September 11 Daniel 1-3
Who was Daniel? Obviously, he was a Jewish captive in Babylon, but what is it about his life that makes him special?
First, of course, he believed in God. Although the Babylonians tried to get him to turn from his belief in God, it never happened. Through the lion’s den and the furnace, Daniel kept his faith. He was surrounded by all the world could offer, but he kept his eyes on God.
Daniel was a prayer warrior. He set aside special times of prayer, even when doing so could have cost him his life. He also spent a lot of time studying scripture. God let him know that the captivity would last for 70 years, and Daniel’s first response was to pray for the sins of the people and the nation. Because of his prayer and study life, he was versed on spiritual warfare.
Daniel knew he was put on this earth for a purpose, and he sought to glorify God in everything he did. He was tactful – when he wanted to eat food that had not been sacrificed to idols, he didn’t get angry or pout. He asked his captors if he could set up a test to see which diet was the best. He was successful, and he won the hearts of those who were over him.
Finally, Daniel lived up to his name – “God is my judge”. His life was dedicated to the God of the Universe, and because of that, we have great lessons about faith under fire, human history, and the history of the future. There’s a lot packed into this 12 chapter book!
The book has many famous stories. We first encounter Daniel as a young man, being trained in Babylonian ways, but needing to set himself apart for God. He had access to the best of everything, including the food at the king’s table. Daniel knew that the meat served was dedicated to Babylonian gods (or maybe it was simply food that God called unclean), and he wanted no part of it. He asked for a test to see which diet – theirs or his – would be healthiest for himself and three of his friends, and of course God’s way won out. They were allowed to eat God’s diet and thus set themselves apart from the culture of the world.
Daniel was in Babylon for most of the captivity, and as a member of the king’s court, he was able to see God’s hand at work. King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. He called his wise men and counselors together and demanded that they give him both the dream and its interpretation. No one could. He was enraged, and commanded that all of the magicians be put to death. Daniel was a member of that group, but he didn’t have magic on his side. He had God. He managed to see the king and interpret his dream, crediting God for his ability. As a result, he and his friends were promoted.
This dream showed the future through the image of a statue.
Head of Gold. This was Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian kingdom (636-539 B.C.) Jeremiah said of this kingdom:
Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand, making all the earth drunken; the nations drank of her wine; therefore the nations went mad. Jer 51:7 (ESV)
The breast and arms of silver. This represented the Medo-Persian kingdom (539-330 B.C.) Daniel saw this kingdom come into power.
That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old. Dan 5:30-31 (ESV)
The belly and thighs of bronze represented the Greeks (330-63 B.C.) This was the kingdom of Alexander the Great.
The legs or iron and the feet of iron and clay were representations of the Roman empire (63 B.C. – 475 A.D.) Rome was militarily strong but had so many subcultures that it was internally weak.
As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. Dan 2:43 (ESV)
Can you imagine how Daniel must have felt as he interpreted the dream, especially since he had the unpleasant task of telling the sitting king that his kingdom wouldn’t rule forever? But Daniel knew that God had the future under control. And today, as then, our society is held together by treaties and promises that can be broken, traditions that can be forgotten, and the waxing and waning of various religious and cultural standards. Truly iron mixed with clay. And we are clay – that’s how God made us – from the dust of the earth. But this dream gives us hope that Christ will return and destroy His enemies.
Daniel has set himself apart. He’s proven that God knows things that the wisest people of the time didn’t know. He lives his life to be pleasing to God, and as a result he has been placed in a position of authority.
Nebuchadnezzar decides that the image Daniel saw should be improved upon, so he made an image of gold. The King had much pride in his conquests and his kingdom. He forgot what Daniel told him. After the image was created, the king made an edict that everyone was to worship the image. Those who refused would be placed into a fiery furnace. This was more than a “stand there and be counted” ceremony. It was a full-fledge religious service, complete with music. Nebuchadnezzar expected complete cooperation and total worship. The people flocked to the image – everyone but aniel and his friends. They were confident that God was in control. They knew that God promised them protection.
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:1-2 (ESV)
Daniel and his two friends refused to bow. The king gave them one more chance. Comparing himself to God, he spoke to the three men:
Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” Dan 3:13-15 (ESV)
The men still refused, and the king had the furnace turned up to extra hot, so hot, in fact, that the people tending the furnace were consumed. The three men were bound and thrown into the fire. But there was no smell of singed flesh.
Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” Dan 3:19-25 (ESV)
God saved Daniel and his friends. God showed the king that he cared about individuals by sending someone into the furnace with them: the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods. Jesus was there with them in a preincarnate appearance. God literally and physically fulfilled the promise of Isaiah 43:2.
Nebuchadnezzar was impressed! The men weren’t killed, but they were protected. He responded by affirming God’s power.
Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Dan 3:28 (ESV)
If God can protect three Jewish men from a literal furnace, He can protect you today. When you think of this story, remember that God didn’t prevent them from going through a trial but He protected them in the trial. Similarly, God will take care of you. He knows what is happening in each of our lives, and even though it may seem He is far, far away, He’s there for us in every trial!
There is a lot to this book and I don’t want to make a post unreadably long, so I will post Daniel readings each day this week. See you tomorrow.
As always, if you have questions or comments on ANY post, feel free to email or comment. You may see something that I don’t highlight, and we can all learn together.