Friday, August 30, 2013

Scribblings on The Book of Daniel


Daniel is something of a pop-favourite when it comes to Bible books. Especially in the student world, because y'know, he was, like, a student, away from home. And that's cool as he works out where not to compromise as he studies, and then you get the challenges to pray even if it's illegal and so on. And then thankfully we run out of time before the crazy stuff in the latter part of the book.

The really famous bits? The lions den and the firey furnace. As Larry Osbourne comments, those aren't really the point because most people thrown to the lions die, and most people thrown in fire die. But something amazing is going on.

The book of Daniel is about dreams and politics and wars and the interactions of a refugee with the Government officials, and about the coming of life to God's people.

Six headings from  book by book with my further notes

1. Praise be to the Name of God forever (Daniel 1-2)
-- Christ the true exiled son pictured in the story of Daniel. We want to live wisely but we can't. But Jesus is the wise one who was exiled for us to enable us to live wisely.
-- Christ the true revelation, author of history - who speaks to power. We'd fear to speak and not have words to say, but Jesus is the revelation of God to the world. Those who know him have words to say.
2. The fourth looks like a Son of God (Daniel 3-4)
-- Christ with those who trust him, especially in trouble...  Our integrity fails, but he stands - and comes to be with us.
-- Christ the true king over all others. (Centre of chapters 2-7)  We're looking for leaders who can bring life and peace, we need this great king.
3. My God sent His Angel (Daniel 5-6)
-- Christ the true judge of all - live in light of him. Unjust leaders should be held accountable, and us too. He brings justice.
-- Christ the true Saviour. He faced the lions (Psalm 22 & 2 Timothy 2) and was raised up to life. So he brings us through death to life.
4. One like the Son of Man (Daniel 7-8)
-- Christ who is given authority over all. Snatching power is folly but wisdom is in receiving.
-- Christ the divine (8v28) - fall down and worship him like John in Revelation 1.
5. A Man dressed in linen (Daniel 9-10)
-- Christ the wrath averter through his death on the cross. Only he can save.
-- Christ the all glorious one.
6. The Great Prince who protects your people (Daniel 10:10-12:13)
-- Christ our strength til the end. His words are life-giving.
-- Christ in whom we shine. The wise shine like stars as they hold out the gospel word.

Some scribbles as I've been reading Daniel recently.

1. Daniel is royal seed, without blemish (1v3-4). I mean, just look at those verses. It's right in tune with the melody. Typology all over it. Royal Seed. Without blemish, like a pleasing sacrifice. Daniel is either going to be like Jesus or make us cry out for a true seed. Daniel's story is going to show us the Christ somehow. In pictures, Daniel and his friends experience cursed exile, death and resurrection. They are gospel-revealers who trust the LORD when no-one else does. Daniel is "Greatly Beloved" (10:11).

He is wise, and as 12:3 says those who are wise "shall shine like the brightness of the sky above... like stars.."  Daniel is the backdrop for Paul's famous words about followers of Jesus who are 'without blemish' and 'shine like stars.' (Phil 2v15)

2. Away from home... Exiled. This away-from-home-ness is about being under divine curse. Daniel will experience the full length of this from Nebuchadnezzar to Cyrus. This Son of God going to the cross more than leaving home to go to University. I don't mean to under estimate the dislocation and loneliness of University but Daniel goes beyond that. Exile is also a picture for Christian life today - people made for a renewed creation still living in a frustrated world. Both Daniel's suffering and his engagement with his culture has stuff to say to us about life today.

3. Daniel studies the language and literature of the Babylonians, as Moses did the science of Egypt, and Paul the poets of Greece. HT: Calvin. There is application there for us here. It is good to be fascinated, to study, to learn. Would Daniel have been used to speak gospel to the kings of Babylon and Persia if he didn't know their world deeply? God gave him learning and skill but I think that means he spent time in the books and he excelled. Daniel is also a long term civil servant or politician, working from the throne-room of the kings of the world for a lifetime. Outside of work we only really hear of his prayer life and his visions which often leave him physically ruined.

4. Christ is also present in this book. Who's that in the fire with the other three guys? Who's that giving Israel into Nebuchadnezzar's hands and giving Daniel favour and wisdom. That's interesting by contrast to Esther where Christ isn't on stage. Why is that? And what implications for today... God seen, God unseen...
  • Who is the Angel who saves?
  • Who is the man clothed in linen? "Thus glorious did Christ appear" (M.Henry)
  • Who is the revealer of mysteries?
  • Who is the one like a son of man?
  • Who is the one with the appearance of a man?
  • Who the God who gives Israel over to Babylon, who gives favour and wisdom and kingdoms.
  • Who is the anointed one who will be cut off to avert wrath? (9v26, 9v16) "the angel predicts the death of Christ" (Calvin), "surely a reference to the crucifixion of Christ." (ESV Study Bible)
5. Christ is also prophesied in this book. Kingdom, then kingdom, then a kingdom: and then the kingdom of God that is forever. There is a large vision here of what happens in the gospel - set on the stage of global politics. Uncomfortable, horizon stretching stuff. No surprise when Jesus turns up telling people that God's kingdom is at hand. On the other side of that, we're adverse to authority figures and monarchy isn't exactly a compelling image either. Books like Samuel, Chronicles, Kings, Esther and Daniel probably go a long way to shaping how we're meant to think about kingdom language. But, do we know their song today?
What's Jesus' kingdom like?

6. There's a chiasm in chapter 2-7, the themes match in 2 & 7, 3 & 6 and 4 & 5, and this section was originally Aramaic so it would stand out. Likely one in 8-12 too in Hebrew. I like the way the words and the structure of the words convey the message. It needs to be read as literature. Everything communicates. And, there's a big emphasis on the Most High is King (similar to Daniel's name meaning God is judge). These chapters also talk to us about revelation - Daniel is in on the counsel of God, in on dreams like Joseph and other prophets, he communicates and mediates God to the king. Knowledge by revelation. Mysteries aren't mysterious they're things that God reveals... the chief mystery: the gospel.

7. Here be weirdos. The latter chapters of Daniel are the "historic home of cranks and loonies..." but I'm going to ponder it. What's clear is that kingdoms will rise and fall at the whim of one who will establish his kingdom forever. It may getting pretty grim along the way... Daniel's visions of what's to come make him physically sick and without strength (10v8), as good as dead at the sight of the man clothed in linen (very like John's vision in Revelation 1)... though it was God who made him supernaturally well in chapter 1, and it is the speaking of "the one having the appearance of a man" (9v18) of whom it is said "as he spoke to me, I was strengthened." (9v19) "The word of his grace is alone effectual to redress all our grievances, and to rectify whatever is amiss in us. One touch from heaven brings us to our knees, sets us on our feet, opens our lips, and strengthens us" (M.Henry)

The wise will finally understand... though Daniel the wise one seemed not to (12v10), yet he shall rest and awake to resurrection life (12v2).

What do you see in Daniel? What haven't I noted? 

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