December 8 | Daily Devotion

December 8 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.” ~Daniel 12:1

As we close the book of Daniel, it is important to stress (once again) how unhelpful it is to treat the prophet like a fortuneteller spouting out detailed information about the future. This is the way some have tried to read biblical prophetic literature, and the results are usually less than satisfying.

I have been greatly influenced by a professor named D. Brent Sandy, who has spent his life studying prophetic literature. I count him a friend and a mentor (I worked under him at Grace Seminary). His excellent study, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic changed the way I viewed prophetic materials. According to Dr. Sandy, the key to interpreting biblical text is to consider how prophetic material functioned in its ancient setting. He argues that the original audience never expected the kind of precision that we often demand. The biblical writers knew that they were painting with a broad brush. Their primary purpose was not prediction, but rather encouragement and exhortation.

In Daniel 11-12, God remains on the subject of heard prayer and the restoration of His people. Neither Daniel nor the people need to worry for God is in control of the nations and of everything that is about to happen. (The theme of God’s sovereign control is repeated throughout Daniel. See 2:21; 4:34-35; 6:26-27).

The highlight reel from this section goes something like this: a succession of Persian rulers will be ended by a conquering king from Greece (who we now know was Alexander the Great). Alexander’s kingdom will be divided, beginning a generations-long tug of war over possession of “the Beautiful Land,” Israel. Hindsight tells us that the two great kingdoms in this conflict were the Ptolemies ruling from Egypt and the Seleucids ruling from Syria. Then the narrative quickens as God tells Daniel that worship in the temple will resume only to be discontinued yet again. A great leader will arrive on the scene to declare himself God and to invade “the Beautiful Land.” This will be a time of distress like no other in the history of the world. Finally, the Ancient of Days will sit on His throne and judge the nations. Some will live in the kingdom forever while others will be banished from His presence.

Even Daniel had a hard time understanding all of this. It was coming at him so fast. I like the way Brent Sandy describes the tone and pacing of apocalyptic literature: “Apocalyptic literature gives its readers a roller-coaster ride into the future and into God’s presence.” However, God reminds Daniel that revolution and difficulty do not change the fact that He is in control of everything.

God holds our present lives—and our future destinies—in His hands, and blessings are in store. John Piper calls this “living by faith in future grace.” Hymn writer John Newton explained it like this, “Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come; ‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.”

Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.