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
And he would be dead wrong.
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.”