Saturday, July 21, 2012

Lessons From the Book of Daniel

This past week I have been spending a significant amount of time studying the book of Daniel as that has served as the Bible lessons for the kids in Vacation Bible School. So often when we read the book of Daniel we focus primarily on the adventures of Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (or as they are more commonly known by their Babylonian names-Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). In fact, we even have a popular song that we sometimes sing called “Dare to Be A Daniel.” However, upon a closer examination of the book, we realize that the author of the book emphasizes not the mere man, Daniel, but instead His great God.

Daniel and his friends were part of the intelligent young men taken from Judah to serve King Nebuchadnezzar in the nation of Babylon (1:3-6). They found themselves in a foreign and strange land with a vastly different culture. Their Jewish identity had basically been taken away from them as they were forced to learn the literature and language of the Babylonians as well as be given different names (1:4,7). They were in a place and among a people that thought and viewed things much differently than the Jews in the nation of Israel. Yet the author reminds the original Jewish readers who would have been in Babylon in captivity themselves at the time that regardless of where they were, God still was with them and served as the ultimate sovereign and king.

Though the people no longer were in God’s promised land, God showed them that He still was with them. He had never left them though they had left Israel. As Ezekiel, a prophet contemporary to Daniel, saw, God’s glory also resided with His people in Babylon just as it had in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 1:1-28). God remained at work in the peoples’ lives as seen with His blessing towards Daniel upon his greater allegiance to Him when he refused to defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank (1:8), His deliverance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace after they refused to bow to the king’s statue (3:19-27), and His protection of Daniel in the lion’s den (6:16-23). God vindicated these men when they followed the law of God’s kingdom over the law of man’s kingdom when the latter contradicted the former. God had not abandoned the people in exile but continued to be present and work in their lives.

God not only reminds the people that He is still with them, even in Babylon, He also demonstrates that He still rules over them, while in this foreign land. Regardless of who may have occupied the thrones of man, God remained seated on His heavenly throne in charge of all of man’s affairs. He reminds all three of the kings recorded in the book that He is their ultimate King and they have to answer to Him. He humbles King Nebuchadnezzar through giving him a dream that shows how temporary his kingdom is since it will be followed by three other empires and ultimately God’s coming everlasting kingdom (2:31-45) as well as making him live like an animal for seven years (4:28-33). All of this served the purpose to bring the king to realize That the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men (4:17,25,32; 5:21). The King later comes to recognize through all of this that God serves as the ultimate King. He states, For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth. And no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?” (4:34-35). Later, God takes away King Belshazzar’s (Nebuchadnezzar’s successor) kingdom because he failed to acknowledge God’s ultimate rule over him (5:1-30). The “writing on the wall” revealed that his days as king were numbered since the God in whose hand are your life-breath and all your ways, you have not glorified (5:23). Again, God serves as the ultimate ruler over the kings and kingdoms of the earth. King Darius as well was reminded of God being the supreme ruler after witnessing God’s protection of Daniel in the lion’s den (6:26-27). He even declares: For He is the living God and enduring forever, and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, and His dominion forever (v. 26). God further shows His ruling over all of history in the visions given to Daniel concerning the future establishment of His ultimate everlasting kingdom ruled by the Messiah, the Lord Jesus (chapters 7-12).

While this book proved comforting for the Jewish people who questioned God’s presence and plan during their time spent in the foreign land of Babylon, it also serves as an encouragement for us today. It reminds us that God is still present with us in our modern day Babylon; that He is still in control and directing all things to the establishment of His glorious everlasting kingdom. No matter what you may find yourself going through today, take heart that God is there and still in control. We may not be aware of His presence or know His plan but we can rest assured that He is in control and working in all things for His glory just as we notice in the book of Daniel. Praise God for His everlasting reign over His everlasting kingdom!

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

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