There are several key lessons we need to glean from the first chapter of Daniel and the overview of the entire book before we move on in our study. Many Christian leaders are telling us that God is clearly judging America. How do we as His people respond to this and intercede for our nation? What lessons can we learn from the example of Daniel and his three friends as to what we can do as individual believers even if the majority of our nation (as was true for Israel/Judah) does not (and did not in Judah’s case) live a life of trust and obedience to God? Let’s review Daniel 1 and the overview of the book with these questions in mind.
“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand.” (Dan. 1:1-2) Note “the Lord gave Jehoiakim” (and Judah, the southern kingdom with Jerusalem as the capital) into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand. God raised up Babylon to be His rod of judgment against His disobedient people as He had warned them He would do if they turned away from Him. (E.g., see 2 Chronicles 7:12-22) And after using evil Babylon for His chastening purposes, to bring His people to repentance, He raised up the Medes and the Persians to defeat Babylon. Read the following to see how this happened as prophesied by Daniel years before it happened: This is Daniel speaking to Nebuchadnezzar as he interprets his dream: “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him. “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings.” (Dan. 2:20-21) “You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory; and wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all.” (Dan. 2:37-38) God raises up nations to accomplish His purposes and blesses or judges them according to their obedience to His purposes.
In chapter 5, many years later, we see Daniel interpreting the handwriting on the wall (a phrase from Daniel 5 that we now use to speak of imminent judgment/consequences) to the new king of Babylon, Belshazzar: “Now this is the inscription that was written out: ‘MENĒ, MENĒ, TEKĒL, UPHARSIN.’ This is the interpretation of the message: ‘MENĒ’—God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. ‘TEKĒL’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. ‘PERĒS’—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.” That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain. So Darius the Mede received the kingdom (i.e., from God) at about the age of sixty-two.” (Dan. 5:25-28; 30-31) Later on we see God raise up the Greeks to conquer Persia and so on until: “During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever. That is the meaning of the rock cut from the mountain, though not by human hands, that crushed to pieces the statue of iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold. The great God was showing the king what will happen in the future. The dream is true, and its meaning is certain.” (Dan. 2:44-45)
So first of all how does God deal with nations which He established for His purposes? “Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.” (Jer. 18:5-10) Edom is an example of a nation judged by God.
[“The prophet Obadiah (Obadiah 1:1-21), pronounced the coming judgment of God upon the nation of Edom, a prophecy that was announced about 588 B.C. and fulfilled by 583 B.C. when the Babylonians conquered the Edomites and drove them out of their land. Edom was once a nation that was filled with wealth (Obadiah 1:6), allied with other nations (Obadiah 1:7), known for its wise men (Obadiah 1:8), and having military might (Obadiah 1:9). While Edom was not necessarily a world power, they were no pushover nation either. The nation of Edom became deceived by the pride of their heart. This led to the development of a false sense of security and a spirit of defiance among its people. God charged, “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; you who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’” (Obadiah 1:3). God assured them, “I will bring you down” (Obadiah 1:4). America has become a nation that is much like the former nation of Edom. Generally speaking, American people live with a false sense of security, and we tend to manifest a spirit of defiance as well. The utter surprise of many in our nation that something like the 9-11 terrorist attacks could even happen in America is proof of our false sense of security. The fact that we have not been defeated in previous wars has led to a prideful spirit of defiance that declares we will not and cannot be defeated in future wars. We have responded to the terrorist attacks in our nation with great assurance and much certainty that “We will not be defeated!” – or, as Edom once put it, “Who will bring me down to the ground?” Why are we so certain, so confident, so boastful? It is because we have not been defeated before this time. We have had the financial means (wealth) to sustain our wars. We have had the support of other nations (allies) to wage our war. We have had experts in foreign relations and warfare to guide us (wisdom), and we have the most capable and powerful weapons and personnel on the face of the earth (military might). So we, like Edom, boldly declare, “Who will bring me down to the ground?” Yes, we Americans are quite sure of ourselves and of our future. There is one factor, however, that the American people have not generally considered. That factor is the sovereignty and decisions of Almighty God regarding America. If it is within God’s wisdom and providence to punish our nation for its pride, its false sense of security, and its spirit of defiance, He can and will do so. If He determines that the wealth, the support of our allies, the wisdom of our leaders, and the power of our military might shall be taken away, these will be taken away, and we, like Edom of old, will be a nation that cannot stand, no matter how loudly we sing “God Bless America” or declare that God is on our side. God’s past judgment on the nation of Edom should be a concern to us today. These principles by which He judges nations have not changed. Almighty God “plucks up, pulls down and destroys” nations, and He “builds and plants” nations (Jeremiah 18:7, 9) based upon whether they will or will not abide by principles of righteousness. When a nation ceases to abide by principles of righteousness, it is a nation that is worthy of God’s judgment against them. As the Proverb writer stated, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).”] http://preachersfiles.com/gods-dealings-with-nations/
What can we do (or more accurately, what can you or I do) to respond to God both as an individual believer and as a citizen of America? [“A great evangelist was asked how revival begins. His answer: Go home, draw a circle around yourself, and pray until everything inside that circle is right with God. When it is, revival will be upon us. Can a national awakening begin with you? Denison Forum on Truth and Culture 17304 Preston Rd Suite 1060 Dallas, TX 75252-5618 Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.”]
This leads us back to Daniel’s example and what he did as an individual believer whose nation (Israel/Judah) had turned from God and he was now living as an exile in pagan Babylon. [“Ours (America) is now, emphatically, a post-Christian culture, and the community of Christian believers are now, more than ever – spiritually speaking – exiles in a land of exile.” (James Davison Hunter, To Change The World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (New York: Oxford Press, 2010), p. 277.) ”]
“But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself.” (Dan. 1:8) I can’t think of a better Scripture to emulate the example of Daniel than Romans 12:1-2 as it applies to us as NT believers: “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].” Note the word “therefore” in verse 1. It is essentially referring to all that God has done for us as seen in the first eleven chapters of Romans and especially saving us from eternal damnation through the costly, voluntary, and excruciating death of His Only Begotten Son and promising us an eternal life of unimaginable bliss with God and all His saints in a perfect new heaven and new earth forever and ever! Therefore, in view of all this we are, like Daniel, to offer God our whole life (the brief time we have on this earth) in loving, sacrificial, worshipful service. We are, like Daniel, not to be conformed to the ways of godless nations and people but in fact be transformed into the likeness of Jesus so we can influence our “world” (our sphere of influence) for Him. Even if our country continues to turn away from God, we can let God change us. After all, it will be us not America that goes to the judgment seat of Christ.
Also we are called to intercede for our nation, meaning the people in our nation, many who are lost (as we were) and many who are needy (believers and unbelievers) and for our leaders (as we are commanded to do; 1 Tim. 2:1-5) both for their salvation and for the courage and wisdom to lead us in a way pleasing to God. The following are two good examples for praying for our nation, with Daniel being a good example of how to pray for a nation turned away from God. But let’s look first at the well-known prayer in 2 Chronicles 7:14 and make sure we are praying this with a heart that pleases God and is in line with His spiritual and eternal purposes. “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” This is a prayer God Himself writes and tells us to pray. Note we are to seek His face, not His hands. We are not to seek Him just for what He can do for us (His hands – improve our economy, keep us safe and make us happy) but we are to seek His face. I think this means to live in such a way that we bring a smile to His face and, if not, we see a tear in His eye when we don’t. And when we grieve Him it breaks our hearts and causes us to change our ways. God wants that kind of intimate, personal relationship with us so He can guide us in His ways and purposes which are always for our highest good even though it requires sacrificial living in this brief sojourn.
The second prayer is Daniel’s prayer in 9:4-19. Please read this and think of America and your city and note one thing in particular: Daniel (who had no sins recorded in Scripture –though we know he sinned per Rom. 3:23) confesses his sins and the sins of God’s people MORE THAN THE SINS OF BABYLON. For us today that means that we confess our sins as a saved and heaven-bound saint and the sins of other believers (the church) MORE THAN WE TALK ABOUT THE SINS OF OUR GOVERNMENT, OF ATHEISTS, OF HOMOSEXUALS, ETC. Jesus said it this way: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste (its strength, its quality), how can its saltiness be restored? It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your ]moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:13-16) Remember the quote from above: “A great evangelist was asked how revival begins. His answer: Go home, draw a circle around yourself, and pray until everything inside that circle is right with God. When it is, revival will be upon us.” ”For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)
One last point as it relates to Daniel (see chapters 7-12) and us today: God promises to bless those people who pray for and care for the Jewish nation and His purposes for that land and people. Here are a few Scriptures that can guide us in our understanding and our prayers for the people and land of Israel.
“The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen. 12:1-3)
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. “May peace be within your walls, And prosperity within your palaces.” For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, “May peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.” (Psalm 122:6-9)
“How can we sing the LORD’S song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem may my right hand forget her skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.” (Psalm 137:4-6) It is not wrong to sing God Bless America but we also must sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land (this world) which exalts Jerusalem. Why? Because God chose Israel and Jerusalem as the apple of His eye. “In a desert land he found him (a metaphor about Israel), in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple (or pupil) of his eye.” (Deut. 32:10) “Whoever touches you (Israel) touches the apple of his eye.” (Zech. 2:8) “On that day I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock. All the nations will gather against it to try to move (or divide it), but they will only hurt themselves.” (Zech. 12:3) This means that if we do not pray for and work for God’s purposes for Israel/Jerusalem it is like poking God in the eye and hurting ourselves. This is not because of the goodness of the Jewish people in Israel or elsewhere in the world, but we are to agree with and pray for God’s unconditional promises He made to them for the glory of His Name. “For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.” (1 Sam. 12:22)
“On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; All day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves; And give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” (Isa. 62:6-7)
(See http://www.prayerforallpeople.com/jerusalem.html for additional prayers for Israel/Jerusalem.)
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
In this lesson we have three main areas of obedience that God calls us to through Scripture:
1. Personal revival – “But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself.” (Dan. 1:8) Read Romans 12:1-2 and discuss how the world (like Babylon did with Daniel) tries to conform us to its ways. How does this quote help us apply Romans 12:1-2 to our need for personal revival? “Go home, draw a circle around yourself, and pray until everything inside that circle is right with God.” After all, it will be us not America that goes to the judgment seat of Christ.
2. Intercession for our nation – What was your take away regarding the prayers of intercession seen in 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Daniel 9:4-19?
3. Prayers for God’s purposes regarding Israel and the Jewish people – Why is it important to God that His Word about Israel and Jerusalem come true? Which of these Scriptures spoke to you about how God wants you to pray for His purposes in Israel/Jerusalem?
4. What is your main take away from the message and how can you apply it to your life?