Friday, December 12, 2014

Daniel 1

I typically post my SS lessons, in case I ever need to go back to them.  This one is for Dec. 14.  It may be a little controversial for some.

Daniel 1
Everyone is familiar with this story and have heard many sermons on it, so I hope to put it in its bigger context.  We can parse the story’s details and make them mean personal lessons, which is fine, but it has a meaning in the flow of history.

I.                    Context
a.       The events take place in 605 BC.  First deportation of exiles from Jerusalem now that Nebuchadnezzar has taken it.
b.      First verse very clear on this. 
c.       Nebuchadnezzar’s goal is to humiliate his enemies and show his power.
                                                              i.      He appropriates temple items of beauty and gold for his own god, who is not named, only the place of the temple
                                                            ii.      Shinar is also where Nebuchadnezzar will put up a idol to himself
                                                          iii.      Nebuchadnezzar did not take all of them.  This is mentioned because it is the fulfillment of  a prophecy from Isaiah 39:6-7 due to Hezekiah showing off the temple items in pride.
                                                          iv.      Jehoiakim’s kingly belongings were probably stolen, too, but that is not important here. What is important is Israel’s worship.
                                                            v.      In this first deportation the elites were taken back to Babylon; Jehoiakim’s was left to reign as “tributary,” which means puppet to Nebuchadnezzar. 
                                                          vi.      That ended up poorly.  Jeremiah was prophesying that the ones left in Jerusalem and Judah not rebel, but they did eight years later . 
                                                        vii.      II Kings 24 and 25 tell the story of the last nineteen years of the royal families in Jerusalem.  It is the background to Daniel. 
                                                      viii.      The Bible is neatly tied together, so almost every detail about this end of the Jerusalem is tied into early prophecy or later events.
                                                          ix.      Nineteen years later, 586 BC, the temple was destroyed—the real end—Daniel was by then a man serving Nebuchadnezzar.
d.      Seventy years’ captivity starts in 605 BC.
II.                Who is Daniel? 
                                                              i.      It doesn’t say that he was in the royal family or anything about his lineage, but he was clearly from a wealthy family—nobility, probably a family with lots of land.
                                                            ii.      So he could have had an attitude of entitlement.  Apparently the others did, except for these four.  We don’t know anything about the youths who went along with the program.
                                                          iii.      Daniel served, the last verse said, until the first year of King Cyrus. 
                                                          iv.      King Cyrus is mentioned in the last verse for a reason.  King Cyrus was a Persian ruler who took over Babylon later and decreed that the Jews could go back in 537 BC.  That means Daniel saw his people delivered, which also means he lived well into his eighties.  He spent almost all his life in the service of pagan kings.  So that detail is not a throwaway point. 
                                                            v.      What we do know about him specifically from this story is that he is shrewd, perceptive, good-looking, well spoken, assertive, a leader, and most of all faithful to the LORD GOD.
b.      Why not eat the king’s food and drink?
                                                              i.      Not kosher
                                                            ii.      Sacrificed to idols
c.       Was Daniel a eunuch?
                                                              i.      Does not say.  So we can’t know for sure. Usually it is said that a person is a eunuch.
                                                            ii.      II Kings 20:18 – a curse on Hezekiah’s family, but may not apply here. 
                                                          iii.      It was common practice for the kings to do that to humiliate and to control captives and servants
                                                          iv.      There is no record of his having a family.
                                                            v.      Eunuchs were not allowed in the temple or priesthood according to Levitical law.  That would not have mattered here since he isn’t serving in the temple and it will be destroyed soon.
                                                          vi.      Why does it matter?  It doesn’t, except that it shows that God uses everyone even those who don’t meet the perfections of the law—like us. 
                                                        vii.      Other eunuchs:  Jeremiah 38:7, Acts 8:27, Isaiah 56, Matthew 19:12.   
                                                      viii.      Eunuchs are not the same as homosexuals.  It refers to people who have neither the capacity or the desire for sex, either because it was forced on them or they were born that way.  In this sex-crazy culture, it is hard to believe some people don’t want sex, but some don’t.
                                                          ix.      It also matters because if Daniel and the others were made eunuchs, it makes their obedience all the more remarkable—their standing up to the king, their speaking truth to power. 
                                                            x.      My application here is for anyone with a disability or issue that “normal” people thinks makes them incapable of really serving God.  This situation doesn’t exist.  Normality is a continuum, not an either or.  Normality is relevant—what do most people do.  We need a new definition of normal in God’s kingdom.
III.             Daniel’s response to his situation
a.       Look for creative solutions, rather than focus on the problem.  That is how you should approach your boss. 
b.       He neither rebelled (not smart) or gave in (not godly).
c.       Is a vegetarian diet better?  I don’t think that is the point here.  However, since the Jewish diet was not heavy on meat anyway and more plant-based, and the Babylonian diet included meat we would not like (horses and pig), it would not have affected his overall health negatively and they were probably generally healthier from eating kosher.  Usually a plant-based diet is better, we know that, but God makes it clear that getting too worried about food is a distraction and can become a god.
d.      This is also not a restriction on drinking wine.  It was the king’s wine that was a problem, not wine in general. 
e.       They went through a ten-day test, and then a three-year test in learning the Chaldean ways, and passed both of them. 
f.       Verse 1:20 “And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.”
                                                              i.      What is important to note here is the level of occultism as well as paganism in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. 
                                                            ii.      The four were up against demonic forces that were considered the source of wisdom in that government. 
                                                          iii.      How much discernment they would have had to have on a daily basis to navigate the falsehoods and idolatry.  We at least live in a culture that has the echoes and shadows of Christian truth and traditions, but there was absolutely none in that context. 
                                                          iv.      Yet they were able to walk that line and show us that we can to, but not on our own strength.  At least twice they came up against the ultimate demands and said “This far and no farther.” 
                                                            v.      Obedience goes hand in hand with wisdom, not the other way around.  John 7:17.  Their wisdom and favor with God and Nebuchadnezzar were because of God’s purposes and because of their striving for obedience.   

Takeaways:  God uses the imperfect in his perfect way.  He can allow us to infiltrate the most unwelcome of places and be successful.  We don’t know where God will take us, and it won’t necessarily be because of our abilities. 

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