Profound truth: “It’s incredibly valuable for you that Daniel 12 comes after Daniel 1-11.”
Perhaps you’re thinking, “It is?!” It is!
Daniel 10-11 contains an amazing prophecy, in which God allows Daniel to see, sometimes in broad strokes, sometimes in detail, many events that would take place in the years to come. Most are prophecies of Old Testament events or people. For example, God talks about Persian King Xerxes, who, in trying to defeat Greece, is purported to have raised an army of 2 million men, maybe more! God talks about Alexander the Great, about the Seleucids and the Ptolemies, etc. Powerful people are referred to, people who did world-changing things! They were the “shining stars” in their day, the movers and the shakers! And perhaps we think, “Wow! I’d like to be a world-changer! I’d like to be a mover and a shaker!”
But then comes Daniel 12. “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth …” What a reminder! All of those powerful people, those movers and shakers, they’re dead! They seemed to be shining stars, but their shine lasted oh-so-briefly.
Who will the real shining stars be? “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” The wise, the believers, are the real shining stars, along with those who lead others to righteousness!
Dear pastor, think of the honor which God has given to you! You get to dig deeply into the wisdom of God! As you dig into God’s Word, as you prepare sermons and Bible studies, you are listening to the voice of God himself! You get to learn more deeply about the answers to the questions which really matter to people: “Who am I and why am I here? Is there an answer to sin and guilt? Etc.” As you dig, God is giving you wisdom! Wow! What an honor!
But ministry isn’t a “me” thing. Rather, ministry is a service-thing. Ministry is looking to put the interests of others before my own interests, and particularly to be thinking over and over again about how I can serve my fellow human beings in regard to their spiritual lives, their eternal lives. No, we won’t ignore physical needs, but finally, spiritual needs are most important. As Daniel puts it, ministry’s goal is to “lead many to righteousness.”
Did you catch God’s promise to those who lead many to righteousness? He says they will shine like the stars forever and ever! Wow! What a gracious promise! When you teach the itty-bitties, including your own children, that “Jesus loves me,” you’re leading many to righteousness. When you share God’s great exchange, when you walk a person through Bible Instruction Class, when you speak God’s gracious promises into the ears of that aged saint, as you teach and preach, you are leading many to righteousness. “Those who lead many to righteousness [will shine] like the stars for ever and ever!” While that gracious promise applies to every believer, perhaps it has special value to the called worker. How honored we are to be in ministry! What an amazing task is ours!
And this will all be easy, right? Oh, probably not! God tells Daniel that at the end of times there will be a time of distress such as has never happened. Remember, Daniel had lived through the fall of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple, the fall of the Babylonian Empire, etc. Worse times than that were coming? Yep. Is it our time? Maybe.
But, whether we’re in that time of distress or not, we know for sure that Jesus told us to take up our cross. Ministry may be hard, maybe even really hard! Sometimes those whom we’re trying to serve will be rebellious, or ambivalent, or may even seek to undermine God’s Word/work. Many will “go here and there to increase knowledge,” always looking for, but never finding, the peace of heart for which they yearn, listening to all sorts of “wisdom,” yet in sinful obstinacy refusing to listen to God’s wisdom. That’s hard!
Of course, at times – many times? – the problem starts right here, with us. We may fail to be faithful, lose our temper, become too focused on the things of this world, be selfish or arrogant or weak or … . And the devil will attack! “You call yourself a called worker?!? Are you even a believer?!?” Those attacks will hurt, because we know they’re grounded in the horrible reality that we’re sinful human beings who deserve to be sent to hell!
There is only One who can thwart those attacks: the God who gives real wisdom. And so you and I will go back to God’s perfect wisdom, be reminded that Jesus lived for me, died for me, rose for me, and rules for me! God will remind me that he’s blessed me with real wisdom, with eternal wisdom. I will shine like the brightness of the heavens! That reminder enables you and me to humbly, yet confidently, go about the glorious work of leading many to righteousness!
And someday? Someday I too will sleep in the dust of the earth.
But then Jesus’ glorious, gracious voice will call me to rise! Indeed, he’ll call all people of all time to rise! Unfortunately, way too many will rise to shame and everlasting contempt, but others to everlasting life! Dear pastor, because of God’s amazing, forgiving love, you will be one of those who rises to life!
And can you imagine? In that group which rises to life-eternal, there will be some whom you served! Oh-so-many lives will be saved … forever! And God will have – in amazing grace – used people like you and me as his instruments. What an honor to be wise; what an honor to lead many to righteousness!
All of that is why I’m oh-so-glad that Daniel 12 comes after Daniel 1-11, because it reminds me who the real movers and shakers are. Yes, there have been many powerful people in the history of the world, but the end of the story is that those who lead many to righteousness are the real movers and shakers. You are one of those who is leading many to righteousness. You are a mover and a shaker! You will shine forever! That’s the end of the story!
And I don’t know about you, but I just love a happy ending!