Please Meet Daniel

     No passage of the Bible describes any person in great detail.  Perhaps the exception is Daniel Chapter 1, which gives us a wealth of information about Daniel, without appearing to!
     It tells us that when King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah, he ordered that some Israelites be brought to Babylon. When we read verses 3&4, we meet Daniel face to face.  He was [1] a young [2] Israelite [3] man, [4] from the royal family of Judah, or was at least a nobleman, [5] handsome, [6] without any physical defect,  [7] showing aptitude for every kind of learning, [8] well-informed, [9] quick to understand, and [10] qualified to serve in Nebuchadnezzar's court.  [11] Daniel was trained in the language and literature of the Babylonians [12] for three years. Does any other short passage in the Bible tell so much about any other person?
     During that time, Daniel [13] received "knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning" from God (1:17), and [14] unlike the other Israelite captives [15] "could understand visions and dreams of all kinds" (1:17).  [16] He was personally tested by Nebuchadnezzar and [17] passed the test, and [18] entered the king's service.  [19] He had three outstanding friends: Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who also passed the test and entered Nebuchadnezzar's service.  All four, including Daniel, [20] were "ten times better in wisdom and understanding than all the magicians and enchanters in  his (Nebuchadnezzar's) whole kingdom" (1:20).  These 20 things describing  Daniel are told to us explicitly.  The chapter tells us more if we stop to think about what it says.
     Verse 8 tells us that, "Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine", apparently because these were religiously unclean, having been offered to idols. What does this tell us about Daniel? That he [21] was faithful to God even after his country was conquered and he lost everything, including his freedom, and was forced into exile in a foreign land almost a thousand kilometers away by road from his home?  Most people can be faithful to God when things go well.  But Daniel remained faithful even when almost everything had gone wrong. He stands beside Job and Joseph as an example to us in faithfulness during hard times.
     When people are in captivity, food often becomes very important for survival. So, verse 8 also tells us that [22] Daniel was not greedy for rich food and wine, but [23] was willing to set aside survival in order to be obedient to God.
     Daniel "asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way". So, [24] Daniel had the courage to speak to the chief official on this matter of religion?  Would you dare go and speak to the Prime Minister on a personal matter?  [25] Daniel was also very daring, for to reject food given by the king was an insult to the king and ingratitude towards his magnanimous favour.
     [26] But wasn't young Daniel naïve?  The chief official, Ashpenaz, had been appointed to convert Daniel to the idol-worshipping culture and  religion of the Babylonians.  How do we know this? Because Ashpenaz "was to teach them (the selected young Israelites) the language and literature of the Babylonians" (1:4).  Can one learn the language and literature of a country without learning about its culture, if not its religion?  Also, look at how Ashpenaz  re-named Daniel and his friends:
Name                      Meaning
Daniel ..................God is (my) Judge
(Belteshazzar) ..... Bel [a Babylonian god] protect his life
Hananiah ............. Yahweh shows grace
Shadrach ............ Ach [the Sumerian moon-god, or Aku)'s command
Mishael ............... Who is what God is?
Meshach ............. Who is what Ach is?
Azariah ............... Yahweh helps
Abednego ........... The god Nego's servant, i.e.servant helping Nego
     Why the religiously significant names if they were not part of a programme to convert them to the Babylonian religion?  So, did Ashpenaz agree to Daniels's religious request not to defile himself?  Of course not. 
     But we see that [27], Daniel learnt fast.  He next approached his guard. What do guards like, if not control over their prisoners?  So Daniel gave him control. "Test us your servants," Daniel said humbly, which implies "You are in control, you can test us." [28] Daniel was becoming wise in human psychology.  This incident also shows that [29] Daniel was persistent, and did not give up when he failed at first.  He also [30] displayed leadership qualities, for he acted as the spokesman of Hananiah and the others.
     The last verse of the chapter tells us that [31] Daniel lived for some 68 years in Babylonia.  He arrived around 605 or 604 B.C. ["third year of the reign of Jehoiakim" - 1:1] and "remained there until the first year of King Cyrus" - 1:21].  God had sustained Daniel for some 68 years in captivity, in high positions of the government, in a foreign land.  What does that tell us about God?
     The author of Daniel Chapter 1 [Daniel himself] told us some 31 pieces of information about Daniel in 21 verses, but mentioned Daniel by name only nine times.  Isn't that writing of the highest degree?  Hey, isn't that Point Number 32?

"When God Doesn't Make Sense"
by James Dobson
(Tyndale House Publishers, 1993, 209 pp.)

     I was somewhat confused when as a young believer I heard these words, "God makes sense even when He doesn't make sense." I am sure many others are also confused.  But through the years of faith walk I have discovered this statement to be so true.  I sought counsel from many sources concerning it.  Then one day I received a book, When God Doesn't Make Sense, which helps me a great deal in understanding God a little better.  This is a good book to read if you want to understand God in the midst of suffering and pain.  And I have taken the liberty of giving a longer review.
     Many of us would agree with this statement, "The lives of many godly people are filled with many unexplainable pain and suffering."  Now, are these events evidences of God's anger or something else?  How do explain these tragedies that strike both the Christians and non-believers?
     There are no easy answers, says Dr James Dobson, the author of When God Doesn't Make Sense.  Indeed the Lord has not made it clear why these things happen.  But the Bible does tell us is that we lack the capacity to understand the infinite mind of God or the way He chooses to intervene in your life and mine.
     Dobson says, "It is an incorrect view of Scripture to say that we will always comprehend what God is doing and how our suffering and disappointment fit into His plan" (page 11).  It is this confusion that shreds one's faith.
     "Expectations…," writes Dobson, "set us up for disillusionment" (page 13).  There is no greater disappointment than to build one's entire life around certain theological beliefs and then have those beliefs collapse when a tragedy strike.
     The author's understanding of the Word has led him to conclude that God places a high value on our faith.  What is faith?  The author to the book of Hebrews tells us it is, "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:6).  It is the determination to believe when proof is not provided and questions are not answered.
How is faith developed?  It is developed often by going through emotional and spiritual valleys, which are designed to test the faith.  The danger for a Christian facing tragedy is to cut loose from the Vine and wither without the nurturing and strength which only our God can provide.  The author warns us against losing faith because there have been no tangible answers to our prayers.
     Dobson tells us that somehow suffering strikes the godliest person.  He talks about the story of Joseph.  His own brothers sold Joseph into slavery.  He was wrongly imprisoned when Potiphar's wife tried to seduce him.  Joseph's life may seem to be an endless and meaningless series of injustices.  Yet we can see that God had a purpose for him---to make him second only to Pharaoh in power and influence.
     The author blames the "name-it-and-claim-it" system for causing many Christians to believe that God will "skip along in front of us with His great Cosmic Broom, sweeping aside each trial and every troubling uncertainty" (page 33).  On the contrary, the Word of God teaches that we should all expect suffering as part of the spiritual journey.    (cont'd next week)

     Last Wednesday (21 Aug), our chapel speaker was Dr Loo Yeow Hwa, who shared on the ministry of Fellowship of Evangelical Students both locally and internationally.  Dr Loo joined FES as the General Secretary in July 1997 and he and his wife were actively involved in the student ministry.  Anyone who is interested in getting to know more about FES could log on to http://fessingapore.org or  fes@fessingapore.org
    We apologise for the erratum in the last issue. Our chapel speaker for this week (28 Aug) was Mr Richard Chia, Development Director of Scripture Gift Mission (Asia Pacific) and Chairman of Pasir Panjang Hill Brethren Chapel's Mission Board. Mr Chia has been serving full-time  in Christian ministry since 1976. He is also a member of BGST Council.  Next week (4 Sep), the Chapel speaker has yet to be confirmed.
  1. RESEARCH & WRITING. This course has been postponed to Semester 1, 2003 due to the low registration numbers.
  2. TENTMAKERS & ETHICAL ISSUES. This TENT module will commence on 4 Sep instead of 3 Sep and it will be held at Rm 206 (Level 2, Zion BP Church, 4 Bishan St 13). The subsequent sessions on 10, 17 & 24 Sep will be held at Rm 209B instead.
  3. DR NG PEH CHENG will be preaching at the Cherith Baptist Church Sunday School Service on 1st Sep, 2002. The topic is "The Sunday School and the Spiritual Formation of Children."
  4. BG214 (THURSDAY CLASS). Lecture 3 will resume this Thursday at Rm 302 at 10am.
  5. We warmly congratulate SINGAPORE BIBLE COLLEGE on its 50th Anniversary, a truly significant event. May the Lord continue to bless its ministry.
Wishing you God's blessings
Mr Chan Swee Wing  26/8
Ms Christina Swee Hoon Eng  26/8
Mr James Chua Seng Ban  28/8
Mrs Tan-Heng Siang Hoon  29/8
Ms Rosalind Teo  30/8

 

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This page is updated on 28 Aug 2002 by Leong Kok Weng
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