The DEEP

The Most Bitter Lesson

...a believing heart has to learn

Daniel 11:2-4

And now I will tell you the truth: Behold, three more kings will arise in Persia, and the fourth shall be far richer than them all; by his strength, through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm of GreeceThen a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. And when he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken up and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not among his posterity nor according to his dominion with which he ruled; for his kingdom shall be uprooted, even for others besides these.

You don’t like to wait, do you? Let’s face it, no one really likes to wait—in fact, we will go to great lengths to avoid waiting:

A long line of orange cones and two lanes reduced to one, and yet you will wait as long as possible to merge—to the frustration of more patient drivers who now tell themselves that they are veritable angels in comparison to you.

A dinner reservation for which you arrive thirty minutes early and stare at the hostess in your friendliest, most non-threatening manner—while making helpful suggestions about empty tables in the dining area that can be clearly seen if she will only turn her head.

Waiting may be no fun, but there are some things for which we seem to take pride in waiting:

You will stand in line for hours to purchase coveted tickets to a movie or sports event at which you will then sit for hours more until the credits role or the final goal is made—all the while bragging to less-committed friends on social media of your devotion as a fan.

You lift a white veil from the face of a special someone that you have spent months or years getting to know, and as you place a gold ring on a finger, you think of all of the magical moments that have passed from that first spark to this long-awaited day.

You place value on things that you feel are worth waiting for and discount the importance of those things that you deem unworthy of the investment of your precious time.

Here, in the eleventh chapter of Daniel, you can learn a lot about waiting. The angelic messenger continues the prophesies of coming kingdoms, wars, and rulers with ever more hair-raising detail. The chapter begins with the increasing wealth, influence and warfare of Persian Kings from Cyrus to Xerxes:

And now I will tell you the truth: Behold, three more kings will arise in Persia, and the fourth shall be far richer than them all; by his strength, through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm of Greece. –Daniel 11:2

This fourth king, Xerxes will rise to power and lead armies of hundreds of thousands of warriors to conquer and devour the world with locust-like destruction. He will find his armies broken at the doorstep of Greece in battles like Thermopylae and Plataea. The stage will be set for a Greek invasion that will roll across the world under the heels of the boy-king Alexander the Great:

Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. 

Thirty-three-year-old Alexander would rule from Greece to India to Africa only to have his lands divided by his four generals after his death:

And when he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken up and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not among his posterity nor according to his dominion with which he ruled; for his kingdom shall be uprooted, even for others besides these.

As the angel continues his prophesy captured in the verses of chapter 11, one question must be ringing louder and louder in the mind of Daniel: what of the Jews? With every successive king, destructive war, account of overthrow, and chronology of reign, the return of Daniel and his fellow Jews to Jerusalem seems less and less like a wonderful restoration and homecoming and more like a continuation of exile.

King of the North, King of the South: same day, different dictator.

You can almost sense the heartbreak in Daniel as he follows along with the narrative. When will it ever end? He surely must remember the words of David in Psalm 13:

1How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

With the rise and fall of these empires, it is little wonder that the promised Messiah was missed by so many in Israel. In their anguish to overthrow the rule of oppression, they easily missed the Gentle One in their midst who overthrew death itself and the regime of Satan.

For what are you waiting on God to do in your life?

Are you waiting on Him to provide direction in a life of errors and mistakes?

Are you waiting on Him to break a powerful addiction and free you from its grip?

Are you waiting on a husband, a wife, or children that may never be—or a family that seems will never know salvation in Christ?

This waiting is not easy. In fact, Paul describes it as “groaning” in 2 Corinthians 5:2. Michael Card puts this beautifully in the lyrics of the song “Marantha” for ultimately, we wait in pain for the return of Jesus on that final day when all will be made new and we will be carried into Glory:

To long for the Promised One day after day
And the promise that soon He'd return
It's certain that waiting's the most bitter lesson
A believing heart has to learn             

                                  –Michael Card, “Maranatha”

Like Daniel, you wait on God while the world flows around you in its endless succession of earthly distractions, and you strain to hear His voice above the noise.

The question is never why you must wait on God, but how you wait. The kings of earth pull you toward them, but you pray, you watch, and you work to serve your eternal king.

The Prophet Habakkuk captures the duty of watchfulness best:

I will stand my watch
And set myself on the rampart,
And watch to see what He will say to me,
And what I will answer when I am corrected. –Habakkuk 2:1

He has prayed his heart out, but then he does not simply wander through the routine of his life, but actively pursues the first inkling of an answer from God.

You wait and work.  Even when the Jews were able to return from exile to the blackened ruins of Jerusalem, they had to work under threat of danger. As Nehemiah describes in chapter 4 of his account:

17 Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. 18 Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me.

After seventy years in exile, Daniel and his people must continue to wait on the Lord for deliverance, even with sword in hand.

So you wait and work with an eye toward the final victory. The 1998 World War II movie “Saving Private Ryan” captured a conversation between two veteran American soldiers who encountered each other on the battlefields of Normandy after the D-Day Invasion. As the two fighting men rested from the fight, they compared objectives and future battles they knew would come:

Captain Hamill: You got to take Caen so you can take Saint Lo.

Captain Miller: You've got to take Saint Lo to take Valognes.

Captain Hamill: Valognes you got Cherbourg.

Captain Miller: Cherbourg you got Paris.

Captain Hamill: Paris you got Berlin.

Captain Miller: And then that big boat home.

Home. You wait on God because He is your heavenly father, and although life is difficult and your faith runs low, it is He who holds you in the palm of His hand, and He will one day call you home.

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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.