Friday, August 15, 2014

This Week in Daniel

As I read through Daniel during our last week of furlough in California (I finished the reading as we were flying from LAX to Narita airport in Tokyo) I tried to read for the message of the book rather than trying to discern details of the future.Daniel Chart I grew up with the prophet of Daniel (Chapter 5 prompted my “going forward” in a Sunday evening church service in 1965) and visions of strange beasts, weird statues and quests to find the meanings of mysterious numbers. While it is clear that Daniel has some amazing prophecies in it, sometimes the overall message gets obscured in the search for “Left Behind” type details. The purpose of apocalyptic literature is to raise our view to the throne of God and to see, in hard times, that what is going on around us is not the ultimate reality. No matter how bad our situation is here, God is on his throne in heaven and his kingdom plan will be accomplished. He works through and preserves his faithful people now and will reward them in his ultimate kingdom.

One comment of the writer quoted below (and I have often heard in sermons and in my Bible education) is that one should take a passage literally unless it is ridiculous to do so. I would disagree with that. One must always take a passage of scripture literarily. That is we must discern from the context whether the author meant us to take the passage literally or figuratively. So I would tend to go the other way with Apocalyptic literature. In apocalyptic the prophet received truth in the form of visions or dreams with extensive use of symbols and signs. Thus, my default would be “symbolic” here with a literal reading only where the context demanded it. (As it does in the prophecy of the “70 Sevens” which is in a context of Sabbatical years for the land and thus makes sense to interpret in terms of literal years.)

So, the message of Daniel is “Even though Israel and Judah are destroyed and without a king, God will still establish His kingdom. Until then, God's people will be persecuted by the Gentile powers, but God is still in control and will bring glory to Himself by defeating these kingdoms and saving His people.” or “Even though the world, under the domination of Satan's kingdom and is persecuting believers, God's plan is still operating. He will be faithful to deliver His people now and to bring about His Kingdom and destroy the kingdoms of this world.”

All quotes below are from the New American Commentary Daniel by Stephen R. Miller.

Here obedience to Scripture’s divine commands may be observed. This is one reason God blessed Daniel with such great insight. He acted upon the spiritual light he had, and God honored his faithfulness by imparting more... Daniel was polite and tactful. Believers today may disagree with official policies and even with each other, but they should follow Daniel’s example in disagreeing in an agreeable fashion. Daniel 1.8, 67.

Archer rightly comments, “The great existential questions of life and death continue to be insoluble to the worldly wise. Without divine revelation, there is only conjecture and subjective opinion. Only in Yahweh, the God of Scripture, is ultimate truth to be found.” Daniel 2.22, 87.

One other thing that may be happening here is that God is forcing Israel through exile to bring his revealed knowledge and blessings to Gentiles. Israel failed to do this when God gave them power and wealth so he forced them to do it through exile.

There is a God in heaven, and this God may be called upon to supply sustenance and wisdom far beyond what is available from human resources. Although circumstances sometimes may look impossible from an earthly standpoint, there is a God in heaven who can do all things. He can solve seemingly insoluble problems, supply needs, and provide strength for impossible tasks. He is a God who is there and who is able. Daniel 2.28, 89.

Many people are like Nebuchadnezzar today. They know of the true God—many even believe in his miraculous powers—but they never have come to know him in a personal, committed way. Yet such an experience is required; for Jesus himself said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).  Daniel 2.47, 104.

Although no doubt existed in the minds of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego about the ability of their God to deliver them, they humbly accepted the fact that God does not always choose to intervene miraculously in human circumstances, even on behalf of his servants...Although God does not guarantee that his followers will never suffer or experience death, he does promise always to be with them. In times of trial the believer’s attitude should be that of these young men. Daniel 3.17-18, 119-120.

In his pride the king took for himself the glory that rightly belonged to God and invited divine judgment...How ironic that the king who felt himself superior to other men had now sunk to a subhuman level. Daniel 4.31-33, 141–142.

The king of Babylon was no match for the King of the universe. Throughout the book the absolute authority of Israel’s God is set forth. Such is the teaching of Scripture, a teaching that should comfort every believer today who casts a thoughtful glance upon a world in chaos and is tempted to fear. In these times the redeemed of God must look beyond the earthly scene to heaven and remember that God still reigns, and someday he will come and rule directly over the kingdoms of the earth. Daniel 4, 144.

First, as in all of the book, God’s sovereignty is emphasized. Belshazzar foolishly challenged Yahweh’s power, and he was no match for the living God. Second, human beings may go so far in sin (in this case blasphemy) that they bring God’s temporal judgment upon themselves. Third, a lesson concerning God’s faithfulness and the trustworthiness of the Word of God may be discovered, for this chapter records the fulfillment of prophecies predicting the downfall of Babylon. Daniel 5, 169.

The fact that God is in charge is not just abstract information. It requires a response from all creation, especially human beings. Our response to God determines our long term well-being. His faithful people may be persecuted for a short time or evil oppressors may prosper in the short term but in the end, those who live to bring glory to God share in His blessings and those who live for themselves are destroyed by the very thing they put in God’s place.

Miracles are not wrought by God to “show off” but to demonstrate to a lost world that he is the true God and should be honored. Neither was Daniel delivered primarily for his own benefit but so that the Lord could manifest to a lost king and a lost world his reality and power. Daniel 6, 189.

In this story faithfulness is exemplified. Daniel was faithful in old age, in godly example (v. 5), in prayer (v. 10), in trials (v. 16), and in testimony (vv. 16, 20). As a result he was delivered (v. 22), experienced a special manifestation of the presence of the Lord (v. 22), provided an opportunity for witness to unbelievers (vv. 26–27), and was blessed (v. 28). Daniel 6, 190.

God is concerned for his children, and he hears and answers prayer. Sinlessness is not a condition for answered prayer. Daniel was confessing not only the sin of his people but his own sin. Daniel 9.20, 250.

Fasting is a personal matter between the individual and God. It is voluntary. However, if giants of the faith like Moses, David, Esther, Daniel, Paul, and Jesus himself felt the need to fast, it would seem reasonable that modern saints should be willing to deny themselves in order to pray more earnestly for the furtherance of the kingdom of God in a world that lies in deep spiritual darkness. Daniel 10.3, 279.

One of the purposes of Daniel is to show how a believer responds during the Times of the Gentiles when the progress of the Kingdom of God is not apparent: Faithful, Active, Prayerful, Waiting!

The chapter continues the theme of the sovereignty of God. In spite of opposition from Belshazzar or the despicable ruler described in this chapter, God is still in control. Someday the court will sit, Christ will reign, and the saints will rule with him. Daniel 7, 217.

The satanically inspired king was endeavoring to rid the world of the Word of God as tyrants have attempted to do many times since. But as Jehoiakim discovered, one who tries to destroy the truth of God will find that he has only destroyed himself (Jer 36:20–31; cf. Dan 8:25). Daniel 8.25, 228.

The message of Dan 8 concerns a distant time and place, but it illustrates pertinent truths for today. For example, God’s omniscience is set forth; he knows the future. Believers are also warned that at times they may be called upon to endure suffering, even martyrdom, for the Lord. Daniel 8, 237.

All those who misuse God’s people or creation for their own benefit should be aware that they will pay for that. All those who are persecuted or suffer in this age for their commitment to God’s kingdom should be confident that they will share in his eternal blessing and rule.

Regardless of disagreement over dates and some matters of interpretation, certain facts seem clear. The passage predicts the coming of the Messiah—Jesus of Nazareth. Messiah will die, and subsequently the city of Jerusalem and the temple will be destroyed. At the end of the age an evil ruler will arise who will persecute God’s people, but his wicked activities will not continue, for the same Messiah who died will come again. He will judge the Antichrist and all those who follow him. Daniel 9, 273.

In this passage humanity is afforded a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes activity that took place in the Persian government. Cyrus released the Jews, but unknown to the Persian monarch angelic forces played a part in this decision. Satan and his demons had been bound so that the will of God would be accomplished. Daniel 11.1, 290.

First, the reality of the God of the Bible is demonstrated. Campbell relates: “In the first 35 verses there are at least 135 prophecies which have been literally fulfilled and can be corroborated by a study of the history of the period.” ... Therefore this section of the Book of Daniel is not an unimportant record of historical events but a rich testimony to the believers’ glorious God and the trustworthiness of his Word. Daniel 11, 312–313.

Baldwin seems correct in stating: “The reason for using ‘sleep’ here as a metaphor for ‘die’ is that sleep is a temporary state from which we normally awake, and so the reader is prepared for the thought of resurrection.” Daniel 12.2, 316.

This “consolation of hope” belongs to all who have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. May every person who reads these words be part of that great host of the redeemed who “will shine like the brightness of the heavens” and “like the stars for ever and ever!”  Daniel 12.13, 327.

The fulfilled prophecies of Daniel in regard to the evil empires of his day give us confidence that God will remove the oppressors of our day. The fact that he was able to keep his kingdom plan going despite the failings of Israel encourage us that he will keep his plan going through the church. Our response to bad situations should be the same as Daniel’s 3 friends,”We know God is able to deliver us, but even if we face death in this instance we will still trust him.” Hang in there, your reward is coming!

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