Summary: Though in captivity Daniel’s story is a clarion call to us to THRIVE in the challenges of our cultural setting, and in so doing draw attention to our sovereign God.
Daniel is an inspiring book that brings both a challenge and hope to all those who recognize that we are living in an environment that is alien to the lives we have been called to. This was Daniel’s experience.
The book records the experiences of 4 Hebrew men taken into captivity by an evil dictator, as their nation is ransacked and enslaved. These men are heroes for all of us who want to thrive as followers of Jesus in our modern culture that has set itself against the God we love and serve.
The two places named in 1:1 are not just significant as named places but as symbols used throughout the scripture.
Jerusalem is God’s city. The home of God’s people and the centre of their faith and devotion to Yahweh. In Revelation 21 the New Jerusalem is God’s eternal home for his redeemed people.
Babylon is the antithesis of Jerusalem. It represents the enemies of God and is used in Revelation18 as descriptive of Satan’s kingdom that will fall at the return of Jesus.
So the taking into captivity of the Hebrews is a picture of the challenge that faces the church of Jesus to live our lives with devotion, courage and faithfulness amid a culture foreign to the kingdom of God.
Daniel and his friends really did thrive in this foreign culture and it is possible for us to triumph irrespective of all that seems set against us in the world around us.
Today we’ll look at chapter 1 which tells us clearly:
GOD IS IN CONTROL….despite world events, crisis and trauma.
Daniel 1:1-2 ……”the LORD delivered Jehoiakim….into his hand, along with some articles from the temple of God”
God did not defend Jerusalem from the besieging armies of Nebuchadnezzar.
Yet, this had been prophesied by Jeremiah
Jeremiah 25:5,6 “Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the LORD gave to you and your fathers forever and ever. Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not provoke me to anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you……8,9…..Because you have not listened to my words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon," declares the LORD, "and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants….12…But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt”
God can use his enemies to advance his purposes.
God used Nebuchadnezzar to shake the POLITICAL STRUCTURES (he removed Jehoiakim as ruler over Judah) and the RELIGIOUS SECURITY (he ‘surrendered’ articles from the temple that clearly mattered to the people far more than they mattered to God)
The monarchy was shaken and the national religion was challenged (sound familiar?)
God does not fear pagan rulers or religions – he uses them for his purposes.
There is a chaotic air about our world at the moment - war, terrorism, political instability, poverty, environmental disasters and moral decline.
Yet, Daniel’s story reminds us that God IS in control! Nothing that is happening in our world destabilizes the sovereign power of God.
Psalm 2:1-6 “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. "Let us break their chains," they say, "and throw off their fetters." The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill”
It is vital we are reminded of the absolute sovereignty of God over ALL the earth and ALL its people’s.
Illustrations of earth’s size by comparison with the universe.
GOD HAS A PEOPLE…..despite the rise of ungodly religion
God always has a people (a remnant) those he can empower, equip, resource and use strategically to fulfill his purposes.
Daniel 1:3-7…..Nebuchadnezzar attempts to assimilate them into Babylonian culture and religion and in so doing to dilute their identity, devotion and courage. His methodology is an interesting insight into how people can be assimilated from one cultural context to another.
EDUCATION: He engages them on an academic program which would have included mathematics, astronomy, history, science, magic and languages….1:4
It is common knowledge that you can influence a generation by educating them differently. Influence the young with ideological ideas and you can shape a nation.
Hitler believed in it with the movement known as the Hitler Youth…."My program for educating youth is hard. Weakness must be hammered away….. I want a brutal, domineering, fearless, cruel youth. …There must be nothing weak and gentle about it. …That is how I will eradicate thousands of years of human domestication...That is how I will create the New Order." -- Adolf Hitler, 1933.