Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Daniel is one of the few people of whom God writes only good, as of Joseph and Jonathan. The angel Gabriel called Daniel a “man treasured by God” (9:23). Daniel’s life in its entirety is a joy to examine, an inspiration to study.
Daniel 1:10-14 He said to Daniel, “My lord the king assigned your food and drink. I’m afraid of what would happen if he saw your faces looking thinner than those of the other young men your age. You would endanger my life with the king.” So Daniel said to the guard whom the chief official had assigned to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. “Please test your servants for 10 days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then examine our appearance and the appearance of the young men who are eating the king’s food, and deal with your servants based on what you see.” He agreed with them in this matter and tested them for 10 days.
Daniel was polite. Heroism does not require rudeness. When Daniel decided, he was lovable and gracious; committed and also sweet. In all his decades of captivity, Daniel never grew bitter. He never charged God foolishly as many of his fellow captives did (Ezekiel 18:1-2).
Daniel remained faithful and sweet through all the years of exile. It is tragic that Bible-believing people are often rough, crude, and Pharisaical in their spirit.
Don’t let ugliness in others make us ugly. Returning evil for evil merely mimics what we don’t like in someone else.
There are right deeds to do, and right words to say, plus right ways to do and say them. Though in a corrupt and vile world, we are required to live a committed life graciously, generously, kindly, and sweetly.
“Set apart the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame” (I Peter 3:15-16). We are to defend the faith with gentleness and respect.
Daniel 1:15-17 “At the end of 10 days they looked better and healthier than all the young men who were eating the king’s food. So the guard continued to remove their food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables. God gave these four young men knowledge and understanding in every kind of literature and wisdom. Daniel also understood visions and dreams of every kind.”
Daniel was proficient. Daniel refused to imitate the king’s lifestyle, but did master Chaldean language and knowledge. Daniel learned all he could and then used this accumulated knowledge to handle the system which gave it birth. God seems to have an affinity for a person with a sharp and disciplined mind.
Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22). Joseph was an organizational genius. David mastered poetry. Ezra was a scholar. Mordecai displayed leadership qualities. Paul was an intellectual giant.
Whatever these exemplary servants of God did, they did proficiently. Daniel, even in slavery, was not sloppy. What he did, he did with excellence.
We also should be concerned about proficiency. Whatever we do, let’s do it well. Be the most conscientious worker on the job. Be the best behaved and most studious student in school. Do things well so Christ will be honored.
The best way to overcome bigotry and prejudice has always been sheer excellence. To answer the scorn of unbelievers against us, we believers need to produce the best spouses, parents, workers, writers, artists, athletes, etc.
Daniel 1:18-20 “At the end of the time that the king had said to present them, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king interviewed them, and among all of them, no one was found equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they began to serve in the king’s court. In every matter of wisdom and understanding that the king consulted them about, he found them 10 times better than all the diviner-priests and mediums in his entire kingdom.”
Daniel and his friends were preferred. Nebuchadnezzar found these four champions ten times better than everyone else. The others became also-rans, these four took precedence.
This is the opposite to what the world wants us to think. The Devil says “You’ll never succeed in this society by holding to Bible standards.” Satan claims we’ll never get ahead unless we follow him.
Daniel and his three friends give the lie to this. The other princes are forgotten, their names lost to history, but God’s four champions are remembered.
Daniel 1:21 “Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.”
Daniel and his friends persevered. Something is quite peculiar about the incidents recorded in Daniel about these Hebrew champions. There were only four of them, yet they upset everyone around them. Why did the Chaldeans take serious notice of them, and make huge fanfare over this small a minority?
We learn a great lesson here. People are influential for God not according to their numbers, but according to their convictions, in proportion as they have taken hold of Jesus and are willing to sacrifice for Him.
There is power in firm resolve. The very fact our opponents try to squelch Bible Christianity shows they fear its power. People attack causes they feel threaten them. God needs only a few bold believers. Are we available?
Daniel dwelt in foreign, pagan royalty for 70 years, yet never forgot his homeland, his people, or his God. Seventy years after being exiled he still prayed three times a day on his knees with his window open to Jerusalem.
In analyzing his long successful life, we would do well to remember, his interpreting of dreams, his deciphering the handwriting on the wall, and his deliverance from the lion’s den would have never happened without Daniel’s initial teenage commitment. As a youth, Daniel determined he would not defile himself (1:8). I pray we have made the same determination.