Summary: God has a plan for taking the monsters we face in the world and our personal lives. The SON OF MAN finds fulfillment in Jesus, who overcomes by the cross, resurrection, ascension, and return.
TAMING THE MONSTERS—Daniel 7
***When our son was about six, we asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. His answer surprised us: He wanted to be monster-handler. I can only imagine the monsters he imagined in his room or under his bed, but he thought grownups would have use for a monster-handler, to tame their monsters. Sometimes I feel like I could use one!**
As adults, our monsters lurk in our thoughts, sometimes rising to the surface to threaten us: Cancer… Altzheimers...Being alone. They threaten our families: Drugs..Mental illness…Disastrous choices. They loom in the darkness of our world: The economy...Political unrest..Moral breakdown…Cultural rot.
Sometimes, in the middle of the night, the “monsters” surface in our dreams or persistent thoughts, and peaceful sleep eludes us. That is what happened to Daniel.
In the first 6 chapters of the book of Daniel, it seems that DANIEL LIVED A CHARMED LIFE.
Born into a royal family, he was taken into exile by the Babylonians. Landing on his feet, he became an intern in the king’s court. Taking a stand for his identity as a Jew, he was allowed to eat kosher, and he and his friends thrived.
When King Nebuchadnezzar had dreams, God gave Daniel the interpretation, and Nebuchnezzar elevated him to a high position. When Belshazzar ruled as king, Daniel interpreted the writing on the wall, rising to an even a higher position. Landing on his feet again when the Persians took over, he rose to a high position. When his jealous fellow-administrators got him thrown into a lion’s den, the lions lost their appetite.
It would be easy to end our study of Daniel after chapter 6, with Daniel on top of the world. We would all want to be like Daniel, strong and courageous.
***When I was a child, I learned a little song about Daniel: “Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone, dare to have a purpose firm, dare to make it known.” Daniel demonstrated courage, faith and trust in God. Yet that only scratches the surface of Daniel, for Daniel was living in a complex world, where only God could rescue him and make sense of life.**
Below his surface demeanor of confidence peace, Daniel was having dreams and visions—strange, troubling, yet wonderfully grand dreams. The last six chapters of the book of Daniel are the dreams and visions of Daniel, which are strange and often puzzling. Yet they yield important insights and lessons for people like us.
In chapter 7, the writer of Daniel flashes back to a time before the lion’s den, even before the writing on the wall, which happened at the end of Belshazzar’s reign.
DANIEL HAS A DREAM of a scary primeval sea and roaring wind, with monsters:
Read Daniel 7:1-14.
What a nightmare! Dreams often reveal thoughts below the surface of our conscious minds, and Daniel had many reasons to see the world as a place of beasts.
Yet the beasts are not all Daniel sees.
In his dream, Daniel sees “The Ancient of Days,” undoubtedly representing God. He is scary, more scary than the beasts, which is a good thing! His throne is flaming with fire, with blazing wheels, and there is a river of fire flowing out from his throne. Surrounding his throne stands an unimaginable number of attendants. When they sit, books are opened—books of judgment?
The “little horn”—the outcropping of the fourth beast—is not awed by the Ancient of Days, and he continues to boast of his power. Finally, the fourth beast is slain, and his body is thrown into the fire. God handles the monster!
***English writer G.K. Chesterton said, “Fairytales don’t teach children that monsters exist. They already know that monsters exist. Fairy tales teach children that monsters can be killed.” The Bible is not a fairy tale, although a dream can have a similar function. Adults need to know that monsters can be killed!**
Daniel awakens from his dream (or was it a vision, half-asleep?), and his reaction is surprising: “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me.” (Daniel 7:15)
Why was Daniel troubled and disturbed?
For one thing, Daniel had a vision of God! When Isaiah saw a vision of God, he said, “Woe to me!...I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:5) When Ezekiel saw a vision of God, he fell flat on his face, and then sat in silence for 7 days, overwhelmed.
The other reason Daniel was troubled was that he realized he was stuck somewhere in the middle of his dream. Yes, God is on his throne—in heaven—but on the earth, beasts roam.