Summary: Despite appearances, God is sovereign. He alone can deliver humanity from its dilemma.
When Jesus was born, Augustus was Caesar of Rome. Augustus was followed by Tiberius, about whom it was said that he liked not one single human being, and that not one single human being liked him. Tiberius was followed by the depraved Gaius Caesar, better known as Caligula, Little Boots. He ruled the world for four years, and was a monster of cruelty and vice. Finally, he was assassinated by a tribune in his guard in the year 41 A.D. The Praetorian Guard, fearful of a return to a republic, forcibly made Claudius (officially Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus) the emperor. For the next 13 years, this strange man of handicapped body and slow speech was the monarch of the Roman world. Claudius was followed, in turn, by Nero, who ruled for 14 years until his suicide in 68 A.D. The announcement of his death brought outcries of joy from the citizens and leaders. These decades were rotten with immorality and depravity of the worst kind, with insanity such as the world has rarely seen.
But in those years between 30 and 60 A.D., there were men and women who were followers of Jesus Christ, who managed to thrive in the very empire where Caligula, Claudius, and Nero ruled. Paul stated such, in his letter to the Philippians, when he said, “Those precious saints of God who reside in Caesar’s household send their greetings…” (4:22)
Daniel is an Old Testament example of believers living among cruelty. Despite wicked rulers and an evil world, nothing stops God from accomplishing His purposes in this world. Though Daniel was outnumbered and opposed, he had the courage to live by his convictions—convictions that were rooted in the belief that God is sovereign. He alone can deliver humanity from its dilemma.
Daniel can be divided into two equal parts: History (1-6) and Prophecy (7-12). The first half consists of stories about Daniel; the second half is Daniel’s visions: revelations from God. The word “visions” is used 32 times. Daniel has been called the Prophet of Dreams. One purpose of the visions is to reveal events to take place as the covenant of God unfolds in the future.
The point of Daniel’s book is to stress that, despite appearances, God is sovereign. He alone can deliver humanity from its dilemma. Story after story points this out. In chapter one it revolves around the dietary food laws. In chapter two it is illustrated by Daniel’s power to interpret dreams. In chapter three God is even sovereign over the fiery furnace, and in chapter six He is sovereign in the lion’s den. At the height of Nebuchadnezzar’s power, God humbles the king by giving him a spirit of insanity. The last recorded words of Nebuchadnezzar are in 4:37: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and glorify the King of heaven, because all His works are true and His ways are just. And He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”
What does the phrase mean: God is sovereign? It means He is the ultimate power and authority over everyone and everything. He is in charge and in control. He has the right to judge your life. He has the right and authority to decide if you go to heaven or hell. People may believe that the government does not have the authority to tell you what to do in your bedroom, but He does. His authority and rule over your life is total. To dispute that takes the arrogance of a Nebuchadnezzar.
God’s sovereignty means He is to run your life. He is in charge: that is the only explanation for the choices Daniel and his friends make. Time after time they literally put their life at risk in order to obey God, whereas, if they had just bent the rules, they could have stayed out of the fiery furnace or the lion’s den.
The point of the book of Daniel is, despite appearances, God is sovereign. He alone can deliver humanity from its dilemma.
Since God is sovereign, what is the effect that has on our life?
I. SINCE GOD IS SOVEREIGN I WILL MAINTAIN FAITHFULNESS TO GOD (DANIEL 1-6)
A. Faithfulness to God means limits to which you can participate in the world’s practices. (3-8)
This is illustrated for us in chapter one, beginning at v.3:
The king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his court officials, to bring some of the Israelites from the royal family and from the nobility— (4) young men without any physical defect, good-looking, suitable for instruction in all wisdom, knowledgeable, perceptive, and capable of serving in the king's palace—and to teach them the Chaldean language and literature. (5) The king assigned them daily provisions from the royal food and from the wine that he drank. They were to be trained for three years, and at the end of that time they were to serve in the king's court. (6) Among them, from the descendants of Judah, were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. (7) The chief official gave them different names: to Daniel, he gave the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. (8) Daniel determined that he would not defile himself with the king's food or with the wine he drank. So he asked permission from the chief official not to defile himself.