The chapters of the second half of Daniel don’t follow sequentially from the first chapters. At the beginning of chapter 7, we read, “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter.” This means, he received this vision before events that are described in chapters five and six.
The vision he has is amazing! Here’s a key section:
“I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. 4The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. 5And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ 6After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. 9“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. 10A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. 11“I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. 13“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
And then notice how the chapter ends: “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.” (7:28)
So, sometime after the events of chapter 4, Daniel gets this vision and it scares him. It’s unlike anything he has seen before, but he keeps it in his heart and ponders it. He thinks about what he sees. But he does more than that. Daniel thinks about what God showed him and the lived in light of it.
You see after this vision come the events of chapter 5. There the king of Babylon, Belshazzar, was having a feast, and in his partying asked that the vessels of gold and silver that his father had stolen from temple of Jerusalem be brought in. It was bad enough that the temple was destroyed, but now he further denigrates the Lord by using these vessels to drink his wine from, for all of his wives and concubines to drink from. But as soon as he puts the cup to his lips, this hand appears out of nowhere and begins inscribing words on the plaster of the wall. Belshazzar is scared out of his wits and calls for every wiseman, astrologer, and bone-reader he can find—what do these words mean? Somewhere remembers Daniel used to interpret dreams and they get him.
Now, he’s brought in and God gives him understanding of the words, but it’s not a good message. If he gives the king this message, the king might kill him right there. But he explains it anyway: the king didn’t learn from his father and has become proud. He’s been weighed by God and been found wanting. Therefore, his days were ended and his kingdom would fall to other nations. That very night the Lord takes his life, but Daniel lives.
But then it’s even better in chapter 6. Now, Daniel is an old man. He’s 70, and King Darius has made Daniel a high official in his court. But he’s also passed an edict that everyone in the kingdom must worship him and him alone for thirty days or be thrown into a lion’s den. So, what is Daniel to do? He’s not a spring chicken now! He should be retired, taking it easy on some beach somewhere. If he worships the Lord, he’ll be tossed into a pit with hungry lions.
So what does he do? He does what he has always done, three times a day—he opens his window towards Jerusalem and prays to the One True and Living God. So, Darius has him dropped in the lion’s den. But the next morning it’s revealed that God has stopped the mouths of the lions, and Daniel is still alive.
Where did he get the courage to stand against kings, to stare into the face of raging beasts who wanted nothing more than to devour him, and joyfully obey the Living God? Daniel was able to live faithfully—even in the face of death—because he knew he had a victorious future.
God has shown Daniel the spiritual realities—the satanic forces that stood behind these nations in the world. But he had also shown him the vision of himself as the Ancient of Days—the exalted king who stands sovereign over all kingdoms. And he showed him that one day he would send one like a son of man who would come and bring a final, decisive defeat to all the raging beasts. It was these things that gave Daniel courage, that empowered him to not retreat from suffering, even death! But to remain faithful to his God.
Every day, all of us as God’s people face a decision: will be bow to the spiritual forces of darkness, fearing the world’s opinion, the world’s threats, loving the world’s values? Will be serve more faithfully our neighbors and our friends and our own sinful hearts? Or will remember passages like this one which show us a higher throne?
Will we remember the Ancient of Days, exercising judgment on all nations? Will we remember Jesus, the Son of Man, who died on the cross to the bear our guilt and shame for sins; Jesus, who rose again in glory to be given the entire universe over which he will reign in an everlasting dominion? Will we walk around ignorant of the spiritual forces at war around us in the most important and most mundane actions in life? Or with confidence and joy, will we faithfully serve our King regardless of the consequences, remembering he will forever be with us as the King above all kings and the Lord above all lords, even to the end of the age?