CULTURAL IMPERIALISM, commentary on some verses from the Book of Daniel
Year 1, Week 34, Monday Glenroy 1975
“At the end of ten days it was observed that they appeared better and fatter than all the young men who had been eating the royal rations. So the guard continued to withdraw their royal rations and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. To these four young men God gave knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and wisdom; Daniel also had insight into all visions and dreams.” Daniel 1:15-17
The Book of Daniel was written at the time of the Maccabees, a time of cultural imperialism when the Syrian king sought to impose Greek culture on all his subjects, including the Jews.
In today’s colourful reading the contrast is set between the sumptuous and elegant food from the king’s table and the ordinary vegetables that Daniel and his companions choose to eat. Far from being harmed by their simple nourishment the boys are much fitter and brighter in every way than their peers who eat the finest food of the kingdom. The teaching conveyed by this contrast is clear. The Law of Moses is superior to all other ways of life, even to Greek culture; the food laws of the Old Testament are more effective that the products of refined living; obedience to God is more productive than political power. In the context of the Maccabean struggle, this doctrine was essential for the survival of Jewish religion.
Christians are not bound by the food laws of the Old Testament, a point made spectacularly and scandalously in Peter’s vision in the Acts of the Apostles (10:9-16) and in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (2:11-14). They look beyond the such laws to the will of God, and draw a deeper lesson. The will of God is more life-giving than the spectacular forms of power. The will of God, obscure, sometimes even as ordinary as vegetables and water, is more significant. Those who have the mind of God find a source of strength and courage, a resilience, a freshness of outlook, a keenness of mind that surpasses anything this world can give.
Year 1, Week 34, Wednesday Glenroy 1975
“Under the influence of the wine, Belshazzar commanded that they bring in the vessels of gold and silver that his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them.” Daniel 5:2
This famous scene, Belshazzar’s feast, is a case of sacrilege. The drunken king with his noblemen, wives and concubines, have the sacred vessels brought in to the banquet where they are profaned. Immediately the forecast of doom comes; the mysterious writing on the wall announces the judgement: Babylon is to be handed over to the Persians.
It is rare for chalices to be taken from a church and used sacrilegiously. But human beings are more sacred than chalices, more precious than sacred vessels. A chalice contains the Blood of Christ, but only or a moment, where the Christian is part of the Body of Christ for all eternity; in the chalice the sacrifice of Calvary is renewed at each Mass, but the Christian is alive with Christ in eternity. Yet Christians, along with many other human beings, are persecuted, used and abused in blatant and subtle ways.
Let the perpetrators beware of such sacrilege, for the writing will appear on the wall for them too and their inheritance will be handed over to those that respect their fellows.
Year 1, Week 34, Thursday East Doncaster, 1989
“I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.” Daniel 6:26
The king has signed an edict forbidding his subjects to pray to anyone, god or man, except himself. The punishment is to be thrown to the lions.
Throughout human history governments have tried to prevent worship, for it is seen by them to be a political act, showing that the ruler has only limited power, that there is a superior power which he must obey. For such rulers the act of worship as an act of subversion.
Daniel, who will worship only the God of his ancestors, is therefore thrown into the lions’ den. When he is saved from that impossible situation the king comes to faith in the one true God. “I decree: in every kingdom of my empire let all tremble with fear before the God of Daniel: he is the living God, he endures forever.”
The Father must have complete sway in the empire of human thought. He is to be the origin and purpose of every act.
Year 1, Week 34, Friday East Doncaster, 1989
The triumphant Son of Man
“I saw one like a human beingcoming with the clouds of heaven.And he came to the Ancient Oneand was presented before him.To him was given dominionand glory and kingship,that all peoples, nations, and languagesshould serve him.His dominion is an everlasting dominionthat shall not pass away,and his kingship is onethat shall never be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14
Various issues concerning the traditions of the Jews have been dealt with. The scene now shifts to the future and onto a universal scale. Various kingdoms, symbolized by the various beasts, are disappearing for the Son of Man is about to come, he who will rule the people with justice and forever.
The Jewish writer realizes that the Son of David must rule more than the People of God. Indeed, he must rule all nations and forever. Just as the exiles learnt in Babylon that YHVH was Lord of all creation, so at the time of the Maccabees the sacred author realizes that the Messiah must rule all mankind. He must receive his appointment from before all time and reign for all time.
Thus, the stage is set for the appearance of Jesus. In his teaching he will refer frequently to the Son of Man and applies the term to himself. He is the Son of Man come from out of eternity to be Lord of all and forever.