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Putting the Pieces Together
Introduction #1 of the Book of Daniel
You can’t help it–when you see a jigsaw puzzle, you just have to try to connect a piece. There is something in us that wants to contribute, and something in us that wants to complete the big picture. Men love a good map, we want to see where we are going, how long it will take to get there, what the road will be like. It’s our way. A lot of ladies love a good novel, to read a story that has a beginning, middle and a happy conclusion so we can see the story end to our satisfaction.
But can you recall the frustration over the missing puzzle piece–how you searched everywhere for it? It felt like the entire experience was a waste–now there’s a hole in my picture. I remember the agony of following a map in Europe, but finding the road closed, and having to drive a hundred miles out of our way. And I personally avoid all authors who leave you hanging as to the outcome of the story they’ve crafted with no ending.
Some Christians avoid the Old Testament for the same reason–they know the individual stories, but not the big map that weaves it all together. Just like there are different kinds of maps–road maps, topographical maps, street maps, all of them accurate, and all of them describing the same region, so it is with the Old Testament.
The Old Testament can be described in terms of God displaying His glory throughout history, or God demonstrating His right to rule through the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ. And you can also look at the Old Testament map through the lens of redemption, focusing on God’s plan to accomplish the salvation of His children.
So in preparation for our study of the book of Daniel . . .
in order to see how Daniel fits into the big picture of God’s plan
in order to feel the tension behind the events and prophecies of this prophet
in order to properly apply the instruction of Daniel to our lives
in order to see what God had to do in order to provide salvation
for you and for me . . . today we will run through the Old Testament to get the big picture of redemption.
Now to prevent cramping, everyone put your hand up, stretch your fingers out, flex them . . . good–ready to turn pages? We are about to take a 45-minute jet tour of the Old Testament up to Daniel. We won’t cover every event, but attempt to give you the big picture. Really tune in, and make it your goal to be able to walk through the Old Testament yourself. Open your Bibles to Genesis 3 and follow along in your outline.
#1 The Bible begins with three cycles of redemption Genesis 1-12
After creating the world in six literal 24-hour days, God pronounced that all He made was perfect. But in Genesis 3, all that changed with the fall of mankind into sin–we were in Adam, and we sinned in him. In fact, Genesis shows us three cycles of sin, judgment, redemption and promise.
First The ADAM cycle begins in the garden
The SIN was Adam and Eve’s disobedience to their loving creator in eating of the fruit in Genesis 3:6 that cast all of mankind into sinful rebellion to God. The JUDGMENT was the curse and consequences of the fall in verses 14-19.
The REDEMPTION was not obvious, but is found in verse 21, “And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” To us a gracious act, but the Israelite of the exodus to whom Moses wrote, they would think immediately of an animal sacrifice. Let me state the obvious–you don’t get animal skins from an animal without killing the animal. Can you imagine what it was like for Adam and Eve to see death for the first time? An animal sacrificed on their behalf in order to cover their bodies, and to picture the need for death to cover their sin. Can you see their horror as they witness death for the first time–life departing from the eyes, and blood being shed because of their sin?
But the good news was the PROMISE of the first cycle in Genesis 3:15, commonly called in Latin the proto-evangelium, or first Gospel, which says, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” The singular offspring of the woman (we know Him to be Christ) will crush the enemy’s head (we know him as Satan), who was the influence behind the actions of the serpent.
Salvation will be coming through the offspring of Eve, a seed line, a line leading to the Messiah. And Adam and Eve understood this promise–we know that because later they named their son Seth, which is the Hebrew word for seed. Their hope was in a coming Redeemer through a coming offspring, the seed line. But the great enemy of humankind, Satan, sought to destroy this seed line by demons cohabitating with women, thus corrupting the human race altogether. Turn to Genesis 6:5 and cycle #2.
Second The NOAH Cycle
The corruption was so bad, and the SIN of this cycle so evil. Genesis 6:5 says, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And this depraved situation demanded a radical and righteous JUDGMENT–a universal world-wide flood. But the graciousness of God is seen in His REDEMPTION and preservation of the seed line through Noah and his family on the ark. Yet you’ve probably never seen the PROMISE in Genesis 9:27. In the midst of Noah’s curse of Canaan, he prophetically addresses all three sons, “May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.” Grammatically, it is best to translate the verse this way, “God will enlarge Japheth, BUT HE [GOD] WILL DWELL IN THE TENTS OF SHEM.”
This is a promise to the future nation of Israel. Prophetically, God is saying He will dwell with the descendants of Shem in a special way. This is the line of Abraham and David, the seed line, the promise of Genesis 3:15, the promise of a coming Redeemer–which leads us to the third cycle of sin, judgment, redemption and promise in Genesis 11.
Third The ABRAHAM Cycle
The SIN in this cycle was in direct disobedience to the command given in Genesis 9:1, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” How did the people of the earth respond? Look at Genesis 11:4, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name; [Why a tower? So they can climb up to heaven? No–the text says] lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Their SIN was intentionally establishing a utopia which was indifferent to God and isolated from God’s plan for humankind. Sounds a lot like today, doesn’t it? The tower itself was to be a rallying point for an ideal society without God.
The JUDGMENT of this cycle came as God confused their language, and most likely it was at this point God also created different races, and all of it prevented mankind from establishing a dynasty without God. But where is God’s REDEMPTION? And where is the PROMISE in this third cycle? Turn to Genesis 12:1. What we overlook in the story of the Tower of Babel is what God created as a result of confusing people’s languages. Not only did God create different languages and most likely different ethnic groups, but He also created nations–people groups that would become the future nations of the world. Therefore, to bring redemption and promise to these new nations and complete the third cycle, God’s plan was to call one man who would become a nation to reach the nations. Who was that man? Abe
Genesis 12:1-3 says, “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; 2 and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; 3 and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” The salvation and PROMISE of the third cycle is Abraham, who would become a nation to reach the nations.
Ultimately the promise of Genesis 12 will be fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ to promised seed. But how will this nation that comes from Abraham be a blessing to the nations before the time of Christ, like Genesis 12:3 says? Simply, this coming nation of Israel was to represent the character of God to all the other nations. They were to dispense the knowledge which leads to faith by being a nation with a purpose, a unity and a uniqueness that would cause them to truly be a witness of the one true God to the nations.
God intended Israel to proclaim the message of salvation to the nations. Read Psalm 67:1-2, “God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us–Selah. [WHY?] 2 That Thy way may be known on the earth, Thy salvation among all nations.” Israel was meant to be a witness. Yet from the very beginning, they struggled with their purpose.
#2 The fledgling nation lost their unique calling Genesis 12-50
There is something wrong at the end of the book of Genesis. Instead of living in the land God promised them, the land of Israel, the sons of Jacob are living in Egypt. Why are they in Egypt? There are actually four reasons–tune in here . . . these are powerful:
1 Obviously there was a famine in the land, but Egypt had food
2 The sons of Jacob had unjustly wiped out the entire town named Shechem in Genesis 34, which made them a threat to every other city in the land–they could no longer be trusted. In Genesis 34:30, Jacob told his sons that they had made him odious in the land.
3 God told Abraham in Genesis 15:12ff that his offspring would be enslaved for 400 years until the iniquity of the Amorite was complete. God says He will judge the Amorites, but not yet. Their sin is not yet bad enough, but by the time the nation Israel is released from Egypt, it will be time to judge the Amorite people through Israel. God is patient in judgment, but judgment will come.
4 The offspring of Abraham had lost three important qualities. (The seed line flows from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob, and to the sons of Jacob, particularly Judah–but something was lost. There is a huge difference between the faith of Abraham and the faith of the sons of Judah–what did they lose?)
First They lost sight of their purpose as a nation to bless all the other nations of the earth by being a witness of the one true God
When you look at the life of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, you find them on occasion building altars. These altars, in contrast to the altars of pagan worshippers, were one way these men made proclamation of their God, and thus fulfilled their purpose. But by the time the sons of Jacob come on the scene, the fourth generation after Abraham, not once does the text say they ever built an altar, or even called upon the name of the Lord. They had lost sight of their purpose.
Second They lost sight of their unity
When you read of the heart of Abraham, you can’t help but notice his passionate commitment to preserve unity. Early on in Genesis 13, when there was strife between the herdsmen of Abraham and the herdsmen of Lot, Abraham told Lot he could have any land that he desired, as long as it would preserve unity between them, for as Abraham saw it, he and Lot were brothers. Lot chose the lush, long-grass valley floor, which left Abraham, the chosen one, the difficult rocky high country. But Abraham was willing to pay that price to preserve unity.
Just four generations later, the sons of Jacob were plotting to kill Joseph, their own brother. (I wanted to as well, but didn’t.) They had no clue as to what God was trying to accomplish through them. They had completely lost the priority of unity.
Third They lost sight of their uniqueness
In Genesis 24, Abraham makes his servant, Eliezer, swear he will not take a wife for his son Isaac from the daughters of the Canaanites, so Eliezer must go back to Abe’s relatives to find a wife. Abe knew the relatives were more moral than the Canaanites.
In stark contrast to this, only fourteen chapters later in Genesis 38, Abe’s great grandson, Judah, not only intermarries with a Canaanite, but also ends up having sexual relations with his Canaanite daughter-in-law, Tamar. They lost sight of their holiness, their uniqueness. But even with this terrible sin, you discover the amazing grace of God, and God’s willingness to cause good to come out of evil. You see, Judah has relations with his daughter-in-law Tamar, but the child born from this union is Perez, who is the seed line from Judah ultimately to Christ Himself–God’s grace is amazing.
Along with other reasons, the family of Jacob is in Egypt because the sons of Jacob had lost their purpose, unity and uniqueness. Turn to Genesis 50–even with this, there’s more grace. By planting His chosen family in the womb of Egypt, God will give birth to the nation of Israel. Joseph’s brothers did evil by selling him into slavery, but Joseph tells his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So in spite of the sin of failure on their part, God continues with His plan.
#3 God creates a nation to reach the nations Exodus-Joshua
God will not be stopped. Contained in the books of Exodus through Joshua is the story of how God completed His plan of creating a nation to reach the nations. Do any of you like to bake? My son Daniel and I enjoy baking. To bake a cake, you need some basic ingredients: flour, sugar, egg, milk, baking soda and chocolate.
In similar fashion, in order to create a nation–to bake up a nation–you also need some basic ingredients . . . in fact, just three. Do you know what they are? A people, a constitution, and a land–and that plan is carried out in Exodus through Joshua. Exodus tells us how God baked up a people. Turn to Exodus 19. Supernaturally, God caused the family of Jacob to reproduce from just 70 members to around 2 million in a mere 430 years.
Through Moses, with miracles, against a stubborn Pharaoh (so only God could get all the glory), God redeems His people to Himself through the Passover. In Exodus 19:5-6, God says to this new people, “you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Surprisingly at this early stage, the fledgling nation actually fulfills its purpose of being a testimony of the one true God.
Jethro, Moses father-in-law, visits this new nation and hears all God did in redeeming His people. So he says in Exodus 18:11, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods.” Then Jethro, previously a pagan, sacrifices to the Lord and eats a meal with all the elders of Israel before God. This Gentile becomes a believer in the one true God.
The second ingredient needed for a nation is found in that section where most people give up reading through the Bible–Exodus 20 through the entire book of Leviticus. In this misunderstood portion of Scripture, God gives His people their constitution at Mount Sinai. We call it the Law, but forget it was initiated by God’s love, mercy and grace to call His people to live a unique, sanctified life. It’s this constitution–this law that calls the government of Israel to be a theocracy, where God Himself would be their king. The throne would be the ark, and the capital would be the tabernacle.
Sadly, in the book of Numbers, just as the people were about to gain the last ingredient in becoming a nation, which was the land, they stumbled in disbelief. They believed the ten spies, and not Joshua and Caleb, and God disciplined them with a 40-year delay of wandering. After the 40 years, the next generation arrives in the mountains of Moab, overlooking the Jordan Valley and the land of Israel. Here Moses gives three sermons about Israel’s past, present and future, which make up the content of the book of Deuteronomy. In these final messages, Moses repeats 69 times that this new generation will possess and inherit the land.
That is exactly what they do in the Book of Joshua. With outstanding military strategy, they divide and conquer under General Joshua. They split the land of Israel right up the middle through Jericho, Ai and the Central Benjamin Plateau. Then they defeat the southern Canaanite kings, and next God gives them victory over the northern coalition of Canaanite city-states. Then they divide up the land among the twelve tribes. As a result, the people of Israel become the nation of Israel, since now they are a people with a constitution and a land.
After the battles of Joshua, they now have a center for the administration of God’s plan–the land of Israel. And all this time, God continues to preserve the seed line through little-known names such as those in Ruth 4:19–Hezron, Ram, Amminadab, Nahshon, and Salmon. Now turn to Deuteronomy 7. Even though God makes them a nation . . .
# 4 The nation fails to trust God and obey His Word Judges-1 Samuel
Deuteronomy 7:1-2 says, “When the Lord your God shall bring you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and shall clear away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites [termites] and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, 2 and when the Lord your God shall deliver them before you, and you shall defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.”
The people of God failed to live distinct like the one true God. Even though Joshua broke the strength of the Canaanites, the twelve tribes refused to complete God’s assignment of removing them permanently while they had the advantage. Very quickly, they began to be influenced by the very people they were to destroy. As a result of not remaining separate from the worldly Canaanites, they fell into a terrible repeated cycle found in the book of Judges.
Each cycle begins with the terrible compromise of sin, then the servitude of slavery, which caused them to cry out to God in supplication. God answered their prayer by raising up a judge to save them from their oppression. Then, to complete the cycle, they drifted back into a lifestyle that ignored their purpose, unity and separation, resulting in a time of complacent silence. Much like today, twice it says in the book of Judges (17:6 and 21:25), “every man did what was right in his own eyes.”
This terrible cycle of sin, servitude, supplication, saving and silence repeats seven times in Judges, with each cycle getting progressively worse. The author of Judges summarizes the terrible wickedness of this time with two appendices at the end of the book that describe a horror movie-type depravity and apostasy, including a story of violent sodomy and the dismembering of a human body, shipping body parts all over the nation.
Yet in the midst of this horror story, during this terrible time, our Heavenly Father is still at work calling people to Himself. For during this terrible time of the Judges, Ruth was written. In contrast to the book of Judges, this small letter shows how God even redeems a pagan Moabite woman, and places Ruth in his redemptive seed line, as pagan Ruth becomes the great-grandmother of King David, and a distant relative of the Lord Jesus Christ. Wow!
But in spite of this hopeful remnant, things get worse for the nation in I Samuel chapters 1-4. Eli the High Priest and his immoral sons bring about the worst possible scenario that results in total corruption and chaos. They think by bringing the ark to battle against the Philistines, they are guaranteed victory. But their hearts were far from God, so after a vicious battle with the Philistines, the nation of Israel is crushed and scattered. They’re left with . . .
No king–for the ark is captured
No capital–for we know from archaeology, Shiloh (which was where the tabernacle had been kept), was burned to the ground
No priest–Eli’s sons were killed in battle, and when he heard the ark had been taken by the Philistines, Eli fell over, broke his neck and died
Israel basically had . . .
No land–since after this devastating battle, the Philistines controlled all the trade routes and the people of Israel were either enslaved or hiding out in the hill country. And worst of all . . .
No theocracy–for the people had rejected God as their King
Which leads us to the 120 year monarchy–turn to Deuteronmy 17.
#5 God gives the nation a king 1 Samuel-1 Kings
Instead of turning from their sin and turning to their God, the people decide they want a king instead. It wasn’t wrong for them to want a king, or ask for a king, since Deuteronomy 17 makes provision for a king. Deuteronomy 17:14-15 says, “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves.”
Their problem was their motives–they didn’t want the king God would provide. They wanted a king just like all the other nations. Read 1 Samuel 8:20, “That we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” What were ancient kings like? He was the biggest man, the best fighter, carrying the biggest weapon–able to do the most damage. He often literally fought their battles for them.
Even though Samuel the prophet felt like Israel was rejecting him, in reality they were rejecting God by wanting a king in this manner, “just like all the other nations.” So God gave them . . .
First The king with no heart—Saul
Saul was a worldly king who led with worldly wisdom, and not by God’s Word as God’s representative. Saul was just like all the other pagan kings–physically head and shoulders above everyone in the nation of Israel. Yet he never had a heart that burned for God. Saul was never concerned about the ark (think about it)–the ark remained in a house during his entire 40 year reign. Saul continually disobeyed the direct commands of God, and ultimately Saul disqualified himself from being king. So God sought out another man to be his representative, the king who is the story of 1st and 2nd Samuel.
God’s plan for the nation was to be wholly devoted to God, and the king was to be a model of that commitment. Deuteronomy 17 even stated that the kings of Israel were to write out in their own hand a copy of the law of God, and read it all the days of their life so that they would fear God and keep His commandments. God knew that if their king followed Him and His Law, then so would the nation. But if the king didn’t, neither would the nation. And by God’s grace, the second king was different than Saul.
Second The king with a whole heart—David
David was a man after God’s own heart. He wrote the majority of the Psalms, and had a passion for his God. So much so that as soon as David became king over all of Israel, he conquered its capital, Jerusalem, then immediately brought the ark to a new tabernacle.
He desired to build a glorious temple for Yahweh, and though God denied him the privilege of building the temple, God blessed David greatly in 2 Samuel 7 with basically the same promise He made to Abraham in Genesis 12. David would be in the seed line that would lead to the Messiah. Though David sinned with Bathsheba and Uriah, little is said of his sin in the book of 1 Chronicles–do you know why? Because 1st and 2nd Chronicles are written from God’s perspective, and as far as God was concerned, once repented of, David’s sin was forgiven and forgotten. His sin was thrown as far as the east is from the west.
That is good news for those who turn from their sin as David did, since we too can experience the same kind of forgiveness from God. David was so passionate about his God, his faith was contagious, causing Israel to fulfill her purpose–since the Gentile king Huram of Tyre also believed in the God of Israel, and gave God praise as the only Creator and Sovereign King of the universe (2 Chronicles 2:11). Then there was . . .
Third The king with half a heart–Solomon
After David died, the kingdom went to Solomon, who started well as a young king, asking for wisdom to rule, building the temple in Jerusalem, writing most of the Proverbs, and all of the Song of Solomon–early in his 40-year reign. As a result of his early rule, there was the greatest peace that Israel had ever experienced. All of the land promised to Israel was in her possession. The nation was prosperous and enjoyed extensive building and development (many of the ruins still exist today).
Plus, the testimony of the nation went far and wide, where Gentile rulers, such as the queen of Sheba, would observe Solomon and the entire nation of Israel and give glory to God for what they saw. This was the high point in Israel’s ability to display the character of God, and dispense the knowledge that leads to faith in other nations, being the blessing God intended them to be before the Messiah came. Turn to Deuteronomy 17. Unfortunately, Solomon had three strikes against him.
There were three things the kings of Israel were told not to do in Deuteronomy 17:16-17, “Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’ 17 Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.”
Strike one: don’t multiply horses, which was a sign of military strength. God wanted Israel to trust in His might, not their might as a nation. First Kings 4:26 says Solomon had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen–strike one.
Strike two: don’t multiply wives–also a sign of wealth and prowess in the ancient world, yet 1 Kings 11:3-4 says, “He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. 4 For it came about when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been”–strike two.
Strike three: don’t increase silver and gold, yet Solomon did this through heavy taxation of his own people, labor contracts, foreign tribute, and trade with other countries to the point that the Scripture says in 1 Kings 10:21, “All of King Solomon’s eating utensils were of gold and none were of silver, because silver was not considered valuable in the days of Solomon”–strike three.
So God says, “Three strikes you’re out”—and as a result of Solomon’s sin, the last half of Solomon’s rule was marked by compromise and ruin. After he repents, at the close of his life, he writes the book of Ecclesiastes–but that did not keep the nation from splitting into two when he died after only 120 years of monarchy.
#6 The nation divides and the prophets speak 2 Kings-Daniel
In 931 BC, when Solomon died, the nation which was made up of twelve tribes, split into two separate nations. The ten northern tribes continued to be called Israel, but they were never ruled by a king who obeyed God. Consequently, they were finally disciplined by God, when He allowed the Assyrians to take them captive in 722 BC. The two southern tribes were called Judah. They had a few good kings who obeyed God. But ultimately, because they lost sight of their purpose, unity and separation, they were taken captive by the Babylonian empire in 605 BC. When Judah was conquered, it was called the Babylonian captivity–known as the exile, 70-year captivity, or Babylonian exile.
Between the death of Solomon in 931 BC and the Babylonian captivity starting in 605, much of the Old Testament was written during this period. God graciously continued to speak to His people and preserve the line that would ultimately lead to the Savior. Prophets like Obadiah, Amos and Hosea, Jonah, Micah, Isaiah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk and Jeremiah prophesied.
And during this time of mostly failure, God preserves the promise of a future through His chosen lineage. Matthew 1 tells us it continued from Solomon to Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joram, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah and through Jeconiah at the time of the deportation to Babylon. But the nation refuses to listen to God’s men and God’s Word. They forget their purpose, their unity and their unique holiness, and as a result God designs their captivity and exile.
#7 The nation is taken captive and sent away in exile
We have now arrived at Daniel. Our man Daniel is now on the scene. Everything up to this point was introduction. All this today has led up to the circumstances surrounding this man of God and this profound letter. The Assyrians had conquered the northern ten tribes, Israel, then tried to conquer the southern two tribes, Judah. But God delivered Judah from them under King Hezekiah. Soon after though, the Assyrian empire was defeated by the Babylonian empire under the leadership of the greatest Gentile king who ever lived, Nebuchadnezzar.
Very quickly, Nebuchadnezzar conquered the two remaining southern tribes called Judah. But Judah didn’t like being an occupied nation–they thought God was on their side even in their disobedience, so they resisted Babylon. They sought to make allegiances with Egypt to break free from Babylon. So Nebuchadnezzar had to suppress Judah a total of three times.
Turn to Daniel 1:1-4. The first time he conquered Judah in 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar did not destroy Jerusalem nor kill everyone. He did take into slavery the best youths (ages 12-18) of Judah, in order to transform them into vassals for Babylon. Once these youths were fully trained, they were to return to Judah as Judeans, but representing Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar.
This is when Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were taken captive–they were the Rhodes scholars of Judah, the straight “A” students, the super-achievers from the best families of Judah. The exact number of youths is unknown, but there were many–possibly up to 300 taken away to Babylon.
Exile # 1 was 605 BC–Daniel was taken captive, and it would last 70 years
Daniel 1:1-4 says, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand . . . 3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, 4 youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding, and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.”
Sadly, Judah still tries to make a deal with Egypt to overthrow Babylon’s yoke. Nebuchadnezzar finds out and returns to Judah, kills thousands, and takes the majority of the people of Judah captive to serve as slaves back in Babylon.
Exile #2 in 597 BC–Ezekiel was taken captive
They did not learn their lesson, and still tried to manipulate the political world in order to gain their freedom from captivity. Babylon found out, and as a result Nebuchadnezzar’s armies returned a third time, killed everyone who resisted, destroyed Jerusalem and took the captives back as slaves. This is when Jeremiah writes Lamentations.
Exile #3 in 586 BC–Jeremiah was taken captive
Now this looks like dark times, but there is really good news.
A God has a sovereign plan to change hearts
Circumstances are bad–you’ve been ripped from your home, many of your family and friends have been killed, you are told what to do, and if you don’t you’ll die. You’re under a leader more powerful than Hitler, and it really looks like God has abandoned you. Now what? Trust that God is in control and has a plan.
For hundreds of years, Israel struggled with idolatry, obeying the Word and longing for the Messiah. But by the time they return from Babylon, they will be cured of idolatry, they will desire to obey the law and long for a coming Messiah. God is going to take these difficult circumstances of captivity and radically change their hearts. And He is doing the same with some of you right now. You are battling with issues, struggling with circumstances, some of them really unfair–but be encouraged. God is at work for your good and His glory. He has a plan to transform you more into the image of Jesus Christ. Trust Him and thank Him.
B God has a passion to be exalted in difficult times
During the Old Testament, God’s purpose was for His people to be a witness to His character and to His salvation. As we walk with Daniel, we’ll see him graciously honor those in authority over him, and obey God’s Word even in the littlest thing–and as a result, God will be glorified. The greatest king will repent, the world’s officials will witness God’s greatness because of Dan’s example–and God desires for you and for us to be a window for others to see God’s character and the Gospel. But that will not happen when we’re angry, fearful, complaining or commit sexual sin. To exalt God in this life, we must live uniquely and attractively, with marriages people want, families people envy, a loving church and acts of compassion that point to Christ.
C God has a purpose to bring His children redemption
All the way through the Old Testament, God was actively working to bring about the salvation of His children, and protecting the seed line so the promised Messiah would come and save His people from their sins. Just like God said through the last Old Testament letter, in Malachi 3:1, “The Lord whom you seek will come.” And after 400 years of silence, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, explodes on the scene to die on the cross, take the punishment we deserved, rise from the dead and lives today to forgive and transform those who put their trust in Him alone. You are here today to hear that message, and hopefully respond.