Summary: Today we will see how these verses from Jeremiah 29 work out in the lives of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (Daniel 1:6) and how God matures their faith in Him through the events and people in their lives. We will by extension see how God desires
DANIEL IN EXILE
CHAPTER 18, “THE STORY”
This morning as we continue in “The Story” we are in chapter 18 which tells about the lives of Daniel and his three friends. Our key verses for this morning I would like us to read together out loud, which is also included in the chapter from “The Story” today. Let us read from Jeremiah 29 together:
Jeremiah 29:11-13: “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:11-13 are verses that can be misunderstood if taken out of context. Part of the problem is
our definition of the word “prosper.” These verses tell us that God will “prosper” us and as Americans we automatically think of money, cars, houses, and other material wealth only. The verse does not indicate that. In fact, God’s absolute best for us hinges on hope and a future rooted in God and verses 11 and 12 speak about maturing faith. The “prosperity” that God speaks of in Jeremiah 29:11 is an authentic mature faith in Him. God is all about prospering faith in us. Jeremiah is communicating to us that no matter what life brings us, God is for us and for the perfecting of our faith. This is the same message of Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” and James 1:2-4 which says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
ILLUSTRATION… All About Us Book (p)
Kelly and I have been going through an “All About Us” book this past week. It is one of those books that asks personal questions about the couple and you write your answers down and share feelings and all that. Basically a man’s worst nightmare. We actually have done this same book, 10 years ago, and we are doing it again and comparing our answers. One of the questions in the book references wanting to “redo” or “do over” your entire relationship. When we hit that question, I had to think hard. Would I trade our semi-mature relationship now in exchange for the times over the years of pain and hurt feelings and mistakes and harsh words and sin and arguments? I think for Kelly and I, the hard years of marriage have made us who we are now and have matured our love for each other and our faith and commitment to one another. This is probably true in your life as well, everything that happens to us brings us to the point where we are now… sometimes they are good times… sometimes bad. Jeremiah 29:11 says that all of this is so that we can look back and see how God was maturing our faith in Him the entire time. God’s desire for us is mature faith.
Today we will see how these verses from Jeremiah 29 work out in the lives of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (Daniel 1:6) and how God matures their faith in Him through the events and people in their lives. We will by extension see how God desires to mature our faith in Him in our own lives.
I. DANIEL CHAPTER 1: “CARRIED OFF” BUT STILL CARRIED BY GOD
The Book of Daniel begins with a very interesting action word in Daniel 1:2 which summarizes the predicament Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah find themselves in. The action word in Daniel 1:2 is “carried off.” Daniel and the others are “carried off” from their homes, family, friends, and influences they had known in their young lives. They, as the result of the sin of the nation and the siege of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, are now prisoners of war and exiled away from home. You see, the Babylonians conquered people by attacking, taking the best and brightest away from home, and reeducating and brain washing them as good Babylonian citizens. I can imagine immense fear, loneliness, isolation, and confusion as they rode in the carts from Jerusalem to Babylon.
Verse 5 tells us, “The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king's service” (Daniel 1:5). So the boys were in a foreign land and were now forced to even eat foreign food… some of it against their religious beliefs outlined in the Law of Moses. What are they going to do? “… Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way” (Daniel 1:8). The boys decide to stand their ground and remain faithful to God. Daniel took a risk and decided to follow his beliefs. There was a whole test set up that many of us learned about in Sunday School or VBS when we were children… this is when Daniel and the others ate vegetables and religiously clean food while the others being educated ate from the king’s table.