Last night we began our series on the book of Daniel. The wonderful thing about this book of the Bible is that it is both a prophecy and a narrative. It begins by giving you the wonderful history of Daniel and his sanctified friends.
As you begin the book of Daniel you are forced to answer three questions:
- Where is Israel?
- Where is God?
- Where is Daniel?
The Bible says in Daniel 1:1-2,
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.
All three questions become intertwined as you understand what led to this book and how it begins.
Where is Israel?
Read Lamentations 1:1-6 to find the answer.
How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies. Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits. The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness. Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the Lord hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy. And from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed: her princes are become like harts that find no pasture, and they are gone without strength before the pursuer.
I wish the Scripture today offered a rose-colored perspective on the way from God, but the road from God is broken up and desolate. It, as Jeremiah says, is a friendless, bread-less, strength-less, child-less, beauty-less path. It was reckoning day and Judah had to pay. Judah had sown to the wind and they reaped the whirlwind.
Where is God?
He is not on the throne in Israel
When Israel demanded a king be appointed over them in I Samuel 8 the prophet Samuel knew it was a horrible thing. He warned them of the duties the people owed the king and what it would cost them in not being directly under the theocracy of God Almighty, but they did not listen.
They began with their choice, Saul, and soon moved to God’s choice, David. However, it only took three generations on the throne of Israel to throw the people into God-forsaking sin. Their kings brought in idolatry and Baal worship. Their kings desecrated the temple and made evil alliances with wicked nations.
He is not in the Jewish Temple (Ezekiel 10:4)
Ezekiel 10:4 says, Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD’s glory.
But God was not in that house; He vacated that Temple years ago (I Samuel 4:21). God’s people could not simply mingle the worship of Jehovah and their idols, spurn His law and live by their own law, sacrifice to Jehovah and serve other gods, and expect God’s blessing to be upon them. Where was God? He wasn’t in the Temple.
Keep looking, though. You’ll find him. Here he is! He is in the hearts of a remnant of Israelites in Babylon.
God was present. He always is. Though the LORD was not on the throne, and though the LORD was not in the temple, the LORD still had a remnant of people who loved Him and remained faithful to Him despite all of the trappings of sin that Babylon had to offer.
God found a remnant. Daniel and his friends loved God and served Him despite their circumstances. Separated from home, family, friends, and the temple, they were more than conquerors. They did not need a temple to sacrifice, serve, or love God. Though, in time, their names were changed, their homes were changed, their customs were changed, their devotion to God did not change.
Where is Daniel?
The third question is, “Where is Daniel?” Daniel is in Babylon. It was almost a merciful thing that the LORD took Daniel and other choice servants to Babylon before they witnessed the dismantling of their homeland.
Daniel was barely more than a boy when the Babylonian ax fell. In a moment and the twinkling of an eye, he was transformed from near royalty to iron captivity. He was but a youth.
He was taken, God’s Word says, in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim. This was the first of three invasions by Nebuchadnezzar. John Phillips said, “About the time that the royal barbarian, Jehoiakim, was cutting up Jeremiah’s prophecy and throwing it into the fire (Jeremiah 36), Daniel was standing before Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, expounding to him the meaning of his dream” (Daniel 2).
At first Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and took of the best people assets. Daniel first, the king and his sons second. The King had a real, tangible nobility, an earthly reign, but they were not chosen first to go to Babylon. It was Daniel and his friends that were the true nobility of Jerusalem.
Note, please, that the temple of the second captivity was destroyed and the temple furnishings were taken. Their nobility was gone with their captivity and their temple, but Daniel’s nobility was not lost and his worship not destroyed. Why? I believe it is because Daniel had the LORD God working on the inside. He could worship Jehovah as easily in Babylon as he could in Israel. He was true to the Saviour despite his captivity.
The book of Daniel begins with the wonderful reminder from God’s Word that God had a people who still loved Him. May you and I, like Daniel, love our Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth to serve to answer people’s question, “Where is God?” He is in you and He is in me through the person of the Holy Spirit.