I have taught Math in some form or other for over 20 years (must have started when I was 9!). When instructing students I give them plenty of facts and lists of steps to solve certain types of problems and to perform specific kinds of calculations. Still, facts and formulas often aren’t enough for pupils to clearly understand the subject of mathematics; it usually takes several worked out examples to make the material come clearly into view. The Bible, the Lord’s Holy and inerrant Word, gives us plenty of straight up doctrinal truth that must be believed and dictates that are to be lived by. That being said, God, in His graciousness, also provides for us in Scripture many examples of what a godly life should be. One of the greatest of these living illustrations of godliness comes to us in the person of Daniel.
Daniel Obeyed God Even When Far Away From Home (Daniel 1)…I’ve called many a parent over the years to report their child’s conduct and some have been shocked that their precious angel while at home had engaged in such un-angelic behavior while in class. I’ve witnessed many a young person who go off to college and seemingly lose their minds (and some the faith they once professed) when they experience the freedom of being out from under their parent’s roof, having left the safeguards of longstanding family, friends, and community. Don’t think however that going crazy while away from home is a characteristic reserved for the young, or even for the seemingly spiritually immature. I went to seminary in a city that was known to have a number of ministerial conferences during the course of a year. Shamefully enough, it was no secret to the town that when these pastors came in from all over the country and even around the world that there would not only be an uptick in the local hotel industry, but also in the sales of pay per view movies in those hotels that would be unfit for any Christian to watch! People will do strange things when away from home, often yielding to their sinful desires rather than obeying God.
…God’s people in Judah had sinned for many years. He had warned them through Jeremiah and other prophets that if they did not repent judgment was soon to come. The people did not repent and, true to His Word, the Lord brought the hammer down in the form of Judah being conquered by the Babylonian Empire. Unlike the Assyrians (the nation used to punish Israel in the North) who would spread a conquered people group to various corners of its kingdom to keep them from uniting again, the Babylonians would pick the best and brightest of a conquered land, bring them to their capital, and then enculturate and indoctrinate them to make them “good Babylonians.” Daniel was one of these best and brightest Jews that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon selected to become part of his elite. These chosen ones were to be fed the finest of foods and the best of wines. However, partaking of these grand provisions of food and drink would have caused Daniel to violate the dietary restrictions of the Old Testament. How easy it would have been for the young man to live it up on the king’s food! The Temple had been ransacked and destroyed and the faith of his fathers seemed on the decline. What’s the need to hold to ancient beliefs that seem to be fading away? Daniel was far away from a devastated homeland. What Jerusalem elder would know he was breaking the religious law? And of course he could have used the age old justification, “everybody else is doing it!” But Daniel did not fall for the sinister schemes of sin; he obeyed God even though far away from home. The Temple might have fallen along with the faith of many, but the one true and living God still stood tall as ever. He might be away from his homeland and the sight of any respected elders he used to know, but he realized he was never unseen by the watchful eyes of Almighty God! Daniel also knew that right is right even if nobody’s doing it and that wrong is wrong even if everybody’s doing it. However, not everyone is doing it, for God always has a remnant people even in the midst of the darkest, most powerful undercurrents of spiritual and cultural wickedness. Daniel obeyed God even away from home, may we do the same.
Daniel Gave Glory To God Instead Of Boasting In Himself (Daniel 2)…In case you haven’t heard, we’re in an election year. There are many things that can trouble me during the political season (especially in the current election cycle), but one thing that disturbs me the most is the tremendous boasting that goes on. Each candidate declares that they are the best thing since sliced bread (or perhaps their greatness even predates the existence of sliced bread) and view their opponent as pond scum! They will take credit for everything from a good economy to a simple sunrise, and will blame the one running against them for anything from falling median incomes to the last time someone in the country stumped their toe! Truth be told, those who have the most to do with positive things happening are probably not in the spotlight. The whole truth be told, if there is any good thing that happens at all to or for anyone it is only as a result of the grace, power, and love of our Heavenly Father (James 1:17). All of mankind (and womankind), not just politicians, left to their own deceitful hearts are proud, arrogant, lovers of self who think they are the source of all things good and right (2 Tim. 3:2). Their demented thinking being more foolish than if the donkey upon which Jesus rode heard the cheers of the multitudes and believed that he, not Christ, was the rightful object of adulation!
…There came a time when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream. He was deeply troubled by it and “his sleep left him.” He put out a call to all of his wise men, sorcerers, and soothsayers asking them not only to interpret the dream but to tell him his dream as well. A high call indeed. Anyone can hear a dream and then give some kind of fanciful interpretation of their own creation. But to tell the dream’s contents without being told them by the one who dreamed it, that’s pretty near impossible! Nebuchadnezzar threatened to kill all of his advisors if someone could not step up to the plate and meet the challenge. None able was found until Daniel and his friends prayed that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would bring the revelation that He and only He could give. God came through and gave Daniel the king’s dream and its interpretation. Unlike so many of our day, and indeed throughout all time, Daniel did not use that gift to make a name for himself or to gain personal fortune and fame, but rather proclaimed both privately and publicly that the only way he could have such wisdom was through the power of the Lord of all who is King over all! Daniel gave glory to God instead of boasting in himself, may we do the same.
Daniel Represented God Boldly And Accurately (Daniel 5)…A recent survey from a respected polling group found that Americans today are unconcerned about Heaven and Hell and the afterlife, if they even believe in such things at all. Some Christian ministers, well-meaning no doubt, read those results and concluded that what the church needs to do in response is to focus its messaging on giving advice on relationships, family, finance, career, and social justice while completely jettisoning speaking on matters of eternity and sin and righteousness and faith. The only problem with that is that it completely misses the focus of Scripture! What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world—has great relationships, a wonderful family, a prosperous career, a charitable attitude towards his fellow man, during his short earthly existence—and yet loses his eternal soul having never repented of sin and come to faith in Christ (Mark 8:36)! It takes courage and conviction to stand up and proclaim the gospel, that is that all are sinners and that Christ is the only Savior and that unless one repents of sin and puts faith in Jesus then they will spend an eternity in a lake of fire, especially in the midst of a secular culture that doesn’t want to hear it and a church culture that is often filled with many self-professed ministers who have set their minds on things below instead of on things above! We should be far more concerned with what God has said than with what people want to hear!
…Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s son, was a very proud and profane man. He took the vessels that had been confiscated from the Temple in Jerusalem and used them to serve his own drunkenness as well as that of his guests as they partied and praised the false idolatrous Babylonian gods of wood and stone and silver and gold. In the midst of these blasphemous festivities what appeared to be a man’s hand came and wrote a message on the plaster of the king’s wall. It must have been a powerful scene for it caused Belshazzar to tremble, with even his knees beginning to knock together in fear. The king sent word to all of his conjurers and the like that he wanted an interpretation of what had been written by the mysterious hand. Belshazzar offered a great reward but to no avail as his wise men were unable to read the message. This caused the king to become more concerned and perplexed until the queen came forward and told him to be comforted for she had heard of Daniel of old who would be able to make the interpretation known. Belshazzar summoned Daniel and told him that great riches and power would be his if he could only reveal the message of the writing on the wall. The prophet could have made up something of his own mind. He could have heralded the greatness of Belshazzar and been richly rewarded, for even if it was a false message every man, especially kings, love to hear their greatness proclaimed and are willing to reward those who sing their praises. However, rather than go after the riches of this world and the favor of men, Daniel told Belshazzar that he could keep his reward and relayed to him that the writing on the wall was from God, the true King who held Belshazzar’s very breath in His hand! The message was that Belshazzar had been weighed in the balances and found wanting and that as a result he would be deposed and his kingdom given over to the Medes and the Persians. Fulfillment of the prophecy was swift as Belshazzar was slain that very night (historians believe it to be Oct. 16th, 539 BC). Daniel boldly and accurately represented God and His Word, may we do the same.
Daniel Trusted And Seved God His Whole Life (Daniel 6)…I’ve made it no secret that I have a great affinity for the Gaither Videos. Not only do I like the music, which I think must be the music of Heaven, but I love to see some folks who have served in music ministry faithfully for so many years, long before there was great money to be made in the industry. As one of my professors often said, “a faith that falters before the finish had a fatal flaw from the first.” And haven’t we seen too many examples, from both pew and pulpit, of people denying with words and actions the faith they once professed. Yet, how beautiful it is to see a silver haired saint whose life and testimony tell you that life is hard but God is good, that our journey in this world isn’t all roses but that the Rose of Sharon who has overcome the world is always faithful and true!
…When the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den is told we often get the idea that he was a young man. But on the contrary, at the time of this famous scene Daniel was likely a man in his seventies! Some young up and coming men in the service of King Darius (of the Medes and the Persians) resented being under the supervision of an aged exile from the foreign land of Judah and wanted to take the old man down. They knew that Daniel was an upright man and could not be found guilty of any crime. So they concocted a plan whereby they would get King Darius to sign a law saying that any person who prayed to anyone other than Darius for the next 30 days should be thrown into a lion’s den. Daniel’s custom was to pray to the one true and living God three times a day, and his young detractors knew he would not stop this practice and certainly would not pray to any man no matter the consequence. Indeed, their plan progressed as they thought, at least to a point. Daniel was caught praying to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and, though Darius loved Daniel, the king had the prophet thrown into the lion’s den. Come next morning, Darius went to the lion’s den and found that Daniel was alive and well. Daniel trusted and served God his entire life, may we do the same.