Actually sent this out yesterday, but realized hours later that my upload was scrambled and what I posted was not what I envisioned. Here is the correct post, and I am sorry for those who may have tried to read what I sent yesterday. Anyhow, here is my post, hoping to get another out later today. Thanks always for reading!!
In Daniel chapter 7, the prophet has a vision. He’s caught up into heaven. He’s with the court of God in Heaven. God is there, called the Ancient of Days, and he has court attendants who are watchers, and they are observing the events of human affairs, witnessing the unfolding of human history upon the earth. It is portrayed as a series of beasts that come across the stage of world history and conquer and kill and oppress and exploit. They are depicted first as a lion, then a bear, then a leopard. Finally, the fourth one is not an animal at all, but a monster. And the Ancient of Days, and the watchers, and Daniel with them in the court of heaven are watching the unfolding of human history as one empire after another continue to oppress and exploit the peoples of the earth.
“”I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14 ESV. Let’s look at this. There came one like a son of man. There it is, the apocalyptic hero who was so important to Jesus. There came one like a son of man. So, a human being. We’ve seen the beasts. The lion, the leopard, the bear, the monster, but now here comes a human being. and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. He comes up from the earth, into the clouds of heaven, before the court of the ancient of Days. And he was presented before him. Here the watchers present him, they say here, o Ancient of Days, is the Son of Man. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. Amen
The Son of Man is Israel’s Messiah, Israel’s King. This Son of Man is not just some king, he is the anointed king, the chosen king, to whom God will give authority not just over Israel but over all the nations. All peoples, all languages, all nations should serve Him. And unlike all those other empires that rise and fall, rise and fall, rise and fall, this empire given to the Son of Man by the Ancient of Days shall rise and never fall. And the great distinguishing mark of the kingdom of the Son if Man is the beautiful Hebrew word, shalom.
His kingdom will be marked by shalom. Health. Well being. Peace. In other words, Daniel gives us a vision of a conqueror king who is not like the great goat of Greece, Alexander the Great. Alexander, while he was growing up and being groomed and prepared for his greatness by his father the warrior king and by Aristotle the great philosopher, had a text, a bible if you will. It would be fair to call it that, he had a bible. And his bible, as it was for educated Greeks at that time, was Homer’s Iliad. Homer was a Greek poet from the eighth century BC. This was Alexander’s formative text. Alexander had a hero, the mythical Greek hero Achilles. As he is being formed by his scripture that is Homer’s Iliad, Alexander says I want to be like Achilles. The Iliad opens like this – Rage Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’s son Achilles. And that’s what Achilles does for about 300 pages, he rages. He tramples underfoot all that get in his way. He finally conquers and kills Hector, ties his body to the chariot, and drags it around the city. This is Achilles, and this is the role model for Alexander the Great. He learns that way from the great eighth century poet Homer.
But the eighth century B.C. gives the world not one but two great literary figures, Homer the Greek poet, and Isaiah the Hebrew prophet. Interestingly, the both compose poetic songs about conquering kings. But they had very different visions for these kings. What Homer’s Iliad was for Alexander, Isaiah’s prophecies were for Jesus. Because as Jesus is a little boy growing into adolescence and manhood in Nazareth, he too has a formative text. It’s not Homer’s Iliad, it’s the Hebrew scriptures. He’s studying the scriptures, and he is being formed by a vision of a different kind of conquering king.
So we have Homer, and we have Isaiah, contemporaries from the eighth century B.C. They influence two great figures, Alexander the Great and Jesus of Nazareth.
Let’s look at some of Isaiah’s prophecies that influenced Jesus (some really good Christmas stuff here). There is some prose explanation before the song begins. “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations [gentiles]” Isaiah 9:1 ESV. In the setting this comes from, Galilee, the prophet says this – We know about Galilee. It’s backwards, back country, it’s rural. It’s flyover country. Nothing great comes from there. It’s also been a place of darkness and death. What’s it’s most notable for is being a battlefield of other empires. Galilee, the way of the sea, is where three continents come together, Africa, Asia and Europe. It was the meeting point where great empires to clash, because we all know a great empire doesn’t want to have a war inside it’s own borders. The story is told in scripture about when the Egyptians marched up to meet the Assyrian empire. They didn’t fight in Egypt or Assyria, they fought in Galilee. It’s where the Valley of Megiddo is (also known as Har-Megiddo. Better known to us as Armegeddon).
Here is this piece of land that was originally given to the two tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali in the region of the Sea of Galilee. It’s kind of a backwoods area. It was always half Gentle, the Jews never had it entirely. The nations of the Gentiles are there, and it’s where a lot of battles have been fought. A lot of people have died, a lot of bloodshed. It’s backwards it’s a bloody place. There are no great cities there.
But the prophet says All that’s going to change one day. As I look forward into the latter times (this is eighth century BC) this is what I see. And he begins to sing his song…
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nations; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood [every soldiers uniform] will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:2-7 ESV.
In other words, Galilee is backward. Nobody pays much attention to it. It’s just a place where great empires come to fight their wars. But someday, Isaiah says, as I look forward, in the latter days, in those days way off into the future, there’s going to be a light that begins to shine there. It’s going to change everything. He’s going to be a prince of peace, a prince of Shalom. We’re going to put the government on His shoulders. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end…
In other words, Daniel’s Son of Man, and Isaiah’s Prince of Peace, they are the same person. A very prophetic vision of Israel’s true Messiah. And 7 1/2 centuries later, not 100, 200, 300, 400, but 750 years later, we will pick up the story in Matthew chapter 4…