There was a test conducted by a university where 10 students were placed in a room. 3 lines of varying length were drawn on a card. The students were told to raise their hands when the instructor pointed to the longest line. But 9 of the students had been instructed beforehand to raise their hands when the instructor pointed to the second longest line. 1 student was the stooge. The usual reaction of the stooge was to put his hand up, look around, and realizing he was all alone, pull it back down. This happened 75% of the time, with students from grade school through high school. The researchers concluded that many would rather be president than be right. This illustration is from Chuck Swindoll. It illustrates the stories of the book of Daniel very well, in that Daniel and his friends had the courage to stake their lives on the truth, even if everyone else in the whole world was telling them they were wrong. What we will see is that this is true of Jesus Christ as well. Daniel is a type, or forerunner, or shadow of the One who was to come, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ also did not care what the world said about Him. He was going to practice the truth. Even when the whole world thought He was wrong for dying on the cross, God said He was right. And the way the Father said that Jesus was right, was by raising Him from the dead. Death and resurrection is a recurring pattern all throughout Scripture, and we will see it in the book of Daniel, as well. It takes courage to face death. Even more importantly, that courage must spring from faith in the God of resurrection.
We live in a world where courage is almost unknown. It is ironic, isn’t it? The world would tell us that we are supposed to “be ourselves,” and that everyone’s belief is right for them. Of course, they don’t really believe that, since they would say that Adolf Hitler was wrong, even though Hitler thought that what he was doing was right. But the reality of the situation is that today’s world is desperately striving to stifle all courage, all originality, all true independence. Why is that? Because the world wants everyone to walk lockstep with the world!
The buzzword today is “postmodernism.” This is a word that describes the mindset of today’s world. Today the world wants everyone’s beliefs to be right for each person. The world says woe to anyone who believes that there is any truth that is true for everyone. Postmodernism says that there is no such thing as absolute truth. In other words, postmodernism says that there is no such thing as a truth that is true for everyone. Of course, postmodernists have to believe that that very statement is true for everyone! So, they kind of shoot themselves in the foot that way. And this is only a Western phenomenon. If you were to ask a Muslim if there is truth that is true for everyone, he would say yes. In fact, most of the great world religions are exclusive. All the great world religions believe that they are right and the rest of the world is wrong. And this is what is so helpful for us about the book of Daniel. The book of Daniel tells us that we must have faith in the one true God, the only God who can resurrect us out of sin and death, who does that by pure grace, who gives us the courage to worship and serve Him only, and no one and nothing else, and, who strengthens us to stand up for what is right.
Why is the Christian faith the only true faith? There are several reasons. Firstly, we have God revealed to us in the infallible pages of the Bible. Secondly, Christianity is the only religion where God saves us, and we do not save ourselves. We are saved by grace. Thirdly, Christianity is the only faith where it is even possible for our beliefs to match up consistently with what we practice. Every other religion has a fundamental contradiction between what is believed and what is practiced. A few examples will have to be sufficient here.
Take Islam, for instance. Islam is a very works-oriented religion. You have to do the five pillars, which are the confession of faith that there is only one God and that Mohammed is his prophet, three-fold prayer every day, giving alms, celebrating the yearly feast of Ramadan, and going once in one’s life on a pilgrimage to Mecca. If you DO these things, then maybe God will have mercy on your soul. But therein lies the problem. They want mercy and grace. And yet, they have to do these five things in order to get grace. That is a contradiction. Works are the opposite of faith. In the Christian religion, works are important, but only as a response to the grace of God. We don’t do works in order to earn God’s grace. Otherwise, grace would not actually be grace.
One other example of how a world religion contradicts itself: Buddhism believes that there is no god per se, but that the world itself is god. The idea of Buddhism is to escape suffering by achieving nirvana. However, there really is no such thing as evil. So there is really no hope that evil will ever be eradicated. And yet, Buddhists hope to achieve nirvana, which is their equivalent of heaven. How can that be, if there is no such thing as evil in this world, and there is always suffering? They live as if they can get rid of evil, and yet they do not believe that there is any such thing as evil. And so there is the contradiction. It is only the Christian faith that is consistent in life and practice. Now, many would accuse Christianity of being hypocrites. And there are many hypocrites in the church today. However, just because someone calls himself a Christian does not make him a Christian. A true Christian will be consistent with regard to what he believes and what he practices. Everyone sins. However, a Christian does not believe that he is sinless in this life. He believes that he is not controlled by sin, and that his sin is forgiven, and that his life consists of a continual process of becoming more righteous. And that is, in fact, what happens. So the Christian is consistent. And this is also part of the message of Daniel.
The book of Daniel is in two parts. The first part consists of chapters 1-7. This is definitely the more familiar part of Daniel, since it has all the famous stories: Daniel and his three friends not eating the king’s food (chapter 1), the vision of the image with all the different metals (chapter 2), the three friends not bowing down to the image that Nebuchadnezzar made, and being thrown into the fiery furnace as a result, and yet not being burned (chapter 3), Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation (chapter 4), the handwriting on the wall (chapter 5), Daniel in the lion’s den (chapter 6), and the vision of the four beasts (chapter 7). Chapters 2-7 are written in Aramaic, which is very similar to Hebrew, but a different dialect. Aramaic was the language of Babylon during this time, and was the language that everyone used if they were going to interact with another nation.
Chapters 8-12 consist of visions that describe the history of the world from Daniel’s time (during the exile in the 6th century B.C.) all the way to Jesus Christ (first century A.D.). Daniel was given a picture of what the history of the world would be. This proves that God is sovereign over the world. Indeed, God’s sovereignty could be called the major theme of Daniel. God’s sovereignty should result in our courage to have faith in that Sovereign God, who is sovereign even over death itself. We can be faithful, because we know that our God will protect us and vindicate us in the end. That is the message of Daniel.
So here are some practical applications of that message. Going back to the illustration I opened with, even if everyone else is telling us that we are wrong, even if everyone else is bowing down to the god of postmodernism, we cannot. Even if everyone else is brainwashed into telling us that the shorter line is actually the longer line, we must stand on the truth. We know the truth, and the truth will set us free. Hold fast to the truth. The world right now is seeking to undermine anyone’s faith in the one true God. They will ask us how we can be so narrow-minded as to suppose that there is only one way to heaven. Nowhere is this challenge more difficult than in college. College is aimed at changing the person into the mold of the world. You cannot even assume that so-called “Christian” colleges are actually Christian. My college called itself Christian, and yet had a Hindu professor teaching students about how to implement postmodernism in the world today. They didn’t even question whether postmodernism was correct or not. They assumed it. And this has filtered down into the high schools as well. Don’t be surprised if you find this at Strasburg High School. I don’t know whether that school is postmodern or not. But it wouldn’t surprise me. It starts out as saying that that we must allow everyone to believe what they want to believe. And actually, our country was founded on that principle of religious freedom. However, the step that people have taken is to say that no one can say that anyone else is wrong.
So, dare to be a Daniel. Dare to stand alone in affirming the truth. Dare to have the firm purpose of worshiping God alone, and dare to make that known to the whole world in the face accusations of religious bigotry and narrow-mindedness. And remember that God outnumbers the world.