The book of Daniel has been given a great deal of attention from a very limited vantage point within the Evangelical church. The book is often viewed through the lens of puzzling eschatological events, and as such much of its value is overlooked or diminished. In the words of James Montgomery Boice, “To think of Daniel chiefly as a puzzle is to miss its extraordinary relevance” (Daniel: An Expositional Commentary, 9). Daniel is for the church today, not simply for the church tomorrow. It’s words are relevant and broadly applicable.
My goal in this study will be to introduce readers to some of the basic themes of Daniel that can help us see this relevance. There are a number of themes that stand out in the book. The most dominant theme in the book is the conflict for sovereignty that takes place between Yahweh and the kingdoms of man (most notably Babylon and Persia). We see throughout the book that God is often called into question by opposing rulers, His Lordship challenged by them, and His people oppressed. Yet, routinely God trounces His would-be-contenders. His Lordship and sovereignty is maintained without question. God shows up in pretty miraculous ways throughout the book, not only to defend His glory but to defends His people. We need to be reminded of the sovereignty and Lordship of this God from Daniel.
Other themes are worthy of our attention too. God’s control over history, for example, reminds us that He sovereignly rules over what takes place in the world. Nothing happens apart from His design and desire. In conjunction with that God rules over rulers. Their rebelliousness is not outside his plan and he overrules even their intent. We see too the example of persevering faith. Daniel and his colleagues are models of persistence in the face of threat. They do not compromise to be accepted in the empire, they remain faithful to the Lord despite the consequences. Their example beckons us to consider our faith, and invites us to believe that God is worth the ire of the empires of this world. They model living for God amidst opposition and in that regard speak volumes to us today.
We live in a time when compromise among Christians, particularly in the west, is far too common. We have sought the power and acceptance of earthly kingdoms and sacrificed the call of Jesus given in the Sermon on the Mount. We need Daniel to speak afresh to our faith, to our perseverance, and to our assimilation into this world.
Finally, this book speaks of the coming of the Messiah. Yes there is prophecy and eschatology in this book, but it centers around the person of Jesus Christ. Our focus in eschatology ought to be the coming Kingdom of God and the reigning King. So, we will explore this theme as well in Daniel.
There is much in Daniel that is hard to understand. I believe somethings still, to date, lack clear explanation. Yet, we should not let the mystery and puzzle of Daniel cloud us from the relevance of its message today. The Bible is written for life application and for worship, this cursory study of the book will be an invitation to see these things more clearly, read this book differently, and apply it presently to our lives. I hope you’ll check back each week for a new installment in Studies in Daniel.