Daniel, a story we need

Published 6:52 pm Tuesday, March 8, 2022

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By Myrtle Virginia Thompson

The high unrest in the world today should be a concern to all who hear the news. One thing is sure, without God we humans are helpless under the hands of powerful rulers. Biblical narratives make that plain. Kingdoms rise and fall. They always have.

The Old Testament has dozens of illustrations, but the Book of Daniel, named for a young Jewish refugee God used in a drama recorded more than 2,500 years ago, is worth reading.

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The kingdom was Babylon, first mentioned in Genesis 10 and still relevant today, and the king was Nebuchadnezzar, whose army had conquered Israel. We will call him “Neb.”

“Neb” was ruthless. He conquered Israel and took the captives out of their land, leaving only the poorest. Psalm 137 records their distress. His army ravished their temple, burned it and took all its expensive furnishings to Babylon. Some of the gold pieces became a part of his idolatrous lifestyle.

The other prominent character is Daniel himself. He and his three young Jewish friends were among those taken but were chosen by Neb to have three years of indoctrination time to study the language and culture, after which they were to be placed in the king’s service. Daniel was given the name Belteshazzar; his friends’ names were Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. They lived through very frightening and perilous times, but God was watching over them, sufficient and still in control.

The narrative begins with a challenge. These four young men refused to eat the rich food or drink the expensive wine served to them. They were stalwart in their faith.

This powerful king thought all the kingdom’s power resided in him. He did not reckon with something so insignificant as a dream which left him on edge. He was adamant about finding its meaning, but none of the astrologers, magicians and soothsayers could interpret it. He consigned them all to death, but then he was told about Daniel.

Daniel was brought before the king. His was a message we and our leaders would do well to remember today: “Wisdom and power belong to God who changes the times and epochs, removes and establishes kings, gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding…He knows what is in the darkness and the light dwells with Him.” He told King Neb the future was not in his hands but was under God’s control. God will not give His glory to another.

The story is so dramatic it must be left for the reader, except for one thing. Daniel “saved the day” for all the magicians and conjurers, but evil was still present. We should not be surprised to find Daniel and his friends facing severe opposition. It happens to all who stand for the truth as God has revealed it.

Daniel’s life was dedicated to God. He used the gifts God gave him and became His witness without backing down.

As the story ends, Daniel has aged. His prophetic words in the final chapters of the book have been rehearsed many times, but he himself would not live to see them fulfilled. He was told to “shut the book until the end times.” Much has happened through the millennia. Chapters 11 and 12 continue to bear an eerie resemblance to what Jesus said and what the New Testament writers have written about the perils of “end times.”

Daniel lived through a tragic period. We have the same challenge today. His faith was anchored in the living God. We have the Bible to tell us how to remain loyal to God so we can face any challenges ahead. Let’s be sure our hearts and lives are right with Him. It starts with I John 1;9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That is how we get into God’s presence. He graciously accepts sinners who confess their sin.

Myrtle V. Thompson, 94, is a writer who loves and teaches the Bible. Contact her at mvtgrt@gmail.com.