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Daniel 11 v 32b But the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.

Please read Daniel 11

At the beginning of a New Year we think about a text that is likely to help us throughout the whole year. I wonder how many friends can recall LAST year’s Motto text? It was 2 Peter 3 v 18 –

But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

We dedicated ourselves to grow in grace, become closer to the Lord Jesus Christ and to increase our knowledge of Him.

Have we achieved with God’s help those three things over this past year? It is a good question! With the coming of a New Year there is a fresh opportunity for all of us to pause and to take stock. How well do we know the Lord? What is it to know the Lord our God? Can we as a Church of the Lord’s People link in with the words of a text in Daniel 11 v 32b

But the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.

This is the challenge of this scripture today – may we seek to encourage ourselves as we face a further 12 months of living and working for our great God and saviour Jesus Christ? This text in Daniel 11 has been on my mind for several weeks and it can be for us a prophetic Word rooted in the scripture. It has the thought that God’s people KNOW THEIR GOD! Knowing our God is a tremendous thought to anchor us in the storm of modern day life. Let us look at this text together and be encouraged.

It comes from a prophetic portion of the Old Testament. The Prophet Daniel is well known to most of us – we know of him, as an exile from Judah, and of his grooming in the court of the King of Babylon to be a wise counsellor to that King. He rose to spectacular success in God’s sovereignty, to the position of Prime Minister of Babylon, all the while retaining his strong commitment to the one true God, the God of his fathers, the Lord God Almighty. Daniel maintained a close walk with God, a deep communion with his maker and had a regular and meaningful prayer life. He knew God personally - This got him into trouble – but the Lord God vindicated his servant, and his enemies never got the better of him. Daniel’s faithfulness in face of much opposition in an alien land and culture, qualified him, under God’s direction, to be a prophet of stature. He received a remarkable revelation from the Almighty, which he wrote down and which has been preserved for us in our Bibles.

The material of the prophetic word from God, (and it was true prophecy – in this case a foretelling of the future) – has come true in history down to the minutest detail!

We had better remind ourselves about the nature of a true prophet of God in the days before the Word of God, the scriptures, were completed.

A prophet is one who speaks God’s word. He is described in Deuteronomy 18 like this, first of all in contrast to a false prophet from a pagan people –

Deuteronomy 18 v 9 When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, 11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. 12 For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.

Then Moses continues to describe a true prophet – v 13 – 15; 18 – 22.

18 v 13 Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God. 14 For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do. 15 The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;

18 v 18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. 19 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. 20 But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. 21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? 22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

A prophet was one who was to be listened to; one who speaks God’s truth and one whose predictions come true. If they did not, then they were not to be heeded.

Daniel qualified as a true prophet in every way.

Chapter 11 is full of predictions – which have been fulfilled in the history of the world. We need to briefly review them because the context of our motto text becomes plain when we see the events prophesied and then fulfilled. Daniel 11 is a pre-written Inter-testament History. The events happened between the written records of the Old and the New Testaments of scripture.

Verses 2 – 35 of Daniel 11 are an amazing summary of 200 years of history of the wars between Syria and Egypt, wars which took place between the 4th and the 2nd Centuries BC.

You might say that there was nothing very remarkable about that – until you realise that Daniel was given the revelation of what would happen in those days, in the 6th Century BC, 200 years before the first event happened. Daniel lived in the reign of the last King of Babylon – Belshazzar, who trembled when he saw the writing on the wall in his palace.

Verse 2 speaks of 3 Kings of Persia. It was King Cyrus the Mede who conquered Babylon, and he was followed by 2 other Kings reigning - Cambyses and Darius. The verse goes on to mention a fourth richer and stronger King than the first three – Xerxes or as we know him from the Book of Esther, Ahasuerus – who reigned from 485 – 464 BC.

His son Artaxerxes 1st followed him, although Daniel does not mention him. This King reigned from 464 – 423 BC and was the Persian King who saw Ezra and Nehemiah return to Israel to rebuild the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem respectively.

After Artaxerxes we are dependent on non-biblical records to tell us about the 5 remaining kings of the Persian Empire up until 331 BC. Now the days of the Persian Empire were numbered and on the horizon was the mighty king of verse 3 who comes to ascendancy. The end of verse 2 indicates where he came from – Greece. He was Alexander the Great who overthrew Persia and its strength, and established the Greek Empire in 336 BC. We are getting further and further forward and away from the time that Daniel prophesied – but history was in the making – and God had said what would happen.

Alexander the Great divided his newly acquired territory, which had Palestine at its very centre, into 4 parts at first administered by 4 generals, but who later became more powerful and earned the status of kings.

This detail is given by Daniel in verse 4 –

And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven;

These 4 winds – meaning 4 kinglike generals were

1. Cassander who ruled over Macedonia and most of Greece.
2. Lysimachus who oversaw Thrace and Asia Minor.
3. Seluecus who held Syria, Israel and Mesopotamia.
4. Ptolemy was the fourth and ruled Egypt and Southern Syria.

This organisation should have worked had the generals and their power hungry successors not disagreed between themselves. There were numerous wars between them in subsequent years.

Verse 5 – 20 describe some of these wars homing in on two of the regions, Ptolemy in the South and Seleucus in the North including Palestine. This region has ever been a centre for conflict – what has changed?

But from verse 21 a change occurs. A king called “a vile person” emerges who was in fact the last of the Northern Seleucid kings. His name was Antiochus Epiphanes IV. He reigned from 175 – 163 BC.

Please remember that Daniel spoke about this man 350 years before he became King and Daniel describes his perverse and wicked behaviour towards the Jews. His was a vicious persecution on the Jewish people. From verses 21 – 35 this devious and wicked reign is predicted. History records that in 167 BC he outlawed Judaism, burned Jerusalem, and killed thousands of Jews; he banned circumcision and Jewish festivals – and as a crescendo of evil and religious offensiveness offered a sow for sacrifice on the altar outside the Temple in Jerusalem. This stimulated what was called the Maccabean revolt when Jewish people, led by a man called Judas Maccabeas, took arms and 3 years fighting followed. This information comes from Flavius Josephus whom we know as a reliable historian. But there is also much in the Apocrypha, and though it is not a book I consult very often, yet it contains much historical data, uninspired though it is.

After the fighting, Temple worship was restored in 164 BC. This success by the Maccabees is still celebrated by the Jews in the 8-day Jewish Holiday known as Hanukkah.

Now having identified what the chapter is about up to this point – verse 30, we must not proceed with our text until we have noticed a reference in verse 28 –

and his heart shall be against the holy covenant; and he shall do exploits, and return to his own land.

Antiochus was a heathen Jew Hater. He was against the Jews because of their covenant relationship with the Lord God. Daniel said that he, Antiochus, would do exploits – and the damaging exploits that he did are dreadful to read about – if you have an apocrypha the details are in 2 Maccabees 5. Bloodshed and murder on a genocidal scale.

However there were some Jewish collaborators. The first part of verse 32 shows this

And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall be corrupted by flatteries,

Apparently Antiochus could not have gained access to the Temple in Jerusalem in order to sacrifice his pig without the cooperation of some apostate Jews who had been seduced by flattery. They were going against the covenant themselves, and wickedly compromised with the horrible ruler. They had abandoned the Law of God.

Then comes our text –

but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.

Those who remain loyal to God will show themselves to be brave and will accomplish much in the cause of God.

That is the first meaning of this text. Faithful believers in the Lord God, who have hearts in covenant with Him alone will be able, in the face of overwhelming odds, to do God’s will and His work.

And this is where the text is for us as up to date today as it was when the original fulfilment, in 164BC occurred.

Prophecy was fulfilled just as God had revealed to Daniel.

And we learn much more from this text – more than a mere marvel and wonder that God is capable, in His sovereign purposes, to predict events and speak through servants like Daniel.

We also notice the timelessness of the prophecy.

We as a Church are in a similar situation.

Abominable things are happening in the world today. Wickedness abounds. Most human beings are involved with it. Most are being carried along with the march of worldliness and Godlessness.

Yet there is a small number of true believers, those who KNOW THEIR GOD who have been raised up to be God’s witnesses in human society. Let us notice that Daniel says

but the people that do know their God.

He does not merely say that the people know God, but that they know THEIR GOD. It was not until Thomas thrust his hand into the Lord’s side that he said, My Lord and My God! The reality of the resurrected Christ who is God came home to the disciple – and the result – My God. Not just Lord God!

My friend is this your experience this morning? To know God at all you must grasp hold of Him with all the energy that your soul possesses – because He must be YOUR GOD. You need to have a blessed familiarity with the Lord God through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, and that through His Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself to His people in the eternal covenant – the promise that he would come to them. The true believer in Him is a person who has repented, knows that his or her sins are forgiven and pardoned – because the Lord has promised to forgive all who truly turn to Him and that they might KNOW HIM. My friend you have to take Him by an act of simple faith so that He becomes YOUR GOD, YOUR Saviour. Then every day you put yourself under His authority, under His command and guidance – because He is YOUR captain. If you are a genuine Christian then Christ is YOURS because he has laid hold upon you and will hold you and keep you right through life, in death and throughout all of eternity. Only the people who know their God can say these things – that Jesus Christ is THEIR GOD. The question is this morning – can you say this?

And we who are believers, born again by the Spirit of God, have the awesome privilege and responsibility of being people who know our God.

This evening we will consider more of what it is to know our God. For the purposes of this morning’s message we will concentrate on

What the People of God can do when they Know their God.

1. They shall have a ministry in society.

They shall be strong – they will be resolute, firm and courageous in the their stand in society. They will be strong in the strength that the Lord God supplies. This is the kind of reputation that Christian people are to have – a reputation for strength of character, strength of mind and strength of moral fibre, ready to show others that you CAN live for God. There is a Biblical example of this in Zechariah 8. In this chapter predicting the Restoration of Jerusalem following the return of the exiles from Babylon we read this – v 1 – 3 and v 13. With strong hands the people of Jerusalem will do certain things –

v 16 – they will speak the truth

Carry out Justice, Truth and Peace.

v 17 – they will not think evil against their neighbours;

They will be absolutely honest.

If the people lived like this then there would be positive results - other nations would also come to seek the Lord – notice v 21 – 23. What words these are – things will go so well for the Jews that people from other nations will say, “We will go with you”. Foreigners will grab the sleeve of the Jew and say, “We have heard that God is with you – let us come too!”

Would not this be a tremendous thing today if many people whom we know, our neighbours and work colleagues, family and acquaintances, came to us and said this –“ You are Christians and we can see that God is with you. You have a quality of life and a certainty of eternity that we do not have. Your life is so different to ours and we want what you have – we want to come with you and to experience what you experience – to know what you know.” This is what the people said to the Jews.

Is this what our friends and neighbours say to us today? Is there a hunger amongst the people because of what they see in our transformed lives?

Sadly it is not. All that people say today to us is “If that is what you want to do, what you want to believe – then you are free to do so. But we have our own views, our own beliefs – do not bother us with yours!”

Oh my friends, what is wrong? How has this situation arisen? Why are people not drawn to God through His people any more? There seems to be a great cloud of unbelief that overshadows our society. We have an idea of the origin of this –

2 Corinthians 4 v 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

Yet according to this verse in Daniel we can be inspired to something else. This verse does not communicate a passive keeping ourselves to ourselves mentality. We who know our God can be strong and should be strong.

Being strong involves complete dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ our saviour. King David encouraged his godly son Solomon with similar encouraging words in 1 Chronicles 28 v 9

And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.

There are pointers to our calling here – knowing God implies serving Him with a perfect heart.

How we need to keep close to the Lord and have short accounts with Him. How easy it is to allow unconfessed sin to build up in our souls because we do not come moment by moment to the Lord in repentance seeking pardon and forgiveness. Can we say that we are striving to serve the Lord with a perfect heart today?

Knowing God implies serving Him with a willing mind. Often we say that we CAN’T do something when what we really mean is that we WILL NOT do something for the Lord. A willing mind is in touch with God’s will and is ready to do His will. We discover His will through the scriptures as well as in the routine obvious duties that stare us in the face as Christian people. Do we have willing minds my friends?

King David says that God searches our hearts and understands our thoughts. So we can fool our brothers and sisters and others around us in this matter of willingness – but we can never fool the Lord God – He knows everything about us – and still loves us – but are we strong?

Perhaps you are perplexed now and wonder how you can be strong for the Lord – the last part of 1 Chronicles 28 v 9 helps –

if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.

Seek the Lord – in prayer and meditation. Seek Him with all of your heart. Cry out to Him and tell him how weak you feel and He will strengthen you – because you know Him! The people that know their God SHALL BE STRONG. This is not just a prophetic prediction – it is a glorious promise that each of us who knows our Lord Jesus Christ can claim – I will be strong – because my saviour is strong! I will seek His strength because He has called me to seek Him and His strength.

We read from Psalm 9 earlier – this is what the Psalmist said –

v 10 And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.

Here is that note of promise once more – you will put your trust in Him – He has not forsaken those who seek Him.

But we must seek it, my friends. We cannot coast along in our Christian lives. The Apostle John says this in his first letter –

1 John 2 v 3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

Seeking and keeping are the keys to being strong. May the Lord help us to be strong and may we be willing and obedient to His laws showing that we know Him. And may we see people wanting to come with us – into the Kingdom of God and on to glory!

What more can the People of God do when they Know their God?

2. They shall resist the marching secular forces in society.

The soldiers of the wicked King Antiochus Epiphanes stood as guards in the temple of the Lord God in Jerusalem while their king and the apostate priests profaned all that was godly. It does not take much thought for us to recognise the same thing happening today in rampant secularism of our once Christian society. This morning less than 1% of the population will be in church while 20% of the population will be out shopping.

Apostate church leaders are cooperating with those who wish to change laws on moral issues.

There are threats to the employment status of God’s servants, ministers of Religion.

but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.

We are called in this period of History to be God’s people and resist the devil and his hosts – by standing for truth. There are those who are dedicated to do just that. Some are working fulltime to stand up for the truth – the Christian Institute is one of those groups and they deserve our prayerful support.

but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.

It is possible to stand up and be counted my friends. Let us encourage each other in prayer and in testimony and holy living in this coming year to do exploits – to achieve great things for the Lord.

This includes a desire to achieve much for the Lord in extending His Kingdom. He has called us to be involved in outreach, in evangelism, in being involved with our community. What exploits are there for us to do this year? Are we praying for souls? For more to come into the Kingdom? Thy kingdom come Oh lord – oh let it come!

but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.

Let us seek to have the desire and the will to achieve much for our Mighty Saviour in this coming year. Let us stretch every fibre of our being as a church to make the Lord known. May we spend our time in thinking about how we may strengthen ourselves and each other in order to do exploits – great things – for the Master.

And may His wonderful Name be glorified in all that we do.

Let us arrive at this Lord’s Day in one year’s time with gratitude in our hearts for the Lord’s strengthening – for He will have strengthened us;

And thankfulness for His grace and love as He has helped us to do exploits for Him in this place – may this room be filled with those who have heard that God is amongst us and that they desire to know Him too.

but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.

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