It hasn't exactly been a box office blockbuster, but the new movie "Prince Of Persia" has been seen and enjoyed by thousands since it opened in late May.
The action adventure film, based on a video game, tells the story of a young street boy, adopted into the family of an ancient Persian king, who becomes a prince alongside 2 brothers. He grows up to be a man of integrity and courage, and with the help of a beautiful princess saves the kingdom, and perhaps the world, from the evil schemings of a power hungry individual in pursuit of a sand-filled dagger that gives its possessor the ability to turn back time.
This cinematic piece is great fun. It's also complete fiction.
It may surprise you to learn, though, that a "prince of Persia" is mentioned in the Bible. This one is for real.
The reference comes in the Old Testament book of Daniel, chapter 10, verse 13. It speaks not of a human being but of an evil angel who temporarily thwarted the attempt of a heavenly angel to deliver, from God, an answer to Daniel for a prayer he had prayed seeking information and counsel about the future of his countrymen, the Jews. The narrative implies that wicked territorial spirits under the command of Satan were assigned to nations to seek to influence them in opposition to God's will and people. This prince of Persia, then, who evidently was responsible for trying to manipulate the decisions of that kingdom that had just chosen to release many of the Jews long held in captivity, managed to struggle with God's angel and delay a response getting to Daniel for 3 weeks. His evil machinations were overcome by the assistance of Michael, God's chief angel, who came to the aid of the heavenly messenger, who may have been Gabriel. It's interesting that a Hollywood film, "Legion", earlier this year, in its plot had Michael and Gabriel pitted against one another. Nothing could be further from the truth. They're on the same page, the same team, serving God!
All of this sounds so far-fetched and hard to believe in our sophisticated, technological age. But evangelical theology affirms the truthfulness of it. Some lessons emerge.
For starters, spiritual warfare is a reality. There is a titanic, cosmic battle going on in the supernatural, invisible realm all around us. We can't see it but good angels slug it out with demonic forces in a conflict to determine who will persuade and control peoples and nations and individuals. In the admittedly pictorial, apocalyptic book of Revelation you get strong hints of this in chapter 12, verses 7-9, and elsewhere in the New Testament, in Ephesians 6:12, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that a monumental, ongoing struggle is being waged between spiritual forces. National and international philosophies, policies, and actions could well be influenced and shaped more by what we can't see than by what we can. Personal choices, too, are often impacted greatly by this continuing wrestling between good and evil beings over a fallen world whose ultimate redemption has already been won and victoriously assured by the saving death of Christ on the cross. The outcome of the war has been determined but skirmishes go on. Christians must decide each new day how to respond to the temptations faced so that they cooperate with God's plan.
This old, old story also reminds us that prayer is really important. Daniel was so concerned about his people that he prayed for them, seeking God's purposes for their future. Regrettably, most believers pray very little and in our churches prayer is often the spiritual discipline that is emphasized the least. Someone has said that the devil is unhappy but not overly troubled when we go to church or read the Bible or share our faith but he trembles when we pray! It is probably in our praying that we have the greatest opportunity to actually make a difference in this world and partner with God in what he is up to. You could team up with God when you intercede for a grieving family whose name you read about on an obituary page. You work alongside the Lord when you pray for those who might be injured in that car accident that you come up on as you're driving the interstate. When viewing the nightly news you could petition God about people and situations, even of global significance, that are mentioned and play a possible role in potential divine interventions. You might silently converse with the Lord about that hurting person sitting across from you in a doctor's office waiting room and thus be involved in heavenly activity.
There's no doubt that spiritual battles will continue on in the invisible supernatural regions and in individual Christian lives until history wraps up. The angel lets Daniel in on that crucial fact in chapter 10, verse 20. But as was true for that towering Old Testament character, we can have hope and strength. Just as the heavenly being reminded Daniel that he was loved and valued by God, believers should know that they are prized and protected by the Father. As Daniel received a lifting touch from the angel, so we can learn to draw encouragement from the often needed physical hugs and embraces that the Lord uses our human companions to bring to us when we're down and depressed or lonely and confused. And the most vital source for peace and strengthening as we face the challenges and uncertainties of life will come to us, as it did for Daniel, in the truth that God reveals to us in his word. That truth clues us in that the events happening on the world scene, though so often troubling, are ultimately in the hands of a wise and sovereign God and are being worked together toward a grand and positive conclusion. Immersing ourselves in Bible study can increase our confidence and stability.
The days of the real prince of Persia are numbered!