Has your God been able to deliver you? The answer to Darius’s question to Daniel is a resounding yes. Indeed, a theme running throughout the book of Daniel is that the Lord is able. He is able to see, to hear, to know, to do wonders, to send dreams and signs, to give understanding and interpretation, to check mankind’s hubris, to move swiftly and decisively to deliver his people.
Think of how the exiles must have felt to hear King Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol their God as the King of heaven who is able to abase those who walk in pride. Nebuchadnezzar, chastened and repentant, speaks of what he knows.
The Lord God is able. His deliberate and unmistakable displays of his power are done “that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men” (Dan. 4:17). The exiles are not his only audience. In fact, except for Daniel, the people of Judah are very much in the background. In the foreground are the pagans, the Gentiles, the upper echelon of the courts of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius. From Genesis to Revelation, God’s heart is for every nation, tribe, people, and language to know that he is King of kings.
Daniel reflects God’s love for these foreign pagan people, giving us a template for living an integrated life in a pluralistic world. Daniel puts flesh and bones on Peter’s call to Christians to be “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation… that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9, RSV). We are to be simultaneously a “holy nation,” a unique community that looks very different from the culture, and a “royal priesthood,” believers who intercede and bring people to God.
During the exile, Daniel is a remarkable witness, moving with integrity in a pagan world while consistently eschewing the hedonistic, indolent lifestyle at court. He seems as untouched by the temptations and charms of Babylon as he was by the lions. It is as if the reality of being in exile gives Daniel a clear recognition that this world is not our home.
Daniel is not of the Babylonians’ world, but he is very much in their world. He seeks their welfare and prays for them. He works for their good. In turn they respect and trust him. He has a sincere compassion for Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel’s heartfelt dismay over God’s decree and earnest plea that Nebuchadnezzar repent is instructive. I wonder if the reality of captivity gave Daniel a sobering understanding of where sin takes us and a genuine impulse to bring people to a saving faith.
At every sign and wonder, Daniel declares the wonderful deeds of the Lord. He never points to himself but always to the Lord God. God is behind every dream, every interpretation, every intersection, every gift and talent. The Lord God is able—able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.
Daniel walks out of the darkness of the lions’ den saying, “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths… because I was found blameless before him” (Dan. 6:22). Given what is written in Scripture about Daniel, it is hard to find any blame to pin on him. But the next verse makes it clear that Daniel was blameless before the Lord not on his own merit or piety but by faith: “…no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God” (Dan. 6:23).
These three chapters in Daniel are descriptive of a well-lived life grounded in a deep and abiding faith in God. In contrast, I fall so short of the mark. Yet, instead of discouragement, I find a familiar call to repentance and a renewed hope in God, who is able: able to present us without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing (Jude 1:24, RSV).
The more we can draw on that sure and certain hope, the more our lives will declare the wonderful deeds of him who brought us out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Ezekiel 46-48 To begin this reflection I borrow from the letter to the Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” At the end of the book of Ezekiel, Ezekiel has likely been prophesying to the people in Babylonian captivity for twenty years. Significantly, considering the roller […]
Ezekiel 36-39 There is so much good news in this part of Ezekiel, I feel as if my heart is strangely warmed each time I read it. If you find yourself beat-up, judged and found wanting, isolated, alienated, dislocated, disjointed, out-of-plumb; if you find that the law of God has done its proper work, and […]
Ezekiel 32-35 “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” (Ps. 137:1, KJV) Ezekiel’s prophetic book nestles itself by the rivers of Babylon and weeps along with the despondent. Like much of the other prophetic literature, Ezekiel provides the warrant for God’s judgment on his people. Left disoriented […]
Ezekiel 29-31 As the long finger of divine judgment now points towards Egypt, it might be easy to assume that this has little to do with us 21st century Westerners. Yet we would do well to pay attention to at least two underlying lessons in today’s readings. 1) The reason the Egyptians were under judgment […]
Ezekiel 26-28 Today’s reading tells of God’s judgment on the island city Tyre, a neighbor to Israel and a powerful center of trade. Speaking through Ezekiel, the Lord describes the vast array of valuable goods that were bought and sold there: gold, jewels, ivory, warhorses, linens, and every food imaginable. The people of Tyre were […]
Ezekiel 23-25 Counter to what we might hope, the extended metaphor that the Lord delivers to Ezekiel in today’s reading gets no better, but worse, as we read on. Oholah and Oholibah are no fairy-tale princesses, but are snapshots of the rather gross reality of God’s people (that means you and me) consumed by sin. […]