The book of Daniel is not really renown for its missional perspective. However, in a recent Missional Introduction to the Old Testament lecture we asked the class to ‘stretch their missional muscles’ and discover how Daniel could be read and understood missionally? Subsequently, I came across a chapter in Christian Mission: Old Testament Foundations and New Testament Developments, by Stanley Porter and Cynthia Long Westfall (pages 59-60) that has some intriguing insights into Daniel and the kingdom of God. Below is a short extract.
In both Daniel 1-7 and the New Testament, the kingdom is something that is planted by God and subsequently grows, eventually resulting in a wider awareness of God. Again in Daniel, the kingdom begins as a stone that grows in to a mountain (Dan. 2:35). In the subsequent narratives, this growth is reflected in the increasingly orthodox testimony of the Babylonian and Persian monarchs. In the parable of the Mustard Seed in Matt 13:31-32, Jesus likens the growth of the kingdom of God to the way in which a tiny mustard seed can eventually become a tree that is substantive enough to provide shelter for the birds. In this concise parable, Matthew combines several terms and phrases that show that he is directly drawing on Daniel for inspiration…. What the parable in Matthew reflects is not only a reuse, but also a reapplication of the material from Daniel 4. What originally spoke of the growth of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom and the sustenance provided by it is reused by Matthew to speak of the same things in relation to the kingdom of God. In the parable of the Yeast (Matt 13:33), the kingdom of God is likened to yeast that works its way through the dough, bringing out growth as it does so.
In both Daniel 1-7 and the New Testament, the faithful are called to engage society. In Daniel 1-7, the faithful are participants in structures that are not part of the kingdom of God. Their presence there creates a testimony that sometimes put them at odds with the power structures, but that also transforms those structures. In each case, the faithful are rescued from crisis and witness a royal acknowledgement of God. A basic example of how members of the kingdom are to be engaged in society comes in Jesus’ response to the question, “Should we pay taxes to Caesar?” (Matt 22:15-22).