“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely…” wrote Lord Acton, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887.
Human institutions and governments don’t give us grounds for optimism, for none is perfect. No matter how good or well intentioned, all are flawed. Is there any hope? Daniel says, Yes! In God alone – the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man, whose kingdom will endure forever.
In Daniel, chapter 7, verses 13 and 14 we read: As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.
Daniel’s vision is of a powerful ruler who is not only without equal but whose reign will endure for ever. This ruler is called the Son of Man. In Hebrew the phrase is Ben Adam, son of Adam.
The expression could simply be a substitute for the personal pronoun ‘I’, as in the phrase, I am a man. It could also be a reference to the people of Israel; Hosea, chapter 11 refers to the people of Israel as God’s son. But there is something else: Son of Man was also used to refer to a king. Psalm 2 speaks of the king of Israel as a son of God.
Furthermore, when we turn to Matthew, Mark and Luke we find that Jesus often spoke of himself as the Son of Man. He used the phrase to refer to his humanity as in: ‘I am a son of Adam.’ He used it to indicate that he represented Israel.
However, most significantly he allowed himself to be acknowledged as the Messiah – God’s unique, anointed king.
He drew these ideas together at his trial when the High Priest, as Judge, asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed”. To which Jesus replied, “I am”. He then surprised everyone by quoting Daniel 7 saying, “And you will see the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:61).
Jesus is saying: ‘I am a not only a man, I am uniquely God’s Son and God’s King. One day you will see the truth of this.’
What is amazing is that God gave Daniel a glimpse of this scene 600 or so years before Jesus walked on earth.
Reflect. The reading today alerts us to the reality of a world that chooses to live without God, spiraling ever downwards. On the other hand, it awakens us to the reality of the coming age, when Jesus is revealed in all his power and glory. It will be the age where righteousness and peace will reign, where all God’s people will reign with Christ in indescribable glory. So, let me ask, in what way does Daniel’s vision encourage you to be a biblical realist about the world scene now, and the glory yet to come?
You may find it helpful to read Daniel, chapter 7, Mark 14:53-65 and Revelation 21:1-8.
A Prayer. Almighty and eternal God, grant that we may grow in faith, hope, and love; especially make us love what you command so that we may obtain what you have promised; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.