In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict. And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision.
In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris) I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.
And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”
When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was mute. And behold, one in the likeness of the children of man touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, “O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength. How can my lord's servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.”
Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me. And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”
One of the top 5 worldwide grossing movies of 2019 was Spider-Man: Far From Home. In one of the movie’s key scenes Quentin Beck, a holographic-illusions specialist, uses technology to project virtual illusions to try to deceive Peter Parker’s (aka Spider-Man’s) perception of reality. In the scene, Peter wrestles with whether what he is seeing is real or not, and the point is this: what Peter sees with his eyes doesn’t tell the full story; there is more to see that he isn’t seeing in the moment (Beck behind the scenes projecting the false images). His ability to “see beyond” what is immediately apparent to him will of course determine his ability to accurately perceive reality, and therefore see and be in the world in a way that will lead to his flourishing.
In a spiritual sense, this happens to us today as well. If you turn on the TV or open a newspaper, what do you see? Based on what is directly visible, what is most important? Who is most important and powerful? How do people make sense of the world?
In Daniel’s time (the sixth century BC), what God’s people would have seen was the powerful Babylonian empire and king, persecution at the hand of this kingdom, and the exile due to forsaking the Lord which would have led to much sadness and discouragement.
In Daniel 10, Daniel is mourning the difficult situation of his people. As he reflects on what is immediately visible to him an angelic messenger appears for the purpose of showing him (and us) more to the story. Daniel has his view from below, but he is going to receive a view from above that will give him a new perspective on what he sees from below. What the heavenly visitor reveals to Daniel is that the conflicts he sees on earth reflect intense spiritual conflicts that he cannot see.
When Daniel hears how powerful the evil spiritual forces are, he is overwhelmed by weakness to the point of being speechless on the ground. He is even more desperate than he originally thought! Yet in that moment, the angelic messenger strengthens him by reminding him that he is “greatly loved” by God so that he may live with peace, strength, and courage (v. 19). The Gospel Transformation Study Bible calls the angel’s touch “a highly symbolic expression of gracious care” as these touches graciously empower Daniel to stand and speak, and to experience God’s love, peace, and strength. Furthermore, in its context, the book of Daniel ultimately points toward Jesus the Messiah who alone wins the spiritual battle that we cannot win for ourselves and is present with us today while we live in this world.
We often feel like Daniel in that the circumstances, events, and people immediately before us can produce fear, anxiety, desperation, and even despair. Our own sin and decisions in life can even do the same. Yet in the potent words of Robert Capon, “Lostness, deadness, uselessness, and nothingness are God’s cup of tea.” When we, like Daniel, get knocked flat on our backs because of discouragements outside of us or the sin inside of us, we are in the perfect position for the Holy Spirit to give us the vision of a deeper reality: while our sin and situations are desperate problems (maybe even more so than we think), they are no match for our crucified Savior who loves us, gave Himself for us, and is reigning and ruling over all things for His glory and our good as He is intimately present with us today (Galatians 2:20, Romans 5:8, Romans 8:28-30). Like Daniel, knowing that the King of all things greatly loves us (which for us was ultimately demonstrated on the cross) is what fuels peace, stability, and clarity as we live in a world in which a spiritual battle is taking place.
Similar to what Daniel learned, Isaac Watts taught the Church to root themselves in this reality especially during this time of year:
“He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love”