Introduction: Currently, I’m reading a delightful book that explains
why the outspoken opponents of God are idiots. That may sound a
little undiplomatic, but this book is filled with humor and logic,
and it pokes a hole in the so-called scientific gasbags that
publically attack the existence of God. My problem is that when I
read some of the logical arguments in the book, I have to think about
them to be sure I’m understanding what I read. That should be our
constant quest. Even when reading something that we think we
understand, we need to take a moment to be sure. Then we need to
explore whether what we just understood makes sense. That is our
study this week. As we begin our exploration of the book of Daniel,
are we prepared to really understand it? Do certain distinctions make
sense? Let’s dive into the Bible and see what we can learn!

  1. God’s Wisdom

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 1:18. What caution does this suggest
      about sharing the gospel with unbelievers? (We should not
      assume that they will understand. They may think we are
      talking foolishness.)

      1. Even if they understand our words, will they
        understand our message?

      2. If you answered, no, how can we evangelize?

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 1:19 and Isaiah 29:14. What is God’s
      approach to pagan wisdom? (He will destroy and frustrate
      it. I think the book that I am reading logically destroys
      pagan wisdom.)

      1. 1 Corinthians 1:19 refers back to Isaiah 29:14 when
        it says, “it is written.” How does Isaiah suggest
        that the wisdom of the world will disappear? (“Wonder
        upon wonder” will destroy worldly wisdom.)

        1. What do you think that means? (The recent
          scientific discovery that the universe is
          expanding, and therefore logically had a
          starting point, resulted in the “Big Bang”
          theory. Prior to that, the scientific belief
          was that the universe was static, and therefore
          no outside force was involved.)

        2. Contemplate the “Big Bang” theory for a few
          minutes. What does it require? (It requires
          external intervention. It requires a lot of
          energy to suddenly show up. This “wonder”
          creates a lot of problems for scientists who
          oppose the idea of an outside god.)

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 1:20-21. Does this suggest that God
      does not want the worldly wise to know Him? That we cannot
      evangelize? (Read 1 Corinthians 1:27. I don’t think that
      Paul is arguing that we cannot evangelize or that God
      rejects well-educated people. Instead, he argues that God
      works through human weakness. Consider how Jesus came to
      earth and how He died. Worldly wisdom rejects this. If God
      rejected smart, educated people, He would not have chosen
      Paul for he was a very educated man.)

    4. Read Daniel 2:31-36. We will learn that God bypassed all
      of the Babylonian wise men and revealed the meaning of the
      dream through Daniel, a Jewish captive. What do you know
      about the interpretation of this dream? (It lays out the
      future of the world! This shows that God works through

      1. What does “weakness” mean in this context? Was Daniel
        weak? Was he dumb? Was he uneducated? (Weakness here
        means that he was not part of the pagan power

    5. What lesson do you learn about God’s approach to
      understanding from what we have discussed? (The best the
      pagan world has to offer is unlikely to lead you to a
      correct interpretation of God’s will.)

  2. Prophecy

    1. I recently read that there is a difference between
      “classical” and “apocalyptic” prophecies. Some scholars
      promote various forms of this theory. What I want us to
      consider is the specific assertion that classical prophecy
      might not end up being true because it depends on “human
      response.” Apocalyptic prophecy, on the other hand, will
      always be true. Does this mean that we cannot trust all

      1. Does the trustworthiness of prophecy turn on how we
        label it?

      2. What do you think about this claim?

      3. Do you think this distinction helps us to better
        understand what we read in the Bible?

    2. Let’s look at an example. Read Zechariah 9:1-4. This is
      labeled a “classical” prophecy. But, slip down a few
      verses to Zechariah 9:9-10. This is a prophecy about the
      coming of Jesus and presumably would therefore be
      “apocalyptic” in the sense it is not subject to human
      response. Would you be able to tell the difference
      between these two prophecies? Does a prophet switch from
      one type of prophecy to another in the same chapter?

    3. Read Zechariah 14:1-4. This is part of a “classical”
      prophecy about the future of Jerusalem, meaning that it
      may not come true depending on human response. What do you
      say about this? (While I understand scholars’ desire to
      categorize things, I think the claim about reliability is
      a problem. At least one proponent of this distinction uses
      it to dismiss the expectation that the final events of
      history will unfold in the Middle East. Since final events
      have not yet taken place, dismissing this possibility
      places human wisdom (the correct labeling of prophecies)
      over the word of God.)

      1. On the face of it, what reason is there to believe
        that the prophecy of Zechariah 14:1-4 is any less
        reliable than the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9-10?

    4. Read Jonah 1:2, Jonah 3:4, Jonah 3:10 and Jonah 4:1-2. Did
      Jonah think this was a conditional prophecy? (Yes and no.
      He is angry because he thinks it was not conditional. But,
      he recognizes that God is “gracious and compassionate.”)

      1. Did God intend this prophecy to be conditional
        (classical)? (Look again at Jonah 3:10. “God
        relented.” This means God changed His mind. It does
        not mean that He intended all along to let the
        outcome turn on how the people reacted.)

      2. If you reject labeling prophecies in advance as to
        their certainty, what theory would you suggest in its
        place? (Consider this: our God is gracious,
        compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love, and
        His character is consistent with changing His mind
        about sending calamity. This leaves His followers
        simply trusting that God will do the right thing. I
        favor that approach.)

  3. Timing

    1. We previously read the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar. Let’s
      read the interpretation in Daniel 2:37-41 and Daniel 2:44-45. Scholars differ on whether this is merely symbolic,
      something that happened in the past, something that will
      happen in the future, or something that describes the arc
      of earthly history. How do you view this?

      1. What is the argument against this being a symbol of
        general ideas? (Read Daniel 2:37-38. Daniel says the
        prophecy has a specific application.)

      2. What is the argument against it describing only
        events that have not yet taken place? (Read Daniel
        2:39. Daniel not only says that the events are
        happening now, he says that the dream describes a
        series of kingdoms that will rise and fall in the
        future – and we can now see that this has happened.)

      3. What is the argument against the dream describing
        only past events? (Read again Daniel 2:44-45. The
        prediction of the never-ending Kingdom of God which
        destroys all the other kingdoms has not yet taken

    2. Why do you think God gave this dream to King
      Nebuchadnezzar? Why give it at this time in history?
      (Jerusalem was destroyed. God’s people were taken captive
      by a nation hostile to the true God. A follower of God
      could reasonably worry that God was not in control. This
      dream and its interpretation showed that God has the
      entire history of the world planned out.)

    3. We are going to study this dream in more detail, but what
      does this say about the existence of our God? (First, it
      tells me that God is real. Nebuchadnezzar could never
      correctly dream the empires that would follow his. Daniel
      could never read Nebuchadnezzar’s mind. That most of this
      dream has already been fulfilled gives us confidence in a
      God who is involved in the affairs of humans and who has
      established His eternal Kingdom.)

    4. Friend, why not trust God for your future? Will you commit
      to that today?

  4. Next week: From Jerusalem to Babylon.