Daniel - Lesson 8

Reflections on Daniel 4

As we read and study the Old Testament, we can gain insights into redemptive history and see examples of how we should live. It can sometimes be a challenge to determine the continuity or discontinuity of a passage. A major theme in Daniel 4 and throughout the Bible is how pride can hinder your relationship with God. 

Lesson 8
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Reflections on Daniel 4

I. Value of the Old Testament

A. Redemptive history and moral lessons

B. Continuity and discontinuity

II. Avoid Pride

A. Definition of pride

B. Old Testament passages

C. Reflections on Jesus

  • Join distinguished scholar and professor emeritus Dr. Tremper Longman for a study of the book of Daniel, a fascinating and inspiring part of the Bible. In this class, you'll explore six stories and four apocalyptic visions that all demonstrate God's control and ultimate victory, even in the face of evil and difficulty. Don't miss this opportunity to be encouraged and strengthened in your faith as you study the powerful messages of the book of Daniel with Dr. Longman.

  • Daniel is written in two parts. The first six chapters is history written in the form of a story. Chapters seven through twelve are apocalyptic literature. In the English Bible, it’s with the major prophets. In the Hebrew Bible it’s in the Writings. The Apocalyptic section has similarities to the book of Revelation. One of the main messages in the book of Daniel is that even if you are living in a culture that is toxic to your faith, living by faith can help you not only survive, but thrive.

  • By the time Daniel was written, the nation of the Jewish people was divided into the tribes of Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Assyria conquered Israel in 722 BC. Babylon overthrew Assyria in 612 BC then Judah in 605 BC. Daniel. Daniel and others were taken to Babylon and chosen to be trained as royal advisors.   

  • Daniel and his friends were willing to learn the language, literature and divination practices of the Babylonians even though it was potentially toxic to their faith. They temporarily chose to eat vegetables and water rather than the food and wine that the other officials in training were eating. The performed at the top of their class.

  • Nebuchadnezzar summoned the royal magicians and sorcerers and required them to tell him what his dream was and give him an interpretation of the dream. Daniel is able to do this because of the wisdom God gives him.

  • Daniel reveals the dream and the interpretation because God revealed it to him. The parts of the statue represent different worldly kingdoms. The stone that crushes the statue represents God’s rule over the kingdoms. Nebuchadnezzar recognizes Yahweh as being powerful.

  • Daniel and his friends were thrown into a fiery furnace as punishment for not worshipping an image of Nebuchadnezzar. God miraculously saved them and Nebuchadnezzar promoted them to positions in the royal court.

  • This is a story of a contest between Daniel and his friends and the Babylonian wise men. A major theme is the pride of Nebuchadnezzar and how that affects the outcome. Some of the story is narrated in by Nebuchadnezzar in the first person. Nebuchadnezzar has a dream. The Babylonian wise men don’t give him an interpretation, but Daniel does. Nebuchadnezzar experienced judgment but God restores him.

  • As we read and study the Old Testament, we can gain insights into redemptive history and see examples of how we should live. It can sometimes be a challenge to determine the continuity or discontinuity of a passage. A major theme in Daniel 4 and throughout the Bible is how pride can hinder your relationship with God. 

  • Belshazzar was a ruler in Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar died. During a banquet he hosted, he used the goblets from the temple in Jerusalem for his guests to drink out of. In the middle of a banquet, a hand appeared and wrote a message on the wall. Belshazzar called Daniel to interpret the message.

  • When Darius gave Daniel a position of authority in his government, the administrators underneath him were jealous. They devised a plan to trap Daniel and force Darius to execute him. God rescued Daniel and the administrators suffered the fate that they had planned for Daniel. The story shows that in spite of present difficulties, God is in control and it’s important to live a life that is faithful to him.

  • Daniel had a vision of four beasts that were frightening in appearance. An angel explained the significance of the beasts in terms of historical kingdoms but didn’t say specifically which ones.

  • Daniel and Jeremiah both had messages from God but the way God communicated to each of them was different. The word “apocalypse” comes from the first word in Greek in the book of Revelation which means to reveal or uncover something. Some characteristics of apocalyptic literature are visions, dreams, a binary point of view, highly figurative language and the theme of hope based in confidence in God’s control over people and events that seem chaotic and overwhelming.

  • In this lesson, you gain a deeper understanding of the book of Daniel, focusing on its themes, historical context, and preparation for spiritual battles in a challenging cultural environment.
  • You gain a deeper understanding of the Book of Daniel, its historical context, literary features, key themes, and significance within the Old Testament, while focusing on God's warfare against evil.
  • John the Baptist described Jesus coming as a warrior but the ministry of Jesus was different than what he expected. Since we live in phase 4, God gives us the power to fight spiritual battles. The God who led the people of Israel into battle in the Old Testament is the same God described in the New Testament who came as God in human form as Jesus.

  • The vision in Daniel 8 describes animals that represent kingdoms and individuals. While Daniel was seeing the vision, Gabriel came and explained its meaning. Antiochus Epiphanes fits the description of one of the horns in the vision. His persecution of the people of Israel and his desecration of the temple is similar to the way the anti-Christ is described in Revelation.

  • As Daniel is reading Scripture, he comes to the realization that what he is reading in the book of Jeremiah may actually be taking place at the time. His response is to begin by praying. He includes himself in confessing the sins of the people of Israel and appeals for God to rescue them from exile.

  • As Daniel is reading Jeremiah and praying, the angel Gabriel appears to Daniel to explain the vision to him. The numbers in the vision are symbolic but demonstrate that God has a plan and a time frame to accomplish it.

  • The final of Daniel’s four visions described in chapters 10-12. There is an introduction to the vision, description of the vision and instructions to Daniel. The answer to Daniel’s prayer was delayed because of spiritual warfare.

  • This vision covers the events surrounding the Persian and Greek rulers in the 3rd and 4th century BC. They are described in such detail that some people think it was written after they took place, not as a prophecy.

  • The righteous and the wicked have different fates in the after-life. Throughout Scripture there is progress of revelation. God is in control and he will be victorious. The prophecy that God gave Daniel describes events that will happen in the future. Celestial sources give final words to Daniel that are also addressed to readers of the book of Daniel. A theme that is emphasized throughout the book of Daniel is, in spite of present difficulties, God is in control and he will have the final victory.  This is illustrated both in the stories of Daniel and his friends and in the visions of future events that Daniel has.

  • Daniel informs the imagery and message of the book of Revelation. They are the two books of the Bible with primarily apocalyptic themes. Daniel’s encounter with God and angels is similar to what John records in Revelation. Daniel is commanded to seal his prophecy and in Revelation, the seals are opened. The references Revelation to the beasts and three and a half years is also similar to Daniel.

Living in a toxic culture can be dangerous and risky, but when you live by faith, God can give you opportunities to thrive, succeed and be a testimony to God's power and love for people. A primary message of the prophecies of Daniel is that in spite of present difficulties, God is in control and he will have the final victory. God has not provided us with a precise date on the calendar for when that will happen, but he will accomplish his plan on his timetable.

Dr. Tremper Longman III
Daniel ot666-08
Reflections on Daniel 4
Lesson Transcript

Tremper Longman III [00:00:00] Okay. Now have a look at Daniel Chapter four and Expositor. The story that we find there, we see that pride is sort of at the heart of this story. It's pride that leads to never Nasir's ball. It's. It's never a narrative. There's feeling that he is more important than God. Or perhaps to put it another way, that he does not acknowledge that his power and status and achievements are because of God. And the story tells us that the beginning at the end, that he comes to a place where he's willing to recognize that even again, I'm not convinced that we're to understand the mechanism as coming to some kind of committed, confirmed, exclusive belief in Yahweh. But still, the story teaches us all lessons, too. And I think that's a dimension of Old Testament narrative that we need to recognize, because there some people who think that that we can't learn sort of life lessons from the Old Testament narratives. Matter of fact, there are some who make jokes about those who think you should read an Old Testament narrative and say, Go thou and do likewise. Or or, you know, in some cases, like in Daniel, chapter four, Go thou and don't do likewise, you know. But I want to say that that the New Testament, which is absolutely to be read as a redemptive historical narrative, you know, which is sort of often given as the counterpart to a more moralistic reading of the Old Testament is absolutely important. That is, when we read these texts, we want to ask how does it fit into God's great story of redemption that culminates in Christ? And we'll talk more about that later when it comes to the Book of Daniel. But that doesn't exclude the the the value of the Old Testament as informing how we should live ourselves, though there are certain important things to keep in mind as we do it. But before I tell you, what we need to keep in mind is I want to cite a couple of passages from Paul in the New Testament that would encourage us to read the Old Testament in what I'm calling a moralistic way, and that is Romans 15 four in Romans 15 for Paul says. For Everything was written in the past was written to teach us so that through the endurance taught in scriptures and the encouragement they provide, we might have hope. So, you know, these texts are written to teach us. And First Corinthians ten one through six, I'll read the whole context, but it's in particular for sex that I think Paul is expressing. The principle that I'm calling on here says for I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses, in the cloud and in the sea. They all eat the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanying them and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them. Their bodies were scattered in the wilderness for sex. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. You know, so so again, this idea of reading Old Testament narrative as examples to encourage us toward obedience to God, I think is is perfectly reasonable. And for those of you who are preachers of the Bible who are listening to this course, this is especially important for you to hear as well, because you can air on two sides in preaching. You can only use the Old Testament as kind of examples of living, you know, go out and be like David fighting the Goliath of the world, or you can all you might only exclusively preach the Old Testament sort of redemptive historically by looking at these Old Testament taxes, ultimately leading us to Christ. And what I'm saying is, you know, we need to do both. We need to be do both. And and. But we also have to be mindful. We need to be mindful of what I call issues of continuity and discontinuity. You have to be mindful of the fact, as you read the Old Testament, that when Christ comes, Christ fulfills. The Old Testament in ways that render certain things in the Old Testament are no longer relevant for our lives. I think that's what Jesus is getting at in the Sermon on the Mount when he says, and Matthew chapter five, verse 17 and following, when he says, Do not think that I've come to abolish the law, The prophets have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them for truly, I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear. Not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear from the law until everything is accomplished. Therefore, anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called less than the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called in the Kingdom of Heaven. But I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. So here, the way I understand what Jesus is saying here is, look, you know, the Old Testament is not irrelevant to the Christian. The Old Testament is still very relevant. But we also have to acknowledge that Jesus has accomplished certain things so that they're no longer to be observed. And so. So, for instance, we don't offer animal sacrifices. And the obvious answer, the reason why we don't just because Jesus says guarding the author of Hebrews is the fulfillment of the sacrificial system and we don't practice, you know what later called the course haram warfare, the kind of warfare that Joshua practiced in the land of Cain. And this is different than the issue of is there such a thing as just war? This is do we wage a kind of holy war in the way Joshua did at the time of the conquest? As I said, I'll get into that later. My only my only point at this time is that we need to be mindful of issues of continuity and discontinuity. And if you want to see that more from what I think is the right way to think about it, I write about this in a couple of places, but probably the best place to look to see how I understand this is in a book that I wrote called The Bible and the Ballot using Scripture and political decisions where I talk about how we should read the Bible in a way that helps us get principles to think about contemporary public policy issues. And and it doesn't give us specific public policy, for instance, on immigration than, say, whether to build a wall or not build a wall. It doesn't say in a certain circumstance or it doesn't say how many immigrants you should land in a year, but it gives us principles and shapes our dispositions and should shape our rhetoric in ways that that that God wants us to think and feel and speak about. And in there I talk about this. You know, there are certain things in the Old Testament that are not relevant to a 21st century culture, but there are others that continue to maintain their relevance. So it's a really important hermeneutical issue, interpretive issue that I encourage everybody to think about and and study. Okay, So all that as a background to now let's reflect on the obvious teaching of Daniel Chapter four that is telling us to avoid pride. Avoid pride. And I think we all know that pride is bad because what is pride after all, but an assertion of the importance of the self when we should be asserting the primacy, sovereignty and importance of our Triune God. But while it's obvious it's difficult to put into practice. Why? Because we're sinners, you know, we're sinners. And at the heart of sin is a turning in on oneself, an assertion of one's importance and autonomy over against God. Pride is a big issue in our lives and in Scripture. So I'd just like to reflect on a few other scriptures that inform us about pride. Beginning with the Garden of Eden. All right. And specifically Genesis three. So Genesis three, God has created human beings. We get that story in Genesis two at the time of their creation. They are they are morally innocent, capable of moral choice. Their innocence is reflected by the last verse of chapter two, that they're able to stand naked and feel no shame. Now, James can also play an important role in what I'm about to say. And the reason why they feel no shame is that they can't be completely open and vulnerable to one another. This physical nakedness is reflective of of, you know, psychological openness, emotional openness, spiritual openness to each other. But that radically changes in Genesis chapter two. Why? Well. The serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made, He said, The woman. God really say, you must not eat from any tree in the garden. Which is a ridiculous question, by the way, because if they couldn't eat from any tree in the garden, they would have starved to death. And so the woman at this point becomes the first apologist. And sometimes you should not be an apologist for God. You should just ignore or dismiss people who are making ridiculous claims about God after all. And in Genesis chapter two, Adam had been commissioned, and I believe that once Eve was created, she was co-commissioned to take care of and guard the garden. The word shimmer is used in Genesis two, verse 15, and it's usually translated some other way than guard, but that's the most natural meaning of the word. So and I think sometimes translators don't translate it guard because because they think, well, you know, it's Genesis two. There's nothing to guard the garden against. But of course, there is something to guard the garden against, namely the serpent. And then she says, you must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden and you must not touch it or you will die. So it is also the first legal list. As has been pointed out, she's fencing the law here. There's nothing about not touching the tree. And so the serpent. Continues. He will certainly not die for God knows that when you eat from it, your eyes will be open and you will be like God. Knowing good and evil. Knowing good and evil. I mean, they intellectually know what's good and what's evil, right? They know that it's wrong to eat of the fruit of the tree. So it's not a matter of you'll eat of it, and all of a sudden you'll be informed about something. It's actually saying that if you eat of it, you'll be asserting your moral autonomy. You'll be in essence saying, I'm not going to listen to God and listen to what he tells me is right and wrong. I'm going to decide what's right and wrong. My self, which know this again, how that's a turning away from God to oneself. And in verse six, when the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing the eye and also desirable for gaining wisdom and took some and ate it, she also gave it to her husband who was with her. By the way, that's missing in a couple of English translations mysteriously, since it's pretty obvious. And the Hebrew, then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked. So they sewed figleaves together and made coverings for themselves. Okay, so the bottom line is, here we have the first thing, what we call the original sin, that that is an assertion of pride of self over against God. We can also think of the Tower of Babel in Genesis Chapter 11 as another example. I mean, there are many examples because in essence, my point is that that pride is at the heart of sin. But in Genesis 11, which is the last of a series of stories in the first 11 chapters of Genesis, each one of which that includes Genesis three, as well as Cain and Abel. The Flood story and now the Tower of Babel are stories of human sin. That then are followed by a judgment speech of God and then the execution of the judgment. But in the first three, with obvious tokens of grace, there's a missing token of grace and Genesis. The story of Genesis 11, which I'll comment on briefly. But what I want us to see as I read Genesis 11 one through nine is simply that that what's going on here, that human beings who have been scattered by God are going against his will, gathering together and building a tower that goes up to heaven, a kind of assertion of human accomplishment and pride over against God. Now, the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found the plain and chinnor and settled there. They said to each other, Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly. They use brick instead of stone and tar for mortar. Then they said, Come, let us build for ourselves a city with a tower that reaches to the heavens. Now notice this next phrase so that we may make a name for ourselves. Otherwise we'll be scattered over the face of the whole earth. But the Lord God came down to the city and the tower and the people were built that the people were building. The Lord said, if as one people speaking the same language they had begun to do this, then nothing they planned to do will be impossible for them. Come, let's go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other. So Lord scattered them from there over the earth and they stop building the city. That is why it's called battle. Because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. So again, the people here are asserting their themselves over God. Let us make a name for ourselves. God is not allowing this. He is scattering them across the earth. As I said, What's interesting, as kind of a side note in this particular story, it's the one story in Genesis 1 to 11 that doesn't have an explicit token of grace, whereas, you know, in Genesis three, God gives Adam and Eve clothing. In Genesis four, God puts a mark on Cain that preserves him from the violence that he fears. In the flood story, it's now Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, but nothing in Genesis 11 one through nine. We might think that implicitly it's the creation of languages that is a kind of token of grace, that God is not eradicating the possibility of human communication. But I think actually the real answer is this is setting up the call of Abraham. The call of Abraham is the token of grace that God is now going to try to reach the world through this one man and his descendants. So. So, yeah, Tower of Babel is another example of what we're talking about here. And I'd like to also turned Psalm 73. So Sam, 73, also deals with the issue of pride of people. And the interesting thing about 73 is that the psalmist himself is troubled because he thinks these proud, arrogant, rich people are winning. And but he's going to come to realize that now God is in control and he will have the final victory. So it's kind of similar to what we get in the Book of Daniel. The same as begins a kind of like Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel chapter four by coming, you know, making, stating where he ends up, he says, Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure and heart. But now he's going to recount his difficulties in the past. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped. I had nearly lost my foot hold for I envy the air again when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles. Their bodies are healthy and strong. They're free from common burdens. They're not plagued by human ills. Okay. So, by the way, I also think that sometimes in our own disturbed state of mind, we sometimes maybe distort reality out there. Because my own experience of people who look like they have it all together and have everything really don't. But still, it's a it's a perspective that those who are looking out there and seeing the wicked prosper often feel. Therefore, pride is their necklace. They clothed themselves with violence for their callous hearts. From their callous hearts comes iniquity. Their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff and speak with malice, with arrogance. They threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven in their tongues, take possession of the earth. Therefore, their their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, How would God know? Does the most hi know anything? This is what the wicked are life like always free of care. They go on amassing wealth. So that was his previous thinking. Verse 30. And he said, Surely in vain, I've kept my heart pure and I've wash my hands and innocence. All day long I've been afflicted and every morning brings new punishments. If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this and troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God, then I understood their final destiny. So notice, it's when He comes into and an intimate encounter with God at the sanctuary that his perspective or way of thinking is transformed. Because surely you place them on slippery ground. You cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors. They are like a dream when one awakes. When you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies. When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant. I was a brute beast before you. Yet I'm always with you. You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterwards you will take me into your glory. Whom have I in heaven? But you and Earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh in my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish. You destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it's good to be near God. I made the sovereign Lord my refuge. I will tell of all your deeds. One more Psalm. Some 30 is also, I think, helpful and relevant here. Some 30 is Thanksgiving. Some Thanksgiving Psalms are Psalms that are sung after God answers a lament. So there's Walter Brueggemann pointed out this interesting trilogy of Psalm types, beginning with hymns, which he calls Psalms of orientation. That is Psalms When you're saying when everything's going great, you love God, you love other people. You love yourself. Laments or songs of disorientation that you sing when life is out of whack. Things aren't going well. And a Thanksgiving is a time of reorientation that you're saying when God answers your lament and you thank him for it. Now Bruggeman ends it there. I have to throw in the fact that you have to ask the question, Well, what do you do if God doesn't answer your lament? God doesn't always answer our laments. At this point, Psalms of confidence become important. Psalms A confidence are Psalms that you typically only get to after a period of lament. But. But then ultimately after lamenting. If God doesn't answer your lament, you could keep lamenting. You certainly shouldn't give up on God because there's a difference between grumbling about God like they did in the wilderness, which brings on God's judgment and lamenting to God, talking to God directly about what's going on in your life. But a sign of confidence is a sign that you sing. Expressing your trust in God while you suffer. You know, even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil in the presence of my enemies. You prepare a table for me. Psalm 23. So, but back to Psalm 30, which is a Psalm of Thanksgiving. The Psalms takes us through his own journey. Beginning with I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies groan over me. Lord, my God, I called you for help and you healed me. So I think probably what inspired this psalm was somebody who was seriously ill but recovered and noted that God was the one who healed him. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead. You spare me from going down to the pit, sing the praises of the Lord. You, His faithful people, praises Holy name for his anger. Last only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime. Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Okay. Now, though, he's going to take us back to what he understands led to his travail. Because when I felt secure, I said I will never be shaken. Lord, when you favor me, you made my royal mountain stand firm. But when you hid your face, I was dismayed. Okay, So. So here is a person who who has been successful in life. But rather than at this point acknowledging God's goodness to him, he rather very presumptuously says, I will never be shaken, you know? And so this is what I call a theme of redemptive abandonment, which we see various places. So God hid his face from him. It's kind of like, okay, you think you're in charge. Your pride is led you to the point where you think your you will never be shaken. Oh, let me give you a little taste of what life is like without me. And this person responds in the right way, you know, by turning back to God. T to you, Lord, I called to the Lord. I cried for mercy. What is gained if I'm silence? If I go down to the pit, will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness here, Lord, and be merciful to me, Lord, be my help You turn my wailing into dancing. You remove my sackcloth and clothe me with joy that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord, my God, I will praise you forever. Let me conclude with a reflection on Jesus in this regard, in terms of themes of pride, humility and shame. And and do that by turning to Paul's powerful poem and Philippians chapter two. Who Paul says about Christ Jesus being in very nature God. This is Philippians two six and following did not consider equality with God, something to be used to his own advantage. Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death. Even death on a cross. Jesus, who, as Paul says, being in very nature. God. Empties himself, humbles himself, comes into our world, and even experiences death and the kind of humiliating death of crucifixion. But of course, that's not the end of the story either. Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name that the name of Jesus. Every knee should bow in heaven and on Earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God. The Father. Um. Yeah. So let me end with a kind of reflection on the church today by saying that many in the church, or at least as I read things from various people, are really upset about the fact that contemporary society marginalized, humiliate Christians these days. And so there's this reaction against that to try to almost gain back cultural political power. Let me just suggest that what we've been reading here would say that that is the wrong attitude or mode of action for the church, but rather we should expect to be humiliated. We should expect to be marginalized. We should relish it, because in that we are reflecting our Lord who was marginalized, humiliated, even killed. So some things to think about in regard to Daniel. Chapter four.