Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | November 18, 2012

Sermons on Daniel 12:1-3

Let’s talk triumph

  • Order of Service:  Common Service, p15
  • Lessons:  Daniel 12:1-3, Hebrews 10:11-18, John 5:25-29
  • Hymns: 551, 219, 550, 214, 592

 

Downloadable Version

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

You may or may not have noticed, but a significant portion of America did not like the results of last week’s presidential election.  I don’t know on which side you stand: among those rejoicing or those despairing.  And, to a certain degree, I don’t really care.

Because we live in a sinful world, and because God Himself says so in the psalms, we don’t put all our trust in princes, or presidents, whether Republican or Democrat, Libertarian or Independent.  Even if they support policies we agree with or know to be God-pleasing, we know not just from Scripture, but from real-life experience, that putting all our eggs into the basket of any politician is not wise.  They break promises.  They fail to accomplish things.  Political realities force them to compromise or not deal with something.  The seeming triumph of Election Day quickly fades into the reality of the work-a-day world where things move slowly, or not at all, or backwards and where calamities like 9/11 or financial meltdowns hijack presidencies.

And yet, despite knowing that, many pinned all their hopes and dreams upon unseating President Obama and electing Mitt Romney.  And if Facebook is any judge, many consider the re-election of President Obama to be one of the signs of the apocalypse.  In fact, the pastor of one of the largest Baptist churches in Dallas this week wrote that President Obama will usher in the reign of the Antichrist.  (Ironically some thought electing a Mormon would slow down the decay of this so-called “Christian” nation.)

Let’s be clear.  There are policies that our current president supports that we find intolerable.  Abortions should not be legal and accessible to anyone and everyone.  Marriage should not be redefined to include any and every combination imaginable, including the gay marriage so vigorously being promoted today.  The government should not violate the religious consciences of churches and employers and tell them that they must provide contraceptives, abortificients, and sterilizations to employees despite religious objections.

But, let’s be fair.  Mitt Romney wouldn’t have eliminated abortion.  He favors it in some cases.   He also formerly supported gay marriage as a governor.  Plus, he thinks that when he dies he’ll become a god and populate a planet with all kinds of spirit children.  Because he’s a Mormon.  So, he wasn’t some magic bullet, whom, had we elected him, would have ushered in a triumphant millennial kingdom of peace on earth with a chicken in every pot.

Daniel, were he here, certainly could speak intelligently about all these things.  During his teenage years he watched his home burn when the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, stormed Jerusalem, tore down her walls, and destroyed Solomon’s temple.  That same king took Daniel back to Babylon and trained him to enter the king’s service.  For the next seventy years Daniel served under a variety of kings and empires.  He dealt with Babylonians and Persians, not the same as dealing with Republicans and Democrats.  He navigated the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar and Cyrus and Darius.  And somehow he survived the cut-throat atmosphere of palace politics and intrigue.  But it was a near-run thing, wasn’t it?  Remember some enemies got a law passed to condemn Daniel and get him thrown to the lions.  Remember too how some of Daniel’s friends refused to bow to the golden image and faced death in a furnace of fire.  Babylonian and Persian kings were despots and tyrants the likes of which we’ve never seen.  Daniel spent 70 years trying to balance serving a state that considered its monarch essentially God on earth with serving the true God in heaven.

At the same time, these exiled Jews, like Daniel, also depended on these Babylonian and Persian kings for so much.  They desired protection and return to their homes.  They needed that protection under the Persian Xerxes when Haman tried to have every Jew in the empire killed.  They thought they had their true savior in Cyrus when he allowed Jews to return to Israel and rebuild Jerusalem and their Temple.  Don’t you think they spent a lot of time thinking about who was in charge?  Don’t you think many of them saw the birth of a new heir, or the handing over of power from one king to another, or one empire to another, as the moment of truth and triumph, or, conversely, the beginning of the apocalyptic end?

Yes, it’s so easy to focus our eyes on politics, to look for triumph from the next election, or the passage of this law, or the latest ruling from the Supreme Court.  But it comes from none of those places.  Even though God ordains governments here on earth.  Even though God uses governments to help carry out His will.  Even though God, in His Fourth Commandment, says “Honor, serve, and obey governing authorities.”  Still, we look past those governments for our triumphs.  To prove that, we have the visions of Daniel.

During his time as a servant of the Babylonians and the Persians, God shows Daniel the future.  He shows Daniel that Babylon’s empire will fall to the Persians.  Then, God shows Daniel how Alexander the Great and the Greeks will knock off the Persians.  After the Greeks the Romans come and take over the world.  So far, so much politics, so much history, so much Western Civ.  But after the Romans, God shows Daniel another great and terrifying empire, an empire unlike any of the others.  He describes this empire as having a king different from the earlier ones, a king who will do as he wills, who will exalt and magnify himself above every god and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods, who will pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, who will magnify himself above all, and who will wage war against the saints and defeat them (Dan. 7 and 11).  Compare that with God’s Word in 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 John, and Revelation.  God gives Daniel a glimpse of the Antichrist, that enemy who sits on God’s throne, in God’s church, and usurps God’s authority. Previously we identified this as the office of the papacy in the Roman Catholic Church.

At the same time, we know that this king who rises to power, attacks the true faith, and causes death and destruction is not the only enemy of the Christian Church.  We live surrounded by political powers who wish to crush the Gospel.  Islam distresses us because it seeks, literally, to take over the world and convert it to Muhammad’s false, demonic faith. The other so-called “great” world religions also seek to overthrow and supplant Christ.  Even within the Christian Church, it’s not just the Pope causing problems.  And we know too that much of the problem is within our own hearts.  We’ve lowered the bars of morality.  We’ve seared our consciences so often.  We struggle under these and other pressures to conform.  It’s harder and harder to be faithful to the Word of God, even when we want to be so desperately.

Arguably, we might say that what Jesus predicted and God showed Daniel is now here:  A time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then (Daniel 12:1, NIV84). Every generation has thought this, and until now been proven wrong.  But there’s no harm in assuming that this is that time, the greatest and worst of the tribulations, the time about which Jesus said, If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive because false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect (Matthew 24:22, 24, NIV84).  If you listened sharply, you know I ended that last verse a little prematurely.  Jesus said, False Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible!

Finally, victory and triumph!  Daniel heard it this way, At that time.  When things are darkest and most distressing, at that time, God talks victory.  He talks victory because He sends out His mighty angels to fight for His elect.  In Daniel 12 He mentions Michael, the great prince, God’s chief general, who protects God’s people, according to God’s promise:  He will command his angels, concerning you, to guard you in all your ways (Ps. 91:11, NIV84).  Especially is Michael tasked to fight evil empires and to do battle with Satan and his demon army, as visions in Daniel and Revelation make clear.   Triumph!

And then, even in the midst of this time of great, unprecedented distress, the LORD says to Daniel, But at that time your people…will be delivered (12:1, NIV84).  This isn’t political delivery.  This isn’t Persians, Greeks, or Romans coming to save the Jewish people.  This isn’t Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or any political leader coming to deliver us.  This is God’s holy Son delivering us from sin, death, and hell, from the devil himself in all his unholy incarnations, whether political leaders or Antichrist.  Because at that time God will deliver everyone whose name is found written in the book.  And only by the work of the Holy Spirit on account of the work of Christ do your names find their way in there, as Hebrews says, But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool,because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy (Hebrews 10:12-14, NIV84).  Triumph!

And then, though death seems to take all the wind out of our sails, taking from us all we have and are, the LORD says to Daniel, Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt (Dan. 12:2, NIV84).  This is none other than the resurrection of the dead promised by Christ in our Gospel:  [A] time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live….[A] time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:25, 28-29, NIV84).  For not all is that voice a happy voice, for the unbeliever, the non-Christian, it’s an awakening to eternal death in hell.  But for those who call on Christ, for those who believe on His name, it is a blessing, a resurrection to life!  God’s mighty Word raises us up from death.  Triumph!

And in heaven, with Christ, we are all stars:  Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens…for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:3, NIV84).  The glory of Christ, His sinlessness, His perfection, His immortality, His incorruptibility becomes ours through faith in Him.  As Paul said, the splendor of these heavenly bodies will be of a whole different kind, for the body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable (1 Cor. 15:42, NIV84).  God transfers this here and now in the Word and the Sacraments:  a Word and Water that give us rebirth, new clothing, Christ-clothing; a Meal that feeds us, strengthens us, burnishes us to a fine glow of health and forgiveness until that day when we eat it anew with Christ in heaven.

No matter how we look, where we live, how much we have, the promise of Christ, the gift of God, is life and light and eternity:  forever and ever.  Triumph!  Not in politics, but in Christ!  I’m not saying, “Don’t vote,” or “Don’t participate in government.”  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t care who gets elected or about their policies.  I’m not saying don’t pray for President Obama.  I’m not saying don’t obey President Obama.  Vote.  Participate.  Care.  Pray.  Obey.  I’m saying that when we talk about triumph, real triumph, saints triumphant, it’s only when we talk about Christ and His kingdom.  So, let’s talk triumph!  Amen.

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