God Is In Control

Daniel


Author: Gareth Russell Date: Sunday, February 1, 2015 Campus:
This week we started a new series focusing on the book of Daniel.

This week we started a new series focusing on the book of Daniel. The first week we spoke on the first chapter and how God was in control through. If you want to listen again, clickhere – otherwise the transcript and questions are below.

1. What do you feel God was saying to you through this talk?

2. What surprised you about this subject?

3. What practical action do you feel you need to make as a result of what God has been saying to you?

Daniel 1 // Grand Union Vineyard Church // Sunday 1st February 2015

Today we start a new series focusing on the book of Daniel, and I want to tell you I am looking forward to this one.

Daniel has always been one of my favourite characters in the Bible. There is drama, there is intrigue, there is the downright unbelievable.

The story of Daniel is incredible so let’s get stuck in and start reading chapter 1.

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 delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure-house of his god.

3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility – 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favour and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men of your age? The king would then have my head because of you.’

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 ‘Please test your servants for ten days: give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.’ 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

So, let’s just recap on the context here.

Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon. He was a frightening man.

The Babylonians were a ancient day equivalent of ISIS. They were barbaric, they would behead their enemies just for fun and play football with them.

And at the beginning of this passage, we read that they came to Jerusalem, to the people of Israel and besieged the city with their armies.

Nebuchadnezzar, the supreme leader of Babylonia, was feared throughout the world. When he invaded a country, defeat was certain. After a victory, the Babylonians usually took the most talented and useful people back to Babylon and left only the poor behind to take whatever land they wanted and to live peacefully there. This system fostered great loyalty from conquered lands and ensured a steady supply of wise and talented people for civil service.

They took the best young adults and their aim was to inculcate their culture in order to help the Babylonians rule the world. And Daniel was one of those talented people who were identified.

He and his three friends were captured, transported (walking over 500 miles) and then coerced into become Babylonian – told to change his name, his language, his diet, and ultimately his God.

For a moment, just put yourself in Daniel’s shoes.

Let’s say ISIS took siege of Milton Keynes. You are one of the bright young things in the city and they put you on a flight to the middle of nowhere in the Middle East.

They change your name. They say you can only communicate in Arabic. They make you eat food you have never eaten. And they ask you to worship a god that is not our God.

What is your response?

Are you paralysed by fear? Do you give in to their demands? Do you fight back and try to force your culture and faith on them?

I don’t know how I would react, but I hope I would react like Daniel.

You see, Daniel didn’t show fear. He may have felt it, but it never comes across.

He also refused to simply be a walk over and give in.

But he didn’t fight either.

What Daniel did do was show utter reliance, utter trust, utter faith in his God.

Daniel trusted God.

He believed that God was in control.

The situation around him was pretty dire. Everything changed, he would never see his family again or his homeland, he would spend his whole life in Babylon – serving that nation for almost 70 years.

But despite that he believed God was in control.

How do we know God was in fact in control?

Let’s read verses 1 and 2 again.

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 delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia[a] and put in the treasure-house of his god.

Did you notice what it said in verse 2? It was the Lord who delivered the king of Judah into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.

It looked like the Devil was winning, it looked like the plans of evil were overcoming the plans of God.

But, you see God was fully in control. He was doing something powerful and shaping his people into something they were meant to be which wouldn’t have happened in Jerusalem because you could hide your faithlessness there – not in Babylon, either have real faith or die.

In safety, you can look like a Christian, act like a Christian, talk like a Christian, but not live an authentic walk – when the safety is removed, when you are in danger, when your life is under threat, there is no place for plastic theology – if you choose to stand for your faith, it is because you are a genuine follower of Jesus Christ.

We live in a culture now that is either anti-Christian or it is completely apathetic about Christianity. They either hate God or they simply don’t care.

We could look at that situation and think to ourselves, the Devil is gaining ground, we are losing the battle, hope is fading.

But let me tell you, God is in control. He has this in his hands. There is nothing that can defeat him and nothing that can separate us from him.

God is in control.

But we, like Daniel need to make sure that we don’t allow the changing culture to dilute our values, our faith, and our relationship with God.

At no point did Daniel concede to the culture around him. He didn’t fight against it, he simply stood for what he believed and and the faith to believe that God would protect him.

John Wimber, who was the founder of the Vineyard movement of churches, once said: “If the Church loses the ability to recognise and resist the seducing influence of cultural trends the result is a shipwrecked faith & powerless witness. We don’t follow trends, we follow Christ…”

We have to be conscious that there are damaging influences in society. Should we completely ostracise ourselves, should we dress in sackcloth and live like hermits. Absolutely not, we are called to be salt and light – how can we do that if we create a church or Christian subculture where we never interact with anyone but our own.

We have to be our there in our communities, our families, our workplaces.

But in the same way, we should not just give in to the demands of society to the detriment of our relationship with the King of Kings, God our Father. Our words should be worthy of Jesus Christ, our actions should display Jesus Christ and our motivation should be the glory of Jesus Christ.

Daniel had full trust in God, that He was in control and that everything that was happening was happening for a reason.

In Acts 17:26, it reads “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” God is in control, he raises empires up and takes them down.

Whatever is going on in your life, God has a plan. It may not feel like that, He may even feel distant, but God is in control.

We see in verse 9 that God was even in control of those people who worshipped other Gods! In that verse we read, “Now God had caused the official to show favour and compassion to Daniel”. This official was an employee of the kingdom of Babylon, he was anti Daniel’s God, but still it was God who caused the official to show favour.

And because of Daniel’s faith and trust in God, he became the most valued servant in the kingdom of Babylon without compromising.

Look at your life for a moment. Maybe it’s your workplace, maybe your family, maybe it’s your friendship groups, or sports club, or school.

What areas do you feel you may be compromising? In what areas is God challenging you right now in this moment that you need to rededicate to Him?

In what areas have you stopped trusting in God and begun trusting in your own strength or you have become more reliant on TV, food, money, alcohol, drugs, or work to fill the void?

Yes things may be shaking in our lives, our circumstances may be shaking, but we do not need to be shaken.

Yes this around us may be uncertain, you may not see how a situation in your life can resolve itself, but we do not need to be afraid, God is in control.

So if we choose to live in complete faith in God, if this city is where we are going to live, a city that may not share the same values as us, a city that may scoff at our faith, a city that may misunderstand us and alienate us, if this is where we choose to live, what then?

Jeremiah 29:4-7

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.

Jeremiah 29:11-13

For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

God says to the people of Jerusalem, they made you a slave and now you are called to pray. Pray for the city to prosper – because if it prospers, you will prosper – for I know the plans I have for you and they are plans to prosper you and not to harm you.

And you will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

What a promise.

Yes Daniel, your circumstances are not what you imagined they would be. Yes Daniel, you are in a culture that does not recognise your God. Yes Daniel you may feel like an outsider.

But pray to the Lord for that city, because if it prospers, you will prosper.

At the end of chapter 1 we read this, “At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.”

We are called to love this city but don’t assimilate to it.

We are called to serve this city, but don’t give up our values.

Yes, there will be a tension, but embrace the tension, it will be a lot more unpredictable but a lot more exciting.

It will mean we as a church are a true light in the darkness, a true worshipping church not looking for comfort, wealth and materialism, but looking to serve and love.

God wants us to bless our city.

The city may not share our deepest convictions, in that environment it may be easier to be reactionary, to fight against them, and that may be more satisfying too – but we are called to be more creative at communicating in the gospel in a way they understand.

Showing them through our actions and words, what the good news of Jesus Christ is.

I have recently done a research project assessing the state of faith in this nation. If you speak to any theologian, they love to put labels to things – whether it be post-Christian or post-modern, post-this, post-that.

But during this research project, I heard one respondent describe the nation as pre Christian.

We have been a Christian nation for many years. In more recent times, the majority of people in the country would not have called themselves Christians, and may have had negative or even damaging interactions with the church.

But we now have an opportunity, we are now starting from scratch. People don’t have those same hang ups, they have never been to church and so have never been hurt by church.

They have never heard of Jesus and so do not have a negative opinion of Jesus.

They have never read the Bible and so don’t have a skewed opinion of what it says.

We now have an opportunity. We are living in our own Babylon. The culture doesn’t recognise the God we serve, but we are called to serve them with the love of God.

We need to find new ways to show and speak the good news of Jesus Christ.

Then, and only then, can we see a city transformed.