Daniel 7:9 “As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire and its wheels were all ablaze.”
Unlike our names, which we often choose because they sound nice, or they have been in the family for a long time, or they are trendy, God’s names are always meaningful. Daniel wrote approximately 2600 years ago. This name tells us the Lord was already ancient then. Unlike some ladies and a few men who want to hide their age, the Lord is proud of his. This title places him before human memory, before creation, before there even were such things as “days.”
That is a truth that confronts us when we think we are in a position to confront God. It forces us to acknowledge his glory. We commonly take issue with the way that God is running the universe. Some people even doubt his existence because of the presence of disease, hunger, and injustice. But it is not the suffering of others that bothers us most. It’s when he lets it happen to me. Frankly, God seems more than a little incompetent when he lets me live with such pain. Why does everything I try to accomplish seems to be frustrated? I have to put up with the knuckleheads at home, at work, or in the neighborhood. Who does God think he is, anyway?
Have we forgotten? He is the “Ancient of Days!” He is that grand being who comes before us in every way. He has experienced every moment of the past and knows every detail of the future. The better question is the one he once put to Job, “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you , and you shall answer me? Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone–while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” A lowly little newcomer like me question the Ancient of Days? That is the height of presumption and arrogance. The only proper demeanor for us when our eyes are on the Ancient of Days is humble submission that acknowledges his glory.
Other features of Daniel’s vision unveil God’s glory. “His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like pure wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him.” The whiteness of his clothing and the fire in which he sits emphasize the Lord’s holiness and purity. There is not a speck, not even a trace, of the moral contamination. He is pure, holy, selfless love and absolute justice.
That glorious God is not only pure in himself. He also purifies. The fire of his holiness flows out from this throne in a river. You know how fire purifies things. It’s heat makes our food safe to eat. It can cauterize a wound or refining precious metals. The author of Hebrews quotes Moses in reminding us that “Our God is a consuming fire,” but the impurities he burns away are not bacteria that spoil food or the trace minerals that spoil unrefined gold. The fire of his holiness consumes every taint of sin in anything the Lord contacts.
This is hardly a warm and cuddly picture of the Ancient of Days. I don’t think Daniel would have been tempted to run up to the Ancient of Days on his throne in this vision and wrap his arms around him in a bear hug. There is too much of a sense of awe and holy fear. In order to keep our image of God from becoming distorted, we need to balance Daniel’s vision here with “The Lord is my Shepherd,” with God lying in the manger at Christmas, with the Lamb of God hanging on a cross and dying for our sins. The same God who thunders from Mount Sinai dies for us on Mount Calvary.
That this God–the Ancient of Days, whose existence spans eternity, burning with his zeal for holiness and white in his purity, so much greater than ourselves–that this same God would condescend to make himself small and human, to suffer like we do, to die for the sins we committed, doesn’t detract from his glory. It makes it shine ever so much more brightly. It inspires our humble worship and enthusiastic praise.