Daniel 027: A Hebrew Fourth of July – Part 1

Dr. Andy Woods | Jul 2, 2017 | Daniel 8:1-8 | Daniel

Andy Woods

A Jewish Fourth of July

7-2-17      Daniel 8:1-8           Lesson 27

Good morning everybody and a very happy Independence Day weekend to you.   Aren’t you guys glad we sing patriotic songs in this church?  [clapping]  I think it’s terrific.  And generally when we have come up on the 4th of July I’ve done an independent message related  to the United States of America but this morning I’m going to deviate from that pattern because as I was thinking what to speak on the Lord impressed upon me… well read the next chapter!  And we finished Daniel 7, of course I want to thank Gabe Morris for filling in last week, I was in Australia ministering there and had a very fruitful time.  I always appreciate your prayers.

But Daniel 7 gives way to what?  Daniel 8!   You guys with me on that?  [Laughter]  All right, just making sure everybody is in agreement; we can stipulate those facts I guess, right?  What is Daniel 8 about?  Well, it’s a story of independence; it’s a story about how a nation fought against all odds, against overwhelming odds with God on their side.  And guess what?  They achieved victory.  They achieved victory and they achieved a window of independence during the intertestamental period which lasted probably about a hundred years.  It kind of reminds you, doesn’t it, of the United States, a nation fought a war against all odds, nobody ever bet on the United States; the United States wins, we feel not because God is on our side or we’re on God’s side but God is on our side, whichever way you want to say it.  Had it not been for divine intervention it’s doubtful that the independence we achieved in the war of independence would have materialized.  The handwriting of God is all over that time period.

And the same story is being told here in Daniel 8; the only difference is this is a history lesson given in advance.  Daniel, under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is being told these things by God 400 years before they happened.  It even commemorated in Israel getting a holiday out of it, something called The Feast of Lights or Dedication, commonly known today as what?  As Hanukah.   And so because of the parallels I just decided to continue on with our verse by verse exposition through the Book of Daniel.

It’s interesting to me how God places us in the exact sections of Scripture which reflect the calendar.  You say well, you’re a pretty good planner Pastor;  let me assure  you it’s got nothing to do with me, it’s got everything to do with the illumination and I believe the superintendence of God.  Daniel 8 fits the 4th of July weekend., so I’ve entitled this message A Jewish Fourth of July.  That’s why I have on today my tie reflecting the nation of Israel.

You recall as we’ve been working our way through the Book of Daniel that Daniel was raised up by God to prophetically explain the time period called the times of the Gentiles when the nation is outside of their land and being trampled down by various Gentile powers.  What’s going to happen during that time period?  We wouldn’t know if God had not raised up Daniel.  How are the Hebrews to live on pagan soil?  We would not know if God had not raised up Daniel and his three friends as role models.

The Book of Daniel has two parts: the historical section, 1-7, the prophetic section, 8-12.  We have completed the historical section; we saw the introductory chapter written in Hebrew.  And we have spent several weeks, if not months, working our way through chapters 2-7 which are (as we have said) chiastically structured.  The information in 2 is repeated in 7.  The information in 3, the theme anyway, is repeated in 6.  The information in 4 is repeated in 5.  So it’s a literary pattern where Daniel is deliberately paralleling various chapters that have a common theme.

You say well, I don’t remember any of the things you talked about; well, you can remember pictures, right.  If you can attach a picture with each chapter you’ll know how to think your way through the Book of Daniel.  Chapter 2 just think of a giant statue.  Chapter 3 think of fire as Daniel’s three friends were thrown into that fiery furnace.  Chapter 4 think of a tree being cut down which deals with the humiliation and restoration of Nebuchadnezzar.  Chapter 5 think of the handwriting on the wall.  Chapter 6 think of Daniel in the lion’s den.  Chapter 7 think of four ferocious beasts.  And then we come to chapter 8 which we’re getting into today, think about two animals, a ram with two horns and a goat with one horn.  And it’s through the revelation, about 400 years in advance that these two animals and what they represent, we see something that God did of monumental significance during the intertestamental time period between the two testaments, a great battle, a great victory that was won against all odds.

You see, you may be here today with the odds stacked against you in whatever it is you’re going through, physically, emotionally, relationally, financially, there’s almost no conceivable way out that you can think of from a human point of view.  And that’s the circumstances in  your life where God shows up.  That was what the early colonists in  America were against.  This in Daniel 8 is what the nation of Israel was against.  And last time I checked God is the same yesterday, today and what?  Forever… for tomorrow.  The God that helped Israel, the God that helped early America is the God that is going to help you, and wants to help you as you walk with Him through whatever adversity or valley that  you are experiencing.

It’s in chapters 8-12 that the whole tone and tenor shifts.  You see, in chapters 2-7 Daniel interpreted the vision but this is different; an angel does the interpreting.  In chapters 2-7 Daniel typically spoke of himself in the third person; now, not every time but most of the time, he speaks of himself in the first person.  Chapters 2-7 was a message, if you will, to the surrounding Gentile nations; not so 8-12, it’s a message specifically to the nation of Israel.  That’s why in chapters 2-7 the language that’s used is Aramaic, it’s one of the few places in the Old Testament that uses a language other than Hebrew and yet you move into chapters 8-12 and the language shifts from Aramaic to Hebrew.  God is sending a message to the nation of Israel how He is with them during this very difficult time of adversity, called the times of the Gentiles.  It’s just like God is with you as a Christian, as I speak.

Chapter 8 is the vision of the ram and the goat as we’ll be talking about.  Chapter 9 is the vision of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel; I’m hoping it won’t take us 70 weeks to get through that.  And then chapters 10-12 is the final vision; it really begins during the time of Daniel, goes into the inter­testamental period, goes into the future tribulation period and millennial kingdom and we see what God’s final program is for the nation of Israel.  But this morning we begin to work our way through Israel’s Fourth of July, recorded in Daniel 8.

Daniel 8 has four parts to it; the historical setting, verse 1; the vision itself that Daniel received, verses 2-14; the interpretation of the vision, verses 15-26 and finally the chapter ends just like chapter 7 ended, with a personal impact on Daniel himself.  We’ll be fortunate if we can make it through verse 14 today but I’m not promising that.

Notice, if you will, verse 1, Daniel 8:1, it says this: “In the third year of the reign of Belshazzar the king a vision appeared to me,”  Daniel had yet another vision and this vision transpired during the third year of Belshazzar, the King.  It’s easy to just gloss over that information yet this information is very important because it tells us that this vision was given about 551 B.C. that’s a date you probably should write down because I’ll be giving you the dates of the other things mentioned in this chapter.  Daniel saw these things before they happened.  Daniel is probably a couple of years older than he was in chapter 7; he’s probably in his mid 60’s.  I hope you understand this, that when you’re reading the Bible you’re reading real history.  This is not Vegie Tales, this is not Jack and the Beanstalk, this is not the Tooth Fairy, this is not Santa Claus, these little historical pieces of information are given as a reminder that these things actually happened in Israel.

And before I move on keep in mind that Belshazzar, the last reigning king over the Neo-Babylonian Empire, was in power as chapter 7 unfolded and also chapter 8.  This is towards the end, if you will, of Neo-Babylonia.

You’ll notice also in chapter 8 and verse 1 it says the word “Daniel.”  “In the third year of the reign of Belshazzar the king a vision appeared to me, Daniel.”  Daniel wants us to understand that he himself wrote this book.  You say well, of course, what else would we believe.  Well, you’d be shocked at what people say; most of the scholars of the world will tell you that there’s no way Daniel could have known these things in chapter 8 ahead of time so obviously someone else wrote these things down after they happened, 400 years later, using the penname Daniel.

In fact, in most universities, sadly most seminaries today, that view is taught and yet what did Daniel say?  Daniel says Daniel!  Someone didn’t write these things after the fact; Daniel wrote these things down and I think Daniel is a pretty good source.  Well, what about Jesus?  Do you all believe Jesus is a good source?  Jesus, in Matthew 24:15 quotes Daniel 9:27, a passage that we’ll be getting to at some point, and he said this was given through “Daniel the prophet.”  [Matthew 24:15, “Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),”  Daniel 9:27, ‘“And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.’”]

You see, the moment you deviate from the biblical text and begin to embrace naturalistic theories is the moment you find yourself disagreeing, not only with what the book says but you find yourself disagreeing even with Jesus Christ Himself.  And at the end of the day I don’t think I’d advise that; He’s a dangerous person, this Jesus Christ, this omniscient God to disagree with.

Continuing on, in the second part of verse 8, after the word “Daniel” it says “subsequent to the one which had appeared to me previously,” so this vision takes place about two years after Daniel 7.  Now one of the things that we have talked about is chapter 7 and 8 are out of order.   The book generally flows in chronological order but chapters 7 and 8 are out of order.  Here’s the right order:  Chapters 1-4 take place chronologically, then chapters 7 and 8, then chapters 5-6, and then chapters 9-12.  {1-4, 7-8, 5-6, 9-12.}  Why are 7 and 8 out of order?  Because that section is not structured chronologically but it’s structured chiastically.  We’ve talked about that.

These events, or this vision, in terms of when he received this vision, takes place about twelve years before Daniel 5; you recall Daniel 5, it’s the handwriting on the wall chapter.  It’s the time period when the Babylonians would be overthrown by the Persians; that historic political change hasn’t transpired yet.  This chapter and the vision given and the contents of when the decision was received would occur about twelve  years before that political sea change.  Why is that important?  Because Daniel is going to see that political sea change twelve years in advance, a sea change politically that would take place in his own lifetime, probably something he never thought could happen, the deposing of Babylon which was a world power and the replacing of Babylon with the Persians.

And notice very carefully Daniel 8:20-21, jumping down for just a moment, this may be the key to properly interpreting everything in Daniel 8.  It says, “The ram which you saw with the two horns represents the kings of Media and Persia. [21] The shaggy goat represents the kingdom of Greece, and the large horn that is between his eyes is the first king.”  That’s the King of Greece.  Who is this vision about?  It’s about two political powers, the one is Medo-Persia, the nation that was destined to overthrow Babylon, who Daniel was working for at the time, and then Daniel sees what would happen to Medo-Persia at the hands of the Greeks.

You see, this chapter is very different than other things that we have studied thus far in Daniel. Daniel 2 and Daniel 7, the outer edges of the chiasm, gave us a panorama of world history.  Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, there would be some sort of revived Rome of the antichrist in the future, finally to be replaced by God’s kingdom, six kingdoms total by my count.

You’ll notice what Daniel 8:20-21 does; it says we’re going to narrow the focus here prophet­ically, we’re focusing on Persia and then the empire which would follow Persia, which would be Greece.  In Daniel 2 what are we focused on here?  The chest and arms of silver and the belly and thighs of bronze.  We’re not focused on the legs, we’re not focused on the head, we’re not focused on the ten toes.  In Daniel 7 those various beasts that Daniel saw were focused here on the bear and the leopard.  We’re not focused at all on the lion, which would be Babylon or the terrifying beast, which would be Rome or the ten horns which would be the empire of the antichrist.  We’re focused specifically on the bear and the lion–Medo-Persia and Greece.

We are focused on this bear, that would be Persia, Daniel 7:5, [Daniel 7:5, “And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, ‘Arise, devour much meat!’”]  And then we’re also focused on this leopard, Greece, Daniel 7:6.  [Daniel 7:6, “After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.”]  The only real difference is Persia and Greece are represented by different animals in Daniel 8.  The ram would represent Medo-Persia; the one-horned goat would represent the empire of Greece.

Why do I bring this to your attention?  I bring this to your attention, not only so we can interpret this correctly but to save people from all kinds of strange and bizarre speculations about the antichrist.  I run into theories all of the time about what the antichrist is going to be; he’s got to be Assyrian, for example, people say because of Daniel 8.  The reality of the situation is these chapters are not about the antichrist.  There are many other passages of Scripture you could go to to get teaching about the antichrist; Daniel 8 is not directly about the antichrist but the antichrist is referred to.  How so?  In type only; in prefigurement only, because once Greece deposes Persia there’s going to come someone from the empire of Greece, a Seleucid; I’ll explain who the Seleucid’s are in just a minute, who will launch such a horrific wave of persecution against the Jewish people that this Seleucid looks a lot like the antichrist.  In fact, he is so aggressive he becomes a prefigurement or a typology, if you will, of what the future antichrist will do to the Jewish people.  This is why God had to intervene here, the persecution was so severe.

So the antichrist is here as a prefigurement through this final Seleucid ruler, a man named Antiochus Epiphanes, but the antichrist (having said that) is not directly here because this vision does not concern the empire of the antichrist.  It concerns Medo-Persia and Greece.  So be careful about your theories of the antichrist and from what Scripture you’re developing those theories.  We have to grow to a point where we’re using the Word of God correctly.

We come to verses 2-14 which is the actual vision itself that Daniel saw in 551 B.C.  He saw, number 1, a two-horned ram representing Medo-Persia, verses 2-4.  Number 2, he saw a one-horned goat representing Greece, verses 5-8.  And finally he saw this boastful little horn, this man Antiochus Epiphanes, this Seleucid ruler, who came from the empire of Greece who is used in the Book of Daniel as a type or prefigurement of the coming antichrist.  We see that in verses 9-14.

Notice the first part of this vision, this two-horned ram.  Notice, if you will, verse 2.  It says, “I looked in the vision, and while I was looking I was in the citadel of Susa, which is in the province of Elam; and I looked in the vision and I myself was beside the Ulai Canal.”  Now we look at some of these pieces of geography; why does it tell us here that “Susa, which is in the province of Elam” who really cares about that anyway?  Well I think you should care because not “if” but “when” the history channel comes on at your house Mysteries of the Bible, A&E, they’re going to basically try to sell you and your children and your grandchildren on the fact that Daniel didn’t really write this book, this was written by someone long after the events transpired.

The city of Shushan in the province of Elam existed during the Babylonian period, when Daniel wrote this.  But Greek and Roman historians tell us that Shushan was assigned to a new province during the Persian Era after the time of Daniel.  Question: well then how did Daniel ever know that it was once in the province of Elam?  See, if this book was written after the real Daniel died this is a piece of geographical information that he couldn’t have had, which helps us with the thesis that only a sixth century man could have known that Susa was part of Elam.  It’s just another piece of evidence that this book is an authentic book.  It reveals pieces of geography someone 400 years later could never have  understood or known.

What am I trying to get at?  You can take God for what He says.  You can take Him at His Word.  The author is revealing a sixth century B.C. understanding.   Are you equipping yourself for these kinds of questions that your children and grandchildren are getting hit at with regularly, through media, through education, whatever the case may be, because they’re being hit with the other side all the time.  It’s therefore incumbent upon you, as a Bible reader, who loves your children and your grandchildren to become equipped with this kind of data to respond to the doubts that their minds are being hit with.  And where do you think they’re going to go to for answers when they hear this stuff on the media?  They’re going to go to mom and dad, grandpa and grandma.  Don’t  you guys study the Bible?  Don’t you read the Bible?  Don’t you go to that church over there, what’s that called?  Sugar Land Bible Church?  I mean, the Bible is pretty important to you; what do you say?  And how embarrassing it is to be caught flatfooted on something like this.  And yet through just a little bit of research I believe all of these accusations that are brought against the authenticity of the Book of Daniel can be answered.

Start with this book, Josh McDowell, a famous Christian apologist, writes in a very readable lay person’s style, he wrote a book, I love the title of the book, it’s called Daniel in the Critic’s Den, not the lion’s den but the critic’s den; it’s a paperback book.  He goes through argument after argument that people use to attack the authenticity of the Book of Daniel and gives just a simple answer to each accusation.

So this language, Susa in the province of Elam is very significant and Daniel is by this canal of some sort, called the Ulai Canal.  And what exactly does he see from that location?  He sees a two-horned ram.  Look at verse 3, “Then I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a ram which had two horns was standing in front of the canal. Now the two horns were long, but one was longer than the other, with the longer one coming up last.”  What does he see?  He sees this two-horned ram which we believe has been identified in chapter 8, verse 20 as the Empire of Persia, the empire that was to replace the Babylonian Empire. [Daniel 8:20, “The ram which you saw with the two horns represents the kings of Media and Persia.”]  He sees this ram having two horns, he sees one horn larger than the other which is a perfect description, if you will, of the Medo-Persian Empire.  You see, the Persians and the Medes were in an alliance with each other and that’s why Daniel, seeing this Ram having not one horn but two horns is very significant.  It’s a prophecy, if you will, about this alliance.

He’s also very clear that one horn on the ram is longer than the other.  Most people believe this: the Persians were more powerful than the Medes in this coalition and consequently the Persians overshadowed the Medes and eventually it became known as not the Medo-Persian Empire but the Persian Empire because of the dominance of Persia over the Medes.  That’s why Daniel, in chapter 7 and verse 5, it’s not necessarily reflected in this picture but Daniel 7:5, also a prophecy about the Medo-Persian Empire says this, “And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear.  The bear, it was raised up on one side….” Just like this ram has two horns, one larger than the other, “raised on one side in the form of a bear,” one horn larger than the other in terms of the ram, speaking of the coalition of the Medes and the Persians and how the Persians were eventually given, under the providence of God, the opportunity to overshadow the Medes.  [Daniel 7:5, “And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, ‘Arise, devour much meat!’”]

It’s amazing to me how specific and detailed these predictions are.  Daniel, seeing these things twelve years in advance.  You want to focus just for a minute on that ram; the goat will become significant in just a moment but what Daniel begins to see, dropping down to verse 4 is the conquest of this ram.  Notice what it says, “I saw the ram butting westward, northward, and southward, and no other beasts could stand before him nor was there anyone to rescue from his power, [but he did as he pleased and magnified himself]”  This is speaking of the conquest of Medo-Persia over the Babylonian Empire.  Daniel, twelve years in advance, is seeing the events that he describes in chapter 5.

Chapter 5, as you recall is the handwriting on the wall chapter which spelled, as we’ve studied it, the doom of the arrogant Babylonian power and that very night the Persians, the Medes and the Persians overthrew the Babylonians.  In fact, the battle was so powerful and so swift that as we have studied the story, not just from the Scripture but from extra-biblical sources we’ve discovered that the conquered, the Persians did, they conquered Babylon, a worldwide power, without even a battle.  This is what Daniel predicted would happen that night in Daniel 5, now he is seeing the same thing twelve years earlier in this vision concerning the ram.

Now we would think that when the Medo-Persian power came to power over Babylon that Persia would just go on and on and on as a world power but it never works that way.  You know why?  Because of the rest of verse 4, the part of verse 4 I didn’t read, “But he” that’s the ram, “did as he pleased and magnified” who? “himself.” [Daniel 8:4, “[I saw the ram butting westward, northward, and southward, and no other beasts could stand before him nor was there anyone to rescue from his power, but he did as he pleased and magnified himself.”]

If the Book of Daniel teaches anything… if it teaches ANYTHING it teaches this: First comes pride and then comes what?  A fall!  Wasn’t that the whole problem with Nebuchadnezzar, a man that already had passed into history by the time this vision was given?  Do you remember Daniel 4:30-31, “The king” that’s Nebuchadnezzar, “reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ [31] While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you.”

You would think that Persia would have learned its lesson by what happened to Babylon but Persia went the same direction as the Babylonians in terms of pride.  That’s why Persia’s days, Medo-Persia’s days, as we’re going to see here in this prophecy, are numbered.  Someone put it this way:  The lesson we learn from history is that we never learn from history.  And I say that to the United States of America, even today, as we’re celebrating our independence and we look at our size and strength and power and our economy and our stock market, our military power, our budget, our system, and we forget the hand of God.  We forget what God did.  We forget our place of dependence in Colonial America.  And now God has given us this gift of independence and we’ve removed God from almost all of our thinking.

Even some of the history I’m describing, some of the youth, many of the youth, don’t even know this history; it’s not taught to them.  And we think that somehow we’re here because of us and our strength and our power.  Are we not falling into the same trap as Babylon?  Are we not falling into the same trap as Persia.  Is this not a time in American history for leaders, religious, political, laity to tremble and humble themselves under the hand of an all-powerful God?  This is not a time for arrogance and boasting and pride; this is a time for in trepidation and fear under God.  It’s just a matter of looking at the pattern of history that we become aware of these things.

And so Persia did overthrow the Babylonians, it was a great victory but they didn’t last long because we have now the prophecies concerning Greece, chapter 8 and verses 5-8.  Here comes the scene that Daniel was seeing.  He doesn’t just see a ram that just conquered Babylon; he sees Greece in the form of a one-horned goat doing away with the Medo-Persian Empire a few centuries later.

And notice what it says here in verse 5, “While I was observing, behold, a male goat was coming from the west over the surface of the whole earth without touching the ground; and the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes.”  What does Daniel see next?  He sees the goat; the goat represents Greece.  He doesn’t see two horns like with the ram, he sees one horn between the eyes of the goat.  Well, who was that horn?  It’s the first leader of the Grecian Empire, a man named Alexander the Great.  Notice the speed and velocity at which Alexander the Great conquered the known world; Daniel sees this centuries in advance as he sees this goat moving in every direction without even touching the ground.  That’s a terrific and accurate prophecy of what Alexander the Great did.  Alexander the Great is a man who conquered the known world, probably about the age of 30-32.  And as you know the history he wept because there was nothing else to conquer.  That’s how fast he did away with the Persian Empire.

And beloved, one of the things I want you to see is the hand of God in this because Alexander the Great brought something to the known world which it had not known before; something called the Greek language.  Alexander the Great’s goal was Hellenization; he wanted a monolithic Greek culture.  He brought in the Greek language, and beloved, that is the hand of God that allowed that.  Why is that?  Because the Greek language is one of the richest and fullest dialects the human race has ever known.  In fact in English we have one word for love; in the Greek language there’s four words for love.  The Greek language allows you to express yourself at a level that’s extremely detailed and deep.  And so the right language was now in place with its richness and fullness to record the revelation of Jesus Christ, called our New Testament, written not in English but in Greek.  God allowed Alexander the Great to come to power, I believe partially for that reason.

The Book of Galatians, chapter 4 and verse 4 says, “When the fullness of time came God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under Law.”   Jesus was not just dropped into history at any random time: He was dropped into history at a specific time.  God even put the right language in place to record Jesus Christ and His great exploits and the church that was birthed as a result of His ministry.

Even though something negative was happening Alexander the Great was conquering the known world; God was at work in a negative circumstance.  Do you see that?  Do we understand that it is God’s specialty to work in negative circumstances?  Paul, the apostle, had a negative circumstance.  He describes it in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, he had a thorn in the flesh.  We’re not sure what it was but it was painful and he kept pleading with the Lord to take it away.  In fact, three times he said take it away, and the Lord said I won’t take it away, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is perfected in” what? “weakness.”  You see Paul, it’s this thorn in the flesh, as negative as it looks, that keeps you in a place of usability and dependence.  And as you’re in that place of usability, humility and dependence I can now use your life to bless other people.

Something negative God was turning around to positive and this is what’s happening with Alexander the Great.  It looked negative but something positive was happening.  Do you see your struggles that way?  Your problems, your difficulties, your heartaches, your setbacks, your frustrations.  How easy it is in the valleys of life to focus on what’s wrong without seeing the hand of God in it, that God has allowed it for a reason, a season, to do something positive which probably could not be accomplished any other way.  It’s a different way of thinking, isn’t it?  Is the glass half empty or half what?  Half full.  We need to start disciplining our mind, seeing the invisible hand of God in negative circumstances.  This is exactly what’s happening here as Alexander the Great would come to power.

We go down to verses 6 and 7, we get a description of Alexander the Great and yes, as you look at those eyes they are blinking, you are not hallucinating, that’s a little animation from my computer.  You guys see that?   Maybe I shouldn’t have even called it to your attention.  I call it to your attention because I was giving a Bible study on this in the Dallas area and a guy came in who was sort of struggling with alcohol and he thought he was hallucinating, so I don’t want anybody to think they’re hallucinating; that’s actually rigged to do that.  You can thank my wife for that, she’s the one that comes  up with this stuff.

Verses 6 and 7, notice what it says here, “He came up to the ram that had the two horns, which I had seen standing in front of the canal, and rushed at him in his mighty wrath. [7] I saw him come beside the ram, and he was enraged at him; and he struck the ram and shattered his two horns, and the ram had no strength to withstand him. So he hurled him to the ground and trampled on him, and there was none to rescue the ram from his power.”  What is he seeing here?  He’s seeing Greece’s conquest of Medo-Persia.   He’s seeing the ram which had conquered Greece being defeated rapidly and swiftly by the empire of Greece.  Persia had conquered Babylon, hopefully I didn’t misspeak there, Persia had conquered Babylon and now Daniel sees Greece overthrowing Persia.  Why did God allow it?  Go back to the end of verse 4 describing Persia, “he did as he pleased and magnified himself.”   God does not allow people like that to go on forever in their state of pride, individuals or nations.   And so Persia’s days were limited.

Greece now comes to power.  Again, think back to Daniel 8:1, “These things were given to Daniel in the third  year of Belshazzar,” 551 B.C.  Translation, Daniel is seeing these things 220 years in advance; 220 years is a long time, that’s almost, a little less than the length of the United States of America.  And yet the God who is omniscient, who knows the end from the beginning, is able to reveal history before it happens and woe to the anti-supernaturalist who rejects that.  They’ve got quite a quandary on their hands with the Book of Daniel.  They’ve got to re-date it and play all kinds of gimmicks and games with the book. How different it is for the child of God who simply takes God at His word and believes God can reveal the end from the beginning because He is omniscient.

You continue on into verse 8 and now we have a description, not just of Greece but that one horn coming from the goat and it says this in verse 8: “Then the male goat” oh-oh, look at this, “magnified” what? “himself exceedingly.”  As  Yogi Bear said it’s deja vu all over again.  The only thing we learn from history is we don’t learn anything from history.

That’s my warning today to America.  Look at the history books; look at what God does to pride and while there’s time humble ourselves.  The admonition is to humble ourselves in the presence of the Lord.

But we continue on with Greece and it says the male goat magnified himself exceedingly but as soon as he was mighty the large horn (Alexander the Great) was broken off… the changing horn.  Alexander the Great, although he conquered the world very rapidly, became as arrogant as his Medo-Persian and Babylonian predecessors and thus he too was ripe for the discipline and the judgment of God;  a man who conquered the world and yet wept because there was nothing left to conquer, at the age of probably 32 died of debauchery the history books tell us.  Some attribute it to alcoholism, others attribute it to a sexually transmitted disease or diseases.

Isn’t it interesting that a man can conquer the world but in many cases he cannot conquer the own lusts of his flesh and because the lusts of his flesh are in rebellion against God and because a man reaps what he sows a person that can’t control the lusts of their flesh is putting into the ground the seeds of their own destruction.  It doesn’t matter how successful they are, it doesn’t matter how gifted they are, it doesn’t matter how intelligent they are, it doesn’t matter how powerful they are.

Can I ask you a question?  Is there a pocket of rebellion in your life?  It’s probably known only between you and God, and area of the flesh, an area of the sin nature that you have not brought into the subjection and the dominion of Christ because you’ve never reckoned these things to be dead as Romans 6 says and you keep going back to that sinful habit, over and over again and yet you’re deceived into thinking that everything is going to be all right because look at how successful I am in this area or that area.  Look at the promotion I just got.  Look at the money I’m making.  And you take your eye off the sinful habit that God wants to help you with, help me with, help all of us with.

You look at Alexander the Great’s life and you look at his talent and his success and his effectiveness and yet he destroyed himself because as a man he could conquer the known world but he couldn’t reign in his simple appetites.  What a lesson this is as we look at this history lesson in advance from the perspective of Daniel.

Back to verse 8, “Then the male goat magnified himself exceedingly. But as soon as he was mighty, the large horn was broken off; and in its place there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.”  The goat has a horn between its eyes, it’s broken off and in its place grow four other horns.  May I just say to you that’s exactly what history records because you see, Alexander the Great, when he died at a very young age, about the age of 32, had no heirs, no biological heirs. So the historians will tell us that what became of Alexander the Great’s empire is it was divided amongst his four generals.  The top general was Cassandra, he took Macedonia.  Lysimachus, he took Thrace and Asia Minor.  Ptolemy, he took Egypt and then Seleucus took Syria, including the land of Israel.

Here’s what it looks like on a map.  The two most important become Ptolemy and Seleucus because of their location to the land of Israel because from these four generals came four dynasties: the Seleucid dynasty, very important.  The Ptolemy dynasty, very important.  Cassandra and Lysimachus drop off the radar screen.  Why is that?  Because of their proximity away from the land of Israel.  The focus of Bible prophecy is the nation of Israel, you have to understand that.  That is the covenanted nation.  This is why the Book of Ezekiel, chapter 5, verse 5, of Jerusalem, says, as God is speaking, “I have set her at the center of the nations.”   Ezekiel 38:12 says of Israel, “who live at the center of the world.” This is history from the vantage point of God; Israel is the fulcrum of human history.  Everything begins in the Bible in terms of God’s redemptive program and everything ends with Israel.

To become a Bible reader is to become interested in the land of Israel, focused on the land of Israel because that’s the centerpiece of the action.  It was that land that God gave in covenantal form to the patriarch, Abram.  And  yet today the world in its rebellion against God looks at Israel as a nuisance, an occupier, a troublemaker, a nation that must be done away with, pushed into the Mediterranean Sea so we can get on with progress.  That’s not how God looks at it.  It’s a beautiful land, as will be described in our chapter, is the land of Israel.

When Daniel saw the Grecian Empire in Daniel 7:6 it says this: Daniel 7:6, “After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back” how many wings of a bird? “four wings of a bird; the beast also had” how many heads? “four heads,” not a forehead but “four heads and dominion was given to it.”  You see how the Bible harmonizes with itself.  When Daniel in Daniel 7 saw an image of Greece he saw four wings and four heads.  When that same empire is described as a goat a single horn is lopped off only to be replaced by four horns; that’s the division of Alexander the Great’s empire amongst the four generals.  Dynasties began.  Keep your eyes on Ptolemy, and keep your eyes on Seleucus because of their location to the land of what?  Houston?  No, the land of Israel.

And keep your eye on Seleucus and the Seleucid dynasty because from the Seleucid dynasty, not immediately but down the road, is going to emerge someone named Antiochus Epiphanes whose very name means God manifest.  No problem with the ego there, right?  That’s his name, God manifest.  This guy didn’t learn anything from Alexander, he didn’t learn anything from Hebrews, he didn’t learn anything from Medo-Persia, he is on a warpath to Hellenize and to create, like Alexander did, a monolithic Greek culture and who is standing right in the way?  The Jewish people, with their own language, their own culture, their own religion.  Antiochus is going to reason with himself, there’s got to be something about this Jewish nation.

History hasn’t really changed that much, has it?  Israel has always been a thorn in the side of the world.  In fact, Israel becoming a thorn in the side of the world is something that the pages of the Bible predict; it’s happening right now in your headlines.  Zechariah 12:2-3, God says of Jerusalem in the end times, yet future, “Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. [3] It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.”

This problem of Israel is not something new, it goes all the way back to the days of Alexander, Antiochus in the intertestamental times, and it’s the same problem nagging the world community today.   Yet it’s not a problem, through this cauldron called the Middle East God is going to orchestrate His plan of bringing, not just a Savior to the world as He did in the first century but the glorious kingdom of God which will last for a thousand years and then after that forever.

Are you looking forward to that?  Do you see the headlines through this lens?  You see, Christian, you do not have to be gripped with fear at the things happening in the world when you see it through the eyes of God.  It’s God just moving the chess pieces around, bringing forth His plan and His drama.  Tell us more about this plan. I can’t, because I’m out of time but if you come back next week we’ll see it all in prefigurement.

Maybe  you’re here today and you don’t know Christ personally, you don’t know this God of history who’s transitioning our world and our exhortation here at Sugar Land Bible Church is that you can know God personally, not based upon what you do but based upon what Jesus has done for you.  The story of the Bible is not about man climbing up to God, it’s God reaching down to man in the person of Jesus Christ, saying through Christ’s death, burial, resurrection and ascension, I’ve done all the heavy lifting; I’ve done all the work.  There’s nothing left for you to do.  That’s why Jesus proclaimed “It is finished!”  Tetelestai in His final words or word on the cross just prior to His death.  The only thing He asks human beings to do is to rest, to trust, to rely upon what Jesus has done in our place.

Have you done that?  God has sent the Holy Spirit into the world to convict men and women of their need to do this.  If it’s not something you have done you can do it right now in the privacy of your own mind, in the privacy of your own thoughts, in the privacy of your own heart.  It’s not something you have to raise a hand to do, join a church to do, walk an aisle to do, it’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where you exercise faith or trust in what Jesus has done for you.  That single act of faith makes you a Christian.  It’s something you can do right now, even as I’m speaking. It’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord.   If it’s something that you have done or are doing then on the authority of the Word of God you have changed your eternal destiny.  If it’s something you need more explanation on I’m available after the service  to talk.

Shall we pray.  Father, we remain grateful for this morning, America’s independence, Israel’s war of independence and what You did on her behalf as we will be studying.  I pray that  You will make us mindful of these things this week as we celebrate, but trust and rely on You and walk with You. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said… Amen.