Daniel 8: Greatly Disturbed & not Understanding

In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after the one that had appeared to me earlier.“ – Daniel 8:1

If you’ve never read the book of Daniel, let me encourage you to do so. As this verse points out, there’s a lot of context to this prophetic word… a lot of time has past since Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego had been taken captive. We’re a long way from the fiery furnace and the lions den. Daniel is fulfilling a significantly different role in this nation at this point, and even these prophetic words build on the ones that come before.

Since this is a huge passage of Scripture, be encouraged to grab your Bible and read Daniel 8 for yourselves. Are you finished? Okay, let’s move on…

After the his first vision, Daniel was given another to explain it, & there was a voice; “Gabriel, explain the vision to this man…” so the Angel Gabriel approached Daniel, & explained the earlier vision & this is significant.

Before we really get started, I want to acknowledge a few interested facts about Daniel 8. This is, oddly enough, one of the few passages of Scripture where all of the primary symbols are so clearly named both in the vision & the visions explanation by Gabriel that there is broad agreement from both Evangelicals and Liberals bible scholars alike on every detail – in this time of division & broad disagreement, I think it’s worth celebrating when everyone seems to agree.

To summarize in modern English: Daniel 8 tells of a time when Greece will defeat the Persian empire, & Alexander the Great rise to power, his death, & the subsequent rise of his four Generals who took over his empire. The later one – the blaspheming “little horn” – is Antiochus IV Epiphanies, who considered himself “the manifestation of God on Earth” – Antiochus interrupts the proper Hebrew worship of God.

Interesting to any of you students of history is that Antiochus’ actions trigger the Maccabean revolt, from which we get the 4 books of Maccabee’s, which are significant works of Biblical history.

Daniel heard one angel ask another, “How long… to allow the holy place and the host to be trampled?” And the answer? “2,300 evening and mornings…” – approximately 3 1/2 years.

What makes me scratch my head is that Daniel – who was not only gifted as a prophet but also an interpreter – not even Daniel, at the time he wrote down this prophetic word, understood. Verse 8:27 says that Daniel “was greatly disturbed by the vision & could not understand it”, or as other translations state, “I was astounded at the vision, and there was none to explain it.” It bothered him so that he was exhausted and ill for days afterward.  These words were like a punch in the chest for me.

Has God ever spoken to you, & you didn’t understand? I’m not necessarily meaning a spoken word (though I’m not denying that it might happen – God doesn’t always fit our neat little boxes), but have you ever read a Scripture, & it deeply bothered you that you didn’t quite grasp what God was getting at? Have you ever had to wrestle, or better yet, surrender to the Word of God, exhausted and ill of heart… unable to work out what it means, or what it means specifically FOR YOU? 

If so, you get no judgement from me – you find yourself in good company, like Daniel.

As many of you know, I went through a significant stage of my life as an Atheist, & later an Agnostic, & even my earliest years of trying to follow Jesus I was pretty far from anything resembling an Evangelical Christian. Yet still, there came a point where I REALLY believed – I had a solid grasp of the Gospel, & I’d finally realized that the Bible – the WHOLE Bible – was actually true.

Then someone gave me a book.

I’ll be honest – to this day there are a significant number of things this author & I disagree on, so I’m not going to share the book title. However, one thing this book brought to my attention was that GOD was IN CONTROL. He pointed out verses I had somehow managed to skim past, or had never heard a sermon on, & when I finally got this arsenal of verses in front of my eyes, head, & heart… honestly, it broke me. 

It triggered ALL of the questions: “God, if you are in control then why did my cousin drown? Why is there so much pain & suffering in the world? Why? Why? Why? How could You allow it?” No, it couldn’t be true – but there it was, as a clear as day… God’s revelation, speaking to ME. God’s Word for me, but I couldn’t grasp it. I wrestled with God for a year over those verses. Often I was straight up ANGRY. I was very used to being in control. I liked it that way. This made no sense to me. I was “exhausted and ill”… that is, until another verse reminded me that the God who is in control, is the same God that saved me: a God of love, who pursued me, sacrificed for me, called me His own. The God who was in control was a GOOD GOD who could be trusted. That changes things.

That is when I came out on the other side. Folks, revelation isn’t always easy to receive. What is God saying to you in this season that you are struggling to hear? You are not alone – you are in good company.

Looking back at Daniel 8 I am reminded that God didn’t – and doesn’t – speak so we will understand everything. God speaks, more often than not, to remind us that He’s got it – that He is in control. And when those promises are finally fulfilled we will likely look back in wonder, recognizing that we wouldn’t have ever chosen to do it that way, & we couldn’t imagine that God would’ve done it that way, even if or when we’ve been told in advanced.
That’s the thing about the coming of Jesus – the life of Jesus – the death of Jesus – the resurrection. God told us what to expect, but it was so beyond what we could fully understand & recognize that most everyone who knew about God’s messiah MISSED JESUS WHEN HE WAS HERE. They couldn’t grasp what God was doing! And we’re tempted to think that we would’ve done better, but we wouldn’t have. We would have missed Him too.

God’s Word exposes our lack of wisdom & our need for Him.

As we close, do you need Him? Have you already given your life to the Lord? Are you actively pursuing Christ? 

In John chapter 4 Jesus invites the woman at the well, “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 

That invitation still stands. Wherever you are, & whatever you’ve done, God’s offer stands: “COME!” 

If you feel as though you’ve never trusted Jesus & you want to, just pray a simple prayer like this; “Jesus! I’m thirsty & broken. I am a sinner & need your grace. I need to drink from the springs that will never run dry. I trust you. I am yours. Amen.” It’s that easy! You’re HIS!

Friends, the Christian life is not about maintaining control, but giving up control TO HIM. There will be many times you don’t understand – that’s OK. The God who ultimately is in control is a VERY GOOD GOD who loves you dearly, so you are in GOOD HANDS.


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