From Battle to Victory
Daniel 10 introduces the concluding vision of Daniel, which continues in chapters 11 and 12. We are informed at the outset that this vision concerns a “great conflict” (Dan. 10:1, ESV). While Daniel 11 fleshes out some details of this conflict, Daniel 10 shows its spiritual dimensions and reveals that behind the scenes of earthly battles rages a spiritual conflict of cosmic proportions. As we study this chapter, we shall see that when we pray, we engage in this cosmic conflict in a way that has profound repercussions. But we are not alone in our struggles; Jesus engages the battle against Satan in our behalf. We shall learn that the ultimate fight we are engaged in is not against earthly human powers but the powers of darkness.
As the apostle Paul put it centuries after Daniel: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12, NKJV). Ultimately, our success in the conflict rests on Jesus Christ, who alone defeated Satan at the cross.
* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, March 14.
Daniel does not spell out the reasons for his extended mourning period. But such a fervent intercession is most likely motivated by the situation of the Jews, who have just returned from Babylon to Palestine.
We know from Ezra 4:1–5 that at this time the Jews are facing strong opposition as they attempt to rebuild the temple. The Samaritans send false reports to the Persian court, inciting the king to stop the reconstruction work. In the face of such crises, for three weeks Daniel pleads with God to influence Cyrus to allow the work to continue.
At this point, Daniel is probably close to 90 years of age. He does not think about himself but about his people and the challenges that they face. And he persists in prayer for three full weeks before receiving any answer from God. During this time, the prophet follows a very modest diet, abstaining from choice food and even ointment. He is totally unconcerned about his comfort and appearance, but he is deeply concerned about the welfare of his fellow Jews in Jerusalem a thousand miles away.
As we look into Daniel’s prayer life, we learn some valuable lessons. First, we should persist in prayer, even when our petitions are not answered immediately. Second, we should devote time to pray for others. There is something special about intercessory prayers.
Remember that “the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends” (Job 42:10, NKJV). Third, prayer prompts God to do something concrete and real. So, let us pray always, all kinds of prayers. In the face of unbearable trials, big problems, and overwhelming challenges, let us take our burdens to God in prayer (Eph. 6:18).
As Daniel describes his experience, we can hardly imagine the overwhelming splendor of what he sees. That human appearance (Dan. 10:5, 6) harks back to the “Son of man” depicted in the vision of the heavenly judgment (Dan. 7:13). His linen clothing is reminiscent of priestly garments (Lev. 16:4), an aspect that likens this personage to the “Prince of the host” depicted in connection with the heavenly sanctuary (Daniel 8, NKJV). Gold also is associated with the priestly regalia as a sign of royal dignity. Last, the likening of this figure to lightning, fire, bronze, and a powerful voice portrays Him as a supernatural being. This is someone invested with priestly, royal, and military attributes. This figure also displays interesting similarities to the heavenly being who appears to Joshua shortly before the battle against Jericho (Josh. 5:13, 14). In the vision, Joshua sees the “Commander of the army of the Lord” (NKJV). Interestingly, the Hebrew word translated as “commander” (sar) here is the same word translated as “prince” in reference to Michael in Daniel 10:21. But a closer parallel occurs between Daniel and John, who received a vision of the risen Lord on the Sabbath day.
According to Daniel, those who are with him are frightened off, and Daniel himself falls weak and frail to the ground. The manifestation of God’s presence simply overwhelms him. Yet, whatever his immediate fears, Daniel’s vision shows that God is in control of history. Indeed, as the vision unfolds, we will see that God provides Daniel with an outline of human history from the times of the prophet to the establishment of God’s kingdom (Daniel 11 and 12).
Overwhelmed with the radiance of divine light, the prophet falls. Then an angel appears to touch him and comfort him. As we read the narrative, notice that the angel touches Daniel three times.
The first touch enables the prophet to stand and hear the words of comfort coming from heaven: “ ‘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’ ” (Dan. 10:12, NKJV). Daniel’s prayer has moved the heavens. For us this comes as an assurance that God hears our prayers, which is a great comfort in times of trouble.
The second touch enables Daniel to speak. The prophet pours out his words before the Lord, expressing his feelings of fear and emotion: “ ‘My lord, because of the vision my sorrows have overwhelmed me, and I have retained no strength. For how can this servant of my lord talk with you, my lord? As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me’ ” (Dan. 10:16, 17, NKJV). So, God does not only speak to us; He wants us to open our mouths so that we can tell Him about our feelings, needs, and aspirations.
The third touch brings him strength. As Daniel recognizes his inadequacy, the angel touches him and comforts him with God’s peace: “ ‘O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!’ ” (Dan. 10:19, NKJV). Remember that the angel has been sent to Daniel in response to his prayers, in order to give him insight and understanding. In other words, the vision that follows in chapter 11 will be one that is intended to encourage Daniel in response to his mourning and meditation over the present situation in Jerusalem. With God on our side, then, we can have peace even as we face affliction. His loving touch enables us to look into the future with hope.
The heavenly messenger pulls the curtain aside and reveals to Daniel the cosmic war that transpires behind the scenes of human history. As soon as Daniel begins to pray, a spiritual battle starts between heaven and earth. Heavenly beings began a struggle with the king of Persia to let the Jews continue the reconstruction of the temple. We know from the opening of Daniel 10 that the king of Persia is Cyrus. However, a human king left by himself cannot offer significant opposition to a heavenly being. This indicates that behind the human king stands a spiritual agent who moves Cyrus to stop the Jews from rebuilding the temple.
A similar situation occurs in Ezekiel 28, in which the king of Tyre represents Satan, the spiritual power behind the human king of that city. So, it should not be surprising that the kings of Persia against whom Michael comes to fight include Satan and his angels. This shows that the human opposition to the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem has a counterpart in the spiritual realm.
“While Satan was striving to influence the highest powers in the kingdom of Medo-Persia to show disfavor to God’s people, angels worked in behalf of the exiles. The controversy was one in which all heaven was interested. Through the prophet Daniel, we are given a glimpse of this mighty struggle between the forces of good and the forces of evil. For three weeks Gabriel wrestled with the powers of darkness, seeking to counteract the influences at work on the mind of Cyrus; and before the contest closed, Christ Himself came to Gabriel’s aid. ‘The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days,’ Gabriel declares; ‘but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.’ Daniel 10:13. All that heaven could do in behalf of the people of God was done. The victory was finally gained; the forces of the enemy were held in check all the days of Cyrus, and all the days of his son Cambyses, who reigned about seven and a half years.”—Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 571, 572.
The most prominent character in the book of Daniel is the figure initially called “Son of Man” (Dan. 7:13, NKJV) or “Prince of the host” (Dan. 8:11, NKJV). Eventually we learn that His name is Michael (Dan. 10:21), which means “Who is like God?” He comes to help Gabriel in the conflict with the king of Persia (Dan. 10:13). The angel refers to this heavenly being as “Michael your prince” (Dan. 10:21), namely, the prince of God’s people. Michael appears later in the book of Daniel as the One who stands for God’s people (Dan. 12:1). From Jude 9, we learn that Michael, also called an archangel, fights against Satan and resurrects Moses. Revelation 12:7 reveals that Michael stands as the leader of the heavenly army, which defeats Satan and his fallen angels. Thus, Michael is none other than Jesus Christ. As the Persian Empire has a supreme commander, a spiritual force who stands behind its human leader, so God’s people have in Michael their Commander in Chief, who steps in to fight and win the cosmic war on their behalf.
As we face the forces of evil, we can have faith in Jesus our champion. He defeats Satan in the beginning of His public ministry. During His earthly life, He defeats Satan in the desert when assaulted with temptations, He fights demonic hordes, and He sets people free from the power of darkness. Jesus defeats evil even when it is disguised behind Peter’s attempt to dissuade Him from moving toward Calvary. In His final words to the disciples, Jesus speaks of His impending death as a battle, which will culminate in a decisive victory over Satan: “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself ” (John 12:31, 32, NKJV).
Sometimes we look around, and things look really bad. Violence, immorality, corruption, and diseases crop up everywhere. An enemy, not made of flesh and blood, brutally attacks us from all sides. But no matter how difficult the battles we have to fight, Jesus fights for us and stands as our Prince and High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary.
Further Thought: “For three weeks Gabriel wrestled with the powers of darkness, seeking to counteract the influences at work on the mind of Cyrus. . . . All that heaven could do in behalf of the people of God was done. The victory was finally gained; the forces of the enemy were held in check all the days of Cyrus, and all the days of his son Cambyses.”—Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 572.
“What great honor is shown to Daniel by the Majesty of heaven! He comforts His trembling servant and assures him that his prayer has been heard in heaven. In answer to that fervent petition the angel Gabriel was sent to affect the heart of the Persian king. The monarch had resisted the impressions of the Spirit of God during the three weeks while Daniel was fasting and praying, but heaven’s Prince, the Archangel, Michael, was sent to turn the heart of the stubborn king to take some decided action to answer the prayer of Daniel.”—Ellen G. White, The Sanctified Life, p. 51.