I’m hitting “pause” on the Psalms of Ascent series for a few weeks while I blog about a couple other things. This week, the topic is the Really Difficult Second Half of the book of Daniel…which is taking up prime space in my head these days. My little church is presently without a pastor, so all hands are on deck to get through. This means that as an Old Testament professor & a published author on the book of Daniel, I’m taking our congregation through a Sunday morning series on the book.* We’ve just hit the rapids of Daniel 7–12. With this in mind, today’s post, “Me, My Selfie, and I,” is adapted and reposted from 2014 and from my 2016 commentary on the book of Daniel
Daniel 7 is one of the more challenging chapters in the book, leading off what is definitely the more challenging half of the book. For the book’s first six chapters, we breeze through engaging narrative—masterfully told stories that are familiar to a good number of people. But when we turn the page to chapter 7, we find a whole new world.
In this chapter, Daniel has a vision of four ghastly beasts that represent human kings/kingdoms. He also gets an amazing glimpse of the heavenly throne room, where the Ancient of Days (God) gives an eternal kingdom to “one like a son of man” (Jesus). The vision switches back and forth a couple times between the earthly scene and the heavenly one—and sometimes it’s not entirely clear whether we’re in terrestrial or celestial territory.
It’s a vision in which we get just a peek at a mysterious relationship between us earthlings and heavenly beings. It’s a vision that, among other things, reminds us that our individual stories are part of a much great story. Our earthly reality is just an itty bitty piece of a great cosmic reality. Most of us are prone to get lost in our own stories, a tendency that a wildly narcissistic culture encourages. We live in a world where “selfie” was unanimously voted the 2013 word of the year by the Oxford Dictionaries, where Internet “comments” provide forums for personal tirades, where “news” consists of readers’ responses to polls, and where social media invents new personality quizzes every other day (including such inanities as “what vegetable are you?” or, most bizarrely, “what arbitrary thing are you?”). Self-absorption is a popular pastime.
If we are honest, we might admit that we often find our own stories more interesting than God’s Story. But if we are to take Daniel 7–12 to heart, we must subsume our personal stories into a much greater one, recognizing that God’s plan is much bigger than we can see and much more complex than we can comprehend.
This does not minimize our individual circumstances, for certainly the One who numbers the hairs on our heads cares about what we face every second of every day. But we are not all he cares about, and we would do well to remember this more often. Taming the beast of self-absorption is no easy task, but if we are to love what Jesus loves and live like Jesus lived, we need to try.
* You can catch the series on my YouTube channel!
Picture is a selfie of Daniel 7’s infamous fourth beast (at least, the version on my desk).