Tuesday, January 17, 2012
A few thoughts on the Book of Daniel that emerged from reflecting early this morning ...
Every person who has been baptized into Christ has been born again by God's grace. Christians, therefore, exist in what may be called a state of grace or a state of salvation. Because we believe the testimony of God's Spirit through Scripture and his witness to our spirit, we know we are his.
Yet every person who is, by grace, in Christ also knows that Satan has not put a "Do Not Disturb" sign around us. Rather he has hung a Bull's Eye on us in order to destroy us. Christians know more than their critics that living a godly, holy and Spirit-filled life is a struggle. Paul even compared it to warfare! So we look for resources to live a life of faithfulness before God.
The stories in the book of Daniel were written precisely to help God's people face the assaults that come from a hostile and pagan world - the attacks of the Enemy. From the book of Daniel we learn two important truths about discipleship: we must have a strong sense of identity and we must have integrity.
Daniel does have a strong sense of identity. He knew that he belonged to God. In chapter one he refused to "defile himself" which meant he did not allow himself to be put under obligation to a pagan king (1.8). In chapter nine Daniel prays to Yahweh, this prayer reveals his deep roots in the story of Israel with God. Daniel knew if he was not only to survive in a worldly, pagan environment he needed a strong sense of "who he was and whose he was" - identity. His identity was rooted in and derived from the God of heaven.
Daniel also had a strong sense of integrity. His integrity was that of faith. From reading the book of Daniel we see this young man was a student of Scripture and a prayer warrior. Twice this man of God is indebted to Jeremiah (2.36-38, cf. Jer 27.6-7; and 9.2-3, cf Jer 29.10) and frequently uses language from Ezekiel. Daniel's faith had integrity. He knew he would not be able to live faithfully without constant feeding upon Story of God in Scripture. When he needed insight or strength, Daniel had God's word imprinted on his heart due to his habit of meditating upon it.
Daniel's integrity is also seen in his prayer life. Few characters in the Bible are said to have prayed as often as Daniel. He prays in ch. 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, and 12. The reason Daniel was put in the dungeon with wild lions was because of his commitment to prayer.
Daniel, who was kidnapped from his homeland as a youth, was taken to a strange land, a land of a different language, different values, and different religion. It would have been easy for him to throw in the towel on living as a resident alien for Yahweh - but he didn't. We live in a world very similar to the world of the book of Daniel. We are exiles in a foreign land. But if we have a strong sense of identity, we are God's people and have integrity to spend time to be nourished by Scripture and prayer, I believe we will live lives full of faith for God our King.
Do you know who you are? Do you have integrity before God? - the questions of the Book of Daniel.