Introduction: The theme of last week’s and this week’s notes is, “Seeing the invisible realities of Christ’s Kingdom by faith”. For example, in turning to the visions of Daniel, we ought to be so impressed by the book’s depiction of the greater realities of the unseen world, which outweigh the temporal concerns of this visible world. There is no question but that “what we cannot see” explains what we do see with our eyes. As Hebrews 11:1-3 say, “what is visible was made by what we cannot see”!
Mon/Tues: read Daniel 6:19-23; 7:9-10; 8:15-19; 9:20-23; 10:1-12 & Hebrews 1:14. As the large number of references to angels in Daniel shows, one of the first characteristics of the unseen, spiritual world is the amount of angelic activity. Angels are simply a massive reality, and a huge demonstration of the power of God. I mean, have you ever tried to count the number of angels found in Daniel 7:10? What does “a thousand thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand” mean in terms of the number of angels that stand before the throne of God ready to instantly do His bidding? Such a numberless host of servants … who live (most amazingly) to serve us as God’s people, (Hebrews 1:14), speaks to the complete control God has over every part of His creation! There is simply no corner of creation which God has “given up” to the hosts of darkness as unsalvageable! On every corner of the spiritual world, God has His ‘angelic convenient stores’, which never go out of business and always have all needed spiritual supplies on hand.
But now a most amazing thing – It would be stupendous enough for our meditation on Scripture this week to simply dwell upon the spiritual aids which angels provide, (and indeed, we’ll end this week’s notes by focusing on some of the spiritual ways they help us!), but we must needs also realize that they impact our physical world as well. As 2 Kings 19:35 shows us, one angel was mighty enough in Isaiah’s day to strike down 185,000 Assyrian soldiers so their dead bodies filled their camp in the early morning. Isn’t that a sign that God is involved in every physical aspect of our universe as well as all spiritual facets of life? Let’s paraphrase John Owen’s description of such concrete and effective angelic activity, used by God to keep us safe in this evil world:
God sends forth His angels to minister for the good of believers, to preserve them from many dangers and ruinous casualties that would otherwise befall them. Much of the goal of Psalm 91 is to acquaint us with such angelic preservation. The charge angels have from God is to, “keep us in all our ways” (Ps. 91:11-12), that we stumble not, and is a charge that includes keeping us from all the dangers which we are exposed to, including all the evils listed in the beginning of this Psalm …
… Now, of course, we know it is the will of God that His saints should be afflicted and tried for the trial of their faith and obedience. But yet, in the management of these calamitous accidents or troubles, believers have no less benefit by the ministry of angels than they have in respect of those from which they are preserved by them. For such trials are ordered for our good by God, and one proof that they are for our good is that God sends His angels to support us under them, and deliver us from them at the appointed time – all special mercies which we receive by the ministry of angels.
Wednesday: read Revelation 19:9-10; Daniel 8:15-19; 10:1-9 & 12:5-7: We are not to worship angels, or to magnify them in themselves. As the angel says to John in Revelation 19:9-10, “Worship God!” They clearly have a mere creaturely role to play, in service to our Savior, and are tools or appendages of His saving work towards us, and nothing more.
For example, the very same Divine figure of glory who hovers above Daniel in Daniel 12:6 and who also appears in Divine resplendence of face, voice and body in Daniel 10:5-6, speaks a voice of command to Gabriel to explain the vision to Daniel in 8:16. In this way, we see how the Son of God in human form, (as a foreshadowing of His incarnation), uses angels to help His people. How wonderful, therefore, that it is never just angels who are sent to protect us – God always sends His Son when His people are threatened. That is why the Psalmist can promise us that, in all our dangers and trials… “The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him” (Psalm 34:7)! This Angel, we know from places such as Genesis 32:24 and Genesis 48:16, is none other than the “face of God” revealed to men! Jacob knows He has encountered the second person of the Trinity when he speaks of seeing, “the face of God” (Genesis 32:30), and Hosea the prophet, when speaking about this appearance of God to Jacob, says he wrestled not only with the “angel” in Hosea 12:4, but in doing so, “met God” at that place!
Meditate and Pray: We should never think so lowly of ourselves that we give up on God’s drawing near us through His Son to help us in our time of need! Sing about the Son of God’s willingness to come down into the very dust and trouble of this world, using Wesley’s words:
Come, O thou traveler unknown,
Whom still I hold, but cannot see,
My company before is gone,
And I am left alone with Thee;
With Thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.
I need not tell Thee who I am,
My misery, or sin declare;
Thyself hast called me by my name,
Look on Thy hands, and read it there;
But who, I ask Thee, who art Thou?
Tell me Thy name, and tell me now.
In vain Thou strugglest to get free,
I never will unloose my hold:
Art Thou the man that died for me?
The secret of Thy love unfold;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.
Wilt Thou not yet to me reveal
Thy new, unutterable name?
Tell me, I still beseech Thee, tell,
To know it now resolved I am;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.
Yield to me now—for I am weak,
But confident in self-despair;
Speak to my heart, in blessings speak,
Be conquered by my instant prayer;
Speak, or Thou never hence shalt move,
And tell me if Thy name is Love.
I know Thee, Savior, who Thou art.
Jesus, the feeble sinner’s friend;
Nor wilt Thou with the night depart.
But stay and love me to the end,
Thy mercies never shall remove;
Thy nature and Thy name is Love.
Thurs/Fri: read Daniel 10:7-12. There is another amazing fact about angels, and the help they give us, which is revealed via a closer look at Daniel 10. Notice that we are clearly told in Daniel 10:7 that the reality of what Daniel saw about the angelic world was part of a vision. In other words, this was a purely spiritual event in which the unseen glory of the Son of God, called in the Old Testament, ‘the Angel of the Lord’, was revealed to Daniel. It was the weight of glory in this vision which drove away Daniel’s companions in utter terror (Dan. 10:7) and which drove him flat onto his face! How amazing – that something purely spiritual, and unseen save to the eyes of the prophet Daniel, could have such a powerful effect in this life!
But, you say, how can God produce such powerful physical impacts as Daniel’s prostration and his friends’ terror, through merely spiritual means? The answer must be that it is through the Spirit of God that the power of God is experienced! The unseen really does control what is visible.
Alas, how easily forgettable this spiritual lesson is for us in this very material world! Just a few decades after Daniel, God’s people, returning from Babylonian exile, were very discouraged by the physically unimpressive temple of the Lord which they saw rebuilt. Many who had seen the glory of Solomon’s first temple wept because there was no outward, physical glory in what had been erected in Jerusalem in its place, (Ezra 3:12-13). They were tempted to “despise the day of small things.” This is why the prophet Zechariah, who prophesied at just this time of history, reminded those who were judging from what they saw with their eyes … that the mighty work God was doing in their midst was, “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit.” (Zech. 4:6)
In our day also, we must not forget to magnify the Holy Spirit of God, as He effectively but silently works, “convicting men of sin, righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8-11)!
Meditate and Pray: Ask the Lord to work mightily by His Spirit in our day as He has done in days past, using hymn # 330:
Holy Ghost, dispel our sadness;
Pierce the clouds of nature’s night;
Come, great Source of joy and gladness,
Breathe Your life, and spread Your light.
Loving Spirit, God of peace,
great distributor of grace,
rest upon this congregation:
hear, O hear our supplication.
From the height which knows no measure,
As a gracious shower descend,
Bringing down the richest treasure
Man can wish, or God can send.
Heavn’ly Glory, shining down,
From the Father and the Son,
Grant us your illumination;
Rest upon this congregation.
Author of the new creation,
Come with blessing and with power.
Make our hearts your habitation;
On our souls Your graces shower.
Hear, O hear our supplication,
Blessèd Spirit, God of peace!
Rest upon this congregation,
With the fullness of Your grace.
Sat/Sun: read Daniel 10:12-21. The final fact about angels in this week’s notes is that there is a terrible conflict going on all the time, between God’s holy angels, and the fallen, defiled and lost demonic angels under Satan’s control. Many scholars see evidence of this conflict in Daniel 10:13-14, where the three-week delay in answering Daniel’s prayer is explained by this intense spiritual warfare. During Daniel’s three week fast, (Daniel 10:3), the twenty-one day delay in God’s answer is attributed to the Satanically inspired resistance of the “prince of Persia”. Evidently, this refers to the “principalities and powers” of evil that oppose Christ.
This is indeed mind-boggling – how can God’s answers to the prayers of His saints be delayed? How can this conflict in the Heavenlies be so difficult – even for the Almighty Angel of the Lord?
Answer # 1: Sometimes God delays answers to the prayers of the saints in order to underline the costliness of answered prayer when those answers come from the hands of His Son. In short, if Daniel 10:12’s speaker is the same Angel of the Lord who appears to Daniel in Daniel 10:5-6, we see the cost for this Divine Messenger to contest against evil powers and bring the answer of hope to Daniel’s prayers – as a sober foreshadowing of His willingness to wait long for God to hear His prayer on the Cross! Even as hymn # 250 puts it:
Throned upon the awful tree,
Lamb of God, Your grief I see.
Darkness veils Your anguished face;
None its lines of woe can trace.
None can tell what pangs unknown
Hold You silent and alone.
Silent through those three dread hours,
Wrestling with the evil powers,
Left alone with human sin,
Gloom around You and within,
Till the appointed time is nigh,
Til the Lamb of God may die.
Hark, that cry that peals aloud
Upward through the whelming cloud!
You, the Father’s only Son,
You, His own anointed One,
You are asking can it be
Why have You forsaken Me?
Lord, should fear and anguish roll,
Darkly o’er my sinful soul,
You, who once were thus bereft
That Your own might ne’er be left,
Teach me by that bitter cry
In the gloom to know You nigh.
Answer # 2: The labor and conflict between God’s Messenger and the powers of Hell demonstrate to us the value which God places on His people – as something worth fighting for! If all that God did was instant, and His work of salvation was as easy and immediate as His creation of the world, would we really know that He loved us enough to fight for us? But instead, as we see the ‘Angel of the Lord’ willing to get down and dirty in the dust of sin and evil … we see how much He loves the Bride, (the Church), for whom He will one day die! Just as we measure the love of Jacob for Rachael in his willingness to labor hard for seven years to have her in Genesis 29:30, so we see our Savior willing to fight for weeks before coming with an answer to Daniel, and thus understand how His strong love for Daniel gave Him determination to persevere until He secured our needed answer to our prayers!
And does He not pray with the same intensity in the midst of conflict for us? John Calvin’s comments below remind us that answering prayer, as a sign of Christ’s love – always involves His conflicting with evil powers on our behalf, just as He interceded as the ‘Angel of the Lord’ for the defiled priest Joshua, who was disqualified by sin from leading God’s people after the polluting effects of the exile in Babylon, (Zech. 3:1-5):
“The vision was given to the Prophet … so that the faithful might know that their contest was with Satan … God, then, in the first place, purposed to remind the faithful that they had to carry on war, not with flesh and blood, but with the devil himself: this is one thing.
He says that Joshua the high priest was shown to him. This was done no doubt in a prophetic vision: but yet Zechariah saw nothing by the Spirit but what was known even to children. But, as I have already said, we must observe the intentions of the vision, which was, that the faithful might understand that … Satan turned every stone and tried every experiment to make void the favor of God. And this knowledge was very useful to the Jews, as it is to us at this day. We wonder why so many enemies daily rage against us, and why the whole world burn against us with such implacable hatred; and also why so many intrigues arise, and so many assaults are made, which have not been excited through provocation on our part: but the reason why we wonder is this, — because we bear not in mind that we are fighting with the devil, the head and prince of the whole world. For were it a fixed principle in our minds, that all the ungodly are influenced by the devil, there would then be nothing new in the fact, that all unitedly rage against us. How so? Because they are moved by the same spirit, and their father is a murderer, even from the beginning. (John 8:44.)
We hence see that the faithful were taught what was extremely necessary, — that their troubles arose from many nations, because Satan watched for their ruin. And though this vision was given to the Prophet for the sake of his own age, yet it no doubt belongs also to us; for Joshua’s priesthood was a representation of the priesthood of Christ, and Joshua, who was then returned from exile, bore the character of Christ the Son of God. Let us then know that Christ never performs the work of the priesthood, but that Satan stands at his side, that is, devises all means by which he may remove and withdraw Christ from his office. It hence follows, that they are much deceived, who think that they can live idly under the dominion of Christ: for we all have a warfare, for which each is to arm and equip himself. Therefore at this day, when we see the world seized with so much madness, that it assails us, and would wholly consume us, let not our thoughts be fixed on flesh and blood, for Satan is the chief warrior who assails us, and who employs all the rage of the world to destroy us, if possible, on every side. Satan then ever stands at Christ’s right hand, so as not to allow him in peace to exercise his priestly office.”
Meditate and Pray: In light of such sobering confirmations of our true spiritual battle, ought we not join Daniel in fasting and prayer until His long-delayed answer to our prayers arrives! Oh, may the Lord give us strength to persevere in such a costly battle, knowing that Jesus has prayed for us – that our faith won’t fail! Use hymn # 575 to help you:
Soldiers of Christ, arise,
And put your armor on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies
Through His eternal Son.
Strong in the Lord of hosts,
And in His mighty power,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts
Is more than conqueror.
Stand then in His great might,
With all His strength endued,
And take, to arm you for the fight,
The panoply of God;
That, having all things done,
And all your conflicts past,
Ye may o’ercome through Christ alone
And stand entire at last.
Jesus hath died for you!
What can His love withstand?
Believe, hold fast your shield, and who
Shall pluck you from His hand?
Believe that Jesus reigns,
All power to Him is given:
Believe, till freed from sin’s remains;
Believe yourselves to Heaven.
To keep your armor bright,
Attend with constant care,
Still walking in your Captain’s sight,
From strength to strength go on;
Wrestle and fight and pray;
Steadfastly set your face,
Tread all the powers of darkness down,
And win the well-fought day.