Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Book of Daniel (Daniy'el)

Today I have finally felt well enough to share an amazing story of faith, courage, and divine grace. Spending the last week in and out of the hospital has given me pause in my writing, but tonight I feel strong and inspired. As usual my take on Daniel will not be the norm, because there is much more in this small book than could ever be covered in one sitting. To begin, we need to understand that the Word of God is, and always has been true to the last detail. Biblical authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit every time they put pen to papyrus whether they realized it or not. Inspired Scripture does not need any defense no matter what you read, are told or have been led to believe. It has been the beacon of truth from God for almost six thousand years. The other side of this divine coin is that these writings, whether in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Aramaic or any modern language are all truly inspired by God and are used everyday by Him to revive a soul, forgive a soul, and to communicate with a soul. Biblical versions are not the problem. The heart of man is the problem, because Satan loves to cast confusion and doubt amongst us at every turn. If he can take our eye off of pure scriptural truth and get us to fight about issues in the name of the "church," or "religion," we have given his plan of biblical subterfuge new life, where there is only death and destruction. Consider the fact that you can lead anyone to the truth of Jesus Christ with any Bible, from any time in the past you choose. Is the current Canon of Biblical Books correct? Did someone leave out a book or two? Did someone translate with a dogmatic chip on their shoulder? Were mistakes made in translation? Where their copying errors?  Does every religion think that they have the "authoritative" version? If you are honest with yourself, you will understand that the Word of God has withstood six thousand years of these issues and many more. When our finite minds try to grasp the "infinite" wisdom of the only one, "Lord God Almighty," we try to take that which is boundless and beyond border, and cram it into a finite mind that needs boundaries and borders to comprehend. His New Covenant makes clear the path to righteousness. Unfortunately that path is narrow and requires divine wisdom through communication with Him every step of the way home, regardless of version.

Many of us grew up knowing the story of Daniel in the lion's den, along with the story of Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego in the fiery furnace. Whatever you personal scriptural preference, the Book of Daniel should remain near the top. Whether your version has 12, 13, 14, or 15 chapters, God will illuminate every important passage for you, if you just clear away your sin by asking for forgiveness, and  ask Him to grant you divine guidance and insight as you read. If you are led by the Spirit in this endeavor, He will make sure you are not led astray, while your immortal soul heals and grows.
As you might guess there are "boucoup" (tons) of interpretations on this historic passage, and after spending time piecing together the the arguments on who wrote the book, when the book was written, why was it written, why it is in the Canon with 12 chapters even though the Septuagint/Greek version has three additional chapters, and what about the "Dead Sea Scrolls," version, etc., etc? Pick one and read it the way I have delineated above, and you will learn everything God needs you to know. If you are curious about the Catholic Version, read it too. Feel free to learn from it, compare to it and digest it all. Believe it or not, sometimes the Catholic translators get it right, sometimes the Jewish theologians and sometimes the Protestants. Picking one and calling it the only truth is like picking CNN or MSNBC or FOX. Seems to me we have two choices in mining Biblical gold. You can pick a version that appeals to your level of understanding and use the Holy Spirit to keep you on the right path, or you can drill down into the original languages for those diamonds and other gems hidden there for centuries. Remember the more you try to make the Word of God fit into man-made boundaries, the more you missed the point. 

So let's understand the key characters in this passage called Daniy'el. The Prophet Daniel was born a Jew in the southern region of Israel in the early 5th century. During his late teens, the Babylonians made another invasion into the south, taking prisioners and the spoils of victory back to Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzer was a powerful King and believed in the many different gods of the time, including himself. Daniel was an ardent believer in his God, talking to Him daily throughout his life. Assigned to service in the King's royal court, he became noteworthy rather quickly, because he refused to eat the royal food that he was entitled to because of his job. Imagine the finest cuisine of the time was being refused by a Hebrew slave. His piety and deep devotion to God forbid him to eat food that was quite literally "fit for a king." This was the first confrontation with the King, who could not understand why he refused the best food in all the land. The Bible says that the food was "unclean" and for you OT buffs, this probably meant that much of it was used in sacrifice to the Babylonian god of choice or Nebu, himself. Daniel simply chose to eat vegetables and fruit. Was it arrogance or pride on the part of Daniel? Absolutely not, he only wanted to stay sinless in the sight of his God. His testimony on something as simple as food caught the King's attention, and the health of Daniel's method was put to the test immediately. After an allotted period of time the King was satisfied that Daniel's peculiar eating habits were acceptable. For the King it had nothing to do with clean or unclean, it had only to do with seeing if Daniel could live without the mountain of meats supplied daily to the court on his behalf. For Daniel it was all about Mosaic Law passed down through the generations. Most Jews assigned to the court would gladly partake, figuring that they did not make the sacrifice to the pagan gods, so why not enjoy what has been provided for them...From that day forward Daniel was labeled as "different," by not only the King, but all of his ministers, advisors and priests. What would you have done in this situation? Probably what most every modern Jew does today...Enjoy the food. What makes this sequence "priceless," is that a teenager, ripped from his homeland in Judea, was able maintain the value system of his God without compromising himself and going along...That is the story here, and the lesson to be learned. He didn't get preachy about it, he didn't get arrogant, he let the King judge his actions on their own merit. That is why he was mentally marked by the King as truly unique, in a world where everyone said "Yes," to the King's every whim. This was the beginning of the conversion of an infamous King twenty-five hundred years ago who had everything the world had to offer, but was smart enough to see something unique in a young man who was his slave. 
As this story goes, the King had a series of dreams that neither he or any of his priests, soothsayers or magicians could interpret for him.  These were his own holy or otherwise talented minions. When none could help him, he decreed that they would all be killed unless they found someone to interpret his dreams. He made it doubly difficult, because not only was this person to interpret his dreams, but he was also to conjure up the dreams on his own without any assistance from the King. Nebu, the King was a man that valued nothing but power and wealth. He would kill hundreds, just because he didn't understand his dreams. Why is it that power and wealth seem to corrupt the soul? Could it be that they are allowable tools for Satan to use on this earth? Think about it...All through history from the beginning of time that combination has destroyed all that it touched. If you and I have a narrow road to salvation, how much more narrow is the road for the man of means? It certainly gives new meaning to the "eye of the needle" spoken of by Jesus in the NT. Traditionally we believe that this metaphor is about a camel going though the eye of a needle, kind of like our modern variation of having two chances, slim and none! But consider these stories passed down through the centuries:
For the last two centuries it has been common teaching in Sunday School that there is a gate in Jerusalem called the eye of the needle through which a camel could not pass unless it stooped and first had all its baggage first removed. After dark, when the main gates were shut, travellers or merchants would have to use this smaller gate, through which the camel could only enter unencumbered and crawling on its knees! Great sermon material, with the parallels of coming to God on our knees without all our baggage. A lovely story and an excellent parable for preaching but unfortunately unfounded! From at least the 15th century, and possibly as early as the 9th but not earlier, this story has been put forth, however, there is no evidence for such a gate, nor record of reprimand of the architect who may have forgotten to make a gate big enough for the camel and rider to pass through unhindered. 

Variations on this theme include that of ancient inns having small entrances to thwart thieves, or the story of an old mountain pass known as the "eye of the needle", so narrow that merchants would have to dismount from their camels and were thus easier prey for brigands lying in wait. 
Either way this is a metaphor for all time, so back to the Daniel and the King...We all have been taught that the early chapters of this book is about Daniel and the three boys, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednigo. In my next Post I will get to the Lion's Den, the Fiery Furnace, and maybe Daniel's four prophetic dreams, but I cannot stress strongly enough that this is about a devout Hebrew boy, whose flawless testimony and courage eventually dragged King Nebu, himself, through the eye of the needle! To miss this is to miss the perfection and beauty of the divine plan. Nebuchadnezzer had to be led by God down to his knees and maybe all fours, like the camel at the hidden gate above. He had to crawl under the back gate of heaven, but not until he had unloaded all of his baggage willingly and obediently. This is how our God works, if we let him!! He will use the tiniest bit of faith and obedience from us to do great things; in fact, He is waiting for you to stand for Him. I am not talking about picketing and sit-ins, revolution or anarchy, just simple faith and obedience. Faith that He will come through for you, and obedience to his inspired Word. 
God has always used the humble, the tiny and even the sick to bring down worldly giants for centuries. Tiny David and his slingshot took down the mighty nine foot tall, Goliath, with a pebble. 

Daniel's name in Hebrew means, "God is my Judge." True to that name, he never lost his focus, even after being enslaved, mistreated, and misunderstood. If you paint this on your forehead, tattoo it on your arm, print it on a t-shirt or just make it your mantra for life, you will never go wrong. God is the eternal North on our compass called life.

Thanks for your time and consideration of these words. May
God allow you to sift the wheat!

The Digital Disciple

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Hearing from you is certainly not a requirement. Consideration of what is researched and written is all I ask of anyone who stumbles upon my writings. I believe that my God will take it from there. With His help I try to separate fact from fiction, sense from nonsense, and ultimately clarity from chaos.


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