Bible Experiment Daniel

Bible Experiment Daniel

My Biblinomicron exercise has been running for a year or two now – and it’s a simple enough an idea to understand. I read a book of the Bible, and discuss the ins and outs of it (the good, the bad, the incomprehensible) for at least 1,000 words. I’ve been averaging upwards of 2,000 to 3,000 though. I’m a little long winded, to put it lightly. I’ve been moving from Genesis towards Revelation, and everything in between, and hopefully won’t stop until I meet my goal.

Tflannelgraphhis week we (we… he says, referring to himself) will be going through the book of Daniel. EVERYONE knows the stories of Daniel. Even ardent atheists know the book of Daniel whether they realize it or not. Even little tikes have heard all the stories of the book of Daniel. No? I can still recall the old school flannelgraphs and how the little people shapes, and lions, and kings moved across the board as the story was told about good old Daniel. As an aside, you haven’t really made it until you’ve got your own flannelgraph cut out shape made of you. (As an aside to my aside (this is how we end up with 3,000 words per book, I seriously need an editor) I once built and programmed a flash based flannelgraph as a joke for a talk I gave. I literally spent a hundred hours designing and building this thing that I used for exactly 30 minutes as a joke, during a random talk…) but I digress. But, wait, how many close parens do we need? Can’t leave you trapped and abandoned in the paren underworld… oh, I don’t know – here are a bunch )))) … cool? great.

But what are the main stories that everyone knows? Well, we have the story about Daniel and his interpreting the King’s dream. Right? We’ve got the biggie – Daniel in the Lion’s Den. We have Daniel’s friends surviving a stay in a fiery furnace. And there are a few lesser known ones, like Daniel getting hit on by some rich dude’s wife. And his going to jail for it. And we know that Daniel rose to second in command over all of Babylon. Right?  But with this most recent reading of Daniel, those things were not the items that really stood out to me at all. Yeah, it’s fascinating that Daniel survived the lion’s den. And that his friends survived the fiery furnace. And the assassination attempts and the plots against him. But these stories that you ‘know’ (the dreams, the lions den, the fiery furnace are actually the more BORING parts of the book.) Here let’s just walk through the high points of the entire book and then you’ll see what I mean:

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream – the whole of the book is setup with a dream. Daniel and his buddies are being groomed as potential aides de camp for Nebuchadnezzar – the supreme ruler of most of the known planet. And this Nebuchadnezzar guy is a sly fox. He not only asks his wisemen to interpret the dream, but to also tell him what his dream was. Right? Because ANYONE can make up a dream interpretation. Heck, I’d be awesome at that. But I digress. Daniel 2 – “What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men.”

So since no one on the planet can read someone else’s mind… Nebuchadnezzar orders all the wisemen (and wiseman-in-training) to be killed. Daniel finds out and is like WOAH. Give me a shot at this. I can do this. He prays to God for the dream, and the interpretation and voila, Daniel blows Nebuchadnezzar’s (and pretty much everyone else too) mind. And that is how Daniel rises to power in Babylon.

One of the secrets to Daniel’s dream interpretation is that it tells the story not just of Babylon (which is just the very near term interpretation) but also about four other kingdoms well beyond Nebuchadnezzar as well.  The first four kingdoms have been identified as the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman Empires. These are fairly obvious just by looking at history and seeing which empires line up. Babylon fell to the Medes and the Persians (Medo-Persia) which we see more about in Daniel 5. Then Greece took over from the Medo-Persian Empire. (Which is detailed in Daniel 8, 10 & 11). And then the iron empire that took over after Greece could only be Rome. So what is the fifth empire? Some interpret it as the age of the Gentiles. Which seems weak to me. Or it could be that Daniel leap frogged all the way to the final empire – the millennial reign empire – of Christ and his return to Earth. Daniel, if you haven’t noticed already, is not just a prophetic book for that specific period, but also for you and me today. Sure, occasionally Daniel tells the stories of the day – but there is a heck of a lot more story of today that is told.

For example in chapters three through six Daniel discusses the fact that these are all Gentile nations that are ruling and controlling the Earth for the foreseeable future, but it isn’t really the Gentile nations that are in control. It is really God who is in control and who is ruling. Even Nebuchadnezzar gets this fact. He gives God – Daniel’s God specifically – the credit for being the one who gives and takes away authority. To say that Nebuchadnezzar was blown away by Daniel’s party trick of interpreting his dream is an understatement.

(c) Walker Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the Fiery Furnace & Daniel and his Eponymous Lion’s Den

The fiery furnace and the story of the lion’s den are basically the same story told in two different ways. After Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel and his Jewish buddies were given favor. Daniel basically was the right hand man to the King. And even after the conquest of the Medo-Persian empire, they still remained at the forefront of power in this new kingdom.  And, as you know from your own dealing with other humans, power can cause all manner of jealousy amongst the other powerful men of the kingdom. So, Daniel’s detractors went after Daniel and his friends in the form of laws and edicts to worship foreign gods and idols. And as a result of their refusal to obey, they found themselves in fairly hairy predicaments.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were told that if they did not bow to an enormous graven image of the king and worship it they would be thrown into a fiery furnace. The line that most stands out for me is that their response to the king and his advisors was, “Our God can save us from this fiery pit… but even if He does not, we will not bow.” Into the furnace they went, and the king saw four men, not three. An angel joined them in amongst the fire and kept them safe. The King declared their God to be the one true God.

Daniel’s encounter with the lion’s den was a little different in that Daniel’s detractors got the king to write a law specifically for Daniel. They knew that Daniel bowed in the direction of Jerusalem three times a day and prayed. And so they wrote a law disallowing the worship of any other gods. But Daniel? He continued as always to go home, and open his windows towards Jerusalem, and to pray to his God. Well, when the King was told that Daniel was disobeying the King’s edict, he was required by the laws of the Medo-Persians not to reverse his edict. And with much gnashing of teeth on the King’s part, Daniel was sent to an overnight stay with the lions. The king worried about Daniel all night long. And the first thing the next morning, the King booked it down to the den to see if Daniel’s God had saved him from certain death. Sure enough – there was Daniel snuggled up next to the other kitty cats. The epilogue to the story was that the king had his guards grab the guys that wanted Daniel dead, and threw them – and their families – into the pit. And they were torn to pieces even before they hit the ground.

The Fifth Empire – In chapter seven we start to really see the future with a telescoping perspective, “Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.” And with this dream, we get an extra hit of LSD and Meth because now we are looking far into the future. Somehow (it isn’t clear) the 4th Kingdom (Rome) evolves into the 5th kingdom and we see an individual that is singled out. He spoke boastful words, and ruled the world somehow. Eventually the “beast” (boastful leader) would be killed, and after that we would see this happening:

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

And if you know anything about Jesus, and His preferred name, which was, ‘The Son of Man’… he got that name from Daniel. He literally was pointing us to this (and other passages like it) for us to get what is happening here. Which basically means, that when Christ returns, He will be given all authority for the entire planet, and He will reign forever. That there will be an awful time of chaos just before His return (read the beginning of Daniel 7, you’ll get the drift) but once He comes back He will strip the beasts that have been ravaging the Earth of their power and their will be peace.

The Greek Empire

Throughout chapters eight through eleven the chapters begin to mix in specific details about the Greek Empire and the coming of the Antichrist. Details come about Alexander the great, and Antiochus the IV, who decided that he was god. Which, is a kind of lowercase a antichrist. And as we are watching the stories details about Antiochus we see that they begin to morph in front of our eyes to the final, upper case A Antichrist that come in the end times.

Personal Thoughts on Daniel

Sometimes we can be so familiar with a thing so as to not even notice it. But if you were to sit down and read Daniel from beginning to end, I’d be willing to bet that you probably wouldn’t even recognize it. Sure, there is the standard stories that we know and love. But the rest of the book is all about the future age to come when the Christ will overthrow the kingdom of the Antichrist and his designs for the planet. We learn that although the children of Israel are in captivity God still loves them and has sent angels to watch over them and protect them. We also learn that the Jewish nation state was going to be tenuous at best. They’d return to Israel, but the age of the gentiles was soon coming and that these enormous nation states would rule the world as well as the Israelites. But that in the end, when the children of Israel needed God most, He would come and save them from the Antichrist and the chaos of the end times.

Whether you are Jewish or Gentile – this book is about you. This book makes it abundantly clear that you are important to God if you choose to follow Him. That He will send His angels to protect you from whatever chaos and crap you are dealing with today. And yeah, the fiery furnace may consume you… but God still will take care of you. This world is not the end goal… there is a much, much, larger story here, if you would just open your eyes.

Another take away from the book of Daniel is right in line with that. The God that created the universe and all that is in it, the being that created you and loves you… He also sees and knows all things, including the comings and goings of kingdoms, kings and powers. He will raise up Kings (like he did with the Medo-Persians in order to orchestrate the release of the Jews from captivity) and depose them for His purposes. I remember when I used to watch the X-files and I adored the stories about the Syndicate, and how they controlled the world from behind the curtains. They manipulated everything and brokered deals with the aliens in order to arrange for their safety. And that was fiction. The God that created the universe really does have that kind of power and He works towards a preordained future for the Earth. Everything moves in the direction of His plan. And His plan is all about you. It’s all about you coming to know Him through His grace. It’s all about an infinite being providing for you a way to be restored from your sins and be spotless before Him.

As I am writing this, it is Christmas week. And I know from personal experience that almost the whole of the Earth celebrates Christmas. I was in the Phillipines during Christmas, and although hot, they were decorated in snow and lights. In Africa – I saw the familiar trappings of tinsel, and holly. In Mexico and Peru I’ve seen the interesting ways in which they celebrate. All of the Earth pays homage to the God who came in the form of a little baby. But not everyone really believes. Everything points to Him. Our Christmas celebrations (why else would so many be offended by Christ-mass?), our Easter celebrations, all point to this much much larger story heralded here throughout Daniel.

But many still don’t believe. They choose instead empty cisterns that don’t hold water. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. Material things with very short warranties. Cars. Jobs. Technology. All are substitutes that help distract us from the utter pain and despair of a life with out God. But this Christmas season doesn’t need to be spent without purpose or without meaning. You can know the real purpose for which you were called. You can see, with open eyes – for the first time, what it is that God created you for. You can know the peace that passes all understanding. You can know contentment in spite of your circumstances. But most of all, you can know His love and redeeming grace that allows you to live in communion with Him forever. All the rest of this life? Irrelevant. Semantic details. If you’d like to know more about this riddle within a riddle, I’d be happy to chat with you about it personally. Because I personally can’t think of a better Christmas gift than that.