The Vision of a Ram and a Goat
Open Your Bible
Daniel 8:1-27, Isaiah 6:1-7, Romans 8:31-39
I’m always looking for a way to get out of work. Lately, a global pandemic has proven an excellent excuse for me to close up shop by noon to put my feet up while I indulge in existential worry and consider rearranging my indoor plants. Maybe you like to give up a little on your kingdom work, too, when the future looks bleak. But let’s consider that our callings remain vitally important in spite of whatever germs, climates, powers, or terrifying bugs may be buzzing around us.
Biblical prophecy usually has at least two applications: one specific interpretation and one related, general, big-picture meaning. Sometimes the specific meaning of the prophecy is revealed soon after the prophecy, and sometimes thousands of years elapse before the meaning is clear. Looking back, some of these prophecies look really obvious, like: “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: See, the virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). But at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy, an immaculate conception didn’t make any earthly sense. The prophet often doesn’t get to enjoy an understanding of the prophecy. Here, Daniel is given a very specific vision and an interpretation. But he still could not understand it.
Daniel sees a vision of judgment for sin. He sees an angry ram and a violent goat and absurdly large horns. He sees the result of sin running rampant in a civilization. And he asks, just as we might ask, “How long?” (Daniel 8:13). How long will this last? And the “holy one” answers with a finite number. In this case it is 2,300 days (v.14), but notice the number is a real, countable number. The big picture is that sin is sometimes allowed to flourish—but not forever.
The whole ordeal appalls and overwhelms Daniel. Understandably. But here’s the part we should really notice in particular: He “got up and went about the king’s business” (Daniel 8:27). The scary news didn’t make Daniel give up. The confusing and difficult revelations did not prevent him from holding on to what he did know, what he did understand. He took a minute, and then he went back to work. He got on his feet and did the good work the Lord had called him to. He engaged in the culture and continued doing his faithful work.
Even when we feel afraid, even when we look to the future and dread wells up in our hearts, we know the most essential truth: God is on the throne. This is His creation and we, the Church, are His Bride. The angel tells Daniel, “Son of man… understand that the vision refers to the time of the end” (Daniel 8:17). The “end” will come. The suffering in the world is limited and finite. But we never need to fear the end. Remember how Christ spoke to His disciples of the end times, saying, “Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).
Though we may, like Daniel, be “overcome and lay sick for days” (v.27) when we look at the state of the world, and wonder how it can all possibly come to good, we are called to remember that God is busy at work. Therefore, we can rise like Daniel, and go about the business that God has set before us. We can be of good courage, knowing that the end of the story is not the triumph of wickedness, but the victory of Christ. Truly, we are more than conquerors in Christ who rules and reigns forever. So take heart, and go about your kingdom work.