Carrie is hosting a linky-thingy (surely there's a better word?) for reading one book of the Bible each month and commenting on it. I'm actually working on reading books of the Bible through twenty times in succession, which has rather an overachiever smack to it, but I'm taking longer than a month on most of them.
For the past month or so (and I've lost count but I think I'm only about halfway through the twenty times) I've been reading Daniel. It had a vague image in my mind of a book divided into the part suitable for tales for small children and the part suitable for wild-haired prophecy enthusiasts and not much left for anyone else.
But I've been studying ancient history this year, and I felt myself oppressed by the weight of history. All those people living and dying--all those forgotten cruelties and vanished empires--so much human sorrow and suffering. Was there really a design behind all of it? What did it all mean? And what was the use of studying it?
"Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. And it is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men, and knowledge to men of understanding."
Daniel, more than any other book of the Bible, looks at the whole sweep of history, the big wars-and-empires history, and tells Who is behind it all, and why. God is setting the stage for His Kingdom. The Stone cut without hands is coming, and before Him all the powers of the earth are chaff in the wind.
Yet the empires are not meaningless, since it is God who gave them their powers and their places. Studying ancient history and legends for awhile has at the least helped me better understand the Bible and what it meant to the people who first read it. For instance, what would it have meant to hear of God's "only begotten son?" To a Jew, surely, it must have been quite a mind stretch to see God as having a son at all. But to the Greeks hearing it, it must have called to mind the legends of Perseus and Hercules and Zeus's interminable philandering that populated the heroic age with enough heroes to battle all the monsters. But there is only one God here, and only one Son. One hero for one monster who has been back of it all.
All these things were the prologue, and the play is more meaningful with the prologue. The answer makes more sense once you have read the question. Your mystery religions, with dark rites to resurrect the dead god? Your fairy-tales of ancient heroes and fearsome monsters? Your long-awaited Messiah to deliver you from all enemies? Your philosophies of truth and order? He is alive, He is here, He has come. The desire of all nations has come.