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History: God's Story
Scripture: Daniel 8: 1-27
Track 9 of 11 in the Living Lives That Leave People Speechless series
Running time: 32 minutes, 22 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

"History: God's Story" Daniel 8:1-27 March 2, 2008

Sometimes bad things happen. You begin to wonder if God's gone silent. You see the horrific things that people can do to each other. You begin to wonder why God hasn't in some way done or said something, anything. About a decade ago I had what I suppose you would call a privilege of visiting Auschwitz in Poland, a camp where 2 million people were incinerated in the process. They were just a part of 6 million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust, in addition to 5 million of what they called the undesirables, gypsies, communists, people with handicaps, the elderly.

Beginning on April the 6th in 1994 in 100 days 800,000 people died in Rwanda, 720,000 members of the Tutsi tribe and 80,000 from the Hutu tribe. 9-11, 2001, nearly 3,000 people died in the twin towers in New York City. In 1838 17,000 Cherokee's were marched from the southeastern part of the United States to a new place to live in Oklahoma. 4,000 of 17,000 died on what has now been called the Trail of Tears.

In Cambodia it became known as the killing fields. Under the leadership of the Khmer Rouge 2 million out of 7 million Cambodians were put to death between 1974 and 1979. You can actually go to a city in Cambodia, and there is a glass case in which they have on display 8,000 human skulls. Nobody knows the actual count, but in a couple of centuries somewhere around by best estimates 12 to 15 million Africans were captured and brought to the United States and other parts of the Americas. In addition to that dozen million people, approximately 8 million more died in transport, 3 million of them crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Every year, every year 1 million young girls, some as young as four, are taken captive and sold into the sex slave market in southeast Asia every year.

It is almost beyond us to imagine how inhumane humans can be, and in the midst of that, if you are a thinking person, you are almost driven to ask the question, why has God been silent? Where is he in the midst of all of that human despair? A lot of ways that you can respond.

Elie Weisel, the Pulitzer price winning author, went to Auschwitz when he was 15 years old and survived. His most famous book is the book "Night," and in that book this is what he says. "Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of children whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my fate forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprives me for all eternity of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God himself. Never."

One of the options for responding to inhumanity is to simply become bitter, to refuse to dream again, to just withdraw from life, to call it quits, to stop believing, to refuse to believe.

You might more actively, or proactively do what you may have read about in the last couple of years. Her sentencing was actually nearly a year ago in April of 2007. Mary Winkler was committed to a prison because following a life of abuse in her marriage she took a shotgun and shot her preacher husband in the back. Her response to inhumanity was vengeance. Get back. It's an option.

Gary Haugen, an attorney, chose another route of response. He chose to seek justice. He worked for the civil rights division of the Department of Justice, was the director of United Nations Genocide Investigation. He spent his life as an attorney traveling the world to places like Rwanda and documenting the genocide so that people could be brought to trial. That's a response.

Or there is the response of College Heights Christian Church in Joplin, Missouri. They have decided to respond by adopting an apartment complex. Just a few years ago there were two years in a row in which the police department of Joplin, Missouri, visited this apartment complex everyday.

One year they were there one time every single day in response to some kind of a crisis, primarily drug driven. The second year they averaged a trip there everyday. It's just that some days they had to go two or three times. Other days they didn't have to go.

Today they never visit. They are never called there because the church has adopted that apartment complex. They took over responsibility for rehabbing apartments. After people moved out, they took responsibility to send crews in to do painting and cleaning. They started on Sunday mornings delivering groceries every Sunday to families in the apartment complex. They even moved church families into the complex in order to be a presence there, start bible studies, and those people no longer have to call the police because the church decided to act.

You can respond like Greg Hunt in El Paso, Texas. Today, right now, they are celebrating their one year anniversary for the Salem Christian Church. They have built houses for homeless people, served meals to those who can't eat, and introduce people to Jesus in an act of response to a broken world. It's not hard to find evidence that we have all kinds of difficulties in our world. There is all kinds of evidence of inhumanity. The question is only, how are we going to respond? What's the appropriate response to inhumanity?

I want to try to answer that question by inviting you to Daniel Chapter 8. It's the second vision that Daniel himself has. If you remember, he has been interpreting visions for other people, but in Chapter 7 he has a vision of his own, and that then now a couple of years later he has a second vision that comes directly to him that is then interpreted for him by an angel. In Daniel Chapter 8 what we are going to see is two visions and two messages, two messengers, two visions and two interpretations so that he can understand what it is that God is trying to say about what's going on in the world.

If you read with me just the first part of this vision Daniel Chapter 8, Verses 1 through 4, it's a rather brief account of his first vision. "In the third year of King Belshazzar's reign I, Daniel, have a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam. In the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal. I looked up and there before me was a ram with two horns standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other, but grew up later. I watched the ram as he charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against him, and none could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased, and he became great."

Now, the nice thing about scripture is that it often interprets itself. So if you are patient and you wait just a little bit, in the reading of this text what you would discover is that he gives an interpretation of this particular vision down here in verse number 19. So if you come down here to verse 19, or verse 20 you'll read this. "The two- horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia." Here is what Daniel is seeing. He is seeing a goat that is going out and literally -- a ram is going out and literally destroying everything in its sight, taking over and becoming captive. It's made up of two horns. One horn is longer than the other and came later than the other. It's an image, if you are going back to Daniel Chapter 2, of that head of gold, Babylon, giving way to the chest of silver, the Meads and the Persians. And here we have Darius, the first horn, and Cyrus, the second horn, coming along leading the Meads and the Persians in an attack spreading their kingdom even beyond that of Babylon.

Daniel is just getting his head around that vision when suddenly he has another vision, verse number . "As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between his eyes came from the west crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. He came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal, and he charged at him with great rage. I saw him attack the ram furiously striking the ram and shattering his two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against him. The goat knocked him to the ground and trampled on him and none could rescue the ram from his power. The goat became very great, but at the height of his power his large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven."

And, again, if you are patient, the text will explain itself. Over in Verse 21 he is going to tell Daniel this is what this is about. And so gave Gabriel says to Daniel in Verse 21, "The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes is the first king. The four horns that replace the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation, but will not have the same power."

This is the image of Greece. It's actually the image of Alexander the Great, the first major king of Greece. And Alexander the Great is like this goat that is just trampling on everybody. He is going -- in fact the text says it's like he doesn't even touch the ground. In less than ten years Alexander the Great conquered the entire known world. He extended Greece's reign from as far as southern Europe all the way to northern Africa, as far west as Greece, and as far east of the Turkey and into the far regions of Asia Minor. He is incredibly powerful, and in less than ten years took over the world.

And then he died, and Greece divided its kingdom into four parts. They gave Egypt to Ptolemy, and then they gave Macedonia, Greece, and southern Europe to a fellow by the name of Cassander, and then they gave Lysimachus Thrace, which would be Bulgaria, Turkey, and then they gave Seleucus everything that used to be Babylon south which happens to include Israel.

And then the dream continued. "Out of one of them," verse number 9, "came another horn which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the beautiful land. It grew until it reached the host of heaven, and it threw some of the starry hosts down to the earth and trampled on them. It set itself up to be as great as the prince of the hosts. It took away the daily sacrifice from him, and the place of his sanctuary was brought low. Because of rebellion, the host of the saints and the daily sacrifices were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground."

Coming out of that southern kingdom Seleucus was a man. They called him Antiochus, Antiochus IV. But he had another name, a name he preferred to call himself -- Antiochus Epiphanies. That being translated is Antiochus, the glorious god. He controlled beautiful land, Israel, and in order to establish his control in the beautiful land, he took over the temple in Jerusalem, and in the 160's BC he slaughtered pigs on the altar in Jerusalem, an unclean animal to the Jews, as a way of proving his control.

But that wasn't good enough. Not only did he do that, he decided he would simply eliminate the temple altogether, and he established in the place where the temple stood a statue to Zeus, and in front of the statue to Zeus on the altar of sacrifice that at one time belonged to the Jewish nation and to God he began to offer human sacrifice. He forbade the Jews to practice their religion. He got rid of the priesthood. He forbid them from preserving the sabbath. He stopped them from having circumcision in order to tell the nation that I am in control. He was that abomination of desolation and had absolute power.

Fascinating, really, what the text does next. Verse 13, Daniel said, "I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, 'How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled, the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary, the host that will be trampled under foot?' And he said to me, 'It will take 2300 evenings and mornings, and then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.'"

That is absolutely incredible. It's fascinating. And some of you don't look at fascinated as I. Do you know how the Jews counted time? Evening and morning. 2300 evenings and mornings. And do you know when the Jews offered sacrifices? One in the evening and one in the morning. And do you know how many days or years 2300 morning and evening sacrifices happen to be? If you do your math real quick, it comes out just about three years. Do you know what's utterly fascinating? That the Jewish nation absolutely refused to buckle under Antiochus Epiphanes, and the Maccabees rose up in revolt.

If you have a Roman catholic bible at home, read First Maccabees the first four or five chapters. It tells the story the Judah Maccabee who rose up in rebellion. And guess how long it took for him to win the temple courts back? I bet you'll never guess. Three years. And they reconsecrated the altar. 500 years before it ever happened Daniel is being told by Gabriel, this is how long it's going to take, this is how bad it's going to be, but after three years God will be heard.

Unfortunately, that's not the worst part of the dream. The worst part is verse 15 and following. "While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man, and I heard a man's voice from the Ulai calling, 'Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.' And as he came near to the place that I was standing I was terrified and fell prostrate on the ground. 'Son of man,' he said to me, 'understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.' While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep with my face to the ground, and then he touched me and he raised me to my feet."

"He said, 'I'm going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end. The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy goat is the king of Greece. The large horn between his eyes is the first king. The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation, but will not have the same power. In the latter part of their reign when rebels have become completely wicked a stern faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise.'" He is talking about Antiochus Epiphanes.

"'He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy the mighty men and the holy people. He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes and yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.'"

"'The vision of the evenings and the mornings that have been given to you is true, but seal up the vision where it concerns the distant future.'" The worst part of this dream is how bad it's going to be for the people of God. Antiochus Epiphanes is going to make life as if hell itself had broken loose in Israel.

But that's the nature of it. God's people are always on the receiving end of the depraved humanity we call human beings. It's why the 20th Century saw more christians martyred for their faith than the previous 19 centuries combined. It is why the 21st Century, less than a decade old, has already been established as the worst decade in the history of the world for persecution of God's people. All you have to do is look at Kenya, Sudan, China.

When you recognize that life gets hard for God's people, it is possible to wonder, why does it sound so silent? Why doesn't it appear that God is paying any attention? What do the people of God do when it seems as if God is silent? I think they do exactly what Daniel did, verse number 27. "I, Daniel, was exhausted and laid ill for several days, and then I got up and went about the king's business. I was appalled by the vision. It was beyond understanding."

What do God's people do when it seems as if the major atrocities of the world have silenced God? They do exactly that. They get up and they go about the king's business. They do what it is that God has called them to do. They do whatever it is that God has placed them in the world to do. Attorneys seek justice, doctors offer care, teachers teach, and coaches coach, and they intervene in the lives of people. They step into the world of hurting people and they simply make a difference right where they happen to be.

Hungry people get fed. People without clothing get clothed. People who can't rake their leaves get their leaves raked. What do God's people do when it seems as if everything is silent? They do exactly what they have always done. They behave like God's people, and they act in whatever way God has called them to act. They step up to the plate, and they do what they do. They do crazy things like bake cookies and clean cubbies in school. They deliver groceries. They take CO detectors to people who don't have them. They act like they care.

And does it matter? Does it make a difference? Well, the kids at Berrian School think it does. I just brought a few notes that I thought you might want to hear. "I really want to thank you for all the stuff you gave us. I still have all the candy that you gave us, and I can still not thank you enough. I really think you are kind. Our building is nice and clean now. Madison Park Church, you rock."

This one wasn't quite as conservative as the previous one. "I like the cookies. The treat bag looked delish and amazing. Madison Garden, I mean Madison Park, little misspelling here, bowled us over with their kindness, and I eat all of the treats in one day. Really good."

"Thanks for the, he crossed out 19 and wrote in 20, cookies." I think this is an untruth. I don't think we gave anybody 20 cookies. "Thanks for cleaning our classrooms and for making it smell better and for the candy bag. It was awesome. We appreciate what you did. It was very kind of you to help." Kindness is contagious.

"Thank you for the treats and cleaning the building. We all thank you for the good cookies. We all love them. Thank you. I hope you can come back. You did a good job, and thank you for the goodie bags, too. They were tasty. I hope you like this letter. Have fun." There is a whole bunch more just like this on the table out in the foyer. I hope you'll take a few minutes and read them.

Does it matter? It does. It doesn't matter that you sit here on a Sunday morning. It matters that you get up out of your chair right where you are and you help somebody that's hurting. It matters that you take a bag of groceries to somebody when you know they need food. It matters that you supply somebody with some clothing when they have had a fire. It matters that right there where you work you reach across the aisles and you do for people whatever it is that they need to have done because you are God's response.

Gary Haugen says, "The great miracle and mystery of God is that he calls you and me to be part of what he is doing in history. He could, of course, with no help from us proclaim the gospel of Jesus with lifeless stones, feed the entire world with five loaves and two fish, heal the sick with the hem of his garment, release all of the oppressed with his angels. Instead, God has chosen us, missionaries, agricultural, engineers, doctors, lawyers, law makers, and all of those who support, encourage, and pray for them to be his hands in doing those things in the world that are important to him. We are his story."

When God's people, when the church, not a place, but the people respond to the injustice and the inhumanity of the world by doing whatever little thing they can do, that arrests people's attention. That causes people to sit up and take notice. That's what causes people to want to say to the church, we need you. And when the church does what the church does, simply by being the church and responding to human need, it starts getting phone calls, like the multiple phone calls that have come in in the last two or three weeks.

We have just had a fire. Can you help us? My neighbors can't pay their bills. Can you help? We just discovered that somebody doesn't have enough food. Do you suppose that you could supply some for them? Why do you think they ask us and not somebody else? It's because the church is the church, and the church is God's answer to the silence around us.

The only question is, are you going to be about the king's business? Are you going to crawl in a hole and pull it in behind you because the world is just so bad and life is just so rotten we couldn't do anything anyway? What difference could one little thing do? Ask a kid at Berrian what one little thing will do. Ask one of the fire victims what one little thing will do. Ask somebody who ate last week because of one of you. Ask them whether that matters. We are God's voice. We are God's pen. He is still writing this history book. It is still His story. God has never been out of control, and he has never been silent. He has simply chosen to use you to be his voice.

Are you glad that God did not decide to respond to injustice when it was done to his son? Have you ever thought about the fact that God could have stopped the crucifixion? He could have sent 10,000 angels. He didn't have to let his son go to the cross and die for you. He could have halted the whole thing in one swift act of justice. But he didn't. Because he knew that the shedding of blood and the death of his son led to the resurrection and the resurrection led to life, and without the shedding of blood and without the resurrection of Jesus you and I are hopeless.

And we come to this table every week to be reminded of His story, that he didn't exact justice when he could have, and it's a good thing. Because allowing Jesus to unjustly die made it possible for us to mercifully live. And we come to a table, not just to remember that part of the story as important as it is, but according to the text of scripture it also proclaims that story until He comes. We come to this table because God is not and never has been silent, nor out of control.