The Walls of Jerusalem surround the area of the Old City of Jerusalem. They’re 12 metres high, two and half metres wide, and stretch for 4kms around the city. The walls contain 34 watchtowers and 7 main gates. These walls were built in 1537 by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent when Jerusalem was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
The walls remind us that the city of Jerusalem has been surrounded by walls for its defence since ancient times. But the walls haven’t always been able to protect the city. During its long history Jerusalem has been attacked 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, besieged 23 times, and destroyed twice.
The first time, Jerusalem was destroyed by a great warrior king, Nebuchadnezzar, and his Babylonian army in 605 BC, just over 2,600 years ago. The Babylonians besieged and plundered the city, looting the temple and carrying off many of the sacred golden vessels.
Daniel, a young prince was captured, and with the cream of the city’s youth, he was carried off to Babylon as a war hostage, where he remained in exile for the rest of his life. The life of a hostage isn’t easy. But for 70 years, Daniel not only survived, but thrived in the most difficult circumstances and through an adventure of faith, intrigue, tyranny and miracles.
This remarkable man made some amazing predictions about the future and foretold many major events in history. He wrote it all down in a book. His daring claims about the future have proved 100 percent accurate right up to our day.
Yes, the book of Daniel is amazing, a book that remains studied, talked about, written about, and preached upon even into the 21st century. Its prophetic reach is astonishing. So much so that more than one atheist, or sceptic, has changed his or her mind after finding powerful evidence in this ancient book for the existence and power of the God proclaimed in it, the God of the Bible.
And the book of Daniel is filled with great stories set against a dramatic and exciting background — a background of conquest, exile, palace intrigue, culture clash, immorality, debauchery, and, yes — war.
We have, in the book of Daniel, many dramatic confrontations, including accounts of young men facing overwhelming temptations in the grand and luxurious palace of an ancient King who lived in a splendour that many rulers today couldn’t match.
How will these young men fare amid such temptations? Will they cave in and do the popular thing; that is, go along with the crowd, and perhaps even advance their careers? Or will they stand for what they believe is right, despite the consequences?
Well these stories are there for a reason. You see, that are two basic sections to the book of Daniel. The historical, found in the first half of the book, contains these incredible stories of Daniel’s day. Then there’s Daniel’s amazing predictions about the future, the prophecies, found in the second half of the book.
What the book of Daniel says about history provides a key that unlocks the meaning of history, while its prophetic section opens a window through which we see how the God of heaven is guiding the affairs of this world towards the great climactic events we see beginning to unfold today.
Many people in their rush to quickly unravel the prophecies of Daniel have skipped the historical section, the stories, and missed a lot of the meaning in the book. The stories of Daniel are not given simply as stories; rather they illustrate what the prophecies predict. The stories reveal that what happened to Daniel and his friends in ancient Babylon are symbolic of the experiences of the people of God in the end-time.
The stories of the book of Daniel dramatize what the prophecies are predicting. What happened to God’s people in ancient Babylon is a foretaste of what will happen to God’s people in the time of the end.
However different the circumstances, is this not a challenge that we sometimes might face today? In the book of Daniel, we have an incredible story of religious liberty under assault, as some of these young men are threatened with death, to be burned alive actually, if they don’t conform. What should they do? What did they do? And what happened when they did it?
We have a story of palace intrigue, when jealous and hateful men seek to destroy a rival by having him fed to the lions. What is that story, and how does it end? We have stories of dreams, visions, insanity, debauchery, hatefulness, all alongside those of fidelity, trust, honour and faithfulness.
Yes, all this, and more, is found in Daniel, which unfolds mostly in the halls and chambers of the fabulous, even legendary palace of one of history’s most powerful rulers, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. And though all these stories take place in a time and place far removed from today, in many ways the issues, the principles, are similar to what we, today, face as well.
So, let’s get ready for a fascinating adventure that, though set in the past, can be so relevant for the present, helping us, indeed, better understand the incredible events that are taking place in the world that we live in now.