Our title is found in the first few verses of chapter 6. In organizing his government, Darius divided his kingdom into 120 satrapies, or districts and set men over each district. Over these 120, he set three men as governors, to whom the 120 district managers were responsible. The three men were responsible for seeing that the king suffered no damage anywhere throughout his kingdom. Daniel was appointed to be one of these higher-ranking officials, and did such a good job and was such an excellent administrator that the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm, v. 3. This didn’t set well with the others and so they set about to trap Daniel and get rid of him.
The life of “this Daniel” is filled with lessons for us.
1. His dilemma, 1:1-7.
Daniel was taken in the first of three deportations from Israel, about 19 years before the final captivity, cf. Jeremiah 52:28-30. The third and final deportation accompanied the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the dissolving of the nation. Because of Isaiah’s prophecy to King Hezekiah in Isaiah 39:6, 7, it’s believed that Daniel was of royal blood, though that isn’t stated anywhere in Daniel. There were indeed some of the king’s descendants chosen for special training for service to the king of Babylon, but there were also some of the children of Israel and some of the nobles chosen for this, the only requirement being that they possessed certain qualities and abilities, 1:3, 4.
So, though quite possible, it isn’t certain that Daniel was of royal blood. That doesn’t matter anyway. As the story plays out, it’s apparent that he was of royal character, which is far more important. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter where he had been; what’s important to the story is where he is: a captive in a pagan land to be trained to serve a pagan king in a pagan court. What will he do? How will he survive?
2. His determination, 1:8-13.
As the story unfolds, Daniel and the other young men were to be well taken care of. Verse 5 tells us that they were give a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank. However, it’s likely that these provisions had first been offered to pagan gods. Furthermore, Daniel and his friends lived under a strict dietary code about clean and unclean foods that probably wasn’t high on the list in Babylon. Therefore, Daniel made a conscious decision that he wouldn’t defile himself with the king’s food, generous though it might be, and, no doubt, delicious.
At the same time, he wasn’t of a rigid legalistic spirit. What is right and what is often considered to be right aren’t necessarily the same. He was considerate of the steward who was responsible for his welfare. This man had real and legitimate concerns about deviating from the king’s directions. Daniel was concerned, and rightly so, about diet, but the steward was concerned, and rightly so, about death. Therefore Daniel proposed a simple and short test, after which he would abide by the steward’s decision. Test him and his friends for ten days with a diet of vegetables and water, then compare them with the other young men, and as you see fit, so deal with your servants, v. 13. Courtesy and consideration need not be considered foreign to a stand for the truth. 2 Timothy 2: 24, 25 says, a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, apt to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.
Further, I believe that implicit in Daniel’s request was faith that God would intervene in this situation – as He did. The results of this test are well known, 1:14-20: Daniel and his three friends were far superior to the other young captives.
3. His devotion.
We see this in several places. He never forgot that changes in earthly realities, even what we might consider catastrophic changes, never change eternal realities.
Daniel was a man of prayer, 2:17, 18, 6:10; 9:3-19; 10:12.
One of the best known portions of Daniel is the account of his overnight stay in the lions’ den. Perhaps what is overlooked is something that happened just before, after the giving of Darius’ foolish decree, but before Daniel was caught by it. Daniel 6:10 tells us, Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.
There is so much here, more than we have space for. As we said above, Daniel was a man of prayer, but it was habitual. That day was no different in that regard than any other day he had lived. He had been a man of prayer since early days. This prayer wasn’t brought about by the sudden appearance of danger because of Darius’ decree. I’m sure that was included, but Daniel prayed every day – three times – every day! Oh, what a rebuke this is to our shallow and too often sporadic prayer lives.
And don’t forget his situation. It wasn’t as if he was retired and had all the time in the world! No, no, he was a prominent, busy and responsible member of the king’s court, and no doubt had to make time to pray. And I’m sure prayer was the first thing he put down in his day planner. Prayer wasn’t just squeezed in; everything else was.
Further, he was a man of The Book.
This is in chapter 9:2, In the first year of his [that is, Darius’] reign, I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of years specified by the word of the Lord, given through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.
Not only was Daniel not too busy to pray, he was not too busy to study the Word of God. How this rebukes us! The lamentable lack of Bible knowledge among professed Christians is, well, lamentable. The superintendent of a young peoples’ group I attended in Bible college admitted to us one day that, even though he had been a teacher for 17 years, he had never read the Bible through. He is not alone in this.
There might be coming a time when we don’t have the free access to the Word that we enjoy now. This is already true in a large part of the world. We argue over which version to use, while large numbers of God’s children are thrilled to have just a few verses. It will not go well with us when we stand before God if we know the TV or cable listings better that we know His Word.
Perhaps there is a reason for this neglect. While I was in Bible college, I met and fell for a young woman in another state. I was convinced she was the one. She wasn’t, God had someone else for me (someone just right!), but I didn’t know that at the time. We wrote letters. Oh, how I waited for those letters! I devoured them! I almost had them memorized. I didn’t have to have a “reading schedule” for them. I didn’t have to “force” myself to read them. I didn’t just read a few lines and then get on with the business of the day. Those letters were preeminent! Then she broke up with me. Perhaps God had someone else just right for her. After we broke up, I read some of those letters again. Funny, they didn’t have the appeal they once had. They seemed empty and hollow. They weren’t “mine” anymore. Perhaps that was because she wasn’t “mine” anymore; there was no relationship between us. We had become strangers.
I threw the letters away.
Could it be, my friend, that the Word of God has no meaning to you, no interest, because you don’t know the One who wrote it? You are a stranger to Him? His words aren’t really “yours”? Oh, it’s not enough simply to go to “church” or to have your name on a church roll! To go through some ritual or ceremony! To partake of “the sacraments”! To be able to recite some creed or to agree with a particular doctrine! To one who had more along this line than most of us will ever have, our Lord said,”You must be born again,” John 3:3, 7. Without that life, which comes from the Spirit of God, you and I will never understand the Word of God.
There is one other thing, germane to our study. Daniel expected a “literal fulfillment” of Jeremiah’s prophecy. To him, it wasn’t about “principles” or “ongoing processes.” It’s true that additional information was given to him, but he expected, and there was, an actual, real, true, literal fulfillment of the seventy years Jeremiah wrote about. Likewise, the New Testament gives us further information about the Old Testament prophecies and promises, but we can expect that there will be an actual, real, true and literal fulfillment of the Kingdom and promises made to the nation of Israel. One thing the New Testament does not teach is that these have all been fulfilled!
4. His dedication.
Even in the face of certain death, he was faithful to that which had been the habit of his life. Someone has well said, “When we are young, we make our habits. When we are old, our habits make us.” And in his prayer, he gave thanks before his God. We can’t emphasize this enough. “Thanks” in the face of certain death! No moaning, no groaning, no “why me?” Though he had never read it, he knew and exemplified 1 Thessalonians 5:18, In everything give thanks….
5. His destiny, 12:13.
Daniel had a lot of questions about what he had written. Some of those questions were answered; others were not. At the end, God told him, “But you, Daniel, go your way until the end; for you shall rise to your inheritance at the end of days.” God told him that his future was secure and when this life was over, he would enter into an inheritance far greater than he could ever have known in this world, even if he had never been captive, and if he could have had anything and everything he ever wanted.
In these days of the “health and wealth gospel,” which has nothing to do with the gospel, I think we’ve lost sight of the fact that this world is not our home, that everything we see on this planet, even the planet itself, will one day be destroyed and new heavens and a new earth will take its place. The mansions of the rich will be destroyed along with the hovels of the poor. All the beauty of this world will be destroyed along with the ugly. There are a lot of questions about the future, a lot of discussion about prophecy and how to deal with it, but one thing is certain. The Christian’s hope isn’t in this world, but in the next. God help us, like Daniel, to be faithful in whatever situation He has put us, but also may He help us, like Daniel, to realize that something far better awaits us, Romans 8:18; 1 Peter 1:3-5.
There’s something else here. I believe it was due in part to Daniel’s writing that certain wise men came many years later seeking One who was born King of the Jews. Now, do you suppose that Daniel sat down one day and decided that he was going to write something that one day would lead men to the promised Messiah? No, no, he was simply faithful where he was and God used him then, used him much later for the wise men, and according to our Lord, will use him yet again. Let this be a lesson to us to be faithful where we are, because who knows what God might be pleased to do with our efforts?
After all, God has done stranger things. He saw to it that the deliverer of His people from captivity in Egypt was raised in the household of the one holding them captive. When Stephen was stoned to death, God replaced him with the man who was holding the coats of the men killing him. Never, ever believe that God is limited by circumstances or by our own failings and fallibilities. He created everything out of nothing; He still likes to bring His something out of our nothing. He used Daniel, a captive in a foreign country. There’s no reason he can’t use us.