Oy! Danny Boy!
For me, one of the more compelling mysteries of Old Testament prophesy surrounds a Jewish wise-man who lived most of his life in captivity in ancient Babylon. His name was Daniel (born around 623 BC.) One of the best known stories surrounding Daniel was when he was thrown into a lions’ den, after refusing to obey the king’s edict to stop praying to God (Book of Daniel, Chapter 6.) Daniel miraculously survived the lions and continued to serve as an adviser to Persian kings (after Babylon fell.) Meanwhile all the king’s advisers (who had Daniel unjustly condemned by subterfuge) were immediately served to the same lions who ate up both errant advice and advisers.
The story of Daniel is about a remarkable man of integrity who had a genuine relationship with the Creator-God. His unwavering devotion and attitude toward God, and God’s reliability and faithfulness to him in return, speak volumes about the existence of God. Taken as a young man as a captive, after others had prophesied the fall of Jerusalem, Daniel became a standout among his Babylonian contemporaries, not only in his refusal to compromise when it came to the things of God, but because of his ability to know things only God could.
The first measure of this ability was when Daniel was able to accurately recite Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream without the King revealing the dream to anyone (Book of Daniel, Chapter 2.) Daniel gave an interpretation of the dream that revealed a prophecy of specific kingdoms that would follow after the fall of Babylon. As history later revealed, Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream eventually came to pass. Please follow this link for more on the historical aspects of Daniel 2: http://amazingdiscoveries.org/S-deception_end-time_Antichrist_Nebuchadnezzar_statue
It was Daniel’s complete trust in God that allowed him to correctly interpret the dreams of foreign kings, as well as reveal heavenly visions he had received while praying and meditating. Daniel’s ability was an unique gift from God, which he credited singularly to God’s favor. By the Scriptural account, he became a living instrument of God’s will through the accurate interpretation of dreams as well as prophetic visions of events centuries into the future.
While some scholars contend that Daniel’s prophecies have not completely come to pass, most have seen fruition (especially where Greek history is concerned.) A number of skeptical naysayers believe it was impossible for Daniel to have made such accurate prophecies. They have suggested that Daniel’s writings had to have been written around the 2nd Century BC instead of the 6th Century, based on the text’s use of both Aramaic and Hebrew language. Biblical scholars have rejected this assertion largely on historical grounds. Oy! Danny Boy! See http://explanationblog.wordpress.com/category/book-of-daniel/. Such skepticism and wholesale rejection reminds me of the 19th-Century-based insistence that Jesus of Nazareth was never a real person in history, but merely a mythical figure. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_myth_theory.
Unless one can concretely lock the writings of Daniel in the political upheaval of 2nd-Century BC (after most of his prophesies were fulfilled in history), there remains an overwhelming and inexplicable prophetic accuracy that defies human understanding apart from the supernatural. In other words, in mankind’s natural understanding of the world no human being could possibly interpret a dream or predict (with such pinpoint precision) the actions of persons yet unborn who would live hundreds of years into the future. And yet, that is what Daniel did.
Where biblical prophesy and the skeptical mind are concerned, never the two shall meet and agree. Faith is foolishness to the skeptic. Invisible gods simply do not exist. Hence, for the skeptic an alternative explanation, however poorly constructed, must be derived to dismiss any evidence indicating a supernatural being, such as God, exists. For if God is real—and it is God’s implicit desire to interact with mankind, to direct their paths for some greater purpose—then all human beings are not only accountable to a higher source than one of human origin, they may also be subjected as natural participants in supernatural affairs. And if unbelief brings the wrath of an invisible God, as Scripture details and Daniel proclaimed, then skeptics and unbelievers alike have a genuine dilemma.
In my view, understanding why Biblical prophesy occurred at all in Scripture is key to the most rudimentary knowledge of the Creator-God. Unlike the claims of other prognosticators outside of Biblical prophesy, the revelations of God through His prophets point to His will and purposes—first for His Chosen People, Israel (the Jews, also called Hebrews) and then for non-Jews (called Gentiles) impacted by faith as the result of the fulfillment of prophecy. Controversy surrounds Daniel’s prophecies because it historically demonstrates that believers and unbelievers alike carry out God’s will, whether they believe in Him or not.
Remember the name Antiochus IV Epiphanes. He was a descendant king of one of the four kingdoms that Daniel predicted would arise from the death of the powerful king who would conquer Persia (Alexander the Great.) King Epiphanes ruled Syria and was responsible for systematically outlawing Judaism and its practices in Jerusalem. He culminated his Hellenistic conversion of Judea by entering and desecrating the Temple in Jerusalem on December 25, 167 BC, and erected an altar to Zeus, then sacrificed a pig. For more historical reference, see http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1589-antiochus-iv-epiphanes, which coincides with prophesy Daniel described in fine detail four hundred years earlier. Those visions, particularly the “abomination of desolation” (desecration of the Temple) disturbed Daniel deeply and he recorded that he understood nothing about what had been revealed to him (Book of Daniel, Chapters 8 and 11.)
What is the point of prophecy where God is concerned? God loves you. Belief in God’s prophesy is about exercising faith in Him. Daniel was in captivity in Babylon as the result of the nation of Israel turning away from faith in God centuries before. Prophets had perpetually warned Israel against idol worship. When God had his fill of Israel’s idolatry, He first used the Assyrians and then the Babylonians to punish his Chosen People for worshiping false gods. The faithful and unfaithful alike were swept up in destruction and captivity. For those among the remnant of Israelites who remained faithful, God revealed prophesy of future events to reassure them He was still in control and had a plan for them in the future.
Remember the name Antiochus IV Epiphanes. He was an unbeliever and ungodly. He was used by God to punish God’s Chosen People, Israel, for their contemptible unfaithfulness. God is just and jealous for those whom He loves, those He has chosen. And God cannot abide sin; sin breaks God’s laws. The law of God punishes sin.
Make no mistake about the God who created you. He exists. God has great plans for you. He has left messages (promises and prophecies) for you to find. God desires your belief and obedience. Your Creator knew you would be unable to save yourself from the punishment your sins deserve. So he sent a savior to rescue you—Jesus of Nazareth.
The choice God leaves entirely up to you, where you will spend eternity—with Him or against Him. It doesn’t take a prophet to predict the best possible outcome in your future.
(copyright 2014, Gregory Allen Doyle)