Summary: How big is your God? Daniel 7 challenges our view of God by showing that he has acted in the past, acts in the present, and has promised to act in the future.
1. UNCERTAINTY IN HUMANITY
We live in an uncertain world. People look for security and guidance from our world leaders and governments yet it doesn’t happen. We place our hope in them that they will solve our problems little realising that we ourselves are the problem. The placing of faith by humanity in humanity is misplaced. As you look through the paper, many events across our globe illustrate that fact:
- Bill Clinton’s fallibility has been plastered across the front pages.
- In Canberra, the Constitutional Convention is getting nowhere fast. And we are paying for it to the tune of $40M.
- Tony Blair is having difficulty even organising a meeting about Ireland let alone negotiating any sort of settlement.
- In Nagano for the 18th Winter Olympics, the two biggest problems appear to be transport and security. The two biggest problems are people. Get used to it for 2000.
2. DANIEL 7 IN CONTEXT
JUDAH - BUG PEOPLE WITH SMALL IDEAS
This attitude, this placing of hope in leaders and empires was little different for the Jews in Daniel’s day when they were exiled in Babylon. Many believed that God had deserted them. They had been forced to leave their land and their belongings. The Temple -- in many regards the symbol of their faith and the linchpin of their relationship with Yahweh -- had been looted and desecrated. They were dispossessed and disenchanted. Yet they began to live in the hope that with the overthrow of the Babylonian empire looming at the hands of the Persians, they would regain their freedom and life would go on as before. Daniel, however, was a little less optimistic. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream from chapter 2 indicated to Daniel that things would get a lot worse before they got any better.
The Jews were looking for freedom. What they got was release from exile under Darius -- but it did not bring salvation. For the Jew, the idea of salvation was bound up in the idea of national identity and land occupation. The Jews to some extent probably thought that God had literally lost the plot. Yet they were the remnant -- the last vestige of Judah in a foreign land ruled by a foreign king.
The exile forces a shift of thinking for the Jews from Nationalism and land occupation towards a spiritual kingdom and eternal salvation. The exilic period initiates a period of changed thinking and expanded perspective as God casts light on His eternal purposes through the visions, words and deeds of Daniel.
THE STORY SO FAR ...
So far in this series of sermons on the book of Daniel, we have, with little exception, been focusing on events in Babylon in the 6th century BC:
- We started with the exile from Judah into Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar.
- We’ve seen Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah renamed Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Mishach and Abednego and their refusal to be integrated into Babylonian culture and worship practices.
- We’ve seen Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams of statues and trees.
- We’ve heard Daniel interpret these dreams.
- Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were inflamed by Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath and God delivered them.
- We’ve seen Nebuchadnezzar go wild and eventually recognise the sovereignty of the Most High
- The writing was on the wall for Belshazzar whose life was forfeit under God’s judgement.
- The last scene prior to today’s reading concerns Daniel’s escapades in the lions’ den under Darius the Mede.
The book of Daniel isn’t arranged chronologically. The vision contained in chapter 7 that we’re looking at today was received by Daniel in the first year of Belshazzar’s reign and so it occurs chronologically between the events recorded in Daniel chapters 4 and 5. The book is structured logically, however, with the first 6 chapters dealing with the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar; the writing on the wall for Belshazzar and their outworking in Babylon, Each of these events from the fiery furnace to the lions den demonstrated God’s sovereignty in the lives of these people whether they acknowledged it or not. The last six chapters deal with the visions of Daniel and the beginning of their outworking in history. Yet throughout this division between the dreams and visions, the overriding theme in the book remains the same -- the sovereignty of God. Daniel 7 also picks up a number of themes that have their antecedents in Genesis and their culmination in Revelation.
To place the chapter in its historical context, we are in the first years reign of Belshazzar of Babylon. The year is 553 BC. Daniel is around 68 years old having been taken into exile in 605 BC at the age of around 16. He won’t be thrown into the lions’ den for another 14 years. Daniel has previously interpreted a number of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, now it’s his own turn.