God in Daniel
Scripture reading: 7:9-14; Texts: 2:20-23; 4:34-35; 6:25-27

By Paul Robison

Here's an interesting piece of history that comes from the Jewish historian Josephus in his book The Antiquities of the Jews.  In 332 B.C., Alexander [the Great] besieged and defeated the coastal cities of Tyre and Gaza in his march toward Egypt.  During this campaign, he turned toward Jerusalem.  Alexander had already demanded men and supplies from the Jews, who were under the rule of Alexander's mortal enemy, the Persian king, Darius.  The high priest [Jaddua] hesitated, saying that while Darius lived, they would honor their pledge.  Alexander was angry and began a move on the city.  Well aware of the danger, Jaddua asked the people to pray to God for His mercy and protection.  Then, says Josephus, Jaddua had a dream as to how to entreat the Macedonian king.  He and the other priests, dressed in their priestly robes, formed a procession with others, dressed in white garments, went out of the city to a carefully chosen place to meet the king.  Alexander then did the unexpected.  [Only with one general], he approached the high priest and members of the procession and greeted them enthusiastically.  When asked by [the general] why he welcomed this group, Alexander replied that [he had had a dream from the God of these prophets while in Macedonia, and he had seen the garments that the priests were wearing.  He was instructed by this God to cross the sea and defeat the Persians.  Now seeing these priests in those same garments gave him courage that this God would help him in his efforts to defeat the Persians].  Then Josephus records that Alexander then accompanied the priest into Jerusalem and the temple, where he 'offered sacrifice to God, according to the high priest's direction, and magnificently treated both the high priest and the priests.'  Alexander's visit was capped [off by showing him] the book of Daniel, written several centuries earlier, which foretold the rise and conquests of Alexander.  [Josephus described Alexander's reaction in this way:] 'And when the book of Daniel was shewed him, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended; and as he was then glad . . .'" (---.gnmagazine.org/issues/gn56/alexander_reads.htm).  Since he was so overjoyed at the prospect of success, Alexander marched out of Jerusalem and did not bother any other cities in Israel or the Jews!

God certainly does move in mysterious ways, doesn't He?

Let's look at a little background for the book of Daniel before we get into our lesson.  Let's look at some history, consider the book's purpose, and figure a date.  You will recall in our study of the prophets that many of them predicted that Israel and Judah would fall before enemy forces due to their idolatry and abandonment of following God.  Israel fell in 722 B.C. to the Assyrians and were deported all over the world.  Judah came under Assyria's control in 670, but these Jews were allowed to stay in their homeland.  The Assyrians were defeated by a ruler named Nabopolassar in 612 B.C., and the Babylonians became the new world rulers.  In 605, when Nabopolassar died, some of King Jehoiakim's descendants and a few other people from Jerusalem were deported to Babylon by the new king, Nebuchadnezzar. , Among these captives are four young men: Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel.  Daniel lived during all these momentous events, and certainly they must have raised many questions for the Israelites: Why did God allow a pagan nation to carry off some of His people?  How long would the Babylonians rule over Israel?  Would those carried away ever see their homeland again?

Would Nebuchadnezzar come back again?  What else would the future hold?  Daniel wrote his book to provide answers to these questions for the Jews.  Daniel also wrote with another audience in mind as well.

Chapters 2-7 are written in Aramaic, and not in Hebrew like the rest of the book.  Aramaic “was the language of international business and diplomacy, so [Daniel] used this language to communicate the message of [these chapters] to all the inhabitants of the empire” (Stefanovic).

Daniel was being a missionary and was revealing the true God to the Gentiles!  So when did Daniel write?  Let's notice something here.

Let's assume that Daniel was 15 years old when he was deported in 605.  Now look at 10:1: “In third year of Cyrus, king of Persia, a message was revealed to Daniel, whose name was called Beltshazzar.”  The third year of King Cyrus would be 536 B.C..

So if we take 605 and take away 536, that makes 69 years, and to this we must add 15, so that would make Daniel 84 when he received his vision.  Well, it probably was shortly after this that he wrote his book.

He may have written parts earlier and then put all the parts together towards the end of his life.  A good round number to remember for Daniel would be 535 B.C.

The book of Daniel revels a great deal about God, who was called “the Ancient of Days” in our reading this morning.  Here's a little homework for you.  Take a notebook or some paper, and while you read through the book, write down the chapter and verse where you find a statement about God.  See how many passages you have when you finish.  You’ll probably be surprised at how many there are!  We noticed in our last lesson on reading narratives how an author often emphasizes something through statements made by major characters.

In the book of Daniel, we find three statements about God made by major characters.  We're going to focus on three attributes of God found in each of those statements.

The first statement, really a prayer, is made by Daniel in 2:20-23: “Daniel answered and said: 'Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His.  And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.  He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.  I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; You have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of You, for You have made known to us the king’s demand'”  The first attribute to which we call your attention is that God gives wisdom and understanding. We see this illustrated in the book of Daniel itself.  Chapter 1:17 tells that God gave Daniel and his 3 friends knowledge and skill in their studies under the king's training in Babylon and gave Daniel in particular the wisdom to reveal and interpret dreams.  God gives wisdom and understanding.

The same God who gave Solomon his wisdom and Jesus His understanding wants to bless us with wisdom as well.  The New Testament reveals two ways that we can obtain it.  James tells us in 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given him.”  The apostle Paul likes to stress faith, the apostle Peter likes to stress hope, the apostle John likes to stress love; well, James, Jesus' brother,  likes to stress wisdom (Roberts)!  And did you notice how God gives it—generously and without reprimanding us for our past failures (Moo).  So the first way is to ask God.  You can also ask others to pray that God will give you wisdom as well.  This is the second way.  This was Paul's prayer for the Christians at Ephesus in 1:17: “[I ask] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom in the knowledge of Him.”  Why not ask other Christians to pray that God will bless you with wisdom as well?  God gives wisdom and understanding!

Next, God knows what's happening!  Look at what Daniel affirms again: “He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.”  There are two ways that this can be interpreted.  This could mean: “There is nothing so hidden or mysterious that it is inaccessible to God's knowledge” (Porteous).  Or another possibility is that “The light that dwells with God is sufficiently powerful to illuminate the dark corners of history, ... the future of nations, [and even our sinful lives as well]” (Shea).  God knows what's happening; He is omniscient!  There's an interesting name for God in Genesis 16:13: “You Are the God Who Sees”.  David declares in Psalm 139:12: “Even night shall be light about me; indeed the darkness shall not hide from You.  But the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.”

David ought to know since his sin of adultery with Bathsheba occurred in the darkness, and God later revealed that this had not escaped His watchful eye.  Yes, God knows what's happening in our lives as well.

Does this truth make us feel uneasy or comfortable?  God knows what's happening!

A third attribute in Daniel's statement is that God answers prayer.

God answered Daniel's prayer to know how to interpret the king's dream.  God still answers prayer.  Anybody ever hear of George Mueller?  This man was born in 1805, and in 1834, he opened an orphanage in Bristol, England for 100 children with few funds.  He never asked for money nor did any direct fund-raising, but he printed materials and prayed that God would provide to sustain the orphanage.  He ran this orphanage for 64 years and helped over 10,000 children!  His recorded prayer requests fill 3000 pages.

He documented that God had answered over 30,000 of his prayers!

Once they needed bread, and a baker who couldn't sleep made extra and donated it to them.  Once they needed milk, and a milk wagon broke down right at the orphanage, so the driver donated the milk that had not spoiled.  Only twice during the 64 years were the annual books in the red! 
The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16)!   And it still does!  God answers prayer.

The next statement is found in 4:34-35: “And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation.  All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.  No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”'”  As you will recall, the king had been struck by God with insanity and had lived as a beast in the field; after seven years of only looking down, finally the king looks up to heaven, and his sanity is then restored!  This humbled king now blesses, praises, and honors God.  The first attribute of God in this passage is God lives and rules forever!  Moses calls God eternal and from everlasting to everlasting (Deut. 33:27; Psalm 90:2).  Nebuchadnezzar was king over a mighty empire, but he states that God's kingdom is an everlasting empire.

We are so finite, but God is infinite—He was, He is, and He will be!

If you desire to live eternally, then you must seek out the only Eternal Source that can provide it.  God lives and rules forever!

A second attribute is that God works His will in people's lives!

Notice again the king's words: “He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.”  How did this pagan king know that God's will gets done in heaven?  Well, if you'll recall, in his dream, he had seen an angel who had said to chop down a tree and leave the stump to pass through seven times.  This king was a great military man himself, so when he gave orders, he expected things to happen!  Immediately, God gives the orders, and an angel speaks, and the king becomes cut down and loses his sanity!

God had given him a warning, but the king ignored it and acted boastfully.  But then the king adds that God also acts according to His will among the inhabitants of the earth.  Isn't it amazing how God worked and disciplined a Gentile ruler to help him understand more clearly who He was?  And in the book of Daniel we also see God working with King Belshazzar and King Darius as well!  Both were Gentiles!  In the New Testament, Paul tells the brethren at Philippi: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (2:12-13).  God's will still impacts people's lives today!

A third attribute is that God cannot be restrained or rebuked!

The king stated: “No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, 'What have You done?'”  God is sovereign and supreme, and nobody can stop Him or put Him in His place!  The powerful king Nebuchadnezzar now realizes that and confesses that there is an unlimited power above him that is far greater than his own powers.  Do we realize that our God is unlimited and subject to no person?  Here is a Being with total freedom and boundless strength to make anything happen that He desires.  God's ways and thoughts are beyond us; He speaks galaxies, planets, and life sustaining ecosystems into existence!  He determines the rise and fall of nations!  He announces the Messiah’s coming 500 years in advance!  God cannot be restrained or rebuked by man!

King Darius makes a statement found in 6:25-27: “Then King Darius wrote: 'To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you.  I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.  For He is the living God and steadfast forever.  His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall endure to the end.  He delivers and rescues, and He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”  The first attribute of God here is that He acts consistently.  He is the living God (as opposed to lifeless idols which can't act at all), and He acts steadfastly or consistently.  This is one of the outstanding features of Jehovah; He reveals His will and the future, and then fulfills whatever He says.  God acts in accordance with His word; He is reliable and dependable.  If He says it's going to happen, it will happen!  Since God does act consistently, we can count on these truths: Christ will return; there will be a final judgment of all; there will be one of two final destinies where each of us will spend eternity (Matthew 25:31-46 contains all of these truths, and Jesus is speaking them).  God acts consistently!

A second attribute is that God delivers and rescues!  This pagan king had just seen God stop the mouths of the lions from harming Daniel!

This theme is emphasized over and over again in Daniel: God kept Daniel and his friends from being killed by revealing the king's dream; God protected Daniel's friends from death in the fiery furnace when they stood fast against idolatry; our reading showed that God was planning a new everlasting kingdom, undoubtedly a reference to the church, which would be composed of all nations (so the Jews would be protected until that time)!  In the New Testament, we see how God delivers and rescues Jesus at His birth, Dorcus from death, Peter in his imprisonment, a jailer from killing himself, and Paul and 276 people after a shipwreck (and these are just a few)!  Undoubtedly, you have seen God deliver people today from drugs, disease, debt, and depression; not through miracles, but through the intervention and help of others!  God delivers and rescues!

A third attribute is that God performs miracles!  King Darius said that He works signs and wonders!  Since God is not limited in His power, working miracles is what would be expected of Him.  One of the greatest miracles in Daniel is that pagan kings became captive to their captives' God, as we've seen in their remarkable statements (Stefanovic)!  Some of the well-known miracles in the Bible are: the creation, the ten plagues and crossing at the Red Sea, the fall of Jericho, Gideon's defeat over Midian, fire from heaven to consume Elijah's sacrifice, Jonah's rescue, the virgin birth, Jesus' resurrection, the establishment of the church, God's punishment by death upon several people, God's deliverance of those who preached the Gospel.

Looking at biblical history, we discover that more miracles were done in the first century AD during and after the ministry of Jesus than at any other time.  These direct miracles, worked in the New Testament through Jesus, His apostles, and gifted members of the church, were used to confirm the Gospel's message to bring pagans to belief in the living God and saving Jesus.  Paul prophesies in 1 Corinthians 13:8 that such direct miracles will one day fail, cease, and vanish away.  But indirect miracles can still be performed!  Listen carefully, no person can call on God today to bring about an instant healing or deliverance upon someone—that's a direct miracle, and it has ceased, but the saints can ask for God to intervene to bring healing or help to another, and then it is up to God to work as He wishes and in His own time to possibly bring about a healing or help.  I have heard doctors explain on several occasions after such prayers :  “We can't explain how it happened, but this person has done a complete turn around and is now well on the way to recovery.”  This is what is meant by an indirect miracle being performed.  God performs miracles—direct ones in the biblical days and indirect ones today!

What a marvelous God is revealed in the book of Daniel!  Daniel wanted all the world to know about this eternal Being who gives wisdom, knows all, answers prayer, lives and rules forever, work His will in people's lives, is unlimited, acts consistently, rescues, and performs miracles.  Jesus, His Son, has all these attributes as well!

Alexander the Great was impressed by what Daniel's book had to say.

Have you been impressed?  Impressed enough to let Jesus become your Lord and Master?  Impressed enough to cast all your cares on this steadfast anchor?  Impressed enough to be baptized: to die to your sins, bury your old life, and live a changed life that strives daily to follow Jesus?  Why delay any longer?  Let God have His way with you.

Why not make your final destiny that of eternal life?  Let today be your day of salvation!