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Conflict of Nations and Heavenly Powers


In the third year of King Cyrus of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. The word was true, and it concerned a great conflict. He understood the word, having received understanding in the vision.

2 At that time I, Daniel, had been mourning for three weeks. 3I had eaten no rich food, no meat or wine had entered my mouth, and I had not anointed myself at all, for the full three weeks. 4On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris), 5I looked up and saw a man clothed in linen, with a belt of gold from Uphaz around his waist. 6His body was like beryl, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the roar of a multitude. 7I, Daniel, alone saw the vision; the people who were with me did not see the vision, though a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled and hid themselves. 8So I was left alone to see this great vision. My strength left me, and my complexion grew deathly pale, and I retained no strength. 9Then I heard the sound of his words; and when I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a trance, face to the ground.

10 But then a hand touched me and roused me to my hands and knees. 11He said to me, “Daniel, greatly beloved, pay attention to the words that I am going to speak to you. Stand on your feet, for I have now been sent to you.” So while he was speaking this word to me, I stood up trembling. 12He said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me twenty-one days. So Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, and I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia, 14and have come to help you understand what is to happen to your people at the end of days. For there is a further vision for those days.”

15 While he was speaking these words to me, I turned my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16Then one in human form touched my lips, and I opened my mouth to speak, and said to the one who stood before me, “My lord, because of the vision such pains have come upon me that I retain no strength. 17How can my lord’s servant talk with my lord? For I am shaking, no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.”

18 Again one in human form touched me and strengthened me. 19He said, “Do not fear, greatly beloved, you are safe. Be strong and courageous!” When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” 20Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Now I must return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I am through with him, the prince of Greece will come. 21But I am to tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth. There is no one with me who contends against these princes except Michael, your prince.

By the angel’s commanding the Prophet to be of a serene and tranquil mind, we gather the continuance of his fright, and his being as yet unable to listen with composure. And yet this trembling improved his teachableness. Without the slightest doubt, God desired to prepare his servant in this way to render him more attentive to his disciples, and yet this very terror prevented Daniel from summoning all his senses to listen to the address of the angel. The remedy is exhibited in these words, O Daniel, fear not The angel did not wish to remove all fear from the Prophet’s mind, but rather to calm it, lest his trembling should prevent him from giving due attention to the prophecies which we shall soon discuss. I have already said enough on the subject of this address. As God knows fear to be useful to us, he does not wish us to be entirely free from it, as too great self-confidence would immediately produce slothfulness and pride. God, therefore, wishes our fears to restrain us like a bridle, but meanwhile he moderates this dread in his servants, lest their minds become stricken and disturbed, and thus disabled from approaching him with calmness.

The angel adds, From the first day on which thou didst begin to apply thy mind to understanding, and to afflict thyself before God, thy prayers were heard This reason sufficiently shews in what sense and with what intention the angel forbade the Prophet’s fears — because, says he, thy prayers have been heard He was unwilling to banish all fear, but he offered some hope and consolation; and relying on this expectation, he might wait for the revelation which he so earnestly desired. He states his prayers to have been heard from the time of his applying his mind to understanding, and from his afflicting himself before God These two points may be noticed: first, by the word “understanding” the angel informs us of God’s being propitious to the prayers of his servant, because they were sincere and legitimate. For what spectacle did Daniel behold? He saw the condition of the Church entirely confused, and he desired the communication of some mark of favor, which might assure him of God’s being still mindful of His covenant, and of his not despising those wretched Israelites whom he had adopted. As this was the object of the Prophet’s prayer, he so far obtained his request, and the angel bears witness to God’s being entreated by him. We are taught then by this passage, if we are anxious for our supplications to be both heard and approved by God, not to give way to those foolish lusts and appetites, which solicit and entice us. We ought to observe the rule here prescribed by the angel, and fashion our entreaties according to God’s will. We know, says John, that if we ask anything according to his will, he will hear us. (1 John 5:14.) This is the first point. The second is the addition of penitence to fervor in devotion, when the angel says, Daniel’s mind was afflicted or humbled. A second condition of true prayer is here set before us, when the faithful humble themselves before God, and being touched with true penitence, pour out their groans before him. The angel, therefore, shews how Daniel obtained his requests, by suppliantly afflicting himself before God. He did not utter prayers for the Church in a mere formal manner, but as we have previously seen, he united fasting with entreaty, and abstained from all delicacies. For this reason God did not reject his petitions. He says, before thy God; this expression of the angel’s implying that the Prophet’s supplication sprang from true faith. The prayers of the impious, on the other hand, always repel the Almighty, and they can never be sure of his being propitious to them. In consequence of the hesitation and vacillation of unbelievers, this testimony to true faith is set before Daniel — he prayed to his own God Whoever approaches God, says the Apostle, (Hebrews 11:6,) ought to acknowledge his existence, and his being easily entreated by all those who seek and invoke him. We ought diligently to notice this, as this fault is most manifest in all ages, men often pray to God, but yet through their hesitation they pour forth their petitions into the air. They do not realize God as their Father. Another passage also reminds us how useless is the hope of obtaining anything by prayer, if we are agitated and tossed about in our emotions. (James 1:6, 7.) Unless faith shine forth, we must not feel surprise at those who call upon God losing all their labor through their profanation of his name. Lastly, by this expression, the angel shews us how Daniel’s prayer was founded on faith; he had not sought God with rashness, but was clearly persuaded of his being welcomed among the sons of God. He prayed, therefore, to his own God, and for this reason, his petitions were heard. Then the angel adds, he came at his words; as it is said in the Psalms. (Psalm 145:19.) God inclines with desire towards those who fear him; and in this sense the angel waits upon Daniel. It now follows, —

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