The book of Daniel
Living a life of integrity
During August and the begenning of September, we’ll be looking through Daniel, here’s a brief introduction…
With the rise of the Babylonian empire in the Middle East in the 7th C. before Christ the Jewish nation was invaded and many of her people taken into captivity in Babylon for 70 years, Daniel was among these exiles. He and his fellow captives faced the challenge of sustaining their faith in a hostile and pagan culture. Psalm 137 written in exile gives you a sense of their despair.
Daniel raises some very relevant questions for the people of God today. ‘How should we conduct ourselves in our Post Christian culture which is increasingly hostile to us and our beliefs?’
A central theme in Daniel is the question of idolatry. All of the tests of faith that Daniel and his young friends face are associated with idolatry. The very reason he and his fellow Jews are in exile is the Judgement of God on their years of compromise with the worship and practices of the Pagan nations they lived amongst, the very people to whom they were meant to be a light. Chief among the dark evils that flowed from the Pagan worship was child sacrifice.
No more vile object of worship could emerge from the fallen human imagination than the god Molek and the practice of child sacrifice. In the mouth of Jeremiah one of the prophets of this period God says to his people; “They built high places for Baal in the valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molek, though I never commanded – nor did it enter my mind – that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin.” (Jeremiah 32: 35. See also Ezekiel 20: 30 -31)
The book of Daniel, the prophetic books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Habakkuk and the agonised cry of Lamentations all come from this very dark and tragic time in Jewish history when 630 years before Christs birth the chosen people of God were sent into exile by God, their cities and land burnt and destroyed, their Temple desecrated.
So key questions arise out of Daniel for us today; ‘What are the idols of 21st C Western Culture and how do we resist their pull on us and the loyalty they demand from us?’ ‘How do we remain distinct, “a light to the nations”, a witness to the ethical purity, love and holiness of God?’ The antidote to idolatry is the full-on wholehearted worship of the living God. Jesus said; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul mind and strength and your neighbour as yourself.” (See also Roman 12:1-3)
Jesus associates himself with ‘The Son of Man’ a Messianic figure in Daniel. In Matthew chp.24 when he speaks about the coming of The Kingdom of God he refers to Daniel. In the strange dreams and visions about the future of the nations in Daniel the Kingdom of Gods consummation is referred to (Dan.2:44-45) and the final chapter ends on this note of the future hope for Gods people and the renewal of all things. (Dan.12: 1-4 &13)
As we consider the chaos of the Middle East today it seems that nothing has changed in the human politics of power, so we need to remember that God is the Lord of history and its end is in his will and hand.