Daniel was probably 16 years old when he was taken captive to Babylonia. He died there at the age of 85. He never saw his family, friends or homeland again. What matters most about his life is how he remained faithful to God throughout his life, while living in a land where its inhabitants had not even heard of Jehovah.
The name Daniel means “God is my judge”. The life he led indeed reflected his name. In today’s sermon I want to place before you 3 valuable lessons I learned from the lives of Daniel and his friends.
1. Decision making
Read Daniel 1:1-8
A. Making godly decisions is a prominent theme in the book of Daniel. It is noteworthy the writer in the beginning of the book itself informs us of Daniel’s decision to not to defile himself with royal food and drink, (Daniel 1:8) and his three friends seem to have followed his example.
B. As qualified officers serving in royal courts Daniel and his friends were entitled to the privilege of consuming royal food and drink. Yet they decided to refrain themselves because the meat served to them was from ceremonially unclean animals. Secondly a portion of the meat and the vine was offered to the Babylonian idols before it was sent to the table.
C. The author of Daniel tells us two another major decisions of Daniel and his friends. In Daniel 3:1-18 Daniel’s friends decide not to bow down before the image of Gold Nebuchadnezzar erected. In Daniel 6:1-15 Daniel decides to disobey the king’s order in obedience to God.
Lesson: Daniel and his three friends stand out from the crowd because although they lived among a heathen people they refused to compromise their walk with God while most of the other Jews willingly and consciously chose to confirm themselves to ways of man.
Unlike Esther who defiled herself with royal food and got married to a heathen king upon her uncle Mordecai’s advise (willingly and consciously) Daniel and his friends decided to remain loyal to God. After all obedience is what you do when nobody is watching.
The implications of this passage are we must make certain decisions as God has called us to lead a life of purity in a fallen world. Then his word is our standard for making decisions. Finally the decisions we make reflect the state of our relationship with God.
Read Daniel 3:1-27
A. Deliverance for people of unconditional obedience is another major theme in the book of Daniel. Their obedience was best exposed in their answer to the king Nebuchadnezzar when they refused to bow before the golden image even if God does not deliver them from the blazing furnace. (Daniel 3:16-18)
B. Although Daniel’s assurance to the officer in charge of their meals seems very simple to the naked eye, (Daniel 1:9-15). It is doubtful that 10 days would have been sufficient to carry out such a complicated evaluation. All that we know is God honored Daniel’s decision and within 10 days made them much healthier and better nourished than any other who consumed royal food.
C. Daniel in the Lion’s den is another occasion that reflects God’s deliverance available to people of total obedience. Lions are furious animals and the ones left in starvation are even worse and once again Daniel deliberately disobeys a royal decree in obedience to God. Later, Daniel says that God actually sent his angel to shut the mouths of each and every animal in the den.
Lesson: God for his glory, miraculously delivers his people who display unconditional obedience even in the face of severe adversary. The book of Daniel reports that the heathen kings exalted God’s name throughout the kingdom when he rescued Daniel’s friends from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:28-29) and Daniel himself from the Lions (Daniel 6:26-27).
Some may ask if God is faithful to deliver his people why then so many Christians who refused to offer incense to the emperor during the Roman empire suffered violent deaths. Apart from the fact that God is sovereign it should be understood that deliverance is not necessarily physical always but can be spiritual also, (Matthew 16:25; Matthew 10:28; Revelation 6:9-11).
The lesson to take away from this section is the world will frequently challenge our obedience and loyalty to God almighty. In such times we should demonstrate unconditional obedience to our heavenly father so that ultimately his name will be glorified and exalted even among the unbelievers.
3. Divinely rewards
Read Daniel 1:17-20
A. God rewarded Daniel and his friends for their faithfulness very quickly. Followed by the decision not to defile themselves with the royal food God imparted his wisdom on them. As a result when the king tested Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah he found none equal to them.
B. He also found out that Daniel and his friends are 10 times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom in every matter of wisdom and understanding he questioned them about. (In ancient Babylonia enchanters and magicians were considered the most educated and intelligent)
C. Daniel walked through vastly different seasons in life as he served under four different kings, (Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, Cyrus). Still his faithfulness to God remained the same and prosperity followed him throughout each reign.
Lesson: All the material blessings Daniel and his friends enjoyed were the result of wisdom which was God’s reward to them. This has 3 implications for the church.
I. God’s wisdom escorts material prosperity: Daniel and his friends never sought after promotions. Rather promotions followed them because God in the very beginning imparted his wisdom on his servants. This is seen not only in the life of Daniel and his colleagues but also in the life of Joseph, (Genesis 39:2-6; 39:20-23; 41:39-45). We too instead of seeking after material blessings must seek after wisdom. When we do blessings shall follow.
II. Now the Bible says God shall give wisdom to anyone who asks, (James 1:5) This promise is conditional however. That is we must fear God, (Psalms 111:10; Proverbs 9:10; Matthew 6:31-33). It should be noted that in the Bible the meaning of the word “fear” (Hebrew: yirat) is three fold and the meaning differs based on the context it used. First it means “Dread” (Deuteronomy 1:29), secondly “being terrified” (Jonah 1:10) thirdly “having reverence” (Leviticus 19:3).
III. The Lord expects us to fear him out of reverence. In other words to shun evil not because God will send us to hell otherwise but to glorify him, (1 Corinthians 10:31). Besides in the Old Testament hell wasn’t a common teaching like it is in the New Testament. People observed the law because they feared excommunication.
IV. Exile in the other hand was actually like a litmus test that separated true worshippers from imposters. During the exile excommunication came to a state of non existence and people behaved as they saw right. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Azaria still obeyed God because they feared him out of reverence. Their passion was to glorify him. Fear the Lord out of reverence. Desire to glorify his name in whatever you say and do. The Lord shall reward you with wisdom and wisdom shall escort prosperity.
V. One might argue that the other magicians who served in the royal courts were prosperous too although they didn’t fear the Lord. We must remember that prosperity from anything other than God isn’t sustainable in the long run. Their wisdom went out the window the moment the king decreed to have them ripped to pieces, limb from limb, and homes torn down unless they tell him both the dream itself and its interpretation, (Daniel 2:5-6).
It’s not exaggerating to say that we live in a world where righteousness is lost and to lead a life of righteousness is next to impossible. But this is why Jesus said,
“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness” Why did he say “seek”? (The majority of the English translations uses the same word while others use “pursue” and “be concerned”) The dictionary defines this term as “to try to locate or discover; search for.”
Daniel and his friends actually had to seek after righteousness. How did they seek after these things while living among an unholy people? How shall we do it?
I. Took captive of every compromising thought, (2 Corinthians 10:5)
II. Offered themselves as a living sacrifice, (Romans 12:1)
III. Disciplined and controlled their physical bodies, (1 Corinthians 9:27)
The world is not the best place for a Christian to occupy. It is cursed and the curse is manifested through its inhabitants every day, whose very hearts are corrupted. It only gets worse. Not better. The world will not agree with us. It will persecute us once it finds out we are different. But we don’t need to be afraid. God delivered Daniel from the Lions, his friends from the furnace of fire and he will deliver us also, (spiritually if not physically).
Finally God wants us to be his agents in this fallen world who will glorify his name even in the eyes of the unrighteous. This is why Jesus said,
“You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
Some Christians question as to why the wicked prosper while they cannot even afford their basic day to day needs. The answer is simple. Pursue after material blessings and you will loose. Seek to glorify God and he will bless and exalt you beyond your imaginations, (John 15:7). God promoted Daniel because Daniel glorified God in everything he said and done. Choose to glorify God in everything you say and do and material blessings will follow.