Category Archives: Notes on Daniel

Notes on Daniel! (5)

“Daring to be like Daniel”

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The Courage of Faith  (Chapter 1 Verses 8-21)

As the young Daniel makes this courageous stance we might as the question, what’s wrong with the food and drink of Babylon? Do we all need to be vegetarians, vegans and teetotallers? Doubtless amongst the Jewish community some would have deemed Daniel to be somewhat Pharisaical, over scrupulous. You’ll recall from the New Testament how tight the Pharisees were, yet still they were defiled. They were so religiously particular while at the same time plotting murder. No, it’s not that with Daniel. Remember what the agenda is here with the Babylonians. The plan is get rid of the tradition of the fathers out of the minds of Daniel and his colleagues. They want to eradicate the biblical worldview, mindset. The is the reason for the change of names, cultural norms, even their diet. Babylon wouldn’t be acquainted with the modern mindset today, that religion is a private matter, to be kept to oneself. The life of Daniel is permeated with religion, he walks, talks and breathes it. God has his hand on this young man. The Babylonian culinary delights offered to Daniel is food that was first offered to idols. Each meal would have been a ‘holy’ meal, offered to the gods of Babylon. Of which of course, there were many. An idolatrous sacrament. So to both eat and drink this food offered to them would have been to eat and drink to the glory of Babylon’s gods. It is for this reason that Daniel refuses, he is consecrated to God, devoted to the true and living God. This is a biblical attitude after all is not? And not just within the four walls of a church building. Whether we buy or sell, whether we build or plant, whether we eat or drink, whatever and wherever we do it, we do it all to the glory God (1Corinthians 10:31). It is the devotion of our entire lives to God, this is our reasonable, or spiritual service. “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).

The attitude is wrong that says we recognise the church is God’s domain, but what goes on, or what we do outside is our own business. Business is business, it’s our own lives, keep off. There can be no compartmentalising of the life of faith, Jesus Christ is Lord, and Lord of all, or Lord of nothing at all. Wonderfully and amazingly Daniel, though just a youth, about fourteen at this time, recognises the danger of compromise. You mustn’t compare today’s fourteen-year-olds in the West with a fourteen-year-old Hebrew lad back then. At the age of twelve, a Hebrew lad would be expected to be mature enough to be about his father’s business. The immaturity we see in Western youth is the result of the madness of sin. Daniel will know no compromise, he does not want to be estranged from his God by offending and breaking his commandments. Thus his faith is put into action at the dining room table, both sensibly and compassionately too, I might add. For Daniel would be aware that this man, appointed to be his tutor, his life could well be at stake (v9-10). The compassion note was God-given.  So Daniel empathises with the man, he lets him know that he appreciates his dilemma and suggests an alternative. “Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see” (Daniel 1:11-13). The young Daniel acts according to his faith, but not rashly, foolishly, but with wisdom and maturity beyond his years. O for God to raise up young men and women such as this in our churches in the West today.

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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Notes on Daniel! (4)

“Daring to be like Daniel”

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Faith in the Dining Room  (Chapter 1 Verses 8-21)

Daniel is listed as one of the heroes of faith (Hebrews 11:33). When we think of Daniel in the lion’s den we think, what an amazing example of faith! But we never think of his amazing faith in the palace dining room. Because Daniel’s resolve in the kitchen took as much courage as did the lion’s den (v8). Daniel sees the lion’s den coming from across the dining room table already. And he knows that he is not faithful here he will not survive the lion’s den. A great faith begins with the little things, “one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much” (Luke 16:10). It is in the small things that you see the courage that is rooted in faith. It’s godliness in practice. The lion’s den is for the minority. It is today we need to live out our faith, not in the future, we don’t know what it holds, God alone does. It’s in the dining room, the living room, the bedroom, the school, the office, the factory we need to be resolved to be faithful. The question would we be faithful if we were faced with the lion’s den is completely inappropriate if we are not resolved not to be defiled in the place where we are now. It would appear that only these four were faithful, was Daniel the initiator? Where were the rest of the royals, nobles (v3)? Were they already defiled, compromised? Of course, there would be those among the Hebrews who would criticise Daniel and his comrades. Too rigid, too narrow. We’re in a different culture now, we need to be flexible, what we eat and drink is of no real consequence. We need to get on with the world, show them that we can be like them. The church in the West has been bending over backwards these last sixty years to make that very point, and look at us now. More worldly than the world. The young Daniel has decided that if God will not bless it then he does not want it (v8). Whatever it is if it will not add to our life of faith and obedience to God, then it has no place in our lives. If there is a danger that it will take us away from God or compromise our testimony, then we will do without it.What others, even older Christians think, or if it costs us, friends, what does it matter? Daniel’s only concern is what pleases God.

It was very soon made clear to Daniel that God was with him (v9). That must have sent a thrill through his soul. His stand was a costly one, but he was soon seen to be the healthiest and happiest of the young men. Both physically and spiritually. This was in his youth that he made this resolve, and he went on in the same vein into old age, growing in grace and fruitfulness all the way. How sad it is that many are past their spiritual best before they’re twenty. Daniel was resolved from the start he was going to be God’s man, and he was in for the long haul (v8). He stood before God before he stood before the king. Doubtless, he would have had his critics, many their faith would have just collapsed in Babylon. What’s the use of believing anymore, it’s all over, God is not with us, it’s time to just accept the inevitable? Daniel will not succumb to unbelief, he holds the high ground, faith. He holds to the hope of his fathers, he clings to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who he believes will not fail his people. He is firmly resolved (v8). It is hope not despair in the worst circumstances that marks the life of this young man. He is God’s man in God’s place at God’s time. Seventy years down the line when it came time for Israel to return to Jerusalem, there were not many who returned, just a remnant. The rest had become Babylonianised, the world’s culture had consumed them a long time ago. While Daniel from the start, in faith, humbled himself, was content to wait on the Lord, and not rebel. What a remarkable young man is this Daniel. Who would dare to be like Daniel today?

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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Notes on Daniel! (3)

“Daring to be like Daniel”

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The Babylonian Strategy  (Chapter 1 Verses 1-7)

So why the name change (v7)? Because there is something of God in their names. Daniel’s name means ‘God is judge.’ Well that’s not going to be tolerated in Babylon, he is not the judge here, man is. Daniel is now in the realm where man is sovereign, or so he thinks. His new name praises the gods of Babylon not the God of Israel, the true and living God. In Babylon, there must be no mention of his name. They are being programmed to forget their past, its culture, its religion, everything now reflects the culture of Babylon. You see the same strategy operating in the West today. In schools, colleges and universities, the secularisation of youth is being systematically programmed into them. They must be taught to breathe the spirit of the world. It is Babylonian indoctrination, nothing new. Whose name to we bear, whose name does our children bear? As Christians, we are no longer under a cloud of holy displeasure, “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3). We are God’s children, we are children of a King and we are subject to and bear his name, Christian. We confess his name, Christ. But if we want our kids to confess his name too, and we do, how can that happen if we teach them the principles of Babylon? Or allow them to be taught those principles by others, i.e., school, college etc. If they are instructed in the letters of Babylon’s paganism and read and learn everything but the Holy Scriptures. So the question is who is going to instruct our kids? The work amongst our children and youth, in particular, is fraught with difficulty these days, it’s hard but it’s vital. Because if we don’t get the word of God into them they will find a modern Nebuchadnezzar who will entice them away from God, his word and his house.

The Babylonian doctrine may come to them by the television or internet screen, or their own peers even, not to mention the education system. To called a Christian is more than just to be taught, to read the Bible, but to love God in a priestly way. To love God sacrificially, “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2). The need of our day is to raise up Daniel’s, children who are disciples, devoted to the Lord. To be young men and women who will stand against the flood-tide of paganism that once again swamps our land, wholly devoted to the Lord. The Bible is more than just a textbook to be read in church on Sunday or to get sermons out of as and when. But to read daily on our knees as our love letter from God, hearing the voice of the Lord in every line. To devoured in an attitude of humility and with a desire to know and to do God’s will. It is only then that Jerusalem will not be overcome by Babylon. It is only then that Babylon will cease to entice our fourteen-year-olds like Daniel. The battle is for our minds, the process of brainwashing can only be overcome by the word of God, the sword of the Spirit. Babylon is not neutral, it is hostile, it always has been and always will be, to the end. If we forget who we are, what we are and where we came from; that we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb’ that we are God’s people, his heritage. Then we will very soon lose all God-consciousness. And that will be to revisit Israel’s exilic tragedy.

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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Notes on Daniel! (2)

“Daring to be like Daniel”

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What’s in a Name?  (Chapter 1 Verses 1-7)

The question might be asked, where did Daniel and his three friends come from, spiritually I mean, not geographically? Well, I do believe these youngsters could well be a fruit of Jeremiah’s ministry. Jeremiah’s ministry began in the time of Josiah’s reign and revival. Now we’ve already said the revival didn’t go far and deep enough, it certainly didn’t stop the rot in Israel. But, I ask, was it during that time that young Daniel learned his faith, or at least the seeds of it were sown? Was he the son of the faithful remnant, well grounded in the faith at a mother’s knee? And now that seed has come to fruition, now it’s time to stand and here this young man stands. We do our young people a great disservice, in fact, we fail them when all we do is feed them superficially. On a visit to the United States of America a short while ago I was asked to speak briefly to some high school kids, at a Christian school. What a joy to see that they weren’t just being fed on Bible stories. The class I spoke to were studying apologetics. How many of our fifteen-year-olds in our churches here in the United Kingdom even know what the apologetic means? The young man Daniel was certainly trained for days of war, spiritual war I mean, and that’s what we ought to be training our children for today. Here now in Babylon Daniel finds himself under the instruction of a youth worker of a different kind (v3-4). Ashpenaz is his name (v3). And he is meticulous in his job. His task is to inject the Babylonian spirit into some of these young Hebrew men, the better ones. Included in this is also the changing of their names (v7). Now to understand the background to all this one has to remember that the book of Daniel is prophetic. Daniel is God’s prophet whose struggle is between Jerusalem and Babylon. The first, Jerusalem, is the city of God. The latter, Babylon, is the city of darkness, i.e., the world. They are in Shinar (v2), where the world-power originally rose up against God (Genesis 11:4). Mankind’s first attempt at autonomy, independence from God. Man’s bid for sovereignty, to be the master of his own destiny. It was the beginning of the war of the ages and extends to end of the world’s history as we know it. It’s the war against God and Satan. Between the church and the world. Between Christ and the Antichrist. It is the war that culminates in the final battle (Revelation 18:1ff) with the ultimate triumph of Christ.

Note the relevance of the plan here (v4). The scheme is an old one but it’s not obsolete. Babylon’s interest is in the elite, the ones who they esteem will be future leaders amongst the youth. The ones whose character and convictions have not yet hardened, but can still be moulded, shaped, redirected even. So these are not treated as prisoners which of course who tend to harden them against the Babylonians, alienate them. They are selected for the best of education, Ivy League class, or Oxbridge if you like (v4). If you want to poison a lake what is the best, easiest way to do it? You go to the source, the stream that fills the lake and there you insert the poison. The stream will do the rest of the work carrying the poison into the entire lake. Now if you want to poison a nation you use the same principle. You go to its youth, their Universities and Colleges and there you inject the poison, you indoctrinate them and they will carry the poison into every sphere of society. You don’t bother with the older ones, the are too hardened in their convictions, you will not change them. You either kill them or wait for them to die off. The Nazi German policy under Hitler also. It’s not new but neither is it obsolete. It is happening in the West even as I write. So this is Ashpenaz’s task to Babylonianise Daniel and his three friends, indoctrinate them with Babylonian culture. To naturalise them (v4-5). One of the first things to be done is to alienate them from their own native ethos and language. They are going to be Paganised. They are to be taught Babylons beliefs, ideologies. All, everything has to be transformed even their diet (v5). It would be put to them that their old Jewish food regulations and customs are so old fashioned, you guys are in the modern world now. Get with it guys. When a new regime takes over, as has been seen in Russia over the last hundred years or more, they changed to names of places. Of cities, towns, palaces and squares, everything that reminds people of the old regime has to be changed. So these four Hebrew lads, their names which are well meaningful as we shall see, they have to be changed. The past has to be erased from their psyche, it’s called indoctrination. The culture of the world has to be embraced. How will they ever be able to stand against this? Faith is the answer. In the true and living God, the God of Israel, the God their fathers.

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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Notes on Daniel (1)

“Daring to be like Daniel”

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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)
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