw physical power that the Son of God triumphed in the days of old. After all, did He not make Himself weaker than Jacob in Genesis 32:26, so that Jacob was able to hold onto Him by faith for the blessing? No, the ‘Angel of the Lord’ appeared to help His people in their weakness by coming down in quietness and humility to their level.
Another way to say this would be that it was by His Spirit that the Son of God contended with sinners in the Old Testament – even as Genesis 6:3 says. It was not to be, “by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit”, (Zechariah 4:6), that Jerusalem would be rebuilt and the Promised Land reclaimed after the days of Daniel!
Meditate and Pray: Let us give thanks for the quiet and steady work of the Son of God in this fallen world – as He continues to use His Spirit to convict men of the truth (John 16:8-11). As John Owen wrote:
“When Christ has any great and signal work to bring forth in the world, He does by His Spirit deal with the hearts and consciences of the most wicked and vile men; which, when the secrets of all hearts shall be discovered at the last day, will exceedingly exalt the glory of His wisdom, patience, goodness, holiness and righteousness. So did God deal with the world before the flood – Gen. 6:3….His Spirit strived with men in that day…That this Spirit was the Spirit of Christ, and that the work of dealing with these ungodly men was the work of Christ, and that it was a fruit of long-suffering, Peter declares – 1 Peter 3:18-20.” John Owen Vol. 9, page 147