Summary: On Last Judgment Sunday, we focus on the Lord’s permanence, as well as his just decrees.
The original language of the Old Testament is Hebrew. The New Testament of the Bible was written in Greek. But we have an exception to that rule as our text for this morning. About half of the Old Testament Book of Daniel is written in Hebrew, and the other half, where our text for today is taken from, was written in the Aramaic language. Reading this in English, you’d probably never even know. So why are we making such a big deal about our text for today being written in Aramaic instead of Hebrew?
Aramaic, like Greek would be later, like English is today, was the international language of the day. In Daniel’s day, if you wanted to write something that everybody would be able to understand, you’d write it in Aramaic. If you wrote it in Hebrew, only the Jews would understand it. So what does this tell us the audience that God wanted for this text? Well, since God choose to have this written in the international language of the day, that meant that especially this part of the Bible was going to apply to everyone, Jew and non-Jew alike. The Lord wanted everyone to hear about this! And what he’s talking about in our text for today, that everyone needs to know about, is our service focus for today, Judgment Day. It’s going to affect everyone who has ever lived. It’s the day when God is going to sit on his royal throne and judge each person and give the verdict, either innocent or guilty. He’ll give the sentence, either heaven or hell.
Not only is this part of the Bible unique as to the language that it is written in, but God is given a name here that is not found anywhere else in the Bible. What does our reading call God? The Ancient of Days. What kinds of things would you call “ancient”? I guess the pyramids in Egypt, I’d say those are pretty ancient. Of course, they aren’t as nearly as glorious as they were when they were first built: with gleaming white rock and gold that has long been taken away. I guess Stonehenge would be called ancient, but it’s a ruin, only a fraction of what it once was. I guess we’d call great empires like the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, all these empires are “ancient.” But none of them are around today. Why would God use the word ancient to describe himself? To contrast the difference between him and man. To highlight the difference between God’s unchanging permanence with the changeableness and instability of all human power structures. God is ancient, but he isn’t ancient in the way that earthly things are. Earthly things that are ancient are nice reminders of the past, but are old, outdated, dilapidated. The Lord being the Ancient of Days is just as strong and wise and powerful as he was on Day 1 of the earth’s history.
And on Judgment Day, this Ancient of Days is going to take his throne. Much of the Book of Daniel is like Revelation: there are many picture words, and our aim isn’t so much to nail down what every single detail means, rather, we are to look at the big picture that the text paints. We are able to say some things about the details in Daniel’s vision. The Ancient of Days, sitting on his throne, is wearing white clothes and has white hair. We can confidently know what this refers to: white in the Bible is the color or purity and holiness. Likewise, his throne has an unusual feature, it has wheels of fire. Fire is many times used to denote the presence of God: think of Moses and the burning bush, or Pentecost, with the tongues of fire which appeared on the heads of the disciples. Or think of Elijah, who went to heaven in a fiery chariot, and we get a pretty good idea of what this throne with wheels of fire means: on it God himself sits, and the wheels stress his mobility. In fact, there isn’t any place in the universe where God isn’t. “Where can I flees from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I go down to the depths, you are there.”
Put all these things together: the unchangeable ancientness of God, his power, his purity, his onmipresence…what does God want to impress on us with all these details? It’s as if he’s saying, “Christian, you have nothing to worry about. Some day I’m going to come and show the world who I really am.” And isn’t that nice to know, as we live in a world that is anything but pure and anything but unchangeable and stable. The way of the world is chaos. The world is a violent, unloving, unstable, look-out-for-yourself place. The world offers wars and the threats of wars. Our world has snipers, mean people, materialistic people. And I don’t know about you, but so many times it feels that people who take the Bible seriously are so much in the minority. Even so many Christians scoff at the doctrines taught in this very church, “oh, come on, you don’t practice open communion…get with the times! Your church doesn’t allow women pastors…come on, those parts of the Bible don’t apply to the 21st Century! Your church is so worried about splitting hairs; I don’t think Jesus would like what you’re doing.” But you see, you and I don’t have to wonder about what God might think about certain doctrines. God wrote a book. He wrote a book, didn’t he, where he spelled out his will for the Church and for you. The unchangeable Ancient of Days has spoken, and we do well to listen to all of his Word. God isn’t swayed by public opinion, and isn’t that a blessing? I mean, isn’t it wonderful that our world is run and will be judged by a being that is far more lofty than you or I could possibly imagine? The hourglass of human history is running out, and it can’t come soon enough for me. Don’t get me wrong; I’m very happy with how the elections went this past Tuesday, but I’m looking forward to the day when I live under a perfect ruler: the Ancient of Days, gleaming in innocence on his majestic throne. That’s a sight that you’re going to see one day.