Daniel’s Gospel begins with a narrative. The narrative conveys theology for the Church. If I want to communicate Daniel’s theology in church, I need to faithfully preach the story.
In order to faithfully preach the story I have to pay close attention to the plot, the rising action in the story.
(While grading sermons for grad students at Lancaster Bible College or doctoral students at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, I regularly draw their attention back to the development of plot in a narrative. Students will often focus on either the climax or conclusion of the story and, therefore, miss the subject of the narrative.)
So, for instance, in Daniel 1:1-21 the plot surrounds a few chosen Israelites being trained for service for the foreign king. How Daniel handles this training conveys theology for the Church.
Christians have always been in a similar situation–living out our faith in a world where the ungodly are in power. Daniel’s decision to draw a line (“…resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank” in v. 8) is an example for us to follow.
The key is to find a parallel between the subject of the plot and our Christian experience.
However, we don’t only follow Daniel’s example. I want to strive for a Christo-centric (-telic?) interpretation of Daniel. All Christians function like Daniel in the world because all Christians trust in their Savior. It is significant that v. 6 identifies Daniel and his three friends as “of the tribe of Judah.” These four point forward to another from the tribe of Judah. Jesus, like Daniel, lived in a world where the ungodly were in power. Like Daniel–and to an infinitely greater degree–our Savior kept His resolve to not defile Himself. And because He did, He died and rose again so that all who receive Him can become like Daniel in the world.
But, it all starts with the plot and all so God’s fame can grow in the Church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).
Preach a good sermon, will ya?!