When I think of the book of Daniel, I often recall images from Sunday-school lessons. In my mind’s eye, there is the robed frame of a cartoonish boy stuck to the felt-board, standing unscathed amongst a pride of sleepy lions. Yet a closer examination of this book reveals that this and other narratives are more than mere hero-stories for children.
As Prof. N.T. Wright teaches in his latest course, the early Christians, facing religious and political persecution under Syria and Rome, would have drawn much strength from the book of Daniel and been encouraged to stand firm—even to the point of martyrdom.
Indeed, Daniel has a powerful message for today that challenges us to rethink our allegiances, our symbols of authority, and the dividing line of faith where we must not compromise.
This course will inspire you to stop and take a closer look at assumptions of power and control in our world and acknowledge who is really in charge of it all.
A Signpost of the True Light
This past week I was in New York City, which some have characterized as a city-center of power and prestige. Amongst the throng of people in Times Square, cameras flashed as selfies were taken. Digital screens with a myriad of advertisements lit up the night sky so that entire blocks were filled with artificial daylight. Magnificent skyscrapers dominated the horizon and swallowed up the skyline.
As I was leaving to walk back to the hotel, my eyes met the gaze of a woman silently standing at the curb in front of the ‘Red Stairs’ on the corner of West 57th Street. The crowds parted around her like flowing streams navigating a rock in the riverbed. She stood boldly, yet humbly, holding a sign that said one thing: ‘Jesus’. This brave woman was a signpost in a metropolis of competing forces jockeying for position that signaled the powerful reality of the true light of the world: The Kingdom of God and its King, Jesus.
The book of Daniel is a bit like this, signposting the Most High God and the reign of the one like a Son of Man.The book of Daniel is like a signpost pointing to the Most High God and the reign of the one like a Son of Man. Click To Tweet
Ancient of Days: The Real Hero
In this course, Prof. Wright’s teaching centers around the theme of Daniel as he examines the sovereignty of God and the clash between the kingdom of mortals. You will learn how Daniel and his friends stand firm as they are caught up in this battle and you will find inspiration for modern-day attacks that bear down on the church. You may even see yourself in their stories.
As he progresses through the book, Prof. Wright unpacks the prophetic witness of Daniel. The Ancient of Days—the Sovereign God himself—defeats the ‘monsters’ that are symbolic of the great imperial regimes. There is one like a human being who is rescued, vindicated, and installed in kingly power. This is the true and legitimate hero, and he is the one given dominion and honor and power (Daniel 7:13-14).
With Christian hindsight we know this to be true. However, we still get distracted by the glittering ads and the allure to be most impressed by things other than God. We fall prey to granting our allegiance to human structures of power over against the powerful Kingdom of God. Why and how do we lose our focus on the ultimate signpost, Jesus?
For me, the simple answer, but the honest answer, is that life is hard. There are not only distractions and temptations, but there is inexplicable suffering and grief. During these times, I can sometimes take my eyes off the prize.
Deep within Daniel there is a prophetic promise: Even though there is suffering, sorrow, trouble, and trial, God will deliver his faithful ones; he will vindicate and exalt them. The God of Heaven has established his Kingdom in his Messiah and he is now the Sovereign of the nations.
This course was a helpful reminder to me of this core truth.
How to Live
Prof. Wright teaches that as we apply Daniel’s message to ourselves, the book has a lot to say about how to live in an increasingly pagan and pluralistic environment. It is instructive for how we manage political chaos and remain faithful in a world filled with faithless and false gods.
Finally, you will be challenged to consider what it means to say, ‘Here is the point at which we cannot compromise—here is the point at which we’d rather be thrown to the lions than worship this idol, king, or statue’.
Come learn what Daniel has to say about what it look likes to stand firm in and for the Kingdom of God and how this might apply within your contemporary context.