Daniel's Vision of
In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylonia, I had some dreams and visions while I was asleep one night, and I wrote them down.
The four winds were stirring up the mighty sea, 3 when suddenly four powerful beasts came out of the sea. Each beast was different. 4 The first was like a lion with the wings of an eagle. As I watched, its wings were pulled off. Then it was lifted to an upright position and made to stand on two feet, just like a human, and it was given a human mind.
5The second beast looked like a bear standing on its hind legs. It held three ribs in its teeth, and it was told, “Attack! Eat all the flesh you want.”
6The third beast was like a leopard—except that it had four wings and four heads. It was given authority to rule.
7 The fourth beast was stronger and more terrifying than the others. Its huge teeth were made of iron, and what it didn't grind with its teeth, it smashed with its feet. It was different from the others, and it had horns on its head—ten of them. 8 Just as I was thinking about these horns, a smaller horn appeared, and three of the other horns were pulled up by the roots to make room for it. This horn had the eyes of a human and a mouth that spoke with great arrogance.
9 Thrones were set up
while I was watching,
and the Eternal God
took his place.
His clothing and his hair
were white as snow.
His throne was a blazing fire
with fiery wheels,
10 and flames were dashing out
from all around him.
were standing there
to serve him.
The time of judgment began,
and the books were opened.
11I watched closely to see what would happen to this smaller horn because of the arrogant things it was saying. Then before my very eyes, the fourth beast was killed and its body destroyed by fire. 12The other three beasts had their authority taken from them, but they were allowed to live a while longer. 13 As I continued to watch the vision that night,
I saw what looked like
a son of man
coming with the clouds of heaven,
and he was presented
to the Eternal God.
14 He was crowned king
and given power and glory,
so that all people
of every nation and race
would serve him.
He will rule forever,
and his kingdom is eternal,
never to be destroyed.
The book of Daniel divides into two halves. The stories about Daniel and his friends take up the first six chapters. The second half of the book is far less familiar and, for many, unexplored territory.
Four prophecies are laid out here – prophecies that came to him and were not simply explained by him. The prophecy we read today takes most of us way beyond our comfort zone and leaves us struggling for assistance.
Today we read the dream and tomorrow we will find the explanation. The first half of the dream is taken up with the description of four wild beasts that emerge from a turbulent sea, each one violent, grotesque and terrifying. A lion with wings and a human mind; a bear on its side; a leopard with four wings and the fourth, worse than the rest, with iron claws and ten horns on its head. Then a ‘little’ horn (v 8) emerges and begins to uproot the other horns.
At this stage, the only clue we have is the vision in chapter 2, of four kingdoms emerging in turn. Empires like to portray themselves as impressive and worthy of our loyalty, but the reality for many is that they are oppressive, bent on plunder and domination.
Suddenly a more reassuring figure stands over against them. We see the “Ancient of Days” (v 9, NIV), sitting on his throne, surrounded by his court. His poise puts the proud attitude of the others into perspective, and his clear domination makes the wild animals a sideshow. Finally another figure emerges like a “son of man” (v 13) and he is given final power and ultimate authority. It is this final vision on which our hope is centred and from which we can draw our strength.
Lord, there is much in our world that can cause us to fear and despair. Help us to lift up our eyes and find our hope in you, for in spite of appearances yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory (Matthew 6:13). For Jesus’ sake, Amen.
First used in Encounter with God, July to September 2015, written by Colin Sinclair, copyright Scripture Union. Used with kind permission.