Friday, March 20, 2020

Bird's-eye view of the Bible - Exploring the theme: "Far-away from home" in the Book of Daniel

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     As we continue our "bird's-eye view of the Bible", we find ourselves outside the promised land of Israel. For those interested in viewing previous posts in this series, you can click on the links below:

1. Theme of Creation in Genesis 1-2.

2. Theme of Catastrophe in Genesis 3-

3. Theme of Patriarchs in Genesis 12-

4. Theme of Redemption in the books 
    of Exodus through Deuteronomy.

5. Theme of Spiritual Victory in the 
    Book of Joshua.

6. Theme of Spiritual Defeat in the 
    Book of Judges.

7. Theme of the kingdom of God in 1 and 2 Samuel.

8. The theme of straying away from God in 1&2 Kings and 1&2 Chronicles.

     Have you ever been to a summer camp or perhaps a longer vacation where you were far from home? Maybe the first few days are fun to you, since you are seeing new places you were never at before in your life. Imagine now you are taken away from your home and sent to a foreign land where you will live for seventy years. 
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     I'm sure many of you reading this post have felt "far-away-from-home" for the last few days in the wake of this current pandemic. We often can feel detached from where we're at when our surroundings change and we loose what was formerly familiar. God's Word addresses such experiences. The people in Jerusalem viewed their identity as part of the land where they lived. They also viewed God's favor on their lives as symbolized by a king reigning on the throne in Jerusalem. For the Jewish people in the Old Testament, they felt that as long as the temple was standing, full of priests and sacrifices,  then they were doing o.k. When the Babylonians came in 586 b.c. to take them away into Babylon, their world changed over night.
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      The problem of the people was that they placed too much confidence in themselves and had stopped trusting in God. God had warned them, pleaded with them and had prophets write more Bible books to urge them to turn back to Him. Yet, the people would not listen. The Babylonian empire would come and take the people from their land, their temple and do away with their king. One man, named Daniel, was among those whom Babylonian captured and took away to Babylon. 
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     God was still at work in the people's lives as evidenced by prophets such as Daniel, as well as his contemporaries Ezekiel and Jeremiah. When times get dark, the light of hope that shines from God's Word is always available. The most extreme circumstances are used by God to spark revival in the hearts of people. As we often learn, we never know how much God means to us until we find ourselves in situations of limitation or devastation. As we turn our attention to this theme of, "far away from home", we will observe how Daniel, a man of God, responded to the sudden changes that took place in his life.
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     One fact about Daniel that might interest you is that when he was taken from his home, he was only fifteen years of age. Daniel had three friends who were roughly his age, and they and all the people were taken away from all they knew to a foreign land. Daniel had many opportunities to "fit-in" with the crowd around him. The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzer, chose Daniel and his friends for their exceptional abilities. Although they were offered the food of the king, they politely refused. They chose instead to eat the food they were taught to eat from their parents and the scriptures. Although the king gave them different names, Daniel and his friends clung to their faith in God.

As we observe Daniel and his friends in how they lived far away from home, we can gather valuable truths for our lives, whether now or later down the road.

1. Jesus is always with the believer, thus, they're never alone.

     Daniel's friends were tested greatly by King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3. The kind demanded everyone in his kingdom to bow down and worship a statue made to look like the king. Everyone did as the king commanded - except Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego (Daniel's friends). The King demanded they follow his orders, but the three friends told the king that whether God delivers them from being burnt on the flames or not, they would not bow to the king's statue. 
Image result for fiery furnace daniel      So the king had his soldiers toss the three men in the fiery furnace. Soon thereafter, the king looked into the fiery furnace and said in Daniel 3:25 - "He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!” Whom did Nebuchadnezzar see? Most Bible teachers would answer that Jesus made one of His Old Testament appearances and stayed with Daniel's three friends in the midst of their fiery trial. They were not alone! So even when we're far away from the places that are familiar to us, we're never alone, because Jesus is always with His people. Another episode in Daniel's life helps us see a second truth.

2. We can seek God in prayer, and thus not have to be afraid.
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     Have you ever experienced what it is like to be so afraid that you were tempted to pretend you were not a Christian? Daniel was placed in a very difficult situation. There was a new king - Darius - who was over a new empire - the Persians - who had authority over every area of life. A new law was passed: bow down to the king in worship, or be fed to the lions. There were some men who did not like Daniel and had tricked the king into enforcing this law. Daniel was far away from home for nearly 70 years, meaning that he had become an 85 year old man. What would he do?

       We read what Daniel did in the face of possibly facing death in Daniel 6:10 "Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously." In other words, despite living in a foreign land, far away from home, Daniel never stopped praying to God as an 85 year old man as he had done since he was at least 15 years of age. God gave Daniel the courage he needed when facing that den of lions. Daniel still was placed in the lions den, but God shut the lions' mouths. Hebrews 11 tells us that by the faith given by God to Daniel, the situation resulted in the Daniel's protection from the hungry beasts.

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     Whenever we turn to the life of Jesus, He too faced the prospect of being very afraid. He knew He was going to be crucified the next day and carry on his shoulders the sins of the world. The Lord Jesus surrendered His will as a man to the will of the Father in heaven. Jesus sought the Father in prayer and sweat great drops of blood and prayed: "not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42). Jesus, though being truly God, chose as a man to draw courage from His heavenly Father. He had courage to go to the cross. Daniel sought God in prayer and realized he didn't have to be afraid. Jesus too prayed and knew He didn't have to be afraid. Because of Jesus, we too can seek God in prayer and not have to be afraid (see Philippians 4:6-7).

     Other prophets were called by God to bring His revelation to the people as they were taken prisoner by King Nebuchadmezzar. God spoke through men like Ezekiel and Jeremiah to encourage and instruct the people on how to avoid falling into the same sinful traps that led to their exile far away from home. Daniel and the people would live in Babylon for seventy years. The time would come when the time of God's discipline would stop. As we will consider in our final theme of the Old Testament in the next post, the people would have hope once again. The hope they would have would come not only in their return back home, but also in the promise of a future Savior.