March 3, 2008 – Daniel – God Calls the Faithful and the Faithless
Just about a year ago we spent some time reflecting on the Book of Daniel as both apocalyptic and prophetic, and we also spent some time looking at how Daniel’s virtue and influence were felt by those who would conquer him and his nation. He and his companions are taken prisoner and enslaved by the Babylonians. Nebuchadnezzar arrives at understanding the power and awe of this God, Yahweh. The Cyrus the Persian sweeps into power and he, too, comprehends the authority of this one, true God. There is scholarly conversation about whether this book was written in the sixth century B.C.E. or in the second century, during the Maccabean revolt and subsequent wars. Two pagan leaders, two pagan countries, two possible times of composition.
What is more interesting is that the book brings us a completely bifurcated experience in genre (it is both apocalyptic and prophetic), in structure (it has two kinds of writing: Tales and Visions), in linguistics (it is written in both Greek and Aramaic), and in time (written about the sixth century B.C.E. but most likely written in the second century B.C.E.). All of this doublenesssets me to thinking and seeking.
This is what we see outlined in the Zondervan ARCHEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE on pages 1382-1383:
- The Book of Daniel was written as encouragement to fellow Jews who found themselves either in captivity or at war with a powerful pagan force.
- Its themes are God’s sovereignty, our faithfulness to God, and prophecies of future events of persecution, rescue and restoration.
- Daniel and his companions are deported into pagan territory – away from Jerusalem and the temple where Yahweh dwells. There they must rely on Yahweh’s covenant promise that he will abide with them.
- Daniel, Hanaiah, Mishael, and Azariah display uncompromising faith in the face of the worst possible odds.
- This book has many parallels with Revelation, the last book of the Bible which tells us so much about the New Jerusalem.
- Daniel was intended to encourage Jews to remain faithful in the face of a prolonged period during which Israel would remain an obscure subservient nation under Gentile power.
- The message is that God has foreseen this trouble and will abide with them to see them through.
The Book of Daniel can be read as a guide for how to remain faithful to our own covenant promise with God during a prolonged exile in a hostile situation. These tales and these visions can speak to us today as stories of encouragement, exhortation, and promise; so that when we feel exiled, alone, persecuted, exhausted or spent . . . we have a place in which to seek solace and refuge. The Book of Daniel, with its two languages, two genres, two dates and two approaches to revelation . . . show us that both the faith-filled and the faith-less are called . . . and are expected in joyful openness by God.