At first glance the book of Daniel begins with a somber note of defeat. Judah has capitulated to Nebuchadnezzar and the temple vessels have been taken from Jerusalem to the land of Shinar. The word Shinar appears in the Bible in Genesis 11:2 as the location of the tower of Babel. Shinar is an ominous sign, as it alludes to a project rooted in open defiance of God. But even if the builders of Babel failed in their attempt to reach the heavens, external appearances suggested that Nebuchadnezzar and his gods — located in the land of Shinar — had overpowered the covenant God of Israel.
Still, the opening lines of Daniel make it clear that the defeat of Jerusalem is not credited to the superior power of the Babylonian king; rather, it has occurred because “the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his [Nebuchadnezzar’s] hand” (Dan. 1:2, NKJV). Much earlier, God announces that should His people forget Him and break the covenant, He would send them as captives to a foreign land. So, Daniel knows that behind and beyond the military power of Babylon, the God of heaven is leading the march of history. It is this clear view of God’s sovereignty that sustains these young men and gives them strength and courage to face the temptation and pressure of the Babylonian empire.
Read 2 Kings 21:10-16, 2 Kings 24:18-20, and Jeremiah 3:13. Why does God give Judah and Jerusalem into the hands of the Babylonians?
As we face the challenges of the twenty-first century, we need to recapture the perception of God that is so vividly reflected in the book of Daniel. According to this book, the God whom we serve not only drives the forces of history through His sovereignty but also mercifully intervenes in the lives of His people to provide them with crucial help in times of need. And as we shall see later, what God did for the Hebrew captives He will do for His people in the end time, regardless of the various attacks on them and their faith.
|What are some of the challenges your faith faces now, either from outside sources, from within the church, or from your own personal defects of character? How can you learn to lean on the power of God to help you overcome whatever is before you?|