War in High and Low Places

War in High and Low Places

Daniel 10:1 – 11:1

What I am about to say is serious, it is real, and it may seem scary to some of you.  From the opening pages of the Bible to its final chapter is a story about a grand and glorious God who rescues and saves lost sinners.  In the first two chapters, it begins with a beautiful creation that includes the creation of man and woman in the image of God; in the final two chapters of the Bible in Revelation, it concludes with a glorious recreation that includes all human beings of all ethnicities whose sins have been forgiven through the substitutionary death of Jesus in place of sinners and His victorious resurrection from the grave.  However, sandwiched between those first two chapters of Genesis and the final two chapters of Revelation is also a depiction of a war, not between nations, but a war on a cosmic scale between God and Satan. 

Throughout the book of Daniel, we have seen glimpses of the spiritual war that wages beyond our physical sight, but it is not until we come to Daniel 10 that the curtain is pulled back just enough for us to peer into a world that is very real, and a world that we are very much a part of.  The Bible has a lot to say about the spiritual war we find our selves in.  Permit me to share with you just three passages:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:10–13)

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:3–5)

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 5:8–9)

The War is Not Only Spiritual

Let me just say at the start that not everything that we struggle with is demonic, angelic, or directly related to the cosmic war we find ourselves to be a part of.  We are told in the first two verses that it was the third year of Cyrus when Daniel experienced what we read in this chapter.  To set the context here, it was about three years earlier that Daniel prayed his prayer of repentance in Daniel 9.  Within the span of three years leading up to Daniel 10, Cyrus decreed to permit Jews to return to Jerusalem for the purpose of rebuilding it.  The year after that, the Jews who returned began to offer sacrifices in Jerusalem.  In Cyrus’ third year, Daniel was about 90 years old.  The thing that Daniel longed for since he was a teenager was no longer a possibility; there was no way he could make the long, grueling trip to participate in the rebuilding of Jerusalem or to worship in the temple Ezra would rebuild.  How hard do you think it must have been for Daniel to hear about the rebuilding of his city Jerusalem, knowing that he would never be able to enjoy it while alive? 

The second thing we learn about the context of Daniel 10 is that Daniel was, “mourning for three weeks.”  While mourning, he fasted from delicacies, meat, and wine; he also refrained from applying lotion or oils on his body to be more comfortable in the extremely dry climate he lived.  What is even more significant is that he did this during Passover week, for the, “twenty-fourth day of the first month” was 10 days after Passover.  Why did Daniel mourn, fast, and refuse to be comfortable for three weeks?  Because he identified with the trials his people faced and the desire he shared with his people to return to the land of their forefathers. 

I believe Daniel not only mourned over his inability to ever return to his homeland, but he mourned over the suffering of his people as well.  I think his mourning was over the majority of his kinsmen who could go back to Jerusalem, but chose not to because they were too comfortable.  I think Daniel’s mourning was over a very strong desire to celebrate Passover in the land of promise, while he remained stuck in exile.  Daniel’s mourning was not just over the spiritual issues, but I am sure it included the emotional and physical trauma he and many of his people continued to experience. 

Here is what I want to say about Daniel’s mourning.  Not all suffering is related to Satan or his demons; sometimes suffering is purely physical and sometimes it is purely emotional, and sometimes it can be spiritual, physical, and emotional all at once.  Daniel’s only recourse to a situation he had very little control over was to pray and seek relief, rescue, or just a simple response from the God who Daniel knew was aware of his spiritual, physical, and emotional pain.  What kept God’s prophet from being swallowed up by his grief and despair was that he kept looking up to the God he understood to be eternally sovereign and benevolently for him and not against him. 

The War is Real

We are told that Daniel lifted up his eyes only to see a messenger from God whose appearance overwhelmed him to the point that he was too weak to move while trembling.  The very first thing that the angel said to Daniel was a message God has sent to his prophet before: “O Daniel, man greatly loved…”.  What God wanted Daniel to hear before anything else was said by the angel was that he was “greatly loved.”  The second thing the angel relayed to Daniel was to, “Fear not…”. The two affirmations made to God’s prophet was not just true of Daniel, but they are true of all God’s people.  If you belong to God and are known by God, then you are greatly loved.  And because you are greatly loved by the God who created all things, you have no reason to fear!  Listen again to what God said to his prophet through the angel:

And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you…. Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. (Daniel 10:11–12)

I think that these are the two things we, as followers of Jesus who belong to God tend to forget frequently.  When everything seems to be giving way around us and beneath us, we tend to forget that we are greatly loved by God and therefore have no real reason to fear.  Because Daniel was greatly loved by God, regardless of how Daniel felt or how long he had been praying, his words were heard by his God! 

The image of the angel is a reminder of the majesty, splendor, and holiness of the one who created that angel to serve as his messenger; something that Daniel was already aware of.  However, what the angel said to Daniel in verse 13 also clues us into the nature of what is happening all around us: “The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia.”  There are so many things I want to say about what this verse teaches us about angels and demons, but I will share just four of my observations here:

  1. There seems to be a ranking system of both angels and demons. 
  • The prince of Persia was a demon who was able postpone God’s messenger from getting to Daniel sooner.  The demon of Persia was a high-ranking demon who was powerful enough to delay God’s messenger for three weeks, but that is all that he was able to do.
  • While struggling to be free from the prince of Persia, the archangel Michael (one of the highest ranked angels in God’s kingdom) overpowered the prince of Persia so that the angel could deliver his message to Daniel.
  • The interaction between the prince of Persia, the angel sent to Daniel, and Michael who freed up the angel from being further delayed in reaching Daniel speaks to the conflict that exists over the people of God and the mission of God to accomplish his redemptive purposes in the world. 

This is not the only place where we are given a glimpse into the cosmic battle that surrounds all of us.  In the first two chapters of Job, Satan was permitted to stand before God in heaven to request permission to attack Job.  There is also the story when the king of Syria sent an army that largely outnumbered Israel’s army in Samaria.  When one of the men saw how the Syrian army and their chariots outnumbered Israel’s soldiers, the prophet Elisha put the man’s mind at ease:

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:15–17)

In Revelation 12, we are told how Satan attempted to lead a rebellion against God by convincing a third of the angels to follow him.  It was then that Satan was cast down to earth along with most of the angels who followed him (these fallen angels are now demons); some of the angels who rebelled were immediately bound and put in a place of holding until the final judgment (see Jude 1:6).

Permit me to briefly share with you what we learn of Satan and his demons from the Bible: 

  1. Satan was God’s guardian cherub, formerly known as Lucifer, who was expelled from his rank and heaven due to his desire to be like God (Ezek. 28:12-17; Rev. 12:3-4). Satan is the prince of demons and mobilizes them to accuse the saints (Rev. 12:10), and leads them into rebellion against God (Gen. 3; Eph. 2:1-3; Rev. 12:3-4; 20:7-10). Satan, like any other angel, is limited in power: he can be resisted by Christians (Jas. 4:7), is subject to the sovereignty of God (Job 1:12) and will one day face final defeat and judgment (Rev. 20:10).
  • Like angels, demons are spirit beings who the Bible describes as unclean spirits, evil spirits and spiritual forces of wickedness (Matt. 10:1; Luke 7:21; Eph. 6:12). Demons promote rebellion, idolatry and distort the truth; they cause physical and emotional problems and can even possess humans. Like Satan, demons will one day be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity (Eph. 6:11-12; Lev. 17:7; Deut. 32:17; 1 Tim. 4:1-4; Matt. 12:22; Luke 13:11-17; Mark 5:5; Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:11-15).

Satan and his demons are active on earth only because God has allowed it for a time.  Satan and his demons are powerful, but unlike God, they are not all-powerful.  What the book of Daniel teaches us is threefold: “The devil is against us, the world is around us, and the flesh is within us, collaborating to defeat us in our Christian walk.”[1] 

I am convinced that our most common battle is within us as it relates to our own sin.  The world is at odds with what God loves and cares about and is the reason why it is so opposed to the things of God.  The devil and his demons use the world and our flesh against us, but honestly, for many Christians, they do not have to work hard because of how easily we give into the lusts of our own flesh.  Therefore, we are warned from the Bible, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15–17).

The War is God’s Fight

The crazy and scary things that we see happing in our world and our nation is demonic.  There are demonic princes who are responsible for the shaping of policies, legislation, and laws that are evil, but the blame also falls upon men and women with evil intentions.  We are told from Holy Scripture that the reason why human beings think and believe in ways that run against the grain of all that God has called good is simple: “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

In the opening pages of William Cook and Chuck Lawless’ book, Spiritual Warfare, they say something we all need to be reminded of when it comes to our suffering and the enemy who wants to harm us:

Between the Bible’s opening and closing chapters, it depicts a war being fought on a cosmic scale—a war fought between God and the devil.  This war is played out both in the spiritual realm and on the earth.  It is not a fair fight, however, because the war is not between two equals—the outcome is never in doubt.  From the very beginning, the doom of God’s archenemy, the devil, is certain (Gen. 3:15).  God’s wisdom is demonstrated in his inscrutable plan to redeem humanity from their sin and establish a new heaven and earth.[2]

In the end… God wins!  If you are a Christian, you are on the winning team.  The God who spoke all things into existence and to whom all the nations and demons with all their power and might are like a droplet of water in the palm of the hand is for his people.  With all the vehement force of demonic powers and the might of nations who set themselves against God, their power contributes no more weight to the scales of God’s predetermined plan to make all things new than the dust particle on the scales of God’s omnipotent will. 

It is this God who was concerned with Daniel and it is this God who shares that same concern and love for all who have placed their faith and trust in the Son of Man… namely the Lord Jesus Christ.  You, my dear brother and sister need to hear today that you are greatly loved.  You my dear brothers and sisters need to hear the words of King Jesus: “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33, HCSB).  This is the reason the apostle Paul wrote what he wrote in Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?

For some of you, your problems are not due to the demonic realm.  You have made it easy on the devil by loving the world and the things in the world.  You have bought into its philosophy in exchange for the wisdom of God found in his word.  You have sought your satisfaction in your flesh instead of seeking your joy and contentment in God.  If you want to know why you feel defeated, it is because you have decided to sit at the table of an enemy who wants to destroy you instead of the safety of the Good Shepherd who wants life for you.  Today is the day to choose who you will serve.  Today is the day to turn from your sins. Today is the day to take Jesus’ words serious enough to compel you to truly find your life in him instead of anything else; this is why Jesus said: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul” (Matthew 16:24–26)?

Today is the day. 

[1] Jerry Rankin, Spiritual Warfare (Nashville, TN B&H Publishing; 2009), p. 20.

[2] William F. Cook III & Chuck Lawless, Spiritual Warfare in the Storyline of Scripture (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing; 2019), p. 7.