• The Explore the Bible lesson for Aug. 24 focuses on Daniel 7:7-18.
While in high school, I played on a football team that lost every game. We lost the last game just like all the others because we had no hope of winning.
As a rule, people play like losers only when they have no hope. Only hope that what we believe and do matters will help us to live in faithful and self-sacrificial ways. If we could look beyond people’s bad behavior to the hopelessness in their hearts, we might respond more compassionately.
Daniel’s strange vision
Daniel had a strange vision filled with extremely mysterious details. Even Daniel said the vision was “beyond understanding” (Daniel 8:27).
One of the greatest temptations in texts like this is to try to decipher the exact meaning of each of the details. As fascinating as that approach may be, it can lead to even more confusion and cause us to miss the point of the text altogether. As recorded in chapter 18, someone who looked like a man—apparently the angel Gabriel—tried to interpret the meaning of the vision for Daniel but left him scratching his head.
All of this might suggest we should be careful not to make more of this text than Daniel was able. Pressing each mysterious detail for its exact meaning is a perilous venture in biblical interpretation. It’s OK to let the mystery be. Mystery leaves room for simple faith, which is what the Bible is meant to lead us to.
This also suggests we step back, as though studying a masterful work of art in a museum, and try to grasp the beauty of the bigger picture. If we get too close to a masterful oil painting, we might be able to see the fine details of individual brush strokes, but we’ll do so only by losing sight of the grander scheme.
The bigger questions should center on the message Daniel’s vision was meant to deliver. When we ask that question, we are left with real possibilities of understanding.
It would seem Daniel was given the ability to see down the road to the “distant future” (Daniel 8:26). Daniel appears to have seen the coming of Christ in the end times, when God’s redemptive purpose for God’s people will be fully resolved in human history.
Daniel comes away from the vision with a deep conviction that God is sovereign. In any given moment of history, it may appear otherwise. That’s why people of faith don’t try to interpret the meaning of God’s purpose in any given day’s headlines. They look at the bigger picture and ponder by faith how things eventually will turn out when God completes redemption.
Daniel’s vision was meant to give the people of Israel hope beyond their momentary circumstances. The Israelites’ history had been a roller coaster ride from prosperity to enslavement and back again. It was important they have faith in God’s ultimate purpose and power.
Is it any less so for people of faith today? Even now, there is horrible warfare and devastation in the land where this vision took place. Nothing much has changed in the way human beings relate to each other in destructive ways. That doesn’t change the fact that, in the end, God’s people will share God’s victory. This vision of Daniel’s proclaims, in the end, God wins.
During the Holocaust, a labor party was sent out to do its daily work on a brutally cold day. As they passed a house, one prisoner reported she saw a tulip coming to bloom in the flower box. Something about that tulip gave her hope life would eventually would win out over death, and she found a way of surviving the Holocaust to tell the story of hope.
People can live a long time without many things. They can even live for a while without food and water. No one can live without hope.
There never has been a time in history when people needed hope more than our generation. If we want to reach this world with the message of Christ, we will have to find ways of casting that message in words of hope, just as Daniel did.