When we look around the world what kind of things do you see? Does the world look lost in a sea of chaos?
In our home Bible study we have been working our way through the book of Daniel and we recently studied Daniel 7. Chapter 7 is a turning point in the book of Daniel. Up to this point the book has been stories about the life of Daniel and his companions. Through these stories we can begin to learn how the people of God are supposed to live under repressive governments. It’s amazing to see how Daniel lives among these people who serve foreign gods and yet he remains true to Yahweh and even thrives in that environment.
In chapter 7 things change in the book. No longer do we get stories about the life of Daniel but now we get visions. Amidst all these different visions that Daniel receives I think it is important that we read and understand chapter 7 first.
Daniel’s first vision begins with seeing four beasts coming out of the sea. Right aways from this imagery we can know that these beasts are up to no good. In ancient times the sea was a place of chaos. Seas were unpredictable. If you were out on the sea in a boat you could never be fully confident about what was going to happen. Storms could arise suddenly and could easily lead to the deaths of everyone in the boat. So the sea came to represent the place of chaos and any beast or monster that came out of the sea was a creature of chaos. This is also why at the end of the book of Revelation there is no longer any sea in the kingdom of God. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be any water, rather, it means that there will no longer be chaos. Everything will be brought into order by God.
So in Daniel 7 we see four beasts coming out of the sea and we can know that they will bring chaos. Daniel describes the first three beasts and then when he gets to the fourth beasts we see that it so terrifying to him that he has a hard time describing what kind of animal it is. Daniel is so concerned about this beast that he will bring it up again to the angel at the end of the chapter.
However, in the midst of the this terrifying vision things begin to change. All of the sudden the scene switches from these four chaos creatures and we are taken into a throne room. As we look into the throne room we see the ancient of days taking his seat on the throne and begin to make judgment on the beasts. There is no battle, there is no conflict, there is just judgement and the beasts are defeated. This is so important for us to remember. There is no battle, there is no striving. The ancient of days, Yahweh, sits on his throne and the enemies are overthrown.
This of course is very different from other similar stories that are found in ancient Babylon. Usually when beasts come out of the sea it is a time of chaos and the world is in danger. It is only after a great battle, where one never knows who is going to win, that a hero will emerge to bring peace to the chaos. This is not what happens in our story though. We always know who is in control. There is never any doubt. There is no uncertainty. God is in control. God knows what is going on and he will bring judgement and deliverance on behalf of his people.
I think this is why we Daniel is given this vision first. All of the following visions that happen in the book of Daniel need to be understood from the perspective that God is in control and that whatever beasts or adversaries arise there is never any doubt about who is in control.
This is the picture that we always need to remember when we look at the world around us. It can seem chaotic. It can seem like no one is in control but when we are able to pull back the curtain, we see God sitting on his judgement seat and then we can know that we are in good hands. There is one who is in control and we never have to doubt how the story will end. I don’t even know how correct it is to say that God wins because there is never a contest. God speaks and it is done. There is no conflict.
So don’t be afraid. God is in control.