Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate. He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.
We are prone to prophesy. We can’t keep from it. Now of course, we don’t always call it that. We disguise our ravenous desire to know the future with more sterilized terms like financial forecasting, weather prediction, or even stock market analysis. But truly, it’s as if we are constantly straining our vision and craning our necks to predict what will one day happen. The trouble is, we have no real ability to say with certainty what will happen because we have no certain ability to control what will happen. And that’s exactly why Biblical prophecy often seems so very compelling and often so very inscrutable.
The Lord God Almighty does control what will happen. He has both the ability and the authority to effect the future. So, when His prophets like Moses, Isaiah, and Daniel speak on God’s behalf about what God will do, God will surely do it. About that we can indeed be certain.
God’s prophetic words are gifts to His people. He speaks in order to teach us His ways and to guide us in our ways. Very broadly, God’s prophets tell His people, “Don’t be surprised!”; “Don’t be fooled!” and “Don’t be frightened!” Remember how Jesus, on the night in which he was betrayed, told the wearied and worried disciples,
Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33)
That’s the same sort of message Daniel received six centuries before.
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.” (Daniel 10:18-19)
Daniel has a vision of a man with a message. That message is about the future, and about how God’s people ought to think about the future. The message was terrifying. It was a message about what God would do, a message about the rise and fall of nations, about wars and rumors of wars, and about God’s certain control of everything that would occur. Daniel was shown the future in an unveiled way, and it shook him to his core.
There was going to come a pretender to the throne, a flatterer who would conquer by guile and subterfuge. And one of his most powerful weapons would be the deceit of the people of God, the people of the covenant. Then in the middle of the vision, as if to emphasize the centrality of the message, Daniel hears,
Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate. He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. (Daniel 11:31-32)
What does that mean? What does that mean for us? How do we “stand firm and take action?” Well, it’s the same prophetic message. We, as “people who know their God” must be on guard, we must be careful not to be fooled by flattery or seduced to violate God’s covenant. We are to live faithful, vigilant lives.
Then we stand firm by standing in Christ. We are not surprised by trials or persecutions, and we do not live frightened lives as though the world is spinning out of control. By the promise of the Lord and the power of the Spirit, we live knowing the certain future of Christ’s glorious return and eternal reign. Jesus said,
“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. (Mark 13:24-27)
Come quickly Lord Jesus! Amen.