After a sweet time in the Psalms this summer, we’re returning to the book of Daniel to what I have called this week the “wild and wooly section.” Truly, if any section of the Scripture should come with a warning label, Daniel 7-12 is it. I believe Daniel would agree, for it’s clear that even he felt queasy about the things he saw and wrote.
For instance, at the end of the vision in Daniel 7, we receive this word of personal testimony, “As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed…” (Daniel 7:28) That doesn’t sound good. Could it be that Daniel was just having a bad prophetic day? Well, not exactly. For after the vision of the next chapter we read this, “And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days… I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.” (Daniel 8:27)
Yikes! What are we to make of this? Is it safe to read and study Daniel 7-12? To steal a line from Mr. Beaver in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? Of course he (Aslan) isn’t safe. But he’s good.”
Truth is, the Scripture is not always safe either, but it is always good. Paul tells us 2 Timothy 3:16 that all Scripture is profitable. It is, in other words, for our good—even if that Scripture, as in Daniel’s case, makes us sick. For sometimes, believe it or not, sickness is a sign of health, but more on that later.
For now, let me say that I derive great comfort from the fact that Daniel did not understand everything that was shown to him. Every time I read the final seven chapters of Daniel I scratch my head wondering, “What in the world does this mean?” I was reminded this week that the Apostle Peter said that he finds some of Paul’s writing “hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). Peter could have easily said the same thing about the latter half of Daniel. It’s a bear! (Quite literally)
Despite the mysteries and interpretive challenges, there is a treasure trove of truth underneath the surface just waiting to be mined. In fact, the image of “mining” is a good one for studying the latter half of Daniel. It’s going to take some patience and diligence to sift through the truth to get to the treasures that await us. Said another way, the visions of Daniel are not where you typically turn for inspirational Scriptures to stencil on your living room wall. You won’t find many (any?) of those! You will find, however, scores of inspirational truths that need to be stenciled on your heart and life. And in the end, that’s what really matters.
So don’t let the appalling and even sickening visions of Daniel keep you away from the profit God intends for you to gain. Instead, as we wade into the deep end of the interpretive ocean, often finding scary and bizarre things there, we will need to make sure our oxygen tanks are filled with the air of redemption and that our diving mask is fitted with a lens that always turns our eyes toward Jesus Christ, our never safe, always good Savior and King.