A Gospel Story-arc Approach to Daniel 1
I often describe The Gospel Story-arc as a narrative GPS for interpreting the Bible. If reading through the Bible could be compared to taking a walk through a forest, the Gospel Story-arc expanded plot line lifts you high above the trees to give you an overview, an overview that helps you to connect dots, and to navigate your way through wherever you are in the story.
Take Daniel chapter 1 for example.
I was asked to preach from Daniel chapter 1 for yesterday's worship services. It had been a while since I last preached through Daniel, so I thought I'd use a Gospel Story-arc approach to look for fresh insights to share.
And so the first thing I did was try to discern the structure of the story that's told in Daniel chapter 1. I'll write more about this in my next post.
The second step was to look for clues for how elements of the story connect to the larger plot line of the Bible. And that's when I discovered a few obvious connections to the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. For example, the word "Babylon" in Daniel 1 is the same as "Babel" in Genesis 11. And the setting for both stories is the region in Mesopotamia called "Shinar." And both stories feature a significant change in language.
Both also put spotlights on alternatives to God's plan for restoring blessing to this cursed realm.
The people who built the Tower in Genesis 11 knew that God had promised to restore blessing to the earth through the family line of Shem, one of Noah's three sons. But they were from the family line of Ham, and they feared missing out. So they built the tower "to make a name" for themselves; that is, to make a "shem" for themselves. They fully intended to find some other way to the source of blessing, which they believed to be the heavens.
But God judged them. And he confused their language, and spread them throughout the earth.
Meanwhile, God continued taking steps to fulfill his plan through the family line of Shem, leading to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Jacob's twelve sons, and eventually to Judah.
And now, in Daniel chapter 1, "Babel" has re-formed, and reconstituted itself, like an evil villain in a video game. Only it's not a game. In Daniel chapter 1, the king of "Babel" defeats the king of Judah. He overruns Jerusalem, and plunders the Temple, removing its religious articles, and placing them instead in "Babel's" temple. From all appearances, the alternative to God's plan first proposed at the Tower has defeated God's plan, and made it irrelevant.
This is the backstory to Daniel resolving not to defile himself with the king's food, and with the wine that he drank.
And a Gospel Story-arc approach makes it possible to connect with the backstory, and thereby gain fresh and valuable insights into Daniel's resolve.