God of all Nations
Introduction and Background
Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to the Book of Daniel. We finished up our series through 1 & 2 Timothy, called Life in the Local Church, right before Easter. Today we are starting a new series through the book of Daniel that I am calling God of All Nations.
As you all know, my philosophy in preaching is to go through a book of the Bible, line by line, verse by verse and look at both the immediate context and the bigger picture. I do try to alternate between Old Testament and New Testament books, and I do that, partly so that I don’t just end up going through Paul’s letters and a Gospel every once in a while.
And so, going through some of these other books challenges me and I hope, they will challenge you too. Now, Daniel is unique. It is part Historical, that is where we are going to spend the first long chunk of our series. And It then is part prophecy, that is why, in the Christian Bible, it is placed in the prophets. Because of the prophecies and because of the lens that we view those prophecies in, Daniel can be a very divisive book if we let it be. But we are not going to let it be. Suffice it to say, that we wont all agree on what the prophecies say and what they mean, especially in todays world and with todays current events.
Daniel is also unique in that it is written in two different languages. Daniel 1:1 through chapter 2, verse 3 is written in Hebrew, as is Chapters 8 through 12. The middle section there, chapter 2, verse 4, through chapter 7 is written in Aramaic. Now, Hebrew was the language of the Jews, the language of Israel. Aramaic was the official and the common language if the Babylonian empire.
That leads us to some historical context regarding the book of Daniel. Now, this book was written, despite recent scholarly suggestions to the contrary, in the neighborhood of 530 BC. So that’s 500 years before the birth of Christ. It starts however, back in 605 BC. So, the book of Daniel spans about 70 years.
To understand what happens in 605 BC, we need to go back even further in Israel’s history. Under the Kingship of David and then, his son Solomon, 400 years prior, Israel was more united and more powerful than ever. Then, shortly after the death of Solomon, Israel split into to countries. The kingdom of Israel in the North, comprising of 10 of the 12 tribes. Then there was the Kingdom of Judah in the south, comprising of Benjamin and Judah.
Both kingdoms fell into apostasy, idolatry and general unrepentant sin and divided, they were both weaker militarily and because of the sin, they were subject to the wrath and judgment from God. Israel fell first, to the Assyrian army roughly around 730 BC. Judah lasted another 130 plus years, though they too fell, this time to the Babylonians with various levels of conquership happening between 605 BC and 587 BC.
Daniel was presumed to be around 15 years old in 605 BC when he and his friends, which we will get to in a moment, where captured in Jerusalem and hauled off to Babylon. So, he spoke Hebrew there. And as he lived for 70 plus years in Babylon, serving the courts and the king, he learned Aramaic pretty fluently. Now, there is no consensus, no across the board agreement as to why Daniel was written in both languages.
But the one that makes the most sense to me, that seems to have a lot of traction amongst those who study these sorts of things is that the parts written in Hebrew were specifically being written to the Jews. This would be the introduction, what happened to Daniel and his friends and so forth. This would also include the prophecies in the last half of the book. Obviously, prophecies regarding the coming Jewish Messiah and the coming Kingdom of Heaven, would be much more applicable and interesting to the Jews than to the Babylonians. The middles section, the history of the exiles in Babylon, the dealings of with the various kings and the history during that time would be more interesting to those who spoke Aramaic.
One thing that does not hold merit is the view that because there are two languages in Daniel, that it was written by two or more different people, or at two different times. There has been a lot of skepticism that Daniel was written during the time of the Maccabees and/or by multiple authors, but there is no credibility to these theories. Jesus himself credits Daniel as a specific, historical person who wrote this book in Matthew 24:15. IT just means that there were multiple audiences in view when Daniel wrote it down.
So, 605 BC rolls around. Babylon has grown big and powerful. Nebuchadnezzar was either co-regent with his father, or all prepped to take over for him when he would soon pass. He defeats Jerusalem and takes many Jews captive and back to Babylon.
That is where the book of Daniel starts, and this is where I want us to start reading. Daniel chapter 1, verses 1-8. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along at home with your preferred translation as well. Daniel 1:1-8, Daniel opens his book, writing:
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia[a] and put in the treasure house of his god.
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.[b] 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
May God Bless the Reading of his Holy and Perfect Word.
Now, one of the first things we see in this book is that Daniel, and his friends, will essentially in modern language, go into Government service. They will be working for the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. Christians today tend to have one of two views on situations like this. First, we need to avoid stuff like this and politics and culture are so very toxic that we need to avoid ourselves from it as fully and as completely as possible, so that they can see that we are separated, we are set apart. Second, they say that we need to be a part of they culture and bring ourselves into the culture and politics because its so toxic, and the more we conform to that culture, the more difference we will make.
And yet, Jesus prays to the Father for us that we are to be in the world but not of it. Both of those positions miss a part of what we are called to be and what we are called to do in this world. The truth is that there is a right and a wrong way for Christians to participate in politics. There is a right and a wrong way for Christians to fight for rights, to fight for religious liberties and to participate in civil disobedience. The problem is when we decide on which ways are right and wrong based on our national identities, or our moral beliefs or what we expect to be the practical outcomes of our actions. But the truth is that the only way for us to decided what ways or methods are right and wrong based only on the scriptures, solely on what Jesus, the Word of God says. We are going to see Daniel show us some of the right ways to do this very thing.
But there is a right way and wrong way to read and to approach the scriptures as well. We remember that we are to approach the scriptures just like the Apostles did, and the early church leaders did, and that is to let the New Testament interpret the Old Testament. We don’t insert things into the text. And we rarely can lift the Old Testament up, full block and drop it on to our current context and situations. As Ron Sallee says in our Contenders classes, “The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed.”
We cannot try to affirm our believes by opening the Bibles and reading passages. We do need to let the text speak for itself. We do need to let what we read form our beliefs, not let our beliefs form what we read.
And because of how we read the book, because of what we have been taught, from our parents, from pastors and Bible Study leaders, and from books we have read, from friends around us, and yes, even from the society and the culture around us, whether we recognize it or not, because of how we read the book, we have differences of opinion in what certain parts mean, and we can think that our opinion is not opinion, but fact and is the only biblical thing that it can mean.
Daniel can be divisive. If we let it. But we are not going to let it. Especially when we get to the prophecy section of Daniel. Daniel does speak to the future and to the first and second coming of Jesus Christ. That is unavoidable in the book of Daniel. But that’s not going to be a main focus of this series.
The main focus that we are going to see in Daniel is that, as we see in all the Old Testament books, that all these Old Testament scriptures will be about and point directly to Jesus Christ, the looked for and promised Messiah, the Savior. What does Daniel teach us about Jesus? How does Daniel point to the coming Jesus? What does Daniel teach us about the Kingdom of God and especially how it relates to the kingdoms of men? Those are the main points we will be looking at.
Part of that, but secondary to that, how can we apply Daniel to today and what we are going through in these times. How do we spend our days today living in and serving a kingdom that is not ours? How do we live in and serve a kingdom that is openly and actively hostile to the kingdom that we do belong to? And how do we do so, while continuing to serve the Kingdom of God here and now and continue to do so first and foremost. How do we balance those things, both of which we are called to?
Daniel was taken into exile. He was brought out of his homeland and his home Kingdom and was brought forcibly to serve the Kingdom of Babylon, and he did so faithfully and admirably.
If we are in Christ, if we belong to Him, if we can rightly call ourselves Christians, then we are not citizens of this world. Peter calls us sojourners and exiles. We are travelers here, temporarily living in this kingdom, in this world. We are to love, to care for, and to serve this world while we are here, and to do so in the name of Jesus, by the Word of Jesus.
Paul writes in Romans 13:1 & 2,
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
Daniel shows us that we can do this while still maintaining our loyalty to Christ and his commands. We can do this while fulfilling our purposes of serving, worshipping, and working for the one in whom we are true citizens of. Christ is our King and we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.
That balance is not easy. That loyalty is not easy. Daniels home has been destroyed. His friends and he are conscripted into government service and their names are changed from ones that honor the One true God, to ones that honored the Babylonian Gods. They were taught the language and the literature of the Chaldeans.
Daniel and his friends were even given new names, supposed by many to assert ownership and possession over them, to attempt to change their identity from those of Gods children to those who belong to the gods of Babylon.
And yet, if our identity is in Christ, nothing can change that. Our identity used to be that of rebel, sinner, and damned. But in Christ, our identity is changed by the one who we belong to. Our identity is changed so that we are now Christs beloved. We are now children of God. We are now saints, citizens of Heaven. Babylon tried to change their identity, to make them forget their true identity, but their foundation in God kept them faithful.
This world will try to change our identity. It will try to make you forget your identity. Try to get you to put any other identity above Child of God, above Saint. They will say that all are children of God. Or they will say that you are still a sinner. They will tell you that your other identities are more important than your identity in Christ. They will tell you that you are American first, Christian second. That was a hard one for me to come to grips with. The world will try to tell us that our political identity is first and foremost. Only Republicans can be Christians or Democrats are loving like Jesus. OR worse yet, when we go against our Christian conscience and vote for someone just because they happen to be our party’s nominee. Remember something, voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil.
Daniel and his friends were immersed in the foreign culture and they would show us how to stay true and faithful to God in spite of that.
That’s one thing for us to remember. Yes, the culture and society around us may be toxic. It may be actively against what God wants, what He says and what He stands for. It may actively try to corrupt us and bring us over to their side. But there is some redeeming value in some of the culture around us.
We are not called to bunker down, separate from everything except this building and eschew everything around us. We are not called to separate ourselves so far as we don’t have a witness. We are called to be salt and light. We are called to bring the Gospel to the ends of the world, making disciples and teaching them to follows Gods commands. Showing them that We are sinners, that we are not able to be good enough, that there is only one God and that He has perfect wrath and perfect grace. That we are saved by his grace, through our faith in the one and only Jesus Christ, God become man to save us sinners. We have a job and a duty while we are here in this earth and it is to serve and worship our King.
Now, the way that Daniel and his friends were able to be part of this culture and to study their teachings and still stay faithful to God is that they had a strong foundation in their faith.
Studying all of Gods Word is crucial to having that strong foundation. Knowing that Gods Word is inspired and without error is crucial to our studying of it. The more we know of it, the more we can discern. The more we can discern, the more we can discern what is truth and what is not. The more we can discern, the more we can fix our eyes straight upon Jesus, who is our foundation and our stronghold and our sabbath.
Let’s go ahead and Pray.