The Biblical book of Daniel is one of the most well-known books of the Old Testament, specifically because of all the interesting narratives that take place within it. From a specialized diet in the opening pages to a riveting bout with lions in chapter six, there is an interesting story within each of these first six chapters.
It’s funny though, each of the stories in these chapters occurs in a time and place where God’s people have been removed from their entire way of life. Due to this fact, none of God’s people really expected Him to be at work in the way He was.
The events that take place in chapters 1-6 of the book of Daniel occur between 605 B.C. and about 538 B.C. At the start of the book, God’s people had been removed from everything they had known and were being held in exile by the Babylonian empire. However, by chapter 6 Babylon was no longer in control of their empire, and the Medo-Persian empire had risen in its place.
Within the opening six chapters of the book there are six different times, with three different rulers, where God humbled these powerful men by working through His people. This is particularly interesting given the fact that Israel had been completely conquered and removed from their kingdom.
The nation of Israel was not supposed to have any power. They had no land, no city, no Temple, no king, and no army. Yet, during the 67 years that run through the first six chapters of Daniel, we are constantly finding the most powerful people in the world being placed in humbling situations.
It is so ironic to think about how Israel would have been at the bottom of the political pyramid during their time in exile, how they would have been able to do nothing as they watched ruler after ruler rise up over them, and yet amidst it all God was still proving to be in charge.
With this in mind, the message of the book of Daniel can be summed up in one concise sentence: God is persistently sovereign.
The word sovereignty means “the supreme power or authority of an individual or state.” During the time period of Daniel, there wasn’t a person alive who didn’t think of the empires of Babylon or Persia as being sovereign.
These empires were in charge of everything during their respective tenures. In fact, the rulers of these empires believed themselves to be gods, and wanted everyone else to believe it as well.
That is why king Nebuchadnezzar was so angry when the three Jewish men Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow in worship to him.
In response to their “defiance,” the king threw these three men into a furnace that was so hot people melted just being near it. However, the king’s attempt to prove his sovereignty was ultimately futile as God literally showed up in the furnace.
“24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm. He said to his advisers, ‘Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?’
‘Yes, of course, Your Majesty,’ they replied to the king.
25 He exclaimed, ‘Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’” (Daniel 3:24-25)
King Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the world, was trying to force his sovereignty over the people of the world, and all God did in order to disprove the king’s assertion was show up.
Time and time again throughout the book of Daniel God shows up in order to prove that He is in fact still sovereign over all peoples. This shouldn’t surprise us though. This isn’t atypical of who God is. To think that God isn’t fully in control would be a contradiction of His nature.
However, I think we all have to admit to experiencing times when we have doubted the persistent sovereignty of God.
Honestly, it’s a pretty easy path to tread. We don’t have to look far before finding someone who makes the statement, “Well, if God is really in control then why is there world hunger? If God is really in control, then why isn’t everything perfect?”
The truth is it can be really difficult to maintain our trust in the sovereignty of God. He is beyond our comprehension, beyond our understanding, and far greater than we can ever be.
However, for the Apostle Paul this truth didn’t bring apprehension to his belief and trust in God, instead he worshipped God all the more because of it.
“33 Oh, the depth of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and untraceable his ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? 35 And who has ever given to God, that he should be repaid? 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)
I think practicing this type of worship and recognition of God’s power is what we need to remember to do in the face of our question of God’s sovereignty.
Time and time again in the book of Daniel these powerful rulers got it in their minds that there was no one more powerful than them, and time and time again God showed them differently.
Rather than requesting a divine intervention for proof of God’s ultimate sovereignty, I’d say we should instead constantly join in remembrance over the many ways He has already proved it to be the case.
So, especially in this time of uncertainty, let’s join together with Paul in or admission to God’s sovereignty. Let’s worship the unknowable nature of God, and maintain confidence in His persistent power and control.
Question for Reflection:
1. What struggles have you had with coming to terms with God’s “persistent sovereignty?” What things have happened to cause you to doubt this truth? How were you able to come back to realization of His control?
2. If God really is in control, why do bad things happen?
3. In what ways does participating in Paul’s Hymn of Praise over God’s ultimate control strengthen your belief?