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Why should we study the book of Daniel? His story is about surviving a life of terrible circumstances. He was enslaved in a pagan land. Daniel is captured while a young man in Nebuchadnezzar’s first siege of Jerusalem. He will live in Babylon into the reign of King Cyrus the Persian, for 70 years. Daniel will become a government official under four different kings. To begin his life in captivity, Daniel and the other captives had requirements. They first were required to take and pass a 3-year course in the Babylonian language and literature. This was a complete indoctrination into a pagan society. Daniel and his friends did well. They were said to be 10 times wiser than all the experienced magicians and enchanters in all Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom (Daniel 1:20). Daniel’s wisdom would make him a legend. Despite his circumstances, Daniel found purpose in his life. He remained a person of prayer and faith. God’s response to him was through wisdom. Daniel’s life would become a living example of the God of Israel.

It is a great story, one to put on your must-read list. In our modern times, many people feel like Daniel. Circumstances seem out of our control. Trapped by life itself. There are times that life is not what we envisioned. Daniel’s heritage had come from King David’s royal family. In 605 B.C., the Israelite dynasty was in decline. Nebuchadnezzar had been a Babylonian ruler who reigned over much of the civilized world. In his successful destruction of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar carried off some of the treasure from the temple of God to Babylon. He also captured some young men of the royal family and took them with him to serve in his court (Daniel 1:3). Daniel was one of the high-profile hostages. (Daniel 1:6).

Daniel’s life would become best known for wisdom, prayer, and prophecy. How then could he sustain and grow his faith when forced to learn, live in, and adapt to a pagan culture. Where did his wisdom come from? There were no Jewish temples and schools for Daniel to refresh his faith. No good books to read about the God of Israel.

It would be wrong to categorize Daniel as an opportunist. The first characteristic of Daniel was his unwavering faithfulness to the Law of Moses. Daniel knew the Law and he did not forget it while in exile. As an example, Daniel chose not to defile himself with the King’s food when he arrived in Babylon. This is food that would have rendered him unclean according to the Torah (Daniel 1:8). Daniel, as a young man, knew God’s commands. He would follow them his entire life. Daniel was also righteous and remained that way through his entire life. There is no bad press on Daniel in the Bible. If you investigate the great people within the Old Testament, it is easy to find faults with some of the big names:

  • Abraham fathered a child with his wife’s handmaiden, Hagar.
  • Moses was banned from Canaan for not listening to God and striking the rock to get water.
  • David committed adultery and murder.
  • Noah celebrated God’s covenant by getting naked and drunk. (Genesis 9:21).
  • Job had to repent because of how he spoke about God (Job 38:2; 42:1–6).

We find nothing bad in Daniel. Even when his political opponents tried to find bad things, their only option would be to make it illegal to obey God (Daniel 6:4–5)! Daniel continued to pray to God and not the king throughout his entire life. He did not soften his faith to accommodate his world even though it put him in danger (Daniel 6:13). David had accepted that God was in control of his life!

When Daniel was still new to Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar has a troubling dream that (at first) nobody can interpret. The king doesn’t make it any easier on his magicians and diviners. He doesn’t tell them what the dream was. The king’s position was that if you’re psychic, you should be able to tell me what I dreamed. The magicians had what they thought was a perfect response:

(Daniel 2:11) 1 – “What the King asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the King except the gods, and they do not live among humans.”

When Nebuchadnezzar’s son also sees a terrifying vision, his mother refers him to Daniel. This is how she describes him:

(Daniel 5:11) – “There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers, and diviners.”

Daniel gains notoriety for understanding dreams. He is the only person who can interpret some of the most troubling dreams and visions for Nebuchadnezzar and his son, Belshazzar (Daniel 2:27, 30; 4:4–9; 5:15–17). As far as these magicians are concerned, Daniel is an anomaly. Strange as it may be, Daniel is soon placed in a position to oversee the people who relied on other gods to enlighten themselves. This is an example of who God is and about many of His attributes. Daniel’s life becomes a story about God in control! In a way, God uses Daniel’s wisdom to show up the gods of Babylon even though God’s temple has been destroyed by the Babylonians.

Daniel’s wisdom and reputation continue to grow. Other prophets like Ezekiel reference Daniel when they are preaching to arrogant rulers of other nations. When a ruler Ezra is dealing with a king who thinks he’s a god and thinks he might even be wiser than Daniel, Ezekiel says:

(Ezekiel 28:3) – “Are you wiser than Daniel? Is no secret hidden from you?”

The famous story of Daniel and the lions’ den can be found in chapter 6 of the book of Daniel. Daniel was now in his eighties. The story takes place under a different king of Persia. King Darius made plans to establish regional governors, one hundred and twenty of them called satraps. Daniel was one of them. Furthermore, because Daniel was so good at what he did, the king planned to set him over his entire kingdom. Here we see an example played out even in our contemporary history today. Success breeds jealousy. The other satraps tried to find a charge against Daniel’s work to get rid of him. Because Daniel was faithful, they could not find any charges, even false ones. Daniel’s enemies resorted to trickery, using his different religious beliefs against him.

(Daniel 6:7) – “The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers, and governors have all agreed that the King should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den.”

When Daniel discovered that the king’s order was signed, he went home. In his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt on his knees three times that day as was his custom. He didn’t fear. Daniel knew God was the source of all his wisdom and success in life. When the governors saw that Daniel prayed to God, they went to the king. They are accusing him of breaking the royal decree and that he does not show due regard for the king (Daniel 6:13). The king saw the snare that had been set for him. Having no alternative, the king gave the order to cast Daniel into the lion’s den. The king went to his palace and spent the night fasting. No musicians were brought before him. He could not sleep. And as soon as he arose at morning dawn, the king went to the lions’ den. As he cried out for Daniel, Daniel was heard to say:

(Daniel 6:22) – “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

The decree had not required the execution of Daniel, but only that he “be cast into the den of lions” (Daniel 6:7). Then, the king commanded that the people who had accused Daniel be thrown into the den of lions with their children, and their wives as a punishment for their conspiracy (Daniel 6:24). No angel came to save them.

As Daniel’s life of service to God would continue, he would add further wisdom in his prophecies. Daniel would introduce us to the angel Gabriel. Daniel’s prophecies would tell us of Jesus’ birth and death. His commitment to God remained strong and visible. Now under another new king, Cyrus would be so moved by Daniel’s faith, he would decree that the Israelite exiles could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed (Ezra 1:1–4).

What was Daniel’s secret to survival? Daniel lived as if God’s Laws mattered. He was not afraid to speak God’s Words to those around him. Daniel did not succumb to the pagan world around him. Babylon did not change Daniel, Babylon changed because of Daniel. He humbled himself on his knees before God when things were bleak. What would our world look like with a few more Daniels? What would your world look like if you were more like Daniel?

“Wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.” ~ J. I. Packard

Contemplations

  • How do Daniel and his life speak to you?
    • Ideas to explore: Are you in a place where you feel out of place? What did you see in Daniel’s life that kept him focused on God?
  • What helped Daniel keep his faith, for life, while living in a world void of his God?
    • Ideas to Explore: How does prayer help one focus on God in ungodly places? What did Daniel do to keep the pagan world from infiltrating his life?
  • How is the life of Daniel like that of the story of Joseph living in Egypt?
    • Ideas to Explore: Why do you think we have stories like Daniel and Joseph in the Bible?
  • How do you think learning the language and culture of the Babylonians helped Daniel?
    • Ideas to Explore: Is the reluctance for immigrants to learn a new language and adapt a hindrance or a help to them?
  • Why is a life of living for God so powerful to others who do not know God?
    • Ideas to Explore: What stands out in the life of a Godly person to attract them? Is God in the hearts of all people, in need of awakening?
  • Why does jealousy exist to the extent it does when someone is recognized as having more talents?
    • Ideas to Explore: Think of our politics – Is this competence and reliance on God the source of hatred we see today?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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