When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I tried to understand it. Then someone appeared standing before me, having the appearance of a man, and I heard a human voice by the Ulai, calling, ‘Gabriel, help this man understand the vision.’ So he came near where I stood; and when he came, I became frightened and fell prostrate. But he said to me, ‘Understand, O mortal, that the vision is for the time of the end.’
As he was speaking to me, I fell into a trance, face to the ground; then he touched me and set me on my feet. He said, ‘Listen, and I will tell you what will take place later in the period of wrath; for it refers to the appointed time of the end. As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. The male goat is the king of Greece, and the great horn between its eyes is the first king. As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, but not with his power.
At the end of their rule, when the transgressions have reached their full measure, a king of bold countenance shall arise, skilled in intrigue. He shall grow strong in power, shall cause fearful destruction, and shall succeed in what he does. He shall destroy the powerful and the people of the holy ones. By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall be great. Without warning he shall destroy many and shall even rise up against the Prince of princes. But he shall be broken, and not by human hands.
The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true. As for you, seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.’
So I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days; then I arose and went about the king’s business. But I was dismayed by the vision and did not understand it.
As a project at school, we were invited to design some packaging for a product and prepare a poster advertising the item. As someone lacking any form of artistic skill, this was not something I found easy. I tried to make the ‘campaign’ fit my ability as an artist – blocks of colour and stick-people. My efforts had little to commend them based on the advertising standards of the time, let alone the visions we’re shown today: dancing dogs, singing animals, cars that fly.
I frequently get to the end of an advert break on television and wonder what it is I’ve just seen. The things broadcast to us seem more and more surreal, and less and less understandable. We’re being sold a message, but it often seems a challenge to interpret it.
Daniel seemed to have the same trouble. Faced with something that seemed to make little sense, Daniel is dismayed and confused. He’s been given an insight into something of God, and yet he is left uncertain about what it means. He heads to bed to try and sleep it off, and yet that dismay remains.
Sometimes we are certain about what we are to do, where we are to go, what God is saying to us. We discern what we see or hear, and it seems clear what we are to do. But often it is not so clear. We hear God speak to us – or we’re sure we do – but it’s not certain what that means or how we are to respond. We’re given a vision of the future (for us or the Church) and yet it leaves us confused.
Whether we can understand what God is saying to us (or not) it’s important we keep looking for that vision, however unrealistic it may be. In even the most surreal of visions, God has a message for us to discern.
God who speaks in visions, help us to understand your message and discern your direction for our lives. Fill us with understanding that we may know your way and live certain of your call on our lives. Amen
The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett, Trust Officer for Yorkshire Synod.
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