September 27, 2006

Daniel: Hope Vindicated

2006 1527 pg10 capn 2005 Ghana’s national soccer team, the Black Stars, qualified to compete in the World Cup soccer competition to be held in Germany. They practiced hard, but they lost their first match. They didn’t give up hope, however. They believed that even though the battle was lost, with determination and hard work they could still qualify and thus win the war.
As well as working hard, the team also made some changes, such as finding a new coach and reshuffling team members’ positions. The combination worked, and by the end of the competition they had qualified. The Black Stars had lost the battle at the beginning, but motivated by hope, they were able to win the war.
The biblical account of Daniel’s journey of hope also demonstrates that a battle may be lost, yet the war can be won. We will look at how hope functioned in Daniel’s journey from three perspectives: life during captivity, day-to-day life in Babylon, and Daniel’s aspirations while in Babylon.

Jerusalem: Hope for Lost Battles

In the year 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and his armies besieged and conquered Jerusalem (see Dan. 1:2). After the city’s defeat, Nebuchadnezzar carried Judean captives as well as articles from the Temple of God to Babylon. As they were prodded along at the tip of insensitive spears under strict military watch, the captives were in a situation that seemed to indicate all was lost—the heathen had overcome the people of God.

2006 1527 page10Moses had warned the Israelites repeatedly that if they disobeyed the commandments of God, they would be taken into captivity (see Deut. 28:36, 64; Dan. 9:5, 6), and He eventually gave them into the hands of the heathen. They felt defeated, hopeless, helpless, and discouraged.
Yet Daniel, who was one of the captives, believed that although the battle was lost, the war could still be won—there was still hope for forgiveness, deliverance, and restoration. Thus Daniel begins his book with that theme: God is in control.
As a captive, Daniel confronted hopelessness and yet still held on to the God of hope. Had God not said: “If you sin and I send you away to exile and you repent, I shall relent, forgive you, and bring you back to Jerusalem” (see Lev. 26:40-45; 2 Chron. 7:13-15)?
Our circumstances might be bleak, our condition might be disastrous, our situation might seem hopeless, yet because the omnipotent God is in control, there is hope, and hope will inspire endurance (see 1 Thess. 1:3).

Present Hope—for the Challenges of Daily Living

After Daniel first arrived in Babylon, two incidents took place that show how hope played out in the challenges he faced daily as a slave in a foreign land. The first was the temptation to eat the king’s food.

Daniel and other chosen young captives who were to be trained for the king’s service were assigned “a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table” (Dan. 1:5). Most of the young captives in that position must have been happy about being fed from the king’s own table, but Daniel 1:8 says: “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.” He knew God had forbidden His people to eat such food, because it had been offered to idols and it was not good for his health. He was also aware that (1) with a strong biblical background he could block out the false concepts being imposed on them; (2) a change in name could not make him change his God or loyalty to Him; and (3) the effects of what we eat or drink on our mental clarity, ability to resist temptation, and capacity to distinguish between right and wrong are direct. And so, in a situation in which the majority of his countrymen, men of the same religion, were satisfied with the comforts of the Babylonian-imposed condition of life, Daniel determined to be true to God and His laws. He was very much aware that this action could result in his death, yet he trusted that God was able to protect him from harm.
God indeed honored Daniel’s trust. Within 10 days of refusing to eat the king’s food, Daniel and his three friends looked much better than those who had eaten it. Furthermore, at their final examination held at the end of three years of education, Daniel and his friends were judged 10 times better than those who failed to stand for God.
In the second situation, Daniel was a top-level administrator slated to be the prime minister. His colleagues, driven by envy and jealousy, convinced the king to “issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions’ den” (Dan. 6:7).

Questions for Reflection 
or Sharing

1. Have there been times when you have felt hopeless or helpless? In what ways did you deal with those feelings? Did God ultimately reveal control over the situations?

2. When you lose a battle, do you tend to give up, or do you keep trying until you win the war? Has this devotional helped to change your perspective on dealing with challenges and apparent defeat? If so, in what ways?

Would Daniel now depend on his political position and diplomacy to get out of this? Daniel still showed the same evidence of hope as before by praying to his God three times a day, as was his custom.

At the instigation of his colleagues and to the dismay of the king, Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den. Again his hope was fulfilled; the Lord delivered Daniel from the lions.
God is able to protect and sustain those who hope in Him. The prophet Isaiah emphasizes this in Isaiah 49:23: “Those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”
Daniel overcame the challenges of daily living because he trusted in the God whom he had known personally through daily communion. He wouldn’t allow anything, not even death in the lions’ den, to disrupt that.
How much time do you give to communication with God and His Word? One thing about hope is that there must be a meaningful relationship with and knowledge of the source of hope. Daniel had these, and so he overcame. We also can overcome only by having a strong personal connection with our source of hope.

Hope for a Better Tomorrow

Daniel had been saved from the lions’ den. His enemies had been destroyed. He had been promoted and was prospering in Babylon. Yet Babylon was not his home. The Lord revealed to him in visions His plans for His people, instilling hope in the heart of Daniel and the readers of his book. Daniel was pointed to a glorious future when God’s intention for the human race will be consummated. He saw the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and His sacrificial death for the human race (see Dan. 9:23-27), His mediation in the heavenly sanctuary (see Dan 8:9-14), and the moment when the final resolution of the cosmic conflict will occur through a process of cleansing and judgment.

In the visions Daniel is informed that the time of the end had not yet arrived. But God’s people are encouraged to hold on to the hope of God’s final victory over His enemies. There will be times when the forces of evil will appear to have the upper hand, oppressing and persecuting the saints, but their deliverance is certain.
Daniel is a book about hope in the midst of conflict and persecution. History may indicate that world events are out of control, and the kingdoms of the world may appear to succeed one another without any particular final goal for the future. But Daniel tells us that God is indeed in charge, leading events on earth to their ultimate goal, namely, the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. This hope is centered on the coming of the promised Messiah, to whom God will hand the eternal kingdom.
The world in which we live may appear to be out of control and in a state of chaos, but our hope affirms that this is not the case. God is indeed working in the midst of that chaos, bringing into realization our hope. Let us keep on nurturing our hope through the study of Daniel’s hope, which is, in fact, the Adventist hope.
Brempong Owusu-Antwi is the vice chancellor of the Adventist University of Africa, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.