OUTSIDERS | Daniel 1-21
September 3, 2016
The Bible is clear that sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). However, God does not want us to be separate from Him. That’s why He continued to speak to His people over the course of time, telling them what to do and what not to do (Leviticus 26). Just like in the garden with Adam and Eve, God wants a relationship. He wants to share Himself and His love with us. He also wants to enjoy us, the pinnacle of His creation. However, we keep moving away from Him (Romans 3:23). The book of Daniel opens with some pretty harsh truth. After God repeatedly pleaded with His people to stop sinning, He finally allows His people to reap the consequences of their sin (2 Chronicles 36:15-21). As you read the text you understand that the consequences are devastating. The truth is, as Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe has said, “God would rather have His people living in shameful captivity in a pagan land than living like pagans in the Holy Land and disgracing His name.” As painful as the discipline of the Lord is, it’s end result is for our good (Hebrews 12:6-11). God wants to bring His people to repentance. He wants to show them His mastery over all creation so they will run to Him and joyfully follow Him and His statutes. God has the ways of life. All who live abundantly will follow Him.
This is the story of Daniel. His story is very much like ours. Everyone was going the same direction… away from God. What do you do when everyone else looks the same and lives the same sinful life and you seem to be the OUTSIDER? Where can we find the desire to live obediently and defy the natural systems of the world around us? Daniel proved that when you understand that God is behind everything… It is easy to live for Him in the darkest of times. Three times in chapter 1, Daniel shows us that His obedience comes from the knowledge that God is sovereignly in control of kings, nations, and all situations. He uses the Hebrew word, “nātar,” which translates “God gave” in the ESV Bible (vs. 2, 9, and 17). This is important for us to understand. Many read Daniel and think, “If I’m good like Daniel then God will work on my behalf.” This is the opposite of the theme of Daniel. What Daniel wants you to know is that God is working behind the scenes. God has a plan and His ways are best. It is understanding this reality that drives us to want to be closer to Him, and not to defile ourselves. Like Daniel, we live in a world that is applying constant pressure upon us in hopes we can be transformed into its image. However, the more the world pushes, the more we run towards God as we realize He is the only way, truth, and life.
Sometimes it looks like the enemy is winning the battle. Think about the cross of Jesus as another example of this. Now discuss how God is truly the one in control behind the scenes of these incidents.
Can we blame God for Israel’s exile? Who is to blame for when God chooses to righteously punish sin? (2 Chron. 36:15-16). Reflect on the way Jesus took God’s wrath on the cross on our behalf.
Imagine experiencing the 3 year reconditioning process that Daniel and his friends underwent. They got new clothes, new names, and a new language. Nebuchadnezzar did everything he could to get Israel out of these boys and replace its memories with Babylon. Read Romans 12:1-2 and discuss the similarities between our day and Daniels day.