Josh Manley: 3 Reasons to Preach Through Daniel

The book of Daniel isn’t about Daniel. The book of Daniel is about Daniel’s God. If what you’ve taught or learned from this soaring book is that you should “dare to be a Daniel,” then I’m afraid you entirely missed the point.

This book is more than a hero tale that inspires us to live a courageous life for God amid hard circumstances. If we preach the book like this, then the sovereign, destiny-determining God of Daniel is ironically swept to the side.

Nonetheless, this book deserves a place in your preaching schedule. And I don’t mean just the first six chapters—you know, the ones with the masterfully narrated stories. Preaching Daniel also means digging into the seemingly strange visions of the final six chapters. Throughout the whole book, we meet the Most High God who is sovereignly ruling over the kings and kingdoms of human history until the Messianic Son of Man consummates history and brings his people into the everlasting Kingdom of God.

Consider with me several reasons why your church should hear from this faithful prophet of old.

1. Daniel teaches Christians to be faithful where they are planted.

The book tragically begins with King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquering Judah and taking Daniel and his three friends (and the temple vessels) into exile (1:1–7). From the beginning, Daniel makes clear that this is not a conflict between two peoples but between false gods and the true God. Babylon seeks to remake Daniel and his friends into its image, immersing them in their language and literature, dictating their diet, and giving them new Babylonian names that reflect the gods of their new land (1:4–7). In Babylon, God’s people face complete cultural and theological domination.

And yet, Daniel doesn’t wage a culture war because he understands that while he may be in exile, his God is not. Daniel lives in faith where God has placed him, being conformed to his God not those of Babylon. In fact, at the end of chapter 1, we learn that Daniel remained in Babylon for over 70 years, until the first year of King Cyrus. That’s seven decades of quiet faithfulness, of disciplined resistance to loving this world and its passing desires, of a long obedience in the same direction and in a land completely hostile to Yahweh. Don’t our people need to catch a vision of that kind of discipleship?

Daniel has a word for exiled Christians: we must take the long view in the lands where God has planted us. Whether we’re citizens of the country in which we currently live or not, our true citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), and we’re to live out our earthly citizenship in light of our heavenly one. Daniel teaches us that God’s purposes are long, and we should trust him, confident that he will use our ordinary faithfulnesses in more extraordinary ways than we can see or imagine.

Too often, when we think of Daniel we think of the heroic moments, and in the process overlook thousands of ordinary, unseen moments in which he chose faithfulness over folly. So it must be for God’s people today as we live in exile, precisely where God has placed us.

2. Daniel exposes the folly of idolatry.

From the great statue of gold that Nebuchadnezzar set up (3:1, 2, 3, 5, 7) to King Darius’ proclamation that he alone be petitioned as the sole mediator between the people of his realm and the gods (6:6–9), Daniel teaches us that idolatry is folly. Either for glory or destruction, we become what we worship (12:2–3). In this book filled with visions of beasts who will rule empires throughout history, Daniel makes plain that those who worship the beast will become like beasts themselves (4:28–33).[1] It is not the fleeting kings of this world whose word stands but the Most High God who rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will (4:32; 7:23–27; 9:18–26; 11:2–45; 12:2–3).

In a world filled with false gods made by human hands, Daniel reveals that it is the God who is not made by human hands who alone is worthy of worship (2:45; 8:25). Until Babylon falls, God’s people will be enticed by idols and need to see idolatry in all its folly. Daniel shows us that no matter how alluring idols are, they’re empty. And that’s a message our churches need continually to hear.

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Source: Church Leaders