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A Strong Faith
Winter Quarter: Faith in Action
Unit 2: A Living Faith in God
Sunday school lesson for the week of January 28, 2018
By Helen and Rev. Sam Rogers
Scripture Lesson: Daniel 10: 10-19
Background Scripture: Daniel chapters 10 and 11
In this final lesson from the Book of Daniel we encounter a new kind of biblical literature—apocalyptic. The word means “revelation” or “disclosure.” The timeline is always in the future, but dating is not the intention. Encouragement that God is in control is the primary focus.
These chapters conclude the book with a visionary experience, which leaves Daniel weak and exhausted. The lesson’s scripture is part of the introduction to the very detailed vision of the conflict elaborated in chapters 11 and 12.
There is a date given in 10:1: the third year of the reign of Cyrus. Also, Daniel’s captive name, “Beltechazzar,” is used, indicating the Persian ruler was not as benign as is sometimes thought. Remember, his edict had allowed some of the Jewish people to begin their long trek back home to Jerusalem.
The “word” came to Daniel in the form of a spoken message rather than a vision. As The New Interpreter’s Bible emphasizes, this is the first time in scripture the nature of the visionary experience is as much auditory as visual.
Another unique bit of information in these first verses is Daniel’s pre-visionary preparations. As with his fervent prayer in chapter 9, Daniel has fasted for three weeks, an unusually long time, and these weeks are dated during Passover, a time of celebration and feasting. Maybe Daniel’s mourning/fasting during the Jewish celebration of liberation from slavery in Egypt emphasizes his own personal continued lack of freedom. Others have returned to Jerusalem, but he remains in Babylon.
He is confronted on the banks of the Tigris by a stunning figure in human form. Without belaboring the details, most scholars identify this personage as Gabriel, who will appear again later in the vision. Obviously, there are both hearing and seeing aspects to the “word” Daniel receives. Confronted and overwhelmed, Daniel falls into a deep sleep.
At this point in the account, our scripture for today begins. He is exhausted and overwhelmed, both physically and emotionally, and he feels alone. In our stress-filled lives, the most damaging aspect often can be that feeling that no one else cares or understands. When we face life alone, we will succumb and collapse. Like Daniel, we can discover we are not alone! Thank God! Three times in the next few verses, he is lifted up and strengthened for the task to come. (vs. 10,16,18)
Listen to what the messenger says to Daniel: “You are greatly beloved (NRSV) or esteemed (NIV).” He gives two commands to Daniel to stand up and not to be afraid. Here God’s beloved is brought to his feet and equipped for the difficult task of grasping what is to come. God’s response to his prayer in Chapter 9 and here is because Daniel has set his mind and heart on the matters of God’s purposes in the world. Daniel’s humility and perseverance has come to the attention of God and the messenger has been sent to explain what will happen.
When we are confronted by life’s blows that leave us exhausted and broken down, we too can hear the same words given to Daniel. We know God loves us, and we can hear the resounding words repeated again and again in scripture, “FEAR NOT!” “BE NOT AFRAID!” To the shepherds on the hillside, from Jesus to his disciples in the storm rocked boat, and to you and me, God calls us his beloved and removes our fears. Listen to the angels sing in this holy season!
This message is not one of “pie in the sky by and by.” Very quickly Daniel is brought back to the reality of the present, with reference to the authority of the Persian ruler, who seems to be in control and even resisting the leading of God. (vs. 13)
At this point, Daniel is shown the future and what will happen to the Hebrew people (vs. 14). Here is evidence of one of the hallmarks of apocalyptic literature—the future, not as a fortune teller, but as assurance God is in ultimate control. The future, as revealed in the events described in chapters 11 and 12, is filled with conflict and strife. War is vicious and cruel, and innocent people are often the victims. Biblical conflicts are no different.
In his exhausted state, Daniel was speechless until the messenger touched his lips and loosened his tongue. He expresses feelings of anguish, helplessness, and the inability to even communicate!
We have a dear friend of more than 60 years who recently lost a son to a deadly bacterial infection. In our conversations, he has conveyed the same feelings Daniel reveals in this scripture. Life’s unfairness can do that to us. We find it difficult even to talk with God.
In the closing verse of today’s lesson, Daniel affirms the action of the divine messenger. He was touched! How powerful is the sense of touch! We shake hands, we pat each other on the back, we hug, and we kiss our beloved—all part of the gift of touch we are given, and in each circumstance something is communicated. Never hesitate to show the appropriate expression to another human being. You never know the impact of your touch!
A little boy’s best friend was struck and killed riding his bike. He went next door to visit the mother and was gone a long time. When he finally came home, his mother asked why he was away so long. His answer is classic: “We didn’t talk. I just climbed up and sat in her lap while we cried.”
Daniel finds strength for the future by the heavenly touch! Why today’s scripture ends at verse 18 is a mystery to us, but listen to this final admonition: “Do not be afraid, O man highly esteemed. Be strong now; be strong.” (vs.19) Maybe someone in your class needs to hear those words—it may even be you!
Helen and Rev. Sam Rogers are a retired clergy couple. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.