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Lesson 11: Mission in a Pagan Land: Daniel and Company *

Introduction: Have you ever thought that life, as you knew it, had come to an end? Those thoughts went through my mind early in the day on September 11, 2001, when I was in the Washington, D.C. area and the Pentagon was hit (we thought) with a bomb. Last year, I heard a young man from Rwanda tell his story of losing his family and fleeing his country as a result of the genocide there. This week we look at Daniel, a man whose life was turned up-side down by the Babylonian conquest of his country. It is one thing to try to convert others when all around you is normal. What about being a missionary when everything around you has changed? Let's plunge into the life of Daniel and find out!

  1. The End?

    1. Read Daniel 1:1-2. What was the most important purpose of the capitol city of Jerusalem? (It was the center of worship. It contained the temple of God - prepared by King David and built by King Solomon.)

      1. What do we learn has happened to Jerusalem and the temple?

      2. Has the God of Judah been defeated by the god of Babylon? ( Daniel 1:2 tells us "the Lord" caused this to happen. The true God oversaw the defeat of His people and His temple.)

        1. But yourself in that place. Your country has been attacked and defeated. Your God has seemingly been defeated and His temple - the place of His visible presence - has been robbed and shortly thereafter, destroyed. What are your feelings about the future?

    2. Read Daniel 1:3-4 and Daniel 1:6. What do we learn about Daniel and his three friends? (They are the best and the brightest. They come from "high" society.)

      1. What kind of future did they have in Judah? (They would be the future leaders.)

      2. What have they lost? (Everything - at least so it seems.)

    3. Read Daniel 1:5. What kind of future do they now have?

      1. What problems do you see with becoming the representative of the invading country?

    4. Read Daniel 1:7. I want you to look at the change in these names:

      1. Daniel "God my Judge" to Belteshazzar "Bel's Prince." ("Bel" being the chief Babylonian god.)

      2. Hananiah "whom Jehovah has favored" to Shadrach "illuminated by the Sun-god."

      3. Mishael "who is comparable to God?" to Meshach "Humbled before my god."

      4. Azariah "Jehovah has helped" to Abednego "Servant of Nebo." (Nebo was the son of Bel.)

        1. What was the purpose of their original names? (To honor God.)

        2. What is the purpose of these name changes? (When your name means something, you identify with what it means. The Babylonians gave the four Hebrew boys names that showed the triumph of the Babylonian gods over Jehovah. They would daily be reminded of this - and of their new mission in life. The goal was to remold these young men into Babylonian leaders, servants of Bel, the god of Babylon.)

  2. The Early Test

    1. Read Daniel 1:8. Why would Daniel take a stand on vegetables? (This was not a "meat vs. vegetables" issue. Some commentaries suggest the problem was eating food sacrificed to idols. I believe the primary problem was that the meat was "unclean" (Leviticus 11) and improperly prepared ( Deuteronomy 12:21-25, no blood allowed in the meat). This explains why Daniel refers to being "defiled" by the royal food.)

      1. Should this have been an important issue to Daniel? Would it have been an important issue to you? (Read Ezekiel 4:13. God had predicted that part of His judgment against His people was that they would be exiled and eat defiled food in the land of exile. Daniel believed that this was a test of his loyalty to God.)

    2. Read Daniel 1:9-10. How did the chief official react to Daniel's request that they should eat only vegetables and drink water? (He was sympathetic, but worried about their health.)

      1. Why was he sympathetic? (God is intervening for Daniel!)

    3. Read Daniel 1:11-13. What kind of attitude does Daniel show towards his Babylonian captors?

      1. What lesson do you find in this for the time when you face religious freedom problems? (I have clients who think it is part of their witness to "punch" the "opposition" in the nose. Daniel shows just the opposite behavior. Bible-based emotional intelligence requires being polite and as inoffensive as possible. No insults. No attacks. Seek religious accommodation with a kind spirit.)

      2. Is God also being tested here? Would you test God given the circumstances?

    4. Read Daniel 1:14. Do you think the Babylonian official understood the religious nature of Daniel's objection to the food? (No. If he did, he should have been shot. This whole training system was intended to replace the old religious beliefs with the new religious order. This was not a nutritional issue, this was a loyalty contest. Daniel was defying the new order by his loyalty to God.)

    5. Read Daniel 1:15-16. Is this proof that a vegetarian diet makes you healthier and better looking? (I wish! I've been a vegetarian for over 45 years. Unfortunately, I think I'm going to have to wait until the Second Coming for my "make-over." Obviously, God intervened and rewarded Daniel's loyalty with a miracle.)

    6. Step back a minute. God allows the destruction of their nation, their home, their place of worship, and their way of life. Yet this same God performs small miracles in their healthy look. How would you explain God succeeding in the unimportant things and "failing" in the important things? (God is being consistent when we look at the larger picture. The disloyalty of the Hebrew leadership in big things causes the big "failures." The loyalty of Daniel in the "small" things of his life causes the "small" victories. Daniel is caught up in the larger unfaithfulness.)

      1. What lesson is there in this for your life?

    7. Read Daniel 1:18-20. What is the outcome for those who are faithful?

      1. What do you say about them still being captives?

      2. How important is it that Daniel and his friends surpass all of the Babylonians? (Can you see the new battleground? The leaders of Judah were unfaithful, so the city of evil defeats the city of God. It is an apparent defeat for the true God. But, our God then takes the "remnant" who are faithful and through them "defeats" all the Babylonian leaders and the spokesmen for Bel.)

  3. The Dream

    1. Read Daniel 2:1-3. Have you had a dream that caused you to lose sleep? Have you thought it was a message from God?

      1. Why do you think Nebuchadnezzar was so troubled about his dream? (Kings know they are important. Therefore, their dreams must be important. Plus, this was a recurrent dream. The New Bible Commentary tells us that in the ancient Near East kings believed the gods gave them messages through dreams.)

      2. What kind of experts did Nebuchadnezzar bring in to fix his dream problem?

        1. Read Deuteronomy 18:9-12. What is God's opinion of these kinds of "experts?"

    2. Read Daniel 2:4-7. Why do you think Nebuchadnezzar insisted on his experts telling him the details of his dream? (Read Daniel 2:8-9. Nebuchadnezzar believed that they had been lying to him. If they could tell the future through a dream, it should be a small matter to describe the contents of his dream. This was a test of both their honesty and their ability to correctly interpret the dream.)

    3. Read Daniel 2:10-11. Analyze the arguments made by the experts to Nebuchadnezzar? (1. No person can do this. 2. No king should ask it of his subjects. 3. He should ask a god - and there is no god in the neighborhood.)

    4. Read Daniel 2:12. How does Nebuchadnezzar react to being told that he is unreasonable - that no proper king would ask such a thing?

  4. The Test and the Victory

    1. Read Daniel 2:13-15. How would you react if you heard the decree of the King? Would "wisdom and tact" be the way to describe your response?

    2. Read Daniel 2:16. How would you like to go before Nebuchadnezzar then? What might happen to you?

    3. Read Daniel 2:17-18. Apparently Daniel was promised more time by the King. Why did Daniel need to have his friends pray about this trial? (Daniel must have believed that having a group pray is better.)

      1. Do you agree that group prayer is better?

      2. Read Matthew 18:19-20. Why do you think that God requires two or three for His presence? (The entire tenor of these verses is that discussing something with others gives better results. It discourages selfish requests to God.)

    4. Read Daniel 2:19. God comes through! What does Daniel do after God reveals the mystery? (He praises God - Daniel 2:20-23!)

      1. Consider your prayers for a moment. Compare how intensely you pray for help with how intensely you praise God thereafter?

    5. Read Daniel 2:25-26. How would you have answered the King?

      1. What do you think about what Arioch says? (He did nothing of the sort - Daniel went to him. Arioch is trying to take partial credit for the interpretation.)

    6. Read Daniel 2:27-28. Notice that Daniel does not mention his own name even once. He says nothing about his role in this revelation. Why?

      1. Compare this with your "victories" at work and in the church. How much do you mention your role in these things?

    7. Read Daniel 2:29-30. Finally, Daniel mentions his own role in things. Study Daniel's words in these verses. How does he explain his role, the King's role and God's role in this process?

      1. If you substitute King Nebuchadnezzar for your employer, can you learn a great deal from Daniel on how to be a missionary in dealing with problems at work? (Be tactful. Pray. Give praise to God.)

    8. Friend, are you able to be faithful to God when it seems that He has allowed terrible things in your life? Will you determine to let Daniel be a role model for you?

  5. Next week: Gifted for Service: Philip.
* Copr. 2008, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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