In 586 BC, nearly 600 years before the birth of Jesus, the Babylonian army of King Nebuchadnezzar ransacked the city of Jerusalem, destroyed the temple built by King Solomon, and completely disrupted the lives of the citizens of that city. As was their practice when they conquered another nation, the Babylonians took captive many of the best and brightest young people and relocated them hundreds of miles away to Babylon. Among those exiled to Babylon was a boy named Daniel.
This boy Daniel was blessed by God with the gift of interpreting dreams, and he soon impressed Nebuchadnezzar, along with the Chaldeans of the court, with his wisdom. However, since Daniel was a faithful worshipper of Jehovah, he gave all the credit for his amazing talent to the God Who blessed him with it.
So, who were these Chaldeans? Well, the Bible tells us they were a group of advisors to the king. They looked for signs in the stars, and in other parts of nature, to help Nebuchadnezzar make important decisions. Daniel became one of Nebuchadnezzar’s most trusted advisors, and it’s safe to say that he became influential within this group of Chaldeans and throughout the entire nation.
God also gave Daniel the gift of prophecy, and in chapter 9 of the Old Testament book he wrote, Daniel gave us a prophecy of the coming Messiah. Daniel looked forward to the coming of Jesus – the King.
Let’s fast forward to the latter stage of Daniel’s life. By now, the Babylonian Empire has been overthrown by the Medo-Persian King Darius. Not surprisingly, Daniel’s reputation had preceded him, so that when Darius was assembling his group of advisors – his WISE MEN – God placed it on his heart to appoint Daniel to this important group. It was during the reign of Darius that Daniel escaped death in the Lion’s Den. His escape was orchestrated by the one true God Whom Daniel worshipped, and the word of the power of Daniel’s God spread throughout the Persian Empire because Darius himself made sure of it.
In Matthew 2:1-2, we find these words.
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Did you see that?! WISE MEN. FROM THE EAST. Who were these wise men? Where’s the east? Why would they care about a star belonging to a king they didn’t know?
The answer to all these questions comes back to Daniel. The wise men were descendants of the counselors Darius had assembled centuries before. Their predecessors had passed down the prophecies of Daniel from generation to generation. They were looking for this Messiah – this King – that Daniel had predicted would come. And, when they found his star – announcing to the world His birth – they were driven to find Him. And find Him they did!
And this was no accident. No coincidence. This was all part of the Father’s plan – a plan that would make clear the identity of this baby born in Bethlehem. This was the long-awaited Messiah. God incarnate. God in the flesh!
So how does this affect you and me?
This year, more than any previous year, the pomp and circumstance our culture forces on us at Christmas ring hollow with me. I suspect that some of you can relate to that. Christmas can sometimes be a reminder of loved ones who are no longer with us or of broken relationships. Things that, frankly, you and I would rather not be reminded of.
If that’s you, I think Daniel’s experience can serve as an encouragement. I’m certain that when Daniel found himself a stranger in a foreign land. Living among people with customs that were strange to him. Being encouraged to forget the God he worshipped. I’m certain that he felt lost. He had no reason to celebrate – except that he remained steadfast in his confidence that the God he worshipped had not abandoned him. God’s presence may not have always been evident to Daniel, but Daniel remained faithful. And so did God. God took the worst thing that had ever happened to Daniel and used it to spread the good news – the gospel – of the coming Savior to an entire group of people who, otherwise, would never have known to expect His coming.
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)
Be encouraged by the news that God did not forget Daniel. Be blessed with the peace offered by Jesus. Know that He has not forgotten you.
As the wise men did, have you found the King? If not, I pray this Christmas you will!
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