Daniel 002: The Blessings of Overcoming the World – Part 1Daniel 1:1-7 • Dr. Andy Woods • November 13, 2016 • Daniel
SUGAR LAND BIBLE CHURCH
Lesson 2, The Blessings of Overcoming the World, Daniel 1:1-7
November 13, 2016,
Good morning everybody. If we could take our Bibles and open them to the Book of Daniel, chapter 1, verse 1, talking this morning about the blessings, entitled The Blessings of Overcoming the World. Of course this is Veteran’s Day weekend so we want to recognize our veterans. If anybody here has served our country could you stand so we can recognize you. Wow, look at that. [clapping] Awesome; thank you for your service. And I want to thank Gabe for filling in last week as he touched on a really important subject, Replacement Theology. I notice Gabe and Jim when they sub in for me they’re now doing Part 1’s, so they’ve picked up some bad habits I guess, by watching me, but I look forward to listening to part 2 when that time comes.
Since I’ve been doing a lengthy series prior to getting into this one on the whole subject of the Bible and Voting people have been asking me, well did you see the elections? Of course I saw the election. What’d you think? And let me just say something real brief about it. I tried very hard in that series not to be partisan, to favor one candidate over the other. I know you can look at the two different candidates and see problems in each of them and I’m very much in touch with that emotion, believe me. But I kind of look at things from a different grid than a lot of people do; I look at things through a free speech grid, largely because of what I do. I teach a lot of things that go against politically correct orthodoxy and I’m always sort of worried as I look at national elections like this that America is going to become another Canada. My friend, David Reagan, who teaches a TV show on prophecy, subbed in for another prophecy teacher on another show and he was specifically told do not criticize homosexuality. And David Reagan asked well why? Well the answer is our broadcast goes into Canada and if you criticize homosexuality we bring the force of Canadian law onto that.
So with the subject of progressivism, liberalism, those kind of a grid I look at things through is are we going to have another repeat of what happened here in Houston, you remember, with the mayor basically subpoenaing, confiscating the pastor’s, paid pastor’s sermons and sermon notes. And you know, we take free speech for granted, we just assume it’s going to be here forever, and the fact of the matter is free speech is something very delicate in world history. It’s a very rare gift. And it’s something that if God allows us I’d like to retain it in this country and be a good steward of it.
So having said all that I was somewhat elated about the election results. From a personal level I think free speech has a lot better chance of surviving the way things worked out than the way things could have worked out. Are you with me on that? [clapping] Apparently there are some people here that feel strongly about it too; praise the Lord! But there’s really two things that come to my mind as I watched the election, and I went to bed at 9:00 o’clock, thinking she (I won’t mention her name) is going to be our President. That’s what I thought and I woke up about 11:30-12:00 and I said ah, I got to see what’s going on, and I turned on the TV and I saw on the TV Wisconsin goes for Trump. And I thought am I dead and in heaven? [Laughter] What in the world just happened here; I mean, Wisconsin… not to put anybody down from Wisconsin but that’s not exactly a red state, it hasn’t voted Republican since Ronald Reagan in 1984. So the two words that really come to my mind when I look at this election are (the two metaphors are) number 1, I think America dodged a bullet. That’s phrase number 1 and the second thing that I think about is the grace of God. [clapping]
I don’t attribute that what happened to a political strategy, a personality, I attribute it largely to what God’s people did, not so much in terms of voting, which we encourage you to do, but in terms of praying. And I don’t think people counted on the God factor or the prayer factor. Franklin Graham (the son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham) said something very similar on his Facebook page. And Dr. Jim McGowan and myself do a live feed on Friday’s at 2:00 on Facebook, if you’re a Facebook user you might want to tune in; if you’re not a Facebook user it’s not necessarily a habit you should probably pick up. But that was really our subject, we weren’t attributing it to a philosophy or a marketing strategy, we were trying to attract glory to God and His grace. And for whatever reason God, in my mind, still continues to shed grace on the United States of America.
And my sin, if I have sin (I’ve got many by the way) but one of them is I’ve written the political obituary of America too early; apparently God is not finished with the United States of America. And you can disagree with me and we can still be friends at the end of the day but that’s sort of the spectrum that I’ve looked at the election through, dodging a bullet and the grace of God. That’s my opinion and you can take that for what it’s worth. [clapping]
The Book of Daniel, chapter 1, we kicked off this series a couple of weeks ago and we basically went through the background of the Book of Daniel. Daniel, of course being in Babylonian captivity when the Word of the Lord began to speak to him and raise him up. The Book of Daniel, if you want to know what the whole thing is about it’s about the times of the Gentiles. Israel is in a brand new period of time, something that they have never experienced before. They are out of their homeland, they are 350 miles to the east in a place called Babylon and they’re being trampled down by various Gentile powers, Babylon being the first.
And this is the first time in Jewish history, after the inauguration of David, Israel’s second king, that they had no king reigning on David’s throne. So it’s a time period when the last king on David’s throne was vacated from the throne, a man named Zedekiah, and covers a time in history leading right up to the Second Advent when Jesus will resume His reign on David’s throne. So prior to this point in time there is no divine revelation concerning what is the program of God during this period of time called the times of the Gentiles. And that is largely why God raised up Daniel.
Daniel, as we’re going to see, was gifted by the Holy Spirit to explain this time period that Israel was now in, in terms of visions, and even more important than that it was an explanation of how Israel is to live during this time period. The law of Moses told Israel how they were to live inside the land. The nation of Israel had been in the land for about 800 years but now they’re out of the land and the law of Moses really doesn’t cover that specifically so how are they to live now that the times of the Gentiles have started and now that they’re outside the land. And this is why God raised up Daniel as a role model, and Daniel’s three friends as role models. We look at how they lived and what they did and we see what it really means to live for God on pagan soil.
America, to a very large extent, may have had a few elections going in her favor politically but the bottom line is the Christian church is losing the war in America, not necessarily politically but culturally. We are living in a country that, to a very large extent, does not recognize the Bible based value system that we were founded on. Now what do we do as God’s people living in that time period. We follow the role models of the Book of Daniel, specifically Daniel and his three friends.
So it’s a mindset that says no matter what happens in my job, no matter what happens in my career, no matter what anti-Christian forces come against me, even if Hillary (she) had won the election it’s a mindset which says we’re going to live for God no matter what. It doesn’t matter who’s in the White House. And that is what the Book of Daniel is about. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to teach it because it speaks to our day, it speaks to our generation.
So you have to put yourself really in the minds of the Jews, they’ve been ripped out of their homeland, which they had been in for 800 years; 800 years is a long time, that’s the United States of America times 3 or times 4. Now everything they knew had been taken away and they needed encouragement, and so the Book of Daniel’s purpose is to encourage Judah, the only remaining tribe held in captivity in Babylon, by emphasizing the sovereignty of God during the Babylonian captivity and to teach Judah how to live while outside the land. Everything in the Book of Daniel is really aimed at producing that result. It’s a wonderful reminder of the sovereignty of God.
Politically things can go your way; things cannot go your way; culturally things can go your way, they cannot go your way but the fact of the matter is no matter what you’re facing in your work place, in your job, in your family, the message of the Book of Daniel is God is still very much in control. And so He becomes your preoccupation; He becomes your focus in perilous times.
The Book of Daniel, as we’ve talked about, has two basic parts; chapters 1-7 is the historical section, and then beginning in chapter 8-12 you have the prophetic section. Chapters 1-7 begins with an introductory chapter all composed in Hebrew. The language, as I’ll be talking about, switches in chapters 2-7 from Hebrew to Aramaic but we’ll be talking about that as we progress throughout this study in the coming weeks. But Daniel chapter 1, written in Hebrew, what is it there for? What are we supposed to get from this?
Well, first of all, there’s introductory information given and unless that introductory information is given you really can’t understand the rest of the book. Number 2, it is setting the stage for displaying the sovereignty of God. In order for God to showcase His glory, in order for God to showcase His sovereignty, in order for God to exhibit that He is, in fact, in control He has to put God’s people in a position that from a human level looks like things are out of control. And that is why God largely works in my life and your life the way He does. Why does God keep putting us in circumstances where we have to depend upon Him? Because He wants us to what? To depend upon Him. He wants to show us that everything in life can be topsy-turvy, upside down but He is still in control; He is the one you can count on.
Now how can He showcase that in your life unless He puts you in a circumstance that’s difficult? And the difficulty that the children of Israel were involved in is narrated for us in Daniel 1, written in Hebrew. Without that chapter we’d have no knowledge of the circumstances of this book.
Beyond that God has a plan for the nation of Israel. Not only does He have a plan for the nation of Israel but he has a plan for the tribe of Judah because who is going to be born one day from the tribe of Judah? Jesus Christ. That’s a prophecy that Jacob gave over Judah going all the way back to Genesis 49:10, all the way back in patriarchal times. [Genesis 49:10, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”]
It’s about six centuries (when this book was written) before the birth of Christ so obviously for God to fulfill what He is going to do through the tribe of Judah specifically and the nation of Israel in general, they have to be preserved. And it’s the same today; the nation of Israel, as we speak, is in perilous times. That’s one of the signs that encouraged me when the President elect of the United States of America became the President elect of the United States of America on Tuesday night one of his first actions was to reach out to the nation of Israel and to give them really a proper greeting, something that they have not experienced over the last eight years, at least.
And so even today God is preserving Israel because God has a plan and a program that He is going to accomplish through Israel. Israel is the gift that keeps on giving; Israel is not finished (as far as God is concerned) in terms of blessing the world. And it was that way in the Book of Daniel. There’s a prophetic program coming through Messiah that will happen 600 years later but for that program to be fulfilled Israel must be preserved. How God starts to preserve Israel, you start to see examples of it here in Daniel chapter 1. God is going to bless the obedience of Daniel and his three friends as they make a decision to live for God in perilous times.
So here’s sort of an outline verses 1 and 2; Daniel’s selection along with his three friends, verses 3-7; Daniel’s dedication, verses 8-16, right off the bat, at an early age he is tempted to personally compromise, yet he does not compromise, He puts God first. And that leads into verses 17-21 where God blesses the rest of Daniel’s life. And this is something we need to be communicating to the youth because a lot of them have this mentality that I’m just going to go off to college, I’m going to sow some wild oats, I’m going yield to the sin nature, and then once I get out of college, once I get into my career, once I get into my vocation I’ll come back to the church and I’ll start serving God at that point. Not that God doesn’t want you back, the welcome mat (as we say) is always out, but the fact of the matter is once you move into compromise it’s an alteration of your character. It doesn’t work that I’m going to live like the devil and then make a decision and come back and live for God. There are lingering consequences of sin that you pull with you as you return to church and return to God.
Daniel didn’t have those lingering consequences. The reason he did not have those lingering consequences is he made a decision, in fact, I’ll show you verse 8 later, as time permits, he made a decision to live for God as a young person. And because he lived for God as a young person that became part of who he was, that became part of his character and consequently he continued to live for God as an 80 year old and as a 90 year old. So as the saying goes, sew a thought, reap an action. Sew an action, reap a character. So a character reap a destiny. Whatever little decisions we are making right now is indelibly become part of who we are, become part of our character, and consequently that’s the type of person we largely end up being in old age.
Who do you want to be in old age? Someone that’s a warrior for God or someone that’s compromised? The Book of Daniel gives us a wonderful example of a young man that would not compromise and God consequently blessed his whole life, I believe, because of the decisions that Daniel made as a youth.
So notice, if you will, verses 1 and 2, we learn here about Daniel’s circumstances; we have verse 1, Nebuchadnezzar’s speech, verse 1, and then verse 2 Nebuchadnezzar’s booty or Nebuchadnezzar’s treasure. But notice, if you will, verse 1, it says, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, came Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, to Jerusalem, and besieged it.” Notice first of all it talks about Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon. Who was Nebuchadnezzar? Nebuchadnezzar was the ruler of what we call Neo-Babylonia, which was the world power of that day. And consequently Nebuchadnezzar becomes the antagonist, if you will, in the first four chapters of this book. The theme does not shift to another leader until you get to chapter 5 where his son, not his immediate son but someone down the lineage, a man named Belshazzar rises to the throne over Neo-Babylonia. And while God humbles Nebuchadnezzar in these first four chapters, Belshazzar was never humbled and consequently Neo-Babylonia suffered a death blow by the Persians, which is recorded in Daniel chapter 5.
So that’s who we are dealing with here when it talks about, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem, and besieged it.” Nebuchadnezzar is a godless pagan king who thinks that he is in control and he’s about to discover in this book that he’s not in control at all. In fact the only reason he’s in the position of power that he is in is because God put him there and everybody knows it but Nebuchadnezzar. And the story is how Nebuchadnezzar’s heart softened in these first four chapters. I believe, when we get to chapter 4 I’ll show you that I believe one day we’re going to be seeing Nebuchadnezzar in heaven but not so chapter 5, Belshazzar, he never humbled himself.
We also continue on and it says, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem , and besieged it.” Why is the nation of Israel under attack in Daniel chapter 1? Why is the nation of Israel being dragged, against its will, 350 miles to the east to a place called Babylon or Babylonia? The answer has to do with the covenant that God made with Israel, which we’ve explained in our first session together. The thing to understand is God, through the Abrahamic Covenant, going back to Genesis 15, has promised the nation of Israel three things: number 1, land; number 2, seed, and number 3, personal blessing. Through those three promises God is going to fulfill His Messianic agenda and one day His kingdom program over planet earth.
But you see, at the same time God came along later, about 600 years later, in the time of Moses, about the 15th century, and he entered into what’s called the Mosaic Covenant, which unlike the Abrahamic Covenant, which is unconditional, the Mosaic Covenant is conditional. And what covenant contains is the cycles of blessing and cursing. God says if you obey Me you’ll be blessed; if you disobey Me you’ll be cursed. Now what I want you to see is although Israel can be severely disciplined and cursed she could never be cast off. Why can she never be cast off from God’s promises? The Abrahamic Covenant prevents that. “But whom the LORD loves the LORD” what? “chastens.” And that’s what is spelled out in the Mosaic Covenant. The curses can be very severe but they cannot lead to a permanent rupture between God and the nation of Israel.
It’s largely the way your salvation works as well. The moment you place your personal faith or confidence in Jesus Christ you are eternally secure. If you do not believe you’re eternal security I would turn you on to the soteriology study that we’ve been doing here at Sugar Land Bible Church, where we’re going in depth during the Sunday School hour on the issue of eternal security. Those are accessible online as well.
So once saved always saved because your salvation is not based on your faithfulness but it’s based on whose faithfulness? God’s. The grace that saves you is the grace that keep you. However, “Whom the Lord loves the Lord” what? “chastens” discipline. If you step out of line, if you go back to the sin nature God, who loves you too much to see you destroy your life in sin many times can bring discipline, He can bring chastisement against you. Sometimes that chastisement can seem very severe. I don’t mean to make it sound like all trials that we go through in life are the result of divine chastisement; there are storm of perfection and then there are storms of correction. Sometimes God brings us into a trial just to develop in us greater faith and maturity, James 1:2-4 talks about that. [James 1:2-4, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”]
But there are other storms that are like the kind that Jonah went into; he was swallowed by the giant fish because of his own disobedience and God can bring great chastisement into the life of the believer but here’s something the chastisement never does: it never cancels your original salvation. So the nation of Israel has this Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant; yes, God disciplines those whom He loves but He can never divorce Israel, He can never cast off Israel any more than He can divorce or cast you off as one of His people.
So God’s program through the Mosaic Covenant is spelled out in the blessings and curses section which you’ll find in Deuteronomy chapter 28. The curses sort of roll like a snowball and finally they reach their height or their climax as specific in Deuteronomy 28:49-50 which we studied the last time I was with you, where God brings a pagan nation, whose language they don’t even understand, against His people. And this is what happened to the northern kingdom which was scattered about 150 years earlier by the Assyrians; the south, the remaining tribes of Benjamin and Judah didn’t learn at all from the lessons of the north and the disciplinary hand of God and so they continued on into disobedience and idolatry, and finally God says that’s enough. “Whom the LORD loves the LORD chastens,” I’m going to remove you from your land and bring you into discipline and consequently purify you as a result.
So that is why when you open the book of Daniel the nation of Israel is in Babylon in deportation. Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, when he came against the chosen people didn’t come in one foul swoop, he came in three waves. He came first in 605 B.C. and Daniel and a few of his friends, a few princes, were taken into Babylonian captivity at that point. The king, in place at that time in the land of Israel, was a man named Jehoiakim. And then Nebuchadnezzar came a second time and this time he came and took the majority of the nation. This took place about 596 B.C. and the prophet Ezekiel was taken in wave two. Ezekiel, it’s interesting, makes reference (and we saw this when I was with you last time) to Daniel. So that’s where Ezekiel and Daniel have their ministries. They’re what we call the exilic prophets because they had their ministries not in the land of Israel (like most of the other prophets) but during this time of exile.
And then after all of that Nebuchadnezzar came a third time, in 586 B.C. what was remaining of the remnant he captured and this is when he destroyed Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. And that was the final attack. And this is when the prophet, Jeremiah, penned an important book called The Book of Lamentations. Why is Jeremiah talking about Lamentations? Because he was lamenting; he was lamenting the glory of the Solomonic temple that once stood and now had been destroyed.
The Jews, you have to understand, looked at the temple like a good luck charm; as long as that temple is standing we’re okay. And that temple had been functioning since the time of Solomon and they never envisioned a time in history where that temple will be destroyed. You know, a lot of people are like that; they have their good luck charm. I was once a courier and I got into a guy’s car, he was giving me a ride somewhere, and I noticed that he had those fuzzy guys, that you get in Vegas, hanging from the rear view mirror at the front of the car. And then I looked at the back of the car and I saw a statue of the Virgin Mary and so finally I got enough courage to ask this guy, you got these guys from Vegas and the Virgin Mary, you know, how do you explain this contradiction. And he said hey, I’ve got both ends covered, I’ve got the gambling side covered if I need that good luck charm, I’ve got the religious over here, I’ve got that good luck charm.
A lot of people are like that, they have some kind of token good luck charm and as long as that good luck charm is in place they think everything is going to be okay. That’s how the Jews were with the temple. And yet what has happened, and God has a way of doing this, does He not, destroying our good luck charms because He wants us to depend upon Him, not our good luck charms. And the temple now was destroyed, something that the Jews never thought would ever happen. And Jeremiah is lamenting with great tears as he writes the book of Lamentations.
You’ll also notice in verse 1 it says, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah,” and by the way, there it is in chart form if you’re interested, the three sieges of Nebuchadnezzar, once in 605, when Daniel was brought into captivity; once again in 597 when Ezekiel was brought into captivity, once again in 586 when the temple was destroyed.
The third year of Jehoiakim, everything we know about biblical chronology would place this in 605 B.C. That’s when the events of chapter 1 unfold. Daniel is very good to give us dates and chronologies so some of the key pieces of chronology I’ll be referencing as we move through this study. Daniel at this time, we believe, was a youth and so when the events of Daniel 1 happened most believe he was maybe about 15 years of age. And he is called upon to stand for God as a kid, a 15 year old. And watch how God blessed his life as a 17 year old, as a 20 year old, as a 50 year old, as an 80 year old, into the early 80’s, mid 80’s. And show me the kinds of decisions that you’re making now in your life with respect to your walk with God and I’ll basically be able to figure out what kind of person you’re going to be decades down the road, because the Bible teaches very clearly that we reap what we sow. Daniel sowed good seed into good soil as a young man. And he lived off of those dividends the rest of his life.
I think it was G. Campbell Morgan, the great preacher from another era, who preached long, had a tremendous ministry long into his older years and somebody asked him, how is it you have such fervency as an older person? And his response was classic; he says I’m living off the dividends of a well spent youth. We have that ability to make good choices as younger people and we have an ability to live off those dividends, spiritually, for the rest of our lives. And that’s what the example of Daniel reveals to us here.
Notice, if you will, verse 2, it says, “And the Lord gave Jehoiakim, king of Judah, into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God, and brought them into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god.” So this man, Nebuchadnezzar, has essentially no respect for the things of God, at least at this stage in his life; he has no respect for the temple of God, he has no respect for the holy vessels of God which clearly say were taken from God’s house to his house, from the temple of holiness into the temple of paganism. You’re dealing with this man, Nebuchadnezzar, whose heart is stone cold against God and yet watch how God deals with this man. Watch (in these four chapters) how God brings this man to the end of himself.
And this shows us that no one is unreachable to God. May times even looking at our political leaders I just say I’m not going to pray for that person because I didn’t vote for them. God says back to me I never told you to pray for people you vote for, I told you to pray for your leaders. And we think that when we pray for these people nothing can change, nothing can happen, and yet what we learn in the book of Daniel is that God is in control of human events; He can change the heart of a leader.
Proverbs 21:1, I think it’s around verse 1, it talks about how the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord and He changes its direction wherever He wants it to go. Like water directs a water course, so is the king’s heart in the hands of the Lord. Like water course directs water, I should say, so is the king’s heart in the hands of the Lord.
If anybody was unreachable it would be Nebuchadnezzar but God did a work. Nobody is outside of the grace and the mercy and the long reach of God. So here comes the nation of Israel as they are moved 350 miles to the east; you might recognize this word Shinar in verse 2, “The Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God;” by the way, those vessels that Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple and put into his pagan temple are going to be a BIG DEAL! capital letter, exclamation point, a BIG DEAL in chapter 5. So just file in your memory cells, if you have any back there somewhere, the vessels, because that sets the stage for what Nebuchadnezzar’s defendant, Belshazzar is going to do and this is what’s going to bring final judgment upon the Babylonian Empire. But you notice that the nation of Israel is taken 350 miles to the east; the location is given there in verse 2, it’s the land of Shinar. Here’s another picture of it.
The word “Shinar” is a Hebrew word; it’s a word that basically refers to an area between the rivers. What rivers are we talking about? We’re talking about the Euphrates River and the Tigris River. It’s a place that we call modern day Iraq, sometimes called Babylonia, sometimes called Babylon. The Greek name for that area called Shinar is Mesopotamia. The Hebrew word is Shinar, the Greek word is Mesopotamia; “Meso” (you recognize that word) that means middle, you recognize the word “potamia”? Don’t we have a river in the United States of America called the Potomac? Potomac derived from potamia, potamia being plural; potamia means rivers. Mesopotamia literally means between the rivers, between the great river Euphrates and the great river, the Tigris. It is a place of infamy in the Bible and if you know your Bible well what you discover is this is a location that has a past, a present and a future. In fact, between the rivers I would speculate is the place where the Garden of Eden once stood. It’s the place where our forbearers, Adam and Eve, fell into sin because in Genesis 2:10-14 it describes the geography of Eden and it mentions in the process the Tigris, Genesis 2:14, and then it mentions another river called the Euphrates.
[Genesis 2:10-14, Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers.  The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.  The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there.  The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush.  The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.]
Some of these other rivers, the Pishon and the Gihon are difficult to identify but it does mention by name the Tigris and the Euphrates. If I were a betting man (and I’m not) I would speculate that the Garden of Eden existed at that part of the world in a place called Babylonia, we might call it today modern day Iraq. We also know that this was the exact location where the first one-world government project started, the first United Nations Conference I like to call it—the tower of Babel.
The tower of Babel, or the tower of Babel, depends on which syllable gets the [can’t understand word] as I like to say, however you pronounce that, what is coming into existence before God scattered the builders through the disruption of the language in the land of Shinar. Genesis 11:2 says, “It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.”
If you go back to Genesis 10:10 it describes the tower of Babel this way: “And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.” So Shinar has a paper trail; Shinar is probably the area where the Garden of Eden once was. It was the area where our forbearers following the flood built a tower (in rebellion against God) to reach into heaven. It was the first place of worldwide revolt against God. And what we’re learning here in Daniel 1:2, that Shinar or Mesopotamia doesn’t just have a past, it has a present; this is where the children of Israel were taken against their will. Think about that, being in the land of Israel under divine decree, under basic geography and borders that God said you would possess and being ripped out of that area. And suddenly being taken to a place of infamy, this land of Shinar.
And that may be describing your life today; maybe you were once saved and secure in one job where your hopes and your progression in that job and your success in that job looked very optimistic, suddenly against your will you’re ripped out of that circumstance; maybe it’s a firing, maybe it’s a layoff, maybe it’s an economic downturn, and now you find yourself in some strange place that you wish you weren’t there and you want to go back to where you were comfortable.
That is the environment where God shows up and demonstrates His control on His sovereignty; as long as we’re in that place of comfort we really are not in a heartfelt position to receive from God. You only move into a position where you need to receive something from God when you’re in that place of need; that’s where the children of Israel found themselves.
As you go through the Bible what you’ll see is Shinar, or Babylonia is very prominent in the Bible. Herodotus gave the measurements of Babylon, the city, in 450 B.C. Alexander the Great, who is prophesied in the book of Daniel, Daniel 8 and Daniel 11, we’ll be making reference to Alexander the Great as we go through this study, but Alexander the Great in about 323, about 300 years after the time of Daniel, visited Babylon and actually died there. Seleucus seized Babylon in 312 B.C. Strabo, one of the great ancient writers of the past, pronounced Babylon’s hanging gardens as one of the seven wonders of the world in 25 B.C.
Babylon is also the place… it’s getting near Christmas, isn’t it? Aren’t we going to start talking about Magi on all the Christmas cards. Where did the Magi come from? Following the star. They came from the east, Matthew 2:2, which is this area of Babylon. There were actually Babylonians, according to Acts 2:9, present to hear Peter preach the gospel on the day of Pentecost, people from Mesopotamia, Jewish people living in that area which is the area where most of the Jews resided and continued to reside even after the days of the Babylonian captivity would travel to Jerusalem on certain feast days. [Matthew 2:2, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” Acts 2:9, “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,”]
They came to Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost; they heard Peter preach; many of them got saved and they went back home and I believe that they started churches in that area amongst the Hebrew Christians. That’s why the apostle Peter, according to 1 Peter 5, I believe it’s about verse 13, Peter was the apostle to the who? The Jews. Paul was the apostle to the who? The Gentiles. Peter traveled to that part of the world and he actually wrote an epistle, two epistles from that area. That’s why it says in 1 Peter 5:13 she who is from Babylon greet you. [1 Peter 5:13, “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark.”] The Talmud, a great legal document in Judaism was ultimately formulated in Babylon, it has a name, called the Babylonian Talmud.
And then that part of the world really fell into Muslim control. [can’t understand word] mentions a Babylonian village about 917 A.D. and then Babylon became known as the two mosques and [can’t understand word] in 1100. And when you read all these things about Saddam Hussein, who is now no longer with us, praise the Lord for that I guess, you see that the world’s attention has very much shifted back to that part of the world. It’s the part of the world that controls most of the world’s oil supply. And it’s interesting to watch an eastward continuation of the world’s attention. You know, we used to fight our wars in Europe; World War I, World War II, and then you start seeing things moving gradually eastward; we get into wars like the Korean War, the Vietnam War. And then things gradually move eastward even further, back to the Middle East, back to Iraq where most of the world’s attention is even today; certainly with our invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan this area of the world became the focal point of our understanding.
And it’s almost as if God is saying where everything started everything one day will end because you see, Babylon doesn’t just have a past, she doesn’t just have a present, but she has a future. The prophet Zechariah, in Zechariah 5:5-11 in 519 B.C., twenty years after historical Babylon fell to the Persians in Daniel 5, 539 B.C., twenty years later Zechariah had a vision and in this vision he saw, and you can read it for yourself in Zechariah 5:5-11, he saw a woman being put into a basket and the lid was placed over that basket where she could not get out.
[Zechariah 5:5-11, “Then the angel who was speaking with me went out and said to me, ‘Lift up now your eyes and see what this is going forth.’ I said, ‘What is it?’ And he said, ‘This is the ephah going forth’” Again he said, ‘This is their appearance in all the land  (and behold, a lead cover was lifted up); and this is a woman sitting inside the ephah.’  Then he said, “This is ‘Wickedness!’ And he threw her down into the middle of the ephah and cast the lead weight on its opening.  Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and there two women were coming out with the wind in their wings; and they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heavens.  I said to the angel who was speaking with me, ‘Where are they taking the ephah?’  Then he said to me, ‘To build a temple for her in the land of Shinar; and when it is prepared, she will be set there on her own pedestal.’”]
And some angels came, they looked to me like angels anyway, carrying that basket away, and Zechariah asked the Lord, what does this mean? And the Lord answered Zechariah’s request for knowledge when He says one of these days, at the right time, this woman is going to be let out of the basket and she is going to be allowed to build a house, now the word for “house” is [can’t understand word] which is the same word for temple, she is going to build a house, she is inside a basket called an ephah, which was a symbol of commerce, she is going to be allowed to restore a religion, a house, commerce, and wickedness itself. Well, where is all of this going to be located?
Zechariah 5:11 tells you exactly where it’s going to exist. Zechariah 5:11 says, “Then he said to me, ‘To build a temple for her in the land of” what? “Shinar;” it’s right there in the Bible. So when you put together Genesis 11:2 with Daniel 1:2 and Zechariah 5:11 what you quickly see is Shinar has a past, a present and a future. In the same area where the tower of Babel once stood, that’s where the nation of Israel was taken into captivity and if I’m interpreting my Bible correctly it will be the same part of the world where the empire of the antichrist will stand, where the antichrist will usher in wickedness, commercial activity, and worldwide religion in a place called Shinar, in the very place where God disrupted. The first global revolt against God is going to be the exact same location of the earth where the final revolt against God will be launched from.
And it’s interesting to me that God is saying history one day is going to recycle back to where it all began. Human civilizations began in Mesopotamia and that’s where the rebellion against God is going to be stifled and quenched and it will be overthrown by the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
You say well who is this woman in the basket? I believe that the woman in the basket is the same woman that’s called the harlot in Revelation 17; that woman in Revelation 17:5 with that forehead inscription which says, “BABYLON …THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS.” [Revelation 17:5,“‘and on her forehead had a name was written, a mystery, ‘BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.’]
I believe it’s the same woman in the basket in Zechariah 5. Both sections of Scripture describe this woman sitting. Both sections of Scripture describe an emphasis on commerce. Both sections of Scripture define the woman’s name as “Wickedness,” she’s just called The Mother of Harlots in chapters 17 and 18. Both sections of Scripture focus on false worship. In the Zechariah 5 passage a temple will be rebuilt for her, false worship described as harlotry is described in Revelation 17:5. And in both sections of Scripture the woman is taken to Babylon. It’s just in Zechariah 5:11 Babylon is called Shinar and in Revelation 17 and 18 Babylon is called Babylon, which is a reference to what? Shinar.
In fact, in Revelation 18:10, which is the description of the final one-world revolt under the antichrist this is what it says: “‘’Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’” And people look at this reference to the great city, Babylon in Revelation 18:10 and they say well, that doesn’t mean Babylon, that means Rome. And they develop this view that it’s talking somehow about the Roman Catholic Church. I’m not here to let the Roman Catholic Church off the hook by any stretch of the imagination. What I’m saying is it doesn’t say Rome here, it says Babylon. Babylon means Babylon; Rome means Rome. Paul and the other biblical writers know how to use the word Rome. In fact, Paul wrote a whole book called the Book of Romans. These biblical writers are great at using the word Rome; they don’t use the word Rome here, they use the word Babylon.
Now I did write my doctoral dissertation on the subject, the subtitle of it is called Babbling On About Babylon, so I’m going to try not to try not to do that. But to me it is a fascinating subject to see what the Holy Spirit is revealing, that where history and rebellion began in Eden everything will recycle back to that same part of the world. Just as a side point it’s interesting that most of the world’s oil supply is in that part of the world. And so it would be a tremendous vehicle for the empire of the antichrist. But this is the place that the children of Israel were taken into, a place of infamy, a place that has a past, a place that has a present and a place that has a future.
Now what follows is Daniel’s selection. Notice, if you will, verses 3-7, Daniel 1:3, Daniel and others are taken into captivity and what you discover is they are selected for something by Nebuchadnezzar. Look at verse 3, “Then the king ordered” the king being who? Nebuchadnezzar. “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,” so I’ve got these guys in captivity, I haven’t come yet in wave 2 and wave 3 yet but I’ve got a remnant, a small group in captivity, what am I going to do with these fifteen year olds. Here’s what I’m going to do, and Nebuchadnezzar was nobody’s fool, he was going to brainwash them. He was going to teach them the way of the Babylonians and the Chaldeans and he was going to use them to get on his side, to get on his team and talk the rest of the population of Judah into peaceably going along with Nebuchadnezzar.
[Daniel 1:4, “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.  The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service.  Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.  Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach and to Azariah Abed-nego.”]
This is why he came in three waves; he came first, watch this, for the best and the brightest, the people that showed the most promise, the people that were the most articulate, and let’s simply alter their worldview through an intense educational program and once they’re on my side I can have my way with this subjugated culture called Judah because they’re just going to follow their leaders.
May I just say to you that this is the exact same strategy that Satan is using today. Where do the best and the brightest in the United States of America go? They go to the Ivy League, of course. What do they learn at the Ivy League? Genesis through Revelation like they used to? No! A biblical worldview? No! The Christian roots of America? No! What they’re put through is an intense propaganda campaign. The name of the game is to alter their worldview because one of these days these people are going to be the future doctors, the future lawyers, the future preachers, the future politicians, and this is a strategy that Satan is using over and over again to shift the United States of America to the left.
And we are so naïve of the way Satan operates and works and it’s happening right in front of our eyes and many times we don’t notice it. Just take a modern example. I noticed when this election came out the way that it did I noticed the total hysteria on universities. I noticed that the universities cancelled their test or exams. I noticed that the university professors didn’t show up to teach, because we all know that the students were in a place of trauma. I also noticed that they brought in the, what are called trauma dogs, now I didn’t know what a trauma dog was till this week. Apparently a trauma dog is a dog you trot out and you sort of pat it and it gets your mind off your problems. So they brought in the trauma dogs. They actually gave out Play Doh, that’s honestly what the newspaper said, Play Doh which is something I gave to my… I don’t give it to her any more but when she was five I used to give my daughter Play Doh. And you see, you know, when I didn’t get my way in a couple of elections, specifically 2000, actually what am I trying to say, 2012, and 2008, nobody gave me a trauma dog, nobody poured me a cup of hot chocolate, nobody cancelled my daily responsibilities and I was depressed like any conservative would be.
Why is it that when the opposite happens all of these accessories are added to students? It is, beloved, a form of manipulation; it is a form of brainwashing. It is about altering the worldview of a person. And that’s what Nebuchadnezzar is seeking to do here.
Now notice, if you will, verse 4 and 5, notice the intense program that he puts Daniel and these youths through. Notice, if you will, verse 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;”
Nebuchadnezzar didn’t just pick the run of the mill to get on his team; he had a physical requirement, they had to be good looking, attractive to the eyes. There was a mental requirement, they had to have something “under the hood” so to speak, mentally the best and the brightest. And then they had to have basic social graces or social skills. He didn’t pick the Neanderthals, he picked people that had the social graces and the social skills necessary to serve in the king’s court. Those are the people I’m after and if I get them to think the way I think I can subjugate Judah.
And notice, if you will the second part of verse 4, “he ordered them to teach them the literature and the language of the” who? “the Chaldeans.” I don’t want you studying Torah, I don’t want you studying Pentateuch, I don’t want you studying Hebrew Bible, what I want you studying is our literature and our methodology and our system and our religion. He might have put it this way, I want you to expand your minds; I want to broaden your understanding. I want to make you more tolerant towards alternative lifestyles or worldviews because I’m going to use you (you don’t know this, right now you just think you’re being flattered) I’m going to use you as a propaganda tool.
One of the speakers that we had here, we didn’t advertise this very aggressively because it really wasn’t an SLBC event per se, but we had a speaker here Thursday named Cynthia Dunbar and I was very interested in hearing what she had to say and she gave a very powerful presentation in the fellowship hall concerning the war that she is going through with textbooks and how she is merely seeking to introduce into the school systems of America balanced literature, you know, things like The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, George Washington’s farewell address, things you would think the youth are reading and they’re not reading. And she is trying to seek to readmit that into the schooling system, not only of Texas but all around the United States of America. And she has been called every name in the book for trying to do this: intolerant, a bigot, un-academic, unlearned, and yet when you look at Cynthia Dunbar’s material you’ll discover that all of it is footnoted very aggressively, very nicely, very scholarly, and yet there’s an actual war taking place in her life and her ministry involving something as simple as textbooks.
Why is that the case? Because he who writes the textbooks writes the future. Nebuchadnezzar wrote the textbook. Nebuchadnezzar wrote the history, and he is trying to indoctrinate these Hebrew youths in that distorted view of history.
The same battle is taking place today. He ordered them to teach the literature and the language of the Chaldeans. Notice verse 5, “The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank,” so you’ll notice that there is entrance requirements, physical, mental and social. You’ll notice that there is a course of study here, the language and the literature of the Chaldeans, which is another way of saying the Babylonians. You’ll notice that physical provision was made for these people. We might call that state funded tuition expenses. And then you’ll notice how long this campaign of indoctrination went on for; notice the second part of verse 5, and he appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service.”
I remember as I was contemplating doctoral studies, I remember a warning that was given to me, indirectly, by the late Zane Hodges, a great Greek scholar, longtime scholar at Dallas Seminary and his warning was simply this: you’re going to be in this program for a number of years, whether you graduate or not is up to the preferences of the professors, so choose your program wisely because your typical student underestimates the power that that program has over you in terms of altering the way you think. And it’s warning that I think is very, very true. I have seen people that were very good people go into these academic programs. I’m a pro-academic guy, by the way. I’ve got more degrees probably than a thermometer, but I have seen very good people go into these academic programs only to have their worldview altered and not understanding the agenda that is at work to change the way people think.
This is nothing new, this strategy is as old as Nebuchadnezzar himself. And what does Nebuchadnezzar do now? He begins to not just alter the way these individuals think but he changes their names. What were their original names? Names we don’t recognize. We all recognize the name Shadach, Meshach and Abed-nego, don’t we. Do you recognize these names? Daniel, we recognize that one; Hananiah, Meshial, and Azariah, those are their original names. Now the great scholar, Edwin Yamauchi gives us a great translation or interpretation of what these names originally meant. Daniel’s name originally meant God is my judge. Hananiah’s name originally meant Yahweh is gracious. Meshial’s name originally meant who is what God is. And Azariah’s name originally meant Yahweh has helped.
What does this show us? That Daniel and his three friends came from Godly Jewish homes because each of their names reflected something in the character of God. They came from homes that honored Proverbs 22:6 which says, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” They were raised in homes that honored Deuteronomy 6:6-7, which says, “These words which I have commanded you today shall be on your heart;  you shall teach them diligently to your sons and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”
There were parents that honored God and they taught their children principles about God. And being a home schooling family ourselves we are in that same process of trying to inculcate in our daughter spiritual truth and any homeschooling mom or any homeschooling family knows that the process can get very discouraging. Amen. And yet I bet the parents of these four individuals, when these young tykes were coming of age were equally discouraged, and yet they just kept planting those seeds, planting those seeds, planting those seeds. And now it’s about to pay off because now the child is old enough to make their own decisions and what do these four individuals do? They decide to walk with God. That’s where you start seeing dividends in the emphasis that we place into the hearts and minds of our youth because one of these days these little kids aren’t going to be little kids any more.
They’re going to be off making their own decisions, making up their own mind about things, they’re going to be sitting in classrooms with erudite professors telling them that everything they know about the Bible is wrong. And how glorious it is to see those seeds that you’ve diligently planted as a parent come to fruition as a child starts making a right choice about the things of God. That’s when the dividends come in, that’s when payment comes in.
But you see, Nebuchadnezzar is not content with that; he doesn’t like the Hebrew names, he gives them Babylonian names. The name Daniel is changed to Beltzshaar, these are names that we are familiar with, the name Hananiah is changed to Shadrach, the name Meshial is changed to Meshacn, and the name Azariah is changed to Abed-nego. What do these Babylonian names mean? Not what the Hebrew names mean, I can guarantee that much. Belshazzar means lady protect the king; Shadrach means I am fearful of God, feaful not in a respectful sense but in a negative sense. Meshach means I am of little account. Abed-nego, according to Edwin Yamaouchi means servant of Nebo. Wel, who is Nebo? Nebo is part of the Babylonian pantheon. And that’s what Nebuchadnezzar was trying to turn these children into; he was trying to turn them into servants, not of Yahweh, but of the Babylonian pantheon.
And what I want you to see and my time has escaped me, time flies when you’re having fun, what I want you to see is right here, at the beginning of the book of Daniel Nebuchadnezzar challenged the sovereignty of God. Why do I say that? I say that because in the Bible when you name something you have authority over that which you name. We know that Adam and Eve were originally given authority over the animals. Genesis 1:26 says, “Let them” Adam and Eve, “rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, over the cattle and over all the earth and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. That is the significance of God allowing Adam ot name the animals.
In Genesis 2:19-20 it says, “out of the ground the Lord God formed the beast of the field and every bird of the sky and brought them to the man to see what he would call them and whatever the man called the living creature that was its name. It was not an accident that God allowed Adam to name the animals because he had been given authority over the animals. So when Nebuchadnezzar comes in and he starts renaming these indivudals from a Hebrew name to a Babylonian name, from a God honoring name to a God detesting name., he is asserting his own authority and his own sovereignty. God, you’re not in charge here, I’m in charge. And another reason you’re not in charge here God is because I went into Your temple and I took Your vessels, I took them out of Your house and I put them into my house. So what is being said here in terms of a great conflict is Nebuchadnezzar is, right here at the beginning of the book, challenging the authority of God. You’re not in control here, God, I am. And yet what does the rest of the book of Daniel say? Nebuchadnezzar, you’re wrong, you’re not in charge, you’re not in charge of anything. In fact, you wouldn’t even be in the position you’re in today had it not been for the sovereign hand of God and watch God show up throughout this book and vindicate His sovereignty and His authority over and over again.
Is the sovereign of God being challenged in your life through ridicule, family dissension, harassment on the work place because of you Christian beliefs. May I just say to you that’s a pretty good position to be in because guess who’s going to show up? God is, to vindicate you just like He vindicated these four He prophets. We’ll study more of this next time.
Father, we’re grateful for the book of Daniel and how it’s not just a 6th century book but it speaks to us in our time period in the world that we’re living in. Help us, Father, to be mindful of this book, help it to instruct us on who’s really in charge and help it to align our priorities as we live for you in these last days. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We lift these things up in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…..