Daniel’s vision of a ram and a goat does not require any interpretative guesswork. An angelic messenger informed the prophet that the ram coming from the east stood for “the kings of Media and Persia” and the goat coming from the west was “the king of Greece.” One of the rulers of this second empire would eventually bring great trouble upon the people of the Promised Land.
Despite the evil done by worldly authorities, everything would be controlled from above by the Lord Himself. Even when the worst evil one, perhaps beyond the world of human beings, would “rise up against the Prince of princes,” he would not have the final say. “He shall be broken—but by no human hand.”
Daniel was “overcome” by what he saw and heard, “and lay sick for some days.” He was “appalled by the vision” because he “did not understand it.” Some of the disturbing events presented symbolically to the Hebrew prophet were part of a future era well beyond Daniel’s life, while for us, the events of Greece and the Roman empire that followed are now ancient history.
The definite identification of the Medes and the Persians followed by an accurate prediction concerning Greece helps us in understanding many visions in the book of Daniel. Furthermore, some of what is written about the ram, the goat, and the “horns” that come from them move us to consider unseen spiritual realms down to the present age.
The images in Daniel are also used by John in the book of Revelation. Their inclusion in that final book of the New Testament forces us to consider events far beyond the old history of the Mediterranean world. All of what has taken place since the days of the Babylonians led to the rise of the nations of Western Civilization. Some of these people groups have been very active in Christian mission in the centuries following the Greek and Roman empires. Despite this wonderful heritage, these same powerful nations have become increasingly hostile to historic Christianity and Judaism in more recent decades.
We need not be physically sick over the vision, as Daniel was for a time. The message of this great Biblical passage can bring us much comfort in light of what God has already accomplished through His Son’s death and resurrection. The history of the evangelization of the world should also bring us much encouragement that the future is certainly unfolding according to the Lord’s good plan.
Three main points stand out as obvious based on Daniel 8: First, God is sovereign over every frightening power among men and angels. Second, Jesus is at the center of a massive resurrection victory that is ultimately unstoppable. Finally, we have been heading toward “the time of the end” for many centuries, and passages like 1 Peter 4:7-11 tell us exactly what we should be doing. Unnecessary panic is not God’s plan for us. Instead, we must follow Daniel’s example after a few rough days: “I rose and went about the king’s business.”
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
God of Glory, You have given us hope in the midst of the challenging days that so many of us face in this current evil age. We are often quite perplexed. We do not know how to interpret the events around us. You surely are the sovereign Lord over this entire world. One great nation reaches the end of its appointed time, and in its place comes a mighty empire that will exist for Your purposes. You could lay out for us every detail of the future from the current moment until the return of Your Son, but such knowledge would be too much for us. Help us to rise up from our beds each morning and to be about the business of our great King Jesus. We would do well to serve Him always, and to wait for His return with joy and expectation.