We have seen and will continue to see throughout the Old and New Testament how God continually uses imperfect men and women to accomplish his perfect will. For the past six months we have been skimming across the Old Testament with our God’s Story from Beginning to End series. This week we will be picking up in the book of Daniel. This book is one of the best-known books of the Old Testament and it is possibly one of the most complex. Fortunately for you all I am not going to focus on the complex and will focus more on the surface.
Daniel was written in the sixth century BC and is an account of how God sovereignly worked in the nation of Israel through the life of a young man named Daniel and his friends. Ultimately, the theme of Daniel is the sovereignty of God in all things. God is sovereign over the big things such powerful kings and kingdoms, and he is sovereign over the small things such as the lives and the safety of teenage boys taken into captivity by the Babylonians and who remained fully committed to Him throughout. He is sovereign over history, He is sovereign over the present, and He is sovereign over the future.
On a personal side, Daniel has been an inspirational to me as I read about his life and ministry. I desire to have the discipline, conviction, and commitment to God that he had in his everyday life. He was a man who was on the right track with God from his youth to his dying days. He remained faithful to God throughout his life and did it all while in captivity in a pagan nation and under ungodly rulers. His story is amazing, and as we will see he was a man who walked with God and lived a life of influence, prayer, conviction, and humility.
Daniel 1:1 - 21
Daniel was a young Israelite boy, most likely a teenager, who was taken into captivity during the reign of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. In his conquest Nebuchadnezzar had sieged and destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC. He then commanded his Eunuch’s to bring to Babylon some young people from Judah who were of royalty and nobility. These youths were to be without blemish, good looking, skilled, teachable, competent, smart, and well educated. Daniel was among these young people. When Nebuchadnezzar came to Babylon Daniel quickly became known to him because of his wisdom and for his gift of interpreting dreams (note there are some similarities to Joseph’s story). Daniel had a couple of friends named whom you may recall Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego) who Daniel helped rise in the ranks of the King’s court.
One of Daniels God-given strengths was his ability to influence people of great influence. He not only caught the attention King Nebuchadnezzar but also with his son Belshazzar, Cyrus the King of Medes, and Darius the King of the Medes. It is believed he may have single handedly influenced Nebuchadnezzar to become a follower or worshiper of the God of Israel. More on that in a bit.
In our time together I aim to highlight four traits or qualities of Daniel that are noteworthy and applicable to us as followers of Jesus Christ.
Now, the challenge of preaching from the Old Testament is connecting Jesus to this all. As you all know Jesus is not present in the Hebrew scriptures, or so we think. It can be challenging for pastors to preach messages that point people to Jesus because Jesus and the Gospel are not glaringly obvious from the pages of the O.T. But Jesus is evident throughout the Old Testament, you just need to look. The truth is the Old Testament is a precursor to Jesus Christ and everything points to the coming of the Messiah. There are times that Jesus is assumed or present in the Old Testament. These are called Christophanies. We talked about this Wednesday night in Bible study as we looked at the High Priest Melchizedek. We also see Christ in Daniel.
Daniel 3:24 – 30: When Nebuchadnezzar gazed into the fiery furnace, he saw four men, not three. The fourth, he said, “looks like a son of the gods”. Later he said he was an angel. That is not a bad guess for a pagan. We can say with confidence the fourth person in the furnace was the one we know as the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Some are reluctant to identify this fourth person as the pre-incarnate Jesus. Personally, I feel no such reluctance. I believe the One who walked with them in and through the fire is also the One who went to the cross of Calvary, so we who believe in faith would not have our souls consumed by the fiery flames of hell. This should not surprise us. The promises of an ever-present Savior with his people during the good times and the difficult times is a booming theme throughout the Bible. We can take solace in the fact that we are not alone in times of distress, turmoil, and danger. Our sovereign Savior is with us, ministering to us and always watching over us.
We live in a time where it is difficult to speak out or live in our convictions without some sort of negative pushback or consequence. There is so much vying for our attention and it is becoming more challenging than ever to be disciplined in prayer. How often do we neglect prayer? What excuses are we making to NOT pray? Our culture is continually demanding that we become self-dependent, self-reliant, and self-promoting so we can get ahead in life. As Christians how often do we welcome or covet the praises of people that puff us up and make us look better than we really are?
Like Daniel, I desire to be a man of prayer. I desire to be one who devotes much of my time and energy communing with and seeking God’s will for my life and this church. I pray that I may be a man with convictions, one who does not compromise under the pressures of the world. I pray my convictions are Gospel-centered and honoring to God. I desire most of all to be a humble servant of the Most-High God. Humility comes when I commit to be a man of prayer, a person of influence and a follower of Christ who has conviction it is all so important for us to remain humble at our core. There may be times people will try to elevate you to a place where you do not belong, so it is important to remind people that it is not you who deserves the recognition but your God in heaven who does.
May we be challenged today to purpose in our hearts to become like Daniel. Let us look to him as an example of how we conduct our lives and ultimately bring the praise, honor, and glory to God. May we do so prayerfully, with conviction and in humility.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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