This is a selfie of my motivational version of Daniel 7's infamous fourth beast

A selfie of Daniel 7’s infamous fourth beast (at least, the version on my desk)

Although this blog has only made it through Daniel 6, I’ve been commentary writing in Daniel 7 for weeks already. (Someone’s paying me to do that, while none of my five blog readers has sent me any money to get a new post up, already. You can see where my priorities are.)

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 six chapters, we’ve breezed our way through engaging narrative—masterfully told stories that are familiar to a good number of my readers (at least 3 of you). But when we turn the page to chapter 7, we find a whole new world. We’ll talk more about what’s so different about it another time, but for today, let me give you a quick overview and a challenge.

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 word of the year by the Oxford Dictionaries, Internet “comments” provide forums for personal tirades, “news” consists of readers’ responses to polls, and 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 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.

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