Series on Daniel, i The Context, A Babylon. Text: 1:1,2. Title: The Lord's Song in a Strange Land

Introduction


Before I direct our attention to the specific text for today I want to make a few general comments. I have received a number of requests over the years to preach on the book of Daniel. That undertaking this is a challenge is easy to see from the nature of the book. Like the book of Revelation Daniel is full of visions which are in turn full of symbols. It is apocalyptic literature. Do not expect me to satisfy every curious inquiry into the meaning of symbols and numbers. No one can do that with any degree of authority and such speculation ought not to be indulged in from the pulpit. Furthermore it does no one any good to miss the main message because one is so involved in trying to interpret the details. It has been suggested with considerable credibility that children often fare better in getting the intended meaning from this kind of literature because they tend to see it more immediately and not get sidetracked by details. This is a picture book from God and we need always to see the big picture before attempting to explain the details. Finally this is a book of authentic prophecy. Hebrews 11:33-34 alludes to Daniel in the lion's den and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, and our lord plainly identifies Daniel as a prophet in Matthew 24: 15. With that let us consider our text for today. Chapter 1 of Daniel gives us the context of the book historically and the first two verses set the exact scene in Babylon. Babylon was an ancient kingdom in the middle east which warred against Israel. The city of God, Jerusalem, was taken in three stages 605, 597 and 587 B.C. and according to II Kings 24 and 25 Judah was carried away captive from its own land. Among the captives was Daniel and thus he begins his book in Daniel 1:1 and 2, 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 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.

I The Conflict of the Ages

Let us consider first the conflict of the ages which appears in these verses. it is important that we recognize that Daniel is not simply reporting a war but rather describing the latest battle in a struggle which began in the Garden of Eden when God said to the serpent, in Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel, and is consummated in Revelation 18:10 where we read, Woe, woe O great city, O Babylon city of power. In one hour your doom has come. It is the struggle which Augustine saw between the city of God and the city of man, and which Bunyan described as between the Eternal City and the City of Destruction. Here they are called Jerusalem and Babylon. In the Old Testament, Psalm 48, Jerusalem on Mt. Zion is described in this way, As we have heard so have we seen in the city of the Lord Almighty, in the city of our God, God makes her secure forever. And Babylon is just the opposite, for in Isaiah 14 the prophet is told to take up a taunt against the king of Babylon and he says, How you have fallen from heaven 0 morning star, son of the dawn, you have been cast down to earth you who once laid low the nations. And in Revelation 18 describing the end of the world we see the rejoicing over Babylon's destruction, Fallen fallen is Babylon the great. She has become a home for demons, and the song ends, In her was found the blood of the prophets and saints and of all who have been killed on the earth. Thus it is that we must realize that we see here the conflict of the ages, and a conflict in which we are to take sides either to be part of the eternal city or remain in the city of destruction.

II The Contest for Allegiance

But Daniel reflects something else in these verses, which is a thorough understanding of what is going on behind the scenes. There is a contest for our allegiance, and how we look at our lives and the events in our lives is going to determine our allegiance.  Notice that on the one hand Daniel says Nebudchadnezzar came to Jerusalem, besieged it, and carried off the articles of the House of God to the treasure house of his god. Viewed from this perspective alone the event represents the total defeat of Israel's God. This is the one who according to Psalm 48 makes the city of God secure forever. Where is He? He has been robbed of his possessions and blasphemies have been committed against his name. His city is defeated if not obliterated. The same thing happens today. The Babylonian gods of secularism and humanism have invaded God's sanctuary and carried off the treasure of the gospel. Our society is in serious trouble because of it. Beginning with groups like National Organization for Women and Norman Lear's People for the American Way, and continuing in efforts to promote sexual freedom, abortion and the homosexual lifestyle, like Nebudchadnezzar of old, these all rejoice that they have despoiled God's city. But like the Babylonian monarch they do not realize there is another perspective which Daniel gives us in verse 2, And the Lord gave Jehoiakim, king of Judah into Nebudchadnezzar's hand. Daniel knew that this had been prophesied through Isaiah in chapter 39, Behold days are coming when all that is in your house and what your fathers have accumulated until this day shall be carried to Babylon, nothing shall be left. And it was declared to be so in ii Kings 24 where we read, Surely at the command of the Lord this came upon Judah to remove them from his sight because of the sins of Manasseh. God was in control, not defeated but triumphant even in apparent defeat as in the death and resurrection of our Lord. Being able to look at the events this way was Daniel's secret and ours. It is the way in which we overcome. As Paul said to the Philippians in his letter in 1:12, I want you to know brethren that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.


Conclusion

The devil wants to isolate us like Daniel, indoctrinate us in the ways of the world, compromise our values and confuse us about our purpose in life. Like Daniel we need to see that the Lord is doing it for His glory. The victory is ours in the end, so we persevere. We know this because of Jesus death and resurrection. We are loved, forgiven and saved and are victorious in him. Somehow Daniel and Old Testament believers understood this principle with even less knowledge than we have. The Lord is in control, the victory is secure and that's what the book of Daniel is really all about. This is how we sing the Lord's song in a strange land.