The Book of Daniel focuses on two primary areas. The first is the fact of God’s sovereignty as a reason for our confidence (Daniel 3:17). The second is the need for followers of Jesus to respond to God’s sovereignty with loyalty and obedience in good times and bad (Daniel 3:18).
If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. (Daniel 3:17-18)
When we first meet Daniel, he is in Babylon.
Daniel, like many others, has heeded Jeremiah’s warning and encouragement to go in to Babylon, bear the discipline of the Lord and seek the peace of the city. But seeking the peace of Babylon does not mean compromising with Babylon’s gods – and those who represent them.
When Daniel gets to Babylon, he is trained as a leader and counsellor in the king’s court. But when obeying the king means disobeying God, Daniel disobeys the king.
Each time he does this the Lord saves him and exalts him. This happens over and over again in the opening chapters of Daniel. Foreshadowing the temptations of Jesus, Daniels’ first temptation, like Adam, involves food. Refusing to eat the Kings delicacies, Daniel and his friends eat only vegetables.
In anticipation of the Lord who would come out of the wilderness in the power of the Spirit, rather than get weaker after many days, they become stronger.
Later, when Daniel’s friends refuse to bow down and worship Nebuchadnezzar’s Gold image, they are thrown in to the fiery furnace and the Lord saves them. Just as Jesus would also refuse to bow down and worship the serpent, and instead entrust Himself to His Father in Heaven.
Later still, Daniel is commanded to pray only to Darius. Daniel refuses and is thrown to the Lions. But God delivers Him again. Each of these rescues picture a promise to Israel.
The hope of Daniels’ friends who are later thrown into a furnace – and survive – is not built on wishful thinking. In Deuteronomy 4:20, Moses says that at the Exodus, God was delivering Israel out of the fiery furnace.
Centuries later, this word becomes the grounds for the trust that Daniel and his friends now have.
Likewise, God had declared, and in the judgement of Judah, carried out, the curse of Deuteronomy which saw the land over run with wild beasts who devour Israel.
These beasts were quite literal, (Elisha and the bears, lions on the side of the road). Buy they were also a picture of the nations who come to devour Israel and take them captive.
Therefore, when Daniel is delivered from the mouth of the lions, we have here the hopeful prospect that Israel too, will ultimately be delivered – if she entrusts herself to God and obeys his word.
Not only that, but when the people of God are faithful in a foreign land, the foreigner’s surrounding them sit up and take notice. When Nebuchadnezzar sees Daniels’ deliverance, he praises Daniels’ God as the Lord of Lords.
Likewise, when Darius sees Daniels’ deliverance from mouth of the lion, he sends out the following decree,
I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,
“for He is the living God,
His kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and His dominion shall be to the end.
He delivers and rescues;
He works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth,
He who has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.”
These conversions do not come about through Daniel’s preaching circuit or tract ministry but through the patience and obedience that flows from faith over the long haul.
Many of us have lived this way. Keep going. Keep walking. Keep enduring in your fight against your own sin, keep confessing. Not everybody wants to wait. There are many who will abandon the faith. Not everyone wants to submit to the yoke of captivity.
As we see of those who remained in Judah, so there were those who went, but still had a hard time learning the lessons set before them by God.
Mordecai in the the book of Esther starts out this way.
The events of Esther occur during the captivity. The Babylonian Kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar has been taken over by Persia. And so begins the reign of men like Darius, Cyrus and Ahasuerus.
When Esther begins, Cyrus has already begun to send some of Israel back to rebuild God’s House. One of the first characters we meet is Mordecai. Mordecai means worshipper of Marduk.
Rather than remain faithful like Daniel, whom God exalts, Mordecai starts out as a compromise. Mordecai wants Esther to be exalted and become queen. He wants this, not for Israel, but for himself.
Mordecai instructs Esther to keep her Jewishness a secret. He refuses to give honour to whom its due. Also, unlike Daniel, Esther eats the food at the Kings table.
Food is a blessing. Jesus’ biggest following came when he was handing out fish and bread. it’s also a form of slavery used by tyrants to manipulate and sedate an idolatrous people and compromise the people of God.
In order to bring Mordecai to repentance, God raises up an old enemy of Israel. An Amalekite, Haman.
You remember the Amalekites? They had come up behind Israel and attacked the weakest during the Exodus. God had therefore put them under the Ban. Later, when King Saul, a Benjamite, fights against them he is told to wipe them out – but he doesn’t.
Like Saul, Mordecai is a Benjamite who finds himself doing battle with the Amalekite, Haman.
Israel has failed to fulfil the Ban against the Amalekites and now Haman is seeking to place a Ban on Israel and so asks the King to decree that every Israelites is to be killed. Mordecai, seeing the error of his ways repents in sackcloth and ashes. He realises the only thing to do is Confess the God of Israel and instructs Esther to reveal her identity.
Esther, after hesitating, finally agrees saying, “If I perish, I perish.” At this point, God, whose hidden providence has brought Israel to the brink of disaster and driven them to repentance, now begins to bless and deliver them at the eleventh hour.
Mordecai, the despised Jew, is exalted before all the people. He is given the kings robes and rides through the city on the kings horse. Haman, on the other hand, is hung on the gallows meant for Mordecai.
This was a foretaste of the Gospel that God had promised Daniel in Daniel 2:31-35.
The kingdoms of this world, having exalted themselves would be brought down and the lowly Jew, a carpenter from Galilee, riding on a donkey would be exalted through His obedience to God.
His Kingdom is like a small stone; grows into a mountain; fill the earth; delivers from lion and furnace.
The book of Daniel and Esther call us to a patient faith in the sovereignty of God as we live as pilgrims in a strange land. The book of Daniel and Esther call us to obedience to God’s law as the evidence of our faith until His Kingdom fills the earth.
…On which day we will no longer be pilgrims but permanent citizens: Residents in a New Creation in which righteousness dwells, and which has already invaded this world through the rule and reign of Jesus Christ.