Below are my sermon notes from preaching Daniel 1. I hope these can be of service as a blessing or help to others who are thinking of preaching through this wonderful little book that God has given for our encouragement.
It’s interesting to note the book was written in Hebrew and it is the only book written in Aramaic. The message of Daniel is about the nation of Judah, who have been taken into exile by Babylon. It serves as a reminder of the faithfulness of God in the midst of a fallen world.
God’s sovereignty is highlighted, as even when we look at the world and the forces at play, it seems as if God’s sovereign and omnipotent rule is in question. And surely this is what the people of God were experiencing.
As we find ourselves in this new place, we first ask ourselves “What is happening? How did we get here? How did they get in this situation as a Nation and individually”. The book takes place in a time that is approximately 605 BC till 530BC. From the year King Nebuchadnezzar carried Daniel and his people to Babylon through the reigns of his son Belshazzar. He dies in chapter 5 and Darius the Meade begins to rule and the rule of the Persian King Cyrus a time of about 70 years.
There are two reasons why they are in this place, why the nation of Judah is here and why Daniel specifically is here. Assyria has taken the northern kingdom of Israel in 722. And the southern kingdom will be taken in 3 stages with the first one being in 605, the year of Judah’s king Jehoiakim.
Thus, as a nation, we see two reasons, a covenantal reason and a prophetic reason.
First, the covenantal reason.(1:2) makes clear that the exile happened because God gave Jehoiakim, into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. Even though Nebuchadnezzar didn’t believe in God, he was used in God’s overall redemptive purposes. Recall, that God enters into covenant with Israel as a nation. Lev 26 it highlights the blessings and curses that Israel as a nation would live under in covenant with God. If they were faithful = blessings and favor and if unfaithful = curses and disfavor ranging from agricultural failures to failure in battle. And if they still persisted in their disobedience, the Lord would scatter them among the nations and they would be wasted away in exile. This handing over was, in part, a consequence of the covenant.
It was a fulfillment of the Isaiah’s prophecy. King Hezekiah received gives from the king of Babylon and then shows them all of his store house treasures. And because of this he was condemned because the king of Babylon was seeking help in the fight against Assyria. The other times, when Assyria tried to attack Judah, they were defended by the Lord. Now King Hezekiah is entering into a political treaty to ensure the safety of his kingdom, and in doing so he has replaced the object of trust from God to Babylon. It was told to him,
2 King 20:17 Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left,
The prophecy was being fulfilled, Judah as a nation and the line of Hezekiah were living out the judgment of their faithless king.
We may look into a situation like this and wonder, if there is any way that faith could persevere in situation like this? They are under judgment and curse.This is not the promise land. The people of promise are in a place of curses.
But God is with them. Wherever we are, we can be faithful to the Lord and useful for his purposes. How did the Lord enable them to keep their gaze upon the Lord in a foreign land? How can we live faithfully in a strange land?
- Seeking God’s Sovereignty
- Seeking God’s Provision
- Seeking God’s Mercies
Seeking God’s Sovereignty
In vv (1-5) we observe how Daniel interprets the events.
He is aware that in the midst of this traumatic event, God’s purposes are being accomplished. v1 Gives us the secular historical view. It is the bare facts. But verse 2 interprets that history as an act of God.
In the midst of chastisement Daniel found encouragement. How? Because it meant that God did not silence their prayers and far away but God heard them and was near. That the discipline was deserved but they weren’t without hope. He knows they are not under the control of a false god but under the sovereign hand of a faithful God.
We can’t help but notice the parallel between the temple treasure and the men who were (4) “without blemish.”
A word used to describe suitable sacrifices. As Daniel watched God allow the Babylonians to carry away the temple treasures, so he witnessed that God had chosen him to be put into the hands of the Babylonians.
The subtle foreshadowing can’t be over looked or understated. The temple artifacts and the people of a faithful and powerful God are going into exile, this can be the end of the story. They will come home. God has not abandoned them.
Therefore this was part of God’s heavenly purposes, and Daniel could be sure that if God brought them here, He could bring them out. This exile was in every way to glorify God. Thus Daniel and his three friends find themselves in exile, in Babylon, in the kings palace. Where they will undergo the intense three year long immersion program of the Babylonians to change them and who they were. And at the end (5) they would stand before the king.
First their names are changed. (6-7) They are young teenagers at the time and we can’t help but notice the name change they experience in their exile. Each had names with the titles of God (EL) or Yahweh (Ya).
- Daniel – Dani – el – God is my judge
- Hananiah – Hanan yah a- the Lord is gracious
- Mishael – Mish a el – Who is like God?
- Azariah – Aza ri yah – The Lord is my helper
These names are then substituted with pagan, Babylonian names that highlight the pagan gods.
- Daniel – Belteshazzar – May Bel protect you;
- Hananiah – Shadrach – live at the command of Aku;
- Mishael – Meshach – Who is like Aku (Bablyonian god of the moon) ;
- Azariah – Abednego – (servant of Nebo the Akkadian god of wisdom).
Secondly, as part of their immersion they would also learn the language and the literature of the Babylonians. The Scriptures would not be the object of their studies, but the way of the pagans would.
Third, they would be fed from the kings table. They would eat kingly food and drink kingly wine.
Observation: The four young men didn’t kick and resist the sovereignty of God.
They knew that the Lord had spoken to the prophet Jeremiah. That there would be those who were to be sent into exile and they should labor and bless the community where they found themselves. (Jer 29:4-7)
They knew this was for a time and by being good citizens of heaven, they were to be good citizens of Babylon.
This was a challenge from God, that offered pains, trials, and testings in which their faithfulness to him would be put to the test.
But the four friends would resist these efforts of man together.
First they didn’t refer to each other by their pagan names but by their true Hebrew names. We do this in our weekly worship. Weekly we gather to remind one another that we are not the names the world tries to give us. We are the identity that Christ has given us. We should take every opportunity to encourage one another and not neglect our assembly. Surely as they would remind the other of home, so do we. We gather for the sake of revitalization, refreshment and remembering. Remembering home, that there is a promise to bring us home. And to live in light of our identity in Christ in a world that is hostile to us and his Gospel. And in our worship, as we gather, we are reminded of God’s sovereign hand at work, and his nearness to us in the preaching of the word and our partaking in the sacraments.
Secondly they would eat in a way to remind themselves of God’s provision
Seeking God’s Provision
The opening chapter also speaks to us how we can keep our gaze upon the Lord in the midst of trials by reminding us to seek his provision.
The four young men have been offered food from the table of the king.
And we might look at this and think, they got the good end of the deal. But this is to miss the point.
The subtle lesson being ingrained in their minds is that the king of Babylon is their source of life and blessing.
Rather we observe that Daniel and his friends chose to eat only what that which grew naturally to drink water.
If eating from the king’s table would recognize the king as the source of their provision and life then eating from what grew in the ground would recognize the God of this world as the source of their provision and life.
Every time they ate, they would be reminded of the simple fact, that God had provided their nourishment and was sustaining them through their exile.
Besides, remember what brought them into this exile situation, dependence upon the Babylonians and rejecting God.
This is a quiet yet strong reminder to be thankful for what God has given you. And perhaps it isn’t easy to see at times, and perhaps we need others to help us to see, and that’s why we gather. So that we can remember that God provides.
Here in the midst of the enemy territory the 4 young men are in a trial.
Every day they heard they didn’t belong to the Lord.
Every day they were reminded of God’s apparent absence.
Notice verse 8 “But Daniel resolved”. When we are in the midst of the enemy’s attacks, the question we answer is “Who am I going to be? Who am I going to serve?” We must resolve in our hearts already. We make the decision today, because if we wait, we will fail. We are witnessing a decision that has been made a thousand times before.
Working within the system wherein they found themselves, they ask the chief of the eunuchs in vs 8 for a diet plan that is personalized but he is afraid of what would happen to him if they start looking malnourished.
So he goes down the chain and asked the guard and offers a 10 day test.
And at the end, they looked fatter and they will be given the personalized diet they requested.
An example of God’s merciful provision in the midst of chastisement
Seeking God’s Mercies
Daniel isn’t only a demonstration of men who were faithful in the midst of a trial. But it highlights how God was merciful to them in the midst of their chastisement as a nation. In the middle of the exile, they are experiencing mercies.
Notice vs 9 that it was God who gave Daniel favor and “compassion” (or mercy). And we may remember that it was King Solomon who prayed for this in 1 King 8.
- 1Kings 8:46 “If they sin against you— for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near,
- 1Kings 8:50 and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them
- 1Kings 8:51 ( for they are your people, and your heritage, which you brought out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace).
And we notice the mercy in the midst of exile as God not only provides for them
He provides their nourishment to make them fatter than the others, but also in vs 17 tells us that God have them learning and skill “in literature and wisdom” and Daniel was given understanding in all visions and dreams.
Then when they were in front of the king after the end of the time, they found favor in the kings eyes. They were better than the other advisors he had.
In the midst of this time, God placed them in a place where they would be able to bless their society and be faithful to God.
The encouragement from Daniel and his friends is this, that we may be in a place of great difficulty, but God is with us.
And as he is with us, we remind ourselves that the work we do is, as Paul said “According to the grace of God given to me.” That in the midst of judgment he would withhold the judgment due us, and show us his divine favor.
We read vs 21 and we might miss the blessing in it. “And Daniel was there until the first year of king Cyrus.”
Scripture tells us that in the first year of Cyrus’ reign he decreed that he would build the temple in Jerusalem and the people could return.”
The temple artifacts were going home and so were Daniel’s people.
We may hear this story and be amazed as the resolve of Daniel in a situation of great sadness.
Because perhaps we don’t have this resolve.
We shouldn’t walk away thinking, “The Lord wants me to dig in deep and find it in me to grind this out.”
Can we who began by the Spirit be perfected by the flesh? (Gal 3:3)
There are blessings for those who are faithful to the Lord, of course.
But the blessing of the Gospel is that we are reminded that God is faithful to those are faithless.
That even in the midst of chastisement and discipline there is mercy with the Lord.
Our salvation is not dependent upon our faithfulness but the faithfulness of God.
Our salvation is not dependent upon our ability to resist the world.
It’s dependent upon the perfect person and work of Jesus Christ.
The Messiah who atoned for the sin of his people, rose again on the 3rd day for our justification and ascended to the right hand of the Father.
And by faith we receive this salvation where in his perfection is ours.
During their exile Daniel and his friends would constantly seek God’s sovereignty, provision, and mercies.
Reminding themselves as we do, of God’s promises and his faithfulness.
They looked to the temple treasures knowing it wouldn’t last forever.
As we look to an empty tomb knowing our day is coming as well.
We are not abandoned and we too will one day be home.