Daniel: Being a stand up person in a bow down world (week 1)

Daniel: when God leads you into Exile.
Daniel 1: 1-7


Daniel was taken captive to Babylon during the first invasion by Nebuchadnezzar (605-562BC) at about the age of 16.  He was from among the elite  young men of Israel; physically impressive, intellectually astute and socially poised. A key aspect of Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion strategy was to take the most promising and prominent young men from the invaded culture and assimilate them into the Babylonian culture so that their own cultural identity would be lost.  They were taken and over the course of three years trained in the ways and thinking of Babylon. This training included the learning of languages and the extensive literature and lore of Babylon. The literature of Babylon included mythological texts and scientific omen texts, as well as historiography, astronomy, mathematics and medicine. Over time they would lose their language, their religion, their traditions and their literature.  In essence their entire worldview would be challenged around how the world was made and functioned.  Nothing about who they were and where they had come from would remain.  They would no longer have a distinctive identity.  How then would Daniel and his friends maintain their distinctive identity as God’s chosen people within this context?
The historical account records for us that it was not Babylon’s political-military might that lead Israel into exile but rather God’s sovereign will. (v2)  We may be tempted to think that because of this, God is some kind of cruel and harsh tyrant, however,  God is in actual fact being true to his word. God had warned Israel of the high calling of being those who entered into covenant relationship with himself. First, generally in Leviticus 26 and then again warning them more specifically in Isaiah 39:6-7.  It was a high calling to be the people who carried God’s holy presence; it came with incredible blessing but also with very real consequences for if they didn’t take that calling seriously.  By the time of the book of Daniel, Israel is suffering the inevitable fate of their continual choice to be unfaithful to God.
But God has not left His people. He is right there working amongst them ,both in there immediate circumstances and also in his long term plans to bring about a kingdom that will never be destroyed. The book of Daniel is made up of a series of stories of individuals learning to maintain their distinctiveness in a foreign culture but it is also a book of prophecies in which God’s unchanging sovereignty is demonstrated.  Though empires may rise and fall God is working in history to bring an end to all suffering and the problems that sin in the human heart causes. Often it’s in the time of testing that our faith and identity in Christ is really tested and refined. And it just may be the case that in those times we are blessed by being awakened to the reality of the greater story of what God is doing within history.

Listen to the sermon here

For discussion in communities:

Question to open discussion:
Imagine being a teenager, stolen from your homeland, your family, your people, and thrust into a new culture with it’s foreign language, food, government, literature, values, systems and patterns of life. What might you be thinking?  What might you be thinking about your God?

Read together Daniel 1:1-7, Isaiah 39:6-7

Q1. How would you describe God’s faithfulness to someone else?
Q3. Read Leviticus 26, what do you notice about the covenant relationship that Israel and God entered into?  What does this passage tell us about God?  What does it tell us about humanity?
Q4. Do you think it was fair for God to lead Israel into exile, why/why not?
Q5.  What do you think God was trying to accomplish by leading them into exile?
Q4.  As those who live in the “new covenant” where the conditions of the law are met in Christ, do you think God still requires faithfulness from us?  Why or why not? What can we learn from Jesus about faithfulness?
Q6. Do you think God still leads his people into exile today.   If so, why might he do that?
Q7.  Often the term “Babylon” is used metaphorically to describe the culture around us that is trying to threaten our identity in Christ. Read 1 John 2:15-17,  What ideologies, philosophies, values or patterns of life within our culture might threaten our loyalty to Christ if we are not careful?

For accountability + prayer:

You can use these discussion questions either in smaller prayer and accountability groups or as a part of your own individual devotional life.


Q1. Share with each other about times when you have experienced exile in your faith, what was that like?  What was God teaching you?
Q2. What threats do you face in terms of your loyalty to Christ on a daily basis?
Q3. In what ways or areas of your life could you exercise faithfulness to Christ this week?  How and when will you do that?

Prayer together for the courage, conviction and grace to be set apart as God’s person within whatever context you face this week.

For personal devotion + study:

 


Monday:  Take a moment to meditate upon and memorize 1 Peter 2:9-10
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.


Tuesday: a “chosen people”. 

What does it mean to you that God has chosen you?   When Peter writes these above words he is applying the history of Israel to us as believers. At one time Israel was an obscure and oppressed nation.  There was nothing about them that was powerful or special but nevertheless God chose them out of all the nations of the world to carry with them His presence and for them to be His special people. The same is true of us.  There is nothing special about us but God has chosen us in Christ to carry within us His very precious and Holy presence.  That we might be His people. I wonder how does that make you feel?


Wednesday: a “royal priesthood”
We are not only chosen to belong to God but are also chosen to a task. The nation of Israel were to be a priesthood unto the other nations of the world.  They were to communicate God’s love, holiness and justice unto a world that neither knew Him nor recognized Him.  It was a part of their identity as God’s chosen people.  In what ways has God called you to be his ambassador within your context?  Who are the people that you mingle with everyday that you have an opportunity to show who God is to?


Thursday: a “holy” nation.
As a part of their witness unto the world Israel were to be a set apart or distinct people. They were to be characterized by “holiness.”  In the first and primary instance this was demonstrated by a loyalty to serving God and God alone.  In the secondary instance it was demonstrated through how they treated others demonstrating God’s righteousness, justice and mercy. How do you set about to live a “holy” life before God?


Friday: God’s “special possession”. 
Have you ever pondered about how you are not your own but that you belong to God?  At the moment you put your trust in Christ was the same moment that you gave yourself to Him.  Your life is not your own to do with what you will.  You now have a new Master and Lord and belong to Him.  Now this is not hard to do when you know that the One you are giving yourself to also prizes you.  You are God’s treasure.  You are His prized possession. The bible say’s you are the apple of His eye and so we can be rest assured that He always has our best interests at heart even if we have to experience sacrifice at His initiative.


Saturday: that “you might declare His praises.”
A part of our role is to make declarations about who God is and  that means speaking up about God.  Many Christians fall into the trap of thinking we can just love people into the kingdom, sadly this is only half the story.  Yes we are to love people but we are also to speak about the hope that we have in Christ to those around us.  And why would we not want to?  Often it’s because we are afraid, but why?  Probably because we have made our reputation into an idol and we need to seriously deal with that.  How could you declare God’s praises this week?