The Key to Our Inner World
The Key to Our Inner World
Daniel has been praying, fasting and meditating for three weeks. He is given a vision of a man and then confronted by and angelic messenger. What can we learn from the this account of the prophet Daniel?
[Darris McNeely] Mr. Myers mentioned the death of my mother-in-law, Bess Gabriel. Some of you knew her. And she had been with us here for just about a year-and-a-half after the death of her husband up in Kent, Ohio. And she was 91 years old and she was… just couldn't have had a better mother-in-law for all the 46 years of our marriage for Debbie and I. Obviously, she had two daughters and one of them I've been blessed to be married to for all these years. But been very close, we traveled together and spent a lot of time together throughout the years. But again, I just couldn't have asked for a better mother-in-law than I had with her. And she died peacefully here on Wednesday and Debbie was able to be there.
We were also blessed to have a parent with us this long in life. Not everyone gets that opportunity. And you can sit and talk to your father, your mother, and your mother in this case, and you know, bounce things off of them for so many years and they can see their children grow up, their grandchildren grow up, and then even great-grandchildren come on. And it's really a blessing to have that. And when you go through a time like this, as so many of us have, you sit and you think and you reflect and you pray and you read the Word of God and you think about a moment like this in life that does come. And sometimes it comes tragically, sometimes it comes suddenly. And then sometimes, as in the case here, it comes up upon you in a gradual sense but you still go through the thoughts and the emotions, the grief and everything else. But most of all, I think God gives us these moments to reflect and to think deeply into our inner life and the heart that we have and the lives that we're connected with to learn some very, very deep, profound lessons, especially when you understand the truth of God as we do. And that deepens it and just embellishes it even more.
Today, I'd like to take you through a passage of scripture that I think can help get into a point here that I'd like to leave with us all about getting to the inner heart of all of our lives with our relationship with God, ultimately, and His Son, with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ, which is the ultimate relationship that we have. If you will, please turn over to the book of Daniel 10. I'm going to take you through the 21 short verses of the book of Daniel and draw one really large lesson from it that I thought about this week and applies to all of us at any time in our relationship with God.
Daniel 10 is a remarkable chapter that I just took the ABC students through in-class just this past week. And so it was on my mind actually coincided with this life event for us and actually meant even more to me as even when I was teaching it this week. And so I thought I'd share some additional thoughts with you. And so any of the ABC class of this year that's listening in, listen again because I think you might get one or two extra points I didn't give you on Wednesday of this week. So it's not just a review, but a continuation.
Daniel 10 begins the end of the book of Daniel, the last three chapters of the book of Daniel, and they should all be considered as a unit. The long chapter of the prophecy of chapter 11 and then chapter 12 are all part of chapter 10. And it begins in verse one of chapter 10 of Daniel where it says, the timing is that “In the third year of Cyrus the king of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar." So this is actually the year 536 B.C. Babylon fell three years earlier. The events that we all know so well of chapter 5 and Belteshazzar's feast and the handwriting on the wall were three years earlier. And the Persians have co-opted and done a hostile takeover of the Babylonian incorporated. And they are now in charge. And it's three years into that when Daniel received a message.
Now, something else has happened at this time that we were familiar with in the Bible story. And that is the Jews that were captive or at least more than 40,000, maybe about 44,000 of them that were captive in the areas of the Babylonian region, they'd been allowed to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem and saw the events that we read about in Ezra and Nehemiah. The minor prophets of Haggai, Zachariah, and Malachi, they're all contemporaneous with this particular period, roughly within a few years of what is happening here with Daniel. So Daniel didn't go back with the Jews. He stays in Babylon. He's actually probably about 85 years old, we could say, or in his mid-80s. He's an older man and he's been restored to his position, it seems, of influence within the Persian realm, the earlier chapters seemed to indicate. And he is wanting to find out… the background is he's concerned about what's happening with the Jews that have gone back to Jerusalem.
The work has been held up on the temple. If you remember the story of Ezra, Nehemiah, and it's not going so well and he's probably concerned. And so he set himself, Daniel has, to find out why. And he does that by going to God and by setting aside a period of time to reflect on all of this. Now, it goes on here in verse 1. It says, "The message was true, but the appointed time was long; and he understood the message, and had an understanding of the vision." This is kind of a prelude to really all three of these chapters 10, 11, and 12. It not only was a long message, it is a true message, but the real meaning of this phrase here in verse one, that the appointed time was long. If you have an NIV Bible in your lap, it will say something to the effect that there was a great war.
And really, the length of this refers to the entire story foretold in this long, very long prophecy of a great war that actually is more than just conflict between nations, but is a spiritual war because the story of chapters 10, 11, and 12 run all the way up to the end of the age and the return of Christ. And there's a spiritual application I think that is the deepest one here in that what Daniel is seeing acting out on the world stage of history is also a part of the story of the conflict and the war between and among the people of God with this world and the conflict of spiritual conflict that is a part of this age as a result of a world that is under the dominion of Satan in one sense as the God of this world, and yet God's purpose and plan is being worked out relentlessly. And that's really what is mentioned here in this prelude of verse one about the appointed time was long.
So it's a long period and there are long events and there are actually long seasons. And within that, there are many lessons for us to learn. And so in verse 2, it says, "In those days, I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, until three whole weeks were fulfilled. And on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, that is, the Tigris,” so we find where he is. He's in the region of Babylon, but he's not in Babylon itself. Babylon was on the Euphrates River. He's on the neighboring Tigris River, and he's gone off for a period of several weeks, he says he was mourning for three full weeks.
Now, what we can, I think, learn and deduce from this is that Daniel has gone on a retreat, probably to a minor palace of the kingdom that he has access to, a timeshare, if you will, to something here. And he's off with some other, probably people of his own close office and aides and assistants that work with him. And he's gone off to a smaller palace for a period of retreat. And he has set himself to mourn and to go through a period of abstinence and fasting for three weeks. And it says in verse three, that he “ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself for three whole weeks." Now that's a long time to go through this period of retreat and change his diet.
Now, a lot of this time he would have been probably fasting in a complete fast. The commentators indicate that it was not a complete, full three-week fast without food or any water during that period of time. You know, he just he didn't have a nice 16-ounce ribeye steak during this period of time with, you know, exquisite bourbon sauce that poured all over it. You know, the kind that I like, but he didn't have anything like that. He probably had just very plain food when he did eat and that probably was rare. But I would imagine that he did eat some, he didn't drink wine, not a lush, rich wine, probably just water that he would from time to time and take. It says he didn't anoint himself.
Now, would that mean to us? Well, he just didn’t… I'm sure he didn't shave. It was not No-Shave November necessarily, just no shave for three weeks here. But he didn't put any oils on. And in the dry Middle Eastern climate, as we recognize, your skin can dry out a lot. And so he pulled back. He didn't put oil and balm upon himself during that period of time. And he did afflict himself for that period. And he just removed a lot of the distractions that happened, that happened in life and he devoted himself to seeking God and to seeking understanding of what was taking place among his people and what he wanted to understand at this particular time. It went on for three full weeks probably would have gone on further. I would think his mind was set to that, except something happened after three weeks.
Let us read on here in verse 5, he said, "I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz! And his body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude. And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision; but a great terror fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. And I was alone with this great vision, and no strength remained in me; for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength."
Now at some point, either on the 21st day or shortly or right after that, this vision came to him. Now, if you are familiar with the flow of Daniel, Daniel had the ability very early on to interpret dreams. In Daniel 2, he interpreted the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, the great statue. And he did the same in chapter 4, he interpreted another dream of Nebuchadnezzar. In chapter 5, he interpreted the handwriting on the wall. He had a gift that God gave to him to be able to do that. And then he had faith, he endured the lion's den. Chapters 7 and 8, however, Daniel had his own visions. All right. And those were visions of these great beasts, a ram and a goat in chapter 7 and 8.
But the beginning of chapter 9, there's a little difference in that Daniel is now visited by an angelic messenger. In chapter 9 is Gabriel specifically mentioned. In chapter 10, this one is not mentioned. Some say that it's not Gabriel or would have been mentioned and because of the circumstances of it, it is not the pre-incarnate Christ that we would attribute to this as well. But it's another angelic messenger that has appeared to him at this time, but it's a little different, and I want you to note that. And keep in mind that the point in life where Daniel is, he's an older man, he's in his 80s, and now he has angelic messengers bring to him a message from God. So there's a little shift and a little difference. We'll come back to that.
Now, let's look at the vision here. This man that was “clothed in linen, whose waist girded with gold of Uphaz and a body like beryl.” One of the students asked the other day, put their hand up and ask, what is beryl? Well, we got the answer for him. Beryl is a gem, a gemstone, and you look it up on… you do a search on it, you'll see it. Beryl is a very beautiful stone. Out of that, emeralds are of this family of beryl. Aquamarine and the colors of beryl can vary from a rich golden color to red to emerald to aquamarine color even to very clear. In fact, in the earliest glasses, in the ancient world when they actually began to make glasses, they would make that out of beryl, clear beryl because it was very, very clear and had certain magnification qualities.
But imagine this man who is… that the whole body, it says, is like beryl and of course he's got then… you know, it's in this language that comes out to his appearance is that of lightning. All right. So if light is coming through this magnificent multicolored gem of beryl, whatever the color would be, it would have been a brilliant, stunning vision and eyes, you know, like torches. So all of this is some fantastic image that Daniel himself is actually seeing in front of him. This is not in a vision of a dream, and he's not receiving a description from somebody else. He's seeing it himself and his reaction is of great terror and he falls down on his face. Now, it's hard for us to put our minds into that of an ancient man, an ancient person from the ancient world. We're so full of our wizardry of technology and what's available to us today that we don't necessarily think about how magnificent and how stunning physically this was to a man like Daniel in the ancient world to see something like this.
You know, we've got IMAX theaters today. Think about it, you know, what is the most stunning thing we can visualize and see and experience? Now, when the movies came on, you know, 100 years ago or so, they were black and white, then they moved to color and then they got, you know, sometime I think in the '50s, the colorization and what was called cinemascope and bigger screens in the movie theaters. Sometime in the '60s, they came along with what they called Cinerama. I remember visiting Los Angeles in the late 1960s, and they had a movie theater called Cinerama. It was down in Hollywood. And we went down to see a movie and it was a movie called Grand Prix. It was about Formula One racing. And the way Cinerama was set up, the screens curved around, you're like this. And I remember setting in the middle of that theater and watching this film about Formula One racing and literally feeling like I was in a Formula One race car.
You know, it was just the speed and the sound and everything. Well, they don't have that anymore. That's kind of gone by the wayside. Now, we have our big cineplexes and IMAX I guess. And then, of course, we have 65, 70-inch screens in our homes to do the best we can and all the sound that we can bring in. And if you look at that, we can experience that to a degree in that, kind of, it mesmerizes us. It doesn't necessarily terrorize us and put us on the ground. But this is what Daniel had to see. And actually, he was seeing something a little bit more natural and it was real. And it made me think I was looking, thinking about this, you know, a well-done movie and the sound and all can certainly blow us away and it can grab our attention.
But if you've ever seen anything in nature, the movies don't compare with a sunrise or sunset in certain ways and the colors and everything else. I remember being blown away a few years ago walking into the Grand Canyon when it was dark and seeing a sunrise in the Grand Canyon. That blew me away more than any movie I've ever seen. All right, so try to put your mind or your position with Daniel here as he's seeing this and the response that he has. The other men didn't see it and kind of like the people that were with Paul when he was struck down on the road to Damascus, they couldn't see it. Only Paul saw that only Daniel sees this. And the others fled and they hid because they didn't understand what was happening.
And so it says in verse 8, "I was left alone and I saw this great vision." You know, when we seek to relate to God, those that are with us, those are who are our family or friends, they can only take us so far. When we really want to relate to God and have a relationship with God, it's up to us. Daniel was alone in this one and his friends had fled. They were good people and they could have been, you know, Jews like him and believers, but they were not part of this particular experience. There are some experiences that you and I only have and will have, and it's the ones with God. We will be alone there with God. And that's important to understand as we look, I think, at this story here.
So Daniel was alone. And he said, "I retained no strength," at the end of verse 8. Verse 9, "Yet I heard the sound of his words; and while I heard the sound of his words I was in a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground." And so in a sense, just kind of knocked him into a stupor there for a moment. "And then suddenly" in verse 10, "a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. And he said to me, 'O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.' And while he was speaking this word to me, I stood up trembling." And so he was physically touched by this angelic messenger and he still trembled. But he got up and he got up in order to receive the message. He was not going to receive this message laying prostrate on the ground. He had to stand up and receive that message. And he said… the messenger said, "I've been sent to you." And so Daniel is standing there in front of him at this point.
Then he goes on in verse 12 and he said, "Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words." Twenty-one days went by, but Daniel's prayer was heard from the first day. Daniel had set himself and humbled himself before God to seek this understanding, to get a deeper understanding of what was going on with his people and with his own life and at this particular time. But there was a delay. But Daniel kept going. He didn't know that there was a delay and didn't know why, but he kept going.
There's a lesson here in persistence. In Luke 18:1, Christ said that talk about those who are persistent in prayer. Imagine if Daniel had quit praying after 5 days or 10 days or 21 or even 20 days. Now, it says that he was heard from the first day. So God was intent upon bringing this to him. But Daniel just kept right on going. And I think because of what we gain about the measure of Daniel's character throughout the remainder of the earlier chapters in the book that he would've gone another 21 days and probably another 21 after that too until he got an answer until he received the understanding. But the messenger goes on in verse 13 to tell him, "But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days." This is why he was delayed.
And this is also why we would not get the indication that this messenger is, again, the pre-incarnate Christ. There was no indication, no other example in Scripture of Christ when He… as the Word did appear either as Melchizedek or lunch with Abraham or other efforts where He was overpowered by any force from the world of Satan. But this was allowed, a powerful demonic prince of Persia, prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood this messenger for 21 days. We could imagine some large titanic battle to take place, that took place, a struggle. Often depicted in so many different ways. As we think about mythical gods and goddesses struggling from Greek mythology, ancient religions as we look at that, but on the physical level, a battle that took place.
One of the students asked, “How do we imagine this, what did they fight with?” And my only answer that I could come up with this week was lightsabers, of course. Where do these ideas, where do they come from? They come from… that would be the logical answer there. But there was a struggle. And ultimately, the angelic messenger prevailed. It said, "Behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia." And so Michael was introduced here and he has mentioned again and earlier in chapter 9, and also in chapter 12 he's mentioned, but along with Gabriel, the only two other, and Lucifer from Ezekiel's account. But at least two righteous angels, we find Gabriel and Michael, but Michael came to help this messenger to prevail.
Now, some commentators will say on this particular part of the verse where he says that "I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia" that this angelic messenger in a sense prevailed and then the righteous angels rule or dominion over Persia prevailed with the kings of Persia from this point forward, which does match up with… again, the history that we know of Persia and its relationship to the people of God. About 50 years from this event that we're reading about here are the events of the book of Esther set in the Persian period where Esther goes in, takes her life in her hands to king Ahasuerus who was Xerxes and pleads for her people and that attempted holocaust that is about to take place there when Haman is scheming to kill the Jews in Persia. And they're all spared because of Esther's intervention there. That's about 50 years after this time here.
And so I think it is reasonable to assume that we may be seeing here that the struggle between the good and evil at that spiritual level results in at least good taming the Persian kings from that period forward until their demise for the favor of the people of God and the work of God among the Jews at that time. But that's a kind of a sidebar to the story there. He goes on in verse 14, he says, "I've come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days." So the people, and certainly directly the Jews of Daniel's time, but by extension, it also refers to God's people through the ages that this prophecy covers, which takes us all the way into the present world to the coming of Jesus Christ.
So this entire message of the end of Daniel has tremendous meaning for not just the Jews or physical Israel, but spiritual Israel as well, the people of God, the Church of God through the ages until the time. And there is much rich information to be gleaned here. For years… another sidebar, if I may. For years, I just kind of… we used to have a reprint article that we've essentially carried over in the United Church of God called "The Middle East and Bible Prophecy." They went through Daniel 11, this very long prophecy, and basically just told the history behind it. It's one of those things you read once at some point in your life and you just kind of then put it on a stack and you go onto the book of Proverbs, Psalms, and the Gospels, and you don't go back to it because it's history, what difference does it make? There's no application?
Well, that's kind of where I was until a few years ago when I was assigned to teach the book of Daniel at ABC and I realized, I better know what a little bit more about this. And so, began to dig into a little bit more. I'm still digging into it and, frankly, I realized that we really haven't fully treated this chapter, chapter 11 especially. This long prophecy has a lot of applications for the Church today and a lot of teaching, but that's far beyond what the scope of this sermon would be. Just suffice it to say that I'm right and trust me on that one, and come to ABC and take the class and you can get a little more information there, or listen to the tapes there.
Verse 15, "When he had spoken such words to me, I turned my face toward the ground and became speechless. And suddenly, one having the likeness of the sons of men touched my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke, saying to him, who stood before me, 'My lord, because of the vision my sorrows have overwhelmed me, and I've retained no strength. For how can this servant of my lord talk with you, my lord?'" This is Daniel's reaction, how can I… he's completely overwhelmed by what is happening to him with this messenger. And he goes on to say, "As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me." And so physically, he's reacting to this vision and to this interaction with this divine messenger here. “And then again, the one having the likeness of a man touched me and strengthened me. And he said, ‘O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!'” Again, Daniel had to be on his feet. He had to be strong because of what he was going to receive and to be able to understand it and to move forward. And so it said, "When he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, 'Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.'"
When you read the Word of God, it strengthens us. The words of the Bible kind of wash over our mind and our heart when we read it. Sometimes we read the Bible rather casually, maybe to tick off our daily listing of reading. And then sometimes we read the Bible when we really need to read the Bible, don't we? And we may have our favorite passages that we read for encouragement, for strength, for peace, very things of Daniel's being told that he has to have. And when we read the Word of God, we are reading living spiritual words that do wash over us and make a connection. And just as Daniel is strengthened from the words of this messenger, you and I today are strengthened when we interact with God through His living Word that is sharp and powerful and two-edged and cuts to the heart we're told.
When we labor in the Word and we seek to draw out all the meaning that we possibly can and its application, we're strengthened as well as Daniel says he was. Well, in verse 20 he said, "Do you know why I've come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia." There was something yet that had to be done. And he said, "When I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come." So there's another powerful demonic being that is introduced here is the prince of Greece. But he said, "I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth." So before he leaves, he is going to relay to Daniel what is in the Scripture of Truth. Some say that this is kind of the Bible in heaven, one commentator says. So it's called the Scripture of Truth. What it is is the prophecies that are now going to be given to Daniel are literally true and they were already in place and they are in heaven. The Scripture of Truth is what this angelic messenger is bringing to Daniel. And he said, "No one upholds me against these,” being the prince of Persia or the prince of Greece “except Michael your prince."
And so he says, "I'm going to tell you what is in the Scripture of Truth. And after I tell you that, I've got to go back and there'll be another battle." But he then begins in chapter 11 verse 1, and through the end of chapter 12 and remainder of the book of Daniel, then to give him the message that Daniel was seeking. This is how it works out. And of course, it's a very long prophecy and there's a lot there. But this kind of brings us to the end of chapter 10 and this magnificent vision and experience that Daniel has and with this messenger from God who brings him the Scripture of Truth, prophecies that literally did come to pass and are still coming to pass. Prophecies that have teaching and meaning for us.
And so when we look at this, at one level, we are looking at Bible prophecy that foretells conflicts among nations, prophetic events that did happen within 200 to 300 years from the time of Daniel and then jumps into the time of the end of the age in verse 40 of Daniel 11 and show events that are yet to happen ahead of our time prior to the return of Jesus Christ. That's the high level of meaning that is here in this passage as well as this little bit of a brief insight into the fact that the real headlines of history are written in heaven. That there are struggles between powers of nations, Persia, Greece, Europe, Russia that have taken place throughout world history.
And we read about these battles and these great challenges and conflicts back and forth throughout ancient and even modern history without realizing that there's a whole spiritual dimension that's taking place behind that. And then what happens on the worldly stages, only the physical part of it, but there's a spiritual battle that is going on. That's the high level of what is being talked about here that Daniel is actually given insight to because he's been praying, fasting, thanking, meditating for three weeks, but he also learns more.
There's another layer of understanding here, another layer of understanding. Daniel has given insight, better insight than he's ever had to this point in his life, into the nature of this world, his world, and we can say our world as we peek over Daniel's shoulder here and look at this. Because of Daniel's heart, his desire, his prayers, and that his whole attitude and his whole walk of life has been something very pleasing to God throughout all of his years and all the decades of his life. You remember in Daniel 5 when the queen comes in and says to Belshazzar, "Look, you guys can't figure this handwriting out, but there's a guy that your father knew about, he used to use him. You've relegated him to the annex. Bring him in." In him, she said, "His light and wisdom like the spirit of the gods." She was talking about Daniel, “light, wisdom, and understanding like the spirit of the gods.”
That was Daniel's life. And God was pleased with that. And through that, Daniel was given not only insight into all these prophecies, but he was given insight into how the world really works, that there was a spiritual dimension. He could see that there's a kingdom of Satan, but he also saw even deeper into the kingdom of God into the things of God through this. When you and I pray, when you and I labor in the Word of God, when we fast and when we spend our time letting the Word of God wash over us, we're in touch with God and we're learning as well just as Daniel was. And we are closer to God and we were able to discern our world in our time, not just prophesy and not just history, and we shouldn't seek to be like Daniel to become some great seer, some prophet in terms of figuring out all the prophecies. That's not the big lesson from this.
The big lesson is that God is in control of history. The big lesson number two is that there's a reason for the world that we live in today and if we are close to God, we can see that the values of our age and of our world are not compatible with the values of God. And we'll have a sharper focus on that and discernment of that. And it should guide our lives to a better walk where we would be strengthened, where we would be close to God, where we would be turning from evil, fleeing fornication, and all the other scriptural admonitions that we might stack up to think about how we are to live our lives because we are close to God. That's the second layer of understanding that I think we can gain from chapter 10 here and what we're seeing Daniel do, but there's a third level and that's what I want to leave you with here this afternoon.
The third level is where you and I deepen our relationship with God and choose to focus on that and let God then show us the things that he sees about us that we can't see. The God who knows our hearts, the God whose life is in us, the Father’s, the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of Christ who lives with us, as Christ said. "We will come and We will dwell with you," He said before He died. "We will not leave you. I will not leave you orphans. The spirit of truth will come." And the Scriptures that tell us that life through the Spirit of God that is in us, the mind of Christ, again, the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of Christ, that power of love and of a sound mind, that is what is in us. And when we sharpen and focus that through applied prayer and fasting and set our hearts to that, God can dwell with us and open our minds to see things about ourselves that only He has seen and in His mercy and in His love, He can reveal to us.
What did Daniel do? Go back. He set himself and he humbled himself and he determined his mind, "I'm going to take… I've got to get away from all the busyness of my life in Babylon. I'm going off to this place on the Tigris and I'm going to set a period of time and I'm just… it's not about food. It's not about cookouts. It's not about alcohol. It's not about, you know, the best clothes. It is about God. It is about praying and thinking and then praying some more and fasting for awhile, maybe taking a bit of nourishment and then going back into a fast.”
You know, fasting today has become rather chic. I read about it. It's fun. It's now called intermittent fasting and people fast for 12 to 15 hours a day and take maybe 1 meal and do that 2 or 3 times a week, and apparently it has some certain health benefits. And I think that's true. Then, of course, there's, you know, the fast of the Day of Atonement, we know is a full 24-hour fast and, you know, we can fast for 24 or you can fast for 48, you can fast for 36 if you choose. Fasting is a tool that God gives to us to draw close to Him and to resist Satan, resist the pulls of Satan. And that's why we fast on the Day of Atonement to be drawn to understand the full meaning of that day is it is through fasting that we gain an edge against the deceptions, the wiles of Satan and his influence that still is in this world today. And we draw closer to God.
And when we fast at other times in our life for whatever length of time we choose and couple that with prayer and thinking about things, then we are moving in the path and the example of Daniel and whether it's for 1 day, 3 days, whether it's for 21 days, or if we do this periodically over a season of life or a season of the year because we know we need to, because we're struggling with ourselves, we're struggling with wanting to understand why about something in our life, why we can't overcome this, why we have a problem with this relationship with your husband, with your wife, with your friends. And we struggle with wanting to know why and we can't figure it out. And we kind of lope along with it, as one person told me one time, “an ungodly life.” Well, they're trying to be godly but can't seem to turn from it and we want to know why.
Or we see something about ourselves. You know, we prepare our hearts to take the Passover and that's an appropriate thing to do every year. But it's really something that we can do throughout the year and if we come to a realization that we need to set ourselves and humble ourselves to God and seek God closer than we are in July or in December or at any time of the year and we then set ourselves to do it, and within the constraints of our own schedules and our busyness of our life, we remove ourselves from a lot as much as we can. We carve out this private, dedicated space in our life and we make it happen. And it's up to us. I can't dictate to you that 21 days is the optimum. That's just what happened with Daniel. It might be two days. It might take place over three or four months as we might set ourselves to seek God and to seek understanding about something that is taking place in our life.
And finally, we've come to the point where, you know, I'm tired of being this way. I'm tired of wrestling with these thoughts and these emotions and I want know why I feel this way and we take it to God. Because just like Daniel, who was the only one who saw the messenger and received the message, there comes a time in our life where we have to realize that we're all alone and our relationship with God. Not that we're all alone in life. We have a mate, we have friends. But when it comes to the deep insight that this is talking about that Daniel was wanting to have and that we sometimes need, it's all up to us. No amount of counseling, no amount of brainstorming and talking over coffee and texting back and forth and angst and this and that. No, we have to put in what the Bible shows to be the necessary spiritual steps to have that relationship with God where we finally get an answer.
And I'm not saying that we don't, any of us, think you're trying to get an angel to come to you. All right. That's not it. Or, as I said earlier, to be a prophet and figure out some intricacies of the prophecies. That's not it. God works with us today. His people through His Spirit in us as His children. And that power, that mind within us is the connection to God. And we read His Word as God speaks to us in His Word. And as we couple that with all the other disciplines that I'm talking about, and especially in prayer and heartfelt prayer and I mean really sometimes a guts out prayer.
A prayer that you know, you know is different than your normal prayer where you might get a little bit intense and wrestle with God for more than five minutes and for more than a day and over several times. And you finally come to a point… One of the things I coupled with all of this in my own life, when I know I really need to kind of things out, I start writing. I just grab a notebook, a bunch of lined paper, and I'll just start writing out a prayer, my thoughts to myself, at times to God, and write it all out because I've found that that helps me to at least get my mind thinking and focused there coupled with again the prayer of the fasting and reading the Word of God and over a period of time, it works.
God honors our hearts. That's the ultimate point. And I think that is the deep lesson for us all to have here, to set ourselves before God, to humble ourselves through a period of devoted time, to seek God at this level, to see our inner world as God sees it. And as we really know that it's down there, but we just haven't been able to admit it or even to voice it. And sometimes, you know, when it does come to a confession before God, sometimes we just have to admit to God, "I'm this way, and I'm sorry, and I know it, and you already know it. God, help me."
But sometimes it takes us a while to get to that point. It may take us many years. You know, I said Daniel was in his 80s when he had this vision and at this point where then these messengers started coming to him. Now, he had a righteous life all those decades before. But there's something about age and experience that brings you to a certain point where, as in the case of Daniel, you can just kind of clear out a lot of the other clutter of aspects of life and focus and go after what you know you really must have at a particular time to get you through a trial, to get you through a difficult period, and to get to your inner heart, your inner life, and see it as God sees it.
And God, in his graciousness, reveals only what we can bear up under. He doesn't dump a full load on us. Even when we at may be pleading with Him to help us and to have that discernment, God in His ultimate wisdom and mercy and knowing us reveals what He knows we can deal with so then we can stand up and be strengthened and then deal with it and move on with a fresh approach to life knowing that we've made a contact with God. That's where the example back in Ephesians 6 of the armor of God comes in.
In Ephesians 6 beginning of verse 10, Paul talks about the struggle that we have is “not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this age." Daniel had that revealed to him very well in his encounter “against the spiritual hosts of wickedness.” And so Paul encourages us in verse 13 to “take on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Daniel was taken by the hand, by this messenger. God takes us by the hand and God gives us the ability to stand and to receive instruction, strengthen the relationship.
Verse 14, he says, "Stand therefore having your waist girded with truth,” and all the other aspects of the armor of God that are talked about here and the Word of God. Verse 17 says, "Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” Paul puts the armor of God in the context of the world the way it is and the struggles that we have in our life and tells us how we can stand just as Daniel stood and be strengthened to deal with our lives and to move forward to better ground with positive encouragement and hope that God is with us.
Look at what Daniel did. Think about that in regard to your own life and remember that. If this is not the time that you feel that you might need it, bookmark it, but don't forget, Daniel's approach in what he did in coming to have to see things about his own inner life through that relationship with God so that when we go through the matters of our own life and need to have that contact with God, we know how to get it done. And we can go to God and have our inner heart and inner life strengthened as a result of that relationship through the Word of God and through that relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ.