Daniel 1:1-2 – Like Losing Five Straight to the Gamecocks…

Posted: May 19, 2016 in Book of Daniel

Daniel 1:1-2

Nebuchadnezzar Besieges Jerusalem

In the South, we live and die by the exploits of our favorite college football teams. Up North, people are crazy about professional football teams, but down here, college football is king. In each state, there are usually, two major college football program that are huge rivals. In each state in the South, you have to be either for one or the other school. In Virginia, it’s Virginia or Virginia Tech. In North Carolina, it’s North Carolina or N.C. State. In Georgia, it’s Georgia or Georgia Tech. In Florida, it’s Florida or Florida State. In Alabama, it’s Alabama or Auburn. In Mississippi, it’s Mississippi or Mississippi State. In Tennessee, it’s Tennessee or Vanderbilt. Here, in my home state of South Carolina, you must choose at birth whether you are going to be a University of South Carolina (USC) Gamecock or a Clemson University Tiger. It is a passionate rivalry in a small state. In other Southern states, they are big enough where fans can be regionally disbursed and not necessarily have a lot of contact with one another. However, here in South Carolina, fans of each school are often neighbors. Rivals can even be in the same household. This close proximity breeds contempt for sure. The passion of this rivalry, to me, is unparalleled in the college football landscape. Passions for each school run deep.

 

Generally, in the series, Clemson has been the most successful of the two schools in the rivalry. Clemson currently holds a 67-42-4 record in the rivalry and has won the last two consecutive games in the series. However, there was something unprecedented that happened in the series between the 2009 season and the 2013 season. In 2009, USC won five straight games in the series. That was a dark time as a Tiger fan. In 2009-2011, we were just beat badly. In 2012, we were competitive but Carolina was just superior defensively. In 2013, we actually outplayed the Gamecocks, but 3 fumbles and 3 interceptions doomed us. We outgained the Gamecocks offensively and generally held their offense in check when they were forced to drive the length of the field, but three of the Tiger turnovers were inside our own territory and two of them were inside our own 30-yard line. Carolina scored on each of these inside-the-30 turnovers and that was the difference in the game. Those were dark days. As a Tiger fan, the worst feeling was after that 5th consecutive loss in 2013. The pain and the agony of defeat was heavy. Watching your favorite team go down once again to your hated rival. It was depressing. But bad times did come to an end, and the 2014 victory was oh so sweet! Not only did we win but we spanked them. We suffered through the dark days which made the mountain top experience so good. We won in 2015 (in more hotly contested game than anticipated) but that victory did not have the same level of joy as the 2014 victory. Redemption and release was the 2014 victory. Five years of pent up frustration released to the heavens in great joy. Clemson was not a bad football program in those years but South Carolina simply had better athletes in for four of those five years and Clemson just beat themselves the fifth year. It was a great time of suffering for Tiger fans though we were doing well otherwise. The evil empire of the Gamecocks had our number and we were suffering. Bad things happening to a good program.

 

Although sports are trivial in the grand scheme of things, that feeling of frustration at the long siege of the Gamecocks over the Tigers for five years is what immediately came to mind when I read through this first passage in Daniel, Daniel 1:1-2. Daniel is lamenting of the siege and defeat of Jerusalem at the hands of the mighty Babylonian Empire. Let’s read the passage together:

 

1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia[a] and put in the treasure house of his god.

Certainly, if you are student of the Bible, you understand what was happening here at the beginning of Daniel. The kingdom that was once great under David and Solomon was now split into two weaker kingdoms. Each then, immediately became prey to the surrounding political powers in the region. Add to that, Israel had simply turned its back on God as a nation in general. That’s not to say that they were not still good and righteous people in Israel but in general the nation was not too dissimilar to the nation of the United States that we know now. There are definitely Christ followers here now that are passionate about their God and love Him with all their heart, mind, soul and strength, but, in general, we are a nation that has turned its back on God. We now live in society that glorifies behaviors that are against Scripture and that is where Israel finds itself in the opening of Daniel. Here, we come to find that Daniel is a devout Jew who worships the Lord with a passion. However, though he is devout, he sees the Temple looted and the best and brightest of his nation taken away to Babylon. Israel is effectively destroyed. The Israel that he had known is no more. I would imagine that this was disconcerting and frustrating to him. He was a good man but yet he is being hauled off into captivity. Although this was God’s judgment against the evil that had become Israel in general, there were good people that were swept away with those that were being judged.

 

That is the thing that we have to deal with sometimes in life is that even though we may be Christian, it does not exempt us from suffering and pain. Sometimes we cause our own suffering (like the Tigers in the 2013 game against the Gamecocks – six turnovers), but sometimes our suffering is caused by others. Daniel’s suffering was caused by the moral depravity of Israel in general. In America, we as Christ followers live in an age that is eerily similar to Daniel’s Israel. We will be judged by God. He will allow our once divinely protected nation that gave Him glory to be overrun both from within and from without at some point and there will be devoutly Christian people that will be swept away in the judgment as part of that process. It may take centuries for that to happen but as we continue as a nation in general to not just turn our back on God but run away from Him. It will happen. It is already beginning to happen. We find ourselves as Christians being considered old-fashioned and out of touch. We find ourselves marginalized to the edges of society while mainstream society pats itself on the back for its enlightenment in the things that are clearly against Scripture. Christians are beginning to suffer here and it will get worse over the next centuries.

 

What we see in Daniel though is a man who simply served His Lord no matter the situation. He saw each situation as being where God wanted him to be. To outsiders, they may have complained about being in captivity and that it was wrong and unjust for good people to suffer in this way. However, we do not choose what situations we are going to be put in. Daniel proves to us that no matter how bad the situation is that we simply live and work with what is in front of us. We give God the glory no matter the situation. We do God honoring work and live God honoring lives no matter what is going on around us. Just as Clemson had really good seasons while losing five straight to the Gamecocks, we must continue to do work hard and honor God no matter what is in front of us. We may have suffering caused by others, or by finances, or by circumstances, or by death of a loved one, but we must continue to honor God for He has us in a place where He wants us. We can complain about being defeated or we can just do what is in front of us because we trust God has a reason for what’s in front of us. We trust Him. We honor Him no matter what’s in front of us. Just as real Clemson fans kept being Clemson fans during the streak, we are to continue holding on to God even if we think there is no end in sight to our suffering. God does have a plan for what’s ahead. It may not be what we want it to be, but we must trust Him. Daniel’s trek through the suffering of exile gave him opportunities to speak loudly for God in a godless society. There is a plan to what you are going through too. It will be your testimony to the power of God at some point.

 

Hold on. Hang on. Live a God honoring life in the midst of the struggle. Amen and Amen.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s