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Daniel – Week 1 – Sermon Notes

By January 7, 2024Sermon Notes

When reading the Bible, the most common mistake is to violate common sense.

If you are reading a newspaper (which you probably don’t) common sense would tell you that you read the sports section, editorial, weather, news, comics, obituary, advertisements, differently.

You would know to read it according to its genre and not each part the same way.

They are all different kinds of literature or writing in one paper.

If you read a genre out of context you would misread it.

For instance, the weather section says “sunrise” at 6:30, but that doesn’t mean they believe the sun moves and so they are scientifically ignorant.

It is speaking phenomenologically, or how the sun appears to us from planet earth.

It is accurate and easily understood to be the truth about when we will experience the sun “coming up.”

If you are reading a science article on the sun you would expect it to use different kinds of language…not sunrise or sunset.

If you are reading a sports story the writer may talk about a “Sudden death ending.”

That doesn’t mean players died on the field in a catastrophe, but the figure of speech indicates something “real” that happened…it was a close game.

The Bible has historical narrative, poetry, wisdom literature, laws, gospel, parables, letters, simile, metaphor, etc. God didn’t just give us his “rules 1-1000.”

He gave us the Bible (“biblios” or “books”) it has the full range of human experience…in multiple genres or types of writings.

The Bible is true in all that it says, but historical narrative is not read or understood the same way as poetry or proverbs.

David’s poems tell us the truth…they are God’s word, but they do so in poetic fashion.

Moses’ historical narratives tell us truth.

As do the gospels.

The purpose of the Bible, Genesis to Revelation is to reveal Jesus.

It is remarkable how a book written over millennia, by 40 people, on multiple continents is able to do this.

This brings us to the second common mistake, to read the Bible, as just another book.

It is the Word of God. He speaks to us in and through it…God has used normal humans to write it, but all Scripture is “God-breathed” Paul says.

Satan “understands” the Bible, in some ways better than we do…he is super intelligent.

But Satan has in another sense, no understanding of the Bible.

He is not born again. He does not submit to God nor does he have the Holy Spirit.

In the same way the non-believing scholar may beat you in an argument about the Bible, but he is not going to be changed by it or believe in Christ and therefore he completely fails to really understand it.

The Bible is God’s word to us…we must read it using “common sense” (not in some weird, super spiritual way that takes it out of context), and we must read it as Spirit-filled followers of Jesus…not just as another book.

Read, study, hear, discuss the Bible this year.

Don’t stop because it is hard or boring or you are too busy.

You cannot become too bored or too busy to do what is essential to do.

To be changed by the Word of God is essential…it has to be done.

If what you have done so far hasn’t worked or stopped working…meaning you stopped doing it…do something different…the best plan is the one you will actually do.

But whatever, you plan to do…do the plan…and don’t measure as to whether the plan is working…moment by moment, or even week by week…in fact, don’t try to measure at all…just be faithful.

When it comes to reading the Bible there are better and worse ways of doing it…but the most important thing is to do it.

Just be faithful and over time, you will experience change.

Which brings me to my main point for today and for the next two weeks after today.

Don’t try to change the world, just be faithful.

IHOPrayer founder Mike Bickel is sadly another very public pastor who has been very publically disgraced.

I am not going to pile on, but his life and fall are instructive.

He claimed that God had told him he would change the understanding and expression of Christianity in one generation…think about that for a minute.

If God did tell you that…which he isn’t going to…the Bible is complete for over 2000 years now…but if he did…keep it to yourself and don’t try to be impressive…go be faithful.

Like Mary, who actually did hear from God and gave birth to the Savior of the world…she pondered what she heard in her heart…she didn’t go on a book tour.

Bickel would make other similar grandiose claims over the years and even used these kinds of “prophetic” statements to influence young women in some terrible and self-serving ways.

To be told by a charismatic man claiming to speak for God that you are special, that you will change the world, with him…can be very confusing, and is manipulative…it is evil.

People want to be special…and to be “special” to God…I mean, it doesn’t get better than that.

You say, “Terry we are special to God”…I get what you mean.

God loves each of us and he has the capacity to pay focused attention to billions of people.

But that means that God is special…we are just people…we are one of many billions.

We are to delight in the fact that he loves us…not in some special plan that he has for us that all the other less special humans don’t have.

In Luke 9 the disciples were arguing about who was going to be the greatest in the coming kingdom.

Can you imagine…with Jesus right there.

A little later James and John asked Jesus if he wanted them to call down fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village.

Jesus has come to serve, sacrifice, to die…but at this point, Luke writes, they don’t get the point…clearly.

They believe they are special…they get to hang with the guy who has superpowers (healing, raising the dead, feeding thousands) …they actually think Jesus might let them call down some lightning bolts on these folks.

Jesus rebuked them.

In the next chapter Jesus sent out 72 who were following him (this number would continually whittle down in size as he got closer to the cross).

Where is the fun or the glory in that?

The seventy-two returned from their mission trip with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

“Yeah, great” Jesus replied.

“I’ve given you power and authority over the enemy…but don’t get excited about that…be excited that your names are written in heaven.”

Not the powerful things you can do in my name…but the fact that I know your name…that’s it.

To change the world…to be unusual, extraordinary, amazing…that’s what it’s about.

But is it?

Last week I drove through a small town in Missouri, literally a few hundred people.

I saw a sign on a little bitty church, “World Outreach Center.”

Is that good or bad, It depends, what do they mean by that?

Do they mean we are changing the world right here in this tiny not even on the interstate town…one life at a time.

We are being faithful here.

Or do they mean…we are not just a small church in a small town…no, we are the “WORLD Outreach Center”…we are going to be famous; we are going to change the world by becoming large, or well known or by miracle after miracle.

I don’t know the answer to the question of “what do they mean by that.”

I do know the answer to the question “How is the world changed.”

The answer is…that is not your concern…certainly not to be your life goal.

Be faithful, that’s your concern, that is your stewardship.

It is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 1 Cor. 4:2

And, by the way, that is how the world has always been changed, at least for the better…by plan old faithfulness.

An oft quoted or “claimed” verse is Jeremiah 29:11,
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

“Yeah, I claim that verse…God is going to prosper me.”


Jeremiah 33:3
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

“Yeah, I claim that one too…God tell me great stuff…about how I am going to change the world.”

The context of those verses is rarely “claimed” as a promise from God.

The context is, the Babylonians are going to over run the country, you will lose the war, you will be hauled off as prisoners of war…then I will bring some of you back, in seventy years.

But most of you will die in Babylon…so settle down to live faithful lives in captivity…under the heel of a foreign power.

That was the plans God had for them…their hope was not in victory…but in trusting God in defeat and exile.

I’d be okay if someone said, “God, I claim the promise of Jeremiah 29:11, in my great suffering, even if I become an exile with nothing…I still have hope…you will prosper me as I obey you. My prosperity may only be having you, but you are all I will need.”

We are going to spend today and the following two weeks in the book of Daniel because it gives a us helpful look at how to be faithful in a hostile culture.

Daniel Series: Don’t try to change the world, Be faithful
1. Be faithful in the Small times.
2. Be faithful in the Hard times
3. Be faithful in the Waiting times

Today: Be faithful in the small times, and most of life are “small times”

Let’s do a quick backstory on Daniel.

We talked about Jeremiah; he was an Israelite priest in Jerusalem in the final days of the kingdom of Judah.

He told the people they would be destroyed by Babylon because of their sin and taken into exile.

They had rejected God’s law…they were mistreating the vulnerable, they were even practicing child sacrifice…judgment was coming…an enemy from the North…Babylon was going to be God’s tool of judgment…then God would judge them.

Jeremiah warned them over and over and was abused for it…but they refused to believe him.

The city of Jerusalem came under siege and was eventually destroyed, and the people taken to Babylon.

Daniel is set during the time of Jerusalem’s fall to Nebuchadnezzar and the exile of the people to Babylon.

What is interesting to me is that when you mention Daniel to people…what stands out tends to be the spectacular and the mysterious futuristic.

The spectacular: The blazing furnace, the Lion’s den.

The Mysterious future: Dreams of future kings and kingdoms, beasts, and the end times.

But the purpose of Daniel is to inspire faithfulness in the midst of persecution by the kingdoms of men that have turned against God.

It is the very opposite of chasing the spectacular or speculating on the future.

Be faithful in the normal, the hard, and the waiting times…be faithful right here and right now.

Daniel was taken into exile when he was around 17 and he was at least 82 when the Persians conquered the Babylonians.

We can read the 12 chapters in a few minutes and think “Wow”…. Blazing furnace without as much as a smoke smell on your clothes.

Lion’s den without a scratch.

Amazing dreams of the future.

Wow Daniel…but most of his life was far from wow.

There is a lot of time when nothing spectacular was going on in those 65 plus years.

In fact, between chapter four with King Nebuchadnezzar and the quick jump to chapter five with King Belshazzar and the fall of Babylon…there is nothing written.

Just blank space.

But for Daniel it was many years…years where he had become forgotten.

Nebuchadnezzar had promoted Daniel over an entire province…now, the new King, the foolish Belshazzar had to be told of this old guy named Daniel who had interpreted his Dad’s dreams.

More on that in a couple of weeks.

You have to read the Bible and notice what is not there to understand what is there.

No miracles a minute…no Daniels’ world outreach center…just years of faithfulness…as God’s plans unfolded and Daniel played his role in those plans.

Let’s read Daniel 1

1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.

Next, the King ordered that the best and brightest of Israel be trained in the language and literature of the Babylonians.

Daniel, and three friends were among those selected.

8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.” 11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found non equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus. (Sirus)

Cyrus was the Persian King who would conquer Babylon in about 65 years.

Daniel (and friends) were faithful in the small times…in the midst of a culture that was hostile to God.

They were selected because they were “young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace.”

God had chosen to make them physically and mentally who they were.

This doesn’t mean they were purely “natural talents.”

It doesn’t mean the results of their lives was all grace and no grit.

“God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness…for this reason make every effort.”

Wisdom, in Scripture, like Daniel and the boys had, is not mere intelligence it has moral and volitional foundations.

They had received God’s grace and they had exercised human grit…applied effort and endurance…to grow in wisdom.

God gave it, they pursued it…both was true.

They were now going to learn Babylonian culture, language, literature…this was going to be extremely difficult…but clearly they applied themselves with great grit.

They would have to become experts in Babylonian magic, sorcery, astrology, polytheism…all this was a part of the culture they had to master in order to advise and lead.

They didn’t buy in, but they learned it.

They had to have strong, settled faith in God to be able learn this culture without being overtaken by it.

Look back at verse 8, Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.

Daniel accepts a new Babylonian name he is called (“Belteshazzar”) and re-education in Babylonian culture but he protests the food he is to be given.

Why did he reject the diet?

It could be that he was being offered meat that would break the Jewish food laws.

In truth, all food in Babylon was, according to the Old Testament, ritually unclean. (Ez. 4:13)

There may be a clue in 11:26 where Daniel writes that “Those who eat his rich food (delicacies) will be his undoing.”

To share a meal for the Jew, was to commit to friendship, there is a covenant significance in it.

The thing Daniel rejected may not have been a ritual defilement but a moral one…to accept the King’s rich food was to commit himself in allegiance to the King.

So, Daniel would learn the king’s culture, he would even rule over part of the King’s kingdom…but as we will see later, he would refuse to ever put the earthly king over the King of heaven and earth in his heart’s allegiance.

He was literally willing die first.

Daniel had to learn to adjust to living in an environment that was at times hostile to his faith convictions.

Like everyone who lives in cross-culture tensions he had to think through the principles involved in his actions.

These were the small times, the times of study, and classrooms and preparation…days of figuring what can I do and must I not do to honor God in this time and place.

He had to seek to understand what part of the Babylonian culture he could accept and what he had to reject…it was not simple, but this was setting him up for the larger tests that were to come.

Jesus said, “Whoever can trust with little can be trusted with much. Whoever is unfaithful with little while be unfaithful with much.” Luke 16:10

We can overlook the small times and the small tests not realizing they are key to the larger times and larger tests yet to come.

*Students pay attention to the small faith and humility tests that God is putting before you now.

Pay careful attention to your heart…above all else, guard it…it is the wellspring of life.

Sometimes we reject parts of culture we are offended by…but fail to reject parts of culture that offends God.

These tend to be related to who is truly Lord of our hearts.

Let’s go Romans chapter 14, see how it applies to our decision-making process regarding living faithfully in a sometimes hostile culture.

Romans 14 is written after Christ has come and has fulfilled the law, the ceremonial laws were no longer in effect.

However, some new Christians still had conscience objections that would not allow them to do what other Christians could in good conscience do.

Let’s read:

14 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Paul is addressing what he calls disputable matters…this means that some things are not disputable…sexual immorality for example.

There are things that people can legitimately have different convictions about…food for instance.

Or observance of certain days.

5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

*Our heart allegiance is the key.

Paul was not a “your truth and my truth” kind of guy…he knew there is only “the truth”…but he also knew that different people were at different stages of development and even though God didn’t care if they ate certain foods or celebrated certain days…he cared most that their hearts were fully his.

We don’t get to judge others on these matters of conscience…and we are to put the interests of others ahead of our own…not to flaunt our own freedoms.

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. 14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16 Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,.

In 1 Corinthians Paul specifies that we are to watch out for non-Christians and new Christians and not let our freedom cause them to stumble.

This doesn’t mean we are to let the opinions of others shape all our choices, it simple means that we are to be loving and careful in our choices and in how we use our freedom.

Clearly we are not to be judgmental…either as the one who believes they have certain limits or the one who believes they have certain freedoms.

19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. 22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Key principles:
1. Don’t judge on disputable matters.

2. Form your own convictions on them, you have to make choices, but don’t try to compel others to them.

3. Live your convictions faithfully…God is after your heart.

*Listen to others…but it doesn’t matter what they can or can’t do…you obey God.

Paul said, “I’m convinced no food is unclean” verse 14.

But in verse 23, “If you have doubts, don’t eat…because all that is not done from faith (full hearted allegiance to God) is sin.”

Again, this doesn’t mean truth and sin are relative issues.

Paul is addressing very specific and practical issues…. things that are not clearly sin, but people have conscience objections to.

*I read of a man who was addicted to the sport of baseball, it ruled his life. When he became a follower of Christ he gave up baseball as an idol.

*He has later confused by Christians who would watch baseball and he was faced with trying to understand…were they in sin? No

*Should he watch baseball? No. At least not until he could do so from a free heart.

Romans was written to God’s people living in the hostile Roman empire.

Daniel was written to God’s people living in the hostile Babylonian empire.

Both were written for us living in our sometimes hostile American empire.

What we learn in both cases is that God is very concerned with our hearts…where does our true allegiance lie?

It is not easy to know what we can or can’t participate in as culture continues to shift…and it always shifts.

It’s difficult to know what to allow our kids to do or not to do.

We have to make choices and we will all make some of the same choices to be faithful…we will all submit to Christ as king, we will all seek to put the interests of others ahead of our own, we will all seek to live moral and ethical lives.

We will make some choices differently…how we educate our kids, or how we spend our time, and other varied decisions we make…we are to trust each other in these things and not pass judgment.

The foundation of all of it is a surrendered heart to Christ as king.

We don’t say to Christ…”Tell me what you want, and I will decide if I think I can do it.”

We say, “You are the Lord, when I know what you want, I will do it…I have decided. Help me know what to do.”

Where to begin?

Be faithful in the small times.

-It is largely hubris to want to change the world, the world is changed (in God honoring ways) by people who want to be found faithful.

“Yes but it has never been this hostile to Christians.”

I don’t know about that…

No one in Wichita is saying “If you don’t bow down and worship the state, we will burn you alive.”

“If you worship your God, we will let some starving lions eat you alive.”

That’s pretty hostile.

Let’s learn from Daniel.

Daniel went into exile from around age 17 until he was least 82 years old.

He was faithful under the Babylonian king, then he served the Persian king with distinction.

He lived a life of grace (God’s favor) and grit (he gave full effort).

This is key for us as well.

We must fully balance and embrace both sides of that equation.

We cannot throw up our hands in apathy or anger at the hostilities to our faith.

Both anger and apathy are bad reflexes.

Apathy, “Whatever, it’s not worth a fight…I give up.”
-You can’t beat them, quit trying.

Anger, “Whatever it is, I’m going to fight…I will never give in.”
-I have to beat them, no matter what.

What we are to pursue is faith empowered faithfulness.

Not apathy or anger…those are reactive…faithfulness is proactive.

Start with the small thing in front of you…don’t try to change the world, or do something spectacular.

-24-hour prayer and worship for years (moral failure)…produced loads of lazy young people.
-Scripturally they should have learning to carry their own weight…pray as they worked, worship as they dug ditches, or fixed computers, or served food.

-Greatest apologist for our generation…Ravi Z (moral failure)
-He had a golden tongue and great mind…and he lived far from God.

-Someone wants to write the greatest book (it’s been written…just read it)

Stop trying to change the world…be faithful.

See where God takes you in that journey.

Love your kids, love someone else’s kids…go to work, plant a garden…when Spring arrives.

In the meantime,…during the short dark days of winter…be faithful.

I used to wish Jan, Feb, Mar were not even on the calendar…let’s skip from Christmas to April.

I have learned to enjoy these days…I have to be inside more, time to be with people, time to be still, time to read, pray.

Carmen Pate told me yesterday, aside from the physical pain…these are the best years of their lives…he has learned to be grateful for the small.

Even these short winter days can teach us how to be faithful in the small.

It may be that you will become “famous” and influential someday.

If so, I’m sorry…that will be a difficult calling…I don’t envy you.

But in the end, if the Lord tarries…you will be dead and forgotten by all who are left on earth…and then, all that will matter, is that God knows your name…no one here will care.

In the end, God knowing your name will matter…That’s what really matters now.

Be faithful in the small things…this brings God glory and joy.