On the first pages of the Bible, God says that humans are made in His image in order to mirror God’s image to the world, ruling over the earth as He would. Pretty early on, people fail over and over again. It turns out that this is harder for us than expected.
Still, God chooses to continue to work in His world through humanity. He chooses the family of Abraham to accomplish His purposes, and through this family comes the nation of Israel. He makes a covenant with them, and promises that they will be His chosen, holy people that will carry out His will in the world.
As the story continues to unfold, Israel is tempted to become like other nations. This is especially evident in difficult times in their history, one of which is the Babylonian exile. Babylon was a nation of consumption and progress, and they conquered Israel and scattered the Israelites around their empire. This is where the book of Daniel takes place, and it’s about God remaining faithful to His promise to use His holy nation even when they are scattered and broken.
We see a couple of familiar Bible stories here. One is about a group of friends that refuse to worship Babylon’s idols, being thrown into a fiery furnace but being protected by God. Another is about Daniel’s beautiful resistance against the system of Babylon where He’s thrown in a lion’s den for remaining faithful to the laws of God.
Reading these stories feels pretty extreme, but for many of us may seem very familiar in a way. It’s about God’s people remaining faithful even in difficult cultural circumstances, and God remaining faithful to them as a result. God is still working even when it seems like His people have lost everything, and this book shows us that.
There are so many parallels to our time in history. It can sometimes be discouraging to be a follower of Jesus in a world where it seems like things are constantly changing. It feels like we’re having to regain our footing all the time.
What’s interesting about Israel in the Bible is that although God’s people lost their political and economic power in times of exile, they often became more awake and alive to God’s presence. Their faithfulness to God’s instruction was reignited. God uses the exile just as much as he uses any other time, building people who live differently in places like Babylon.
The future is uncertain, and it feels like anything could happen, but right now more than ever we have an opportunity to deepen our inward life with God and live differently as a result. We’re living in a type of Babylon today, and we’re not sure what God is up to, but we know that He’s still using His people to accomplish His will in the world.