So I’ve been going back through Beth Moore’s “Daniel” workbook with my almost-weekly Bible study group. (I’m super grateful for this group, it’s like my little bit of culturally familiar territory even though they all seem to know each other and a bunch of other people better than they know me – yet.) The Church at Brook Hills, which I follow via iTunes podcasts, has also just read through Daniel, so there were sermons on Daniel 3 and Daniel 4 the past couple weeks. This week I taught Sunday School so I went hunting for the new sermon earlier than usual – Sunday afternoon – when of course it wasn’t up yet, so I settled for a sermon on Daniel 3 from 1988 off the Desiring God archive. This evening I finally heard the latest from Brook Hills, on Daniel 6.
Man, the sovereignty of God is a strong recurring theme in Daniel! I don’t know that there’s ever a bad time to hear about that topic, but this is certainly a good time, as one possible door for my future was just shut with no fanfare or warning and I ponder what my next step should be. Piper’s point that no matter whether Bush or Dukakis won in 1988, it was God’s will, and no matter who won, that did not mean God approved of all their policies, is a great little summary of the mystery that is God’s will. Also amazing is that God invites us to be involved in his will in myriad ways, just one of which is voting. As some preacher (I forget who) said recently, “Yes, we are to be like Christ before Pilate under persecution, but as American citizens we are also each in a way in Pilate’s seat too, responsible for the policies of this government.”
As I consider my next step, I’m also recovering from some of the re-entry negativity about American culture. My first step was recognizing that some of the negativity WAS reverse culture shock – somehow I’d missed that connection even as I dealt with other aspects of re-entry. I still have a lot of gripes about this land that issues my passport and supplies much of my culture, of course, a lot of weak spots and hypocrisy and defiant sins that irk the heck out of me. And then about 19 minutes into today’s message, I hear “Let’s not be perplexed if people in our city don’t want to hear our message if half the time we talk about this place we sound like we hate it. Or half the time we talk about the people in this place, we sound like we can barely tolerate being around them.” And then he quoted Jeremiah 29:7: “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” BAM. In case I missed the point in the Daniel 4 sermon, where Daniel responds with anguish rather than gloating or self-righteousness satisfaction to the meaning of the king’s dream of judgement, here it is again. Daniel is so totally seeking the peace and prosperity of Babylon and its king that the ONLY way his enemies can pin anything on him is by setting up a direct, inescapable conflict between his faith and his service of the city. He’s EIGHTY and he’s still taking on responsibility so faithfully that the king is creating a special post just for him, overseeing the managers of the whole empire!
There was a side point too about how Daniel neither hid nor flaunted his prayer after the king’s edict but simply continued what had been his habit for, presumably, all 66 years of his exile prior to this, praying for God’s forgiveness and restoration of his people as Solomon prescribed, worshiping towards his true home while he lived and worked in Babylon.
Major revelation TWO (even one feels really special, and now I get two in one sermon?): Who does this describe? He grows up in a sinful, broken land far from his true home, growing in wisdom and finding favor with both God and man. He genuinely loves the world in which he lives and the people among whom he lives, serves, and leads, but ultimately loves his God and remembers where his true home is. He fully trusts in his divine deliverer even when faced with a conspiracy of jealous leaders and led before a trapped ruler to be unfairly condemned to death. He is placed behind a stone never to live again, but instead rises from the hole, vindicated and bringing glory to God by his return to life. ??!?!!?!!!! I KNOW that there are images of Christ throughout the Old Testament, so how did I never see Him in Daniel 6 before?!? WOW. Beautiful, indescribably precious, that God wove a foretaste of redemption and glory through Daniel’s story ~ and Christ showed up the fire in Daniel 3 ~ as well as the overwhelming, eternal Rock in the dream of a pagan king in Daniel 2 ~ and then we get the name Jesus used so much, Son of Man, later in Daniel ~ wow, God sure was moving and speaking to His people while they were living in pagan, sometimes-hostile Babylon!
So, I guess I need to stop complaining so much, online or even just in my head, about this Babylon I am living in. Keep on “opening the window and praying towards Jerusalem,” not losing sight of my real home, but stop being so cynical about China’s new 2-child policy or Sweden’s abolition of gender or Japan’s attitude towards other races or American politics in total, and get busy seeking the peace and prosperity of this world, truly loving my neighbors, especially those closest to me, not just whichever ones in the world seem easiest to love. The other note I wrote from today’s sermon is this: “Daniel was missionally flexible but devotionally immovable.” I may not know the next step in my mission for some time, but I know how I want to be found living today, between now and that step, during that step, and on after that step until, unlike Daniel, I am able to leave Babylon and return to my true home, an exile and alien no longer.