Be Brave: When I'm Under Spiritual Attack

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 10/27/2019

Quick confession. There are Bible verses that barely need explanation. Their meaning is super obvious. Take the story of Daniel and the Lion’s den. Or the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being thrown into the fiery furnace. Those are sermons that practically writes themselves. There are other passages that are super practical. Take James. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously without finding fault.” Take Proverbs. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.” But let’s be honest—there are some parts of the Bible that feel super complicated. How many of you have tried to read the Bible cover-to-cover and you get to some passage and your like, “What in God’s word are these verses about?”

A friend told me that their church recently did a series on Daniel. I was pretty excited. I asked, “What did they do with the last half of Daniel?” And he said, “We didn’t. They just preached the first six chapters!” I just want to say we don’t wimp out here at Lakeside (LOL)! You might cross your eyes but I’m not stopping until end (LOL)!

I’m only half kidding. I hope you’re the kind of person who will push through hard texts, and hard teachings, and really learn to wrestle with God’s Word. Daniel had these dreams and visions that were perplexing terrifying. Their meaning wasn’t immediately evident. I just want to say, “Stop being a wimp. Push through the hard stuff.”

Daniel 7:1 begins, “In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream with visions in his mind as he was lying in his bed. He wrote down the dream, and here is the summary of his account…” Daniel 7:1-14 is the dream. Daniel 7:15-27 is the interpretation. Daniel 7:28 is conclusion of the matter. Daniel 7:28 says, “This is the end of the account. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts terrified me greatly, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.” The Bible wasn’t written to make you feel good. It was written to save your soul. If some of the stuff in the Bible doesn’t terrify you, shake you at your core, or turn your face pale… you may not “really” be reading the Bible!

Let’s jump right into Daniels dream. Whenever you read a hard text, here is a HUGE tip. Underline or make a list of the key nouns—the key people, places or things. Let’s practice on Daniel 7. Daniel 7:2, “Daniel said, “In my vision at night I was watching, and suddenly the four winds of heaven stirred up the great sea.” The four winds of heaven what’s that? The great sea? My fellow Illinois residents, when have you ever experienced violent winds coming at you from all four directions? Can anyone say Tornado? Our Florida Snowbirds (Oh, they’ve already packed up and left us behind). Can anyone say Hurricane? After these epic storms you never know what kind of other-worldly sea creature is going to get dug up from the deep and tossed onto the shore.

Daniel 7:3-7, “3 Four huge beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other.” Okay this is super easy. There are four huge beasts. Let’s make a list! “The first was like a lion but had eagle’s wings. I continued watching until its wings were torn off. It was lifted up from the ground, set on its feet like a man, and given a human mind.”

5 “Suddenly, another beast appeared, a second one, that looked like a bear. It was raised up on one side, with three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up! Gorge yourself on flesh.’ This is clearly an OT reference to the 2020 Chicago Bears. On one side of the ball, you have Khalil Mack, with three ribs hanging out between his teeth from some pour quarterback he’s savaged and gorged upon. One side of the Bear is raised up, strong, mighty. But on the other side of the ball, you have a flailing offense, a quarterback with a drooped shoulder blade out of socket. But at least we have a kicker now! Mr. double doink has moved along.

6 “After this, while I was watching, suddenly another beast appeared. It was like a leopard with four wings of a bird on its back. It had four heads, and it was given dominion.” Did you know a leopard can run 36mph? That’s pretty fast! Supposedly a lion can run 50mph, a horse 55mph, and a cheetah 65-75 mph. I don’t want to find out. My jeep can run at least 127mph according to my GPS. It says I drove that fast once, I don’t believe it.

7 “After this, while I was watching in the night visions, suddenly a fourth beast appeared, frightening and dreadful, and incredibly strong, with large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed, and it trampled with its feet whatever was left. It was different from all the beasts before it, and it had ten horns.” Okay, I know it’s not in the text, but the fourth beast has to be a MechWarrior.

Now, I already know what you have done. You have spent so much energy visualizing the sensational attributes of these beast you missed the obvious facts Daniel tells us about each. The first beast was as ferocious as a lion and soared. But then it got its wings clipped and thrown to the ground. Then after a while it was lifted back up, set on its feet like a man, and given a human mind. The second beast though partially incapacitated, was murderous in character. The third beast had four heads and was given dominion. The fourth beast had vast superiority and power.

The best way to interpret Scripture is with Scripture. Daniel tells us, in Daniel 2:17, “These huge beasts, four in number, are four kings who will rise from the earth.” That makes perfect sense! Babylonian King were often personified as mighty Lions. The mightiest, most successful, and proud of all Babylonian Kings was Nebuchadnezzar. But how did God contend with him? God reduced him to a stump. Made him eat grass. Remember he grew nails like bird claws and hair like eagles’ feathers? Only after Nebuchadnezzar repented did his humanity/sanity return to him!

After Nebuchadnezzar came the Medo-Persian Kingdom, a half-strong half-week Kingdom. Beware, the Bear may seem incapacitated, but he can still maim and kill. After the Medo-Persian Kingdom came the Greek empire—Alexander the Greater. Alexander the Great was like a four headed leopard— Alexander Great conquered the entire known world--His dominion grew lightning fast, in all directions, north-south-east-west. And what rose from the ashes of Greece? The Roman Empire! Think how the Roman’s mastered technology (iron) to subdue its enemies. But for all its strength, as history testifies, Rome was profoundly vulnerable, and crumbled (clay).

This is really interesting. Do you remember back in Daniel 2:32-33, God shows Nebuchadnezzar a dream of a statue? “The head of the statue was pure gold, its chest and arms were silver, its stomach and thighs were bronze, its legs were iron, and its feet were partly iron and partly fired clay.” Each “material” part of that statue represented a kingdom that would come/go. But in Daniel 7 it isn’t the “physical/material” character of the Kings/Kingdoms that is being exposed… it’s the “spiritual/moral” character. Isn’t it true that we we’re drawn to the physical/material… yet God reveals the spiritual/moral character of the physical/material. These Kings were superficially impressive but spiritually bankrupt, beastly, fleshly, evil, vile.

Are you ready? Remember the Fourth Beast is the Mech-Warrior-Like Roman Empire with the Ten Horns? What is the absolute strongest part of a beast? What is the strongest part of a Rhino? It’s the horn! Ten horns sound ferocious. Daniel 7:8, “While I was considering the [ten] horns, suddenly another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. And suddenly in this horn there were eyes like the eyes of a human and a mouth that was speaking arrogantly.”

How is that list coming? Four winds… four beasts… now we have a little horn that upends the ten-horned Mech-Warrior beast. He has the eyes of a human and a big fat arrogant mouth. This little horn becomes the subject of Daniel 7 and 8. Why is the little horn such a big deal? We’ve got three other items to quickly add to our list.

Daniel 7:9-10, “9 As I kept watching, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was white like snow, and the hair of his head like whitest wool. His throne was flaming fire; its wheels were blazing fire. 10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from his presence. . . Thousands upon thousands served him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was convened, and the books were opened.”

Who do you suppose the Ancient of Days is? Is it not the Living, Sovereign God of the Universe whose rule, whose power, whose throne, whose authority, whose holy name. . . reigns supreme over all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities.”

Daniel 7:11-14, “11 I watched, then, because of the sound of the arrogant words the horn was speaking. As I continued watching, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to the burning fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was removed, but an extension of life was granted to them for a certain period of time. 13 I continued watching in the night visions, and suddenly one like a son of man was coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him. 14 He was given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom; so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.”

Isn’t it amazing in the Gospels, Jesus preferred messianic self-designation was “Son of Man.”? Kings and Kingdoms have come/gone… but there is one King/Kingdom that will remain forever. Earthly kings savaged God’s servants, like violent beasts. But only God’s Christ, God’s Messiah, God’s King would reign with true humanity. Only God’s Christ would be given permanent authority, dominion, and power for ever and ever. Philippians 2:5-11, “Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. 7 Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, 8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross. 9 For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth—11 and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Matthew 28:18, Jesus said, “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me.”

Who do you suppose the thousands upon thousands of servants… the ten thousand upon ten thousand servants… the multitudes of every tribe/tongue/nation for whose sake (Daniel 7:14) Christ was given authority by the Ancient of Days? It’s God’s people! It’s potentially you, should you choose to believe on Jesus (the Son of Man, King of Kings, Lord or Lords), should choose like Nebuchadnezzar to bow your knee in repentance, to allow God to wash your sins away and restore you to a right mind, and sane understanding of reality.

Of all Daniel saw in his dream/vision, he was most consumed with how things would play out at the end of time for God’s people. Daniel 7:15-27, “As for me, Daniel, my spirit was deeply distressed within me, and the visions in my mind terrified me. 16 I approached one of those who were standing by and asked him to clarify all this. So he let me know the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘These huge beasts, four in number, are four kings who will rise from the earth. 18 But the holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and possess it forever, yes, forever and ever.’

19 “Then I wanted to be clear about the fourth beast, the one different from all the others, extremely terrifying, with iron teeth and bronze claws, devouring, crushing, and trampling with its feet whatever was left. 20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three fell—the horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spoke arrogantly, and that looked bigger than the others. 21 As I was watching, this horn waged war against the holy ones and was prevailing over them 22 until the Ancient of Days arrived and a judgment was given in favor of the holy ones of the Most High, for the time had come, and the holy ones took possession of the kingdom.

23 “This is what he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, different from all the other kingdoms. It will devour the whole earth, trample it down, and crush it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will rise from this kingdom. Another king, different from the previous ones, will rise after them and subdue three kings. 25 He will speak words against the Most High and oppress the holy ones of the Most High. He will intend to change religious festivals and laws, and the holy ones will be handed over to him for a time, times, and half a time. 26 But the court will convene, and his dominion will be taken away, to be completely destroyed forever. 27 The kingdom, dominion, and greatness of the kingdoms under all of heaven will be given to the people, the holy ones of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will serve and obey him.’ 28 “This is the end of the account. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts terrified me greatly, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”

Let me ask. What is the clear and obvious meaning of Daniel 7? Who prevails over all history? The Beastly Lion/Eagle? The Half-Ferocious Bears? The Speedy Leopard? The Terrifying Ten-horned Technologically superior MechWarrior? How about that Arrogant little Horn? There are those who believe the little horn was a violent ruler name Antiochus Epiphanes. There are those who believe the little horn is the yet-to-be-revealed antichrist, the man of lawlessness, the abomination that causes desolation, the Beast (of Matthew 24, 2 Thessalonians 2, 1 John, Revelation). In the NT, as in Daniel 7, the Antichrist would (1) speaks pompous words against Most high, (2) persecute saints, (3) change times and law… commit blasphemy, persecute, engage in self-deification. There are those who believe the Daniel 7 Roman Empire dissolved and were in the Last Days now; there are those who believe the Roman Empire is yet to be reconstituted.

But I want to come back to my question. What is the clear/obvious meaning of Daniel 7… and what is the most clear/obvious application of these verses to your life? Let me encourage you to invest your energy bowing to the God of the Universe, and that you not waste your energy speculating on the obscure. For us there is this terrifying prospect—we must bow to the coming King, we know not day/hour. 2 Peter.

Scripture Verses

Daniel 7

Study Questions

Read Daniel 7

  1. In Daniel 2:31-35, God drew King Nebuchadnezzar's attention to the physical/material elements of the kingdoms of men (gold, silver, bronze, iron/clay). In Daniel 7, God draws Daniel's attention to the spiritual, beastly nature of these kingdoms (lion, bear, leopard, etc.). Why is this significant?
  2. In Daniel 2:35, a kingdom symbolized as a rock overtakes the kingdoms of men. In Daniel 7:9-14, who is ultimately victorious over the kingdoms of men? 
  3. Read Ephesians 6:10-20. What perspective is Paul urging us to have regarding our world? What would it look like, at a practical level, to take these words to heart? 
  4. In light of Ephesians 6:10-20, how do we fight a spiritual battle? What does it look like for Christians to fight a spiritual battle today? 
  5. Consider Daniel 7:18 and 2 Timothy 2:10-13. What is God's ultimate assurance to his people?
  6. In Daniel 7:23-28, Daniel's concern is drawn to the fourth beast. What are the characteristics of the fourth beast and how do we see these things today? 
  7. The word persecute means to "wear down" (see Daniel 7:25). How is Satan's strategy to wear down the saints at play today? Where do you most see and experience persecution? 
  8. Read Hebrews 10:19-25. How can we fortify ourselves in the face of Satan's attack today?  


KIDS:  

  1. Daniel had dreams that scared him so much. Read Daniel 7:28. How frightened was Daniel?
  2. Read Hebrews 10:23. Mark this verse in your Bible, or write it out so you can remember it. What promises that God has made are important to you? Can you have faith that He will keep His promise? 
  3. CHALLENGE: Read Ephesians 6:11-17 as a Family. Talk about each piece of the armor of God. Talk about each piece of the armor and what it means. (Belt of Truth, Breastplate of Righteousness, Shoes of Readiness, Shield of Faith, Helmet of Salvation, Sword of the Word of God) Discuss as a family how you can be sure you have the full armor of God. 

Apply It!

Resources

Lakeside Bookshelf

Below are some books to complement our Be Brave sermon series through the book of Daniel. Stop by the bookshelf in the lobby to browse or purchase.

The Daniel Dilemma: How to Stand Firm & Love Well in a Culture of Compromise by Chris Hodges

The Daniel Prayer: Prayer That Moves Heaven and Changes Nations by Anne Graham Lotz

A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today's World by John Stonestreet & Brett Kunkle


Downloads & Resources