“Daring to be like Daniel”
The Babylonian Exile – (Chapter 1 Verses 1-)
The book of Daniel is about a man’s faithfulness to his God. But Daniel is faithful only because God was faithful to him. We love God because he first loves us (1John 4:19). We are faithful to God because he is first faithful to us. “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Daniel’s faithfulness is worked out, expressed in the midst of a pagan culture and in the court of a pagan emperor. An ethos that is extremely hostile to God. Just as is our own culture today in the West. Daniel dared to trust in God’s covenant love and his promises to those who do indeed trust. He was delivered from a furnace of fire, and from a den of lions as we shall see. As God’s prophet, he predicted matters that would reach forth to the end of the age. From the very start, it is made clear this is no accident of history, for there are no such accidents. The outworkings of history are the outworkings of God’s decrees. God is in all events in all his world. The Old Testament background to these events is found in the second book of Kings, chapters twenty-three and twenty-four. Prior to the revival in Josiah’s day which came, from a human perspective, too late and did not run deep enough to stop the slide into apostasy. The declension had reached a point where God was left with no choice but to judge. The king who followed Josiah, Jehoahaz, he set the pattern for evil. Then followed Jehoiakim’s evil, it was he who killed the prophet Uriah (Jeremiah 26:20-23). It was he who cut to pieces and burned the prophetic word delivered to him by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 36:23). He was a gross idolater (2Chronicles 36:5). There was nothing left for Israel but exile (v1-2. Let it never be said that the public office does not set the spiritual and moral pace of any nation.
It was in the third year of his reign that the Babylonians came and laid siege to Jerusalem (v2). In 605BC., the first deportation began. The second wave took place about eight years later. Finally, in 605BC., Jerusalem was destroyed and Judah’s kingdom ceased to be. They had crossed a line, God had had enough. “The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:15-16). The cause underlying the deportation was neither political nor military, it was spiritual. This is a lesson for all ages. “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Hebrews 2:1-4). “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened” (Hebrews 4:1-2). This is the Lord’s rebuke his disciplinary judgment upon his own people. They had denied him, refused his counsel, failed to heed his warnings, his instruction and his pleadings. Of course, they said as many say today, God is love, exile, judgment, us? It will never happen. But it did. Now they are reduced to serving pagans in a foreign land. And not even this restrained, cured their degeneracy. But in the midst of this God prepares and raises up his men, his prophet Daniel and his friends (v8), and begins to prepare for the future. This is by no means the end, there is a faithful remnant who mourn, whose hearts are broken in these circumstances that they find themselves. “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows1 there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion” (Psalm 137:1-2)! They at least began to appreciate the privileges and blessings that had been theirs. But it would be a long way back to spiritual and moral health. But their backsliding would be healed. “I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon. They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon” (Hosea 14:4-7).
(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)