My King of Kings! Key Themes of Daniel
A Vacation Bible School Curriculum by Barry McWilliams
an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America
Daniel is an extremely relevant book for our modern times.
It is a book for young Christians living in a sophisticated world where God is not honored. It is a book that teaches young Christian men and women to take strong stands for the Lord. And to be rigorous in faithful witness, in devotion to the Word of God and prayer.
It's basic theme is The Sovereignty of God. Daniel is a book about God's powerful rule over the mighty and powerful of this world. It teaches us about the dangers of sin, of the pride and pleasure and power that are trying to build man's secular kingdom apart from God. Daniel teaches us about the nature and need of repentance and faith.
We see God's wisdom and power contrasted with all worldly powers:
God's sovereign wisdom and power gives us courage to take a strong stand for Him.
- God the keeper of His own.(Chapter 1)
- God the revealer of the secrets of the hearts of men.(Chapter 2)
- God the deliverer who keeps His own in fiery trials.(Chapter 3)
- God the potentate who rules the hearts of the mighty.(Chapter 4)
- God the Judge who overthrows Kingdoms.(Chapter 5)
- God the all powerful (Chapter 6) - even the lions obey him!
Daniel served God and His people in a sophisticated "modern" [humanistic and secular] world much like our own. Daniel and His friends were barely teenagers when they were taken to the great metropolis of Babylon, to be educated by its finest scholars, in training to become leaders. They were immediately put into situations where their faith was in conflict with the society around them.
- They were examples of "costly" obedience to God, having to face the serious questions of where to draw the lines - when to compromise, and when to cooperate with a humanistic society and tempting secular lifestyles.
- Daniel became a leader in civil affairs - he served under and outlasted the rulers of several powerful kingdoms. Yet repeatedly Daniel had to confront those powers-to-be with God's often painful truth calling them to humble repentance and faith.
- Daniel was full of God's wisdom. He knew the Scriptures (his prayers quote passage after passage). He saw events and history from God's point of view.
At the same time, Daniel, while a man just like you and me, was an example and leader of God's people in its first cross-cultural leap, into the empire of Babylon. There was no longer a temple, sacrifices or a priesthood - they lived, as we must, by the Word of God, Faith, obedience and Prayer.
- In God's providence, Daniel and his friends were in high places in the Babylonian Government as Jerusalem was finally destroyed and the people brought into captivity. Due to Daniel's influence, the welfare of the exiles was well provided for.
- Daniel corrected the faulty theology of Judah with its narrow self-centered concept of God and a smug confidence in religious ritual with a corrected view of a sovereign holy God who rules over all men and all history and is actively involved with His people. God's work through Daniel assured them that God was still with them despite the destruction of their temple and their captivity in a pagan empire. God's people were to be God's missionary people among the nations.
- They were models for us of Christian living (devotion and obedience to God's Word, prayer, worship and witness) in a polytheistic city representing the height of humanism and man's efforts to build a kingdom apart from God. (See Ezekiel 14:14,20)
- They lived daily trusting that Sovereign Lord to provide for and protect them in the midst of foes and trial.
- Further Daniel prepared a "chastened" people for the return and the rebuilding which would come and kept alive the faith of the exiles with a careful policy of cooperation without compromise. Daniel's influence on Cyrus doubtless help set them free.
Daniel teaches us about God's rule over all rulers and their rule (Cf Rom 13:1-7; 1 Tim 2:1-2). The Babylonians and the Medo-Persians are shown being used as instruments of God both to punish and to preserve His people and finally to restore them to Jerusalem.
- God repeatedly confronted these absolute monarchs through Daniel and his friends with their sin, showed them His power and brought them to acknowledge He was the only true God.
- The Visions in Daniel give God's perspective in all human history even that yet to come. As future empires are described in minute detail, it is clear that God rules over all the affairs of men and nations. And that He most often works through men like you and me.
Daniel teaches us that personal obedience to the ways in which God has revealed that we are to live must be our priority - even if it is costly to us personally. In God's eyes, who we worship, how we use our Bibles and how often we pray are life and death matters. God honors faithfulness with His providence and protection.
In Daniel, power, wealth, pleasure, worldliness are strongly contrasted with true godliness. The idols which still are worshiped in our modern world are confronted and smashed by God.
- Both the glories of Babylon and the inevitable decadence of man's kingdoms are shown in their true character as found wanting - under judgement. Babylon and Persia were great nations with mighty capitals: but the splendor and beauty of Babylon today lies in ruins.
- The Kingdoms of man are portrayed as powerful and cruel - but they will be crushed by the Rock of the Kingdom of Christ.
- Man's attempts at kingdom (Symbolized by the Tower of Babel - the foundation of Babylon) can fall in a day. A nation must honor the true God of Heaven if it is to survive and prosper. Even rulers like Nebuchadnezer and Cyrus must acknowledge and humble themselves before Him.
There is both a present and a future reigning (judgement) of God presented. In the present first in God's providence in my daily life, as God executes His will through me. And in moving history - the affairs and hearts of men whether good or evil - and every event to His own plan, in accordance with His will. All this looks forward to the final accounting of men and nations for their sins and the deliverance of His own people.
The presentation of the gospel in these stories is several-fold:
- The Book stresses the nature and object of faith (or the lack of faith) in individuals: Daniel and his friends, Nebuchadnezer, Belshazzar, Cyrus.
- The themes of God's sovereign rule and judgement - establish our responsibility to God and the need because of our sin for One with true righteousness (Our Savior)
- We also see the delivering hand of God intervening for His own.
- We have the Pre-incarnate appearances of Christ: 4:25,7:13,14
- The contrast of man's attempts at kingdom and achievements (works) to the stone of God's kingdom (see NT: Jesus is the rock on which the church is built, the cornerstone) His kingdom comes from outside our world. (Note the kingdom parables also.)
- And note in particular: Daniel's prophecy concerning the coming of the Messiah describes both the time and the ministry and passion of Christ.
Two special notes:
1. Unfortunately Liberal Scholarship has been very influential in questioning Daniel's authorship and authenticity. Even some evangelical writers may assert that Daniel was written in the times of the Maccabees (c 164 B.C.), rather than in the days of Babylon. In consulting Bible study resources while doing your study, beware of these skeptics.
2. Many writers devote much energy to discussing prophecies concerning the last times found in Daniel. In dealing with any controversy over Daniel's eschatology, and the various interpretations of the visions in chapters 7-12 (the millenial question), we will not try to to sort it out - but instead stick to the basic truths and their significance to us: The Lord is going to return with Judgement - What sort of people ought we to be until He does! (See 1 Thess 5:1-8, 2 Peter 3:8-13). Since we are focusing on chapters 1-6. This will not be a problem.