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Exalting Jesus in Daniel is part of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series. This series affirms that the Bible is a Christ-centered book, containing a unified story of redemptive history of which Jesus is the hero. It’s presented as sermons, divided into chapters that conclude with a “Reflect & Discuss” section, making this series ideal for small group study, personal devotion, and even sermon preparation. It’s not academic but rather presents an easy-reading, practical and friendly commentary. The series is projected to be 48 volumes.
About the Author
Daniel L. Akin is the president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He holds a Ph.D. in Humanities from the University of Texas at Arlington and is the author or editor of numerous books and Bible commentaries including Theology for the Church and the New American Commentary on 1, 2, and 3 John. David Paltt’s first love in ministry is making disciples—sharing, showing, and teaching God’s Word in everyday life. He has traveled extensively to serve alongside church leaders around the world. David is the president of the International Mission Board and the founder of Radical, a resource ministry that exists to serve the church in accomplishing the mission of Christ. He is also the author of several books, Follow Me, Radical, and Radical Together and most recently Counter Culture (to be released February 2015). He is the founder of Radical (Radical.net) a resource ministry devoted to serving churches and disseminating disciple-making resources. David and his wife, Heather, have four children: Caleb, Joshua, Mara Ruth, and Isaiah. Tony Merida is lead pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He earned a Ph.D. in preaching from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as associate professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His books include Faithful Preaching and Orphanology.
Read an Excerpt
Be Strong and of Good Courage (Preparing Our Children for the Nations)
Main Idea: Even in times of great trial and opposition, Christians must remain faithful to God and his gospel, imitating Christ's own steadfastness as he endured persecution and death for our sakes.
I. God May Sovereignly Send You to a Difficult Place to Spread His Name among the Nations (1:1-3).
A. God works in spite of the sins of his people (1:1-2).
B. God works as he scatters his people (1:3).
II. Be Prepared for the Challenges Non-Christian Cultures Will Throw at You to Lead You Away from God (1:3-7).
A. Isolation (1:3)
B. Indoctrination (1:4)
C. Assimilation (1:5)
D. Confusion (1:6-7)
III. Determine Early in Your Life and Heart That You Will Not Compromise Your Convictions and Commitments to God (1:8-13).
A. Resist the temptation to defile yourself (1:8).
B. Win the favor of those in authority when possible (1:9-10).
C. Wisely offer alternative solutions that are win-win (1:11-13).
IV. Trust God to Honor Your Devotion and Faithfulness to Him (1:1421).
A. God blessed them physically (1:14-16).
B. God blessed them mentally (1:17,20).
C. God blessed them spiritually (1:17).
D. God blessed them socially (1:18-21).
When we find our feet forcibly planted in the soil of an anti-God, anti-Christian culture, it is absolutely imperative that our hearts be drawn to heaven and our minds be immersed in the Word of God. As Paul wrote in Colossians 3:1-2, "So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." As Paul adds inRomans 12:2, "Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Thoughts like these were essential for four Hebrew teenagers who had been plucked from their families and their country and taken captive to the evil empire of that day, the empire of Babylon. Their names are Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (1:6).
The theme of the book called Daniel is the sovereignty of God in all things. He is sovereign over the big things like international powers, and he is sovereign over small things like the apparently insignificant lives of teenagers. He is sovereign over history and is sovereign concerning the future. Our God is sovereign.
Though it is something of an oversimplification, the book can be divided into two parts: chapters 1–6 focus on the prophet (the man), and chapters 7–12 reveal the prophecies (the message), with Daniel as the central figure in both sections.
The contents of the book span a time period from about 605 through 539 BC. Using both narrative and apocalyptic vision, Daniel encourages God's people to trust in God's providence and remain faithful no matter what happens since their Lord is in complete control. Ronald Pierce highlights three specific themes that naturally flow out of this basic proposition: (1) God is able to rescue and reward faithful servants; (2) God holds accountable people and kings who oppose him; and (3) in the end God will replace all earthly kingdoms with his eternal kingdom (Daniel, 9).
My good friend and New Testament scholar, Bob Stein, once told me that among the persecuted believers around the world the two most favored books in the Bible are Daniel and Revelation. This is because both teach that in the end our God wins. The text before us, Daniel 1, reveals that God once won the day for four faithful Hebrew teens in a foreign and distant land away from family and friends. How did God do it? What was he up to?
God May Sovereignly Send You to a Difficult Place to Spread His Name among the Nations
Dale Davis well says, "Sometimes God may allow hardships to reach us because he wants his mercy to reach beyond us" (Message of Daniel, 36). God's purpose in such hardships is almost always multifaceted. He allows suffering in the lives of his people to demonstrate his sovereignty, strengthen their faith, show himself wise and strong, and put his glory on display among the nations that they might be drawn to him.
That there is pain for us in all of this is often the case. That there is great gain for the glory of God and the advance of his kingdom is certain. Such a perspective will help us remember who the true hero of Daniel is. It is not the Hebrew teenagers. It is a sovereign, all-powerful God of grace who, as Bryan Chapell notes,
uses his sovereign power to maintain his covenant promises forever. This gospel according to Daniel should give us courage against our foes, hope in our distress, and perseverance in our trials. (Gospel According to Daniel, 9)
God Works in Spite of the Sins of His People (1:1-2)
Throughout history, armies have invaded nations with acts of aggression and war. The results have been tragic: land destroyed, property destroyed and confiscated, and POWs taken captive and sent away to foreign lands never to see family and friends again. This is what happened to Daniel and his friends. They were uprooted and replanted in the harsh and wicked soil of the Babylonian Empire. And surprisingly, it was God's doing. It was God's plan.
Verse 1 provides the historical context. Verse 2 provides the theological explanation (note vv. 2, 9, and 17). Judah, the southern kingdom, had been in political and spiritual decline for some time. During the reign of Jehoiakim (609–598 BC), one of Judah's worst kings who was nothing like his godly father Josiah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (605–562 BC) attacked Jerusalem in 605 BC. This happened because "the Lord handed King Jehoiakim of Judah over to him, along with some of the vessels from the house of God" (v. 2). The vessels of God, as trophies of war, were transported to Babylon and placed in the house of a pagan god in Babylon — probably Marduk, the chief god of the Babylonians. This was a way of saying, "Our god is better and stronger than your god." Daniel, on the other hand, says, "Not so!" The people of God have sinned, and the real God is judging them. In the process he is extending his presence among the nations. God is at work even through the sins of his people.
God Works as He Scatters His People (1:3)
There would be three deportations of the people of Israel to Babylon (605, 597, 586 BC). In Deuteronomy the Lord had warned his people that if they disobeyed him, curses would come on them (Deut 28:15). These curses would include military defeat (Deut 28:25) and deportation (Deut 28:64). In the book of Daniel, we see that God kept his word.
In addition to the temple vessels that were brought to "the land of Babylon," Nebuchadnezzar orders a man named Ashpenaz to deport members both "from the royal family and from the nobility." This was intended to strip the nation of its best and brightest, as verse 4 makes clear, and benefit Babylon by adding those gifted individuals to its own ranks. Unknown to the Babylonians, however, is the fact that God is working through this conquest. This is a divine invasion of enemy territory! The city of man is being invaded by the city of God, to draw from Augustine. Babylon (or Shinar in some translations), the land of ziggurats (cf. Gen 10:10 and the tower of Babylon in Gen 11), idols, and false gods, the city that opposes the true God, is now being infiltrated by the Lord's army. It is a small incursion to be sure, but one that will accomplish far more than anyone could imagine. The "times of the Gentiles" have started (Luke 21:24). Israel will be oppressed and her people scattered, but the nations will now have a witness among them to the one true and living God.
Be Prepared for the Challenges Non-Christian Cultures Will Throw at You to Lead You away from God
We all have what is called a "worldview," a particular way of looking at and seeing life and the world in which we live. It shapes both the way we think and the way we live. Here are a few definitions and descriptions of a worldview to guide us:
A worldview is a comprehensive view of life through which we think, understand, and judge, and which determines our approach to life and meaning.
"A worldview is that basic set of assumptions that gives meaning to one's thoughts. A worldview is the set of assumptions that someone has about the way things are, about what things are, about why things are" (Bush, Handbook, 70).
"A worldview is a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic make-up of our world" (Sire, Universe Next Door, 17).
"One's worldview is perhaps best reflected by one's answers to the 'ultimate questions of life': Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? What's it all about? Is there a god? How can I live and die happily? What are good and evil? [What would I be willing to die for?]" (Olthuis, Worldviews, 153–64).
Today we live in a post-Christian context with an increasingly non-Christian and secular worldview. There is pressure from every direction to force us to conform to the mind-set and the spirit of the age. This challenge is not new. Daniel and his three friends faced the same challenges in their day.
The first step in making Babylonians out of the four Hebrew teenagers (called "young men" in v. 4) was isolation from their homeland, family, and friends. This would have been traumatic and a shock to their systems, throwing their world into a tailspin. They would be extremely vulnerable, isolated, and separated from all that was familiar, making them far more susceptible to the "new ideas" they would encounter. This Babylonian strategy would increase the likelihood of their deconversion from their faith in the Lord God and their conversion to the worldview of Babylon.
I see this same strategy successfully employed by the evil one in our own day. However, in our case, it is often voluntary! Naively and sometimes willingly, parents send their children off to a secular college or university as lambs prepared for slaughter. Isolated from their church and Christian friends, they are quickly seduced by so-called intellectual elites and walk away from Christ. The evil one knows what he is doing! This does not mean parents should never send their children to secular or state universities. It does mean, though, that we fail to appreciate the danger and deception of false ideas if we do not adequately prepare students for that environment and support them while they are there.
Verse 4 affirms these four young men were among the best of the Israelites. In addition to coming "from the royal family and from the nobility" (v. 3), they were good-looking ("without any physical defect," probably indicating that they were not made eunuchs), they were smart ("suitable for instruction in all wisdom, knowledgeable, perceptive"), and they were blessed with leadership and interpersonal skills ("capable of serving in the king's palace"). They were ideal candidates to be taught "the Chaldean language and literature," to be enrolled in an educational indoctrination school "for three years" (vv. 4-5).
Brainwashing was to begin immediately in a world unlike anything they had ever known. The University of Babylon would give them a first-class secular education in Babylonian language, philosophy, literature, science, history, and astrology. Religion would have been a part of the curriculum as well as the mythologies of Babylon, the greatness of Marduk, and the importance of the pantheon of polytheistic deities that dominated the ancient Near Eastern world. Dream interpretation and omen reading would also be in their required course load. Looking at their education, we see that the New Age movement is not really that new. It is simply the Old Age wrapped up in a different package.
Converting these followers of Yahweh into patriots of Babylon required a total immersion into the world of Babylon. While changing their minds, the Babylonians also sought to change the Hebrews' lifestyles. Each was to eat like a Babylonian and drink like a Babylonian. The goal was to entice them with the delicacies and privileges of their new life. Such an immersion would wear them down and eventually win them over. And at the end of three years, these boys would be given a final exam before the king.
In verses 6-7, we are introduced to four of the Hebrew aristocracy exiled to Babylon. Certainly there were others, but the book of Daniel records the story of only these four. Each was from the tribe of Judah. And as Ronald Pierce and others point out, the youths' Hebrew names honor the one true God, Yahweh. The name Daniel translates "Elohim is my judge"; Hananiah, "Yahweh is gracious"; Mishael, "Who is like Elohim?"; and Azariah, "Yahweh helps" (Pierce, Daniel, 13).
Changing names today is not a big deal. In the ancient world, however, it was huge. It went to the identity and core of who a person was. The new names are familiar to most of us:
Old Name New Name
Daniel Belteshazzar Hananiah Shadrach Mishael Meshach Azariah Abednego
The exact meanings of these new Babylonian names is not certain, though "certainly they were intended to honor Babylonian gods in similar ways" to their Hebrew names (Pierce, Daniel, 13). And they were intended to confuse these young men and reorient them away from Yahweh and toward the pagan gods of their new home. Never was it more important for these four teens to be in the world but not of the world. But would they remain true to their faith? Could they? The rest of the story provides our answer.
Determine Early in Your Life and Heart That You Will Not Compromise Your Convictions and Commitments to God
When I think of these four Hebrew teenagers, Psalms 1 and 2 immediately come to my mind. Psalm 1 depicts the character of the Messiah-King. Psalm 2 promises his reign. Psalm 1 speaks of the man who is not enticed and seduced by "the advice of the wicked" (v. 1). No, "his delight is in the Lord's instruction" (v. 2). This accurately and beautifully describes Daniel and his friends. Having been raised and trained by godly parents and grandparents, they loved the Lord their God with their whole hearts, souls, minds, and strength (cf. Deut 6:4; Matt 22:37). They had been prepared, I have no doubt, by their parents and spiritual mentors for this day, and they would be of good courage and stand strong in the Lord!
Resist the Temptation to Defile Yourself (1:8)
"Daniel determined" begins verse 8. The immersion into the worldview of pagan Babylon would not win his heart or his mind. Babylon is where he would live, but Babylon would never be his home. Like his forefather Abraham, "he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Heb 11:10).
And exactly what did Daniel resolve to do? He resolved "that he would not defile himself with the king's food or with the wine he drank." The reason Daniel viewed the food and wine as defiling is not completely clear. It may have been dietary, if the food was unclean for a Hebrew (cf. Lev 11:1-23). It may have been religious or spiritual, if these items had been offered to idols (cf. Deut 6:13-15). It may have been symbolic: he would not pledge absolute loyalty to the king. Dale Davis proffers what he calls the defensive view, and personally I am drawn to it. He writes,
Babylon was simply smothering Daniel and his friends. Daniel may well have thought, "There is real danger here: I could get sucked up into this and neutered by it all!" He recognized that if Babylon [the world and its values] gets into you, the show is over. (Message of Daniel, 32)
Daniel and his friends were forced to be in Babylon, but they would not let Babylon get into them. They made a conscious and determined decision to say no.
With courage and conviction Daniel approached the chief of the eunuchs and requested that he allow him to disregard the king's order and not defile himself. What amazing boys their parents had raised! The stand they were taking had been years in the making. It did not happen overnight.
Win the Favor of Those in Authority When Possible (1:9-10)
Daniel had more than conviction; he also had wisdom. He was blessed by God to walk in holiness and humility, a rare combination in any age. God honored his servant as a result. As "the Lord handed King Jehoiakim" into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar (v. 2), he "granted Daniel kindness [Hb hesed] and compassion from the chief eunuch." Daniel shared his faith and convictions with Ashpenaz, and it moved this unbelieving official. Daniel stood his ground, but he did so with grace and humility. He was not arrogant or rude. He was not obnoxious or stubborn. He kindly and winsomely won over his superior in this instance (cf. Joseph in Gen 39:4 and Esther in Esth 2:9).
Excerpted from "Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary: Exalting Jesus in Daniel"
Copyright © 2017 Daniel L. Akin.
Excerpted by permission of B&H Publishing Group.
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Table of Contents
Series Introduction xiii
Be Strong and of Good Courage (Preparing Our Children for the Nations) 1:1-21 3
God's Kingdom: The Only Kingdom That Will Never Be Destroyed 2:1-49 17
Courage in the Fire! 3:1-30 30
Learning the Hard Way That God Is God and We Are Not 4:1-37 42
The Handwriting Is on the Wall 5:1-31 55
Daniel and the Lions' Den 6:1-28 68
Is Anyone Really in Control? Yes! God Is! 7:1-28 82
And the Visions Keep on Coming! An Apocalyptic Ram, Goat, and Little Horn 8:1-27 96
Lessons on Prayer from a Man of God 9:1-19 108
Daniel's Seventy Weeks and the Glorious Work of Messiah Jesus 9:20-27 117
The Life and Death Realities of Spiritual Warfare 10:1-21 127
Civil War: Just as God Said It Would Happen 11:1-20 137
Antiochus Epiphanes and the Antichrist: The Archenemies of God's People 11:21-45 147
Nine Marks of Eschatological Discipleship 12:1-13 159
Works Cited 169
Scripture Index 173