Living in Babylon

I am beginning a series on the life of Daniel. My study this week takes me through Joyce Baldwin’s little commentary in the Tyndale series. It’s a solid resource I’ve had for years.

One of the reminders from Daniel’s life was his solid faith in Yahweh. He was being forced to learn a polytheistic culture, but his faith didn’t keep him from learning. It didn’t undermine his belief system.

The writer of Daniel implies no objection to the study of a polytheistic literature in which magic, sorcery, charms and astrology played a prominent part, though these had been banned in Israel… These young men from Jerusalem’s court needed to be secure in their knowledge of Yahweh to be able to study this literature objectively without allowing it to undermine their faith.

Good reminders for our own day.

The easy distractions of this noisy world

Daniel 7 is a key chapter in understanding all that follows regarding Jesus’ ministry. It is probably here that Jesus draws his use of “Son of Man,” or “Human One” in the Common English Bible.

It is a vision of distractions and a vision that calls us to focus. The distractions are the violent actions of this world. They really are like car accidents. We just can’t help but slow down and watch.

We get overwhelmed.

What DO we do about human trafficking? What DO we do about unjust laws or unjust jury decisions that seem to favor race or economic status? What DO we do about the wars, the protests… and on and on.

There ARE things to do, but it when we regain our focus that we can begin to see the work of the Kingdom once again.

The key for Daniel is seeing the Ancient of Days take the throne and open the books. There is ONE who will take command and control. Yet, even Daniel could get distracted.

11 I kept watching. I watched from the moment the horn started bragging until the beast was killed and its body was destroyed, handed over to be burned with fire. 12 Then the authority of the remaining beasts was brought to an end, but they were given an extension among the living for a set time and season. (Daniel 7:11-12)

We let the bragging of this world get to us. It calls our attention away. But the realization is that all the beasts of this world have is words. Ultimately, everything rests with the Ancient of Days. He passes on that authority to the Son of Man. To HIM belongs the everlasting dominion (Daniel 7:14).

This world IS noisy. The beasts of this age rage and brag. Our attention needs to be focused on the ONE who reigns. There is ONE who rules. And HE will deal with the bragging of the beasts of this world.

Being Prepared to Lose

I was asked yesterday about the church and influencing society and culture. When will the church be the “go to” place for a culture to come? When a society is failing and they are looking for answers, when will the church be the place they turn?

Having just finished the series on Daniel and knowing the influence of Daniel and his companions, my answer was this: “When we are prepared to lose.”

 

Unshakeable

44 “But in the days of those kings, the God of heaven will raise up an everlasting kingdom that will be indestructible. Its rule will never pass to another people. It will shatter other kingdoms. It will put an end to all of them. It will stand firm forever” (Dan. 2:44, CEB)

The vision Daniel saw in this chapter was one Nebuchadnezzar, the emperor, had demanded be told back to him then interpreted. He wasn’t going to tell his seers what the dream was, then allow them to interpret. He wanted some seer to be so good they could tell him the dream then give the interpretation. Daniel’s life was literally on the line, since he was one of the seers. If someone didn’t step up to this unreasonable demand, they would all be executed.

The dream was of a statue that was gold at the top, but the material value in the statue went down until the toes were a mixture of iron and clay. It was brittle. The base of the statue, which should have been the strongest, was the most brittle. A stone cut from a mountain (but not by human hands) then struck the statue at the feet, causing the whole thing to collapse.

It is the prediction of a coming kingdom that no human can establish and no human can stop.

This is a word we need as the people of God today. Human systems will fail us. They are failing us right now. They will continue to fail us. Humanity’s hope for the world getting better by our own ingenuity, or by our ability to hold hands and sing songs, or whatever the “thrill of the day” might be, will not hold up. Human systems fail.

There is a kingdom being established that will not fail. This is the confidence of the people of God.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; 29 for indeed our God is a consuming fire. (Heb. 12:28-29, NRSV)

Too often our hopes are tied into this world’s system one way or another. May we keep our hope on what is eternal and can never be shaken.