Through-line

As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.”—Daniel 1:17 (ESV)

In the medium of storytelling, there’s something that’s known as a “through-line.” What this refers to is the essential narrative or “spine” that supports the rest of the story. It’s Frodo’s quest to destroy the ring, it’s Luke discovering his destiny as a Jedi, it’s Captain Ahab’s consuming desire to exact revenge on the white whale, it’s Sherlock deducing what everyone else at the crime scene fails to observe, and it’s the Avenger’s endeavor to protect the universe from the snap (or undo its effects).

Every strong story has a well-defined through-line . . . something we can readily recite if someone asks us what the story is all about. The Book of Daniel has a strong through-line, and it’s presented to us in the proceeding passage. Note carefully the words, “God gave . . .”

These two words are core to Daniel’s narrative, because in all of the activity that transpires in this book—the rising of this worldly kingdom and the falling of that earthly empire, the transfer of power from one king to the next, the myriad dominoes that fall from one end of history to the next, through all of that—Daniel sees all of these things through the lens of God being in ultimate control!

“God gave” emphasizes this point. All things belong to God to begin with. He alone is the ultimate source of what’s given. The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (Psalm 24:1), and He has the authority to give it when, how, and to whom He chooses. He is in control of all these variables, not humanity! 

Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and even kingdoms to come think they’re in charge because they dominate the world stage for a certain space of time. But through it all, they are simply stewards of the power God gives to them until their time comes to an end. God is in control, that’s Daniel’s through-line, and we need to know this going forward or else the book will seem chaotic and confusing.

There’s a powerful parallel to our personal lives here, isn’t there? If we don’t know that the Lord is ultimately controlling and directing the course of our lives, things can get confusing real quick! The circumstances of life rise and fall like the waves of a raging ocean, and we can be so powerless and storm-tossed by them. But there is a through-line woven from one end of our lives to the other. It’s the same as Daniel’s . . . God is in control, and we must remember that when it comes to our story.      

DIG: What is the through-line of the Book of Daniel?

DISCOVER: Why is it important to know this going forward in the book and in life?

DO: Consider ways you can be more mindful of your story’s through-line.