What Prophesy Isn't

It's not for our comfort.

Daniel 7:1–8 (ESV)

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. Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. The 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. And 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.’ After 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. After 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. I 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.”

At last! We finally get a scary dream that’s actually scary. This isn’t about statues and trees being felled. I’ve felled plenty of trees myself; it’s not all that scary.

And Daniel’s reaction isn’t to go running around like some Chicken Little with its head cut off, screaming that the sky is falling. He writes the dream down, telling the sum of the matter. In other words, he writes it all down in detail.

Daniel’s visions look into the future—in this case, future kingdoms and kings. Everyone wants to know the future. So, this gets everyone’s attention.

However, that can miss the point. God almost never tells people their future, and when He does, it’s to teach them something they need to know—not just satisfy their curiosity or quell their fears.

Of course, Daniel is a prophet. So, God isn’t just telling Daniel his future; He’s telling everyone their future. Still, the purpose has to be for God’s glory. People must be able to use the prophesy for God’s purposes—to obey Him better or somehow do the right thing.

Prophesy isn’t for amusement; it’s for a purpose.

“Lord, give me patience and give it to me now.”

Our desire to know the future has the same root as impatience—insecurity. It isn’t born of a desire to serve the Lord better through better planning; it’s born of worry. We don’t enjoy unexpected plot twists in life the way we enjoy them in a novel or a movie.

This isn’t a major sin, but it’s something we should try to outgrow. Prayer is the key.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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