I don't watch soap operas. There's something about them that I've always detested. The storylines seem so dreary and hopeless. According to Wikepedia, "Soap opera[s] sometimes weave intricate, convoluted, and sometimes confusing tales of characters who have affairs, meet mysterious strangers and fall in love, and who commit adultery, all of which keeps audiences hooked on the unfolding story twists" As I said, I don't watch them, but sometimes when my car is in the Honda shop and I am waiting in the customer lounge where there is a TV blaring loudly, it is hard to ignore. And what I see is so depressing. The characters seem so selfish and power hungry.
The story of JonBenet Ramsey's horrible murder in 1996 seemed like a soap opera show on steroids, but it was real life. It involved the rich and powerful and beautiful, along with expensive attorneys. The public and the media were fascinated with everything connected with the Ramsey family and the child beauty pageants they were involved with.
It has now been 10 years since her murder. Over that time, there has been no sense of resolution, no sense of closure, only unsubstantiated suspicions. But last August, when John Mark Karr confessed involvement in her death, there was quite a media storm and fascination with the case. And there was a glimmer of hope that there might be a sense of resolution and closure to the case. But with his confession being deemed false, that glimmer faded and now there is still no closure, no resolution.
As I said, I don't watch soap operas. I don't need to. I read the Bible where there are plenty of selfish, power-hungry characters trying to take control. For example, have you read the book of Judges lately? Or what about Daniel 11?
Daniel 11 talks about the dramatic interplay of evil and selfish forces that we live with and the tension, the lack of resolution for God's people. Persecution, injustice and ill- treatment have faced Christians down through the centuries. Their earthly fates have been determined by evil forces and circumstances for which they have no control or choosing. I invite you to open your Bibles to Daniel 11. Let's look for how God's people can handle being in that evil situation.
We will also address how to approach this very difficult chapter. So first of all, an Adventist Interpretation 101 Course on Daniel 11: One thing that is very different about Daniel 11 is that there are no beasts or animals being used as symbols. But it's still hard to follow. As far as the interpretation of the chapter there are three factors we should remember: Daniel 11 begins with a reference to King Cyrus, who was reigning at the time.
Since chapters 10-12 are really one unit, the vision of chapter 11 ends with what can only be the resurrection at Jesus coming. That means the interpretation of Daniel 11 covers a long period of time. In that sense it parallels the broad sweep of history that is encompassed in Daniel 2, 7, and 8. Important landmarks in the chapter are in verses 22 and 31. The "Prince of the Covenant" in verse 22 is Jesus Christ in my interpretation. That means by verse 22 we are at least in the time of Christ. And as far as verse 31, "the abomination that makes desolate," Jesus himself said in Matthew 24:15 that it was future in His day. So by the time we reach verse 31 we must be well into the Christian era. Are you still with me?
Also, as I mentioned earlier, the prophecies of Daniel 2, 7, and 8 parallel each other, each in turn providing more detail. We would expect, then, that Daniel 11 would follow the same pattern. That pattern would cover the kingdom of Persia, Greece, pagan Rome and then apostate Christian Rome. Now, we could have titled this chapter, "The Empires Strike Back." But Daniel 11 is more than a history about the King of the North, the Greek-Syrian Seleucid Empire, fighting against the King of the South, the Greek-Egyptian Ptolemic Empire. It's more than just history about the Roman empire and what would follow.
What can we find that gives us hope? What is there in Daniel 11 that gives us encouragement? This "Soap Opera of the Nations" seems hopeless at first. But there must be something that can give us help for our lives today. It's time to discover the hope in Daniel 11. Let's notice the patterns of language in the chapter, without trying to define who it is talking about. Daniel 11:12, And when the multitude is taken away, his heart shall be exalted, and he shall cast down tens of thousands, but he shall not prevail.
If you wish to, get out your pen or pencil and underline that last phrase, "but he shall not prevail." Let's look at other verses, too, and underline the qualifying phrases. Daniel 11:14, In those times many shall rise against the king of the south, and the violent among your own people shall lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision, but they shall fail. Daniel 11:19, Then he shall turn his face back toward the fortresses of his own land, but he shall stumble and fall, and shall not be found. Daniel 11:24, Without warning he shall come into the richest parts of the province, and he shall do what neither his fathers nor his fathers' fathers have done, scattering among them plunder, spoil, and goods. He shall devise plans against strongholds, but only for a time. Daniel 11:27, And as for the two kings, their hearts shall be bent on doing evil. They shall speak lies at the same table, but to no avail, for the end is yet to be at the time appointed. Daniel 11:35 and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time. And finally,in Daniel 11:45, And he shall pitch his palatial tents between the sea and the glorious holy mountain. Yet he shall come to his end, with none to help him.
Did you notice that last sentence? "Yet he shall come to his end, with none to help him." What pattern do you see here? Evil forces will ascend into prominence, but there will be a limit to their selfish control. God puts a check on evil, earthly rulers. There is an appointed time for them to begin and an appointed time for them to end.
As I looked at these verses, I asked myself the question, "What is the message of Daniel 11?"
You see, with God's plan, no evil will be in total and complete control. God puts a limit on those evil forces. It's almost like the Jews' situation back then, as the armies of various conquerors would sway this way and that across their land. Their fate was bound up with whoever was in charge of their land, either for good or for evil.
And we too live in a time of tension, a time of no resolution, a time of terrorists who want to seize control. Despite this time of relative freedom of worship in our own country, it is still a time of cautious, fleeting peace when we look at the grand sweep of history and the future that Revelation reveals is coming. But what are we to do during this time? Daniel 11:32 and 33 tell us, He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder.
What's the response of God's people to the events of this world? First, they are to know their God so well that they can be strong and carry out God's purposes for their lives. Second, they are to be wise and instruct many.
Reading Daniel 11 and thinking about this message reminds me of another time and another place. Imagine a very tired Jesus sleeping soundly in the stern of a very fishy smelling boat. But the boat is not still. It's rocking back and forth as waves and wind and storm howl and threaten. There's a flurry of action all around Jesus. Water is being thrown all over the boat by the action of the wind and waves in concert. There's the sound of rough fishermen yelling and shouting at the top of their lungs. It's a time of fear, as the disciples realize they're in a losing battle with the wind and waves.
The lightning strikes, illuminating the boat. They see Jesus sleeping. Waking Him, they cry out, "Teacher, don't you care that we are perishing?"
That's when Jesus gets up and rebukes the wind and the sea, saying, "Peace! Be still." Then, with everything calm again, Jesus turns to the disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?"
For me, that story in Mark 4 symbolizes the history that Daniel 11 is describing for us. It symbolizes the strife, the uncertainty, the dangerous times in which we live. Have you ever cried out, "God, don't you care?" Daniel 11 tells us, "Yes, God does care." And Jesus is still in command of the events of earth's history. The winds of strife and the seas of evil people in the world, but also the struggles in our own personal lives all of those things are subject to God's will. The winds and the waves obey His will.
For us personally, we may experience great hardship and turmoil and yet we can know God so well that we are strong in our faith. We don't have to be afraid of what happens to us. God can speak "Peace, be still!" to our trembling hearts, even in the midst of our various personal storms. Are we listening?
If we determine to know Him, we will have peace, we will have the trust and faith we need during these times.
There was a story of Two Frogs printed in the Signs of the Times, September 11, 1956, that illustrates the perseverance we need in this respect:
Two frogs fell into a bucket of cream, and struggled to keep afloat, but one soon tired and sank to rest with a gurgling sigh in his throat. The other paddled away all night, and not a croak did he utter, and with the coming of morning light he rode on an island of butter. The flies came thick to his island home and made him a breakfast snappy. The milkmaid shrieked and upset the pail, and froggy happily hopped away. The plainest moral is in this rhyme, which we should at once apply: Success will come at a trying time if we paddle and never say "Die!" We must be like that frog. In order to trust our God and not be afraid of all that happens around us, we must know Him and never give up in seeking to know Him better.
How does a person know God? Only by spending time reading God's Word. More specifically, I believe, it is reading the life of Christ in the gospels. After all, Jesus did say, "If you have seen Me, you've seen the Father." So spend time reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to come face to face with the clearest revelation of God.
What is your most important goal in life? Is it knowing God? Knowing Him means we will be able to handle better the pain we are in now. Knowing God gives us hope.
A boy was sitting contentedly in the coach of a train traveling through the dry West. It was a miserably hot day but he always had a smile on his face. Others complained of the heat and the dust. Some found fault with the railroad. Others complained they were not comfortable. And traveling was very tiresome and boring.
The boy, however, looked contented. He didn't complain. He even seemed to be enjoying the dried-out country, which to others had become so monotonous.
A curious mother in the seat behind the boy was wondering why. When she could control her curiosity no longer, she leaned forward and asked, "Aren't you tired of this heat?"
"Yes, ma'am, I am. But I don't mind it much."
The lady was about to ask, "Why not?" when the boy finished his sentence, "Because, my daddy is going to meet me when we get to Winnipeg." He was trusting his father to be there.
Are we trusting our heavenly Father to be there for us? The God we have the privilege to know in this life, our Father, is waiting for us at the end of the journey. The road is rough at times; life seems almost unbearable. There are trials, troubles, heartaches, burdens, disappointments. But our Father is at the journey's end, waiting to welcome us!2
1. See http://wikipedia.org/wiki/soap_opera
2. By C. L. Paddock, Signs of the Times, December 17, 1940.
Hymn of Praise: #244, My Song Shal Be of Jesus Scripture: Daniel 11:32,33 Hymn of Response: #509, How Firm a Foundation
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last updated 10/09/06 by Bob Beckett.