December 7 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.” ~Daniel 9:24

OLD TESTAMENT

Daniel 9 concludes with one of the most enigmatic prophecies in Scripture (vv. 24-27). Unfortunately too much of the conversation on this prophecy is centered on fixing precise dates.[1] I side with the majority of biblical interpreters who understand the numbers of Daniel 9 symbolically. This does not mean (as critics often counter) that the numbers are meaningless. On the contrary, symbols are signs that point to something that is real, like those big, green highway signs with the name of your home city in white reflective letters. The sign isn’t home, but it points the way to something real. In the same way, the number seven isn’t a literal span of years; it is a symbol of a completed period of time. God intentionally does NOT use exact years and dates because He does not want us knowing exactly when the future kingdom will arrive. Therefore, efforts to fix exact dates in the unfolding drama of redemption are futile. God intends to keep precise dates a mystery!

So what is the messenger revealing to Daniel? A look at the context tells us that God is assuring Daniel that his prayer has been heard. God will restore His people and His city. (You may want to re-read Daniel 9:4-23). However, restoration will not be immediate. It will take place over time, the periods called Seventy Sevens, and with much trouble.

First, the temple will be restored over a period of “seven sevens” (again, don’t think in terms of years). Second, there will be a time of waiting for the Anointed One (Jesus) spanning an unspecified period called “sixty-two sevens.” The Anointed One will come but be cut off (crucified) without a kingdom. There will be a final Seven, another period of unspecified length. This is the time we are living in now, and somewhere in the middle of it there will be more trouble for God’s people. At the end, their final enemy (the Anti-Christ) is destroyed.

God has heard the prayer of His people, and He will restore them. But not because they are good; He will restore because He is merciful. Everything is proceeding according to that plan. Therefore, we should live in hope of future restoration. Just like Ezekiel, who waited on the banks of the Tigris for restoration, we wait on the banks of the Tippecanoe, or the Tennessee, or the Thames, and long for the restoration of all creation. Joy awaits us on another shore along the banks of the “river coming from the house of God” (Ezek. 47)

[1] Fixing years and dates to the Bible’s deliberately imprecise numbers was a nineteenth-century innovation popularized by notes in the Scofield Reference Bible of the early twentieth-century. C. I. Scofield, a self-taught theologian, parroted views he discovered in the works of pastor James Nelson Darby, who contended that the dates and numbers in Scripture should be applied literally. However, many of Scofield’s interpretive “innovations” have been significantly revised (including the view that creation took place in 4,004 BC).

NEW TESTAMENT

While we wait for Daniel’s vision to be fulfilled, we are told not to be deceived. The spirit of the antichrist is already at work in the world. True, the Antichrist, the one who will be Satan’s final push to conquer the world, is yet to come. Somewhere in the last period (the final seven), Satan will go with a full-court press.  However, the game is already on. Satan is already deceiving. We must be on guard now—and always—until the end has come.


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.