Sidney Greidanus is professor emeritus of preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids and author of the new book Preaching Christ from Daniel: Foundations for Expository Sermons.
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We don’t hear many sermons on Daniel nowadays. There’s a good reason for this: Daniel is probably the most controversial and difficult Bible book to interpret and preach. In my eight years as parish pastor, I produced only one sermon on Daniel – a sermon on Daniel 2 (a relatively easy passage) which I preached under the theme, “The Kingdom of God Will Replace All Human Kingdoms” (March 3, 1974). Yet Daniel seems to have been one of Jesus’ favorite books (think of Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of God and his “Son of Man” sayings). If we don’t preach sermons on Daniel, God’s people today will miss out on a lot of good news.
The book of Daniel emphasizes especially the sovereignty of God. God is called “the living God,” “the most high God,” “the God of heaven,” “the King of heaven.” This sovereign God is in control, even of mighty human empires: “He changes times and seasons, deposes kings and sets up kings” (Daniel 2:21). Daniel also emphasizes the certainty of God’s coming kingdom: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall this kingdom be left to another people. It shall crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever” (Dan. 2:44; cf. Dan. 6:26, “His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion has no end”).
Aside from the difficulty of interpreting Daniel, preachers also face the challenge of applying the messages of Daniel to the church today. Daniel presented his comforting messages first of all to Israel in exile in Babylon. How do these messages apply to a church which does not suffer from state-sponsored persecution?
One way to do this is to consider that ever since God expelled our ancestors from Paradise, God’s people have been living in exile, east of Eden. The people we address struggle with thorns and thistles, earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes; they suffer from broken relations, pain, death, and murder (Gen. 3-4). This violent, pain-filled world is not our true home. Jesus said to his followers, “If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world – therefore the world hates you. . . . If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:19-20). We may call ourselves citizens of a certain country, but really, Paul says, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). Also in North America, the church of Jesus endures exile, suffering the pain of “not yet” living in the perfect kingdom of God, being away from their real home with God and subject to the attacks of Satan and his helpers. Thus the messages of Daniel aimed at Israel in exile are also relevant and life-giving for churches living in relative freedom.
My hope and prayer is that my new book will help many preachers proclaim God’s comforting messages from Daniel to the church today.
Click to order Preaching Christ from Daniel: Foundations for Expository Sermons or to browse his previous books by Sidney Greidanus on preaching from the Old Testament.