We know him as the man who shut the mouths of lions. But at one time, Daniel was a Jewish teenager who loved doing *teenage boy things*. Now what teenage boys did in 600BC is anyone’s guess but I betcha his agenda didn’t include having his country ransacked by the Babylonians and being thrown into exile in a strange land.
Daniel is of royal blood and probably a descendent of Kind David. He finds himself living in Babylon, the land of Judah’s mortal enemy. And to add insult to injury, he’s now summoned to be trained for service in the palace of King Nebuchadnezzar.
Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, handsome and skilful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to serve in the king’s palace… ~Daniel 1:3-7
Early on, Daniel was pegged as one of the best of the best. But even though these Top Gun candidates were offered royal privileges, Daniel decided to decline the king’s graciousness. He understood the importance of separating himself from pagan practices and keeping his Jewish faith.
As a member of the royal court, Daniel was exposed to seductions of epic proportions. It surrounded him 24/7. But our boy Daniel gambled that the consequences of God’s disapproval would far outweigh the peer pressure of the Babylonian king. So he stood firm in his convictions. I shudder to think of the names he would be called today for bucking acceptable cultural norms. Time and time again Daniel’s actions would be tested by the king and time and time again, he would stand firm in his convictions.
And his moral strength was not overlooked. God blessed Daniel with great wisdom and insight and he soon rose to high positions within the government….with his integrity in tact. Wow, that’s quite a different approach from today’s government official, isn’t it? He continually found favor among the Babylonian kings. His wisdom increased and he was repeatedly summoned to interpret the king’s dreams. Once he was summoned to interpret the meaning of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, but to do so without being told what the dream was about. No pressure there, right?!
Around 80 years of age, under King Darius’ reign, Daniel was being considered for a serious promotion. And, he also caught the attention of some nasty yes-men who disliked Daniel’s resistance to going with the Babylonian flow…which is how he found himself sitting in the lion’s den. You see, those yes-men tricked vain King Darius into signing a proclamation that no one could worship anyone but the king. And before long, Daniel was arrested for praying to God and sentenced accordingly, which was to be cat chow.
Yeah, not happenin’. When King Darius found out what happened he was so distraught at the thought of losing his favorite
dream interpreter official. The next morning he ran to the lion’s den only to find Daniel and the kitties getting along just fine. God sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions.
So what does this ancient story have to do with us? Plenty.
Daniel exercised great self control and kept his integrity despite his cultural surroundings. At no time was he disrespectful to his superiors or those different from him. He lived in and among those with different world views, yet he remained steadfast in his faithfulness. Even though he was put in a subservient position in a foreign government, he shows us how important it is to obey the commands of God over those of men. And by doing so with grace and compassion, he gained respect and admiration among the very people he was defying.
And Daniel’s devotion to prayer and petition during difficult times in his life didn’t go unnoticed either. Throughout Daniel’s life, we see how ready God is to hear the prayers of the faithful when in need.
[Gabriel’s message to Daniel] At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. ~Daniel 9:23