Year 3 Day 7
Read - Daniel 1v1-7
Message - Scott Woodburn
The book of Daniel starts in an incredibly sombre manner. The city of Jerusalem was besieged by the Babylonians and eventually captured (v1). King Jehoiakim would prove to be one of the last kings of Judah and tragically he did not reign well. Jehoiakim had killed the prophet Uriah (Jeremiah 26v20-23) and had deliberately taken God's Word and burned it in a fire pot (Jeremiah 36v23-24). God's judgement would be poured out upon Jehoiakim and the nation of Judah. The temple would be destroyed in 587BC and some of vessels used in the worship of God would be taken to Babylon where they would be placed in the treasury of Nebuchadnezzar's false god (v2).
Nebuchadnezzar also had a thirst for the "great and good" of Judah. He commanded that members of the royal family, the nobility and well educated young people would be taken from Judah to Babylon where they be forced to serve Nebuchadnezzar and learn the language of the Chaldeans (v3-4). This act ensured that any future resistance in Judah would lack leadership. Nebuchadnezzar was neutralising potential threats by relocating them to Babylon.
If this wasn't bad enough these exiles would be utterly dependent on their new foreign master. He fed and watered them and even educated them in the ways of his empire (v5). To add further insult to injury Nebuchadnezzar changed the names of his captives. Four of the young men were called Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (v6) with these names all pointing directly to God. Daniel means "God is my judge", Hananiah means "God is gracious", Mishael means "Who is like God?" and Azariah means "God is my keeper".
But these young men weren't at home anymore, they had been taken captive by a foreign king and they now made their bed in a foreign land. Everything had changed and even their new names would underline their distance from Jerusalem. Daniel would be called Belteshazzar which means "Bel protect his life" Who was Bel? One of the false gods of Babylon. Hananiah would take the name Shadrach which means "The command of Aku" Who was Aku? Another false god. Mishael would be called Meshach which means "Who is like Aku?" and Azariah was called Abednego which means "Servant of Nebo" Who was Nebo? You guessed it, another false god.
A blind man on a galloping horse could see what Nebuchadnezzar was doing. His captives were to be so integrated into Babylonian society that they would eventually become willing servants of their new King. Their names had been changed and they would be surrounded at every turn by the false gods and idols of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was building his kingdom with no room for alternative opinions and so he sought to erase the culture, identity and faith of his new servants.
What are we to make of these opening verses? Let me give you one simple reminder - God is sovereign over the sunniest and darkest of days. Long before Daniel saw the palaces of Babylon another young man called Joseph was an unwilling visitor to Egypt. Both stories are remarkably similar in that God positioned His people in powerful positions in foreign kingdoms. Both Joseph and Daniel never forgot home but equally both honoured the Lord far beyond the borders of Israel.
The wickedness of Joseph's brothers and the wrath of Daniel's new boss Nebuchadnezzar would be sovereignly and providentially overruled by Almighty God. Everything had changed for the four young Judeans but they would soon realise what I hope you remember today - God is sovereign over the affairs of humanity. If you feel the sun on your face or if the darkness chills your bones, trust the Lord and rest in Christ. He is working out His good plan and whoever believes in Jesus will never be put to shame.
"You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good" (Genesis 50v20)
Q14 What is sin? Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.