“By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action…yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days.” (Daniel 11:32-33)
The world is never the Christian’s friend. We know this. With the venom of a viper, it snaps enough to make us wary. But at other times it leads us astray with a gentler, more winsome spirit. Like a Python it slips in, ready to embrace the compromiser. No doubt, many have lost their lives to the world’s fury. I suspect, however, a much greater tally have lost their souls to its more lethal kindness.
Daniel, you remember, had witnessed this Satanic, two faced antagonism for himself. He had seen both the the furnace and the Lion’s Den from the inside, but he had also felt the sweet, alluring defilement of the Kings table (Daniel 1:8). Resistance was not easy. It always takes deliberate thoughtful resolve to refuse pleasant opportunities for compromise!
You might expect more professors to follow his example. Alas, as Daniel knew only too well, most do not. In our text this morning, with the God-given prescience of a prophet, Daniel looks forward to 170BC. He sees Antiochus Epiphanes, a vicious, godless blasphemer who brutalized the people of God 170 years before the birth of Christ. Like his spiritual father, the devil, Antiochus was a deceiver and a killer. With smooth words, he flattered compromisers into hell. And with the sword, he dispatched the faithful to an early glory.
Similar sifting times, I fear, await us just around the corner of history. How will we fare? Where can we face the strength to stand for God against the foe? Daniel tells: It is those who know God who are strong, who take action, who have insight, and who give understanding to many (Daniel 11:32-33).
Hear me now: it is one thing to know about God, it is quite another to know Him. Physics professors and surfers know waves. The one knows them from a safe distance. The other has felt their wild, exhilarating power unleashed in the ocean. It is this kind of knowledge that we need in the Church today. Do you have it?
““Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.”” (Hosea 6:1–3).
Let this knowledge inspire you to live for Christ today, to pray earnestly today, to deny temptation today, to witness boldly today. Living for Christ today is the best preparation for the unknown challenges of tomorrow. Whatever these might be: Now is not a time for weakness.