The prophet Daniel may have lived in Babylon when it was recognized as one of the seven wonders of the world because of its hanging gardens. Some argue though that the site of the gardens was in Nineveh, three hundred miles south. This book shows how God’s has a habit of showing up during trouble, not absent as some think. Jon Acuff says the next time you feel unqualified to be used by God remember He tends to recruit leaders from the pit, not the pedestal.
The book, named after its writer, was a Jewish exile renamed Belteshazzar by the court of Nebuchadnezzar in efforts to have him fit in with his Babylonian colleagues. We know him as Daniel. He lived in Babylon during the period of the Israelites seventy-year captivity. He, along with others, was part of the diaspora population. This included his three friends better known by their Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Daniel and his friends were all pressed into the king’s service. Daniel is written bilingually in Hebrew (chapters 1-8) and Aramaic (chapters 2-7).
Living in a pagan court yet still being faithful to their beliefs and customs, Daniel and his friends were singled out by others when they would not adhere to a foreign diet or to praying to the King Nebuchadnezzar as their lord. Where the world perceives possible failure happening, God sees future. The first part of this book tells how God was in control of the situation by delivering Daniel’s friends from being burned alive in a fiery furnace (with the help of an unknown fourth man who appeared in the furnace) and then Daniel’s rescue from being eaten alive in the lion’s den like when God found Gideon in a hole, Joseph in prison, Daniel’s friends and then Daniel in a furnace and in a lion’s den.
Nebuchadnezzar shows to be wise enough to recognize God’s presence and power in Daniel’s life through an interpretation of the king’s dream. Not only did Daniel must interpret it but he had to know what the dream was without the king telling him. The court’s magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers could not do it and in anger the king ordered their execution. Then spoken as a true ambassador of God in chapter 2:28, Daniel gives rightful credit by saying his God in heaven reveals the dreams to him. Later in verse 47, the king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”
The theme of Daniel transitions at chapter 7 by foretelling future events that point to Jesus and his timeline. In Daniel 9:24, he uses the word Messiah for the first time in the OT and then goes on to foretell an accurate time line of the day Christ’s death would occur, 483 years in the future (by Georgian calendar count).
Occasionally, I receive an immediate answer to my prayer requests followed by a confirmation. The answer to my prayer about my twelve-year-old brother who died is one example.
He slipped out at night to secretly follow my other brother, a couple of years older than him. The older brother was accompanied by a friend, during an impromptu sleepover. My younger brother was caught by the older one only after traveling a few blocks from home and sent back. Mom didn’t report him missing from home until noon the next day because she thought the dark-haired boy under the blankets (the sleepover) was my brother. However, he never made it home. It was during that summer; I had personally bought my first Bible in the newest released translation (the Living Bible). I was determined to read it through from beginning to end. I was fourteen. I was in the book of Leviticus chapter 24 when my brother went missing. I had marked that page in my reading with an inscription while praying over my brother when my mother was notified by the legal authorities that his body was found. Ironically Leviticus 24:17 speaks about the murder of another. I inscribed on that page “GBJH” connecting the letters in girlish calligraphy. My prayer code translates to “God, bring J home.” A local hunter came across my brother’s body on government proper and mom identified his body. My brother did arrive home but not the earthly one.
The murder, of course, was difficult for the entire family, but I think most particularly for my surviving brother who felt much guilt and for my mother (who was a widow by now). She was never the same after that. It was a period when therapeutic intervention wasn’t as quickly advocated or socially acceptable for help in situations as it is now. I almost grasp why my mother evolved in her later years the way she did by this soliloquy written by Whyte (In What to Remember When Waking: The Disciplines of an Everyday Life). It describes a response when there is a fierce death:
“Listen, God, if this is how you play the game, then I’m not playing the game. I’m not playing by your rules. I’m going to manufacture my own little game, and I’m not going to come out of it. I am going to make my own bubble draw up the rules, and I’m not going to come out to this frontier of yours. I want to create insulation, create distance.”
He goes on to say that many people escape this way, staying there for a short period of time to reemerge to life, others don’t. Mom, for the most part, stayed in the bubble, the world she created based on my observation of her never taking too much interest in her future grandchildren, avoiding getting too close to a child again. Her grief was such she barely managed in her role as a provider by going to work each day much less fulfill her role as a mother in watching over us. She provided for our physical needs, but each night, for about a year, she would come home, go straight to her bedroom until the next day when she got up, and go to work again.
To add further sorrow to her heartache, she couldn’t find solace when she tried to seek out comfort from the church. She hadn’t been to church since the changes of the Vatican II council in the 1960s took place. I don’t think she ever thought about what changes took place in her worship community while she was absent. Unfortunately, when she went to confession, her young confessor focused on why she hadn’t been to church to confess all those years, instead of comforting her in her grief. It was an honest inquiry on his part, but his timing was awful. She used to say she believed in God but for her man had a habit of getting in the way.
One my biggest sorrows is when someone (particular one I love) allows the actions of someone else justify their walking away from a faith community. It’s a slippery slope in a faith life leading to a belief without action which is impotent.
Another way I relate to Daniel’s story about dreams. Through the answered prayers of Daniel and his friends, King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was described and interpreted. The dream Daniel revealed was not a good or easy one to convey to a king.
Once I heard a prominent business leader of a long-standing para-church organization say God does not reveal Himself anymore in dreams now that the Holy Spirit has been left behind to guide Christians after Jesus’s (Jn. 14:16-17) ascension to heaven. It sounded valid because reading 2Timothy 3:16-17 reveals that all scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, training up.
I once had a dream where God revealed himself to me. It left an indelible mark on me, and I remember it well. I was a young adult when I had it. I know for the most part that night dreams stem from our thoughts while awake (conscious mind). When we sleep, the mind (the unconscious part) is trying to organize, make sense of maybe even archive those thoughts and impressions.
My dream took place in a room, bathed in luminous whiteness, yet I couldn’t see any walls. It was crowded with people pressed up against each other with restless fidgeting. I was at peace. I was there to look for a person who was going to make an appearance. I just wanted a glimpse. In my dream, that person turned out to be Jesus. He entered, and I could see Him although He was surrounded by many, many people. Then He made eye contact with me and the appearance of people fade somewhat. I was far from Him, but He looked right at me. I distinctly remember a message being passed to me from His gaze: it was telling me He knew who I am and I am significant to Him.
It’s not lost on me how I can look at the face of Jesus in this instance yet I mentioned in an earlier theophany (in the Exodus chapter) about Moses before God’s glory veils of His face not to see it. I think the reason I could look on Jesus’ face may have something to do with the old covenant in the Hebrew Bible and the new covenant of Jesus. My paradigm is more to the message of the incarnate Jesus. The old one was nullified because righteousness could never be achieved from all those rituals and the new one is more about righteousness and life.
My dream, of course, can comes across as self-serving except that I know He acknowledges everyone that way. I honestly still get humbled and overwhelmed with the thought of God making Himself small enough for me, considering my soul through the meeting of our eyes, letting me know I am worthy. Revelation 22:4 says, “They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.”
I refuse to limit the triune God on how He relates and conveys His message. Obviously, He can do it anyway he wants. Both these stories are “God” things to me. Incidents and happenstances such as these confirm for me an intimate spiritual anointing for my life (2Cor. 1:21-22, 1Jn. 2:27).