Monthly Archives: November 2014

Daniel 11: The Specifics of Prophecy

Daniel 11 is a pretty amazing chapter. Remember that we spent Daniel 8 talking about Alexander the Great, and Daniel 11 begins with some very impressive prophecy about what would happen around his death as the aftermath of his death.

Dan 11:3  And a mighty king shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will.

Dan 11:4  And when he shall stand up, his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven; and not to his posterity, nor according to his dominion which he ruled: for his kingdom shall be plucked up, even for others beside those.

Dan 11:5  And the king of the south shall be strong, and one of his princes; and he shall be strong above him, and have dominion; his dominion shall be a great dominion.

The mighty king is Alexander, and when he died, his kingdom was divided into four parts after the dust settled and all of the rivalries for power were done. Also, it did not seem that any of these rulers over these four provinces were descendants of Alexander. Again, this is a pretty remarkable prophecy as we have been noting to the entire book of Daniel.

I picked this specific prophecy to talk about simply for the fact that it is highly specific. It also seems to be counterintuitive. If a king had a great kingdom and was such a powerful ruler, you would imagine that the leadership of that kingdom would become a dynasty. That seemed to be how most ancient governmental structures worked. There really had been no one greater than Alexander in terms of land and power previously, so the point that it would not be passed to his children would be remarkable.

Prophecy is an important thing in the Bible, and, as we have talked about before, it is also one of the most highly controversial. The thing that I keep returning to and encourage you to as well is the fact that as I browse across the Internet reading about most of the disputes to the legitimacy of Daniel, a lot of it comes back to a philosophical assumption that prophecy is impossible by default. That is not a good reason to reject the book of Daniel. Perhaps there are other valid criticisms based on evidence (I did not really see any that did not have solid answers), but at least do not simply make a philosophical assumption that really does not have a base to sustain it.

Daniel 10: Angels and Demons

Angels and demons have been so popular in fictional literature that many people simply believe that they are the product of fiction. However, in Daniel 10, we have actual spiritual warfare going down in the land of Persia.

Dan 10:12  Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.

Dan 10:13  But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.

The message was coming from God to Daniel, but the messenger got waylaid by evil forces, and it took the assistance of Michael, an archangel, to help finish off the delivery.

I find this interesting because we live in a world that doesn’t even like to admit that there are such things as good and evil, but here in Daniel we have literal forces of good and evil coming into conflict. This isn’t just theoretical at this point. There was an actual conflict between a good angel and an evil demon, and there are real consequences of that action.

I know that many people are going to probably open this page and simply laugh it off as fantasy. However, I wrote about the prophecy of Daniel the other day. This book is incredibly accurate at predicting things that really should not have been predictable. If it is faithful in those things, then why would it not be faithful in this instance?

Why would it be faithful about things that might even be controversial for the Jewish faith? Personally, if I were making up the story and I was trying to make God look powerful, I don’t know if I would have His messengers being intercepted. If I was entirely making this up, I think that this might be one detail I would fabricate.

Just to be clear, I don’t think that the fact that a messenger being interrupted diminishes God’s power, but I’m just saying that I think I would have made the story a little bit less potentially controversial. If there was no interruption here, then there would be no possible question brought up here. The path of least resistance would be my choice.

The inclusion of data that seems to encourage debate is not a characteristic of fabricated stories. It is similar to the idea of the Gospel writers regarding that women, whose testimony would not be admissible in a court of law at the time, were the ones who were the first witnesses of the Resurrection. Therefore, it seems to me that the most possible reason that this information was included was because it was what Daniel was told. Therefore, that certainly makes angels and demons seem a lot more like reality and less of the fantasy that many people often think of them as.

Daniel 9: Living to Glorify God

Daniel 9 shows an interesting picture of a man who believed in the power of prayer. Daniel prayed to God to allow the children of Israel to return to their home in Jerusalem. However, the interesting part about that is Daniel knew that the people would be returning. It had been prophesied by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 25:12 that the children of Israel would be captive for 70 years.

Therefore, Daniel knew that the time was coming, but he still prayed for the people of Israel.

Dan 9:3  And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:

Dan 9:4  And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;

Dan 9:5  We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:

Daniel could have easily assumed that the prophecy was going to come true because he did believe in the power of God. He knew that God would fulfill His promise, so he could have just operated in neutral and rolled along. However, he understood that there was something that needed to be done. He understood that it was important for himself and the people to be right with God.

Daniel remembered that the chief purpose of humanity is to glorify God, and we can do that by asking for forgiveness from God and living our lives in a way that imitates that of Jesus Christ.

God never leaves a promise unfulfilled, so I have no doubt that He would have come through even if Daniel had not prayed. It is not like God would have gone back on His word that he gave to Jeremiah. However, what we can learn here is that Daniel realized his responsibility to live his life in the right way. Like Daniel, we know that we can be saved through Jesus Christ, but there is then the desire to live our lives in a way that glorifies God.

Rom 6:1  What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

Rom 6:2  God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

Daniel 8: Can Prophecy Happen?

Daniel is a controversial book because from a naturalistic worldview, prophecy is not possible. Daniel must have been written late because as we see in chapter 8, Daniel knew that the Greeks were going to invade the Persian Empire. He couldn’t have known that ahead of time, so therefore it must have been written late.

Dan 8:20  The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.

Dan 8:21  And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.

In verse one, it says that this chapter was written in the third year of King Belshazzar, which was his final year. We know that Cyrus invaded Babylon in 539 BC. Therefore, we have a reference point for Daniel’s vision. Alexander the Great, the Greek king we are referring to here, did not come to Persia until approximately 330 BC.

If these dates hold, then we are reading prophecy that was written approximately 200 years before the events. From a naturalistic worldview, this is impossible. Therefore, it becomes very important for the naturalist to put a late date on Daniel. After all, prophecy is not a human talent. If it exists, it is something supernatural.

I feel like most of the criticism of Daniel is simply begging the question. Miracles cannot happen, therefore we cannot accept that Daniel was written around 539 BC when it claims it was. It is allowing a prior philosophical commitment to color the nature of the evidence.

For example, there were fragments of Daniel found as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Those fragments date to the second century BC. Let’s say 130 BC that for the sake of easy calculating. However, here is my question in regards to that. Obviously Daniel was not written and thrown into a cave immediately. Whoever put those scrolls in the cave obviously had a high opinion of the book of Daniel and had time to get a copy of it. It was something that was worth saving. It was something worth saving along with many other books of the Old Testament. That is at least a point of evidence that indicates that it is not just a modern audience that values Daniel and considered it to be authentic.

I think that much of the opposition to an early date of Daniel does come from the presupposition that prophecy cannot happen, so we need to find some way to move that date. However, there are pieces of evidence that also move the date back. Apparently, there are also textual reasons and stylistic reasons in the original language that indicate an earlier date as well, but I am not qualified to speak on those matters. I am qualified to ask a question though, and my main question for anyone proposing that Daniel was written much later than it claims is to ask for the reason why you subscribe to a late date. Is it simply a philosophical commitment, or is there evidence?

Daniel 7: Thrown Down

Daniel 7 is prophecy central, and I am not going to pretend that I am an expert on what the beasts are. However, notice something very interesting about all of these kingdoms, whoever they ultimately end up being.

Dan 7:9  I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.

All of the beasts had a time limit, and in the end, God was back on the pinnacle with no competition. Everyone else had been cast down. I point that out because it is not as if every nation in the world suddenly decide that they were going to bow to God. They had to be thrown down because they were not going to come down in any other way.

The world is in chaos, and I think that it is easy to wonder where God is. It is easy to wonder when He is going to bring about ultimate justice and set everything right that humanity has done a pretty good job of messing up. However, as we see here, God is still there. In the midst of all of this activity with the four kingdoms, God is still in control. Yes, He is allowing things to happen, and we often times wonder why God does not just wipe out evil right now and be done with it.

The important thing to take away from this is that all of the earthly powers had a time limit. No matter how you decide to interpret this passage, the end result seems to be the same. God is in charge, and at some point, He is going to throw down all other kingdoms. In His time, He will set all things right.

Daniel 6: Held against Us

Daniel is a book of popular Sunday School stories, and chapter 6 brings us to the lions’ den. However, we don’t always hear about the conspiracy that was taking place behind the scenes to get Daniel into that pit in the first place.

Daniel was made into a powerful leader by Darius after he invaded Babylon, and the other leaders were very jealous. As a result, they knew that they needed some way to discredit Daniel. However, the way that Daniel lived his life gave them very little opportunity.

Dan 6:5  Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.

I thought this was interesting. This should be a model for our Christian lives. We should try to live our lives in such a way that the only thing that people can find “against” us is that we follow God.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what the world is trying to do to us today as well. I think about a slightly different situation that happened with the abortion debate at Oxford University. If you haven’t been following it, there was supposed to be a debate on whether or not abortion was good for society, but because of a threatened demonstration by a small group of students, the venue bailed out at the last minute and would not host the event.

I would be absolutely willing to bet you that if the pro-life position was not being presented and if this was simply a lecture given by someone on the benefits of a pro-choice position, there would not have been the threatened protest.

There is nothing wrong with having a debate, but the only thing that the protesters could find wrong is that they did not like the position.

It is quite a bit like what happened to Daniel. He didn’t do anything wrong, but people did not like him because of God he decided to follow.

No matter what happens, we need to do what Daniel did. He was faithful to the end. He did not deny that he was a follower of God, but he accepted the consequences. Like I say a lot, that is easy for me to write, but I hope that if any of us end up in this type of situation, we will remember this passage and remain strong.

Daniel 5: Training for the Future

Yesterday, I wrote about how it is really debatable if Nebuchadnezzar actually became a follower of the one true God. However, there is one potential strike against that theory in Daniel 5. Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar, knew very little about God. He saw a hand writing on the wall, and he called Daniel because he knew he could interpret dreams, but he didn’t recognize the power of God.

Dan 5:22  And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this;

Dan 5:23  But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:

As Nebuchadnezzar’s son, he knew about his insanity, and he would have known about his proclamation in the previous chapter. He could have at the very least understood, as his father did, that the God of the Bible was someone very special. You would have hoped that if his father truly become a believer that he would have passed to his son.

That does bring up a very interesting point about parenting though. Parents are certainly responsible to teach their children in the way that they should go. The world might say that that is indoctrination and cast this training in a negative light, but all that they can propose is a system where we indoctrinate with an alternative method. There is no value-neutral upbringing; it is a large responsibility for parents to determine what values they want their children to cultivate.

That being said, children do not always follow. In this chapter, Nebuchadnezzar’s son knew everything that happened, but he still turned his back on God. Therefore, we have kind of a dilemma. On one hand, parents need to communicate Biblical values to their children. That is true. It is simultaneously true that the children are individuals who might choose to ignore the things of God. That is not the parents’ fault. Individuals make individual decisions. Nevertheless, parents still have the responsibility to do what they can to train.

Again, we really don’t know if Nebuchadnezzar really became a follower of God, but it seems to be at least true that his son did not carry on his at least recognition of the power of God. As parents or future parents, we ought to do all that we can to raise children in the right way. This doesn’t mean absolute sheltering, but it does mean training and engaging.

Daniel 4: Nebuchadnezzar’s Proclamation

Nebuchadnezzar was an interesting guy. His relationship with God was kind of like a roller coaster. We began with him invading the people of God and taking them prisoner. Then, he heard from Daniel, and he thought that Daniel’s God was great because He gave Daniel the power to interpret dreams. You would think that that would do it, but relatively soon after, he put three men into a furnace for not bowing to his statue and therefore violating the law of that same God that he admired in Daniel. However, it seems that everything came full circle for Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4. This chapter is a proclamation that Nebuchadnezzar made quite a bit later in his life, and he had had one more experience with God that really made him a true believer.

Dan 4:29  At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.

Dan 4:30  The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?

Dan 4:31  While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.

Dan 4:32  And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.

For seven years, Nebuchadnezzar literally lost his mind. After that length of time, he came back to normal, and no one he had no doubt that God was everything He said He was.

Dan 4:37  Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.

This is a major life change. He went from a guy who was burning people who worship God to at least someone who is able to acknowledge the amazing power of the God of the Bible. Did he ultimately renounce all of his Babylonian gods? We don’t know, but at the very least he seemed to have a pretty dramatic change in perspective.

God has the power to do that. Whether or not Nebuchadnezzar ultimately turned away from idolatry is kind of beside the point. What is important is that God changes lives. Think about the apostle Paul. When he met Jesus Christ, he went from being a killer to a missionary. No one is ever beyond hope.

Daniel 3: Follow Regardless

Well, today in Daniel 3 we come to a story that is probably one of the most well-known in the entire Bible as well as the episode of Veggie Tales that I remember most vividly. Our three gentlemen, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow to a giant golden statue of Nebuchadnezzar. I want to focus on them today, but I first have a question that maybe someone can answer for me. What happened to Daniel? He was clearly a man of principle, and even though he is not mentioned in this chapter, I wonder how he reacted to the golden statue. That’s not the main point of today, but I just wanted to throw that out there.

Right before the three men were thrown into the fire, Nebuchadnezzar decided to give them one last chance, but here is how they responded:

Dan 3:16  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.

Dan 3:17  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

Dan 3:18  But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

I love this statement because it really does show us the way that we ought to view God. Yes, God is a God of miracles. He can do them, and He is more powerful than any person on earth. There is no doubt that He was capable of rescuing this trio from the overpowered furnace.

However, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego understood that God was not obligated to save them. Even if God was not going to save them, there were not going to worshiping an idol. This is interesting because there are many people who kind of follow God because of the perceived benefits. I will follow God because I will get to the heaven. I will follow God because I will be blessed. However, these guys understood that we don’t follow God for simply these reasons. It is much deeper than that. We follow God because it is the right thing to do, so no matter what that brings on earth, it is objectively right to follow God.

I think that a lot of us do well on the first part of this definition. We acknowledge that God is powerful. I know that that is pretty easy for me to remember and to apply to my life. The second part is much harder. We need to be willing to follow God anywhere even if it doesn’t seem like there are benefits up front. It might take us into some very difficult places. However, what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? That’s pretty much the question here. It is an attitude I want to develop, and it is one that seems to stand out strongly in the lives of these three men.

Daniel 2: Not Afraid to Share

Daniel 2 is a remarkable chapter. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that bothered him, and he commanded to have the dream interpreted. He was surrounded by wise men and astrologers, so he knew that if anyone could help them, they would. However, all of them came up short, so Nebuchadnezzar sentenced all the wise men to death including our man Daniel. However, after asking Nebuchadnezzar for an extension with a promise that he would be able to interpret the dream, God came to Daniel and showed him the dream perfectly.

I spent my time on the summary because it is interesting how Daniel was in a perfect position to take credit for this. Nobody would really know, but he was very quick to point out right from the beginning that this was really God working through him.

Dan 2:27  Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king;

Dan 2:28  But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these;

Yesterday we saw that Daniel was a man of principle. He was not the type of guy who would compromise the commands of God just because he had to go along with popular culture. Today we find out that he was also brave enough to speak his faith in a potentially hostile environment. Nebuchadnezzar was obviously not Jewish, so this might not have been a popular place to share his faith. However, he was honest about it. He was straightforward and said that it was God who gave him the vision. Again, I think that we can learn a lot from Daniel.