Sabbath School Lesson for April 7-18, 2018
As Seventh-day Adventists, we have long recognized the value of studying the book of Daniel for its revealing of prophecies pertinent to our end times. The story of Nebuchadnezzar’s prophetic dream in chapter 2 alone has captured and drawn many minds to an all-powerful God, who accurately predicted the world’s future, as evidenced by events that have already occurred in history.
The book of Daniel, with its many time prophecies reaching right down to the Second Coming of Jesus, also contains stories that depict the manner we are to prepare for and survive the closing events. Thus Daniel’s entire experience mirrors for us the kind of persecution, death decrees, and faith that will be needed to survive the coming chaotic happenings that are about to come upon us in these end times.
Thus, it is only fitting that we step back and take a second look at what Daniel was trying convey to those living in the time of the end. He had us especially in mind, for in Daniel 12:9 is recorded this statement: “And he [the visiting angel] said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.’ “ NKJV
Focus Text: “The king answered Daniel, and said, ‘Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.’ “ Daniel 2:47 NKJV
God had called ancient Israel to be a witness to all nations. Even though most of them did not accomplish this task, there were a few Israelites, including Daniel and his friends, who remained true to their holy calling. The fact that their witness was extended as high up as the king of Babylon is a testament to the power of God in allowing His will to be done on this earth.
Let’s discover what Daniel’s story of captivity and survival can teach us today, while preparing for more of Satan’s attacks that will be coming upon us in full fury, as we draw nearer to the end. Daniel’s faith and steadfastness can and also must be ours as we prepare to battle any of life’s trials here on earth.
Sunday: Faithful in What Is Least
One might wonder why Daniel included the story of how he and his three friends made such an issue of diet at the beginning of their time in captivity. And also why their diet was deemed so important as to cause them to jeopardize their very lives, as they struggled to acclimate in their forced home of exile.
God had revealed to them that they must not compromise any God-given element of their faith from the very beginning, if they wanted to preserve their identity as God’s chosen people. Not only did their physical and mental faculties benefit from the healthful diet they requested from their captors, but their faith was also bolstered, preparing them for future tests of faith that awaited them later during their captivity.
As one compromise usually leads to another, we too must not overlook even the smallest detail of our lives, in order to remain faithful when the really big tests come. Anything that defiles, as the book of Daniel illustrates, must be omitted from our lifestyle, as we also struggle to remain faithful and true to God’s holy calling.
One has to reflect on God’s purpose for revealing a health message to the Seventh-day Adventist church almost from its very beginning. Of course, it was given in order to make us healthier candidates for His service, but could it also help build our faith and self-control, making us more likely to survive the coming persecutions that are sure to come as we draw nearer to the end?
How many of us have stood firm in the health message by adhering to God’s counsel, which is now becoming recognized by the world? It’s never too late to adjust to a even healthier lifestyle in the manner God has lovingly instructed us.
Read Luke 16:10 and Luke 11:42. Although being faithful in the small things doesn’t guarantee being faithful in the larger things (like with the Pharisees), why is it still important not to overlook the small details of our Christian walk? What two large things does Jesus think are important and why?
Read Daniel 1:20 and Deuteronomy 4:6. How were Daniel and his friends merely observing what God had commanded them from the day of Moses? How does their loyalty show us that all His commandments are important and to be obeyed?
Read Zechariah 8:23 and I Corinthians 14:25. How did the New Testament church fulfill the role that the Israelites had been assigned?
Monday: The Humility of Daniel
In order for Daniel to exhibit the humility needed to accomplish great things for God in Babylon, he also needed an utter dependence on God.
Depending on someone has a tendency to humble us. When someone must be taken care of physically, for instance, during an illness or after a severe accident (or during a captivity), it is alarming to discover the amount of pride we may harbor, even after we’ve given our lives over to God. Therefore the capture of Jerusalem and the humiliating trek to Babylon would have bolstered Daniel’s humility and dependence on God.
Humility was evidenced in Daniel’s demeanor and way of interacting with his captors, including the king. It was shown in how he “requested” (Daniel 1:8) the chief of the stewards and later the steward concerning their diet, and his approach in answering the king about his dream (Daniel 2:27, 28).
Read Daniel 2:17-23. What parts of Daniel’s prayer show his humble spirit?
Read Hebrews 4:13. Why should this transparency with God be comforting, and not troubling, for His children?
Read Galatians 6:14. Why is it alright to boast about Christ, but nothing else? How does one “boast” about Him, without it sounding offensive to others?
Tuesday: The Golden Image
Beyond the time prophecies revealed in the book of Daniel, which match exactly those in Revelation, we see another striking parallel in the story of the image the king built, the death decree, and the fiery furnace ordeal.
Many from childhood are familiar with the story of how Daniel’s three friends survived the king’s wrath and were thrown into a fiery furnace because they wouldn’t bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image. But have you noticed how closely that event mirrors another event described in Revelation?
“Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.” Revelation 13:11-15 NKJV
Even without understanding all the symbols represented in this prophetic passage, we can’t help but think of the horrific trial of Daniel’s three friends and their miraculous rescue from the fiery furnace, all because they wouldn’t bow down to a power-loving despot’s image.
Perhaps the story in Daniel 3 might include details to instruct us in how to survive ordeals and reassurances that Jesus, the Son of God, will be with us in the midst of our fiercest trials. Their faith and determination to remain true to God must become part of our character, if we desire to follow God and remain His children.
Read Daniel 3:1-6 and Revelation 13:11-15. Why is who and how we worship so important in both these stories?
Read Daniel 3:13-18. What traits of character were observed in how Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego answered the king? What motivated their decision to respond in this way to the king’s command?
Read Daniel 3:23-25. How did they survive the death decree? Would Jesus have been with them, even if they had died in the flames? Why are some martyrs delivered and some are not?
Wednesday: Conversion of the Gentiles
The stories of Nebuchadnezzar’s years of madness, and later, his grandson Belshazzar’s riotous feast and God’s handwriting on the wall, both show us that a knowledge of God must be accompanied by a born-again conversion experience. Only then will our witnessing bear the test of time and our own survival be assured.
It is easily seen in these stories that pride is the main issue in our spiritual struggles. Pride and the lustful pleasures of life will always be the chief contributors to man’s downfall.
It appears to us that King Nebuchadnezzar finally got the message and repented of his prideful attitude, but Belshazzar unfortunately may not have been fully converted, because the kingdom was attacked that very night and he was killed by the invading Medes.
We must be aware then that not all our witnessing bears fruit. Freedom of the will dictates that each of God’s creatures must decide whom to worship. But, despite our failures to win conversions, we must continue to distribute God’s grace and spread a knowledge of His character to as many as will listen, especially in these end times.
These Gentile kings give us insight into the gospel of the early church that went to the Gentile world. We see clearly that God’s intent is for ALL the world to have access to His saving grace. In the same vein, Jesus expressed this same desire when He commissioned His disciples to spread His teachings to all nations (Matthew 28:19).
Read Daniel 4:30-34, 37 and John 3:7. What indicators do we see that pride had become a dominant feature of the king’s character? How was God’s correction appropriate for this situation?
Read Daniel 5:23. What offenses had Belshazzar committed against the Lord? Besides pride, what seems to have led to his despicable behavior?
Read Daniel 4:35, John 15:5, and Acts 17:28. How do these acknowledgments indicate that we’ve been born again, and how important is being born-again to our preparation for the end times?
Thursday: The Faithfulness of Daniel
The real test for Daniel came later in his life, when he served under King Darius, the king of the Medes who had conquered Babylon and killed Belshazzar. Daniel had retained a high position in government in the new regime.
His high degree of favor with the king led to jealousy and finally deceit by the other governors with whom he worked. Since they could find no fault in him, they created one by convincing the king to enact a law saying no one could pray to anyone but the king for thirty days, upon penalty of death in the lions’ den.
Of course, Daniel did not alter his daily prayers, and the resulting miracle of being saved from the ravenous lions is an exciting tale, to say the least.
This story holds much significance in teaching us how we will be tested at the end of time. We too will be targeted on perhaps just one spiritual habit. Many believe this religious habit will consist of Sabbath worship. In Revelation, God’s last message to the world is to “worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water” (Revelation 14:7 NKJV). Since Sabbath involves worship of the Creator, it stands to reason that Sabbath vs. Sunday worship will one day be a test for God’s people.
How faithful will we be in following God and keeping ALL His commandments, just like Daniel and his friends throughout their captivity? God has promised to be with us, just like He was in the fiery furnace, and also to save us, like Daniel was saved from the lions. We have nothing to fear, when we cling to the promises. God is steadfast and faithful. And calls us to be the same.
Read Daniel 6:4, 5. Is it possible to live a life that is perceived to be faultless, even in sinful times like ours?
Read Daniel 6:6-9, Revelation 13:14, 12:9, and John 8:44. How does pride lead to lying and deceit? What other commandments are broken when pride comes into the heart?
Read Daniel 6:16-18. Where had Darius received his faith in God’s promises? Did the king’s faith contribute to Daniel’s miraculous escape from death among the lions? Will there be people in the last days who surprise us by their faith in God and their willingness to help us escape persecution? Why is our witness so important now, while we are free to give it?
Lessons from the book of Daniel that help us survive the end are…
- Withstanding the little tests prepares us for larger ones. (test on diet, ch. 1–Sunday)
- Humility and dependence on God are necessary. (interpreting the king’s dream, ch. 2–Monday)
- God will be with us, if we are faithful to Him. (the fiery furnace, ch. 3–Tuesday)
- We can’t survive without having a born-again experience. (Nebuchadnezzar’s madness and Belshazzar’s feast, ch. 4–Wednesday)
- Prayer is vital to survive Satan’s deceitful acts against us. (Daniel and the lion’s den–ch. 6–Thursday)
Perhaps the most important take from the story of Daniel is that refusing to worship a false god is not enough. We must actively worship the true God of heaven in order to stand the tests of persecution coming in the time of the end.
Daniel and his friends did this by…
- paying attention to God’s instruction concerning their health, making them wiser and stronger than their peers.
- showing humility, which made them leaders in government.
- refusing to follow the crowd and standing up to the king, which kept Jesus by their side in the furnace.
- being fully converted and submissive to God, making them a model for the Gentiles around them.
- praying every day to God, which saved them in the end.
Next Week’s Lesson: Jesus and the Book of Revelation
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/