Sunday School: Daniel’s Faith (Edit: I guess Early Monday Morning School)

Well, happy Sunday! Well this is 9 straight days but I can tell you this streak won’t last. Especially when school starts. Expect us to go into reruns (or as I call it “inventory” soon).

Good day today. Good church service with Pastor Mark preaching about change. Change is just one of those things that has to happen. The only things that don’t change are 1) God and 2) dead stuff. Even #2 has exceptions (leave an apple out for a month). Went to Sound Exchange to trade in a few CDs for King Crimson’s “Lizard”. I pre-ordered “Lizard” and “In the Wake of Poseidon”. “Lizard” was a consolation prize, I really wanted ItWoP. Well they didn’t have ItWoP even though the website said they did. So I got “Lizard” and $5. Well Sound Exchange is still a local record store so I can’t slag on them too bad. “Lizard” is pretty good but it isn’t ItWoP (yeah, you wanna type that out every time?).

BTW: They didn’t buy one of my CDs, which led to my “Facebook CD giveaway”.

True story: I was using a slicer to make some fresh french fries and just as I started to think “I haven’t cut my hand yet” as that came out of my mind mouth I cut myself. Is OK, when I put the fries into the Fry Daddy the grease splatters, lands on the cut and cauterizes the wound. No worries. 🙂 (also that part is not exactly true, it does splatter but I usually can avoid it).

The one thing I feel I need to do more of is spiritual blogs. I’ve determined that on Sundays I will publish a spiritual blog. I even came up with a clever title. 😉 The other thing I’ve struggled with is whether the more serious blogs should be proceeded with stuff like you see above. I’ve decided for now that it will (hence you see the top part). This isn’t intentioned to be a totally serious and certainly not scholarly blog. But if you want to skip the riff raff I’ll clearly label where the “devotion” begins.

Daniel’s Faith

As I read the book of Daniel I am continually amazed by his faith in a difficult situation. Not to mention the faith of his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. 4 of the first 6 chapters* of Daniel relate stories that display Daniel’s great faith in the face of difficult circumstances. The stories follow a similar pattern.

* Note: in the other two chapters Daniel had to tell the king some bad news. Kings had a habit of killing messengers but he still told them the difficult truth instead of saving his own skin. I didn’t count those two because there was no explicit threat or explicit testing of his faith.

1 – Daniel and / or his friends face a test to their faith.

2 – Daniel and / or his friends choose the right thing not the easy thing.

3 – They face the consequences of their actions.

4 – God delivers them from their trouble.

I will post and analyze the first story (in Daniel chapter 1) to show how the pattern works. I will also post highlights from the other stories that I found to be a blessing.

1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.

Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans. And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that timethey might serve before the king. Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. 10 And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.”

11 So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,12 “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.” 14 So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days.

15 And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies. 16 Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

17 As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

18 Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 Then the king interviewed[b] them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. 20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians andastrologers who were in all his realm. 21 Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.

So lets set up a sequence of events and analyze them. Verses are in parentheses ()

1 (1-7): Background – Mostly sets up the story but does establish that the king had an specific diet set up for them.

2 (8): Challenge –  To partake of the delicacies / food / wine would be defiling (we aren’t sure of the reason, its likely some of the offered foods were prohibited or unclean – example: pork). So Daniel decided not to partake of them. We aren’t sure why the wine was an issue, at least that’s what my study Bibles say.

3  (8B- 14): Response – Daniel goes to his “supervisor” boldly but respectfully and asks for a simpler diet. The supervisor is reluctant and for good reason, if these boys aren’t progressing as they should he would be killed. The next part is the highlight for me: Daniel trust God enough to tell the supervisor to give it a try, if we don’t look as well as the other boys after 10 days do what you will.

4 (15-16): Result – Daniel and his friends look better than the others. Everyone gets the “Daniel diet”. Daniel believed God would take care of Him and He did.

5 (17-21): Outcome – Daniel and his friends are more advanced than the other boys and were given advanced positions in Babylon.

Overall lesson: God honored the faith of Daniel and his friends. Daniel put his trust in God and God delivered. Daniel did not jump up and down or make a spectacle of himself. He simply followed God in simple faith.

Lets look at some highlights from the other stories (BTW: I know the passages are true, story does not equal fiction).

Chapter 2: King Nebuchadnezzar (from now on “King N”) has a troubling dream. He asks his fortune tellers & wise men (a very loose term I’m using) to tell him both the dream and the interpretation. They can’t so the king is going to kill them all. Daniel (who was one of these “fortune tellers” or “wise men” and thus on the chopping block) hears about this and marches up to the king and asks for the opportunity to tell the king the dream and interpretation. Daniel prays an asks the “three amigos” to do the same. Daniel’s prayer is answered. He first thanks God then interprets the dream for the king. Daniel and his friends get promoted even higher in the Babylonian kingdom.

Lessons:

1) Daniel gives glory to God – He asks God for the interpretation (16-18) and when he gets it he does not rush up to the king to save his life but he praises God first (20-23)

2) Daniel gives glory to God part 2 – As he interprets the dream for King N:

Daniel 2:27-28

Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, “The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. 28 But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these:

So when Daniel successfully tells the king his dream (which is the hard part – it was the king’s dream) and the interpretation King N gives God the credit instead of just Daniel. Not that the king remembered but anyway …

3) Daniel takes care of his friends. He interpreted the dreams but he makes sure his friends get promotions too (2:49)

Chapter 3: Brief synopsis and a highlight: King N (apparently forgetting about Daniel’s God he was praising a short time before) builds an image and forces everyone to worship it when the music plays. Daniel’s three friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego refuse to do it (We are all sure Daniel wouldn’t do it either but he isn’t in this story, perhaps he was somewhere else or exempt for some reason). They are threatened by the King with the fiery furnace if they still refuse. They still refuse and are thrown in. But there is a fourth guy in there and none of them are bound or burned. Many scholars believe (and FWIW I agree) that Jesus is the fourth person. (Interesting topic, Jesus shows up quite a bit in the Old Testament). King N sees them unharmed and gives props to their God (again).

Lesson: Lets look at verses 16-18

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

The amazing part of this is that while they know that God can deliver them they declare their devotion to God even if He chooses not to deliver them. God does deliver them and God again gets the glory because of their devotion to God and their bold statements.

Chapters 4 & 5 are visions Daniel reveals to the kings. King N and King Belshazzar act very unhumble (again, King N, really?). King N is made to be a wild animal gets the message and glorifies God, Belshazzar’s kingdom is ripped from him that night. It still must of taken a great deal of faith to tell them the truth, kings killed the messengers who brought bad news (and we already know King N is quite forgetful).

Chapter 6: OK, another new king, King Darius. For some strange reason Darius (usually a good king) issues a decree (at the suggestion of his advisers) that no one should pray to anyone except the king for 30 days. Daniel still prays to his God in his window.  The advisers (who wanted to get Daniel in trouble) tell on him. Darius cannot reverse his own decree (an early example of the “rule of law”) but believes Daniel’s God will deliver him from the lion in that (wait for it) lion’s den. Daniel and the lion spend a peaceful night in the den. Darius releases Daniel and throws the advisers in there, who are promptly eaten (actually it says they broke their bones but lions eat people so that probably happened, sounds better anyway).

Lessons:

1 – Real faith doesn’t have to be showy or ultra secretive. Daniel did as he normally did and trusted God for deliverance.

2 – Daniel’s faith preceded him. Even Darius thought Daniel’s God would save him (or at least was quite hopeful that would happen verse 6:16).

3 – Daniel held no malice toward King Darius. (6:21-22).

So overall what have we learned:

1 – True faith puts God first, believing that His will shall be done.

2 – True faith is obedience, not showing off.

3 – Displays of true faith even affect the most hardened folks (like all powerful kings).

What HAVEN”T we learned:

1 – That God will always rescue his servants and grant them blessings and promotions in this life. That’s what happened to Daniel because God wanted it too. But we can’t always expect God to make our lives happy and peaceful, delivering us from every bad circumstance. Jesus accused the Pharisees (or more accurately their ancestors) of killing all the prophets, asking them what prophets they haven’t killed*. 11 out of the 12 original disciples died violent deaths. The 12th? He wrote Revelation while marooned on a desert island because of his faith. And who is closer to God than Jesus? God ultimately delivered Him (and all His true servants in the here after) but not before being whipped, abused and crucified. Faith is not measured in success, earthly obedience or deliverance but rather in obedience.

I hope you enjoyed this. I’ll have another one next Sunday (posted earlier, I can write them earlier in the week, save them, then publish them on Sunday). I should be back tomorrow with an update on the dating sites I’ve been on. Until then …

* I’ll edit the reference in later, can’t find it right now.

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