..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Bible Study on the Book of Daniel: Lesson Two

Bible Study on the Book of Daniel: Lesson Two

Alone with God in Babylon

Daniel finds himself in the most difficult of
places and circumstances. In a sense, he is
chosen to be trained in the enemy's camp,
chosen to fight for the enemy's purposes.
What gives Daniel the strength to serve God?

When Judah fell to the Babylonians some must
have thought that God had failed them, despite
the many warnings of impending judgment by
the prophets. We often discern a situation based
on our mindset and predisposition. It would be easier
to "see" that God failed rather than to see and
acknowledge that this was God's corrective judgment.
It is easier to rail at God then to acknowledge your sin!

Daniel clearly saw that this horrendous national
tragedy (the exile) was not God's fault and that
God was still sovereign and all powerful. He was able
to serve God without compromise. He was able to
make peace with his situation and not complain.
If this were you, how would you feel? How would
you cope? Would you think that serving in Babylon
was something to be rebelled against? How would you
see God in it? How do you see God in the Babylon
in your life?

Just as the treasures of the temple of God were
taken into the house of an alien god, so Daniel and
his friends, living treasures in the temple of God,
were taken into the house of an alien god. Thank
God they did not let themselves worship that
god! Here's why:

1) Daniel discerned God rightly. He was not tempted
into a syncretism: a melding of God and the gods
of Babylon. He rightly saw the Lord in
His holiness and set himself apart to God.

2) Daniel knew his heritage and found fellowship
with others who had set themselves to serve God
alone. He knew he did not belong to Babylon.
He was a captive in their system but he still
belonged to God and would still serve Him alone.
He had the fellowship of his 3 friends to gird him up.

3) Daniel cut off all ties with idolatry and set
his heart to serve the Lord. He used spiritual
discipline (fasting) to keep his heart set upon
the Lord and hold up a standard of being set apart.

We have to be fully the Lord's! We can receive
all the training. all the fellowship, all the great
preaching and teaching in the world, but there
comes a time when we must follow the Lord
ourselves. Our leaders, our family, our mentors,
cannot do for us what we need to do ourselves.
We need to make an uncompromised
commitment to God and sustain it in whatever
situation we find ourselves in.

If we translate Daniel's situation into a
modern day counterpart, we see how
precarious it was. The school that Daniel
was in was not unlike the "Hogwart's
School of Magical Arts." The Chaldeans
were masters of the mystic arts. In fact,
Daniel was in the middle of a "new age"
hotbed when it was still old age wizardry.

The Chaldeans taught astrology as well
as astronomy, "reading livers" as well
as practical medicine, a major in sorcery
with a minor in gourmet non-kosher
culinary arts! How in the world was
Daniel going to make it through this maze
and remain faithful to God? He did it by
walking in the power of the Lord!

While Christians shun "new age" practices,
and often rightly so, they often do not
have the working answer of God's power to
cast down the occult power of sorcery,
or repel the unharnessed power of the
human soul without God. If Daniel merely
had a faith of words, he would have been in
trouble. Daniel walked in the power of
God! He had the real thing, while the others
had the counterfeit, and the real
thing would come in mighty handy as we
shall see in the second chapter.

A Christian walking in the power of God
has nothing to fear from a hearty
spiritual challenge. He does not have to
worry that God will not come through
or that he will be overwhelmed by an evil
force greater than the Holy Spirit. There is no
such greater force! The Kingdom of God
is not meat and drink but righteousness,
peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:7).

Daniel was able to do his spiritual apprenticeship,
taught of God, even in the middle of the occult
arts taught in the classroom. I find this both
amazing, and reassuring! Here is an example
for Christian students who must attend a
secular school, for Daniel was not merely
in a secular school, but in a pagan school
that practiced sorcery! He was still untouched.
Can we be taught of God even in the
classrooms of pagans? Apparently, YES! Daniel was.
Why? Because his heart was firmly set on
God and he inquired continually of the Lord.
Even, and I think it fair to say, especially,
in Babylon he was taught of God. There was an
extra keen connection between him and his
God that might not have been quite
so sharp in a safer setting. It is not so much
WHAT he studied but what absolute allegiance to
God he carried within him and with what attitude of
heart he approached it. There is no discipline
that God does not have a word for. There is
no subject material that God cannot educate us about.

As the Spirit of God rises up strong in us, our
faith will be less and less about correct doctrines
and wars of words, but of the power of God at
work in and through us. Our lives will hold forth
a demonstration of the Lord's power. Just as
Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none, but
such as I have, give I thee, in the name
of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!"
(Acts 3:6).

The thing is, we need to be absolutely sure
we can sort that which is of God, from that
which is of Babylon. Of course we have to
stay completely away from things God
forbids in His word, but that is a proximity
of spirit and not of physical distance. We can
serve God anywhere, even in Babylon, we just
need to make sure that Babylon is not in us!

Here are a few guidelines to think about as
we approach anything we put our
head, hands and heart to.

1) Does it stay within the boundaries God
has set for us as revealed in His Word?
(Deut 6:6-9).

2) Does the power originate from God
or man or the demonic? Power issues are
always at the heart of things. Who is being
glorified? How is the power issuing forth?
Is it human soul strength or the power of
God? Sometimes these things are not
easily discerned but if you keep watching,
the source behind things will be revealed.
(Acts 8: 9-24) (Acts 16:16:-34).

3) Does it come from an understanding that
without God we can do nothing and that
we should not act independently from Him?
Does it call for wholehearted reliance
and commitment to Him? (John 5:19) (John 15:4-5).

4) Does it honor God or honor man? Does
it cause me to worship man or worship God
in Spirit and in truth? (John 4:23 & 24).

5) Does it honor and recognize Jesus Christ
as the sole Source of its workings?
(obviously in Daniel's day, Jesus had not
yet come in the flesh, but now He has, thank God!)
( 1 John 4:1ff).

6) Does it build relationship with God as He is,
or is it a system of works or something
we have concocted? (John 1:14-17) (Acts 15: 1-11).

7) Is it completely the truth or is there a lie in it?
(I John 2:18-23).

8) Is holiness its hallmark? (I John 3:3-10).

We need not fear that we will be deceived but
can call upon God's Spirit to teach us and
guide us into all truth. No matter where we are
we can walk in the power of God--even in Babylon.

Father, make us Daniels in our generation. Cause
us to stand strong in You, no matter what happens,
no matter where we find ourselves!

(this bible study is a continuation
of a Bible Study on the book of Daniel,
further installments are archived in
this blog under "Daniel Bible Study"
and "Bible"

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