His bride now leaning in at last
His final aim to fill with joy
The earth that man all but destroyed
(The Trumpet Child, from Over the Rhine)
The last chapters of the book of Daniel are so confusing. Kings rise and fall and merge together like a swirling pallet of colors. Angels appear. Strange visions are given of a surreal being like a man, "with a face like the appearance of lightening, his eyes like flaming torches. . ., the sound of his words like a multitude" (Dan. 10:6). There are terrible visions of great battles, allusions to even greater spiritual conflicts. There is deception and intrigue and murder, persecution of God's people, and an inexplicable "abomination that makes desolate" (Dan. 11:29, 12:11). There are numbers too, like "1,290 days" and "1,335 days," hints of timing and appointed times still veiled in mystery. Stumbling out of a large Bible study tonight, my head was ringing with the historical corroboration, the fulfilled prophecies, the meanings given these verses by the one teaching.
But I don't know about all that. I find easy answers suspect. I am a man of words and this is what I heard:
"man greatly loved"
"O man greatly loved"
"a hand touched me"
"one in the likeness of the children of men touched my lips"
"one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me."
Whoever it is speaking, angel or pre-incarnate Christ, it is personal, and Daniel is treated with high regard, as a dear friend. He is the object of affection and physically touched in a way that confirms that concern and renews him physically. Daniel is loved. And if he is loved then I am loved. God is reaching out from beyond the stars, falling in beside me, putting his hand on my shoulder and saying, "man greatly loved." In all our study, in all the parsing of Bible verses and peering down the corridors of time and church history and even fascination with apocalyptic literature, we can lose the fact that God is not the great abstraction, the amorphous intellect, the Bible not a book of code or a jigsaw puzzle but a lovers tale. And we're in it. It's like we're looking at a letter from our long-distance girlfriend, reading and re-reading her words, trying to figure out what she meant by this or that, when we could just hold it to our nose and get a whiff of love.
The church is emptying out. Men are scattering. I find myself alone by my car, fumbling for my key, already carrying the weight of the next day's concerns, even the weight of life itself, and I hear it again, "man greatly loved, man greatly loved." I straighten up and take a breath. Something like joy is coming on, nibbling at the edges, giving me strength.