Read Daniel 1:1-7
1In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.
3Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king's palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. 5The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king's service.
6Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. (NIV)
Daniel is an interesting book. Many believe that it falls in with the apocalyptic books of the Bible. It is believed by most to be written much later than the period it is out. The fall of Judah and the exile into Babylon occurred around 597 BC. The book is believed to written closer to the Maccabean Revolt which was a Jewish rebellion, lasting from 167 to 160 BC. This was a revolt led by the Maccabees against the Seleucid Empire and the Hellenistic influence on Jewish life. Many believe it is a story written to speak against this Jewish people not holding to their faith.
This is similar to the book of Revelation, it was written much against the Roman empire, but does not name Rome as its antagonist. This is because if you are going to speak against someone powerful, you don’t want to confront that one directly for fear of immediate retaliation.
So when we read the book, we are not reading history, but a book that encourages one to keep faith during a time of trial and a time where one is being pushed to give up one’s faith in God. As we look through history, we see multiple times where society pushes those of faith to give up their “religions beliefs.” I believe we are living in one of these times.
Now, we are not to the point of the Book of Revelation’s mark of the beast. The Mark of the beast comes in the second half of the tribulation and is basically an economic mark. One must have the mark in order to do basic economic activity to live. And this was a concern leading up to the Maccabean revolt. The Jewish way of life was being pushed out. Those who choose to live according to the Jewish ways were being ostracized and persecuted. We see this in that men who were circumcised could not compete in the Greek games. The Jews ability to conduct commerce was limit and one of the worst things to put down the Jews was that if an infant was found to be circumcised, its mother would be crucified and the infant would be killed and hung around the mother’s neck. All these things were to force the Jews to give up their faith.
So, the story of Daniel speaks to people standing firm in their faith. The book is divided into two sections. The first is most written in Aramaic and tells stories of Daniel and his three friends. The second half is most written in Hebrew and speaks to visions seen by Daniel.
As we begin this journey, contemplate this thought: how far will I give up my faith to be accepted in society, even to the point of being able to buy food and clothing. It is something that we too often take for granted living out our faith in the US. But this is real in some parts of the world. Have you ever taken heat for standing up to your faith? Have you ever been ostracized for your faith? These do happen to people. It is a question that goes all the way back to the Joshua about to lead the people into the promised land after enduring many temptations throughout the exodus to abandon God and he says, “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:14-15, NIV)
God has a way of allowing life so that we must a decision – do we stand with God or do we stand with the world.
Blessings and Peace