Daniel 4 – Part One

Continuing in our series in Daniel, we begin a two-part look at chapter 4: the story of King Nebuchadnezzar, and his dream about a tree. Today, we’ll mostly just read the story (with a little bit of comment). It’s a long one, but we need the whole story before we can think about what we might learn from it.

Some context: remember that Nebuchadnezzar has twice been forced to acknowledge the power of Israel’s God (Daniel’s interpretation of his previous dream, in chapter 2; and the miraculous preservation of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo, in chapter 3). Yet it seems to take this encounter with God, in chapter 4, for him to completely get the message. It’s written in the first person, as a letter from the king to his whole empire, testifying to the lesson God had taught him:

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Daniel 3 – Part Two (Hot enough for you?)

Yesterday, we started the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – three faithful Jews who defied King Nebuchadnezzar’s order to bow down before a 90-foot-tall golden statue whenever they heard (memory test: can you name all the instruments?). We ended with their expression of loyalty to God – whether he ended up rescuing them or not:

Daniel 3:16-18 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

It’s a response that didn’t make the king too happy.

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Daniel 3 – Part One (Idol Threats)

In chapter 2, we saw how Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream led to the king acknowledging Daniel’s God as “the God of gods and the Lord of kings” (2:47). But it seems the king isn’t quite ready to act like that’s the case. As in the very next chapter, we read this:

Daniel 3:1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.

That’s about as tall as a twelve-storey building. But what’s it for?

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Daniel 2 – Part Three (Paper, Scissors, Rock)

Last week we looked at the story of Daniel miraculously recounting and then interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and how it portrayed him as a “new and improved” Joseph. It gave a model (for second century Jews, and for us) of how to relate to a secular culture in a way that doesn’t sell out to its values, but commends God and his values. Today, we look at the content of the dream.

Gold, silver, bronze, iron & clay… rock!!

Here’s the dream, as described by Daniel:

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Daniel 2 – Part Two (Joseph 2.0)

We continue in our series in the OT book of Daniel, with a three-part study in Daniel 2. Yesterday was all about the story surrounding the dream (which you’ll need to read first), and on Monday we’ll look at the content of the dream itself. Today, however, we look at how Daniel’s story reminds us of another famous dream interpreter.*

Joseph 2.0

There are many similarities between Daniel 2 and the story of Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dream in Genesis 41. Here’s a quick overview:

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Daniel 2 – Part One (I have a dream)

We continue in our series in the OT book of Daniel, with a three-part study in Daniel 2. Today will be all about the story surrounding the dream. Tomorrow we’ll look at how the story intersects with that of  Joseph, and on Monday we’ll look at the content of the dream itself.

By the end of chapter one, Daniel had risen to importance as one of king Nebuchadnezzar’s wise men. His wisdom gets put to the test, as Nebuchadnezzar has a dream.

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Daniel 1 (with vegetarian option)

In our Daniel series so far, we’ve looked at three background stories: Daniel in exile in Babylon in the sixth century BC, Jews living under Greek rule in the second century BC, and us. Despite their differences, they all have something in common. They involve the the people of God facing the dilemma of how to remain faithful to God while living in a world that doesn’t acknowledge him.

Today, we look at the first story in the book of Daniel, where Daniel himself is confronted with this dilemma right from the get-go.

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Introducing Daniel – Part Two

Please start with yesterday’s post. We’re looking at the background to the book of Daniel, and three stories that will help us work out what it’s doing in our Bible. The first story was that of Daniel and his friends, exiled in Babylon in the sixth century BC. Today, we look at the other two stories.

Antiochus IV and the Maccabean Revolution

There’s a second story that’s important for us in understanding the book of Daniel – not the story of Daniel and his compatriots, but the story of its first readers.

You see, although Daniel lived in the sixth century BC, the book of Daniel in the form we have it probably* dates to the early second century BC. And the stories of Daniel and his friends in exile would have been significant for Jews living in this period. Why? Let’s take a quick look at their history.

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Introducing Daniel – Part One

Over the next few weeks we’re going to be looking at the Old Testament book of Daniel (chapters 1-6; we’ll come back and do 7-12 later in the year). The first half of Daniel contains a number of familiar stories: Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, the fiery furnace, the writing on the wall at Belshazzar’s feast, and Daniel’s visit to the lions’ den. All Sunday School favourites, despite the “mature themes” – mental illness, combustible henchmen, idolatrous orgies, and women and children being fed to lions. (Who needs Game of Thrones?) But what are they supposed to teach us? What are they doing in our bibles?

Today and tomorrow, we’re going to look at three stories that will help us answer this question over the coming weeks. One story is set in Babylon, in the sixth century BC. Another is set in Judea, in the second century BC. And the other – well, you’re living it at the moment. (Later on in the week, we’ll also briefly meet a fourth story that predates all of these.) Confused? Let’s get started!

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How did the Bible get put together? Part Five

Today’s our final day looking at how the Bible was put together. Over the past two days, we’ve seen how the texts that make up the New Testament were simply the writing down of the existing authoritative teaching of Jesus and his apostles. Lists were drawn up after-the-fact (in subsequent centuries) not because a canon didn’t already exist in practice, but because heretics were starting to challenge which texts should be considered authoritative.

So what this historical process tells us is that the main rationale for the canon – that is, the reason certain books are in it – is simply usage. It was a recognition of what the church had commonly come to use as its authoritative texts. Why? Because those texts testified to the truth: the teaching of Jesus and his apostles.

However, particularly in the third and fourth centuries, people became more interested in how to justify certain books as being in the canon. Mainly the books that people disputed. And so a number of factors come into play, which we’ll take a look at now. These are reasons used after the fact to defend a book’s status status in the canon.

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