Understanding and Preaching Daniel

Greg Strand – April 5, 2013 2 Comments

Continuing the focus on the Old Testament Scriptures and understanding, teaching and preaching those Scriptures as a Christian, i.e. its unity as one Book, the Scriptures, with its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ, we look at a new commentary on Daniel.

Sidney Greidanus, professor emeritus of preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, MI, is the author of the Foundations for Expository Sermons series published by Eerdmans. Greidanus’ book Preaching Christ from Daniel is the most recent in this excellent series, and he was recently interviewed about understanding and preaching Daniel.

In response to the question about “common evangelical oversights or misunderstandings related to Daniel,” Greidanus noted that the major problem historically has been to apply the text specifically to a dating of the end of the world, and the most common contemporary problem is moralizing that is often divorced from the author’s intent in the text.

Historically, a major misunderstanding has been using Daniel’s apocalyptic chapters to predict the end of the world. . . . But the main evangelical misunderstanding today is that Daniel presents a series of moral tales. Even good evangelical commentaries nudge pastors into making moralizing applications. . . . Moralizing can spin the application in almost any direction. Although these applications aren’t necessarily unbiblical in themselves, they fail to respect the specific genre of the redemptive-historical narrative as well as the goal (purpose/intention) of the inspired biblical author.

Greidanus believes the primary theme of Daniel is God’s sovereign plan being worked out in history to establish His kingdom and Daniel’s chief goal is to comfort and encourage God’s people.

Daniel’s primary theme, then, is this: Our sovereign God controls events in this world, judging and protecting individuals as well as world empires, until He establishes His perfect kingdom on earth (cf. Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14, 27). Since Daniel originally addressed his messages to Israelites suffering exile in Babylon, his chief goal was to comfort and encourage God’s people with the news that, despite appearances to the contrary, God was still in control.

Greidanus’ definition of preaching Christ:

I define preaching Christ as “preaching sermons which authentically integrate the message of the text with the climax of God’s revelation in the person, work, and/or teaching of Jesus Christ as revealed in the New Testament.”

Regarding other themes in the book of Daniel, Greidanus lists six:

  1. the sovereign Lord guiding his faithful people, even in exile (Dan. 1; cf. Joseph in exile in Egypt);
  2. delivering his faithful children (Dan. 3, 6);
  3. giving earthly kingdoms to whomever he wills (Dan. 4, 5);
  4. in the end replacing all human kingdoms with his everlasting kingdom (Dan. 2, 7, 9);
  5. ultimately raising his people from the dead, exalting them in his kingdom (Dan. 10:1-12:4);
  6. and promising everlasting life to his people who persevere to the end (Dan. 12:5-13).

Some themes highlight the growing messianic expectation in the Old Testament.

Several themes especially reinforce the growing messianic expectation in the Old Testament. These include belief that the sovereign Lord will in the end replace all human kingdoms with his everlasting kingdom (Dan. 2, 7, 9) and give his kingdom to a divine son of man (Dan. 7:13-14) and to his people (Dan. 7:27) whom he will raise from the dead, exalting them and giving them everlasting life (Dan. 12:2-3).

Other books in the Foundations for Expository Sermons series are the following:

Preaching Christ from Genesis (2007)
Preaching Christ from Ecclesiastes (2010)
Preaching Christ from Daniel (2012)

Prior to these homiletical/expository commentaries, Greidanus laid the foundation for these works by writing these two important texts:

The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical Literature (1989)
Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method (1999)

Greidanus has undertaken a great ministry/service to Christian preachers of the Word of God. I would encourage you to avail yourselves of these good works.

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

2 responses to Understanding and Preaching Daniel

  1. Good stuff. My first sermon at my church was Daniel 7.
    “The kingdoms of man rise and fall, but the kingdom of God is forever.”
    I wish more pastors would preach Daniel. The tilte Son of Man is unclear in the NT without pivotal texts like Daniel 7.

    • Joel, I appreciate your comment. I agree – Jesus’ most oft-used and favorite self-designation will not be grasped apart from understanding its usage in the Old Testament. There are two key uses in Daniel (7:13 and 8:17) and many occurrences in Ezekiel. In the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) the expression occurs 82 times!

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