Daniel of the Old Testament – you know, the “Lion’s Den” one – he is the man. Though he is from the tribe of Judah, a misfit group of exiles in a secular, flourishing kingdom, his hard work and devotion to the one true God testify to the power and reality of a living Lord.
Through the reign of three kings and three different empires – Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Darius of Persia, and Cyrus of Achaemenid – Daniel is continually promoted, and it’s not because he is a people pleaser. In his profession, he seeks to do his best, but he refuses to compromise his beliefs or his identity as an Israelite.
Beginning as a young court hopeful and continuing in greater degrees throughout his life, Daniel obeys the Lord’s commands, and he is blessed for it. Before he was appointed to the court, Daniel and his companions asked permission to not defile themselves with the king’s food, consuming a diet of vegetables. How appetizing. But, ten days later, they were stronger than all the rest of the trainees. In the next few years, God gives them knowledge in literature and wisdom, so that at the end of the training, they were ten times better than all the rest. They set their faithfulness in the Lord from the beginning, so he entrusts them with more. This sets them up for bigger opportunities and challenges to testify and remain faithful to the Lord.
When Nebuchadnezzar later has confusing dreams and sees handwriting on the wall, Daniel is the only one in the kingdom who is able to interpret it. He doesn’t provide any “all glory to you, may the king live forever” response either. In sum, Daniel reports that Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom will crumble and divide. Because of his honesty and wisdom, he is promoted, and through Daniel and his companions who survive the burning furnace, Nebuchadnezzar catches a glimpse of the true God.
Fast-forward to Darius’ reign. Daniel, who has an “excellent spirit in him” (Holy Spirit), is up to become the highest official, and jealous officers trick the king into issuing a decree that those who don’t worship him should be thrown in the lion’s den. Being the only one worshipped sounds pretty good to Darius, so he approves it. Now, put yourself in Daniel’s position. In the past the tests were smaller – vegetables versus a feast, honesty over sucking up. Now Daniel’s life is on the line. But smaller acts of faith prepare us for bigger ones. Rather than shoving God to the backburner or toning his devotion down, Daniel continues steadfastly, praying and giving thanks to God three times a day. When Darius realizes that he has inadvertently sentenced Daniel – Number Two in the kingdom, his right hand man – to death, he is, of course, deeply distressed. He plots to rescue Daniel, but the law binds him, so as he throws Daniel into the lion’s den, he entreats, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” You know the story. That night the king fervently prays and fasts, and Daniel is not harmed because of his trust in God.
Daniel’s deep faithfulness does not directly equate to blessings. Genuine devotion and real testing bring forth an uncontrollable mess. It is only in such chaos, though, when the impossible is made possible, that one sees the Lord work most clearly. The core that withstands tribulation testifies to Truth, powerful and living. The morning after Daniel is thrown in the lion’s den, Darius anxiously calls out “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” Darius still does not claim this God for himself, but he knows this God is living and active, capable of rescuing Daniel from the terrifying maw of ravenous lions.
Daniel’s story reminds me of Jesus’ parable of the ten minas. To the one who is given much, even more will be given. God entrusts us with something and sees how we manage it. If we do well, He gives us more. With Daniel, like most true disciples in the Bible, I see that faithfulness is often not the ideal choice. When the opportunity comes to glorify the Lord, it usually ushers forth testing and hardship with it. Why eat vegetables when there is a feast? What harm is there in hiding one’s faith a bit?
But who is first? Your life or Christ in you? The easy choice is always self. The right choice is always God. When we choose Him and thank Him through everything, we glorify Him, and we are a testament to others of His goodness through trial. Though there may be hardship, the fruit of faithfulness is far better blessing than what we can ever provide for ourselves.
Lord, the one true, living God, you are faithful and steadfast. I confess that I often turn from you and seek my own desires. Thank you that your promises are true and that you have given me your Word to lead and guide me. Thank you for giving up everything to make me new. Remind me that all I have is yours anyway, and that your mercies and blessings are new every morning. Renew a right spirit within me, and shape my heart to be centered on you, led by the Holy Spirit and abounding in faithfulness and obedience.
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
To the one who is given much, even more will be given. It doesn’t mean that it won’t be hard.
Blessings first to the father – seek first the kingdom, and all these things will be added to you.
Luke 19: 16-17
The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’
“‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’