Confidence in the Covenant Process
Today we are continuing our study on the Christian Foundations asking what does confidence in the Covenant look like, as we also consider the questions:
- “What does the everyday Christian life look like?”
- “What’s required for ongoing, genuine relationship with God.”
Last time we learned from Daniel Chapter 1, that the Christian life from beginning to end, assumes believers “Determine to be Different”. This is not only an option, it’s actually the law. God says 8 times in the book of Leviticus 11:45:
I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.Leviticus 11:45
In Exodus, God stressed this to his people as they set out from slavery in Egypt into the unknown, they were no longer slaves, but his ransomed people, representing Him in a new land. Being different, set apart from the ordinary, was the only way they would maintain their identity as His Covenant people in a hostile and foreign world.
Today we’re looking at Chapter 2 where Daniel places his Confidence in God’s Covenantal promises, just like we are called to do today.
Background & Context
Before we dig in to our study, let’s look at the context and background of this part of the story we heard Simon read from Ch 2.
Dreams: Messages From the Gods.
- In the ANE, dreams were seen to be messages from the gods. And the more important you were, the more important the dream message. Nebuchadnezzar has had a dream, and it has left him in a mess. It was both highly significant and potentially devastating for his Kingship.
- Some suggest he’d forgotten the dream which is why he didn’t tell anyone. However, I agree with the historians who suggest Nebuchadnezzar believed the dream implied he was going to be deposed. He was new to the throne and as in most courts, spies and conspirators ran rampant. Nebuchadnezzar could not afford any sign of weakness. If the gods were saying his reign was tenuous, he wasn’t telling anyone.
Divination: Dream Discerning
- Because such weight was put on omens from the gods—dreams being an omen—kings invested a lot in surrounding themselves with “wise men” who could interpret these messages. And not just interpret them but reveal how the gods intended them to manage the upcoming events and the fallout afterwards. In Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar had his guild of magicians, diviners, astrologers and sorcerers, which Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego were members.
- These experts or wise men had access to records of past dreams: the actual dreams, the meanings, the interpretations given and how successful the result was. They were like reference books.
- When they needed to interpret a dream or an omen, they referred to the symbols in the dream and matched them with those in their textbook, then interpreted the meaning and determined the best course of action.
- Never had anyone demand the wise men reveal the specifics of the dream. Nothing in their databases could do that because the gods had never disclosed that sort of information to humans.
- The text says Nebuchadnezzar’s 2nd year, which would likely be his second and a half, which would mean Daniel had not yet finished his three-year study in Babylonian Language and literature, so he was still a teen in the very early years of his exile.
What did he do?
Step one: Daniel goes straight to the source of the problem:
14 When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. 15 He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. 16 At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.Daniel 2:14-16
First Daniel seeks out the guy who was ordered to kill him to understand what the problem was. Then, goes straight to the source of the problem. Getting in to see the King was not an easy process and the text doesn’t explain how Daniel got access to the throne. But it may indicate Nebuchadnezzar’s desperation: he was open to anything, even the boast of an overconfident teen from a foreign land.
Step two: Daniel puts his confidence in the Covenant God.
17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.Daniel 2:17-18
Notice that it’s now he goes back to his mates and puts in his prayer request. He’s already told the king he can reveal not only what he’d dreamed, but what it meant and what he should do about it. Where Daniel appears almost blaze’ before the king who has ordered his death, he pleads for mercy from God.
Daniel knew Israel’s exile in Babylon was ‘time out’ as a disciplinary measure by God, not abandonment. He would also have known the terms of the Covenant God established with his forefather Abraham: to provide, protect and preserve. And, more significantly perhaps, he had experienced God’s protection and provision firsthand when he had asked to be excused from eating the king’s food—an act that could have had him executed for treason. Daniel now steps it up a level and trusts God would protect him from death at the King’s harsh decree. Daniel understood the real power of life and death lay in the hands of Yahweh. Not the king. John 19:10-11
Step 3: Daniel gives God the glory
26 The king asked Daniel, “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”
27 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these:
29 “As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. 30 As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.Daniel 2:26-30
The word Mystery is repeated 4 times in these few passages and 8 times in this Chapter. Why? Because the writer is making a point. To most, “mystery” merely means an unknown. But in Hebrew culture it meant,
“the secret purposes of God that he reveals only to his chosen prophets and apostles”.NIV Study Bible Text Note Daniel 2:18 pp 1464-1465
And in this situation, God chose to answer Daniel’s prayer and reveal the mystery: what a man dreamed and what it meant in order to reveal his purposes to his chosen prophet. Being the only God to do such a thing in the ANE
10 The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. 11 What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.”Daniel 2:10-11
Through Daniel, God was revealing a new reality.
How did he do it?
1: With boldness and courage.
14 When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact.Daniel 2:14
The King’s Officer was the guy who did the king’s dirty work. When Jerusalem fell, he was the one who decided who would be deported and who would be killed and saw the job done. He would have been an intimidating and hard man. The text tells us Daniel used wisdom and tact, but before he got to that point, he would have had to have boldness and courage.
2: With wisdom and tact.
Wisdom is another word that pops up a lot—8 times in the first 5 chapters of the book of Daniel.
Babylonian culture bestowed the title ‘Wise’ to the guild Daniel belonged to. At Christmas, we tell the story of three “wise men” who came to visit Jesus. They were magi. Back in the 6C BC, magi, along with the diviners, sorcerers and magicians were considered the Wise. However, they practiced witchcraft, divination, astronomy and things we would associate with occult practices to get their wisdom.
This was a problem for Daniel and his friends, because Israelite law strictly forbade all these practices. In contrast, they were to seek wisdom through right relationship with God.
28 …[God] said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”Job 28:28
Daniel’s tact may have come from living at court as a noble, but his wisdom came from right and genuine relationship with God.
3: He had confidence in his Covenant God
As a student of his own rich heritage, Daniel would have heard stories of David fighting Goliath, King Hezekiah besieged by Assyria with over 128 000 soldiers all of whom were killed in one night by the Angel of the LORD. There was also the history of Joseph in Egypt, Moses facing off against Pharoah, Joshua claiming the promised land, Judges like Gideon and all the others. Each and every time his people put their faith in their Covenant God, Yahweh showed up in power to protect, preserve and provide. So, along with all of these, Daniel put his confidence in the Covenant God.
What were the consequences?
- Daniel didn’t die, he also saved all the other “wise men” in the Guild.
- God answered his prayer in miraculous way, not only building Daniel’s faith and confidence, He revealed himself to Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Kingdom.
- God showed up and out wised the wise men announcing Himself in Babylon revealing He was the true God who could do what no other had done, could do, or would ever be able to do.
- Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged God as the God of gods and Lord of Kings and the revealer of mysteries providing offerings for Daniel to present to Yahweh.
- Daniel demonstrated the source of real wisdom is Yahweh, not the occult.
- Daniel earned more credit and standing in the eyes of the king, his superiors and peers.
- And so much more: Daniel 2:48
49 Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.Daniel 2:48
Like Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego, we too are in a foreign and hostile land. We too are called to be holy, set apart, different. And when we do this, we will face difficult circumstances placing us in situations where we have to make a choice. If we choose to put our confidence in the world, worldly processes and/or humanity, we will learn that our foundations are shaky and unsure. If Daniel had put his trust in the King, he’d be dead, twice over by this stage.
However, if we choose to throw our lot in with God and trust in his promises, we can be bold and courageous in the face of apparent disaster because our foundations are sure, constant and eternally secure. And the more we step out in boldness, relying on the Covenant God, the more our courage grows, and our relationship with Him deepens. We too will get the opportunity to experience true wisdom and insight as we step out to fulfill the purposes of God, seeking His glory.
When we step into the Covenant promises and live the shelter of our Covenant God anything, everything, especially the impossible is possible, because our God is greater, higher, better, bigger, wiser, stronger, mightier, smarter, scarier… than anything the world can throw at us. He is waiting and longing to show us just how amazing life can be when we put our confidence in him and his promises. He has promised it will be hard. we will suffer, but we will have front row seats watching God interact with the world in mighty and miraculous ways. And every step of the way, we get to have full, loving, faithful relationship with the One True God.
Questions to ponder:
- How have you experienced God’s covenant promises of provision, protection and preservation in your life?
- What things/people/situations create tension in prioritising God’s law?
- Are there times you have prayed for and received God’s wisdom?
- Which areas do you struggle to fulfil your Covenant obligations of obedience?
- Have you ever witnessed the miraculous, marvellous, or mysterious unfold as you’ve stepped out in faith?