Six Reasons Teenagers Need the Book of Daniel

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The book of Daniel was written in the middle of massive political upheaval. Miraculously, over 70 years and the reign of four kings and three nations over Babylon, Daniel is the only constant. He was and remains proof that neither politics nor presidents, neither protestors nor police have the final say over our peace and well being – God does.

Our present culture tends to respond to uncertainty (especially when it comes to power) with anxiety, fear, and shaming. Whether we realize it or not, our students are being constantly taught to respond with fearfulness, anxiety, and shame. But Daniel offers a vibrant image of a calm and gracious Kingdom under the rule of our sacrificial and shame-banishing King, Jesus.

Here are six reasons your students should engage with the book of Daniel.

Daniel Was a Teenager.

Daniel was a teenager when he was exiled to Babylon. Cut off from his family, his friends, and his religious community, Daniel was surrounded by the pagan culture of Babylon. Upon being removed from his homeland at the start of the exile, he was thrown into Nebuchadnezzar’s “university” where he was taught the “language and literature” of Babylon (Dan. 1:17).

Eventually, all teenagers will leave their homes and experience “exile” in a hostile world intent on indoctrinating them with its own language and literature. Daniel shows students what faithfulness looks like in places that are designed to erode their faith.

Too many of our students walk away from their homes and churches with the wrong stuff in their suitcase. The book of Daniel gives students a glimpse of what it will take to not just survive in our modern Babylon, but thrive by the grace of God.

Teenagers Do Not Feel at Home.

While our students may not be physically exiled like Daniel, most teenagers will tell you they feel lonely and displaced. They feel displaced from one another by the failing promises of social media. They feel displaced from their emotions as depression and anxiety are increasingly medicated. They feel displaced from their parents, as technology widens generational divides. They feel discouraged and disenchanted with politics, so they rush to identify with extremes as ways to find a narrative that makes sense of the chaos.  

Daniel offers hope to exiled teenage hearts. While our world mixes a cocktail of loud voices, self-help and Prozac, Daniel offers the sobering news that God is creating for us a home and Kingdom that will never end and will not be shaken.

Daniel Gives Teenagers Hope in Political Upheaval.

Kings, political parties, and nations have always claimed to have the power and authority to bring about a newer, better, and brighter future. Daniel helps students put politics and politicians in their proper place. As we observe God at work in Daniel’s story, we see that God’s power, authority, and agenda are immovable.

Those who trust in God neither have to despair over their political landscape, nor obsess over securing victory for their side. Instead, they can trust the God who “removes and sets up kings” (Dan. 2:21) as they live in a politically charged world.

While politics might be far from your students’ mind, it won’t always be. For one, this is an election year. But more importantly, as pastors, you have the opportunity to plant a political imagination that is full of hope in God’s promises and God’s control. Sadly, many parents have bought into narratives of fear, suspicion and conspiracy. This is not only unhelpful in political discourse, it’s also spiritually disfiguring.

Jesus is King. He always has been. He always will be. Fear and suspicion have no place for Christians. In one of the most famous passages in Daniel, we see that the only true kingdom is not instituted by governments but God. Jesus reigns from an invisible throne that sits far above principality and power and turns the hearts of all kings whatever way he wills (Dan. 7:14).

Daniel Shows us How to Suffer

Daniel’s life was full of suffering. Not only was he persecuted for his faith, but he also suffered separation from his home and family by one of the most powerful nations on the planet at that time. It was precisely in these dark moments that God worked most powerfully.

Our students need to know that it’s often darkest before the dawn. They need to know that the goal of life is not the alleviation of suffering, but in suffering like Christ (1 Pet. 4:12-19). They need to know this because it’s precisely when we are stuck in the lions’ den that God will rescue us. Like Jesus, it’s only once we die that we will see resurrection.

Daniel Points Us to Jesus.

Daniel foreshadows Jesus, his cross, his resurrection, ascension. Daniel’s stint in the lion’s den and his friends’ stay in the fiery furnace are both types of death. Daniel’s miraculous escapes foreshadow the Resurrection. His promotions in Babylon’s inner circles are ascensions that also point forward to Jesus.

But Daniel is also a prophet and gives us one of the most famous images of Jesus as the Cloud-Riding Son of Man. In Daniel’s vision, the Son of Man is crushed by grotesque beasts only to rise in power. Jesus quotes Daniel’s prophecy to the Pharisees as they savagely beat him, and to his disciples as he foretells his death and resurrection. Daniel preaches that Jesus is the King who is crushed but not destroyed. He is a son of man, suffering like us, but also the Son of Man who sits at God’s right hand.

Daniel Gives Hope to the Youth Pastor

Before Daniel, there was Josiah. A king who faithfully read, taught, and obeyed God’s law.

As you consider teaching through the book of Daniel to your student, read the account of Israel’s last obedient king in 2 Chronicles 34-35. Through his leadership renewal and revival spread through Israel (Chronicles 35:16-19). Daniel would have been a young boy during his reign. Without Josiah faithfully reading, teaching and obeying God’s word we would not have an obedient Daniel to read about.

Take heart. While the digital-Babylon our kids live in is powerful, it is no match for faithful men and women teaching and obeying God’s word.

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