How does one begin when there is no place to start? This was the question for Daniel and his peers. Sinai was an ancient memory and Jerusalem and its temple lay in ruins. Things had come full circle. Israel dwelt in Babylon; Abraham had returned to the gods of his fathers. Was there any hope?
Hope is a remarkable thing. It empowers our efforts but exists entirely independent of them. We find ourselves willing to do anything in the pursuit of hope only to find that it takes a form altogether different than we had expected or even comprehended. Daniel rightly placed his hope in the infinite God, “the Hope of Israel” (Ps. 137; Lam. 3), holding fast to the promises He had given to Abraham’s descendants, the captives of Babylon (Isa. 41; 46–47; 51–52). This is most evident in Daniel’s last years when, as a son of Israel—a Prince with God—he lays hold of God and demands His blessing for His name and His people (compare Gen. 32 to Dan. 6:10; 9:1–19).
Daniel’s faith was repeatedly answered in the remarkable visions that constitute the second half of the Book of Daniel (Dan. 7–12). Yet these answers were far from comforting—Babylon was only the beginning of the exiles, atrocities, and agonies that would befall Israel. Yes, a remnant would return to the land and rebuild the temple, but the Messiah—the Hope of Israel—would be killed, the temple would again be destroyed, and Jerusalem would be repeatedly desolated by gentile armies (Dan. 7:28; 8:27; 9:24–27). These divine communications explained earlier prophecies (Hos. 3; Isa. 6), but were they the answer to Daniel’s cry for deliverance? The New Testament is God’s answer to this question. It is the answer to the mournful longing of scattered, enslaved, dejected Israel (Mt. 10:1-15; Lk. 1:67-2:39). As such, we cannot gain a solid understanding of the New Testament Scriptures without a serious study of the Book of Daniel.