Daniel was a Jewish young man who was brought to Babylon from Jerusalem during the Babylonian captivity in 605 B.C. He along with three other youngsters were chosen to undergo training to serve in the king’s palace (Dan.1:4-5).
Training the Recruits
Those chosen for service in the King’s palace were required to undergo rigorous training in Babylonian culture, physical development and healthy lifestyle considerations. Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were given Babylonian names which have become more familiar to us than their Hebrew names.
Daniel and his friends made a deal with their trainer Ashpenaz to feed them a diet of vegetables, peas, and water for ten days in place of the official diet. At the end of the ten day period, their physical condition was to be compared with that of the trainees who ate the official diet. Daniel and his friends looked better than the other group of trainees so Ashpenaz continued with the diet they suggested (Dan.1:3-16).
In addition, God endowed these four young men with knowledge and understanding in literature and language. God gave Daniel special ability to interpret dreams and visions. At the end of their training, the King Nebuchadnezzar tested their abilities and found them to be ten times smarter than his magicians and astrologers (Dan.1:17-20)
The first real test
In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, that King had a dream that worried him. He summoned his magicians and astrologers and asked them to tell him the dream and its meaning. For them, it was a strange request. They could tell the interpretation if they were told the details of the dream but without knowledge of the dream, they could not interpret it. Nebuchadnezzar got angry with them and decided to rid the kingdom of them(Dan.2:1-14).
Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard went out looking for Daniel and his three friends to carry out the king’s order. After finding out the full story from Arioch, Daniel convinced the commander to give him some time to come up with an answer for the king. He also went to the king and convinced him to put a stay on the execution order that he could have time to interpret the dream. He went back to his house and enlisted the help of his three friends in finding a solution. He asked them to pray that God would reveal the dream and the interpretation to them. That night, God gave Daniel both the dream and its interpretation. Daniel praised his God for answering his prayer and for saving their lives (Dan.2:15-23)
The next day Daniel appeared before the king to deliver what God had given him the previous night. The king asked, “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”Dan. 2:26. Daniel was not self-opinionated, but humble and like a genuine prophet pointed the king to God the source of all wisdom, knowledge, and ability. He made sure the king knew that God was superior to his magicians, his wise men, his diviners and his enchanters. That it was God who gave him both the dream and the interpretation.(Dan.2:2-28)
Daniel delivered the dream and its interpretation to the king. This king Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of the great Babylonian empire got off his throne and prostrated himself before Daniel confessing that Daniel’s God was the God of gods and the Lord of kings, a revealer of secrets (Dan.2:46). This admission, coming from a proud and pompous king who later said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”(Dan.4:30), was more than a surprise to those who attended the proceedings.
The power of God demonstrated
This demonstrates the power of God to bend and humble the most powerful human to bow his knee in admission that God is above all. It also demonstrates how God will use those who are faithful to him to help accomplish His purpose in the kingdoms of men. Daniel was faithful and God used him immensely to bring the knowledge of God to a heathen king and his nation.
Another dream interpreted
In the fourth chapter of Daniel the King again summoned Daniel to interpret a dream he had. Once more his wise men, magicians, enchanters, and astrologers were of no help even though he recounted the dream to them. Daniel to the rescue once more.
The dream was about a huge tree that provided shelter and food for animals and birds. Then a holy one from heaven came and gave instruction for the tree to be cut down and stripped of its branches. The stump and the roots were to e left in place, however. Then the dream took an amazing twist. Instead of continuing to speak about a tree, the messenger from heaven began to refer to a man. Let him live on the outside like an animal. Give him the mind of an animal until seven times pass for him(Dan.4:1-18)
Although this dream was a humbling one for the king, Daniel did not shrink from his responsibility to tell the king his fate. He was to be given a mind of an animal and driven away from people to live with the animals until he acknowledged that God ruled in the kingdoms of men. Daniel cautioned the king to repent of his wicked ways so that when he was returned to the palace he would see prosperity(Dan.4:19-27)
Obvious, the king did not take Daniel’s words seriously. God gave him time to demonstrate what action he would take in light of the revelation of his future. King Nebuchadnezzar remained unchanged. His obsession with his self-importance and greatness was going to be the precursor to his fall (Dan.4:28-33). His punishment had begun.
Nebuchadnezzar comes to his senses
At the end of his sentence, Nebuchadnezzar finally acknowledged that God was supreme.
Daniel a true Prophet
Daniel was a man of integrity. He was not afraid to stand before the world’s most powerful king and declare the judgment of God on him for his wickedness. He did not flatter the king to gain favors, but instead, delivered the message God gave him without fear. That is one of the hallmarks of a genuine prophet. Compare Daniel to the pseudo prophets around today who flatter our leaders and refuse to show them their sins.
The handwriting on the wall
By this time king Nebuchadnezzar’s sojourn on this earth was over and his grandson Belshazzar was king. He was probably more wicked than his grand father. He had no respect for God or the things of God. The king threw a huge banquet for the aristocracy of his day. (Daniel was an important official in the kingdom of Babylon but he was not in attendance at this idolatrous banquet). He ordered that the gold and silver goblets taken from the temple in Jerusalem be used while they praised their gods. While they were having a good time, a hand appeared and started to write on the palace wall. Imagine the dramatic change of mood from frenzied revelry to jaw-dropping silence and fear when the hand appeared. The fete was suddenly and effectively shut down. This is what happens when God intervenes in the wickedness of man. Proud king Belshazzar was shaking in his boots. He had turned pale with fear. He probably had soiled his royal trousers (Dan.5:1-10)
Daniel delivers a message of impending judgment
The useless wise men, astrologers, enchanters, and diviners did not have a clue as to what was happening. Then someone remembered that Daniel used to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams so they sent for him. By this time, Daniel arrived, the king having regained some of his composure, offered him gifts and position of authority in the kingdom in exchange for his interpretation of the writing on the wall. Daniel politely told him to keep his gifts and give them to someone else, but he would tell the king the meaning of the writing.
Daniel had the task of looking the king straight in the eyes and telling him of God’s judgment on him and his Babylonian kingdom. That very night Belshazzar met his doom and the Babylonian empire was replaced by the Medio-Persian empire (Dan.5:30)
Daniel a man of high standards
Daniel worked for this evil king but he kept himself separate from all the wickedness that the administration perpetrated. He did not join them in their idolatrous banquets, neither did he take their gifts in exchange for interpreting the handwriting. He refused to be a Balaam who prophesied for money (2Pet.2:15-16). People of God are to live in this world but are not to be part of it. God’s servants should not be greedy or be susceptible to taking bribes. A true servant of God should not allow gifts to taint the message he has from God. Daniel stood firm to his commitment to God and so should we.
Daniel in the lions’ den
King Darius had settled into his new kingdom and Daniel continued to serve him well. Daniel had an impeccable track record in the administration. The king wanted to elevate him because of this. His enemies became jealous and tried to find a cause to discredit him. All they could find was that he had a habit of praying to his God three times every day. This they decided to use against him. Using tricks and cunning, they approached the king to make a law that anyone who prays to any god or makes a petition of any man except the king should be placed in a den of lions. Not discerning their intentions, the king made the law and thought nothing about it (Daniel 6:1-10)
Daniel knew that the law had gone into effect. That did not worry him. He continued his routine as his enemies supposed he would. He was hauled before the king who was now sorry that he had made the law but his hands were tied because there was nothing he could do to repeal it. Daniel was placed in the den of lions. His enemies were overjoyed at the turn of events. Not even the king could save him they thought. The king was so sad. He knew that a good man had been conspired against. Before leaving the den, the king expressed his faith that Daniel’s God would be able to protect him from the lions(Dan.6:11-16)
The king had a terrible night, tossing and turning, unable to find sleep, concerned for the safety of his trusted servant Daniel. The king was the first person at the den early next morning. He must have started shouting for Daniel long before he reached the mouth of the den. He could not believe his ears. Daniel answered him from the lions’ den. “God has kept me safe,” Daniel replied. The king ordered him to be taken out of the den(Dan.6:17-23).
Daniel’s enemies recompensed
Those who conspired against Daniel without a cause got the news that Daniel was alive and well. Immediately, they sensed that their days were numbered. Panic and fear engulfed them. The king ordered they, their wives and children be fed to the lions. What a cruel fate to inflict on oneself and one’s family. Daniel was vindicated, his enemies punished severely and he did not have to lift a finger against them.
Daniel lived as Christ asks us to live
Daniel, in the face of persecution persistently obeyed God. His faith in God was steadfast and sure. He did not seek revenge on his enemies but God avenged him. Like Daniel, Christians must realize that the world will hate us and will seek to do us wrong. We must forgive and leave vengeance to our God.
Daniel’s track record as an employee was impeccable. What kind of example do Christians set to unbelievers on the job? Sometimes, Christians workers behave as enemies of the cross in their work places. They cause the name of Jesus Christ to be blasphemed among unbelievers. Christians are called to be lights in this dark world. We cannot be lights and while behaving worse than the world. “So I tell you this and insist on it in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.”Eph.4:17. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Eph.5:1
If Daniel, living in a heathen nation, with heathen employers and pagan fellow workers, could be obedient to his God and be used of Him to bring a knowledge of God to their consciousness, then as Christians living in this dark world, we should be encouraged to take heart and be the salt and lights to our generation.