TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- DANIEL 8:1-27
Daniel has a vision of a ram with two horns, one longer than the other, and a goat. He has this vision during the third year of Belshazzar’s reign in Babylon (551 B.C.). Once again, this is a predictive prophecy, a vision given many years before it is fulfilled. It will be fulfilled accurately. God transports Daniel to Susa, one of the capital cities of the future Persian Empire. There will be no Babylon in this vision, for in a few short years, the Babylonian Empire will be no more.
We are told what the ram and goat represent. The ram is the Medo-Persian Empire that will succeed the Babylonian Empire (Daniel 8:20). The Medo-Persian alliance was not equally balanced, as evident in the unequally sized horns. Persia would dominate Media, increasing the Empire in size and power through the Achaemenid dynasty, Cyrus, and his descendants.
The male goat coming from the West represents the Greek Empire (Daniel 8:21) which under the leadership of Alexander the Great will attack and overthrow the Persian Empire in 331 B.C., more than 200 years in the future. At Daniel’s time, Greece was not considered a world power. Alexander would conquer the surrounding nations with great speed and military strategy.
Just as Daniel had interpreted the handwriting on the wall at Belshazzar’s feast, accurately predicting the overthrow of the Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C., Daniel’s dream accurately predicted the overthrow of the Medo-Persian Empire by the Greeks.
There are various configurations of power in the Greek Empire (the goat) as the large conspicuous horn on its head breaks and four conspicuous horns grow in its place (Daniel 8:8). Out of one of those horns grows one that is exceedingly great and rises to the hosts of heaven. It causes stars to fall and be trampled down. It magnified itself to be equal with God, “the Commander of the host,” and removed the regular sacrifices and threw down the place of His sanctuary. The worship in the sanctuary will be given over to this beast. It will “fling truth to the ground and perform its will and prosper” (Daniel 8:12).
And he answered, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the holy place will be properly restored”.
In verses 15-17, Daniel cries out for understanding. But he is incapable of understanding apart from divine intervention, as we all are. The voice of the heavenly man cries out, “Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision.”
The Bible tells us about the role that the angels play in the lives of those who are heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14). They protect us and act as God’s secret angels who are able to give us special understanding. How grateful we are for their assistance! Here Gabriel approaches Daniel and tells him that the vision pertains to ‘the time of the end’ (Daniel 8:17). Here we have an example of an angel who communicates important information that settles the matter for the troubled human being. This is the same Gabriel that answered the questions of bewildered Zacharias (Luke 1:19) and Mary (Luke 1:26) and settled their hearts with spiritual understanding, an understanding that settled the matter.
Once again, we notice the breath-taking appearance of angels that often causes the beholder to fearfully fall prostrate before them, necessitating the angel’s command to “Fear not” when introducing themselves.
The angel tells Daniel about the end of the Greek Empire, which foreshadows the end of the age before the arrival of the kingdom of God with the second coming of Christ. The single horn, representing the kingdom of Alexander, breaks off into four parts (Daniel 11:4). When Alexander died in his thirties, His kingdom was split into four parts under four generals- Ptolemy I of Egypt and Palestine, Seleucius of Babylonia and Syria, Lysimachus of Asia Minor, and Antipater of Macedon and Greece. The fourth of these horns (the Seleucid) grows, and the leader becomes mighty, not by its own power but by the Satanic powers of darkness (Daniel 8:24). This small horn that grows describes Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who in the second century B.C. attacked Israel. He was the eighth ruler of the Seleucid Empire (Babylonia and Syria). This dictator is accurately predicted to destroy mighty men and persecute the saints, desecrating the Lord’s sanctuary in the Beautiful Land (Israel), overthrowing the high priest, and setting up his own Greek religion in the temple of God, the worship of Zeus.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes of Greece forced people around the Empire to worship the Olympian Zeus. When the Jews returned to their homeland from their captivity in Babylon, they are forever cured of their heathen habits of idolatry. When Antiochus IV attempts to impose the worship of Zeus in the temple, they do not put up with him easily. He persecuted Jews severely (which we will read about in Daniel 11).
He assails “The commander of the host,” the Creator of the Universe, by plundering His temple and massacring the Jews who resisted his pagan religion. He would come back later and desecrate the temple by offering unclean animals (pigs).
Antiochus IV’s title “Epiphanes” means ‘manifestation of God’. He was such a megalomaniac that his subjects called him Antiochus Epimanes (‘the mad one’) behind his back.
Antiochus attacks the Scriptures also, “flinging truth to the ground” (Dan 8:12).
This remarkable prophecy anticipates the Man of Sin, the Antichrist, who is still to come (See 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Daniel 8:17, 19, 23; 11:36).
Daniel was exhausted and made sick for days by this vision. He kept it to himself because it was a vision for the distant future. He was astounded by what he had seen. And he wrote it down.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – 1 JOHN 2:1-17
A major theme in the first epistle of John is assurance of salvation.
In Chapter 1, we learned that because God is light, sin is a real problem. We cannot wish it away. We cannot pray it away. We need to see it as it is- the seed of rebellion that declares, “We will not have this man rule over us”. Sin kills any potential for fellowship with God. That is why the Apostle Paul reminds the Ephesians that we were born ‘dead in our trespasses and sins’, spiritually subject to Satan who rules over and operates through ‘the sons of disobedience’ (Ephesians 2:1-2). It takes God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves to save us from our sins (Ephesians 2:8-9). Call it “Operation Grace”.
The light exposes the hidden things of darkness. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceived and are walking in darkness. However, in God’s light, we shall see light, and our sin will be recognized for what it is, exceedingly sinful (Psalm36:9; Romans 7:13).
So, what do we do with our sin? We confess our sin (1 John 1:9). The Greek word for ‘confess’ is ‘homo-logeo’-and in the context means, ‘say the same thing that God says about it’.
We must recognize that the only way for sin to be dealt with is for the Righteous God to righteously provide a way to forgive sin and put it off our record forever. The only way is through substitution. God substitutes Himself for us by sending His Son to justly absorb our sin-debt and pay it on our behalf. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, who became our sin-bearer and justifier, rose from the dead and is now our Advocate.
1 John 2:1-2 1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Notice John the Baptist did not say that Jesus takes away the ‘sins’ (plural) of the world, but the ‘sin’ (singular), meaning the whole problem of sin. He is the only solution for the problem of sin. He provides the solution through His righteous living and dying on our behalf (as our Substitute) so that we could receive forgiveness and eternal life through the Holy Spirit, who teaches us to deny ungodliness and submit joyfully to God’s Word.
This solution is offered to all but applied to those who believe. It is only to those who believe that the atonement is particularly effective.
We can know this atonement is effective when it is evidenced by the new life within- new desires to love God, submit to Christ as our Lord, trust Him as Savior, keep His commandments, love the brethren, love not the world, forgive others as we know we have been forgiven, and desire to do the will of God in all things (1 John 2:3-5, 7-11, 15-17). This is all the work of the Holy Spirit. And it is the Spirit who witnesses to our hearts the assurance of our salvation, the effectiveness of Christ’s atonement on our behalf, and our adoption into God’s forever family.
Do you have assurance of your salvation?
Do you have a genuine, sincere love for Jesus Christ? Do you believe what the Bible says about Him? That He is the Eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity? Do you believe that He took to Himself a sinless human nature, being conceived by the Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary? Do you believe that He was, and is, the perfect God-man- qualified to be the Mediator who would provide salvation for those who believe? Do you believe He lived a sinless life, died on the cross taking the punishment your sins deserved, and that He was raised from the dead on the third day, now able to be your Advocate before God the Father, assuring that your sins have been paid for? Do you believe that God is Spirit and that those who believe upon Christ are given the free gift of the Indwelling Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)? Do you have a love for the Word of God and the people of God? Does sin bother you? Does it grieve your heart when you violate God’s Word or walk in a way that is contrary to His revealed will? Do you have the desire to grow spiritually and become more like Jesus? Taken together, all these factors are made possible only through the work of God’s grace, the gift of salvation. We do not yet have the perfection of this new life, but we recognize we have the pattern of this new life, for the love of the Father abides in us.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS- PSALMS 120:1-7
The song is sung both by pilgrims who are not able to attend the feasts and by those who can. Those who can make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem are to remember those who cannot because of troubles that afflict their souls- situations of stress, slander, and war.
This Psalm is one that is sung by pilgrims annually on their journey to Jerusalem for the feasts. It does not sound like a happy song. It starts a call of distress and it ends with a recognition that they are still in a state of war. In between, these verses reflect the fact they are suffering attacks of deception and slander.
This psalm reminded the pilgrims of the privilege they had in attending the feasts, of being able to worship together and celebrate the blessings of their deliverance.
Let us not take our privilege of fellowship with God’s people for granted. Let us be sure to share the blessings gleaned from our gatherings with those who cannot attend. Let us not forget the shut ins and those in stressful situations.
Let us share our testimonies of answered prayer:
Psalm 120:1 1 In my trouble I cried to the LORD, And He answered me.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS- PROVERBS 28:25-26
Proverbs 28:25-26 25 An arrogant man stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper. 26 He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.
These proverbs fly in the face of the contemporary cultural promotion of ‘self-worship’ and the mantra to ‘just trust your heart’ and situational ethics. Here is the timeless and true counsel-Trust in the Lord, walk in the wisdom of His Word, and you will prosper and be delivered from the futility of this world’s psychobabble.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS- UKRAINE
A flat, fertile, forested plain with few natural boundaries.
Population: 45,433,415 Annual Growth: -0.65%
Capital: Kyiv (Kiev)
Official language: Ukrainian, but Russian widely spoken Languages: 42 All languages
Largest Religion: Christian
Thank God for the rich Christian heritage of Ukraine. This was the ‘Bible belt’ of the Soviet sphere, and churches here suffered greatly until independence. Faithful perseverance is now bearing fruit as the Church comes of age and increasingly impacts society across all spheres. There is today a spiritual ambition and vision previously not present in Ukraine.
Challenges for Prayer
Expatriate agencies. Light in the East, SGA, SEND, IMB and others faithfully served the persecuted church before 1989 and continue to do so today. More have flocked to the country since then, but all too often with insensitivity to local cultural and financial issues. There is still a place for long-term workers willing to learn the language and culture, most particularly in Bible teaching, leadership training, and facilitating/assisting Ukrainians in setting up their own ministries and missions.
Indigenous agencies. A blossoming of agencies followed independence with Ukrainians now working in outreach (evangelism, literature, media), with children (in summer camps and schools), and especially in humanitarian work (with prisoners, hospitals, orphanages, and soup kitchens). Pentecostals/charismatics and Baptists minister both within Ukraine and without, sending missionaries to other former Soviet states. Pray for the burgeoning Ukrainian missionary movement – for further growth, provision, and fruitful partnership with Western and other agencies.
PRAYER: Lord, forgive us for leaning on our own understanding and for trusting in society’s mantras to put our faith in our own misguided affections. We put our confidence in the testimony of Your Word, for it is truth. We thank You that Your Word tells us that Jesus paid our sin-debt. We humbly submit to Him and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who assures us of our salvation. We ask that You help us this day to walk wisely, that we may know Your power of deliverance from the enemies that war against our souls. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.