In the book of Jeremiah we read of God’s intention for Daniel and all of those with him who have been exiled from the land of promise.
“Jeremiah wrote a letter from Jerusalem to the elders, priests, prophets, and all the people who had been exiled to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. 2 This was after King Jehoiachin, the queen mother, the court officials, the other officials of Judah, and all the craftsmen and artisans had been deported from Jerusalem….This is what Jeremiah’s letter said:
This is what Yahweh of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem:
5 “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. 6 Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! 7 And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to Yahweh for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”
10 This is what Yahweh says:
“You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says Yahweh. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says Yahweh. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” (Jeremiah 29:1-3, 5-7, 10-14)
This letter from Jeremiah to Daniel and all of those taken into exile into Babylon, arguably the best and the brightest of Judah and Jerusalem, helps us understand why the book of Daniel is part of this Whole Story, this unified story that leads us to Jesus.
For in the first half of Daniel, chapters 1-6, we are going to see stories about Daniel and his friends, stories that show us a people fulfilling exactly what Yahweh had commanded of these exiles through Jeremiah’s letter. Stories of a people planted in another land, and growing, and bearing fruit and being a part of the good of that place. Stories that are timeless in their application, for we can rightfully summarize this section this way:
“The story of Daniel motivates faithfulness despite exile in Babylon.”
And in the second half of Daniel, chapters 7-12, we are going to see visions about the future, visions given to Daniel about that future, that affirm and display that Yahweh is the true King over all kings, and he is establishing his kingdom, and bringing about his purposes, even when it may not look or feel like it. For he “removes kings, and sets up kings” (2:21). We could summarize the story of Daniel receiving these visions, which are also very applicable to us today, this way:
“Daniel’s visions offer hope that God will bring all nations under his rule.”
Another way to think about this book, here to display Jeremiah’s letter of guidance to the exiles being fulfilled, would be:
In the first half, we see what it looks like to be faithful in Babylon;
in the second half, what it looks like to get home from Babylon.
I invite you now to watch or listen to the sermon on Daniel. And if you’d like to study the book further, I commend the Daniel page over at the Bible Project. In addition, they have a great companion resource page on the Biblical theme of Exile—check it out as well.
Pastor Matthew will be preaching on the book of Mark this coming Sunday, January 20. Here are some tips for your Bible reading that you received in last week’s Weekly Bible Reading email.
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