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The days in which Daniel lived saw great changes in the political map of what we now know as the Middle East. The power of Egypt was declining and that of Babylon was rising. In 606BC Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem in the first of three such sieges, which led finally to the destruction of the city and the Temple, and the completion of the programme of carrying away captives. These were, therefore:-
Times of defeat
Josiah had been the last king to see victory. Now the defeat was so compete that some would doubt if the prophecies regarding the future of the nation would ever be realised.
Times to travel an unknown road
The old certainties had gone and new circumstances had to be faced. The times of the Gentiles had now commenced. Government in the world, which should have been in the hands of Israel, was now in the hands of the Gentiles.
Daniel the Prophet
He was of the noble families of Judah and had been taken captive to Babylon. Nothing is known of his family or tribe and it cannot be determined if he was of the royal house. Daniel is only called a prophet in the New Testament (Mt 24.15) by the Lord who is Himself the Great Prophet (Lk 7.16).
Links with the apostle John
Both prophesied after the fall of Jerusalem and both wrote their prophecies. They are not recorded as having preached their messages. Both prophesied about the Gentile end times and both were loved. Thus we read of Daniel the beloved (9.23), and John could not forget that he was the disciple whom Jesus loved (he was not suggesting that the others were unloved).
Links with 1 Peter
Both had the "dispersed" on their hearts. Daniel was one of the "dispersed" of Judah, and Peter was concerned with saints who had been dispersed as a result of the persecution of the early church as recorded in Acts.
Peter wrote of believers being obedient children (1.14); of being honest among the Gentiles (2.12); of the need to fear God and honour the king (2.17); of the fiery trial and the roaring lion to be faced (4.12; 5.8) - all features that point back to the writing of Daniel.
Twice in his lifetime Daniel is commended in Scripture. He is numbered with the great for his righteousness (Ezek 14.14) and noted for his wisdom (Ezek 28.3). He is mentioned, not by name but in reference to his actions, in Hebrews 11.33 - "stopped the mouths of lions".
The message of Daniel
The righteousness of God
The captivity of the people was not a proof of Gods lack of care for them. It was righteous and was due to their covetousness and idolatry. They did not keep their Sabbath years (Lev 26.33-35; 2 Chr 36.21; Jer 25.9-12; 29.10). They were also guilty of idolatry and therefore would be sent to Babylon, the seat of idolatry.
The demands of God
The sad change in circumstances did not take away from Israel the responsibility to live holy lives. Even in the heathen court they had to honour their God and worship Him. The standards were not lowered. So it is today that if there be around us prevailing features of departure from God, and if the hearts of the saints have grown cold, that is no reason, or excuse, for us to follow such a pattern and fail to submit to the Word of God. Daniel and his friends resisted that temptation and stood firm in their devotion to the Lord.
The sovereignty of God
Despite the failure and sin of Israel, God was still in control. The sin of man did not thwart the purpose of God. God is the God of heaven (2.18,19,28,37,44); the great God (2.45); the God of Gods (2.47); the King of heaven (4.37); the most High (4.24,34 etc). His sovereignty still is effective on earth and we are reminded that "the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men" (4.17).
The faithfulness of God
Despite Israels sinfulness God will still honour His promises to them. "I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days" (10.14), was an encouraging message. At that time there will be tribulation and there will be triumph. God has not abandoned Israel.
The preserving goodness of God
The three Hebrews in the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lions den show that the Lord does care for His people in days of trial and testing.
The testimony of Daniel
He was a proven man
At the beginning of the book, Daniel and his three friends cast themselves upon God and refused the food of Babylon. As a result they prospered and the faith that they had was seen to be of God. In this way their claims were proven. It is good when the reality of our profession is displayed clearly in our lives.
He was a prayerful man
There is no record of Daniel feeling any bitterness regarding the position in which he now found himself. He recognised the reasons for the captivity and gave himself over to living a godly life in the foreign land to which he had been taken. When confronted with the problem of the dream of the king (2.17,18) it is clear that Daniel and his three friends prayed, as they also did when an answer was received (2.19-23). During the reign of Darius, when they edict went forth that no petition should be asked of God for a period of thirty days, Daniel continued the consistent tenor of his prayer life. When confronted with the prophecy of Jeremiah, that the return to Jerusalem would be possible after seventy years (which made it imminent), Daniel prayed (9.4), and after the return he still prayed (10.1-21). On this latter occasion we see the spiritual forces that are at work when prayer ascends to heaven. The prayer life of Daniel did not falter, no matter the cost and no matter the prevailing circumstances.
He was a patient man
Over all the long years in Babylon he did not display impatience. He asked the king for time to interpret his dream (2.16), and in the adverse circumstances through which he passed he displayed the same patience. Endurance in difficulty characterised him. Consistency marked all that is recorded of him. He was as faithful after seventy years in Babylon as he had been at the beginning.
The prophecies of Daniel
We cannot turn from the book without mentioning the prophetic teaching of Daniel. As has been noted, his ministry deals with the times of the Gentiles. This is emphasised in that part of the book (chs.2-7) which was written in Aramaic and not in the usual Hebrew. In addition, it is significant that the dream regarding the future rule of this world is given to a Gentile monarch (ch.2). Space does not permit a study of these prophecies, only the insertion of a few notes.
The vision of ch.2 tells us that Babylon was the first of four great empires, the others being Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. These would each be marked by deterioration in the quality of their government and will be followed by an empire which is denoted by the ten toes. It should be noted that the church age was not known to the prophets and there is a gap in time between Rome and this last empire. A stone cut out without hands, which speaks of the Lord Jesus, smites the image and destroys it, just as He will come and establish His kingdom, destroying the kingdoms and rule of the Gentiles.
Much greater detail is to be found in chs.7-12. As noted in the chart these cover:
7-8The Course of events in relation to the Gentiles
9 The Course of events in relation to Israel
10 The Conflict in relation to the heavens
11 The Conflict in relation to the Gentiles
12 The Climax in relation to Israel.
Further study of these chapters will yield much fruit. The reader must not be deterred by considering this simply to be "dry history"; it is a detailed outline of future events for Israel and for Gentile nations who have dealings with Israel. This is history recorded before it takes place with such accuracy that it drives home the inspiration of Scripture. Any thoughtful student will be astonished at the depth of detail and the accuracy of prediction.
The lesson is that, despite all the turmoil and strife in this world, God is still in control and is working out events according to His purpose. How vital this was in the days of Daniel when it appeared that all was lost. No! God never loses control and never changes His timetable. As we look around at the uncertainty of the present time the same lesson has to be taken to heart. Much of what Daniel wrote has yet to take place and it will come to pass as surely as have the prophecies presently fulfilled.