They had been in training for years for this moment, the whole nation was full of excitement believing that they could be in the final, but then came the earth-shattering blow. The whistle went, the red card came out and the ref sent off the captain of the Welsh rugby team after only 15 minutes. Their nation’s hopes and dreams of being in the final evaporated in an instant. The captain was hopeless, looking on from the sidelines only yards away, but he might as well have been hundreds of miles away as he was powerless to do anything and just wished he were back on the pitch.
And that’s just a game of rugby.
Losing one’s leaders has a powerful effect on morale; today, as we start a new series in the book of Daniel, we’re going to see this effect in action in chapter 1. It all starts with some significant sieges and some impressively long names. Let’s take a read now.
Read Daniel 1.
King Nebuchadnezzar (try saying that one backwards) of Babylon knew this tactic of keeping morale low. He began a series of attacks on Jerusalem. By this point in history, the nation of Israel had split into two, with Israel in the north and Judah in the south – now only Judah was left, after the north was conquered 200 years earlier. In Nebuchadnezzar’s first attack, they replaced the Judah’s king with a puppet king of their own, but following a further uprising the Babylonians returned and besieged the city again. Jerusalem surrendered and around 10,000 Jews were taken as captives.
In much the same way that the Welsh fans and players had all their wind knocked out of them when they saw their captain being sent off, so too the hearts and hopes of the people of Jerusalem sank to a low. They were demoralised as they saw the very best of their leaders carried off to Babylon. How would we feel if our royal family or top sportsmen were carried off by an invading army? It would devastate us. The Israelites too lost their fighting spirit and wondered what future they had.
But worst of all, they wondered where God had been and if he really was still in control.
But God is still in control despite how things appear. This was part of his plan.
God had warned the people through the prophet Isaiah that this very exile would happen because of their continued disobedience. Sin has a consequence and God needed his people to see where their rebellion would lead them.
Tomorrow we are going to look more into how God was in control of this situation. But I just want to leave you with a question to ask yourself. Do you ever doubt that God is in control? Well let me reassure you,
Psalm 37:23 says, ‘The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way.’