Sermon for October 2, 2022

Liberating Daniel (Part 1)

“The Sin of Accommodating Injustice”

Daniel 1:1-8

Have you ever heard someone say, “This world is going to hell in a handbasket”?  Perhaps you have said this.  You remember the good old days and think about how much better it was then compared to how things are now.  The reality is this, it’s always been this way.  The Book of Daniel is very much a book about how bad things had gotten for the Jewish people.  Insomuch, there are references of injustice and how a nation is suffering because of it.  Daniel basically says that they have no one to blame but themselves.

The book of Daniel is a complicated book.  In fact, it has always been a much-debated book.  For instance, the Hebrew Bible does not place Daniel with the other major or minor prophets.  In Christian Old Testament, Daniel is the fourth of the major prophets coming right after Ezekiel.  So, there are historical problems with the Book of Daniel, is it a prophetic book or part of the Ketuvim, the Jewish placement of the books considered “writings” like that of Esther?[1]

The reason why Daniel is considered as a prophetic book by Christians is actually because of the Book of Revelation as Revelation 1:3 calls the work a book of prophecy.[2]  However, both books are of the same exact nature, these writings, Revelation and Daniel, are apocalypse literature.  In this case, both Daniel and John are seers, where communication is made to them by some sort of heavenly communication about things about what is going on in heaven and what is going to happen in the future.[3]

However, Daniel has a very negative attitude towards mankind’s fate.  Daniel teaches that the future is as unchangeable as the past, that our fate is already chosen, and we cannot do anything to change that.  Daniel is right in its assessment about the fallenness of mankind, there is truly nothing we can do ourselves to save our own lives.  The idea would later transition that God will be the rescuer towards those who remained faithful.[4]  Humanity owes their own fate towards their faithfulness to God.  When the number of the unfaithful increase, injustice will increase, and God will wrathfully judge the world.  Sound familiar? 

The construction of this book is far less historical, as there are many areas of incorrect recollections of history and conflicting reports about people and kings.  The reason for this is that this book is rather young, constructed between 167 and 164 BCE.  Although it is set in the literary time of Babylonian exile, it was written during the time of Alexander the Great, the King of Greece.  So, Daniel is a recollection of exile and the injustice of war.  Judah, the area that the city of Jerusalem set, had experienced no freedoms.  They were under the Babylonians, then the Medes, then the Persians, and then Greece.

Daniel’s history is off too. As we get into our reading today, you will see the name Jehoiakim as the king when Babylon conquers Jerusalem.  It was Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:8-17 & Ezekiel 1:1-3) Now, 2 Chronicles 36:6 does say that Jehoiakim was taken into exile but there is a major conflict as 2 Kings 24:6 records him dying in Jerusalem during the Babylonian siege. And was succeeded by his son Johoiachin.  The language of this document has the fingerprints of Hellenization, or strong Greek influence, as even the Hebrew language being used in Daniel changes.  What it changes to is Aramaic.  Daniel is not a book of magical foretelling.  It is a book dealing with a contemporary [5]situation that is going on in the author’s day.

Therefore, this book is more about the nightmare of tomorrow that haunted the Jewish people day in and day out.  This book counsels about living one day at a time and trusting God but exercising our faith about the future.[6] The whole book of Daniel is a moral plan![7]  With that in mind, lets read the introduction of Daniel:

Daniel 1:1-8 Common English Bible

1 In the third year of the rule of Judah’s King Jehoiakim, Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and attacked it. 2 The Lord handed Judah’s King Jehoiakim over to Nebuchadnezzar, along with some of the equipment from God’s house. Nebuchadnezzar took these to Shinar, to his own god’s temple, putting them in his god’s treasury.

3 Nebuchadnezzar instructed his highest official Ashpenaz to choose royal descendants and members of the ruling class from the Israelites— 4 good-looking young men without defects, skilled in all wisdom, possessing knowledge, conversant with learning, and capable of serving in the king’s palace. Ashpenaz was to teach them the Chaldean language and its literature. 5 The king assigned these young men daily allotments from his own food and from the royal wine. Ashpenaz was to teach them for three years so that at the end of that time they could serve before the king. 6 Among these young men from the Judeans were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 7 But the chief official gave them new names. He named Daniel “Belteshazzar,” Hananiah “Shadrach,” Mishael “Meshach,” and Azariah “Abednego.”

8 Daniel decided that he wouldn’t pollute himself with the king’s rations or the royal wine, and he appealed to the chief official in hopes that he wouldn’t have to do so.

In an atmosphere of a moral and political life, people are never safe.  For once the idea can be promoted that the majority believes something, then the minority will be silenced.  That is injustice.

It is said this way about Andrew Carnegie, whose name is covering many buildings in Pittsburgh:

“There are two Andrew Carnegies…There is the business man, ruthless, hard are his own pig-iron, who is the maker of millions, and there is the philanthropist, filled with the abstract love of humanity, who is the spender of millions.  Neither has any dealings with the other.  Each has an atmosphere and a hemisphere of his own…There is no conscious conflict between the two.  There is no conflict because the two never meet.”[8]

  1. That comment leads me to point one.  Andrew Carnegie and the author of Daniel both speak about relativism.  Relativism is the belief that there’s no absolute truth, only the truths that a particular individual or culture happen to believe. If you believe in relativism, then you think different people can have different views about what’s moral and immoral.  Daniel pushes back against this idea and pushes towards faith in God who is Truth.

Daniel would not defile himself.  He recognized that in his day, people were being marginalized.  It would have been easier to simply go with the flow with the majority, but he recognized that the voices of the minorities were not being heard.  God forbids such injustice and cares about every voice. 

  • Secondly, there is great failures and shortcomings when is comes to relativism.  If everyone were content, there is no conflict.  But Daniel sees oppression everywhere.  Like Solomon in last week’s message, to make a deal with the enemies of freedom is always a temptation.[9]Daniel begins to push back, and a shove came back from the other direction.  However, Daniel did not bow to the pressure to conform to the pressure of his society and those who were in leadership. 

Think of it this way.  When Adolf Hitler convinced most of the citizens of Germany to become Nazis, they didn’t do so initially with because everyone supported the unspeakable things that they would do to the Jews but became Nazis because most of the people supported the party.  Nazism transformed into something that the people lost control of.  People like Oscar Schindler would be much like Daniel in his actions and pushing back.  Daniel promotes that the only men of any value are men who value God and have pledged their loyalty to Him, not a king, or a furor, or a president.

  • The Book of Daniel encourages us to be heroes.  However, Daniel also reminds us that our obedience to God may not be immediate in our reward or keeps ourselves safe.  Daniel makes the claim that our obedience to God will lead to a man who overcomes the world shall be glad for his decision.  Therefore, Daniel emphasizes religious exercise and ritual to keep us on the right path.[10] 

The same idea can be said today as we begin with Daniel.  It is still applicable today.  Going to church means that when you go, you give God the chance to help you.  When you hear the ancient words of Scripture, and sing praises, or pray together, and see the pastor expound on the truth, all of these things can be used when our faith is challenged by the world. 

When we fail to do these things, as Daniel is pointing out, harm comes to all who are with us when we are alive on this earth.  When trouble strikes, our reaction will be directly connected towards our faithfulness.  This is the message of Daniel.

[1]              Cook, Stephen L., John T. Strong, and Steven Shawn Tuell. 2022. The Prophets: Introducing Israel’s Prophetic Writings. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Pp. 511.

[2]              IBID. pp. 513.

[3]              IBID. pp. 514.

[4]              IBID. pp. 517.

[5]              Al, Et. 1952. The Book of Lamentations – the Book of Ezekiel – the Book of Daniel – the Book of Hosea – the Book of Joel – the Book of Amos – the Book of Obadiah – the Book of Jonah – the Book of Micah – the Book of Nahum – the Book of Habakkuk – the Book of Zephaniah – the Book of Haggai – the Book of Zechariah – the Book of Malachi. New York: Abingdon Press. Pp. 355.

[6]              IBID.

[7]              IBID. 356.

[8]              IBID. pp. 357.

[9]              IBID. pp. 358.

[10]             IBID.

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