Wisdom in Exile
The book of Daniel contains some of the best as well as the least known parts of the Bible and has much to teach us about how we should relate to the world we live in today.
1.Daniel is one of the best-known and least-known books of the Bible. There is a temptation to focus on the first 6 or 7 chapters to the neglect of the second half of the book.
2.There is some scholarly disagreement over the date and authorship, and the answers to these questions have implications for understanding the text.
3.It is a book with a single author and Daniel declares himself to be that author (Dan. 7:15). Moreover, Jesus takes it for granted that Daniel is the author (Matt. 24:15).
4.We know that the Israelites were taken to Babylon in 605 BC, so Daniel must have been writing in the 500s, but this is disputed because the visions he describes in chapters 8, 10 and 11 are an accurate description of the later Persian and Greek empires.
5.It is also written in a similar style to other 2nd -century apocalyptic works.
6.Some have argued that the accounts of the lion’s den and the fiery furnace were never meant to be understood as fact, but as comforting stories in grim times. However, the Jews understood these accounts as true and holy Scripture.
7.Such scepticism is a presupposition that denies the teaching of Scripture. God not only knows the future, he declares it (cf. Isa. 46:9-10; Dan. 2:20-21).
8.A final point of introduction: we should resist the inclination to visualize the images of beasts, etc. Instead try to hear what they are teaching us.
9.The focus of Daniel 1 is food, of all things. We need to pay attention to what Scripture gives us.
10.The Babylonian captivity was an earth-shattering crisis for Israel. Jerusalem was celebrated as the dwelling-place of God (cf. Psalm 46), and its loss would have been seen as the triumph of the gods of Babylon over Yahweh.
11.The sacred vessels were taken to Shinar, the centre of ancient pagan worship (cf. Gen. 11:1-9).
12.However, Daniel makes clear that all of this is happening in the providence of God, noting that the Lord gave Jehoiakim and the sacred vessels into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.
13.Daniel is aware of passages like Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 4, which warn God’s people of the curses for breaking God’s law, that they will be purged from the land and scattered among the nations.
14.God disciplines his people to bring them to repentance, it is an act of mercy to purify and redeem them.
15.The book of Daniel teaches wisdom – we interpret history in terms of God’s Word, and so we have every reason to be hopeful.
16.Daniel and the other youths were enrolled in a program of Babylonian assimilation: education in the language and literature of the Chaldeans, food from the king’s table, and new names to honour the Babylonian gods.
17.Daniel showed wisdom in taking a stand on the point of food: this was not primarily a desire to keep kosher, to avoid food offered to idols or to keep out of fellowship with idolaters.
18.The rich food was a seduction, inducing them to forget Jerusalem, to grow soft and docile. Daniel and his friends recognised that exile is not a time for feasting, but repentance and discipline.
19.Compromise on seemingly small issues makes it easier to compromise on greater things. Likewise, faithfulness in small things will strengthen us for greater acts of faithfulness.
20.Discipline and faithfulness are not only for our benefit; Daniel served Babylon as the Lord’s servant.
21.We read that Daniel was there until the time of Cyrus, the king of Persia (v. 21). This is not a passing historical remark. The Persians defeated and drove out the Babylonians. Because of the faithfulness of God, Daniel outlasted the Babylonian Empire.
- What does it look like for us to reject comforts in the interest of being faithful to the Lord?
- What is the difference between recognizing God’s hand in difficult circumstances and merely “looking on the bright side”?
- Identify some strategic points for faithful resistance in your own situation.