"Then I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for several days. Afterward I got up and performed my duties for the king, but I was greatly troubled by the vision and could not understand it." Daniel 8:27
Thanks for coming back! Daniel chapter 8 is another vision that predicts the future and the end times. If a groan escaped your lips at the thought of reading another disturbing vision, you are in good company. Daniel himself was so disturbed by it, he was sick in bed for several days! Who wouldn't be after experiencing that?!
Having trouble understanding the vision and what it means for us? Well, Daniel is right there with us! He had the vision, had it explained to him by Gabriel himself and yet, at the end of the chapter Daniel admits the he "could not understand it."
Then what the heck are we suppose to do with it?!
Our study guide attempts to guide us through that very question. It asks about representations, characteristics and symbolism. Go with it! Do your best to not get caught up in details that don't seem to make sense. This is a vision - it's mostly symbolism with a few concrete details thrown in. The saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" holds true and symbolism is a perfect example! If God would have told Daniel this dream in words, I imagine it would have been a very long lecture-type conversation. And probably wouldn't have had as much of an impact. Think about the difference between sitting through a lecture or reading a text book on a subject and watching a movie, TV series, or reading a novel based on that same subject. Which has a more dramatic impact? Which stays with you longer? Which can convey more meaning in a shorter period of time?
Let this play like a movie as you read it. Hover above the action, take a walk among the characters. See what you can see, hear what you can hear and then step back and take a look at the big picture. Make it flat like a large time-line painting across the wall. In one sense we have it easier than Daniel. We know that the events & rulers predicted in his vision actually happened. Scholars have matched the ram & it's horns and the goat & it's horns to empires and rulers of our past. But for Daniel, this was a look 200 years into the future! 200 years!!! That would be like someone in 1816 having visions of humans walking on the moon (in their moon suits), people seeming to talk to themselves out in public (but they are really talking on their earpiece), crowds of people gathered together but not talking with each other only looking down at some small device in their hands, horseless vehicles driving at incredible speeds across the land & giant metal birds in the air. That person in 1816 would do the best they could to describe what they have seen, but it would make very little sense to them. Some of their vision wouldn't be far down the historical road (cars & planes) but other parts were far into the future. It is impossible for us to completely comprehend the future - even if we are shown it.
Instead, try to walk in Daniel's shoes with the knowledge that his vision of the future will come to be our history. In that sense, we are able to see parts of Daniel's vision from Gabriel's point of view. Of course, the end times are still to come. But, knowing what you know about this vision, how does it help you cope with the vision of 'the end'?
Work through the study guide as best as you can. Many of the questions address the concrete facts and symbolism and may help you process it all. Personally, I find the most interesting questions are the Group Discussion, the Personal Reflection and the Now or Later.
I look forward to hearing how you worked through this chapter and what your 'take away' is. Questions 8 & 9 are particularly interesting, if not difficult, but get right to the heart of how this crazy vision impacts our daily lives.
Your Partner in Ministry,
"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body." Proverbs 16:24