In the early 1970s, the editor of the now-defunct Evangelical Magazine asked J. I. Packer for a series of articles discussing the nature and character of God. Packer produced a new article every two months. At the end of the series, an editor offered to combine the articles into a book, which was published in 1973 as Knowing God.
Packer could not have imagined the enduring impact of Knowing God. Twenty years later, he reflected on the book and wrote, “I thought of it as a study book that could hardly be of general interest. I was wrong.” He added that the book “keeps going, and a steady flow of letters shows me that it keeps on helping people. I am amazed, awed, humbled and constantly moved to thank God.”
I suppose an author never expects his book to have the sort of impact that Knowing God has had in evangelical circles. In hindsight, it is not surprising that a book touching on that particular subject should have such an impact. Daniel 11 helps us to see this.
In chapter 10, Daniel was given another strange vision detailing world events in the intertestamental period. Chapter 11 continues to discuss this period in incredible detail.
As with previous chapters, a brief explanation of the prophecy is in order.
In vv. 2–4, Daniel offers an overview of the dominance of the Persian and Greek empires. Three kings would follow Cyrus before the rule of a distinctively wealthy king: Xerxes I. Xerxes would wage war against Greece, which would eventually result in the collapse of the Persian Empire to Alexander the Great (the “mighty king” of vv. 3-4). At the height of his power, Alexander would die and his kingdom would be divided into four.
Verses 5–20 speaks of constant conflict between Egypt (“the king of the south”) and Syria (“the king of the north”). But vv. 21–45 are the most pertinent to Israel.
Verses 21–45 foretell the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes (see also 8:23–26). He seized the throne at his brother’s death and vacillated between attacking and allying with Egypt. During his final assault on Egypt, Rome sent a delegation forcing him to desist with his efforts (v. 30). Retreating in great shame, he attacked Jerusalem.
Antiochus’s opposition would not last, however, because “the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action” (v. 32). Verses 31–35 foretell the rise of the Mattathias Maccabaeus and his followers, who successfully resisted Antiochus and restored temple worship. They were able to do this because they knew their God.
If you wish to stand faithfully for God in the midst of opposition to your faith, you must know God. Why has Packer’s book so endured and helped so many people for half a century? Because it has helped people to know God, which has enabled them, in the language of the KJV, to “be strong and do exploits.”
How can you know God? Here are three strategies.
First, prayerfully devote yourself to reading Scripture, where God has most clearly revealed himself. Ask him to reveal himself to you as you read and study the Bible.
Second, prayerfully commit yourself to a local church. In a healthy local church, you will learn more about God in corporate worship and in meaningful discipling relationships with brothers and sisters who know God.
Third, prayerfully learn from others who have a legacy of knowing God. Packer’s writing has proven so meaningful because he was a man who knew God himself. Learn from those who know God. Read books written by, or listen to material recorded by, those who know God. Build relationships with those who know God. There is no shortage of material to help us know God.
As you reflect on Daniel 11 this morning, ask God to help you to know him so that, in the face of opposition to your faith, you can stand firm and take action.