In those days, I Daniel, heard this word of the Lord: “At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time. At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book. “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. “But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.”
As we near the end of one liturgical year and the approach of another (there is only one Sunday after this before Advent!), our texts turn more toward the coming of Christ, both his nativity and his second coming and final victory. Our reading today is the first of these texts. It is taken from the prophet Daniel’s final vision which begins in chapter 10 and continues to the end of chapter 12. It is Daniel’s vision of the end of time, the final battle between good and evil, the trial and tribulation of God’s people, the coming of the Messiah, and the resurrection of the dead. It is, of course, clothed in mystery, but it is also luminous in what God reveals through it.
I am particularly intrigued by the reference to the archangel Michael. In a time “unsurpassed in distress since nations began”, Michael, “the great prince and guardian of your people” (i.e. Israel and the New Israel, God’s Church) will arise and “your people shall escape” (actually and more forcefully “be delivered”). Here and again in Revelation 12 Michael is presented as the defender of God’s people in battle and the Captain of God’s hosts in battle against Satan and evil. He is the sure victor in that an every battle.
Surely the Lord’s intention is for everyone who reads that passage to realize, in the midst of whatever struggle they face, that all the hosts of heaven fight for them and that, as Paul said, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Whether in the last days or today, God’s angel Michael, and all the hosts of heaven defend God’s people.
This reminds me of one of the most glorious events in the Old Testament. It is recorded in II Kings 6. The king of Syria wished to capture the prophet Elisha. He sent a great army with many chariots by night to surround the city where Elisha lived. The next morning Elisha’s servant saw the army surrounding the city and cried in alarm, “Alas, my Master! What shall we do!” Elisha’s calm reply was, “Fear not, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, I beg you, open his eyes that he may see”. And then, the Scripture says, “So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”
I do not know what struggle you are facing nor how hard and bitter the fight. I do know that we all tremble when we see the hosts arrayed against us. Every one of us comes, from time to time, to the place where we cry in terror, “Alas, my Master! What shall we do”. God’s gentle reply is always, “Fear not, for those who are with you are more than those who are with them.” My hope for you is that in all such times, Elisha’s prayer will be answered again–“O Lord open his eyes that he or she may see”–and you will see the reality that has always been there: we are surrounded by the Lord’s hosts and chariots of fire.
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Look to him and be radiant, so your faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord Heard him ,and saved him from all his troubles The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. (Psalm 34:4-7)
Fred Durham is the President of Alighieri Press and serves as an author and speaker.