The Bible is the story of the people of Israel. And their messiah. The people of Israel were always living under the pressure of empire.
Historically empires have always been an unbelievable source of cruelty.
They either start that way, or BECOME that way.
(The argument could even be made that americas founding fathers were motivated to get out from under the oppression of empire.)
In biblical times, empire was always standing in opposition to God's kingdom.
Sometimes they were captives within empire, (Egypt, Babylon)
Other times - just living under the threat of Invasion/conquest - from the north - Assyria.
Egypt, Syria, Babylon, Persia, Greece.
This is their story, they're always under the pressure of empire.
The book of Daniel was hugely important to Jesus.
3 major things appear in the life of Jesus that 1st appear in the book of Daniel.
Hugely important for Jesus. I like to imagine Jesus being a teenager and going and reading the book of Daniel. There's almost no way he has his own copy. But the synagog was nearby and he could go read it there.
I believe the book of Daniel forms Jesus's opinion of the empire of His day : Rome.
God calls them out of egypt.
Forms them into 'His People'.
New idea - they're going to be different than the other nations of the world.
So God set them apart, multiple ways, but the 2 big ones were :
Both of these were to make the jews a unique and different community. - SET APART
Their Most unique thing : monotheism. Worship 1 God.
Today - monotheism is the most popular form of theism. In india there's still some polytheism, but for the most part, people talk about God, not Gods. But Israel were the pioneers of this.
The other nations of the world, believed in tons of Gods, so if they were defeated in battle they'd just say 'Ok, well those God's seemed pretty powerful, so let's just worship them too.'
But the jews - who only worship 1 God, once they're conquered by Babylon, they can't just start worshipping their God's too.
They can't just say "Well I guess let's worship Bel and Nebo too." Those were 2 of the Babylonian Gods.
Understanding the stories of the book of Daniel is easy. The dreams are a little harder, but the stories are easy.
Fiery furnace, Lions den.
What's not easy is pull those stories into our own lives.
For ex: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego & the fiery furnance.
That would be easy.
What's hard is to ask : "What does this story mean for us today?" So that's what we're gonna try to do tonight.
The Book of Daniel is answering this one question : How am I supposed to be a jew in a culture that doesn't want me to be a jew?
Your problem as a Christian today : How to be a Christian in a culture that doesn't want you to be a Christian. But your situation is more complicated.
B/C for the last 1700 years - ever since Constantine - Empires have used Christianity for their own agenda. - So that, to be a good Christian is simply to be a good Roman, or Russian, or German, or Englishman.
So in a way, it's easy to be a Christian. But to truly follow Christ above all else, is still incredibly hard. Just like it's always been.
I would like to tell the 1st story in the book of Daniel.
After the destruction of jerusalem, babylonians carry of the jewish people into captivity, King Nebuchadnezzar tells his chief of staff "Ashpenaz" to choose some of the young men.
“Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.” (Daniel 1:4)
So these are the guys who are going to get big time jobs in the empire.
But before that can happen, they have to be trained up in the ways of babylon, the empire.
So in this group, of the best and the brightest are 4 young men, they're very jewish, you can tell by their names.
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah
Interesting we know one of them by his hebrew name, but the other 3 we know by their babylonian names : Shadrack, Meishack, Abednigo.
The chief of staff renamed them with these Babylonian names… (Daniel 1:7)
1st thing they do is try to change their allegiance from The Kingdom of God, to the Empire. - By changing their names.
Daniel 1:5, 8-10
The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service. (Daniel 1:5)
But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods. (Daniel 1:8)
Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. (Daniel 1:9)
But he responded, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.” (Daniel 1:10)
Ok, so these guys that are being trained and indoctrinated, well they're assigned to eat food prepared for them in the king's kitchen. And what's wrong with that?
Well there's a lot of pork on the King's menu. And I can't eat any of that, because I'm a jew.
Chief of staff - Problem : "If you get skinny, they're gonna know and kill me."
So they worked out a compromise.
Daniel "Let's try it. For 10 days. And after 10 days, we'll see how we look." For 10 days the 4 guys keep Kosher.
After 10 days they're the fittest buffest dudes there. So they get to keep eating Kosher and everybody wins.
So you can see how this story would be meaningful to the jews, who again, are reading the book of Daniel to find out how to live as a Jew in a culture that doesn't want you to be a jew.
Ok, so how do we apply this?
"Uhh…. Not eat any more pork?!" Nope.
Christianity doesn't have any dietary laws.
Why not? B/C of what Jesus says in Mark 7:14
Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. (Mark 7:14)
It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.” (Mark 7:15)
Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. (Mark 7:17)
“Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? (Mark 7:18)
Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.) (Mark 7:19)
And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. (Mark 7:20)
For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, (Mark 7:21)
adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. (Mark 7:22)
All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” (Mark 7:23)
Ok, so how do we apply this?
We must continue to resist the food served to us from the empire.
Jesus - "Not about actual food - Heart
What's the empire cooking today? Mostly : FEAR
The world is feeding you a constant diet of things to be afraid of.
If you're not deliberate, you will be a person who is controlled by fear.
Fearful people are easily manipulated & controlled.
They’re easy to herd. Don’t think clearly.
Fearful people make bad decisions.
People think they’re being smart, what they’re really being is scared. We need wisdom, but we’re only positioned to hear the wisdom of God when we have a peaceable soul.
Example: Someone afraid of never getting married.
Various themes: Terrorism - Crime - Financial collapse - Politics of the left, or right.
They want something from you.
Your money - Your vote - Your allegiance
They’ll tell you about the eminent financial collapse, then they want to sell you some gold. I have no idea about that stuff.
But I do know when people are trying to manipulate me with fear. What they mostly want is power.
But it’s not from God. God has not given us a spirit of fear.
Apostles were in the upper room, behind locked doors, terrified.
Jesus comes through the locked door.
Speaks the first word of a new world: Peace be with you. Says it again ‘Peace be with you.”
“Ok, we’re gonna unlock the door, because I’m sending you. Just like the father sent me, so I’m sending you.
What happened when the father sent Jesus into the world, what did the world do to Jesus? They killed him.
Almost all - apostles - Killed.
Jesus is 't saying it's safe! The world is a dangerous place!
I’m talking about living in a dangerous place and refusing to be formed by fear. There’s a difference between faith and lack of danger. The worlds a dangerous place, but I’m not afraid.
Terrorists win when everybody walks around in terror.
Push back the plate : fear. I refuse to live my life in fear.
We as Christians as called to leave the upper room, filled with the Holy Spirit, go love the world.
(Prepare for communion)
Quote: Dietrich Bonhoeffer
German Lutheran Pastor
He said this in pre-war germany. It was headed towards war.
Widely considered one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century.
Killed at the hands of the nazi's. He's stripped naked and hanged for anti hitler propaganda.
Peace is confused with safety. There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared. It can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security.
Bible: Outrageous claim : ‘Fear no evil.’
When Jesus’s disciples were afraid his response was always the same ‘Why are you afraid? Oh you of little faith.”
Faith is a NT word, OT word is ‘Trust’. Jesus says that the fear in his disciples was a lack of trust in God.
Ask yourself: Where have I allowed myself to be motivated by fear?
And in what ways do I need to put my trust BACK in Jesus?
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, (Psalm 46:2)
though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:3)
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:7)
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. (Psalm 46:9)
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:11)