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09/06/2010 / John Hanna

Seeing Things God’s Way

Slide 1

This is an extract of a sermon on Daniel 1, dated 06 June 2010 at the Dungannon Baptist Church Young Peoples’ Service/Children’s Day:

Courage (Daniel 1)

Studying the passage

The opening couple of verses of Daniel sound very matter of fact, but behind them lies an unbelievable amount of anxiety, pain and soul searching. The verses describe what is often referred to as ‘the Exile’. The Exile occurred about 600 years before Jesus and it resulted from the mighty Babylonian Empire conquering Israel. Babylon swarmed like locusts across the border.

Israelites Suffer

Israel’s beloved capital city of Jerusalem was destroyed and the precious Temple of Yahweh reduced to ruins. The Babylonians took Israel’s king captive and they carried back to Babylon large numbers of Israelites as prisoners of war.

Can you imagine what the Israelites would have felt like? Everything they knew had either been destroyed or taken away, everything from their city to their king. Kaput. Gone.

Daniel Suffers

For Israelites like Daniel, the events of the Exile also brought with them a very personal crisis. For starters, they had been torn away from their own homes and families and were now being forced to learn a foreign culture and language.

Can you imagine what Daniel would have felt like? Everything he knew had either been removed or taken away, everything from his home to his language. Kaput. Gone.

With all this came the challenge of how to live as an Israelite in a foreign land. What do you do when you’re now living in a pagan nation instead of an Israelite community? How do you stay true to your identity as an Israelite? Where do you draw the line on particular issues? It is here that strong parallels exist between Daniel and the New Testament Christian. Both face the challenge of staying loyal to God in a world which pressures them not to.

Daniel’s Courage

For Daniel this challenge culminates over the issue of eating the king’s food. It’s interesting to consider why Daniel draws the line on this issue. The text does not fully explain Daniel’s actions, but one likely suggestion is that in the ancient near east, sharing a meal with someone was often a sign of dependence and loyalty to them. It was an act that would obligate you towards them. This is what Daniel rejects. Daniel’s dependence, loyalty and obligations are with Yahweh the God of Israel, and so he refuses to eat.

If you don’t eat well what happens? If you just eat vegetables? No meat, no fruit, no milk, just vegetables?

The clear expectation is that Daniel’s health will suffer by not eating the king’s food. Miraculously, the reverse happens.

The lesson here is that even in tough times, the true man or woman of God stays loyal to God, for, even when trouble and trials occur, God is still sovereign and still in control. This can be seen at numerous points in the chapter. Three times throughout the chapter (vv. 2, 8-9, 17) we are expressly told that God is orchestrating and controlling the events of the chapter.

Despite the turmoil of the Exile, God is not absent.

Indeed, this lesson reaches its climactic point at the very end of the chapter (v. 21): “And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus”. King Cyrus was the Persian king who defeated the Babylonians, and so verse 21 carries with it a great encouragement. Daniel, the one who looked like he might get into serious trouble, survived! Meanwhile, ~

Babylon disintegrated around him. The follower of God survived, and the kingdom of Babylon did not.

Our Courage

John 16:33 was spoken by Jesus to his disciples the night before he was crucified.

Jesus said “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jesus explained to them that the world hated him, and that it will also hate his followers. The comfort, however, is that Jesus had overcome the world by not giving in to the world. In humble submission to the Father, Jesus was obedient even to death on a cross. In so doing, Jesus has established a kingdom of forgiveness and salvation for his people. It’s a kingdom that will last forever.

In many ways, Jesus’ words capture the main lesson of the book of Daniel. Daniel takes us into an Old Testament time when God’s people are facing opposition and pressure to compromise. The book provides the reassurance that allegiance to God will ultimately lead to salvation, because human kingdoms will perish. Irrespective of how important and powerful they may seem now, human empires will eventually fade. But the kingdom of God is everlasting. In this way, Daniel points forward to Jesus Christ—the one who overcame the world and through whom God establishes his kingdom.

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