Passage: Daniel 7:1-18
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
To live faithfully in exile, we need to be both “heavenly-minded” and earthly-rooted. In fact, it is only when we have a “heavenly imagination”—when we can see the Son of Man reigning eternally from his throne in heaven—that we can truly be of earthly good. Daniel’s visions in Daniel 7 help us to do just this.
Daniel first sees in “a vision by night” the reign of four successive beasts, each of them grotesque in its own way, and combining human and animal features. Each beast, Daniel was told, represented “four kings who shall arise out of the earth” (7:17). These terrifying and violent beasts give us an apt picture of what happens when our human intellect and capabilities are combined with our ravenous creaturely cravings for power and acquisition. When these evil and ravenous instincts of ours go unchecked, the results are deadly, at both a nation/kingdom level, and at a personal level as well. We become more and more like the beasts we were meant to rule over, and we hurt and oppress others in the process.
Daniel sees another vision as well, this time of the “Ancient of Days,” who is God, seated on his throne in sovereign power, being served by thousands of angels (7:9-10). His throne, however, is placed amidst multiple thrones, none of them apparently occupied—representing the fact that none of us humans were worthy of the task of co-ruling with God, for which we were designed. Finally, Daniel sees “one like a son of man,” riding on the clouds, to whom the Ancient of Days gives everlasting “dominion, and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (7:13-14). Finally, a human is worthy to reign with God—and this “son of man,” who is fully man and fully God, is God’s own son, Jesus!
During his time on earth Jesus most often identified himself as the “Son of Man”—that is, the human who, unlike the beastly kingdoms, exercised power over creation the way we humans were intended to. He showed this to us supremely on the cross, revealing to all the world that the Son of Man reigns through self-giving love. When we truly see the Son of Man, reigning over the beasts of the earth from his throne in heaven, we are free to be both invested in this world that he loves, and hopeful for the future, as we await the day when we ourselves, as “the saints of the Most High,” shall “receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever” (7:18).
- The Reign of The Beasts (7:1-8; 11-12; 15-17)
- The Eternal Reign of the Son of Man (7:9-14; 18)
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide
Re-read the passage (Daniel 9:1-23)
The Reign of The Beasts (7:1-8; 11-12; 15-17)
Q) INTRO QUESTION: This passage and this sermon argued that having a “heavenly imagination” can ultimately drive us to be more invested in doing earthly good, as it did for Daniel. We can easily fall into the trap, however, of being “heavenly minded” only, and disconnected from the struggles of the world, or “earthly-minded” only, and lacking a heavenly perspective on our current situation. What do you think are the negative consequences of either of these incomplete directions? Which have you tended towards in the past?
Q) Re-read Daniel 7:1-8, and Daniel 7:15-17. We’re told that these four beasts represent “four kings who shall arise out of the earth” (7:17). Based on the descriptions of the beasts, what would you imagine the reign of these kings was like? What specific imagery is used to give us this impression? (give examples)
Q) What special significance do you think these visions might have held for Daniel, as an exile in Babylon? Q) Can you think of some examples of “beastly” things that kingdoms or nations have done throughout history, or “beastly” things that our own nation has done? What collective desires and what mindsets do you think drove these actions?
Q) Re-readDaniel 7:11-12, and 7:15-18. What was Daniel’s initial reaction to the visions he received? What comfort was he given from their fuller interpretation?
Q) Have you yourself ever felt anxious about violent and unjust leaders or rulers in the world today? If so, when? How might the interpretation of Daniel’s vision give you hope?
Q) Pastor Bobby said that these same “beastly” desires—the desire for accumulation or for power, for example—reside not only in kingdoms and nations, but inside of us as individuals as well. Can you recognize the seeds of any “beastly” desires in yourself? If so, what are they? How might you repent and turn from them this week?
The Eternal Reign of the Son of Man (7:9-14; 18)
Q) Re-read Daniel in 7:9-10, which describe Daniel’s vision of the Ancient of Days. What physical imagery is used to describe the Ancient of Days? What is this meant to communicate? How does his depiction contrast with the depiction of the beastly kingdoms in the prior verses?
Q) Re-read Daniel 7:13-14. How is the son of man described, and how does he relate to the Ancient of Days?
Q) Pastor Bobby said that this “son of man” figure exhibited both human and divine characteristics, clearly pointing ahead to Jesus. On the one hand, his name literally means “son of human”—emphasizing his humanity—but on the other hand, he receives worship, and is seen “riding on the clouds”—characteristics only ever used of God elsewhere. What do you think is the significance of the fact that the one who reigns forever from heaven is both divine and human?
Q) Read Matthew 26:63-66. In these verses Jesus clearly identifies himself as the Son of Man of Daniel 7. What do you think is the significance of Jesus identifying himself as the Son of Man before his crucifixion? Why did Jesus say, “from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power” when he still had to suffer and die? (NOTE: The idea is that Jesus reigns/exercises his power through self-giving love).
Q) How might the truth that Jesus, the Son of Man, reigns eternally from heaven be a comfort to us today? How might it challenge us today? Also: who might this truth comfort most and who might it challenge most?
Q) CASE STUDY: A member of your small group forwards you an article from a well-known Christian leader, urging people to get out and vote for a particular candidate, because, in this leader’s words, “2020 is the most consequential election for religious freedom in the history of the United States.” Though you share many of their concerns, and do plan on voting, you sense that this person has become more and more anxious about the 2020 elections every week. How might this passage from Daniel 7 influence the way you think about this year’s elections, and the way you respond to your friend?
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and
outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.