Wednesday, September 20, 2017

DANIEL+—An Illustrated Summary of Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible by G. Campbell Morgan

"On every page of the God-breathed writings are many thoughts that stretch out like long, clear arms of light across the darkness, discovering things otherwise hidden and illuminating wider areas than those of the immediate context. They are searchlights. From a multitude of these, I have selected one in each chapter of Scripture, for at least one central thought in every chapter should arrest the mind and affect the life," wrote G. Campbell Morgan, a wise, warm-hearted, careful Bible teacher who conducted a classic 3-year chapter-by-chapter study called Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible. Here are the fruits of that timeless study—summarized, illustrated, and amplified—on all 66 books of the Bible (posted one book at a time, cumulatively).

Daniel 1:8 "But Daniel purposed in his heart." Daniel is a young man carried away in a first wave of captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C. He was taken from his family when he was a youth or teenager, and seems never to have returned to Jerusalem. Daniel and many other promising young captives are selected for a 3-year indoctrination program to be trained for royal service to their new king. They learn the Babylonian/Chaldean language and its literature, laws, arts, sciences, and customs. This is a peril to impressionable youth so likely to be influenced by material splendor, but Daniel "purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king's choice food or ... wine." This resolve he reinforces with his will. Having thus inwardly made his choice, Daniel acts in harmony with it by requesting permission to live according to his conviction. When the steward in charge of Daniel and his 3 godly friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah expresses concern about getting into trouble with the king, Daniel proposes a reasonable test of the matter, which God works out for their good in such an obvious way that they are allowed to do as they asked. These young men prove to be standouts when King Nebuchadnezzar interviews them after the 3-year program, and they go on to distinguish themselves in far greater ways. Daniel, in fact, comes to occupy positions of power not only for the Babylonian Empire over several decades, but also for the Medo-Persian Empire that follows it.

Daniel 2:17-18 "Daniel ... explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.  He urged them to plead for mercy from ... God." This chapter records the first activity of Daniel in fulfillment of his divinely appointed work. All that he does for two world empires is of secondary importance. He is chosen by God to live in a prominent position in those kingdoms to understand their relation to the Kingdom of God, and then explain God's Kingdom to those whom he serves—and those of us who read his inspired Book. The method God chooses to use here is causing kings to dream dreams or see supernatural sights that He gives Daniel the ability to interpret. Nebuchadnezzar is so troubled by his dream of a mighty statue that he pronounces a death sentence on any wise man who cannot describe his dream in detail before presuming to interpret it. Daniel knows his life, and that of his friends, is in danger unless God chooses to reveal and explain that dream. He calls together the little group, like-minded with him in loyalty to the God of their fathers, and seeks their cooperation in prayer. That prayer is heard and answered in a way that reveals the course of history to the end of time (a message so important, it is later repeated and amplified to Daniel himself in a dream, as recorded in Daniel 7). In Daniel we see two of the greatest character traits: purpose of heart and commitment to prayer and godly fellowship.

Daniel 3:18 "But if not ..." That incomplete quotation points to faith in its finest expression. In the dream Daniel interpreted to King Nebuchadnezzar of a colossal statue representing the remaining world powers in succession, the king is the head of gold. Nebuchadnezzar foolishly decides to set up a tall golden image. We are not told it is intended to represent a god, but because of the dream, it is likely it represents his own power. In his pride, he commands everyone to prostrate themselves before it and worship it on pain of death in a fiery furnace. Daniel does not appear in this story (we are told at the end of chapter 2 that he and his godly friends were assigned to administrative duties in different locations), but the 3 friends are affected by this order since the golden image is erected in their district. Here now is a test for their loyalty to God and His Law, which forbids idolatry. There is no hesitation on their part: they refuse and are brought before the king. In language full of respect for him but inspired by complete loyalty to God, they declare that there really is no need to answer since their position is already clearly known. They affirm to the proud monarch that God is able to deliver them from the fiery furnace, and their belief that He will do so. That in itself is a courageous display of faith, but they go further in stating that if God chooses not to rescue them, they still will not worship the golden image or anything else other than the one true and living God. Death as the result of loyalty to Him is preferable to deliverance at the price of denying Him. This is the kind of faith that overcomes the world.

Daniel 4:3 "His Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation." Here we have the grateful proclamation Nebuchadnezzar makes as the result of a dramatic experience that humbled him: being inflicted with the mind and behavior of a beast until he finally comes to know the perpetual sovereign rule of God. The full account of that experience is in verses 4-36. The last verse (37) is connected with the first three in that it adds the note of praise to the proclamation. The period of the experience covers at least 8 years. First comes a dream, interpreted faithfully and compassionately by Daniel. A year later the madness overtakes the king at the height of his arrogance, pride, and forgetfulness of God. For 7 years Nebuchadnezzar lives like a wild animal on all fours with claws and matted hair. The lesson he finally learns is highlighted above and repeated 4 times in this chapter: verses 17, 25, 32, and 34). The Kingdom of God is proclaimed in its duration, "His Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom," and in its continuity: "His dominion is from generation to generation." That great truth many people fail to grasp or feel the force of. Even though we cannot now see God, He is not dethroned; He never has been nor ever will be. He rules today, and He gives lesser authority to whomever He wills. Jesus taught us to pray, "Your Kingdom come," which in part means that people today will willingly surrender to God's rule and experience its blessings. While praying that faithfully day by day, let us never forget that God perpetually reigns, and will again rule visibly. Until then, true strength comes from discovering the same fact Nebuchadnezzar came to embrace.

Daniel 5:23 "You have not honored the God who holds in His hand your life's breath and all your ways." In this chapter decades have passed since Nebuchadnezzar's great change of heart from the previous chapter. One person who did not profit from what Nebuchadnezzar learned about God's sovereignty is his grandson Belshazzar, who with enemies at his gates on what proved to be the last day of the Babylonian Empire is in the midst of a lavish party in his palace. Belshazzar makes a point of ordering that sacred vessels Nebuchadnezzar brought to Babylon from the Jerusalem Temple be handed out to the throngs of drunken revelers and filled with wine so they can praise "the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone" (verse 4). Immediately they see an eerie sight that fills them all with terror: a disembodied hand writing a mysterious message on the palace wall. Daniel, now an old man, faithfully interprets the message when requested, but first gives an accurate diagnosis of Belshazzar's heart with the words highlighted above. Even though King Belshazzar knew the extremity his grandfather, the great Nebuchadnezzar, went through to acknowledge the Kingdom of the Most High, Belshazzar himself used his breath for blasphemy rather than praise, and his ways were those of self indulgence rather than fulfilling the will of God. Therefore that night he lost his pleasure, power, and life, and the prophesied Medo-Persian Empire began its reign. The breath and ways of every man and woman are in the palm of God. May we respond rightly to that fact rather than rebel against it.

Daniel 6:10 "When Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued ... praying and giving thanks." Even though Daniel is a senior representative of the old Babylonian Empire, his excellence is such that he remains in a position of power under Darius the Mede, ruler of the new Medo-Persian superpower. Daniel's fellow rulers under the new regime are jealous of him and desperate to find a way to get rid of him, "but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him" (verse 4). Although Darius the Mede was a clever military conqueror, the jealous rulers under him soon learn that Darius and his legal system are easily manipulated: they appeal to his vanity to create an irrevocable law requiring all prayers over the next 30 days to be directed to him only. Just as those envious officials expected, Daniel kept up his longtime habit of praying towards his homeland 3 times a day in his usual spot—a roof chamber with open windows. (As we learn in chapter 9, Daniel was eagerly waiting for God to fulfill His promise for the Jewish people to be able to return home after a 70-year exile in Babylon, which was on the verge of being fulfilled.) This leads, much to Darius's grief and shame, to Daniel's being thrown into a den of hungry lions, but Daniel is miraculously delivered and his enemies destroyed. Darius praises God "to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth" (verse 25), paving the way for the Jewish people to be able to return home soon. Like Daniel, when our lives remain faithfully centered in God, we can always afford to leave circumstances in His hands.

Daniel 7:2 "In my vision ... I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea." With this chapter we begin the second section of this book. The first 6 chapters describe how God elevates His man Daniel to high office in two successive world powers. Chapters 7-12 focus on the prophecies Daniel receives that extend to our times and beyond. As the author of this book, Daniel has been writing of himself in the third person, but he switches to the first person for the rest of the book. He is an old man now, writing about 10 years before the fall of Babylon under Belshazzar, and he sees a dream or vision consisting of two parts. The earthly part comes first: a turbulent sea out of which emerge 4 beasts representing the same 4 kingdoms of Nebuchadnezzar's statue in Daniel 2. The heavenly part of Daniel's dream expands on what Daniel 2:44 declares: that "the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom that shall never be destroyed." Daniel writes, "With the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.  To Him was given dominion, glory and, a kingdom that all the peoples, nations and, men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away" (Daniel 7:13-14). Looking out over the great and troubled sea of human affairs, Daniel sees beastly world powers emerging from that sea, but guided by "the four winds of heaven." The final authority does not rise out of that sea. World powers then and now exponentially work out their evil, but they do so under God's direction for His good purposes.

Daniel 8:25 "He will  oppose even the Prince of princes, but he will be broken without human agency." The vision in this chapter comes two years after the one in the previous chapter. Daniel is carrying out administrative duties in what is now Iran when he sees a vision by a canal of a mighty ram, representing the Medo-Persian Empire that would soon overcome Babylon. The ram causes great destruction, but is soon destroyed by a fierce horned goat representing Alexander the Great and the Greek Empire. Alexander himself is cut off in the prime of life and his empire divided by his 4 generals. Out of one springs the Seleucid Empire and its most notorious king, Antiochus IV, who calls himself Ephiphanes. That means "Illustrious One" or "God Manifest," so this mere mortal is defying the true God, the Prince of princes. That is the logical progression of autocratic ambition: it sets itself against all rule other than its own, and if it is successful over human competitors, it attempts to fling off Final Authority by claiming divine power and authority for itself. That has happened repeatedly in human affairs, and will happen at least once more when the prophesied Antichrist comes on the world scene. But when all such usurpers do this, they come to their doom; they fall upon Rock and are broken.

Chiastic Structure of Daniel
Introduction 1 and Prologue (1:1-21)
A Nebuchadnezzar dreams of 4 kingdoms and the Kingdom of God (2:1-49).
B Nebuchadnezzar sees God's servants rescued (3:1-31).
C Nebuchadnezzar is judged (4:1-37).
C' Belshazzar is judged (5:1-31).
B' Darius sees Daniel rescued (6:1-28).
A' Introduction 2: Daniel has a vision of 4 kingdoms and the Kingdom of God (7:1-28).
D Details on the post-Babylonian kingdoms (8:1-27).
E Jerusalem restored (9:1-27).
D' More details on the post-Babylonian kingdoms (10:1—12:13)
Source: Andrew E. Steinmann, Concordia Commentary: Daniel

Daniel 9:24 "Seventy weeks are decreed." As the time approaches for the ending of the 70 years of desolation prophesied by Jeremiah (29:4-14), Daniel sets himself to seek the Lord in repentance and prayer on behalf of his people—as Jeremiah himself said  to do. The prayer in this chapter is a particularly great prayer, its urgency and intensity finding expression at last in short, sharp sentences: "O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act" (verse 19). The answer comes swiftly in the person of the angel Gabriel, who explains in summary form the times of Israel's trouble and restoration. This unveiling is singularly explicit. A period of 490 years is involved (7 times 70 weeks of years), divided into 3 parts: 1. 7 weeks (49 years), 2. 62 weeks (434 years), 3. 1 week (7 years). Although the math can be figured slightly different ways and is worthy of extended study, something important to observe is that 69 weeks (490 years) after the decree of Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem apparently ends at the baptism of Jesus. If indeed the 70th week began then, in the midst of it the Messiah was "cut off" (verse 26) or crucified to pay for the sins of all His people—past, present, and future.

Daniel 10:8 "I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless." The last 3 chapters of Daniel are closely related since they describe the last of Daniel's visions. The highlighted verse reveals how Daniel felt when in the presence of a new heavenly visitor, one described as "a man" (verse 5), "one in the likeness of the children of man" (verse 16), and "one having the appearance of a man" (verse 18). Each time the description is accompanied by personal contact: "a hand touched me" (verse 10), "touched my lips" (verse 16), "touched me and strengthened me" (verse 18). The apostle John had a strikingly similar experience as described in Revelation 1, when he was addressed by the glorified Christ. This appearance to Daniel may be the most remarkable Christophany of the Old Testament. Notice that even though Daniel is "greatly loved" by God, as Gabriel made a point of telling him (Daniel 9:23), in the presence of the Lord he is overcome with a sense of his unworthiness. A vision of Christ always produces this effect, but His touch is always for healing and strength.

Daniel 11:2 "I will tell you the truth." Daniel 11-12 is a stunning chronicle of prophecy after prophecy fulfilled in minute historical detail. These are the revelations given to Daniel by the glorious Being introduced to us in the previous chapter. They occupy the whole of this chapter and the first 4 verses of the next. The previous chapter tells us Daniel was given these revelations in answer to his sadness of heart concerning his people. The revelations would show him that, however circumstances may appear and perplex him, everything is clear to the mind of God and all things are moving forward to His predetermined purpose. What were prophecies then is history today. We read a brief description of events under 4 Persian kings, followed by the conquests of Alexander the Great and the disruption of his empire at his sudden death. We then read of the contracts and conflicts between Syria and Egypt, especially during the reign of the notorious Antiochus IV, "Epiphanes." Without a break we then leap over centuries to what is described as a final period for the people of God, "a time of trouble" issuing in deliverance, resurrection, and glory that are not yet but will come.

Daniel 12:13 "Go your way till the end. You shall rest and then stand in your allotted place at the end of days." These are the last words of the glorious Being to Daniel. At the close of the revelations, Daniel hears a clear and emphatic declaration that the period of trouble will last for 3 and 1/2 years. That period coincides exactly with the time given in Daniel 7:25 and Daniel 9:27. This leaves Daniel feeling confused, asking, "O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?" (Daniel 12:8). The answer is they weren't in relation to Daniel's day so the appropriate response is an attitude of faith and patience. Daniel would soon go to his grave, followed by rest and waiting, with the assurance that when all the purposes of God are accomplished, he will stand in his appointed place in the triumphant order of God's redeemed people. In the fullest sense we may use these final words to Daniel to describe the experience of all who benefit from Christ the Messiah's work on the cross when He returns to enter into the final glory of His Kingdom.
Invest in This Excellent Resource on the Historicity of Daniel+
How Daniel (605 to 535 B.C.) relates to other prophetic writings and historical events.