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Jul 14, 2013

Battle Stations!

Passage: Daniel 10:1-21

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Daniel: Overcoming Under Siege

Keywords: warfare, battle, spiritual forces, demons, angels, prayer, vision


Daniel 10 pulls the curtain back upon the cosmic spiritual battle that intersects with God's praying people. This passage calls us to the battle station of prayer no matter what life looks like ahead or no matter how young or old we are.


Battle Stations

“Overcoming Under Siege” Series

Daniel 10

June 14, 2013


Why has there been so much war in the history of mankind? 

  • One web site I consulted this week had a list of 739 documented wars beginning in 3100B.C. and going up to 2005.  161 were in the last century and 24 were ongoing as of 2005.
  • If you ask modern anthropologists, they will probably tell you that war is some left-over evolutionary vestige of our more barbaric and primitive past.
  • If you ask secular biologists, they might say it’s some hormonally or chemically induced brain function.
  • Politicians might say war is due to a failure of nations to work together for the good of all mankind.
  • Philosophers certainly have plenty to say about the human tendency towards war.   I ran across a long article on-line posted by those in the “Progressive Humanism” camp. After examining what they believe is millions of years of war by our evolutionary chimpanzee forefathers and thousands of years of war by modern mankind, they think (with typical humanistic optimism) that war “will wither away as everyone comes to realize and accept the essential unity of humankind.”  [http://www.progressivehumanism.com/progressive-humanism/is-war-inevitable/]

You would think that having lived through just the last century of 2 world wars, the massive proliferation of weapons of both mass and massive destruction, and having seen more people killed by wars in the last 100 years than at any time in human history, modern humanists would have come to grips with reality a bit better!  No such luck. 


Of course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray and work diligently to do everything possible for the cause of peace.  After all, our Lord did say, “Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the sons of God” (Mt. 5:9). 

But Jesus also told us 5 chapters later (Mt. 10:34), “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Today’s scripture passage points to an even more

fundamental, cosmic and eternal reason why mankind has lived in an almost constant state of war than what any philosopher or politician or anthropologist can.  Sure, we can attribute it to human sinfulness.  But it goes even deeper than that, as we shall see shortly. 


In The Lord of the Rings trilogy The 2 Towers, there is a scene where King Ruhan and his castle are about to be overrun by Orks.  They are beating down the gate to the castle.  They vastly outnumber Ruhan’s forces.  He’s tempted to just give it all up and surrender.  Aragorn is debating with him, trying to convince him that the battle itself is worth something, that there is honor in a noble death.  Besides, he argues, there is a possibility that Gandolf might still show up with reinforcements.  Here’s the scene.


[Movie clip from The 2 Towers.]


It’s always nice when a movie resolves like this in favor of the good guys.  But the problem with life is that you never really know how it’s going to turn out.  Even if you know you are on the winning side, there can still be a lot of blood, sweat and tears (not to mention possible death) before the last war ends… and you find yourself facing yet another bloody conflict.


So what possibly can Daniel 10 show us about the roots of war that can be more foundational than a whole human history of war?  Simply this—that there has been and still is raging a war in the heavenly, spiritual realms that is between God and his angels on one side and Satan and his demons on the other.  Daniel 10 confronts us with how that spiritual war sometimes intersects with our physical and national life here on earth. We are a race at war because we live in a universe at war. We find war virtually inescapable in human experience because it IS inescapable in heavenly realms.   

So let’s start our study of God’s word today in Daniel 10:1-11:1.  Chapters 10-12 actually contain a single long vision that Daniel experienced during the 3rd year of the Persian emperor Cyrus.  Daniel witnessed this vision in 533 B.C.  The O.T. book of Ezra tells us that Cyrus had set the Hebrew people free to return to their homeland.  In addition, we have what is called the Cyrus Cylinder, excavated from the ruins of Babylon in 1879, that records this same event.  The 70 years of national discipline prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah had come to a close and the people of God were free to return to their Promised Land. 

            Daniel is now an old man.  He is in his upper 80s or early nineties.  He’s not getting back to his beloved homeland, even with Cyrus’ decree.  But God has one more prophetic revelation for him.  And it is going to be probably the most troubling and difficult one he will ever have.  We pick it up in Daniel 10:1.

In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision.

            So, first Daniel receives some sort of “revelation” about a “great war” that is to come.  Then he receives in a vision the “understanding of the message” or revelation.  It was more the understanding itself than the revelation of the great war coming that troubled Daniel so deeply.  A glimpse into the future of human war would have been terrifying enough.  But it was the “understanding” that came along later that really troubled Daniel and set him to fasting and prayer for 3 weeks.  Daniel continues.

At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.

Daniel’s mourning and sadness about the yet-to-come devastation of war upon the earth and specifically upon the people of God changed his life.  It moved him to stop eating the normal delicacies of royal cooking.  He stopped eating meat.  He stopped drinking wine.  He basically adopted a diet of vegetables, fruits and grains.  His daily routine was changed because of what he felt in his spirit needed to be done. 

This is what marks out a man/woman of God from the crowd—they train their hearts to obedient action when God reveals something to them. 


ILL:  This past week, Chris Buck and I were in Los Angeles at a truly life and ministry-changing conference with some other people from Spokane.  It was a conference designed to help people start “disciple-making movements” of people in their city, not just a small group here or a new church there. 

One of the simple yet status-quo shattering statements that was made was this:  “In the church, we have trained people to be disobedient to the word of God.”

            Every pastor in the room probably thought, “Not in my church!”  But then the speaker went on to explain what he meant.  In traditional “church” in America and many parts of the world, we come together like this week after week, listen to some supposed “expert” supposedly telling us what the word of God means, sing a few songs, have a little fellowship and go home until the next week when we do it all over again.  People by the thousands never really hear the Spirit of God speak to them personally simply through the word of God.  Rather we have a filtered encounter with God through another person (the preacher).  Maybe we hear God whisper some point of application in our heart…and maybe we don’t.  But one thing is pretty certain:  most of us live out the next week of our life with very little change of behavior and heart. 

            Let me give you an illustration of what I mean.  In one particular Discovery Bible Study in another country, the Discovery Group was studying Genesis 1.  Of course, in Genesis 1 you have the creation account of what God did in creating the universe. 

At the end of every Discovery Bible Study, participants are asked to take 3-5 minutes to think about/write down what they believe God is asking them to actually DO with the truths and principles of the passage they have studied.  Then they share that with the group and the group prays for each other’s obedience to what God has shown them. 

During the next week, they are responsible to share with someone what God told them to do in that simple study and seek to actually do it.  When they get together the following week, one of the first things they do is report back how they did in obeying the voice of God in their life.  If they failed to obey, the group asks them what they can do to help them obey God’s word and voice.  It’s constant training to actually OBEY God every time they are in the word of God.

In this one situation of the study in Genesis 1, a man who had been unemployed for quite a long time and was having great difficulty caring for the needs of his family was in the study.  In Genesis 1 they read about how God had created this earth to be fruitful and yet to be managed by mankind.  So this man who isn’t even a full-blown believer in Jesus Christ yet, hears God’s Spirit challenge him on this point.  And as he looks out on his front yard, he realizes that the grass hasn’t been cut in a long time.  It’s high and unmanaged.  And he realizes that if he is going to be obedient to God that week, he needs to manage what little of the creation God has put under his care—his front lawn. 

So he goes and gets his machete and starts trimming his front yard.  (The guy doesn’t even have a lawn mower!)  It takes him all day to cut the grass.

The next day as he’s asking God how to put the truths of Genesis 1 into practice in his life, he notices that his neighbor’s lawn is in the same condition.  So he goes over to his neighbor, tells him that he would like to cut his grass.  The neighbor gets curious and asks him, “Why do you want to cut my grass?”  The man explains that he’s been reading the Bible and it taught him that man is to take care of the creation God gave to us and so he’d like to do that for his neighbor’s lawn too.  The neighbor says, “Fine by me.  Go ahead.”  So the man spends that day cutting his neighbor’s grass. 

Only difference now is, when he’s finished, the neighbor invites him in and hands him some money.  Now he realizes that he just became an independent businessman!  So he starts doing this all over his community.  Before you know it, not only is his neighborhood looking better; he’s earning an income for his family…and he’s telling dozens of people about the change this simple Discovery Bible Study is making in his life. 

And you can guess what happens next, right?  Sure.  He gets into lots of conversations with lots of people about spiritual things and pretty soon he’s facilitating Discovery Bible Studies with people all over his neighborhood…and he’s not even a full-blown follower of Jesus yet.  But he doesn’t know any better!  He’s been taught that you’re responsible to obey God whenever you encounter the truth of His word. 


Do you see the difference?  In church services where we sit and listen to someone else tell us what they think the word of God means, we are actually training people to come and go, never being responsible for actually obeying the word from week to week.  We don’t ask each other the next week to share how our obedience about last week’s truth went.  We jump right into the next sermon and repeat the disobedience process all over again.


Now if you’re like me, that unfortunate reality is a bit troubling and you’re probably thinking to yourself, “I’m not that disobedient to God’s word.” 

            Can I tell you, I’m not pointing a finger at you for this; I’m letting God point his finger at ME about this.  I’m the guy who week after week, month after month, year after year has trained you to live this way.  I’m they fellow who has modeled this.  So I’m not blaming you.  I’m letting God convict me.

            I’ll let Him convict YOU this next week about whether or not you’ve been obedient to what it is he is showing us in his word this week.  J


Do you see the problem? 

Daniel was not that kind of man.  When God revealed anything to him, it changed his life.  The simple revelation of how war-filled life was going to be for God’s people in the days to come moved him to change the very food he ate, his very emotional state, his prayer life with God and his spiritual perseverance in a spiritual practice that did battle in heavenly realms for 21 consecutive days and nights. 

            Let’s keep reading God’s word.   

On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.

I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground.

10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.


Daniel had apparently gone out to the great Tigris River to walk with some of his friends and contemplate what God was up to in the frightful truth he had revealed to him earlier about war.  God reveals to him “a man dressed in linen” whose appearance is so fearsome and overwhelming that Daniel literally loses all strength and falls face-down on the ground. 

            We don’t know for sure whether this is an angel sent from God or possibly Jesus Christ himself appearing pre-incarnation to Daniel.  The description here fits the description of the resurrected Jesus in John’s Revelation 1:13-17 & 2:18.  Whoever it is, it is definitely a heavenly being sent from God, a being so powerful, awesome and glorious that Daniel can’t even stand up. 

            Daniel is the only one to actually see “the vision” but he isn’t the only one to sense this overpowering celestial presence.  Those walking and talking with him are seized with terror about this very spiritual encounter that they run for their lives and try to hide.


NOTE:  I find these two different responses to the presence of celestial power and holiness instructive here.  There are times when, even if we’ve been at the top of our spiritual game—praying and fasting and seeking God for weeks—that getting a fresh revelation of God and his truth will absolutely lay us out.  It should absolutely shatter us and leave us lying in the dust. 

            That’s a far better response than the way people who are not walking with God will normally respond.  They will run like the wind when God or his messengers show up.  People who are used to running from God will run even faster when God shows up or sends his angelic response.  Sinful man has been running from God since the Garden of Eden and will continue to do so until judgment day…unless there is a willingness to fall before God humbly in repentance and surrender of one’s very life to God. 


Well, the presence of this man sent from God sent such a spiritual and emotional shockwave through Daniel that he couldn’t even find his knees, let alone his legs, until this being’s hand touched him (vs. 10).  That touch was just enough to enable him to rise, trembling, to his hands and knees.  Picture this great man of God, utterly undone by the heavenly presence of this blazing man, trembling on his hands and knees.  This is, I’m guessing, a posture Daniel was very familiar with from his days and nights of praying.  But it was a whole new whole-being experience when God and his messenger came near.


Isn’t it beautiful the very first thing this heavenly messenger says to him?  “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed….”  When we are in the presence of heavenly glory and holiness, we will feel totally inadequate, totally unfit, totally undone.  But God’s first words to us are always, “Hey son…hey daughter…you are very special to me.  I think the world of you…and more.” 


NOTE:  If you are hearing something else from the God who exchanged your sin for his holiness and righteousness, you’re not hearing from God.  You’re probably hearing from your own self-condemnation or Satan’s lying tongue.  But you’re not hearing from God. 

Well, the messenger next helps Daniel actually stand to his feet.  Yes, he’s still trembling and shaking.  But he’s in the position and posture he needs to be to see the vision that is going to unfold before him. 

            But here is where the story gets very interesting.  Here is where we encounter the answer to why this world has been at war ever since mankind has been numerous and evil enough to slaughter each other.  Let’s pick it up in vs. 12.


12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”

15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, “I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.”

18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 19 “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.”

When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.”

20 So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince. 11 And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him.)


So here we are introduced to the reality that there is a spiritual battle taking place on a world-wide scale in the spiritual realm that you and I cannot perceive with our physical eyes.  It is a battle that involves what Paul calls “principalities and powers in high places” (Eph. 6:12).  Listen to how he describes this battle and the enemy we face.

            “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  (Eph. 6:12)


Notice how all-consuming this battle is. 

Q:  WHEN did God begin to move as a result of Daniel’s 21-day prayer-and-fasting exercise?  [Day 1!  Hour 1!  Moment 1!]

Q:  But what prevented Daniel from experiencing that immediate answer?  [“…the prince of the Persian kingdom.”]


Then we are introduced for the very first time in the Bible to Michael, the “arch-angel” or, as translated here, “one of the chief princes” or angelic beings.  Michael will reappear in the N.T. books of Jude (1:9) and Revelation (12:7).  But we learn from this text that there is a hierarchy of spiritual beings that is waging war and fighting against each other in celestial spiritual realms which we cannot discern with our physical eyes. 


Does this not explain a LOT when it comes to WHY human beings seem to be constantly at war?

Does this not explain a lot about why our prayers sometimes seem to be so slow to be answered? 


Now I firmly believe that there is coming a day when God will intervene in human history with his heavenly hosts.  It will be swift.  It will be dramatic.  It will be decisive.  And it will bring an end to Satan’s influence in this world.  It will bring an end to war and to evil and mayhem on this earth.  Revelation 19 tells us that the resurrected Christ, the one who “judges and makes war” (19:11), along with “the armies in heaven” (19:14), will return to this violent and warring earth, riding on a white horse.  He who is “called Faithful and True” will judge the world and Satan and the demons by his word and finally rule this world with “a rod of iron” as he “treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (19:15). 


We live in a world at war because we live in a universe at war!  Like it or not, this world and universe as it is demand that God be a warrior, that angels be warriors and that the people of God become warriors! 

            This is another area of mushy-headed thinking we need to abandon in modern America.  In a world where genuine evil exists, it will always seek to overcome, block, hinder and destroy good.  And that includes people who seek to live righteously.  We better be raising up the next generation of warriors, both militarily and spiritually, unless we plan to live under the rule and tyranny of people and powers who would just as soon enslave us, use us, abuse us and destroy us whenever it suits their purposes and plans. 

Just as it is foolish for us to think that a religion (Islam) that has sought to forcibly dominate and rule the world for over 1400 years will not seek to do so in our lifetime given the chance, so too it is equally foolish to think that we who are followers of God will not have to do spiritual battle against the forces of darkness that seek to destroy God, his kingdom and his followers. 


God must shake his head at times when he hears us whining about how hard the battle is some days.  He must scratch his head and think, “Why are you, my children, so surprised when life is a war?  I’ve told you over and over again what is at stake.  I’ve revealed to you time and again that there are forces operating in this world that are seeking to hold both individuals captive as well as whole nations.  I’ve showed you what you must do to prevail in this battle.  So why do you keep living as if life should have no battles???”


Daniel was a man who lived in this world and worked in the highest levels of pagan power structures.  But he knew his battle station.  He knew that when nations went to war, there were spiritual forces operating behind the scenes.  He knew that when prophecy was about to be fulfilled, he needed to man his battle station.  And he knew that when the forces of darkness closed in on his position, he needed to run to that battle station and do all the fighting possible…even to the death…to faithfully discharge the duties of his divine commission as a soldier of God. 


Just WHAT and WHERE was that “battle station”?  It was PRAYER…and it was the presence of God he experienced when he prayed. 

  • When Daniel was troubled by human events, he prayed.   
  • When Daniel was overwhelmed by spiritual visions, he prayed.
  • When Daniel was concerned about his people, he prayed.
  • When Daniel saw changes in governments and laws that spelled persecution and possible death, he prayed. 


Think for a moment about just what we have already learned from this short book about how Daniel manned his battle station of prayer.  What do we know about how he fought…and almost died…manning that battle station?

  • He made it a life-long practice, from his youth to his last days.
  • He had set time every day, several times (3 times) a day.  Doing spiritual battle for Daniel was a daily experience. He trained daily for and in this battle.
  • Daniel was willing to die for manning his post.  He was sent to certain death (baring the miraculous intervention of God) for simply manning that battle station of prayer.
  • He wasn’t a “paid professional,” a priest or Levite or designated religious leader.  He was a government official who knew, regardless of which pagan king he was employed by, that his most important diplomatic post was the one God Almighty had called him to and he would discharge its duties faithfully even if it cost him his life!
  • Daniel knew that age made no difference.  Young, middle-aged or old, he held to his battle station.
  • His training and exercise in his divine duties was informed and influenced by his commitment to the word of God. 
  • His obedience was timely and continual.
  • He didn’t allow the destruction of his nation or the difficulties of personal disappointments to drive him away from his battle station.  Instead, when the enemy fire got hotter, he pressed into God in prayer, his battle station, more than ever.
  • And he was a man who adjusted his praying and fasting to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the need of the hour. 


If one thing is evident about Daniel’s life it is that prayer…his personal and daily communication with God…was the one “battle station” in life he would not dessert.  No matter what the crisis, praying was his response. 


And we marvel at this man’s consistency.  We marvel at his spiritual power.  We marvel at his witness and influence and stamina.  We marvel at his boldness and power and humility. 


But we also KNOW how he became that kind of man.  And yet have we let that knowledge change our life? 


EXERCISE:  I’m going to ask you to take a couple of minutes to ask God what you are to DO with this knowledge. 

  • What is God saying to you about this battle station of prayer? 
  • What is He asking you to do this week to be obedient to that revelation? 
  • What action steps are you going to take to become an effective spiritual warrior in your generation for the kingdom in that battle station of prayer? 
  • Do you need to learn more about prayer?  How are you going to get that knowledge this week?
  • Do you need to be trained better by someone who is more experienced at that battle station?  Who will it be and what will you do this week to get that training?
  • Do you just need to make room in your schedule for hands-on time in prayer?  When in your day?  Where?  For how long?  How many times a day? 


Take your bulletin and use the sermon notes section to write down in the next couple of minutes of silence what you think God might be asking you to DO with the truth of the battle station of prayer we’ve seen this morning. 


[Time for questions?]