Why Daniel matters: Readers with some familiarity with history and biblical heroes may have heard of Daniel. The titular book in Scripture bearing his name was written in the 600s–500s B.C. It records events from Daniel’s life and also events yet to come. The main theme of Daniel is the sovereignty of God.
I have never been one particularly interested in things to come, as a subset of theology. I prefer history. I prefer what has been revealed. When a seminary student, there was invariably the group of anxious theologians whose passions revolved around timelines and predictions and prophetic passages in Scripture about things to come.
I love reading Scripture, to be sure, but the least interesting parts to me involve prophecy. Prophetic passages are certainly important to God because He put them in Scripture. However, I find that some folks focus on eschatology and prophecy and “reading the tea leaves” camps of theology, and they neglect historical realities. Sometimes they become animated at seeing signs everywhere. “This means this, don’t you see?” they imply. Um, okay. You go ahead with your interpreting signs everywhere. I’ll stick with the past and what I can learn from history and what has been revealed (Deut 29:29).
Daniel, though the second part is largely concerned with future events, is about God’s rule, about God’s sovereignty. Despite wicked rulers, despite human folly, despite rampant sin, God is sovereign. And part of God’s sovereignty includes times of testing, times of suffering, times of raising up wicked leaders so that a genuine believer–but more importantly, the Lord Himself, is made manifest.
Suffering is required to teach the willingly obtuse. Why? Because the instruction of fools is folly (Pr 16:22b). Some folks just won’t listen or learn until it’s too late. They are what God repeatedly calls in Scripture, fools. Daniel, however, was most certainly not a fool. Sometimes I picture a scene from one of my favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption, where Andy Dufresne responds to the pagan, wicked Warden Norton with a caustic question, “How can you be so obtuse? Is it deliberate?”
Daniel is only 12 chapters long. You can read through it in less than an hour. I have spent a good bit of time in Daniel. Partly it is because Scripture speaks to all of life. We are living in a time when government officials are mandating free American citizens to submit to injections. So much for feminists’ call of “My body, my choice.” Abort boys and girls? Fine. Just don’t refuse the jab ostensibly for the Chinese coronavirus with a 99% survival rate for those who don’t have compromised systems. And we all know of people who’ve taken the jabs and still gotten sick and/or died. But the letters of the Greek alphabet continue to be rolled out by the friendly government–delta, lambda, etc. Fear not, your government and big pharma tell you, just a few more boosters. Then you’ll be good to go.
Now some government officials pronounce, as if they were not elected employees, “You will comply.” This is one reason the book of Daniel is relevant for us today. This is one more reason I appreciate knowing history. Daniel, you see, was a prisoner of a foreign occupying force. First he was captive under the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar. Then he was captive under the Medo-Persians under Cyrus. He was an exile. He was educated in the language and arts and culture of pagan systems (Dan 1:5). He was given wisdom by God Himself (Dan 1:17). He had a heart for wisdom (Dan 1:20), a heart for God (Dan 1:8). He lived in a time when the human governing authorities in his life were pagan, wicked rulers.
Connections to today: When the wicked ruler in Daniel’s day told him that the sorcerers and fake prophets could not interpret his (Nebuchadnezzar’s) troubling dream (a not uncommon experience when trusting in lies and peddlers of lies), Daniel prayed to the sovereign Lord, not to government. Daniel’s prayer is one of the most beautiful prayers in the Bible:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.” (Dan 2:20-23)
The pagan ruler Nebuchadnezzar acted as if he (Nebuchadnezzar) was God. He was not. Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream accurately. Nebuchadnezzar’s response? “Truly, your [Daniel’s] God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries . . .” (Dan 2:47).
Then Nebuchadnezzar had a second dream that he longed to be interpreted and understood correctly. Once again, Daniel was the truth-teller to the pagan governing authority. And Nebuchadnezzar’s response?
“At the end of days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Dan 4:34-35)
Encouragement: Daniel’s ministry was not self-centered; it was God-centered; it was truth-centered. Do we have any Daniels left? I think so. There are truth-tellers about … even still. Though we are living in a time of cultural upheaval when evil is called good and good is called evil, when darkness is put for light and light for darkness, be assured, God remains sovereign. There is a time for every matter under heaven. And the Judge of all the earth will do what is just. The questions before the world remain. Will we call for Sauls of the world when the Lord has rejected them? Will we instead heed the truth-tellers? Will we acknowledge the fountain of truth and only hope of redemption? Do we have any Daniels left?