Summary: Daniel knows that God is in control. This chapter reminds us that no matter where we are, even in the darkest place, God is still in control. God cares and God wants us to live faithfully to him. Will we have the courage to stand up like Daniel does?
(Sermon by Rev George Hemmings)
There’s lots to be excited by in the book of Daniel. Daring stories of young men standing up to mad kings. Fiery furnaces, strange dreams of statues and trees, men turning into beasts, hands appearing out of nowhere writing on walls, let alone Daniel being throne into the lions den, perhaps one of the most well known stories from the bible, thanks to Sunday school and kids clubs. All that’s just in the first six chapters! Then there’s all the dreams and visions in chapters 7-12. We’ll get to those next year. About all it’s missing is a damsel in distress and a dragon. Although if you read the Apocrypha, both of those are associated with Daniel.
But when you stop and think about it for a moment, Daniel and his friends are an unlikely bunch of heroes. Sure we read in verse 3 that he was from the royal family or nobility. Young, without physical defect, handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight and competent to serve. Daniel’s the kind of boy you hope your son, or grandson, or great grandson might be. What’s more he’s studying on exchange, might be a humanities degree, but he’s got good job prospects!
But, in another sense he’s just a political prisoner, an exile. King Nebuchadnezzar didn’t take Daniel and his friends out of the kindness of his heart. He captured Jerusalem and took Daniel captive back to Babylon, along with a number of the other best and brightest from Jerusalem. King Nebuchadnezzar was ruthless and smart. He wasn’t offering these young people a place in a cushy exchange program. His plan was cunning. It was to take the best and the brightest from Jerusalem, so that they could serve him, and his kingdom. It’s a good plan.
And what else does it do? Well, Imagine what it meant for the people of Judah. What would it be like to lose your brothers or sisters? Maybe not that bad! What about your sons and daughters? Your best friends? It would be pretty demoralizing wouldn't it?
And imagine what it meant for the future of Judah. Imagine what would happen if someone came to Australia and took all the best and brightest students from the top university (Melbourne) or from the best school.
What would that do to the future of Australia, if all the leaders of tomorrow were taken away? How would it affect our economy, our politics, our prospects as a nation?
What about if someone went to Ridley and took the students there? If they were all kidnapped and taken to Paraguay, where instead of learning about leading the church they were made to learn how to make shoes? What would that do to the church in Melbourne, in Australia? How bad would it be if the best and the brightest, the emerging leaders of tomorrow, were taken away to serve the interests of our enemies, or the Paraguayan shoe industry!
By taking the best and the brightest people with him King Nebuchadnezzar is crippling the nation of Judah. He’s leaving those left behind feeling depressed, he’s discouraging rebellion, and he’s taking away the future of the nation.
Now along with the people, can you remember what else King Nebuchadnezzar took with him? Verse 2 from our passage says he also took with him some of the vessels from the temple. This is part of King Nebuchadnezzar’s plan too. In some ways it’s more damaging than taking people. These were things from the Holy Temple, from God’s dwelling place on earth. They were holy, sacred objects! King Neb hasn’t just defiled them, he’s taken them away! And he’s put them in the temple of one of his idols.
How would that make the Jewish people feel? Dirty, defiled? Confused? They’re probably wondering, where is God, and how could he let this happen? Doesn’t he care anymore? Has he abandoned his people? Or worse, has Nebuchadnezzar and the gods of the Babylonians defeated YHWH? Has the Lord of the Universe been beaten? It gets worse when you realize just where King Nebuchadnezzar’s capital is, when you understand just where he’s taken the exiles and the vessels from the temple. The city of Babylon lies on the plains of Shinar as verse 2 says. It’s a pretty significant Old Testament site. It’s the location of the first skyscraper, it’s the place humanity first gathered and attempted to build the Tower of Babel. (Babylon). We’re back at the site of the first battle between man and God. The deeper reality the book of Daniel addresses is this. The real kingdoms in conflict aren’t the Kingdom of Babylon and the Kingdom of Judah. The real conflict is between the Kingdom of Man and the Kingdom of God. Who will win? This is the question the exiles would’ve been wondering.