Dare to Read Daniel
Over the past couple of weeks, the 4 Year Bible Reading at Faith Church has been going through the Old Testament book of Daniel, so I have been thinking about this book lately. There are some things that makes this book unique and interesting. For example, part of the book is written in Hebrew and part in Aramaic. It is found in the section of the Old Testament called the “Prophets” in the Greek order of the Old Testament (which the English order follows), but the Hebrew order of the books of the Bible features it in the section known as the “Writings.”
Style Differences of the Two Sections of the Book
The different placements of the book is, in large part, reflective of the book itself, as it essentially has two parts. The first six chapters are narratives of Daniel and others as they live in exile (so similar to books like Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah that are part of the “Writings” in the Hebrew Bible). Chapters seven through twelve are a series of visions that Daniel has and the interpretation of them, thus reading like prophetic books such as Ezekiel and Zechariah (though the book of the Bible it probably resembles the most is Revelation, found in the New Testament). The first six chapters are pretty easy to read and these stories are often told in children’s Sunday School classes (and inspired a song “Dare to Be a Daniel”).The last half can be pretty difficult to read and one Christians either ignore or focus a lot of attention trying to decode and figure out all the symbols. Rarely have I heard a sermon series go through the entire book of Daniel (I have seen some stop at chapter 6), but we believe that both halves are inspired by God and are good “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Similarities in the Messages of the Two Sections of the Book
While there are marked differences in the genre of the two sections of the book of Daniel, they do have a common purpose that I think is especially important for us to hear as Christians who, in a certain sense, are also living in exile. There are stories of how Daniel and his friends sought to live faithfully as they were living in a foreign land whose laws and systems did not reflect the values of their faith. Daniel and his friends did not compromise their faith but followed God’s law - they didn’t eat unclean food or bow down to other gods, and prayed even though it was illegal. At the same time, they did not completely withdraw from the world around them as they moved up the ladder in their area of expertise and held government positions. I think Christians in America can learn from this book to be faithful but also to seek to do our best in whatever sort of employment or vocation God gives us. We shouldn’t compromise our faith and practice as we seek excellence, but should not use our faith as an excuse to completely withdraw from the activities of the world.
Interspersed in the first half of the book are also stories of those ruling the nations in which Daniel and his friends have been exiled, with God showing He is sovereign and the true ruler of the world. That is meant to also give God’s people hope as they live in a place and under the rule of those who do not fear God. The prophetic visions of the last half of the book also present this truth. Kingdoms will rise and kingdoms will fall - as you have the Babylonians, Medes, Persians, and Greeks discussed in the visions of Daniel - but God remains in charge and in control. In fact, there is the vision of the Son of Man in Daniel 7:13-14, with Jesus referencing himself as this figure. There will be opposition to God’s people in this world, and Daniel even points to the opposition that occurs in the spiritual realm (see Daniel 10:12-14), but God will be victorious and there will be the resurrection of the dead, with the faithful said t shine like stars in the sky (see Daniel 12:2). The book offers a message of hope for followers of the God of the Bible as they live in tumultuous times in a place that is not their ultimate home.
Dare to Read Daniel
While the book of Daniel can be both entertaining and confusing, we need to read it and focus on the message of hope that can inspire us to be brave and bold for our faith in a world that is hostile to it. May we not relegate it to a book with stories for kids or one that the scholars will handle, but as one meant to speak to the people of God and equip us for living today.
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