Summary: God never changes, therefore we can hold to him.
Title: The Courage to Fear
He was still young when his world came crashing in around him. In his parents’ time, the kingdom had seen its last great ruler. But, in an instant, the king had been killed at the height of his power and greatness. And now, a succession of less than stellar kings had brought the land low. Crime was up, security was down, and it was impossible to know whom you could trust. Chaos had set in, disorder reigned. The prophets begged and pleaded for the land to return to God, but no one would listen. And over the river was the biggest fear of all: Babylon.
The Bible says that Daniel was only a youth – so that could have meant he was as young as ten or eleven. And yet, the world he grew up was not for children. The name of the time was fear. Everything that he and his family had known was changing. The old ways seemed destined for the ashbin of history.
I’m sure Daniel wondered what was happening in his time. The Kingdom that God had called his own was being toppled – the King’s eyes were put out, just moments after his own children were slaughtered in front of him. The Temple that bore witness to the fiery God who had led the land was now set to flames. And the people that God had called out of Egypt were now being dispersed in foreign lands.
The book of Daniel may concern itself with a pivotal event in Israel’s history, but its setting could have come right out of today’s headlines. Oh, I’m not saying that the United States has just been invaded, the president blinded and led off in chains – but the climate of change and uncertainty that underlines this book is one that I sense all around me today.
On a political level, we have largely chosen to define ourselves by our fear of terrorism. We even have introduced the concepts of September 10th and September 12th as if they represent vastly different epochs in history. On a cultural level, I wonder what it is that we as a country really believe in and hold onto. Watching the news can be an exercise in wading through the sewers of mankind’s depravity to his fellow man. And on a personal level, everything is in flux. Marriages fall apart, work is more about the paycheck than a sense of accomplishment, and we wonder, what can really hold on to?
For the next several weeks, we’re going to be looking at this trying time in Israel’s history, but let me tell you that in the midst of fear, uncertainty, and doubt, there is one person you can hold on to. I’m calling this series: “The Courage to Fear” because in these few short chapters, I hope to show you that there is one who will never leave you and never forsake you. But that’s too easy a thing to say when things are easy. I need you to know that these aren’t just words.
These are the real stories of a life lived in constant upheaval. By the time we are done with Daniel, we will have seen five kings come and go . But through it all is one God who never leaves, who never lets us go. You see, in a sea of constant change, there is a way to hold on, and the courage to face your fears in the name of the one who will get you through is what this book is all about.
With that, please let me read the first few verses of Daniel.
In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord let King Jehoiakim of Judah fall into his power, as well as some of the vessels of the house of God. These he brought to the land of Shinar, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his gods. Then the king commanded his palace master Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelites of the royal family and of the nobility, young men without physical defect and handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king’s palace; they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the royal rations of food and wine. They were to be educated for three years, so that at the end of that time they could be stationed in the king’s court. Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, from the tribe of Judah. The palace master gave them other names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego. But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal rations of food and wine; so he asked the palace master to allow him not to defile himself.