Daniel 1:1-2 - Introduction to Daniel

Steve Viars January 23, 1999 Daniel 0:

- If you were to ask the average person on the street, what are the hot topics of the day....two that would undoubtedly be mentioned are character, and the future.
- For a number of different reasons, many in our world are talking about character.....about integrity, about how to control wrong urges, and even determine which ones are right and which ones are wrong.
- the fact that that is true is marvelous news for the church, that the world in which we live is talking about ... character.

- Also for a number of different reasons, many in our world are talking about the future.....
- Being that this is 1999 would naturally turn our attention to that topic.....
- But the problem the computer programmers have left us with, affectionately known as Y2K, has dramatically increased attention on the future.
- you can hardly go a day without someone talking about the “new millennium” --- some folks can hardly seem to make a sentence without using the phrase.
- the fact that that is true is also marvelous news for the church, that the world in which we live is talking about ... the future.

- but its not just a matter of what’s happening “out there”.
- I imagine that if we were able to have a quiet talk....where we could talk honestly and openly about what’s going on in our hearts.....
- many of us would say that we have concerns about our own character....about how to be a person of integrity ourselves.......
- and also many of us would say that we have honest questions about the future.....what’s going to happen?, when its going to happen?, and where will that leave us?

- now, the great news is, if you have your Bible with you this morning, you hold in your hand a book that has answers and directions for both of these concerns.
- and friends, I trust that you truly believe that......
- as we prepare for 1999....
- and as we prepare, yes, for a new millennium....
- that we are convinced that God has given us, in His Word, all we need for life and godliness (II Peter 1:3)
- that the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul (Psalm 19:7)
- that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, instruction in righteousness, in order that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished unto every good work (II Timothy 3:16).

- In the early part of this year, I would like to lead us on a study of a book in the OT that was written over 2500 years ago.
- admittedly, it is old.....but based on the verses we just reviewed, it was written by God, and this particular book has a heavy emphasis on how to be a person of character, and how to know what will happen in the future.

- but its still over 2500 years old.....think about that ---- our country is 223 years old --- we’re talking about a book that is 2500 years old.
- but I believe this.....if we were able to assemble the great contemporary minds of our times....the most intelligent, well-connected human beings from around the globe....
- and asked them to assemble a document to teach us how to have integrity and character in 1999....and to teach us what the future would be like in the coming days.....

- if the great minds of the day wrestled with those questions...and as soon as they were done, we copied their report and distributed it to the church family.....
- that what they wrote, as human beings (though it were as up to date as possible).....
- I believe the value of what they wrote would pale in comparison to the value of the Holy Word of God.

- that’s why Psalm 119:89 says -- Thy Word is forever settled in the heavens.
- that’s why the writer of Hebrews said that the Word of God is alive, [think about that] it is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

- there is no view of character that is more up to date than the Scriptures.
- there is no view of the future that is more up to date the Word of God.
- Friend, do you believe that?

- if you do (since you do), I’d like to invite you to open your Bible to the book of Daniel.
- Daniel is surely one of the most exciting books in the Bible.
- if you’re new to studying the Scriptures, you’ll find a Table of Contents in the front of your Bible which will tell you the page number where the book of Daniel can be found.
- If Daniel was anything, he was a man of integrity...and not because his circumstances were easy, and not because he had had many years of practice.
- his story begins when he was a teenager, taken out of his home and carted off to a new country, and a new culture....
- a young man, facing an incredible trial.....with personal integrity.

- let’s read the first two verses this morning, and see how this thrilling story begins.
- READ Daniel 1:1-2

- I’d like to encourage you to do several things as we begin this series.
1) To begin faithfully reading this book.
- last week we said that growing Christians are students...they are readers...and I would encourage you to faithfully and repeatedly read the book of Daniel.
2) I’d like to also encourage you to consider purchasing some sort of a study Bible.
- there are a number of good ones on the market....
- I’ve recently purchased one done by John MacArthur that I am really enjoying....
- A good study Bible will answer some of the tough questions that come up in the text and will help you as you read.
3) I’d also like to encourage you to consider buying a commentary to study as we go along.
- one that I will be quoting from a lot in this series is by David Jeremiah entitled “The Handwriting on the Wall.”

- now, this morning, we’re going to go a little slow and focus on these first two verses.
- the reason for that is that I want to be especially sensitive to folks who are new to studying the Scriptures.
- From these first two verses, we can see how:
I. God is the Lord of Consequences.
II. God is the Lord of Current Events.
III. God is the Lord of Details.
- each of those ideas has practical implications for the way we live today.

I. God is the Lord of Consequences
- As Americans we read a verse like Daniel 1:1, and say; “So what?”....who was Jehoiakim, where was Judah, who was Nebuchanezzar, Where  was Babylon and Jerusalem?
- and what’s this have to do with me and when’s lunch?

- remember this, the people to whom this book was originally written would have been greatly impacted by these words, and it is our job as students of the Bible to understand why these words are here, and then make appropriate application to our lives today.

- Can I ask you to take a look at the handout that was in your bulletin that has a map on it.
- on the reverse side of the map on the left hand column....we’ve listed key OT events.
- Genesis 12 is a very important chapter in the Bible because that’s when God called Abraham and made a marvelous promise to him.
- Do you remember the three-fold provision of the Abrahamic covenant?
- land, seed, and blessing.
- God promised to make a nation out of Abraham’s offspring, though he and his wife were, and had no children.
- God said that He would multiply Abraham’s seed, he would give their nation a land, and that He would bless them.
- that happened in approximately 2100 BC.

- another important event took place under Moses.
- the children of Israel were a great nation at this point, but they had been in slavery in Egypt....
- and God raised up Moses to lead the nation into the promised land of Israel.

- 450 years later, the nation had one of their most godly kings, King David.
- many of the psalms in our Bible were written by David, and the nation was in its climax during this time.

- 70 years later, the nation began going into decline.
- Solomon had married many wives, they had brought with them their foreign gods....and many of the people began worshipping other gods.
- of course this was a direct violation of one of the ten commandments which said --- thou shalt have no other gods before me.
- what also resulted was sinful living.
- whenever you start worshipping man-made gods,  you can also make up man-made rules.
- and the distinctiveness that God wanted the nation of Israel to have, which is why He raised up Abraham in the first place, were lost.
- as a result, the kingdom actually divided in 930 BC, with the northern tribes retaining the name Israel but setting up a rival capital in Samaria and even a rival system of worship....
- and the southern tribes, which took the name Judah and kept their capital in Jerusalem.

- so what you have is God’s chosen people [the Sons of Abraham] living in great sin, and actually being divided into two rival entities.
- God did two things at that time.
- he raised up prophets that warned his people of the importance of repenting to receive his blessing and forgiveness, or the judgment that would result if they wouldn’t.
- if you look on the inside of your handout, you see the different prophets and when they ministered....much of our Old Testaments are made up of their writings.
- He also raised up foreign nations that he used to bring judgment of Israel.
- if you look at your key dates again, you see that in 722, the nation of Assyria invaded the northern kingdoms in 722 BC...and then the nation of Babylon invaded the remaining southern kingdoms beginning in 605.

- now, let’s tie some of this together....
- if you were part of our church last year, you know that we studied the life of another of Israel’s prophets.
- what was his name?  (Jonah)
- was he ministering under the Assyrian domination, or the later Babylonian?
- the Assyrian....which explains why it was so significant for God to send Jonah to Ninevah, a principle city of Assyria.

- when we get to the book of Daniel, we’re down to 605 B.C.
- the northern kingdoms have been wiped out.....but so has Assyria.....
- now the dominant power is the rogue nation of Babylon.

- that brings us to this verse we’re studying.
- now, in Daniel 1:1, we read about one of these kings...what was his name?...Jehoiakim...king of Judah.  [Can you locate him on your list?]

- now, the verse says, that in the third year in this king’s reign, the a man named Nebuchanezzar, who was the king of Babylon, came and besieged Jerusalem.
- this would probably be a good time to look at the map  [point out Jerusalem, Assyria, Babylon].

- so the bottom line is, the people of Judah in general, and King Jehoiakim in particular, are in big-time trouble.
- now thank you for your patience as I tried to lay that out....
- here’s the $100 question --- why is this happening to Judah, and why is this happening to Jehoiakim?
- and what lessons can we learn from that for the way we live today?

- those questions are best answered in a couple of other OT passages in the Scriptures.....
- turn if you would now to the book of Habakkuk....
- that one is further back in the OT....you can find it.
- Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk [the fifth book from the end of the OT].

- Habakkuk ministered about this same time period, just a little bit earlier.
- and his question was, Why is God allowing the children of Judah to continue to sin the way they are sinning?...When is God going to bring some sort of revival in the land?
- read Habakkuk 1:1-4
- did you see all those key words....
- here’s these people who say they are God’s children...yet they are characterized by violence, iniquity, by trouble, by plundering....
- he says in verse four that people are not paying any attention to God’s Word....
- and he asks --- Lord, when are you going to provide salvation....when is their going to be a revival....when will you make your people turn back to you?

- the answer would have shocked the prophet out of his boots.
- READ Habakkuk 1:5-11

- God says to the prophet, this is not going to be the time for revival, this is going to be the time for judgment.....and I am even going to use a wicked and ruthless nation like the Babylonians as a consequence of judgment on Judah.

- what is happening in Daniel 1 is exactly what God told Habakkuk would happen......God is the Lord of consequences.

- now you might say --- but what about this Jehoiakim?
- Does the Bible tell us anything about him that would explain especially why he’s in the middle of this?
- look at Jeremiah chapter 36.
- if you’re still in Habakkuk, you’ll have to go toward the front of the Bible a little.....
- Jeremiah is even before Daniel......

- when you find Jeremiah 36, please look at your chart for a minute.....
- according to your chart, what was the relationship between when Jeremiah was a prophet, and when Daniel was a prophet?  (they overlapped -- they were contemporaries)

- look at Daniel 36, verse 1....READ
- this is about the exact same time as when the book of Daniel starts....
- some Bible students believe that this verse is using the Jewish method dating a king’s rule so that this happened just prior to Daniel 1:1...regardless it tells us something about the character of the king.
- read 2-3....

- so God tells Jeremiah to write His Word out on a scroll and deliver it to the people so they will repent and receive forgiveness.
- now we’re going to skip the next verses because of time....but Jeremiah does exactly what the Lord tells him to do....
- but look what King Jehoiakim does.
- read verses 21-24.

- now, all of a sudden, Daniel 1:1 is starting to make a lot more sense.
- and the people of that day would have immediately put that together --- it took us a little bit longer.....
- but the word that comes screaming out of Daniel 1:1 is the word consequences.
- God is the Lord of consequences.....
- He had warned his people and warned his people....and He warned this king, and warned this king.
- and what was their response?.....to ignore the Word of God, and in the kings case....to defy the Word of God and ridicule the Word of God.....
- as if God was not intelligent enough to know what they were doing....
- or powerful enough to do anything about it.....

- in the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign, God decided that it was time for the consequences of behavior to be brought to bear.
- He is the Lord of [He has control over] consequences.

- you might ask, PV, what does that have to do with me?
- remember we said at the beginning that many people today are thinking about and talking about character....
- one way that God helps us build character is by responding to the choices we make with appropriate consequences.

- do you remember what Paul said in Galations 6 --- Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.
- Friend, are you letting the truth that God is the Lord of consequences motivate you to making right choices?

- one of the Greek philosophers spent several weeks observing court cases...and he came away saying....there seems to be three reasons why people commit crimes....
1) Either they don't believe they’ll be caught.
2) Or they believe if they’re caught, they won’t be punished.
3) Or they think that if they are caught and punished.....the severity of the punishment will not outweigh the benefit of the crime.

- now do you think that could explain some of the lack of character in our world?
- God doesn’t know....or God doesn’t care....or God isn’t powerful enough to do anything about it.
- in other words, I can do this, or I can say this, I can think this, I can watch this, I can listen to this, I can go to this place, I can run with this person.....and there won’t be any consequences?

- now, friend, before we get too self-righteous about this.....We shouldn’t be thinking about someone else when we ask these questions...we ought to be thinking about....ourselves.
- there’s a little Jehoiakim in all of us....and for some....its more than a little.
- some of us mistake God’s mercy for indifference.....
- we mistake God’s patience for powerlessness.....
- we presume upon his grace.

- if you can think of specific ways that’s true of you this morning, I would encourage you to plan to make that right....both by biblical confession, and a planned approach to change.

- now, the other side of this is....this business of consequences is a two-edged sword, isn’t it?
- because not only are there consequences for disobedience, there are also consequences [or we might say] rewards for obedience.
- see, you might be here this morning and would say, PV, I’ve been trying to be faithful in this situation, and faithful in this situation...and God doesn’t seem to be doing anything yet.
- friend, you haven’t been waiting long enough.....
- that’s why the sowing and reaping passage ends by saying --- And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

- well, I’ve been praying and I’ve been praying and God doesn’t seem to be doing anything....
- then you haven’t been praying long enough....
- its amazing how quickly we can conclude --- well, there must not be any consequences.....
- I’ve been living for God for three minutes now and I haven’t seen one blessing yet!

- that tendency can get us coming and going....
- believing there’s no consequences for sin will drive us into disobedience
- believing there’s no rewards for righteousness will drive us into despair....

- let the message of Daniel 1:1 speak truth to us from both sides....God is the Lord of [the controller of] the Consequences.

- a second truth that flows out of these first two verses is:

II. God is the Lord of Current Events

- after Nebuchanezzar invaded Jerusalem, the Babylonian Times would have reported, look what the great Nebuchadnezzar has done.
- or the Jerusalem Post might have said, everything is out of control!

- the fact is, neither would have been right.
- what are the most important words in Daniel 1:2?
- and the Lord gave.....

- God is the one who was in control of the current events.
- and by the way--that’s one of the key themes of this book.
- I know when we think about the book of Daniel we often think about the Lion’s Den, or we think about Fiery Furnace, or we think about the Image of Gold, or the Handwriting on the Wall.....
- This book is about the powerful sovereignty of God.

- Can I ask you to peek ahead to chapter 4 verse 25?
- this serves as a theme verse for the book....
- its part of the prophecy that tells Nebuchanezzar he is going to be greatly humiliated....
- read Daniel 4:25.

- over and over in this book we confronted with the great truth that God is in control....
- God is sovereign.....God is in charge.....
- he is the Lord of Consequences....and He is the Lord of Current Events.

- now let’s just stop and think about that for a minute.
- do we need to hear about this?....that God is in control of current events?

- Could God use the sinful Babylonians in his plan and program?....Yes.
- Could He use the sinful Babylonians for more than one thing at the same time?  (you say, what do you mean?)

- well, on the one hand, He could use the sinful Babylonians as an instrument of judgment on those of the children of Israel who had been living in disobedience.....
- but He could also simultaneously use the Babylonians as an opportunity for the righteous life of He servant Daniel to bring glory to the true God.

- is that true?
- next week, Lord willing, we’re going to read about how Daniel along with a small group of Jewish leaders were plucked out of their homes, and carted off to Babylon.
- and they are going to undergo treatment that we wouldn’t wish on anyone by these ruthless, cruel Babylonians.....

- But could God move in those current events in a way that was ultimately in Daniel’s best interest?
- you better believe it --- God was using this evil nation to take Daniel to a place where he would have a marvelous ministry...that he would have never had otherwise.
- God is in control of current events.

- Friends, believers in Jesus Christ ought to be the calmest people on earth.
- I didn’t say indifferent.....I didn’t say asleep at the wheel....but I said calm, and collected, and confident.

- Too many believers in Christ are running around like chicken little, thinking that because conditions in our world, or conditions in our country, or conditions in our community are not what they’d like....that its OK to sin in order to somehow make things right.

- thinking that we’ve somehow got to establish the kingdom of God on this earth by force, so in or relationships with unbelievers....its OK to be sinfully angry....or its OK to make treats....or its OK to call names.....
- God can’t quite get things under control so I’ll get out of my cage to give Him a little help.

- Some folks seem to have the view that sin is OK until we right every wrong on this earth and then we’ll settle down.
- its time to settle down now....and act like we believe that God is in control of current events now.

- the situation with the President of the United States is not outside of God’s control...
- He can use these events to bring glory to Himself as His children respond properly if we’ll choose to do so.
- but this is not the time for self-righteousness on the part of Christ’s church as if one person sinned but we never do.
- nor is this the time for sarcasm as if the Biblical rules of communication are suspended because this situation so bizarre.

- instead, we have a marvelous opportunity to glorify God as we seek to speak the truth as we interact with a culture that is asking some very important questions.
- but there’s a huge difference between remembering that God is in control and I simply have to do my part...compared to believing that God has lost control and that I somehow have to get it back through sinful means.

- someone else might hear this principle and say --- but PV, aren’t you aware of what happened in our county....
- Two of our county commissioners voted to stop praying publicly before their evening meetings....you’re saying that God is in control of current events?
- that’s exactly what I’m saying.....I didn’t say He was pleased with that decision.....
- I said that things do not happen outside of God’s control.

- a couple of quick comments about that event.....
- I would not want to be an elected official in this town, or probably any town......and I’m thankful for those who are willing to take those positions....
- Biblically speaking, we are to show honor and respect for them, even if we disagree with a decision they make.....

- yes, its right to communicate with elected officials.....we ought to do that as believers.....
- but regardless of what we think of a particular decision, or event.....we are never justified in name-calling, or accusations, or treats, or ridicule, or a lack of civility in any fashion.

- the argument could be made that God designs events like this not for us to always get our way but instead to show how we respond when we don't get our way.

- and I would like to ask you this morning friend, as you think about what God has been bringing into your life....has your response been such that it is clear you believe He is in control....and that you are committed to doing your part, but only your part?

- now someone might say --- PV, you’re just talking about little details....
- I have an opinion about what should happen with the President...and me getting my way on that issue is more important than the little details of tone of voice, or choice of words....
- you’re too focused in on the piddly details.....

- Friend, that’s the third principle I’d like you to see from this passage.....
- Yes, God is the Lord of the consequences, and He’s the Lord of current events....

III. He’s Also the Lord of the Details.

- you might say -- where does that idea come from?
- did you notice what happened at the end of verse 2?

- Nebuchanezzar took some of the articles from the temple, and took them back to his pagan temple in Babylon.
- that’s what you did when you wanted to show that your gods were more powerful than someone else’s gods.

- and someone might say --- that’s a minor detail.....it doesn’t even fit in the text.....

- and you know what, that detail just lays there...for the next four chapters......
- in fact, throughout Nebuchadnezzar’s life....its ignored.....

- but then in chapter 5, Nebuchanezzar’s son Belshahazzar is having a drunken party....and he asks someone to go get the articles that had been taken from Jerusalem so they can drink from them.
- Just a little detail......
- he hadn’t oughta done that.
- before the evenings’ over, he will literally receive the scare of His life.
- there is no such thing as a little thing to God.
- He doesn’t meaning of the word inconsequential.

- He is in control of the consequences, current events, details.

 


-

 

 

-

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video