Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?” The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, “It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.” I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My Lord, what will the outcome of all this be?” He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand. “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days. “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance. – Daniel 12:5-13
This passage is the last water-related one in the book of Daniel – Daniel’s Dismount if you will. I have been reading a book recently about Dr. Paul Farmer called Mountains beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. She recounts many interesting stories and anecdotes about Dr. Farmer’s work in Haiti. His passion and purpose resonate with me. One of the interesting ideas I have found in this book is the idea of a “dismount”. Dr. Farmer used this to refer to the end of a conversation or discussion. I think this idea applies here on many levels.
I used to do gymnastics when I was still young and limber. Basically from age four until I was in college. I have always suspected that my parents got me into gymnastics to keep me out of trouble and out of their hair, but I learned many important life lessons in my years of gymnastics. I learned that: 1) hard work and perseverance pay off in the end; 2) repetition and practice is the only way to get better at something that is hard; 3) teaching gymnastics is way harder than merely doing gymnastics; 4) If you train your body to do complicated things you body will be better at everything involving body movements; and 5) dismounts at the end of a gymnastics routine can come with either elation or exasperation depending on how one feels about their performance.
Since the topic of this passage is “Daniel’s dismount” I will focus on the last life-lesson from gymnastics and save the others for another day. One of my favorite gymnastics events was the rings. It allowed me and my little body at the time to shine. Success on the rings came from a combination of grace and strength. I think in this way it is like Daniel’s command in this passage to “go your own way Daniel”. He has been given a very confusing and perplexing prophecy about the end of days. A prophecy filled with water imagery reminiscent of previous prophecies in Ezekiel about a river that no one can cross (Ezekiel 47:1-6).
The passage starts out with a two people on the banks of a river, “Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank.” I think that the river is a metaphor for our profound separation from God that requires a pilot or navigator to cross. I also believe God has provided that pilot in the person of Jesus. Perhaps he is the “man clothed in linen” I do not know. What seems clear is that the river is a real barrier to our being with God and in order to cross into God’s undiscovered country we must accept help. We cannot cross it on our own. No matter how good we get at swimming, finance, gymnastics, business, geology, or whatever pursuit we choose to invest our lives.
Daniel’s “dismount” is the most important part of his life. If he lives with grace and strength he will end up where he is heading. All the wisdom and prophecies that he has shared with the king of Babylon come down to this final prophecy. It is the one that matters. The command is simple yet multi-layered and complex, “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.” So the seemingly simple command for Daniel in the midst of the dark future that has been revealed to him is to “go your way”. The really tricky part of this for Daniel (and us) is to figure out what “his way” should look like and how he will be sure to end up “on the banks of the river” when he is done with his life.
So how do we as God-followers make sure that we are engaged in the “routine” that God has for us and that our “dismount” is pleasing to God? How do we make sure that “our way” is God’s way? I think this is the most important question that Christians can ask themselves. In my experience the answer is not simple and it is not static. Answering this question is a process. It is more like a voyage of discovery than a destination. This is not to imply that our life should be spent in a frantic pursuit of the perfect dismount, but rather a realization that if we keep our eyes focused on the real goal, God, that He Himself will be our dismount.
Prayer: God You have provided us with a glimpse into awesome things to come that could make us anxious and afraid. Give us the peace that comes from knowing that if we remain in You we have already arrived.