GETTING THE MESSAGE/The faithful may stumble
In Daniel chapter 11, an angel gives Daniel a detailed prophecy of the kingdoms that will affect the people of Israel for the next several centuries. The time of this prophecy is around 500 BC. I will summarize the structure of the passage and then look at some application.
Verses 2 and 3 speak of the next most significant rulers to come. Xerxes is the strong Persian king in verse 2. He was the king in the book of Esther (475 BC). His aggression toward Greece led to the downfall of the Persian Empire and the ascendency of Greece. Verse 3 refers to Alexander the Great, who died around 323 BC.
When Alexander died, his kingdom was split into 4 kingdoms. In verses 5-20 the angel speaking to Daniel focuses on the struggle between the southern and northern kingdoms, meaning the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt and the Seleucid dynasty in Syria. The prophecy centers on them because Israel is caught in the middle of their wars to conquer and control each other and the land of Palestine, the glorious land mentioned in verse 16. These verses cover the time of 322-175 BC.
Verses 21-35 depict the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. He was also written of in Daniel chapter 8, a type of anti-Christ. He oppressed the people of Israel and desecrated the temple worship.
This is an unusual prophecy because of such specific detail. Because of that, many critics don’t believe it was written by Daniel, but rather by someone after the events as a history. But the book says God sent an angel to Daniel with this information. It is hard for some to believe God is God. There is nothing He doesn’t know or nothing He cannot do. He chose to give this information to us before it happened. The question we should ask is why?
The futility of the kingdoms of men is a pervasive theme in verses 5-20. Power ebbs back and forth between the two kingdoms at great cost of lives and wealth. The depravity within them culminates in a personification of evil in king Antiochus Epiphanes. This is a history of wicked kings.
We are taught that the prospects of the wicked are dismal. Their brightest hopes will fail them. Their hopes rest on errors: that God does not care what they do and that they are not answerable to the Lord God. Nevertheless, God says in Isaiah 40 that He sits above the circle of the earth and brings princes to nothing.
We also see that Israel is weak during this time, subject to the whims of these warring kingdoms. Her trajectory is downward in both power and faithfulness, though there is a faithful remnant. The days of power like David and Solomon will not return to Israel. When Christ comes, He invites men into the kingdom of God which is an eternal and righteous kingdom. This call to enter God’s kingdom is in light of the futility and demise of the kingdoms of men. The Lord Jesus will come as King who serves His people, a stark contrast to earthly kings.
Verses 29-34 are about the evil Antiochus inflicts on the people of God. Some were led away from the holy covenant by his deception, while others resisted and suffered for their faithfulness. The faithful are assured of being vindicated by God in the end (verse 35).
The Bible often repeats that the people of God are to be heavenly minded. Heaven is where the citizenship of the Christian is. Our hearts are to be where Christ is, trusting in Him as we serve Him in this world. The promise of His salvation is both comforting and strengthening in dark days.
This is yet another passage in Daniel that warns about tribulation for God’s people in this world. We are taught to be more afraid of sin than suffering. A man may be afflicted and yet greatly loved by God, as the angel told Daniel (chapters 9, 10). The conscience may be at ease before God in suffering, but not in denying or compromising the Lord.
The words of verse 35 are comforting. The faithful may stumble, but they are refined, purified, and made white. The way was hard, but the end is blessed. For the believer, the darkest night will be followed by the brightest morning. All these historical details God gives us are to say that He is sovereign over the kingdoms of this world, and His people will inherit His kingdom in due time.