Daniel, Babylon, and the Kingdom of God Part 1 – The Interpreter of Dreams

stand-apartAs we discussed last week, Daniel and his three friends were subjects of a conquering kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon attacked and messed with Judah for a few years, first making them a vassal, but after the Kings of Israel were “rebellious” in refusing to pay tribute, King Nebuchadnezzar decides he’s had enough and just destroys Jerusalem and the Temple there.

But he takes a few “choice” young men to groom and educate. It is an interesting program of indoctrination – take intelligent, good looking young men, woo them with the palatial comforts and educate them in the imperial culture, and then use them as examples of how it is beneficial for all conquered peoples to assimilate into the new culture. Daniel and his three friends went through this.

Daniel leads his friends to separate himself and keep himself pure within this program. It is such a strict program, that when he asks the stewards over them if they could do something different, the steward is afraid of royal retribution and punishment. To summarize, “I don’t think you get to do your own thing.”

Even though God had given the Jews over to the Babylonians as a punishment, Daniel felt the conviction to be set apart for God in a real and practical way.

While Daniel is known as the interpreter of dreams, we must remember that before God uses him in this way, Daniel had been intentional about seeking God and being faithful in the midst of oppression.

Daniel decided they couldn’t consume the fine foods and wine. He and his friends would eat vegetables and drink water. And he challenges the steward: if they didn’t appear healthier after ten days, then they would give up their convictions. They challenged in faith, and God blessed them for their “fast.” They did look¬†better. As you can imagine, eating differently would mark them every day as separate from everyone else.

And that is who God used to interpret the dream of the King.

It is not biblically more spiritual to do the “Daniel fast.” That’s not the point.

But the principles are important and instructive for us today.

How are we saying “no” to the culture around us? As our government and culture adopts more of the Marxist ideology and godless ideas, this is more and more necessary for us to discuss and examine as disciples of Christ and citizens of a different Kingdom.

We will be mocked for saying “no.” That is the reality. There will be fear of standing out. Daniel had to deal with this. But if we are going to stand for the Kingdom within an increasingly godless and perverse culture, then there must be resistance and independence, ways that we show where our citizenship lies. This will threaten earthly empires and kingdoms.

The revelation for how we say “no” to our culture and stand out is up to Jesus and the Father. We must get our revelation from him, otherwise there will be no conviction, no strength of grace for endurance in that discipline. For it will require discipline.

And we must have people walking through it with us. We must have people we are vulnerable with that we can say, “Hey, God is telling me to do this,” and then they can walk through it with us or hold us accountable. Daniel had this in his three friends.

Could Daniel have done it alone? With God’s help, yes. But God has designed us to need one another, especially in the Body of Christ in the New Covenant. We will need each other more as our culture adopts more Marxist ideology (and religion … it is a religious belief and agenda, despite what they say to the contrary).

We cannot expect God to use us in powerful ways – and he is using and will continue to use many in powerful ways – unless we are willing to stand for him first. That is essential. It must come from revelation and conviction of the Holy Spirit, and it will scare us and challenge us. It will not be comfortable. But it is essential for what God has for us in the future.

Peace.

Next week – Part 2 – The Dream of the Kingdom

Daniel, Babylon, and the Kingdom of God Introduction

daniel-lionsAs we think about the role and the reality of the Kingdom of God, it is difficult for us to reconcile current tragedies or oppressive circumstances with the notion that we are a part of a Kingdom that is supreme and will never fade, nor will it ever be shaken.

The Book of Daniel in the Old Testament is a fascinating study in this. It has the clearest revelation of the Kingdom of God, but the context is of a subjected, punished people – the Jews – under an evil and oppressive regime.

A part of this is that God states that he uses these regimes and gives them power, for a time, for his uses. First, to punish a rebellious Jewish population for their continued sin and disobedience and immorality despite numerous warnings from numerous prophets and leaders. Second, to prepare those same people for a second deliverance, of a sort.

So we can see that even though these are an oppressed people, the Kingdom is still supreme and God is in control. He has not abdicated his power because tragedy has struck. He has allowed it or used it as punishment (an extremely unpopular idea in today’s culture, but stated clearly in the OT) with the ultimate goal of redemption. Some were not deserving of punishment, and yet we see they do not lose faith. Instead, it strengthens their faith. So whether innocent or guilty, God’s love and power is used to redeem or prepare a people for his deliverance.

It is important to note that the idea of the Kingdom of God goes all the way back to the time of the Judges, if not before. The Israelites did not adopt the idea of a kingdom from other cultures. In fact, the whole struggle in the beginning was against the idea of an earthly king “like other cultures” since God was their king. They had leaders and deliverers but not kings. We see this argument with Samuel and then eventually, Saul. God is sovereign, so he used even their sinful desire for a king to prophetically speak of a God-prophet-deliverer-priest-king to come.

All this is useful context as we will begin to look at Daniel and his three friends as they are taken as slaves and brought to the Babylonian empire.

It is also interesting that Babylon is seen as the model empire. We will go into more depth with this later, but secular and scriptural history points to Babylon as the initial empire of the ancient world. There had been great civilizations and kingdoms, but Babylon is symbolic of the imperial nature of large and central governments of the world from then on. Everyone basically copied them. Daniel is intentional about contrasting the notion of empire with the Kingdom of God.

This is a blog about the Kingdom. And so as we explore the book and relate it to us today, it will have a lot to say about how we act and behave and have faith in a transcendent Kingdom while living under an earthly one, even one that oppresses us. In fact, the scripture assumes that any earthly one will oppress, sooner or later. The only one immune to such corruption is the Kingdom of God.

The revelation and story of Daniel was preeminent in the minds of the Jews when Jesus arrives and begins his ministry. When we study the ideas of the Kingdom in Daniel, it gives greater and deeper context and understanding of Jesus’ gospel – Repent, for the Kingdom of God is here. And he preached that under another Empire, Rome, that was as oppressive and violent as any other, as did the apostles afterwards, in their own way.

On a personal note, while many of us in America are disheartened by the choices for president and the overall bad leadership in our country and immoral direction, this is an important reminder that, absolutely, we should want good leaders with integrity that understand the principles of good government; however, we already exist and operate within the Perfect Government of Christ in the Kingdom of God. That is more central to our peace and righteousness than the filling of an earthly office.

Next week – Part 1 – The Interpreter of Dreams.

Peace.