Detail: By the Rivers of Babylon, Gebhard Fugel, 1920
Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering Church The Book of Daniel/Lesson 1
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Introduction Isaiah 40:8, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Romans 3:4
The book of Daniel identifies Daniel as the author and was likely written around 530 B.C., shortly after Babylon was captured by Cyrus. Liberal critics claim the book was not written by Daniel and is fictional. They say that the writings were completed in the Maccabean period (second century B.C.), after many of the prophetic fulfillments had taken place; however, the linguistic evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls silence this claim and several of the prophecies of Daniel could not have taken place by the second century anyway.
Liberal critics are always looking for a way to silence the supernatural of God’s word and to render it useless for modern day living. Remember, it is the liberal critics who also say that it was the Reed Sea (which can be as low as 4 feet and in strong winds can be reduced to several inches) that Moses and the Jews crossed over. Not the Red Sea which is thousands of feet deep. The problem with that argument is that the entire Egyptian army was destroyed when the sea closed up again…in four feet of water? Archeology always seems to be unearthing the truth about scripture, and the truth always comes up in support of the Bible and its claims…but that will have to be discussed in a whole different series.
The problem with Daniel for people who don’t want to admit that God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men (Daniel 5:21b) is that the prophesies in this book prove that He is. As we read in His very word: The word of God abides forever (Isaiah 40:8). It is God breathed and always and forever useful for teaching (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and in the end God will be found true and every man a liar (Romans 3:4).
Long Coming Judgment Daniel 1:1-2, Jeremiah 25:7-14
The very book of Daniel is the fulfillment of a long line of prophecies. You may remember some of them from our study in Isaiah. God promised that judgment would come upon His people because of their turning away from Him. This is a stern reminder that God will indeed judge His people if they refuse to repent (God bless America! Pun intended). The first two verses of the book talk about the beginning of the Babylonian takeover of Jerusalem. The first deportation by king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took place in 605 B.C. and included the capture of the Jew’s rotten King, Jehoiakim, Daniel and his three friends. The second took place 19 years later in 597B.C. and included the prophet Ezekiel. The third deportation took place eleven years later in 586 B.C. when the Babylonians finally destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. In the first siege Jehoiakim was captured but later returned to Jerusalem as Nebuchadnezzar’s servant for three years to pay tribute to him. During that time King Jehoiakim reigned as a vassal of Babylon, and the prophet Jeremiah preached in Jerusalem. God’s message was that the Babylonian invasion was God’s punishment for Judah’s sin and that the Hebrews should repent. Jehoiakim did not repent and nor did the Hebrews. The 70 year Babylonian captivity of the Jews came to pass just as prophesied by God’s prophets and at the end of those years Babylon was made “desolate forever” just as foretold.
Would God — could God judge the United States of America in a similar way? If He does it would certainly be consistent with His character in disciplining His children. Our “Christian nation” has certainly ignored God and His warnings. In this event, what should God’s faithful children do in the midst of such judgment? Daniel is our example of faith under pressure rather such circumstances become so extreme or not.
By The Rivers Of Babylon Daniel 1:3-7, Psalm 137
In His book Agents of Babylon, Dr. David Jeremiah opens his first chapter with the fictional account of Daniel’s captivity. Using historical facts he paints the picture of what Daniel and his people likely went through as they were pushed 900 miles on that four day journey to the rivers of Babylon. The book of Daniel just gives us basic facts but Psalm 137, like Dr. Jeremiah’s insightful historic fiction, gives us emotional insight through a sad song written by an anonymous author. Psalm 137 captures the ache of those who were taken from their homes and brought to Babylon for slave labor. “The rivers of Babylon” refers to the whole country, sharply contrasted to their beloved Jerusalem that Nebuchadnezzar’s troops invaded and eventually destroyed. Demanding that the captives sing – an act of joy – when hearts were breaking for their many losses (loved ones, homes, country, etc.), smacks of cruelty. It reminds us of Nazis demanding that the classical musicians in Jewish concentration camps entertain captors with their beloved Bach and Brahms. In this Psalm we can better picture Daniel and his pain, his great loss and even his outrage and hate for his captors. Dr. Jeremiah even describes Daniel as being castrated by the Babylonians. This is not stated in the book of Daniel but it is historically accurate of what the Babylonians did to men they captured. Castration was often performed to ensure a king’s advisors did not have children or romantic interests that might tempt them towards betrayal.
When All Is Gone but God James 1:2-8, Hebrews 13:5-6, 2 Peter 1:3-11
For Daniel, and his three friends, all was gone but God and one another. What are we to do in such a hardship? We never see a written word of Daniel’s bitterness or complaint. What we do see is him praying and standing firm in his faith, and so God used Daniel mightily! As a result, Daniel influenced kingdoms and kings all the way down to those “three kings” in the East so many hundreds of years later…those three magi who followed the star of Bethlehem to Jesus. They knew Jewish prophecy because of Daniel and his faithful friends. What about you?
It is always our choice to embrace hardship and cling to God or to crack under pressure. When bad things happen we can either hold on to God’s promises in faith or curse Him in despair. We can become bitter and doubt Him or we can believe and bloom where we are planted (or uprooted: whatever may apply). His divine power will give us everything we need to overcome evil. We must stop thinking that we are somehow entitled to “the good life” because we believe. Daniel was a believer too, but he persevered in his faith. We must also.