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We are at War

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In 605 BC Jerusalem was sacked by the notorious Babylonians. Among the hostages taken back to the city of the hanging gardens was a young man named Daniel. He becomes a sort of counselor among the royal cabinet, largely because God favors Daniel and reveals a number of mysteries to him which had stumped everyone else on staff. You might remember the famous episode when in the midst of a state function turned Mardi Gras, King Belshazzar sees the handwriting on the wall – literally. Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin.

Actually, everyone sees it, but only Daniel can interpret what it means. The Hebrew exile is right again, the king dies that night, the Medes take over, and after a number of more years in the dangerous world of Middle Eastern politics, Daniel has another troubling vision. Let’s pick up the story there.

In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision. At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over (Daniel 10:1-3).

Something has happened that Daniel doesn’t understand. I think we can all relate to that. We don’t understand about 90% of what happens to us, either. Daniel is troubled. He sets out to get an answer. But three weeks of prayer and fasting produce no results. What is he to conclude? If Daniel were like most people, by this point he’d probably be headed towards one of two conclusions: I’m blowing it, or, God is holding out on me. He might try confessing every sin and petty offense, in hopes of opening up the lines of communication with God. Or, he might withdraw into a sort of disappointed resignation, drop the fast, and turn on the television. In an effort to hang onto his faith, he might embrace the difficulty as part of “God’s will for his life.” He might read a book on “the silence of God.” That’s the way the people I know handle this sort of thing.

And he would be dead wrong.

On the 21st day of the fast an angel shows up, out of breath. In a sort of apology the angel explains to Daniel that God had actually dispatched him in answer to Daniel’s prayers the very first day he prayed – three weeks ago. (There goes the whole unanswered prayer thesis, right out the window). Three weeks ago? What is Daniel to do with that? “The very first day? But…I’ve…I mean, thank you so very much, and I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but…where have you been?” You haven’t blown it, Daniel, and God isn’t holding out on you. The angel goes on to explain that he was locked in hand-to-hand combat with a mighty fallen angel, a demonic power of dreadful strength, who kept him out of the Persian kingdom for these three weeks, and how he finally had to go get Michael (the great Archangel, the Captain of the Lord’s hosts) to come and help him break through enemy lines. “Now I am here, in answer to your prayer. Sorry its taken so long.”

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