Allen Jackson - Intercession and Intervention - Part 2
It's a privilege to be with you today. Our topic is "Spiritual Warfare in the End Times". You know, there are some unique comments in Scripture about what the end of the age will look like and how we need to be prepared for that. We're going to focus specifically on intercession, and we're going to use Daniel as a model to help us understand how we can be difference-makers in our generation. You know, as Bible students, we still read the revelations that God gave to Daniel to help us understand what is ahead of us. Now that's a remarkable position. Daniel's been gone for more than 2 millennia, and his prayer life is still informing our journey. Let's determine to be intercessors and make a difference in our generation and beyond. Grab your Bible and get a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.
Well, I think one of the best places I know for learning instructions about intercession is from Daniel, and it's because we have a bit of insight into his journey. We meet Daniel as a very young man, most likely a teenager. And there's a couple of things I'll tell you about Daniel, and we'll look at some Scriptures that will make it clear: Daniel did not leave the initiative with the enemy. He didn't leave the initiative with his adversaries. But Daniel himself chose the battleground of prayer. Now, admittedly, he chose that battleground because it was the best option available to him.
And one of the reasons I would submit to you that we have not learned to pray is we've imagined we've had other avenues available to us. We've trusted the Constitution or the Bill of Rights or the justice of our federal institutions or strength of our economy or the ability to have free speech. Well, those things are crumbling before our very eyes. They're being removed from us one after the other. And if we haven't developed a meaningful prayer life and a confidence in our prayer life, it is time to begin.
Now there's two complementary elements in Daniel's life that are worth tagging, I think, before we begin with the Scripture. He cultivated a prayer life from his youth. You learned the story in Sunday School. He was willing to face the den filled with lions rather than forfeit his daily prayer time. Are you kidding me? He thought prayer was so valuable, so important, so essential to his wellbeing, that if it meant he was put in a life-threatening position, it was worth risking that rather than disrupt his prayer.
I would humbly submit we don't hold prayer in that same place. Secondly, Daniel didn't limit his prayers to his own ideas. He just didn't pray about what he knew or what he thought about or what he wanted, Daniel committed significant energy and effort into praying what he learned from studying God's Word. I'll give you one example in Daniel 9: "In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years".
Daniel is a slave in a foreign country. He's not living in Jerusalem. And by studying the book of Jeremiah, or a scroll of the prophet Jeremiah, he understood that they were only going to be out of Israel for 70 years. He did the math, and he knew it's about time to go home. So it said, "I turned to the Lord and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, in sackcloth and ashes". Not because of a personal need. Daniel had a good job. He had power and prestige and privilege and many things. But when he saw God's Word holding something in front of him, he began to fast and pray in pursuit of the fulfillment of that initiative. He's an intercessor.
Now, I read you a chapter from near the end of the story. I want to go back to the beginning of the development of that intercessor, some insights into Daniel's character. In Daniel chapter 1 and verse 5, he and his friends are newly arrived in Babylon. They've been recruited because of their story and their presentation to serve, perhaps, the king. And it says: "The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table. And they were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king's service. But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in that way".
I don't think that's a commentary on the king's wine. I'm not endorsing it, but I don't think that's what that is. I think it's Daniel going to honor the dietary rules that he's been given, and his people have been given, all the way back to Moses. And he's doing it, significant risk to himself. If he makes the request, and he's kicked out of the program he's in, he'll be left to fend for himself amongst the slaves. Again, I want to begin to try to realign this notion that we should capitulate to every request of wickedness. Daniel raised his hand and said, "I would like permission to have my own diet, not to eat that". And the man responsible for him, understood the dynamics of an ancient near Eastern monarch.
This is not a democracy, it's not egalitarian, it's not one person, one vote. There is an absolute authority, and on a whim, they can sever your head. And the man responsible for those being trained to go into the service of the king is frightened by Daniel's request. He said, "Listen, if I let you adjust the diet and you get sick, it'll cost me my life".
So they strike a bargain, a little test period. And at the end of the test period, Daniel looks better. He and his friends look better than the rest. But I want you to see he's going to honor God. He could have been bitter, angry, resentful. He's not going to get to graduate from Jerusalem High School. He's not going to get to go to the University of Israel. He's going to miss their football games in the fall. He's not going to get to go to their spring baseball games. He's going to miss the family pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem. All the dreams that were a part of his family for generations are not available to him. They are gone. His inheritance is gone. His family home is gone. His friends have been slaughtered, and he's serving the king that orchestrated all of that. He has every reason to be angry or bitter, filled with hate, mad at God.
And he's so determined to honor the Lord, he's concerned about what's going on his fork. So as we talk about becoming an intercessor, I would start by acknowledging that we'll have to yield a bit of our dreams and say, "Lord, I would rather please you than ask you to please me. I'll give time and energy and effort to honoring you in my life. I'm willing to be different for you". Are you with me? Daniel's going to change the course of nations. Now, the opposition comes often, but it starts really early, the very next chapter. Daniel's execution is ordered.
Now it's cleverly wrapped up in the execution of all the wise men of Babylon, but it's not difficult for me to imagine it's an attack from Satan himself. He wants to eliminate Daniel. He wanted to murder all the babies in Bethlehem. He wants to shut down anybody that determines to honor the Lord. I don't want you to live in fear of the enemy. I want you to be aware of the conflict around us. If you go to work, and they say, "Don't bring your Bible in here," why are we surprised? We have a nation with a Christian heritage, and we have a wave of leaders over a period of time that says, "We're going to redefine family".
Why are we surprised? Do we think that doesn't have to be protected? Do we think we won't have to use our voices? Do we think the enemy would allow us to broadcast to the whole world that Jesus is Lord and these are the principles that will help you institutionalize that without it being challenged? What has caused us to be so overwhelmingly naive? Because we haven't really had to trust the Lord. Because we've imagined we could secure our children's future for ourselves. We could give them enough experience and provide them with enough education and give them a big enough of a resource boost.
So we've been quiet. "The commander of the king's guard came, and he went out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, but Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact". He wasn't obnoxious and hateful and pounding the table. Doesn't mean you love the Lord because you're obnoxious. But doesn't mean you're more godly if you capitulate. "He asked the king's officer, 'Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?' And the man explained the matter to Daniel. At this, Daniel went to the king, and he asked for time".
Again, he puts his life on the line. You know from the book of Esther, if you go to the king without being invited into the king's presence, and the king doesn't welcome you, you're done. Well, Daniel's done tomorrow anyway, he might as well go ask. So he goes to the king. Folks, we're going to have to find some courage to stand up. "He went to the king". I mean, it's a simple little sentence, but it means so much. "He went to the king, and he asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him". Now he's done it. "If you give me a little time, I'll tell you your dream". "So Daniel returned to his house, and he explained the matter to his friends".
Yeah, I bet he did. Gonna call a little prayer group. "He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery". What do you want to bet this is not the first time they've prayed? What do you want to bet it's not the first time they've stood together? They were in on the diet plan with him. "During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision". The Bible's understatement: "Then Daniel praised the God of heaven". How do you think he did it? "O God, thanks. Appreciate you clueing me in on the king's dream". I bet there was a little more emotion. What do you think? You think he went and found his friends? Do you think they were praying? Bet they were. Intercession, intercessors.
But we're not done with the opposition. It takes different forms. That's chapter 3. By chapter 4, the king has a dream, and Daniel gets tagged to interpret the dream. "This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: You'll be driven away from people and you'll live with the wild animals; and you'll eat grass like an ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven". Hello? You're going to go tell an ancient near-Eastern monarch he's going to live like an animal and eat grass? How many want to deliver that message in the halls of Congress?
You don't want to deliver that message to one of your kids at the table, 'cause it's going to ruin the evening. "Well, dear king, I know you had a dream, and I'm sure God is good and the sky is blue and the fish swim in the sea, bless you". Daniel doesn't stop. I didn't give you the whole passage, but I gave you the punch line in verse 27: "Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and renounce your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. And it may be then your prosperity will continue".
Daniel told the king to repent of his wickedness. "Well, couldn't we just do a Bible study"? But it's opposition. I'm telling you, if you're living it out, it's not once in a great while. It begins at the beginning of the story, and it continues in the 2nd chapter and the 3rd chapter and the 4th chapter. Big surprise, it continues in chapter 5. Nebuchadnezzar's gone, his son has come to the throne. His name is Belshazzar. Listen to what Daniel said. He sees handwriting on the wall. They're having a drunken party, and they've brought in the cups and the bowls from the temple in Jerusalem, because they can. And now there's handwriting on the wall. And doesn't... anybody here that's Jewish?
"Yeah, there's that one guy your dad liked". "Well, go get him". And they bring in Daniel. So he's got a new king. "You, Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all of this about your dad. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven". How many of you think Daniel's, his courage button worked? You ignored what God showed your father, and you have set yourself up against God. "You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, you and your nobles and your wives. You praised the gods of silver and gold and bronze and wood and stone, though they can't see or hear. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways".
You didn't honor God. Understand, he is not Jewish. He doesn't know the Red Sea story, he doesn't know the plagues on Egypt. He doesn't know about manna and water from a rock, and he doesn't know about Ten Commandments on a mountain. And he doesn't know about Jericho, and he doesn't know about the tribal, he doesn't know. And Daniel says to him, "You did not honor God". But he doesn't leave it at that. "He said, 'God holds your life in his hands, and now I'm going to tell you what those words on the wall mean.'" I didn't put it in your notes. You can check me. This was Daniel's message to him: "God has numbered your days, and he's going to bring your reign to an end. You have been weighed in the balance and you've been found wanting. And your kingdom is going to be given to the Medes and the Persians," to another empire. Daniel said to him, "You are done".
Now, in fairness, if you don't know the narrative, the king gave him a position of authority. For what it was worth, he lost his empire that night. Remember the lesson. It's intercession. What's mean to become a person whose prayers make a difference? It doesn't mean you're a closet Christian. It doesn't mean you just are always appeasing every expression of wickedness and ungodliness. You can be respectful, you can be wise. Folks, how long will we give our support, emotionally and financially, to expressions of wickedness? This isn't confusing. In our nation at the national level, it isn't about individuals, it's about platforms. It's written down.
You know what they're going to do. At the local level it's somewhat different. It's far more about individuals and character, but at the national level there's a platform. The people that are selected have to enact that platform. It's the only way they get funding and support. So we come up with this convoluted stuff, you know, "Well, I'm not a one-issue person". Baloney. You are if the issue matters to you. And then we argue about incidentals to deflect our own idolatry. It's unbelievable. There's a price to be paid.
In Daniel 6, very next chapter: "Daniel learned that the decree has been published, he went to his home upstairs to pray. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God, just as he had done. Then men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for..." It's illegal. They said, "You can't do that". So Daniel opens his windows and prayed three times a day. He knows what's coming. He's done.
Oh, by the way, I know the end of the story. I went to Sunday School too. God sent an angel to close the mouths of the lions. It was the one day the lions weren't hungry, until the accusers got tossed in there, and then they got ravenous. But the real lesson that we've been walking through this. We've been watching it. It looks like kings oppose Daniel and jealous officials oppose Daniel. But if you follow the narrative, by the time we get to chapter 10, we recognize that there's actually opposition in the heavens.
Remember our context: spiritual warfare. That what happens in the earth reflects what's happening in the heavens. And the church has just stepped away from this, because we can control our futures and our circumstances well enough with what's happening on the earth. But in Daniel chapter 10, this is, we read chapter 9 where he repented for the sins of the people. He said after that, "I mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; I used no lotions until the three weeks were over". Three weeks of diligently seeking the Lord. "On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing by the bank of the river, the Tigris, I looked up and before me was a man dressed in linen".
There was an angel there. Verse 13: "The angel..." It took the angel, the angel explained to Daniel. They said, "It took me 3 weeks to get here, because the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes", Michael is an archangel, "came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come".
Michael is the archangel attached to the Jewish people. When you find him in the Scripture, you'll usually find something happening with the Jewish people. But Daniel fasts and prays for 3 weeks, and an angel comes to see him and said, "The moment you began to pray, I was dispatched with a message for you, but for 3 weeks there was a battle in the heavens". When we started this discussion, I said Daniel began this commitment to pray as a young person.
Teach your children to pray. Let them see you pray. Let them understand the significance you attach to pray. It's far more powerful than what you say to them. Let them see it. If you're going to teach 'em to sing "Rocky Top," please teach them the value of prayer. And I'm not opposed to "Rocky Top" often. But after 3 weeks, the angel said, "I'm here. But when I go back there'll be a greater battle".
Folks, there is a battle in the heavens these days. There is a battle. The church and our nation has an assignment. We have more freedom, more liberty, more resources. We have had greater privilege than any expression of the church in the earth in our generation. There are many places in the world where the church is under tremendous persecution and pressure, where Christians are being hunted, where their resources are shut off and they don't have freedom and they certainly don't have technology. And we've been so distracted, we've taken the bait. We've worshiped other gods of comfort and convenience and popularity and pleasure, which leads us into immorality and greed and envy and covetousness.
It's never enough. We're never satisfied. We'll climb over every godly boundary we know in pursuit of some selfish agenda. And then there's enough voices that say, "Well, you can tell the Lord you're kind of sorry". And we wonder why our freedoms and our liberties are collapsing, why our wealth has evaporated before our very eyes.
Why we have leaders that betray us to other nations and won't enforce our borders. And it's not about a party, they're all the same. They'll have another hearing and give their sound bites and nothing will happen and they'll betray you more completely. And they'll give us bread and send us to the circus and act as if we don't know. Lord, help us. Church, there's a battle in the heavenlies, and we've been arguing about translations and worship styles and whether or not the role we believe about this, or we will quibble about the most insignificant things and refuse to use our voice to say to one another, "Let's honor the Lord".
Now I brought you a prayer. Let's stand together. They'll put it on the screens. I didn't have room on your outline. Imagine that. Never happened before. All right, together:
Almighty God, nothing is hidden from You. You know even our thoughts and motives. Forgive us of our apathy toward Your will. Forgive us for our surrender to this present age. We repent and turn our hearts to You. May the Fear of the Lord grow within us. Bring a new anointing upon us, a new boldness to speak the truth and to stand for righteousness. Deliver us from evil. May Your kingdom be done on earth as in heaven, amen.