I take the view, in Daniel chapter 10, that the messenger is the Lord. The difficulty with this interpretation is that he is detained by the prince of Persia for 21 days and appears to be aided by Michael. Why would the Lord need any help? What being could possibly delay him?
Whatever one’s interpretation, shying away from any sensationalism agrees with true piety. Piety is not about thrilling battles with deadly awesome swords and angels wrestling directly over our heads. It is not meant so much to convey information about how the spiritual world functions as to convey the fact that Christ is involved.
An illustration: we of the Covenant theology do that with the numbers. We say they’re not there always for counting–that sometimes their main function is not arithmetical. They’re symbolic, and so we aren’t always mathematically precise (the 1000 yrs, for example, or the 7 eyes of the Lamb to pick one less controversial). Among the figures found in the literature of the Bible, we often find numbers so functioning.
You don’t have to agree with that, however, to agree about the angelic beings. It seems to me that this last vision of Daniel’s, spanning as it does the last 3 chapters, is climactic. What he sees, moreover, is not the events in figures, but a figure that speaks to him of the events. That figure is an appearance–a representation of our Lord. And if that is right, it is possible to take his struggle with the prince of Persia as a symbolic struggle. In other words, Christ is involved in the rise and fall of nations throughout history. He resists them, and they resist him. His timing even for particular events involves such a far-reaching causality that it can be called a struggling of Christ with his enemies.
How? The Persian empire was a godless empire that served God’s purposes. How, inadvertently? That seems little in keeping with the theme of the book of Daniel. Obviously not by will and design of the people of Persia or some guiding spirit, but by the design and purpose of God, God transcendent working through intermediaries as usual, and God immanent working directly in the circumstances. Christ, as it were, being resisted by the prince of Persia–whether some spiritual being or King Cyrus himself–because through those means he the right time would come about. Just because he takes his time, doesn’t mean God isn’t involved. EVERYTHING is under the sovereign control of God in both the transcendent sense of his having intermediaries and in the direct sense of his immanent control, and still it takes time, seems to involve reverses to God’s cause, and frequently puzzles us. Perhaps I could say that the prince of Persia did not block Christ in his attempt to reach Daniel, but rather that Christ chose to approach by a road littered with the spiritual antagonism of Persia so that he could deal with some essential issues that needed to be dealt with for his response to be coherent. I’m thinking that perhaps he puts in motion, at this time, circumstances and incidents that set up the wide-ranging history we see in chapter 11. And dealing with that is what he means when he speaks of returning. The point is: Christ has to be there in some sense, after all he is directly running it.
And Michael? Like Daniel, part of God’s plan. The responsibility of the creature does not negate the sovereignty of the Creator. The causality may be shadowy or entirely invisible to us, but God’s causality is there along with the creature’s responsibility in that causality. God uses his people’s fidelity, their loyalty to his cause also in bringing about the events of history. And that’s the contrast: God’s enemies are said to resist, and God’s people and subjects are said to aid. It is a symbolic manner of speaking.
I tried to explain this point of view in Sunday School last week, but I don’t think it worked too well. I’m missing . . . what? Not that I got a lot of help out of ye readers last time I asked, but do you see what I’m trying to say?