By Don Dilmore
“Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” (Daniel 6:20).
If Christians today were as committed as the Old Testament prophet Daniel, the world would be vastly different. Daniel was most likely a teenager when he was taken to Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar planned to train a select group of young captives to serve him. Daniel, however, was not about to give up his faith in God and his commitment to serve the Lord, no matter the consequences. As a result, Daniel’s witness, along with that of his three friends, led Nebuchadnezzar and others to recognize and honor the one true God.
Daniel remained committed to God throughout his life. This is a reminder to older Christians today not to step away from kingdom work but to understand that there is no retirement plan when it comes to serving the Lord.
King Nebuchadnezzar placed Daniel and three of his friends into a training program. Scripture tells us that these young men were the cream of the crop. After three years of learning the Babylonian language and culture, these young men were to serve the king in the palace. The king believed these young men could be influenced to follow him without question. They were fed well with food and wine from the king’s table.
While all the young men in this training program were Israelites, Daniel was one of the few who remembered the dietary laws of his upbringing. He persuaded their guard to allow him and his three friends to abstain from the wine and rich foods for 10 days. This was not a typical request from a teenager, but Daniel was committed to God’s way—even without an adult to guide him. He proved to be right. In 10 days, these four young men were healthier, more alert, and better nourished than all the other young men in the program. At the end of the three years of training, they were at the top of the class.
Daniel’s Faithfulness Rewarded
Daniel’s next test of commitment came when Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that none of his wise men could interpret. Because of Daniel’s faithfulness, God revealed to him not only the interpretation but also the story of the dream itself. Did Daniel boast to the king that he could do what the astrologers and wise men could not do? No. He gave God the credit: “There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries” (Daniel 2:28).
Apparently Daniel’s commitment impacted his friends. A short time later, the king ordered them to bow down and worship a gold statue he had created. When they refused, the king commanded his soldiers to throw them into a blazing furnace. As they stood before the king they said, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it” (Daniel 3:16, 17). And he did.
Daniel’s commitment to God made a tremendous impact not only on his friends, but also on the king. Toward the end of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, another of Daniel’s dream interpretations came true. As a result of God’s discipline, Nebuchadnezzar spent an extended period living like an animal. When he regained his senses, the king said, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever” (Daniel 4:34). Daniel’s witness through the years brought results.
Reminding the King of His Sins
After Nebuchadnezzar’s death, it seems Daniel was mostly forgotten and ignored—until one night when he had to face the new king at a huge banquet. A hand miraculously appeared and wrote a message on the wall of the banquet hall. Those who saw it didn’t understand the message, but then the queen remembered that Daniel had interpreted dreams for the new king’s father. It could not have been easy for Daniel to tell the new king, Belshazzar, that his reign would end that night. He also rightly accused the king of using goblets taken from the temple in Jerusalem. Not many people have that kind of boldness and faith.
Because of certain artist renditions of Daniel in the lion’s den, it is easy to picture him as a young man when that event occurred. Actually, he was probably in his 70s. The date the Medes and the Persians captured Babylon, compared with the date the Babylonians took Daniel and his friends captive, provides this information.
After the Medes and Persians captured Babylon, Darius the Mede became king. Darius chose 120 men to help rule, and Daniel was an administrator over them. You can see by Darius’s choice that Daniel’s commitment impressed many people. In fact, Daniel so impressed King Darius that he was considered for the position of second-in-command to the king.
A Common Failing
It’s often easier to be jealous of a strongly committed person than to try to emulate him. That problem plagued the other leaders in Daniel’s day.
Daniel’s reputation was widespread and well deserved. So the other leaders devised a plot to bring him down. They knew about Daniel’s devotion to God and persuaded King Darius to pass a law stating that anyone who prayed to any god or human other than the king for a period of 30 days would be thrown into the lion’s den.
Daniel knew about the king’s edict. But he would not be intimidated. He didn’t hide in the closet or go down to the basement to pray. He opened his window and prayed three times a day. The conspirators hastened to let the king know. The king had no choice but to obey his own decree. Daniel was thrown in the lion’s den.
The king spent a sleepless night because he did not have the same faith as Daniel. In the morning, he hurried to the lion’s den. “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”
Daniel answered, “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions” (Daniel 6:20-22).
God’s Work Needs Our Commitment
What a difference it would make in our world today if God’s people emulated Daniel’s faith and commitment. Those around us would become believers. Our leaders would become believers. Crime and persecution would diminish, if not fade completely away. False religions would be stopped in their tracks, rather than growing at a rapid pace.
Our faith should not embarrass us. We cannot be shy with our commitment. We cannot retire when there is so much to be done. Daniel’s commitment provides an example to us all.
Don Dilmore is a freelance writer in Montgomery, Texas.
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