Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Living in an Alien Culture: Daniel 1

* Notes from a Bible study I did...

Living in an Alien Culture

·     1 Peter 1.1; 2.11

o  Leslie Newbigin, in discussing 1 Peter, drew attention to some of these differences that should be honored.  Michael Goheen summarizes Newbigin's discussion this way:

“Newbigin warned of three "vast differences" between Peter's time and ours that makes an application of Peter's words to our situation complex: (1) the church in Peter's time was a tiny minority with no responsibility for the political order, whereas today the church has power and influence in public life; (2) between their time and ours the entire story of the rise and fall of Christendom has dramatically changed the situation; and (3) today's culture allows an element of choice in these institutions, for example, in whom we marry, whom we work for, and whom we elect to positions of political authority.”

Goheen then adds:
“The church today is a minority and has lost cultural power in recent decades.  Western culture today is more hostile to Christian faith than it was in the past.  Nevertheless, the church still holds a degree of financial, political, and cultural power, and must learn to use that influence precisely as critical participants in culture.”[1] 

·     Israel in Exile as an example for us

o   Israel is to be a light to the nations: Isaiah 42.6; 49.6

§ Genesis 12.1-3: Abrahamic covenant

§ Exodus 19.1-6: Mosaic covenant

§ Psalm 2, 72 (esp. vv. 8-11, 17), 117; Isaiah 11.10 (cf. Romans 15.12): Davidic covenant

o   Exile calls into question all the covenantal promises

§ No land

§ No Davidic king

§ Looks like the gods of Babylon have prevailed

o   “We must not underestimate the identity crisis precipitated by Israel’s exile and the two grave dangers that exile posed to Israel’s missional identity: withdrawal or assimilation.  David Burnett comments on these two perennial temptations for Israel: ‘The first was to isolate themselves from the surrounding nations in order to protect their own beliefs and practices, but in doing so they would fail to be the blessing to the nations that God intended. The second was for them to become so identified with the surrounding nations that nothing would distinguish them.’ “[2]

·     Jeremiah 29.1-9: “Seek the welfare of the city”

o   Letter to the exiles (v. 1)

o   Daniel in Babylon would have known of this letter 

§ Daniel quotes Jeremiah in Daniel 9.2 concerning the 70 years

o   “Seek the welfare of the city” àagainst isolation and withdrawal

o   The book of Daniel will give real examples of what it means to seek the welfare of the city without compromise (without assimilation into idolatrous culture) 

·     Daniel: Some background

o   Dates:

§ Daniel 1.1: “the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim”  (605 BC)

§ Daniel 1.21: “the first year of Cyrus the king” (539 BC)

·     Also Daniel 10.1 mentions Cyrus’s third year: 537 BC

§ 586 BC-- the destruction of Jerusalem

§ Daniel has a long ministry.  He ministers throughout the exile and is involved with the administrations of two superpowers: Babylon and Persia

·     Daniel chapter one

o   Theological perspective: a deep understanding of the sovereignty of Yahweh!

§ 1.2: “The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand…”

§ 1.9: “Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials.”

§ 1.17: “As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.”

o   Three challenges

§ Changed names: reflect an association with Babylonian gods

§ Pagan education: Babylonian pagan practices

§ Eating the king’s food

·     Here they resist!  Why?

·     “Daniel and his three friends are in a process of education and preparation for service. Their minds as well as their bodies are being fed by the Babylonian court.  If they prosper, then to whom should they attribute their development and success?  The Babylonians.  However, by refusing to eat the food of the king, they know it is not the king who is responsible for the fact that ‘they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food’ (1:15).  Their robust appearance, usually attained by a rich fare of meats and wine, is miraculously achieved through a diet of vegetables.  Only God could have done it.”[3]

o   Note: Daniel later (seemingly) did eat the royal food--Daniel 10.3

·     Symbolic action to honor God 

·     Private action--not fully blown public confrontation 

o   Nebuchadnezzar wouldn’t have known when the youths stood before him

·     Prudential reasoning: “…test your servants for ten days… let our appearance be observed… deal with your servants according to what you see.” (1.12-13)

·     Applications and meditations

o   Bringing value to systems that are not explicitly Christian

o   Remembering the sovereignty of God

o   Creative resistance for the honor of God

o   Creatively and faithfully navigating non-Christian systems and arenas

     [1]Michael W. Goheen, A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2011), 188-189.
     [2]Michael W. Goheen, A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2011), 60-61.
     [3]Tremper Longman III, Daniel—NIVAC (Grand Rapids, Mich. : Zondervan, 1999), 53.