Summary: Daniel gives us a great example of how to live in a secular world
Singing the Songs of the Lord in a Strange Land January 16, 2005
Dare to be a Daniel
This is a great story, and a popular story. Even people who have never read the Bible know the story of Daniel in the lion’s den, at least by name, or by many songs that have been sung about it.
We began the book of Daniel with a Daniel as a young man, exiled from his homeland, and taken into the king’s court with many of the other noble young men of Judah. We now come to, not quite the end of his career and life, but close to it. Even if Daniel were 14 when he was exiled (we don’t know his exact age, it could have been anywhere from 12-20) he would be 80 by time Darius the Mede took Babylon for Persia.
We often tell this story as a children’s story, and invite children to “dare to be a Daniel,” which is good and fine, but it is actually an old man’s story, and we should invite the octogenarians in the crowd to dare to be a Daniel just as much as the children.
Daniel begins his life in Judah, in the land that God had promised his ancestors to be theirs as long as they served him. The difficulty is that they never truly served Him, and after many generations of disloyalty and abuse, God’s patience ran out, and he removed them from the land by sending Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon to capture and destroy Israel and Judah. Daniel is exiled and walks the long journey to Babylon as a youth, where he is chosen to serve in the Kings court with the wise men of Babylon – the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers, who would advise the king.
Daniel remains faithful to his God, and God blesses him for it – Daniel’s God-given wisdom is far and above anyone else’s wisdom. His ability to interpret dreams brings him great advancement – he is placed as chief over all the wise men at a very young age, and placed as second in the kingdom under Nebuchadnezzar. After Nebuchadnezzar dies, Daniel is all but forgotten, but once again shows the power of God’s wisdom to the king, and is place as third ruler in the empire, just hours before the empire falls to the Persians.
When Darius sets up to rule Babylon for Cyrus of Persia, he appoints 120 Satraps to help him govern through out the land – to be sure that all the commerce that is supposed to come his way does. Over the 120 satraps, he appoints 3 administrators, one of whom is Daniel – his reputation must have carried over to the new regime. Daniel did his job so well that Darius was about to set him as administrator over the whole kingdom.
When the other two administrators and some of the satraps get wind of Daniel’s up and coming appointment, they are none too happy to have him as boss. “Why is he being promoted when it should be me!”
– I imagine that power struggles like this never happen in your place of work, or school… You’d almost think that these guys were Canadians! – when one daisy gets to tall, you lop off its head.
They start to try to find the dirt on Daniel, but they can find none – this might have been part of their problem with Daniel- he was incorruptible – they were supposed to see that the flow of resources went Darius’ way, but they probably made sure that some of the flow filled their pockets as well – Daniel would have nothing to do with it, and as their very adept boss, he could probably catch them up in their corruption. Daniel is squeaky clean, so they have to go after him another way – through his faith. Daniel is not actually persecuted for his faith – these pantheists could care less which god Daniel prayed to – he is persecuted for his productivity using his faith.
Darius has decentralized economic power in his region, so, in their plot, they suggest that he centralizes religious power – in his own person. It’s hard to know if they were inviting Darius to set himself up as a god, or as the sole mediator between the people and the gods, but all the same Darius, in a fit of self serving arrogance, likes the idea and makes the intractable decree that everyone under his reign should pray only to him for the next month, those who pray otherwise would be thrown to the lions. Beyond the kings vanity, the suggestion that the administrators and satraps give assures Darius of his continued central place in the government while at the same time delegating authority to others.