The book of Daniel is an interesting and challenging book since it includes many visions and prophecies. It was originally written in two languages. It appears that chapters 2-7 were written in Aramaic while the rest was written in Hebrew.
Daniel was a Jew and in 606 B.C. was taken into captivity in Babylon. He lived and prophesied during the height of Babylonian power and was witness to its fall to the Medes and Persians. He was born to a royal or noble family and was among the thousands taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 1:1-7). As such he was trained for special service to the king and was given the name “Belteshazzar” meaning “Bel will protect.” While Ezekiel was with the people Daniel was in the king court and as such, was able to represent God to the king.
The message of the book of Daniel is straightforward. Many today struggle with the book of Daniel by twisting and distorting its meaning due to a misunderstanding about symbolic language and prophecy.
First, the book teaches that exile is only temporary. Babylon will not stand forever and eventually will be overthrown by another, even greater, kingdom. Throughout the book, we see many symbols that teach about four kingdoms to come. Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 both speak about these kingdoms. Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome are all spoken about in detail, yet, the most important kingdom is the one that God himself will set up during the fourth kingdom. It will never be destroyed and will conquer all others.
Second, the book teaches that God always expects his people to be faithful to him even under the most difficult circumstances. The book of Daniel is replete with examples of faithfulness during the most extreme of situations. The fiery furnace of Daniel 3 and the Lion’s den of chapter 6 remind us that God expects faithfulness even if it could cost our lives. As people, we tend to be “a go with the crowd” and “take the path of least resistance” kind of people but God expects us to serve him alone. Daniel challenges us to serve God with the same devotion and singleness of heart of the great prophet. Both points can be summoned up by saying that the theme of the book is “God is sovereign” and he rules in the kingdom of men. He raises up kings and kingdoms and places over them whoever he chooses.
Perhaps the most encouraging lesson is that God is not distant or disconnected from his creation. He is intimately connected to us and is always in control. He is always working within history and the lives of people to accomplish his divine will for us. Nothing and no one can thwart his plans to bless us and bring the Christ/Messiah into the world. This reminds us that despite the social, political, or religious quagmire we endure, our God is still at work ushering us toward the ultimate goal of heaven and eternity. No king or kingdom will be able to crush the Lord’s church or stop it from accomplishing his will.
Daniel reminds us that God is always on our side and working to ensure his will and our success.