Exiles as Missionaries
As a people of prophecy, Seventh-day Adventists believe in the soon coming of Jesus Christ. His coming will end this world as we know it and ultimately will usher in God’s everlasting kingdom, depicted in the book of Daniel this way: “ ‘ “The kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” ’ ” (Dan. 7:27, NKJV). This kingdom is the culmination of our faith; it is what the book of Hebrews (Heb. 11:16) called the “better country,” the one that all God’s people through the ages have trusted will come, the one whose “builder and maker is God” (vs. 10).
But the book of Daniel is also a kind of handbook for missionary activity. From it we can draw lessons on how the Lord was able to use some of His people to witness to those who were steeped in spiritual and theological ignorance. Through their faithfulness and diligence and unwavering faith, these believers revealed the reality of the living God to those who knew only false ones and gave these pagans a chance at a place in this everlasting kingdom, as well.
* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, August 1.
Daniel, whose name means “God is my Judge,” was force-marched from a defeated Jerusalem into the Babylonian capital. The book of Daniel gives glimpses of his life in the courts of Babylon and Persia. After three years of “education” in Babylon, Daniel was employed as a civil servant and royal advisor. Through the power of God, he rose above normal captive status to become a highly placed missionary to two superpowers.
The book of Daniel is more than a treasure of prophetic literature. The reader encounters some of the challenges facing Hebrews living in an alien culture that provided no apparent support for their loyalty to the God of Israel and, at times, was openly hostile. It also paints a beautiful picture of men who learned to live out their commitment to truth in the absence of the temple, the priesthood, and sacrifices.
“Every institution that bears the name of Seventh-day Adventist is to be to the world as was Joseph in Egypt, and as were Daniel and his fellows in Babylon. In the providence of God these men were taken captive, that they might carry to heathen nations the knowledge of the true God. They were to be representatives of God in our world. They were to make no compromise with the idolatrous nations with which they were brought in contact, but were to stand loyal to their faith, bearing as a special honor the name of worshipers of the God who created the heavens and the earth.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 153.
Witnesses (Daniel 2–5) In Daniel 2, Daniel had an opportunity, born out of necessity, to witness to the power of the true God, as opposed to the false ones of Babylon. After singing a hymn of praise with his Jewish compatriots and thanking God for answering their prayers (Dan. 2:20–23), he interpreted the king’s dream and testified to God’s greatness and dominion over all earthly kingdoms.
In Daniel 2, Daniel didn’t have a choice: either give the king what he wanted or face death. In contrast, in chapter 3, his three friends could have spared themselves the fiery furnace if they simply had obeyed the king’s command. Instead, by their faithful witness, they were able to testify to the power of the true God.
“How did Nebuchadnezzar know that the form of the fourth was like the Son of God? He had heard of the Son of God from the Hebrew captives that were in his kingdom. They had brought the knowledge of the living God who ruleth all things.”—Ellen G. White, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, May 3, 1892.
In Daniel 5, we have Daniel’s last appearance at the Babylonian court, where he is called upon to explain the extraordinary writing upon the wall of Belshazzar’s palace, foretelling the overthrow of the Babylonian Empire at the hands of the Medes and Persians. Though no doubt Belshazzar had been impressed by what Daniel did, it was too late: the king’s fate was all but sealed. The sad thing is that according to the Bible (see Dan. 5:17–23), Belshazzar had had opportunity to learn truth and to be humbled by it. As we know, he didn’t take advantage of those opportunities.
In Daniel 6, with the change of empire and king, Daniel still kept his position and was even promoted, becoming one of three presidents to whom 120 satraps were to report. King Darius even considered appointing him vizier over his whole kingdom, arousing the antipathy of the other presidents and satraps. They induced the king to make an empire-wide decree that really was aimed at Daniel alone. He was thrown into a den of lions, but God dramatically intervened in a situation that even the sympathetic king could not reverse. Daniel’s deliverance so pleased the king that he issued an empire-wide royal decree exalting the God of Daniel.
“Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth: ‘May you prosper greatly! I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions’ ” (Dan. 6:25–27, NIV).
Daniel was not merely an interpreter of other men’s dreams, significant as that was in this context. In Daniel 7–12, he had his own visions, which revealed the future of great world superpowers. Daniel’s visions especially emphasized that, despite earthly rulers and their plans and machinations, God retains final control of nations. In the end, He and His final kingdom will triumph, and that triumph will be complete (see Dan. 2:44).
Whatever else those verses are talking about, the central issue is the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom, which doesn’t come until after the return of Jesus. And what factor did Jesus Himself say was important in regard to His return?
“ ‘And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains’ ” (Matt. 24:14–16, NIV).
Jesus’ prophecies of the end of the world in Matthew 24 are linked to Daniel’s prophecies. The “abomination of desolation” predicted by Daniel (Dan. 11:31, 12:11) was further explained and applied by Jesus to His own day and beyond. The point is that Jesus closely linked the book of Daniel to the end times, which, of course, isn’t surprising, because Daniel in many places does indeed point to the end times (Dan. 8:17, 19; 11:35; 12:4, 13). And, according to Jesus, the end doesn’t come until “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world” (Matt. 24:14, NKJV).
Daniel was an Israelite in involuntary banishment from Israel, as were Joseph and Moses in Egypt, Nehemiah in Babylon, and Esther in Persia. Their lives reveal that it is possible to live faithfully to God in spiritually and culturally unsupportive environments. With God’s direction, it was even possible to attain prominent administrative positions in these alien settings. Each lived a creative and rich life, skillfully negotiating complex religious, social, political, and economic dynamics far different from those of their home culture. They not only were loyal members of exiled Hebrew communities—they were also in their own ways effective missionaries for the God of Israel.
Witness while in exile included both passive presence and active proclamation.
|1. Did not identify as a Hebrew until called to reveal it.||1. Identified as a Hebrew.|
|2. Kept her religion to herself until called to reveal it.||2. Made known his religious convictions.|
|3. God protected her and her family.||3. God protected him and his friends.|
|4. Witnessed in high places to save her life along with her people’s.||4. Witnessed in high places to save his life along with other people’s.|
|5. Helped establish religious freedom and the right to self-defense of a religious minority.||5. Indirectly influenced King Cyrus to allow exiled Hebrews to rebuild the Jerusalem temple.|
Further Study: “Multitudes will be called to a wider ministry. The whole world is opening to the gospel. . . . From every quarter of this world of ours comes the cry of sin-stricken hearts for a knowledge of the God of love. . . . It rests with us who have received the knowledge, with our children to whom we may impart it, to answer their cry. To every household and every school, to every parent, teacher, and child upon whom has shone the light of the gospel, comes at this crisis the question put to Esther the queen at that momentous crisis in Israel’s history, ‘Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’ ”—Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home, pp. 484, 485.