Summary: Daniel lived in Babylon in a culture steeped in superstition but by keeping to God’s principles he was able to bring glory to his God which serving Nebuchadnezzar in revealing future events.
In the first chapter, Daniel establishes his credentials as a young man whom God could trust - he had proved faithful to God’s laws in refusing to defile himself by accepting a diet of unclean food which would have compromised his Hebrew faith. Three years have passed since then and he is now employed in some lowly position in Nebuchadnezzar’s court.
Nebuchadnezzar had yet to have a personal encounter with the God of Israel. When a person is not in a personal relationship with God, it leaves him or her open to superstition. What a sad state it is to be dominated by fears of bad luck. I was in my office car park when a lady came to speak to me. She liked the car, but said "she wouldn’t want it because it would bring bad luck - the colour was green!" And what’s more the registration numbers added up to 13!
To the superstitious, dreams and other events outside our normal consciousness take on an importance of their own. It must be said that God can and has spoken to people in dreams and no doubt the incident in this chapter is one of them. Nebuchadnezzar was deeply disturbed by it; it reminds us how helpless mankind is when it comes to facing the ultimate questions of life. Someone said that there is a "God-shaped gap" in our lives which nothing else will fill.
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream made him insecure, frustrated and angry because it showed up his limitations as a man and the story shows how he snapped. How vulnerable we humans are - for nine-tenths of the time we are cool and controlled and then something takes us in an unguarded moment. We show a chink in our armour and we let ourselves down in something we do or say. This has happened to public figures with high reputations, but when they thought the TV recording gear had been turned off, used language which they never used in public.
Nebuchadnezzar lost his temper with his wise men when they made the reasonable request that Nebuchadnezzar should tell them the dream he had had so they could give him its meaning. The trouble was that he did not trust them. If he gave them some hints they were given to "flannel" their way in providing some explanation, but now they were stuck. The wise men panicked and said the king was asking the impossible, that which only the gods could reveal. That was it; Nebuchadnezzar commanded Arioch, the captain of the guard to seize the magicians and hound them off to their death.
Daniel was blissfully unaware of this until he was arrested by Arioch. He was only a young graduate and was not invited to join his professors when it came to an audience before the king - it would not have done for the brilliant young man to outshine his seniors! And so we see:
THE PERIL HE FACED
Daniel and his companions were brought suddenly into peril through no fault of their own. There was a great commotion as the wise men and other suspects were rounded up for the slaughter, but Daniel knew nothing of the panic and despair of the others. He knew that in all this trouble God was still in charge; he was not thrown off balance by the shock and begin to question the faithfulness of his God. It is not until times of sudden upheaval that one can tell whether a Christian has built up the reserves of faith in God. The test often comes suddenly, like a bolt out of the blue, and then it is too late to make further preparation. The time for preparation is now, today and every day, to seek to know God better by a regular exercise of prayer and Bible study and build up reserves of faith.