Our reading plan is transporting us from Exodus to Daniel this week.
The book of Daniel is distinctive in several ways. It’s structure is as basic as any structure can be. Daniel has just two, almost equal parts. The first part, chapters 1-6, are stories of obedience and miraculous salvations, including the stories of the fiery furnace and the lions’ den. The second part, chapters 7-12, are records of visions Daniel received as he tried to understand the future of Israel. These visions are apocalyptic in nature, being very similar to what we find in Revelation.
The book is also hard to classify. The Christian arrangement of the Scriptures puts it with the major prophets along with Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. But the Hebrew arrangement places Daniel in the writings section with Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles, that is, the books that interpreted God’s actions in history.
The book is also the only book of the Bible I know to lend its title to a TV show. In 2006, NBC ran a series called The Book of Daniel. It was blasphemous and not worth watching, but it is still interesting that Daniel is known enough in popular culture for its title to be used that way.
What I am taking most out of this book this reading, though, is faith. What I am seeing as I am reading is that Daniel was not just a prophet or a history interpreter but a man of faith, a man who had great faith in many situations.
Faith In Difficulties
Daniel had faith in difficulties.
These difficulties started early for Daniel. When he was young, he was one of the first Israelites taken in the Babylonian Captivity. The Babylonian Captivity or Exile is the major event around which the prophetic books revolve. Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Habakkuk, Daniel was at ground zero of this event. He was there when the country was invaded the first time (the Babylonian Captivity actually took place in three invasions, with the last being the final blow), and that is when he was carried away to be a slave.
As slaves go, Daniel fared pretty well. He did not wind up in the mines or the arenas, like other slaves. His intelligence and abilities qualified him to a high position in the Babylonian court. That’s a nice role to have, but it brought its own set of difficulties. It is possible the Babylonians made Daniel a eunuch in order to fill this role. I never heard of this possibility until one of our members mentioned it to me a few months ago. Pastor Doyle then mentioned this again in one of his sermons. So this is a possibility. In yet another example of the “violence” I am always talking about, the Babylonians maimed this man’s body in an irrevocable way in order to use him as they wanted.
These aren’t the only difficulties Daniel experienced. We know laws didn’t go his way sometimes. We know peers opposed and plotted against him. We know he didn’t always get what he wanted. Yet what the book tells us is that he maintained his faith in God through all of this. Despite the difficulties he faced, still he believed.
Faith In Changes
Daniel also had faith in changes. Changes are a special form of difficulty, I suppose. At least they are for people like me who are “change averse”. I don’t know if Daniel was one of those people or not, but I know things changed for him from time to time.
The Babylonian Invasion we previously mentioned was one such change, of course. He was no longer living in Judea. Now he was forced to live in Babylon. His country was no longer an independent and prosperous state. Now it was an impoverished vassal. The Temple was not standing anymore. It was gone.
But he experienced another change as well. As recorded in chapter 5, the Babylonians were eventually overtaken by the Medes and Persians. In other words, Daniel lived through yet another invasion. And while we may expect him to not cry too much over the destruction of the people who invaded his country and took him captive, still it meant change for him. Now he had to start over. Now he had to get used to a new regime that would be different from the one he was used to.
And that was still not the only change he experienced. The visions he received were all visions of change. He saw in these visions other nations rising up to overthrow the nations before them. Not all of that was bad; Daniel was promised he would receive his “allotted inheritance”, that is, Christ’s Kingdom would be established at the end of these things (12:13). But it still meant a lot of change for one man.
But again, he maintained his faith in God. Despite the changes he experienced in person and in vision, still he believed.
Faith In Times of Waiting
Perhaps more than anything, though, Daniel had faith in waiting. Waiting is a major part of The Faith. Everyone from Abraham (Genesis 15:2) to Isaiah (Isaiah 6:11) to even Jesus Himself (Matthew 17:17) has at least mentioned if not grown weary in times of waiting.
Daniel had times of waiting, too. In 9:2, he tells us that he read from Jeremiah and understood that the exile would last 70 years (by the way, that is a great example of seeking and interpreting God’s word).
It doesn’t seem that he was thrilled by this fact, but he accepted it and determined to wait for it. He didn’t even get to see it, as far as we know. He likely died before this happened, and almost certainly did not return with Ezra and the others. But he still waited for God to do what He was going to do.
Not only so, but his visions also included statements about how long the painful events they depicted would take. In Daniel 8:14, he is told the events in his vision will require 2,300 days. Daniel 9 gives us the “seventy sevens” of the restoration of Jerusalem, and Daniel 12 gives us the “time, times, and half a time”, the “1290 days” and “1,335 days” of the “abomination of desolation” vision.
I can’t tell you that I understand all of these time periods. I don’t know what they are referring to and if they are exactly the length of time they say they are (numbers are often symbolic in prophecy). But I can tell you the things Daniel wanted to happen did not happen right away. Daniel had to not only wait to get what he wanted but also wait through times that were unpleasant.
Yet he maintained his faith in God. Despite having to wait, he still believed.
An Example for Today
There is a lot more I could say about Daniel today. Are there little interesting things about both this man and this book? Dozens of them. Does this book give us great Sunday School stories? Absolutely. Does it tell us things about the end times? Maybe.
But perhaps the most important thing it does, and certainly the most important thing it does for me right now, it demonstrate a man of incredible faith, a man who maintained faith in difficulty, change, and waiting.
And in doing so, it calls us to be people of faith, too.