Studying the Bible is a bit like doing a math equation. There’s one right answer, and lots of ways to get the wrong answer. Regarding Daniel, there are four common ways that the book is wrongly taught.
- The most common way that the Bible is misinterpreted and mistaught is called moralizing. Moralizing treats the Bible as a series of biographies where people are treated as heroes. We are encouraged to follow their example by copying their moral virtues. There are two main problems with this. One, it causes us to overlook the sins and flaws of some people that God uses mightily – like David who was an adulterous murderer or Noah who got drunk and passed out naked in his tent. Two, it causes us to miss the work of God for, in, and through people. Daniel, for example, lived an incredibly godly and faithful life by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in and through him. Like Jesus, Daniel lived a Spirit-filled life. Even the godless ruler Nebuchadnezzar knew that Daniel was empowered by the Holy Spirit. In Daniel 4:8, he says, “in whom is the spirit of the holy gods”. The Hebrew translated “gods” is the same root word elohim, which simply means a citizen of the unseen realm and can refer to God, angels, demons, and other divine beings. Therefore, some translations will say that he has the spirt of the “holy god”. Nebuchadnezzar also says to Daniel in 4:18: “the spirit of the holy god(s) is in you.” We should give gratitude to Daniel for his lifelong obedience and give glory to God for the power of His Spirit that sustained Daniels faithfulness.
- Another common misrepresentation of the book of Daniel is that if you do the right thing, nothing bad will happen to you. To be sure, there are times that God delivers Daniel from disaster. But, there are also many times that God does not get him around disaster and instead sustains him through disaster. For example, in chapter one, we learn that he was taken as a captive slave, forced to walk some 700 miles to the last place he wanted to be on earth, was castrated, and spent the next sixty-nine years dying in Babylon without ever enjoying a wife or starting a family.
- Some will use Daniel to make the case that the Bible has a lot of prophecy about the centrality of America in end times events. This is simply not true. The nation of Israel is featured prominently throughout the Bible, not America. If my home country still exists at the same time as Jesus’ Second Coming, we will not be on the center stage of human history.
- Lastly, some people become dogmatic about specific detailed prophecies and prophetic imagery in Daniel. Such people can get inordinately fixated on biblical prophecy, become dogmatic on things that have not yet happened, and assert that even miniscule details in prophecy can be known with great certainty. The book of Daniel simply says otherwise. We read God saying in Daniel 12:4: “But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Much of what is recorded in Daniel is sealed up by God and won’t be fully understood until it happens. Likewise, we read in Daniel 12:8-9: “I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, ‘O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?’ He said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end.’” When it comes to prophecy, we can put some things in the closed hand such as Jesus’ return, the resurrection of the dead, and reality of heaven and hell. We also need to keep a lot of things in the open hand and see what God does in the end.
Were any of these errors surprising to you? Why?
In addition to this introduction to and overview of Daniel, you can find the corresponding sermons, daily devotions, men’s ministry resources, and hundreds of additional sermons and Bible teaching resources for free at markdriscoll.org or on the Mark Driscoll Ministries app.
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