1 - Spiritual Success Despite a Pagan World
RDean Daniel Lesson 1
Spiritual Success Despite a Pagan World
Tonight we begin our study of Daniel. Daniel, the name, comes from the writer of the book, Daniel, who's one of the most significant figures in the Old Testament, if not one of the greatest leaders in all of human history. He is a man who was born a Jew, born into the royal family of Israel, he was not in the lineage of the king but he was certainly related to the king according to Josephus and a number of other sources. He was part of the royal family captives that were taken from Jerusalem to Babylon in 605 BC. His name, Daniel, means God is judge or God is my judge, depending on how you understand the "i" in Daniel, that's usually a first person common singular suffix in Hebrew, but sometimes it can also be inserted to make the spelling of the word or the pronouncing of the word flow.
So that it can mean God is my judge or God is judge, which certainly fits the theme of this book, which is to demonstrate that Jesus Christ controls history, that God controls history and that despite all of the powerful kingdoms on the earth, despite all the machinations of political leaders and warriors and generals and empires that God is the One who controls the destiny of man. So there are some fantastic lessons for us to learn in this book and in our study of Daniel.
Most of us at one time or another in our lives have wrestled with the fact that we are trying to live out our Christian beliefs in the midst of a society and a culture that is hostile to much of what we believe, if not outright antagonistic. We are put under pressure from family members, from peers, from society at large to compromise our positions, not to take a stand. A classic example is what occurred recently in the hearings for Attorney General. Ashcroft was asked if he would set aside his religious convictions in his application of the law, and the individual who asked that question demonstrated his own compromise in every level of values to do that. Your religious systems informs everything that we do and what we do often reveals more about what we believe than what we say we believe. So somebody who says that they can set aside their so-called religious convictions and vote different from what they say they believe demonstrates what they really believe and their religious convictions are really not that significant.
Often, as believers, we get skeptical some times and when we look at our political leaders and we look at Washington and we see men of conviction, men whose convictions we agree with go to Washington and the next thing you know they're compromising here, they're making a deal there and it seems like it's not long before they're no longer taking the stand that they said they would take. Recently I read a well-known Christian author who made the comment that he did not see how any believer who was serious about his Christian life could ever be a politician because he had to compromise so much. Well, he wasn't thinking of Daniel.
Daniel is a man who didn't compromise on anything and God honored him and blessed him and raised him to not only the second highest position in the Babylonian Empire, but once the Persians came in and destroyed the Babylonian Empire Daniel was again elevated to one of the highest positions in the Persian Empire. I don't think that at any other time in history that's ever happened, where somebody served in the second highest position in one empire and then served in the second highest position in a subsequent empire, and yet Daniel did that. He was a man that had incredible integrity and demonstrates that we should not compromise at any point, and whether or not it has negative consequences should not be a factor. I am reminded of what Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego said when they were to bow down before the idol of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3, they said our God can deliver us and even He doesn't, we're still not going to bow down. And that should be the attitude of every believer, that we are going to apply the Word of God and we are going to uncompromisingly stand for the Word of God, whether we are honored or whether God blesses us or whether we survive or not, God can deliver us but even if he doesn't we're still going to take our stand.
So this is a book that gives us a tremendous amount of confidence in God's control of history and it also teaches us a lot about how a believer can be a success in life, and by that I don't mean financial success or material success or career success, but success in the spiritual life, how a believer can be a success, maintain happiness, stability and tranquility in life without compromising doctrine at all.
This book is one that has come under tremendous attack; I don't think there is another book in all of the Bible that has been attacked by critics more than the book of Daniel. Daniel, the book of Daniel, the message of Daniel, represents the greatest offense to modern man contained in all of Scripture. It's for that reason that the critics believe that this book, more than any other, must be crushed, for the critics correctly realize that if the book of Daniel is left to stand to be what it claims to be in the Scripture, to have the prophetic statements that it claims to have, then if Daniel is allowed to stand then the case against Christianity is destroyed. Daniel is that crucial.
Therefore the most vehement attacks have been vented against this book in academic circles. If you've ever been involved in a college classroom or some other academic environment where Christianity has been attacked, it is probably Daniel that is at the forefront of that attack. It has borne the brunt of liberal attacks throughout the centuries and it represents the key issues in every non-Christian attack against Christianity, especially liberal rationalism because the assumption of the liberal rationalist is that God is not actually involved in human history, God does not intervene, there is no supernatural involvement by God in history at all. And where Daniel gives that the lie is in all of the detailed prophecies, one of which we studied several times and that is the prophecy of Daniel's seventy weeks in Daniel 9, where that prophecy predicts to the day the entrance of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.
And that is only one of many prophecies and if those are indeed prophecies that are telling the future, wherein the book of Daniel you have Daniel predicting the defeat of the Babylonian Empire by the Persians, the defeat of the Persians by the Greeks, the subsequent four-fold division of the Greek Empire, the rise of the Seleucid Empire, one of those heirs to the Greek Empire, and the attack of Antiochus Epiphanes on the Jews and the defilement of the temple. All of that is predicted in detail in Daniel and if that is true and if Daniel is what he claims to be, that is writing history ahead of time, which is what prophecy is, then that shows that God does indeed interact in human history, He is involved and He is the God who is over all of the nations.
One Christian scholar has correctly noted that: "The book of Daniel is especially fitted to be a battlefield between faith and unbelief. It admits of no half-measures. It is either divine or an imposter." That is written by E. B. Pusey. Now if you were a thinking Christian and you ever get involved in any kind of an academic discussion over the Scriptures, then you need to have an understanding of many of these issues in Daniel because this is the place where you will be attacked. As a believer we always need to know how to defend ourselves against these attacks. Peter tells us that we are to be always ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us, so if somebody asks you how do you know that these are accurate prophecies, you need to be able to answer them to some degree. You may include as part of that answer giving them a tape but for the most part we need to be able to give an answer, to know this information and to be able to defend what we believe, and not come across as some air-head Christian who just says well I believe that because that's what my church believers, which is how most Christians try to answer attacks.
E. J. Young, another well-known Old Testament scholar writes: "The book of Daniel purports to be serious history; it claims to be a revelation from the God of heaven which concerns the future welfare of men and nations." Now if Daniel is not what it claims to be, then the Bible is just another human book and has no real value or significance or at least no more than any other book. But this book can be defended against its attacks and just because it is attacked and assaulted doesn't mean that there are any real problems.
The reason this book offends so many people and brings so many attacks is for one simple reason. The prophecies are so clear, the details are so precise, and the prophecies that have been fulfilled already have been so completely fulfilled. The argument of the book of Daniel shows the existence of a supernatural God who reveals Himself clearly and distinctly to men centuries before these events in human history take place. Prophecies that the God of history makes come to pass 100%, though many of the prophecies in Daniel have not yet been fulfilled, those which have have come to pass 100% and the non-Christian finds that to be completely offensive because what it means to them is that they are wrong and that there is a God who will hold them accountable.
People who attack Daniel hate the concept of a personal infinite God who speaks to His creatures and who espouses absolutes and will hold them accountable to those absolutes. There are no reasons, there are no intellectual reasons, there are not historical reasons why this book should not be considered as authoritative as any other book in the canon. The only reasons that have ever been brought to bear against Daniel being part of the canon and being what it claims to be are those that come from the liberal rationalist whose hidden presupposition is that God just can't do this, God is not going to act in such a way as to intervene in human history.
Daniel is a book that has had tremendous impact throughout history. Probably no other book is more well-known for its prophecy, other than Revelation although Daniel is usually read more by people than Revelation. People are familiar with the stories of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, otherwise known as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. People are familiar with the story about Daniel in the lion's den; people are to some degree familiar with the image that New Testament constructs. These are things that are passed on and told in stories that are well-known, so the book of Daniel is very popular. But not only has Daniel had an impact on believers because of his live testimony and because of the doctrine that's here, but Daniel has also had an impact on the thinking of the non-Christian world.
Daniel wrote in the time period in the middle of the 6th century BC, between 5586 BC and 536 BC, the 6th century BC. Now at that same time there were many strange things that happened throughout the world, many significant events took place during this time frame and one cannot help but think that there must be some correlation. For example, it was during the 6th century BC that Zoroastrianism arose in Persia. It was also during this time that there was a major reformation in Hinduism which led to its increased popularity in India Confucianism arose in China; Buddha started his quest and Buddhism was born in the 6th century BC. Judaism, in its legalistic form, what would come to be known as Pharisaism by the New Testament also had its origin in the late 6th century BC. And at this same time you have the pre-Socratics; Thales, Anaximander, and others in Greek philosophy laid the foundation for great thought. All of this happened in the 6th century.
I think as we go through our study of Daniel we'll see that it's no coincidence but the existence of Daniel and what God revealed to Daniel about the history of mankind played an important role and that these other events are related because of the angelic conflict to what was revealed to Daniel because it was at that time, and in this book, and through these revelations that even Satan himself and the angels understood the broad panorama of human history in a way they never did before. So I think, it's a bit of speculation, but I think that as God revealed these things to Daniel in the Middle East, then Satan immediately put into action a number of different ploys in order to move, to block God's actions in human history. And that's why centuries and centuries and centuries had gone by when there was no development whatsoever, no new religious developments, nothing had happened on the scene, everything was stable and static and then all of a sudden in the 6th century, wham, all over the world there are these major religious shifts and innovations taking place. And what's happening with Israel? We've studied this again and again. Israel is the center point of God's plan for human history and what's happening in the nation Israel? We have a man, Daniel, through whom God is giving fantastic revelation.
Daniel not only had an impact on the thinking in the ancient world but he had impact on the thinking in the modern world. According to well-known historian, R. G. Collingswood, in his book The Idea of History, Daniel was the foundation of Hegel's thought. Now Georg Hegel was a German philosopher in the mid to early 19th century and he wrote a lot about history. And in his concept of history there were four basic kingdoms in history: the Oriental kingdom, which would be tantamount to Persia; the kingdom of Greece, the kingdom of Rome and then the kingdom of Germany. And of course, Hegelian thought and this whole concept of the kingdom of Germany being the last kingdom had a role and eventually its influence on German thought and influencing the philosophy of German nationalism that developed eventually into Nazism and the rise of Adolph Hitler. Hegel's philosophy had a tremendous impact on a man by the name of Karl Marx and his followers.
It's interesting that the most ardent opponent in the last 150 years of Christian, communism, obtains its very philosophy of history, ultimately, from Scripture, and then it, of course, perverts it. The whole concept of historical progress in Marxism was stolen from the Bible and corrupted by Marx and it took the idea of an ultimate, perfect kingdom that would be divinely initiated, was then perverted to become a future utopic human kingdom, but Marxism and Hegelianism got their ideas ultimately from Daniel.
So Daniel is one of the most significant books for many, many reasons that are written and contained within the canon of Scripture. As we go through this, you might want to get R. B. Thieme's books on Daniel 1-6, and read along for some additional help. That just covers 1-6; they never got around to publishing 7-12 so we'll have to make do with the first six chapters.
Now as I stated in the introduction there are many attacks on the book of Daniel by the liberal critics. I'm not going through a detailed lecture on that, I'll just the highpoints as we go along. And before we get very far we have to deal with the first problem. For those of you who are a little more interested in these I'll try to make a note of these when we hit them, so that you can keep a record of these various problems that are raised by the liberal critics of Daniel.
The first problem has to do with the date of Daniel. When was Daniel written? The issue here is was it written many years later as history rather than prophecy. If Daniel actually wrote between 586–536 BC, then when he wrote about the kingdoms of Persia, Greece and subsequent kingdoms, then that would be true prophecy. But if he didn't write until some four hundred years later, in approximately 150 BC as the liberal critics suggest, then he wasn't writing before the fact, he was writing after the fact, and this then becomes a case of pious forgery and it was really somebody writing to try to falsely substantiate faith, writing events afterwards. So this is one reason why the liberals always choose to go after Daniel. They believe that it is the Achilles heel of the Bible. If you can destroy the credibility of Daniel, then you have destroyed the credibility of the rest of Scripture.
Now the attack on Daniel goes back to Porphyry who was a 3rd century AD, that's about two hundred years after Christ, Porphyry was a 3rd century AD student of Origen who came under the influence of Neo-Platonism, which was a school of Greek philosophy, and he not only abandon Christianity but he became a hostile enemy to Christianity and even as far back as the 3rd century AD Porphyry understood that if you destroyed the credibility of Daniel then you have destroyed Christianity so he wrote a fifteen volume work to discredit Daniel. Unfortunately it was burned by Theodosius so we don't know what his reasoning was or what his attacks were but that book was completely destroyed; there are no extant copies of it.
The attacks against Daniel are universally accepted by liberals and anybody who goes to college and takes a Western Civilization course is probably going to run into a professor who is going to start assaulting Daniel. It happened to me in my first year of college and I think it'll happen to just anybody if they have a professor who has studied in the schools of liberal higher learning. So we have to be prepared, and as parents that's one thing you need to do is prepare your children so that when they go off to college then they are able to withstand the intellectual assaults against Christianity. I can't tell you how many people I knew who were believers but who never had the foundations, were never given the information. When they got to college and they got into sociology classes and biology classes, more often it was in the liberal arts classes than in the science classroom, their Christian beliefs came under the assault in the classroom and they had never heard the correct answers, they had never heard the information that substantiated the claims of Scripture and their faith came under severe assault and in many cases they were shipwrecked.
Scripture tells us that Daniel was a historic person who went into captivity in 605 BC. In order to understand Daniel we're going to have to make sure we understand the framework of not only Jewish history but also Babylonian and Persian history; we'll become experts by the time this is over with, in ancient history. And it's not just ancient history because everything that happened then is used to teach things that are going on today.
So let's just review the last four kings in Judah, the southern kingdom of Judah. Josiah was the last good king in the south and he was killed in 609 BC when he tried to stop Pharaoh Neco from going north to assist the Assyrians in defeating Nebuchadnezzar at the battle of Carchemish. And he was succeeded by Jehoahaz, who reigned for all of eight months before he was dethroned. He was one of the worst kings in the southern kingdom, and he was succeeded by Jehoiakim. Jehoahaz was the third son of Josiah; Jehoiakim was the second son of Josiah, and in 605 BC Nebuchadnezzar had defeated Pharaoh Neco at the battle of Carchemish up on the Euphrates River and was following him in hot pursuit down through Syria and on down through Israel.
All of a sudden he came to a high mountain and he saw a beautiful city in the distance, he sent out his scouts to find out what it was and it was Jerusalem, so he let his pursuit team continue to chase Neco and he turned the majority of the army around and laid siege to Jerusalem. He was successful and before he could conclude his conquest of Judah his father, Nabopolassar, died, and so Nebuchadnezzar had to make haste back to Babylon to secure his succession to the throne and before he left he decided he wanted so secure his conquest of Jerusalem so he called for fifty members of the royal family to be given to him as hostages, or as captives, and he would take them back to Babylon with him and train them in all of the education of the Babylonians so that they could serve in the government there. Daniel was among those captives, there were fifty taken, they were members of the royal family. They weren't necessarily direct heirs to the kingship but they were all Jewish aristocrats and they were all members of the royal family.
So its 605 BC that Daniel is taken to Babylon. The Babylonian captivity itself doesn't start until 586 BC when Nebuchadnezzar comes back, and that's his third invasion of the land, when he completely destroys Jerusalem and destroys the temple. That captivity lasted until 536 BC and Daniel's life covers that entire period. He was probably close to 90 when he finally died, but he lived long enough to see the first group of Jews return to the land.
So that gives you a bit of an overview as to the history of this time frame. Now after the Babylonian captivity there's the subsequent rise… of course right before that there's the rise of the Persian Empire, following that the rise of the Greek Empire and the Seleucids and then the Hasmonean Empire, the Maccabean Revolt and the rise of the Roman Empire, all of which was foreseen by Daniel and was written down ahead of time in this book.
Now the question is whether or not this was written ahead of time as prophecy or whether it's written afterward as history. Why is this important? First of all it's important because the sovereignty of God is at stake. We can see that God who can accurately predict the future can also control the future. He can tell us not only what will come to pass but He can then oversee human history and orchestrate things behind the scenes without compromising human volition to bring about that which He has decreed. So it emphasizes the sovereignty of God over the affairs of man and the fact that Jesus Christ controls history, that no matter how dark things may look, no matter how disastrous the horizon of events may seem, Jesus Christ is in control of history and if he controls macro history He controls the history of our lives and no matter how horrible things might seem to us at some point in our lives we know that God is the One who is still in control.
The second reason it's important is because the nature of the Bible is at stake. If the Bible gives real predictive prophecy, then we can be sure it comes from God. If not it's just another human book and has no more value than any other human book.
And third it's important because the nature of Jesus Christ is at stake. In Matthew 23 Jesus assumes the veracity of Daniel, that Daniel was a historical figure who lived and wrote in the 5th century BC and that Daniel's prophecies were accurate and correct. If He was wrong then He was fallible and He was not undiminished deity and true humanity and He was not the perfect God-man.
So the importance of the dating is that involved first the sovereignty of God; secondly the nature of Scripture, and third, the nature of Jesus Christ and His veracity.
Now in terms of the liberal argument, remember the liberal argument is that Daniel really wasn't written in 586 BC to 536 BC, it was really written in 165 BC and by then all these events or most of them had taken place, and so it's not prophecy, it's history. What kind of arguments do they use to substantiate their position? The first has to do with how they divide up the Bible. They look at the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament was set up into three divisions. The Torah, the Nabiim and the Kethubim; the Torah means instruction, Torah is Hebrew for instruction, it refers to the first five books of the Pentateuch, the basic instruction manual for the Old Testament. It's the foundation for everything else in the Old Testament. That's why, second to Daniel, Genesis 1-11 is the other area of Scripture that is most under attack.
If you can destroy the validity of Genesis 1-11 then you've destroyed the rest of the Bible because every other doctrine, every major teaching in Scripture is built on the veracity of Genesis 1-11. If it didn't happen historically that way then there is no need for salvation from sin because the penalty for sin is death, not just spiritual death, that's the penalty, but the consequence is physical death and there was no physical death before sin, and if there was, as evolution proclaims… remember death is the mechanism of evolution. How would you like to believe in a system for the development and advance of human history that is built on death and suffering. That's what the whole evolutionary theory does, it's built on death and suffering, and death for the evolutionist is normal, it's natural, it's part of the every day order of things. For the Christian death is abnormal, it is the result of sin and it needs to be dealt with by Christ on the cross. If death, physical death, didn't enter into human history as a result of Adam's sin, then there is no need for Christ to go to the cross and die physically. His spiritual death paid the penalty of sin; His physical death enabled Him to have victory over physical death in the resurrection, that's Paul's whole argument in 1 Corinthians 15:8 and following.
So the Torah is the instruction that lays the foundation, followed by the Nabiim, the prophets, that's what Nabiim means, the prophets, and they gave the prophetic commentary on past and future history. And the Kethubim were the writings. We've looked at this chart; this is how the Hebrew canon was organized; not your familiar English Bible but the Hebrew Bible. You had three divisions, the Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Nabiim, consisting of the former prophets, Joshua through Kings, remember in the Old Testament they didn't have 1 and 2 Kings, they were divided that way because of the lengths of the scrolls. Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings and then the latter prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and The Twelve, we separate The Twelve into distinct Minor Prophets but in the Jewish canon it's just The Twelve.
And then the Kethubim; we would think because of the organization of our English Bible that Daniel would be part of the Nabiim, the prophets, because there is so much prophecy in Daniel. But Daniel is not included by the Jews in the Nabiim. In the English Bible he comes after Ezekiel and before The Twelve, so that's where we would put him. We would think of Daniel as a prophecy book. But the Jews did not view Daniel as a prophet but as a seer, as a wise man, so he was therefore listed among the Kethubim, the writings, which were the writings of the wisdom sayings, the chokmah is the Hebrew word, chokmah meaning wisdom or the application of doctrine, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Daniel. Daniel is listed among the Kethubim.
Now the liberal wants to suggest that the reason Daniel is listed in the Kethubim is because these three sections developed chronologically in the history of Israel. First there was the Torah and those five books were written and canonized; then the Prophets and those books were written and canonized, and then the Kethubim. The problem is that in the Jewish arrangement of the canon that they assume is false. The arrangement of the Jewish canon was not based on chronology but was based on its subject matter, on its topics. These things were arranged topically, so that Genesis to Deuteronomy all covered… they were first chronologically as well but they covered the foundational instruction for the life of Israel, that the priest would teach and instruct the people on how to have a relationship with God, how to come before God, how to serve God. Then the Nabiim modified; that because of Israel's disobedience there was necessity for modification. And the Kethubim was the wise sayings; it had to do with application.
And that's why Daniel fits there. Daniel is not just about prophecy but it is the example of how a man applied doctrine in one of the most pagan empires, really in two of the most pagan empires, the most hostile environment for doctrine that you can ever imagine. Few of us have ever or will ever face the kind of manipulation, the kind of pressure, the kind of overt hostility that Daniel faced in Babylon and later in Persia in his role there in both of those empires. And yet Daniel demonstrates for us the wise application of Scripture and shows how a believer can advance to the second highest position in the land without compromising doctrine. He shows us the importance of making doctrine the highest priority in our lives.
Another argument that the critics use against Daniel to try to demonstrate late date, there was a manuscript written that was discovered at Qumran that is dated about 165, liberals, of course, tried to redate it, make it a little later, about 125, but even many liberals now admit that it has to be dated at least, no earlier, than 165 BC. Their argument is basically circular. They don't tell you that, it's not readily apparent but it's a circular argument. Daniel can't be predictive because predictive prophecy would mean that God intervenes in history, God doesn't intervene in history so therefore it can't be predictive prophecy. That's how they argue; they're assuming their conclusion in their premise. It's called begging the question to logical fallacy. But people get away with it because they never make it evident. But the presupposition of all the liberal attacks on the Scripture are that God really can't act that way. Well how do you know that? Because reason tells us that; their ultimate authority is reason.
So they argue that Daniel must be late because its prophecies are too detailed to be real; it's impossible for prophecy to be that accurate according to the liberals, they must be made up. But we discovered in 1948 at Qumran, at the Wadi Qumran in the Dead Sea that there were seventeen different manuscripts of Daniel. We know there's seventeen different manuscripts by studying the handwriting, it's clear that they were copied by seventeen different people. The study of the handwriting reveals that. And one of the most significant fragments of the book of Daniel covers the section from Daniel 2:4 where the text shifts from Hebrew to Aramaic, Daniel is not written in all Hebrew, unlike most Old Testament books, it's written in two different languages. It's written in Hebrew and in Aramaic, and from Daniel 2:4 down through about chapter 8 it's written in Aramaic, because that subject matter of those chapters is on God's plan for Gentile nations. So part of this fragment, which starts in 2:4 and goes down through the Aramaic section can't be dated any later than about 165 BC. However, analysis of the paleography, that is the handwriting, demonstrates that the day cannot be any later than 200 BC. Now if you have to move the date of this manuscript, and this isn't the original, this is just a copy, if you have to move the date back and it can't be any later than 200, then that means that the original has to be a minimum of fifty, a hundred or a hundred and fifty years earlier.
Now to show the total inconsistency of the liberal, the liberal has used that same evidence and accepted that same evidence, as far as the dating of 1 and 2 Chronicles is concerned. The liberals used to say 1 and 2 Chronicles came after the Maccabean Empire, sometime around 100 to 150 BC but the study of the handwriting, the paleography of Chronicles also demonstrated, of those manuscripts at Qumran, also demonstrated that they were much older. So now they agree more with the conservative to move the date much earlier so that they would put Chronicles into the same era as Ecclesiastes and some of the Psalms. Well, if they accept that reasoning for Chronicles and Psalms, then they ought to accept it for Daniel, but they won't. Why? Because if they are forced to accept Daniel as being what it claims to be, then it destroys liberalism and it destroys liberal theology, and autonomous man, who is in rebellion against his sovereign Creator cannot stand to think that he is supposed to be obedient to a God who controls human history.
So when we look at this, we have to ask the question: why then is Daniel so important? And why is Daniel included in this one section called the Writings? That is because of the evidence of applied doctrine in the man's life and this gives us a clue as to the purpose of the book. It is designed to teach the importance of doctrine, not just prophecy, not just God's control of human history, but the importance and priority of doctrine in the believer's life. Daniel is written to teach us how to live a spiritually skillful life in the midst of a hostile, pagan, idolatrous environment. It's written to show us that you don't need to compromise, you don't need to give in to some sort of expedient course of action, and you don't have to go along to get along just to advance in life, that God is the one who's in control of the believer's promotion or not, not mankind. It's not your job, it's not your employer, it's not your culture, it's not the political system, it's God who is in control, not man. So this gives the believer confidence in the control of God in every detail of the believer's life.
Furthermore, we see that as wisdom literature we see its importance because it addresses every area of life. Scripture doesn't just address salvation and the spiritual life, prayer and other so-called spiritual practices, but the Bible has something to say about everything in life: economics, philosophy, politics, history, literature, the greatest literature that's ever been written is contained in the pages of Scripture. The Bible addresses everything at some level. So we're forced in Daniel to pay attention to a believer living his life in the midst of a hostile environment. The kingdom of man becomes a major theme; the concept of kingdom is a major theme in the book of Daniel and we see how the believer is living in the kingdom of man surrounded by human viewpoint, surrounded by paganism and in many cases pressured to try to conform to the pagan thinking around him.
Daniel faced one of the most concentrated doses of paganism of any believer in history. And yet you know what? Daniel survived and Daniel refused to compromise and he didn't have any Christian fellowship to help him; he didn't have a priesthood to help him; he didn't have prophet buddies to go home and give him encouragement, he didn't have any of these so-called spiritual formation groups that are so popular today as spiritual crutches because people don't have the guts and initiative to stand up on their own two feet on top of a Word of God that is trustworthy. People have given that up and yet what we see with Daniel is that he's all by himself, there's no church, there's no congregation, there's no Christian fellowship, all he has is the Word of God and he trusts it implicitly. Because of that he handles the stress, the peer pressure, all the manipulation of some of the most powerful, the wealthiest men in all of human history and some of the most vindictive people. Some of the wise men and counselors that surrounded both Nebuchadnezzar in the earlier stage and Cyrus Darius in the latter stage did everything they could to destroy Daniel, except Daniel never compromised.
So the purpose for Daniel is to show the wisdom for living in the kingdom of man until the kingdom of God arrives.
By way of background and to get a little understanding of what's going on, turn to Ezekiel 14:1 and pick up a little background. "Then some elders of Israel came to me," "me" is Ezekiel, "and sat down before me." Now let's understand a little bit about the background, who Ezekiel was. Ezekiel was a contemporary of Daniel, they're about the same age, but Ezekiel's ministry did not start until 593 BC. By the time Ezekiel's ministry started Daniel had already been in captivity twelve to thirteen years. So when Daniel went into captivity at the age of 14, by the time Ezekiel's ministry started in 593 Daniel is 29 or 30, he's still a young man, he hasn't advanced to the highest level he will advance to. Daniel hasn't even… [Tape turns]
…associate mostly with Daniel. The only thing in the book of Daniel that has occurred by this point is Daniel 1. But at this point Ezekiel is in Babylon, he was taken captive in the second invasion of Nebuchadnezzar in 596 and there was a group of Jews taken and they had a settlement down on the River Trivar in the southwestern part of what is now modern Iraq, and there's a number of leaders there who have been following all the false teachers, you know, like so many of the false evangelists on television today and all the liberal theologians. It's amazing that when we look at our political leaders some of the so-called spiritual leaders that have risen to the top in recent years who are giving them counsel and we wonder what they're counseling them from. But these people, it's the blind leading the blind. Well, the same situation existed in Ezekiel's day and things were looking pretty bad for them as they looked over to Israel and they saw that the nation was threatened, so they thought well, we'll go to Ezekiel and find out what Ezekiel has to say. So they came to Ezekiel to see what he had to say and God gave Ezekiel a message.
He said, Ezekiel 14, "And the word of the LORD came to me, saying,  'Son of man,'" that's a title for the prophet, "Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts," that's in their minds, they are worshiping something other than God, it's not just the physical idol, it is the fact that there's mental idol, and mental idolatry always precedes physical idolatry because with the mind you decide to reject God, and whenever we reject God something else moves into the vacuum. Something else always replaces God and we always worship some aspect of the creation. Now it's interesting that the word for "idol" in Hebrew is the word gillul; now that has a very fascinating etymology; basically the root word means a rolled object of wood or metal. The word "gill" or galal also became, which has its root in this it's something that's been rolled or rounded, it became the common word for dung or manure, specifically dung pellets.
That took me back to my days of camping in south Texas when we've got a little critter down there called a dung beetle or tumblebug, and these tumblebugs get into the manure and they start rolling it all up, one of God's little creatures to help break everything down and return it to the soil, but this shows God's tremendous sense of humor that He uses in Hebrew a word for idol that also means dung, it means something that is rolled, and someone sort of sarcastically has commented that his something to do with dung rolling downhill maybe, but that's a very ancient concept. And it also indicates God's comments about idolatry, that when you replace God with anything in life as being more important, then your life is going to turn to dung. So there's a wonderful little sense of humor here, a paronomasia from God the Holy Spirit.
So they "set up these idols in their hearts," and the word there is leb in the Hebrew which has to do with their mentality and their thinking. All idolatry starts there, we all begin with intellectual idols and that's what we have today, the idols of the mind, academic rationalism, subjectivity, today the great God of America is emotions, how does it make me feel, and that's what we worship, whatever is going to make me feel better, whatever is going to make my life smoother, whatever is going to make me happier at the moment, whether it's money, career, education, sex, entertainment, material possessions, sports, the trappings of success, popularity, fame, whatever it might be, any of these things might be good in the proper role and position but whenever any of these things supplant our devotion to God and making doctrine the number one priority in our lives and the lives of our children, then the next thing we know is we are on the road to collapse. And this is what was happening in Israel at the time.
So God speaks to these men, and He tells them, Ezekiel 14:4, that "Any man of the house of Israel who sets up idols in his heart, puts right before their faces the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the LORD will be brought to give him an answer in the matter in view of the multitude of his idols." I don't want to do a detailed study of this so we'll skip down to Ezekiel 14:10, "And they will bear the punishment of their iniquity," that is the false leaders because they are the ones who have deceived the nation, "as the iniquity of the inquirer is, so the iniquity of the prophet will be," God is going to bring divine discipline on them. And then in verse 11 he says, "In order that the house of Israel may no longer stray from Me and no longer defile themselves," see, there's a place for harsh discipline in order to prevent spiritual collapse in the future. Because of this discipline Israel is no longer going to be involved in the kind of idolatrous systems of Baal worship and the other fertility cults. They go the other way and they get into legalism, but they no longer succumb to overt idolatry.
Now in verse 11 God says they "will no longer defile themselves with all their transgressions. Thus they will be My people, and I shall be their God," in other words God is saying there will be survivors, the nation will continue, but those who survive successfully, those who are happy, those who have stability in the midst of the coming catastrophe are those who have a profound spiritual life, those who have inner resources to draw on that come from doctrine. We know that it's the young people, for example, it's Daniel, Ezekiel, Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael who are the ones who survive the catastrophe of the destruction of their nation, and these are the ones who become the foundation for the future of the nation.
Now how did that happen? It happened first because of their positive volition. Those kids were positive to doctrine, when they were kids, when they were back in Israel, when their parents were training them. But beyond that their uncompromising position, their integrity, as demonstrated in Daniel 1 is there because of what their parents did. They are a testimony to parents who did not compromise the Word of God, parents who did not become distracted by the details of life but focused on their priorities as outlined in Deuteronomy.
Look at Deuteronomy 6:4, we read, "Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God, the LORD is one!  And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." He's the number one priority in your life. Nothing else matters if God is not at the center of everything. Verse 6, "And these words, which I am commanding you today," and that is the entire panorama of doctrine in Deuteronomy, "these words which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart," that is on your mind, the thinking part of the soul,  "and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up." He's not talking about lecturing your kids, he's not talking about reading them a Bible story every night. He's talking about day in and day out, when you're sitting down at breakfast, when you're going out and playing sports and something happens and you get a chance to teach them how a believer is to respond in difficult situations; when you go through family situations you say okay, we've got a decision to make here, here's how we apply doctrine. Your kids come home from school, they've got a problem; you say okay, what does the Bible say? You teach them in life situations, help them learn how to make decisions and how to apply doctrine in those situations.
And the word translated "teach" is interesting, it is the Hebrew word shanan, and in the qal stem it means to sharpen, like you sharpen a knife. How do you do that? You take a whetstone and you just continue to move it across that whetstone and to grind down that blade and it takes a lot of strokes on that whetstone before you finally bend back the edge enough to where you sharpen it and put an edge on that. And that's repetition, so in the piel stem which is the intensified stem in the Hebrew it comes to mean to repeat. So the way that should be translated is "you shall repeat them diligently to your sons, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house." That's how you learn is repetition, over and over and over and over again.
But you know what folks, as parents before you can do that, that doctrine has to be deep in your soul. You have to be applying it that way because if you're not applying it that way those kids are going to spot it in a second; they have to see that you know it and you apply it and that doctrine is your priority and that means you're going to be in Bible class Sunday, Wednesday night, you're going to pop tapes in when you get in your car to take the kids to a sports event, when you turn on the ignition a tape is going to come on and they're going to know you've been listening to tapes and they're going to know that doctrine is the most important thing in your life. I don't care what else you do for your kids, I don't care what kind of music lessons, dance lessons, sports, I don't care what kind of exposure you give them to all the culture in the world, if you don't set the priority as doctrine then everything else is a sham, because if you knew today that in three years this country was going to be overrun, that all your money was going to be gone, you'd never see your kids again, what would you do different? What would you do to prepare your kids to be able to handle that so that when they were removed from this country and put in another culture would they be able to stand like a Daniel, like a Hananiah, like an Azariah, like a Mishael? Or would they just compromise and fall apart. But that's what Daniel's parents did for him and that's what the other men's parents did for them; even their parents were going against the flow of the perverted culture in Israel at that time.
Deuteronomy 11:18 repeats this, "You shall therefore impress these words of Mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand," that means it affects everything you do, "and they shall be as frontals on your forehead," that means it affects everything you think.  "And you shall teach them," that same word, shanan, "you shall repeat them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up." In other words, your life is going to be characterized… have you ever notice that there are some people that you get around, especially some men, every time, they talk about work or they talk about sports. With women maybe it's something else, maybe it's cooking, I don't know. But that's what they're interested in, but for the believer who is positive, what they talk about when everything else doesn't have to be talked about, they're talking about doctrine, they're talking about the Word, and it becomes contagious.
I remember when I was in college in Houston, we'd go to Bible class and after Bible class we'd get a group and we'd all go some place to get a hamburger or to get coffee and we'd sit there and we'd talk about whatever we'd learn that night for an hour or an hour and a half because we were excited about it. Doctrine was the most important thing to us, and what happens is usually as people get older they become consumed with 401K plans and their career, retirement, and the grandkids and everything else, and the next thing you know, well, I remember when doctrine used to be really important. It has to stay important as we advance to spiritual maturity.
Then Ezekiel 14:12 we read, God gives them a personal message here, "Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,  Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it, destroy its supply of bread, send famine against it, and cut off from it both man and beast,  even though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves." I want you to notice three men. Noah's a Gentile, Job's a Gentile, sandwiched between them is the contemporary of the Jews, Daniel. Why not Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Why not Moses, Joshua and David? Why these three? Because Noah built an ark for 120 years and was faced with continuous attacks; he was ridiculed, he was maligned day in and day out, yet he never compromised the Word, he stood fast with God, he never violated his priorities. What about Job? Job lost his kids, his seven sons and three daughters, his wife said why don't you just curse God and die, and Job went to his friends for counsel and they gave him bad advice, but despite all that, he faltered a few places but he stayed fast with God, he never violated his priorities.
And then Daniel; these three men faced incredible crises in their lives, they faced incredible opposition, they faced overwhelming pressure to compromise their stand on the truth, but they didn't. Why didn't they? Because they had built a fortress in their soul, we've studied the stress-busters, we'll go over them again, but we've studied the principles that God gives us so that we can strengthen our soul to withstand any storm and it only comes from a consistent and dedicated learning of doctrine and applying it in our lives and being positive and not giving up despite all the pressure, not giving into peer pressure, not giving into all of the easy solutions that life presents, but always standing firm on the Word.
When we come back next time we'll start in Daniel 1 and start looking at the Babylonian and Chaldean background to the passage.