In the introduction to this short book on Daniel, Alistair Begg promises to offer his readers “at least six parts God for every one part Daniel or anyone else.” (16.) Over the next seven chapters, refreshingly, he delivers. This a book rich in Scripture, and as each chapter corresponds to the first seven chapters of Daniel, God’s word is unpacked and applied for us today. When there is wisdom or opinion from Begg or others, it is worked in as very much the supporting cast to the main role occupied by Scripture. This all results in a compelling short read, a call to be brave by faith in a world that opposes God, but a world that is still wonderfully ruled by God. There is no sense that this book is deeply new, and Begg offers no suggestion that his short thoughts on Daniel are revolutionary. Rather, decades of faithful biblical teaching have simply produced a helpful challenge to believers in the post-Christian Western world.
Come and See our God is Greater
Rooted in Scripture, Begg walks the reader through the action-packed first seven chapters of Daniel. Time and again God is seen to be directing events, keeping His promises and sovereignly ruling His world. So Begg encourages his readers to look to Him. Chapter Five is an encouragement to lift our eyes from the glitz and glamour of our world to the true reality behind, Chapter Seven urges us to take heart – because God wins! As Begg concludes in his discussion of Daniel 7: “Daniel 7 moors us spiritually, and emotionally, in something beyond our optimism or our pessimism.” (103.) This seventh chapter, like the rest, moors us in God.
And when we recognise the greatness of our God, in and against this present evil age, we will better contend for His glory in our lives. Begg repeatedly turns the challenge upon his readers. “We are in Babylon – and God is sovereign even here. Nothing is actually out of control and nothing is about to get out of control.” (28.) What a wonderful truth (and a welcome reminder to pessimistic hearts!) Let us live in light of God’s greatness and God’s sovereignty.
Respond in Confident Faith
Running in tandem with this thread of God’s greatness is a call to respond in confident faith. Chapter One urges the believer to know the lines they will not cross, Chapter Three encourages us to remain faithful through the fiery trials of our lives. Chapter Four offers a fantastic encouragement to share the Gospel. Begg once again offers refreshing, biblical truth on this. Stemming from Daniel’s faithfulness and God’s action in Daniel 4, Begg encourages the reader in their evangelism. “Your job, and mine, is not to convert people. It is to communicate the gospel. God is big enough to do the rest, according to his sovereign plan to build his church.” (73.) Salvation does not lie with us, New Life is not our responsibility. But sharing the Gospel is the wonderful privilege and duty of the believer. So remain faithful.
Begg calls his reader to a radical response, a compassionate, Christ-focussed engagement with contemporary society. The challenge of Chapter Six resonated with this reviewer. “In order not to compromise and blend in with post-Christian culture, we will be tempted to make a run for it, to circle the wagons and isolate ourselves, or to stand outside of culture and shout at it. Instead, we are to serve, and serve well.” (91.) How tempting it is to pull back, circle the wagons as Begg says, and isolate ourselves from this sinful world. Begg points us to Daniel’s continued faithful and humble service, and encourages us to stand firm within a world that is not our true home.
The Good Book Company have gotten into an odd habit of citing entire URLs within the text of their books, and it is done again here (116.) Whilst only a minor point, it seems an odd editorial choice and rather breaks up the flow of the text. Stylistic questions aside, this is an excellent short read. Begg’s epilogue encourages the reader to live for God’s glory as we await our true and eternal home. It is a final call to be brave by faith. This short book offers the reader some excellent reflections on Daniel 1-7, and there is a challenge within we would do well to heed. We live in Babylon, but we must remain brave by faith in a world that is far from God.
Brave by Faith is available from The Good Book Company, having been published last month.