Daniel 1 & 2: Where we fit in to this
The end of my talk on Daniel 1 & 2. See previous three posts for the first part.
What can the story of Daniel say to us, here, in a relatively peaceful, mildly secular, democratic country?
I wonder if you’d agree with me that just as in Daniel’s time, the powerful forces in our society would like to paint God in the general position of being a loser. Maybe not completely defeated, but certainly marginalised, slightly old-fashioned, eccentric – even cute - but not very relevant for those people who run everything important.
Knowledge of God doesn’t cut it when it comes to budget time. Worship of God doesn’t run the economy. Following God is one of those optional extras. It’s nice if you have it, but it’s not the essential part of life.
Or is it?
What does the Bible tell us about the future? The book of Revelation paints a fearsome picture of God as judge, ultimate king and amazing victor when everything on earth is finished. One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
It sounds impressive. But if God is in such a loserish state now, if things look so bad for him here, how is this victory going to be achieved?
You can probably see that I’m going to paint a parallel picture here.
In the passage, God uses two things as he goes from apparent defeat to victory: one, his people, undefiled and wise, and two, his revelation.
Today, God uses two things as he will go from apparent defeat to ultimate victory: us, his people, undefiled and wise, and two, his revelation.
Us – God’s people
What does it mean for us to be ‘undefiled’ or to live Christianly in our culture? As we know there were a number of things Daniel could have stood up against - the name change, the study program, even just going to Babylon. In the end, he chose food – and the result for him was good health. What will you stand up for? How will you decide?
One principle could be to know for yourself like Daniel. Do you know what keeps you healthy – spiritually healthy? Take a stand on those things. Read the Bible, go regularly to church for Christian fellowship. Prioritize your life so that the good, godly things get done first. Get rid of the spiritual rubbish that defiles up your heart and mind.
God’s people must also be wise. Let’s just look quickly at some of the ways Daniel was wise.
The first kind of wisdom Daniel had was wisdom in how to get his point across. He had the ability to convince people quietly and talk them around to his point of view. He wasn’t confrontational – he used his contacts, and he made sure he was relating to people who could help him.
It would have been too easy for Daniel to go straight to the king and say, “I’m not eating your food! It defiles me.” He wouldn’t have lasted long… but he could have claimed he was being persecuted for the sake of the gospel. Be smart. Don’t create confrontation if you can uphold your principle via the back door first!
He also had wisdom to know how much he was going to be part of his new world, and how much he was going to be distinctive. There are three possible reactions to pressure to conform to an alien culture. And we as Christians are in an alien culture every day!
Firstly: you can assimilate completely. So you look like everybody else, sound like them, even think like them. It certainly relieves the pressure you can feel of being an outsider.
But if Daniel had done this, he would have been giving up his loyalty to God. If we do this, it will make us feel better for a little while but we will lose our faith, and we will lose our Christian influence.
Secondly: you can withdraw into a kind of ghetto of your own culture as far as possible, and avoid the pressure.
But if Daniel had withdrawn completely and refused to be part of the court, he would probably have been killed, and he would have lost any chance of witnessing for his God. If we do this to a large extent we lose any influence we can have on people around us. Long term this approach makes your faith unreal and irrelevant – and it justifies the surrounding culture saying, “Well, Christians have nothing to contribute.”
Three: like Daniel, you see Christ as the transformer of culture. You are involved with, but not completely part of the culture, and you are confronting it with the aim of seeing God transform it.
We need to learn about our culture, like Daniel did, so we will know how best to influence it. And by the way, he wasn’t slow to get his friends into important positions. If you have an opportunity to have a public position of responsibility, take it and pray for wisdom so that you can be an influence for God.
This is where it is so important to read and study the Bible to understand what it means to be what Jesus called the ‘salt and light’ of the world. We need to use God’s wisdom from the Scriptures in living in our culture every day.
The revelation of Christ (to answer the unanswerable)
We live in this world, God’s people, hopefully both undefiled and wise. But that’s not the sole purpose of our existence. Like Daniel, we have a revelation from God too, and when we share it, it answers the unanswerable questions of the people around us today.
What are the unanswerable questions people ask? Perhaps you have asked them, or are still asking them.
- What is the purpose of it all?
- Why do I feel incomplete?
- Who’s behind it?
- Why can’t I get rid of my guilt?
- Why is there so much wrong and evil, and yet so much good and beauty in the world?
- How does it all make sense?
There are lots of astrologers, magicians, wise people, gurus, management consultants, life coaches, journalists and TV personalities who give some really great but pat answers to the questions.
Or who use the questions to make money by selling products as the answers.
Or who try to distract us from asking the questions so we won’t feel bad.
But I think we all know, like the magicians and astrologers in Nebuchadnezzar’s time knew, that no-one can really answer these unanswerable questions. It was probably the most truthful thing they ever came out with when they said these words:
"There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks… What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among people."
It is true. No human can answer these questions. But the God who lived among people can both truly define the question and give the answer.
Jesus Christ, God’s son, who lived on earth, and died and rose again for the salvation of the world is the revelation of God for us here today. He is the one who tells us just who we are, he is the one who forgives our sin, he is the one who puts us right with God, and he is the very image of God, God’s likeness. He is for us the answer to our unanswerable question.
And it is him that we are to share with our friends, our neighbours, our culture. Jesus Christ, the answer.
We are God’s people, undefiled, wise and with a revelation of Jesus Christ to carry to the world, so that tomorrow, as yesterday, people will say,
"Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries.”
God was never a loser. He has always been in control, loving us, and wanting all people everywhere to turn to him, be saved and give him the glory. The story of Daniel is all about God. The story of you and me is also all about God.
Let’s pray for his grace and strength to be his people, undefiled and wise, and carrying to others his revelation of Christ, for his glory.