12 Then he said to me, “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. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. 14 Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.”
We have come to one of perhaps the most fascinating passages in the book of Daniel. Here in Chapter 10 we witness not only another vision provided to Daniel but also another visitation from the heavenly realm.
I remember once walking with my wife in New Orleans. We were enjoying a pleasant vacation evening when we strolled around a corner and found ourselves on Bourbon Street. This street was famous for its cabarets, bars and other neon-lit establishments offering tastes of carnal delights to visitors. We were no strangers to city life nor ignorant of districts like this, but both of us felt what could only be described as a dark presence. We quickened our pace, turned a few corners and soon found ourselves on Jackson Square where the only threats seemed to be from the unhealthy offerings of sweet beignets and café au lait of Café du Monde.
As we walked away from the pleasure palaces we felt that a weight was lifted off our shoulders and we could only wonder what power existed there to seem to drive us away—and it was not my craving for coffee and square donuts.
It would be easy to say that two middle class people with a conservative Christian background naturally felt their repressed desires welling up in them and this caused a conflict with the guilt of a strict upbringing. This may sound like a typical “Hollywood” explanation or psychological mumbo-jumbo seeking to explain away a very real experience by two sane, relatively ordinary people.
A very real, very evil presence could be felt on a busy city street in a famous American city during the dinner hour. What else could it be but an experience in the physical world of something spiritual and extraordinary? What may stretch our modern imaginations is revealed plainly to us here in scripture.
Here in this chapter of Daniel we find God’s prophet yet again the object of the Almighty’s direct communication. This time, however, Daniel has been waiting for an answer to prayer—an answer that had seemed a long time coming. While waiting on the banks of the Tigris, Daniel finally receives an answer in the form of an angelic messenger. And the words he brings the prophet are astounding:
12 Then he said to me, “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.
Daniel’s prayer was heard by God on the first day of his prayer. This is wonderful…but Daniel has been waiting weeks for an answer. Surely he had begun to despair that God had forgotten him in his exile and anguish.
How many times have you prayed to God in the quiet hours and seemed to never hear a response? Probably this has happened more times than you can recall. Every believer has wondered has wondered whether God hears our prayers. This then, is encouraging for the angel is reminding Daniel that God hears us…even if he does not readily respond.
Calvin in this place offers encouragement, for he reminds us that even though God does not answer, he always hears the cries of his children:
Whenever our passions burst forth with a strong impetuosity, and we easily manifest tokens of impatience, we must notice this expression of the angel, for our prayers may be already heard while God's favor and mercy is concealed from us. –John Calvin
But Daniel the prophet of God is in a different role here—he has in effect the “Bat Phone” to heaven but it had not rung in many, many days. This was unusual and alarming with God’s silence growing louder with every passing day.
Then the messenger reveals the reason for his delay:
13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.
What in the world is happening in this passage? Or rather, what in the spiritual world is happening? Here in verse 13 the door to the invisible realm has been left ajar and Daniel glimpses the conflict between angelic warriors of God and the demonic princes of the evil one.
We live in a modern age where people have gone through great pains and energies to explain way the world of unseen things. We embrace science—and rightly so, for science is a wonderful gift—while we shy away from what cannot be empirically proven.
Western culture has clawed its way out of the “dark ages” of superstition to the “enlightened” era of concrete reasoning but all the time casts a wary eye to the unseen world. No matter how our culture seeks to dismiss these things it finds it cannot escape it.
Some of the best-selling books and movies of the recent past are focused on spiritual things. From demons in The Exorcist to earth-goddess “tree of souls” in the 2009 blockbuster movie Avatar, people show that they hunger for evidence of the workings of the spiritual realm.
And Daniel is standing face-to-face with a spiritual being who now recounts his heavenly battle against an evil foe.
The messenger of God encountered the demonic prince of the region of Persia and God’s message of future glory threw him into a panicked rage. The two beings did battle for over two weeks before reinforcements in the form of the angel Michael arrive.
The scene is reminiscent of the battle between the wizards Gandalf and Saruman when Gandalf realizes that Saruman has given his allegiance to the Dark Lord Sauron. “So…you have chosen death,” Saruman declares before a terrible fight that results in Gandalf’s temporary imprisonment. He meets Frodo again in Rivendell:
Frodo: "What happened, Gandalf? Why didn't you meet us?"
Gandalf: "Oh I'm sorry Frodo… I was delayed.
What is happening here in Daniel? This is an image of “regional spirits” that are established here on earth to wield influence over the lives of men.
For as the apostle Paul says as he lays out our need for the Armor of God:
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of [c]the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. –Ephesians 6:12
Daniel’s answer from God is delayed by an angelic battle for this prince of the underworld is a finite being—he is not eternal but lives and rules by leave of the ultimate authority of God.
This demonic being has heard the news that the kingdom under his charge will last no more than another 200 years before God grants victory to another and he resists with all his might in a futile effort to change the future.
Was this a pitched battle in the skies or a kind of intense legal battle as in a courtroom? This is uncertain, I suppose, but it seems more likely a fight with blazing swords rather than an episode of “Boston Legal” where the Michael sweeps in as an angelic Denny Crane to save the day with a crusting cross-examination.
What does this mean to you and me? Quite simply it is a reminder that not only does the spiritual realm exist, it has great impact on our everyday lives. In fact, as a believer it should color every aspect of your walk with Christ. Jesus is, after all, an “invisible” king who rules in your heart and intercedes for you at the right hand of the Father.
How do we acknowledge things like this and then proceed to live lives as if spiritual things do not exist? We do this so readily and easily. Think on this for a moment, on how the powers of your humble prayers affect things in the unseen world. Do you not see how your prayers may cause the Ancient of Days to move in response—and how the devil may seek resist him?
This is what the Prince of Darkness does: he and his minions seek to block and confound the will of God for His people. For you it can mean that actual obstacles can be placed in your way. Every addiction you have will find a trigger placed by the devil in your path. People will cross your path to offer discouraging words. And of course the gossip, petty squabbling and faction-forming that goes on in your church has as its author a demonic regent hard at work to twist the sinful desires of the children of God.
And so you must pray. God’s response to Daniel was delayed but His faithful servant was not ignored. The angel’s message that so infuriated the Persian demon, offered encouragement to Daniel as a promise of God’s ultimate victory. So then you must pray and cling to that promise—the promise fulfilled by the victory of Christ on the cross.
Scottish Pastor William Still marveled at how Communism fell as a result of faithful and effective prayer and wonders why Christians struggle to follow this up:
“That is why prayer is such a problem Christian church today. Because Satan is exceedingly active in keeping Christians from knowing what prayer really does.” – William Still
Do you struggle to pray? Do you strain to see evidence of the unseen? It can be very difficult and discouraging. Because of this prayer seems often left up to the faithful few. Those who are called to pray cannot help but do it.
Now that you have seen beyond the curtain and into the invisible realm, can you?
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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.