Intro to Daniel
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
When I was a kid in Sunday School, many of my favorite Bible stories were from the book of Daniel. I was amazed at how bold four young boys could be in refusing to eat the king’s meals, choosing to live off of water and vegetables alone. It was a boldness that I desired for myself. I was shocked at how the king would throw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into a fiery furnace for not bowing down to his image, and then in awe at how God had saved them. I remember being in wonder at how God had closed the mouths of lions to preserve Daniel, an obedient and faithful servant. All the wonderful stories that we read in the book of Daniel inspired me to continue to trust in a God who is not weak, but powerful. A God who is not impersonal, but truly loves His creation. A God who is not simply reacting to world events and the decisions of humans, but a God who is truly sovereign over all things and is working all things according to His perfect council and will. However, it was not until I grew older, and actually read the book for myself, that I realized just how unique and beautiful the book of Daniel truly is; so much more than just wonderful childhood stories.
The book of Daniel is a very interesting book for several reasons. Firstly, the book is not arranged chronologically. As you read it, you will find that you are flipping back and forth in exilic history. Secondly, and somewhat tied to the lack of a linear progression of time, the book is arranged, from a literary perspective, in two halves . The first half (ch 1-6) is historical narrative and written in the third-person and seem to be all about court life. The second half (ch 7-12) is prophetic or apocalyptic and written in the first-person tense. Thirdly, this book is not written in a single language like most of the Old Testament books. It starts off in Hebrew, but chapters two through seven are written in Aramaic, and then it switches back to Hebrew in chapter 8 and on. Interestingly, when we focus on the Aramaic portion of the book a chiastic structure appears. Chapters 2 and 7 contain a dream/vision of four kingdoms being replaced by a fifth one. Moving inward, chapters 3 and 6 retell stories of peril as Daniel and his friends find themselves in deadly situations. And at the center are chapters 4 and 5, which show how proud kings are judged.
I have grown to truly love the book of Daniel and consider it to be my favorite book in the Old Testament. The major theme that is running throughout this book is that even though the people of God are far from the promised land, God is still sovereign. He is in control of all things, even foreign kings. And His people ought to walk in faithfulness regardless of their situations or circumstances. But we do not just find comfort, hope, and instruction for the here and now, we also see that the Messiah will come again. And just like the people of God waited for deliverance to come for them while they lived as exiles in Babylon, we too are exiles awaiting the sure coming of our Messiah. May we continue to long for His coming and may our hearts cry out maranatha.
Grace and Peace,
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