Renew Your Mind + Intro to Daniel
Dear Saints of Gateway Church,
I hope that you are enjoying your time in 2 Kings. It is amazing to see God’s patience on display as generation after generation failed to keep the covenant. Here is what to look forward to reading over the next few days.
- Apr 29 – 2 Kings 17-18
- Apr 30 – 2 Kings 19-21
- May 1 – 2 Kings 22-23
- May 2 – 2 Kings 24-25
- May 3 – Daniel 1-3
- May 4 – Daniel 4-6
- May 5 – Daniel 7-9
- May 6 – Daniel 10-12
DEVOTION IN MOTION
Perhaps you have heard people refer to Christians as people who operate on “blind faith.” The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth. Our trust in Christ is not “blind faith,” but faith that is built upon divinely revealed truth. Our faith is grounded in actual reality. The world can only build its perceptions of reality on their experience, or their senses, or the teachings of man. On the other hand, Christians are called to base our understanding of reality on what God Himself has revealed. When we go to the Bible each day, we are seeking to have our minds reordered in accordance with reality by God Himself. We are desirous to know and operate based upon what is really real. Let’s daily go to God’s Word to have our minds renewed.
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” - 1 Peter 1:13
"For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace." - Romans 8:6
"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." – Colossians 3:2
BOOK INTRODUCTION - DANIEL
Here are 12 things to know as you begin to make your way through Daniel next week.
Daniel picks up right where 2 Kings ends. God had warned the people through many prophets to repent and turn to the Lord or all of the covenant curses God gave all the way back in Deuteronomy would fall on them. However, the people refused to keep the covenant.
When Daniel was just a young boy, Jehoiakim would have been his king. Jeremiah 36 gives us a very clear picture of what he was like. When Jeremiah the prophet would send him warnings about the upcoming invasion, “the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot.Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments.” – Jeremiah 36:23-24 Jehoiakim was a godless king who ruled over a rebellious people. As a judgment, God sent Nebuchadnezzar to punish the Israelites for their sin.
75 years before the Nebuchadnezzar arrived, God spoke these words to king Hezekiah through the prophet Isaiah. “Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” – Isaiah 39:6-7
Daniel was one of the captives. He was taken to Babylon and put into an educational program to reprogram him. He and his three friends were given new names that represented the false gods of Babylon. They were told to eat the king’s food, which was off limits to them. Here we see the beginning of Daniel’s courage and commitment to the Lord. He and his friends stood firm in their faith and refused to compromise. We as modern believers should learn from their example and avoid delighting in the sinful pleasures of the world.
Nebuchadnezzar’s attack of Jerusalem took place in stages. His first step was to steal the religious items of Jerusalem in 609 BC. These items play a significant role in the book of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar took the items of worship into his own home giving the visual image of ownership of God.
In chapter 5, these religious items make a reappearance when they are brought out by King Belshazzar in order to make a toast to the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. The interesting thing to note is that these religious items never returned to Jerusalem, including the ark of the covenant. This is a reminder that God is not in the artifacts. They do not control Him; nor is He limited by them. God was always simply using those items as a visual way to point to the greater promise of His own Son.
Similarly, Nebuchadnezzar would eventually destroy the temple itself. But that building was never designed to be an exclusive dwelling for God. It was simply pointing to the true Temple, Jesus Himself, who would eventually arrive on the scene. True worship was never about ‘what,’ but about ‘who.’
The book of Daniel has some of the most incredible stories in Scripture. The most well-known are the fiery furnace and the lion’s den. These are both stories of God’s faithfulness to His people. God protected His people on both occasions. Hebrews 11:32-34 speaks of these events as actions of faith whereby God displayed His power. But directly after that in verses 35-38 we also read about those who suffered and even died for the sake of God’s name. God was faithful to all of those saints. Daniel does not provide a promise that God will always deliver us from suffering if we stand for Him. Rather, it is a promise that God will never leave us or forsake us. Even if we were to give our lives for the sake of Christ, we are truly safe in His arms.
The main theme of the book of Daniel is the dominion of God. At first it appears as though Nebuchadnezzar is all powerful over the earth. However, God humbled the king and made him act as an animal for seven years, just to show him how weak and pathetic he truly was. The single greatest man in the world at that time was absolutely nothing in comparison to God. After being humbled, Nebuchadnezzar had to declare, “for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” – Daniel 4:34-35
We fall into the same trap that Nebuchadnezzar did. We tend to think that we are in charge of our own destiny. We think that we are responsible for all of the good things we have produced. We become proud and arrogant. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Let us humble ourselves before the Lord our Maker.
- Prophecies of Kingdoms
The book of Daniel prophetically looked forward to the coming Messiah. We see these prophecies in a variety of ways. The first example is that of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. He was given a nightmare of a statue reaching to the sky. Each section of the statue represented a kingdom. God explained through Daniel that the head represented Nebuchadnezzar himself. However, the kingdoms of this world are crushed by a stone that was cut out without human instrumentality. That rock represents Christ and the kingdom which it represents is the church. God was foreshadowing His kingdom’s arrival to a pagan king centuries before the arrival of Jesus on earth. What a blessing that we are now part of a kingdom “that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people.” – Daniel 2:44
- Ancient of Days and Son of Man
One of the most glorious portions of Daniel is found in chapter 7. Here we find the description of two divine figures. First, we see the Ancient of Days. It is evident that this is supposed to be understood as God Himself. He is described as being seated on a great throne and His physical description is as follows. “his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.”
In Revelation 1:14-15 we see that this is also how Jesus is described. “The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.” Jesus displays fully divine attributes, revealing that He is fully God.
There is another figure that is displayed in Daniel 7, and that is the figure of the Son of Man. This is one of Jesus’ favorite titles for Himself. He is referred to by that title 90 times in the gospels. This is a title that highlights Jesus’ humanity. It is the Son of Man who is given everlasting dominion. He is the One whose kingdom shall never be destroyed. This title is given to Jesus as a reminder of Jesus’ humanity.
- Historical Symbols
There are many strange and mysterious symbols that we find in the book of Daniel. One of the best examples of this may be the four beasts that follow one another in Daniel 7. Just like the statue of Nebuchadnezzar, these beasts represent the empires that would arise over time: Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman.
One interesting historical note is how the Jews understood these symbols before the coming of Christ. When Alexander the Great arrived in Israel, he did not destroy or conquer it. Why not? Because the religious leaders of the nation showed him the book of Daniel and said that they believed he was one foretold who would come and defeat the Persians. He seemed to like that, and he left them alone. (You can find this account in Book 11 of Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus. [scroll down to chapter VIII section 5])
- Prayer of Confession
Daniel 9 shows us an excellent example of corporate prayer. There are occasions when we will offer a public prayer of confession on Sunday mornings. We observe Daniel praying just such a prayer in this chapter. The closing of that prayer would be a good thing for us to pray as a church during these difficult days.
“Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.” – Daniel 9:17-19
- The Second Coming
The book of Daniel also speaks to the second coming of Christ. There has been much debate about how to understand the specifics of these prophecies. However, I want to simply help us to keep our mind on the big picture. The Israelites in captivity needed to know the message that God had not forgotten them, and that He had not left them alone. He was going to deliver them. Now we who follow the Lord need a similar reminder. It is not of great significance when the Lord will return. All who have ever sought to nail down an answer have always been wrong. Irenaeus (a great early Christian martyr) claimed Jesus would return in the year 500. John Wesley believed it would occur in 1836. The entire false religion of 7th Day Adventism was based on the false prophecies that Jesus would return in 1844. Let’s not forget the recent debacle of Herald Camping and his faulty claims.
The good news is that Jesus will return. Don’t get too hung up on the dates. Hang your hopes on the good promise of Daniel 12:2-3, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”
- Pastor Caleb