In the last of this 4 part series, “Taking a Bold Stand,” we will discuss the exciting life of Daniel and his three friends. The previous three parts have revealed those character traits in great men such as – Joshua, Gideon and David – however, the most favorable to me of this four-part series is Daniel and his companions exiled to a foreign land. Babylon, modern-day Iraq, as we know it today, is about an 800-mile journey from Jerusalem. It is about the four young Hebrew boys who despite being taken into a foreign land (605 BC) were determined to demonstrate humility, wisdom and courage by refusing to compromise their faith and obedience to God based on the social politically correct constructs of their times. Even under the threat of physical harm and death they remained courageous in their faithfulness unto God to the end. It is these three-character traits ‘wisdom, humility and courage’ exemplified in the daily lives of four boys Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah that we will explore today. Their gracious character brought them favor before the presence of the Assyrian king Nebuchadnezzar (see Proverbs 18:16) and played an important role in causing a pagan king to recognize the reality of the True and Living God. We will briefly explore how the humility, wisdom and courage of the four Hebrew boys changed the hearts of kings.
Daniel and His Companions – How Humility, Wisdom and Courage Changed a Pagan Kingdom
Character Traits that Changed the Hearts of Men
King Nebuchadnezzar takes the brightest of men of the royal family of the southern kingdom of Judah as his captives (Daniel 1:3-5), of which are Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (maybe between ages 13-17 years old). The intent of king Nebuchadnezzar is to educate them for three years in the Babylonian culture. Although the Hebrew boys are willing to accept their new Babylonian names (Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego), which apparently doesn’t dishonor God, they refused to defile themselves with king’s delicacies and wine (which likely had to do with religious rites, or idolatry, acknowledging the pagan gods of the Chaldeans). We will share three or four events in which these three-character traits humility, wisdom and courage were used by the young lads and how it had a profound effect in their sphere of influence.
First, Daniel wisely consults with the steward in charge of overseeing the physical health and welfare of all the wise young men in the kingdom. His Jewish religious upbringing would not allow him to participate in the king’s required meals and he requests that he and his companions be allowed to substitute the king’s food with vegetables and water instead. This was a daring move, because in ancient times kings had sovereign rule over their subjects and disobeying an edict was a call for immediate death. But Daniel found favor with the steward and after a ten-day trial their appearance fared better than the other men eating of the king’s delicacies.
After completing three years of study at the Babylonian University, the Hebrew boys, graduate with honors. The king interviews them and finds them ten times wiser than all the magicians and astrologers in the kingdom. Because of their extraordinary wisdom they are elevated to prestigious positions in the Babylonian kingdom and God is already preparing them for the glorification of His name. It’s amazing how the hand of God is working behind the scene in behalf of the Hebrew boys, as he does with us, to make His name known in a pagan nation (Daniel 2:10).
Nebuchadnezzar’s Troubling Dream
This is significant in that the king could not remember his dream and was very troubled by it. The king calls all the magicians, astrologers and sorcerers in hopes that they could tell him his dream, but they could not. But even for wise men this was unheard of – that a king asks his subjects to reveal to him a forgotten dream. The king is so infuriated at the wise men, that he issues a decree of capital punishment for all the wise men in his kingdom, because they cannot make known his dream and appear only to be stalling for time (Daniel 2:5-9). The king’s anger is growing rapidly against the wise men that he calls, Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard to immediately have all the wise men executed. Arguing from silence, it seems as though, Daniel and his companions weren’t around during the interrogation and issuance of the decree by king Nebuchadnezzar. God’s invisible hand is always working through His people – no matter how good, bad or ugly your situation – so His name may be glorified (Daniel 2:14-19).
As the captain of the king’s guard seeks Daniel and his companions in order to fulfill the king’s decree – execution of all the wise men – Daniel speaks with Arioch, using wisdom and humility, and is granted audience with the king (Daniel 2:24-25). The king, aware of Daniel’s character, suspends momentarily his edict and grants Daniel time to pray asking God to reveal the king’s dream. God reveals the king’s dream to Daniel in a night vision. Daniel gives glory and praise to God (Daniel 2:20-23). Daniel acknowledges the True and Living God in the presence of the king, (Daniel 2:27-28), as he reveals to Nebuchadnezzar the interpretation of his dream. About 600 years prior to Jesus ministry, the prophet Daniel predicts the outcome of four kingdoms and it has all come to pass. Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom will be glorious, but there will also arise a succession of three kingdoms that will follow, namely Medio-Persian, Grecian and Roman empires (Daniel 2:29-34a), until the everlasting kingdom (Daniel 2:34b) through Jesus Christ arrives and begins to fill the earth (beginning with the Jesus’ death and resurrection, around 33 AD, and continues throughout eternity (Daniel 2:44-45).
Nebuchadnezzar’s Golden Image
The pride of king Nebuchadnezzar is growing strong, thus encouraging him to build a statute of gold in honor of himself (Daniel 3:1-7). This is nothing unusual. Individuals that perform great accomplishments often struggle with pride. Why shouldn’t he? It has just been confirmed to him by the prophet Daniel, that his kingdom would be great and he would rule over many peoples, nations and languages (Daniel 2:37-38). The king commands his subjects, “…To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at the time you hear the sound of the horn…, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” (Daniel 3:4-6). In chapter 3:8-30 three humble, yet courageous youth refused the king’s request to dishonor their God by participating in the national idol worship day.
The courageous actions of three young Hebrew boys – That’s why I love these young boys who stand boldly, yet respectfully, challenging the request of King Nebuchadnezzar for them to worship his gold image. The response is so powerful and beautiful, “…O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18). What is significant about this is that tens of thousands of Jews who were also captives residing in the Babylonian kingdom, yet it seems that many Jews decided to obey the Babylonian law – political correctness (as often happens with many Christians today – our desire to belong, love of our family and friends, our jobs, moving up the corporate ladder and pursuit of a good retirement, rather than obey God’s Word.
Think about it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could have easily accepted the king’s request, using the standard justifications “Let somebody else do it – that’s not my calling; God knows my heart; nobody’s perfect; God will forgive me” but they didn’t. The King is so infuriated by the refusal of the Hebrew boys for not worshiping the golden image – not only does the king command certain mighty men of valor to bind the youth, but also to heat the fiery furnace seven times hotter – this was a strategic move to discourage anyone in the future refusing to worship the gold image. Their willingness to trust in God no matter what the outcome (deliverance or not) – it does not always turn out the way we would like it – God intervened by placing an Angel in the furnace to protect them (the appearance of Jesus Christ, called a Christophany) and brings conviction and a change in the heart of the King (Daniel 3:24-25, 28-30).
Praying to Your God Brings Death
In conclusion, we will end this dynamic four-part series “Taking a Bold Stand” showing how Daniel even in his old age continued to remain faithful to the True and Living God (Daniel 6:1-28). Daniel has maintained a position of power for many years through several kings and some powerful people have become jealous, so much so that they attempt to sabotage his newly appointed career as governor over Mede-Persia. People are often offended when others, especially newcomers or of foreign nationality, are promoted over them. So, now it is happening to Daniel because he has proven to be wiser than the other governors and satraps (government officials).
Scripture says of Daniel, ‘an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm’. Even those who attempted to destroy his career were aware of his faithfulness stating, “…the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they couldn’t find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him…we shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God (Daniel 6:4-5).” Under the guise of honoring King Darius, the top government officials of the Mede-Persian kingdom, gathered with him to discuss establishing a decree prohibiting prayer for a period of 30-days – that if anyone worships any man or god – besides the king should be thrown into the lion’s den. The king, trusting his advisers, signed the written decree based on the irrevocable law of the Medes and Persians – a law which could not be altered after signed.
But I really love this next part about Daniel’s character: He didn’t even flinch when he heard about the new law, “…when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days (chapter 6:10).” Immediately, the politicians went to the king to have Daniel committed to the den of lions. King Darius did everything in his power to prevent Daniel from being placed in the loins den, but to no avail, the decree was signed by him and it could not be revoked.
So, the command was given, Daniel was apprehended and cast into the lion’s den to be devoured. The king placed his signet ring seal on the stone and returned to his palace but he couldn’t sleep that night. He prayed that Daniel would be delivered. Early the king went to the den to discover the plight of Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?…My God sent His angel and shut the lions mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong (Daniel 6:20b, 22).” The men that meant evil for Daniel instead brought evil upon themselves. The king ordered all the men and their families who plotted against Daniel be cast into the den of lions and they were devoured before they reached the bottom of the den. Therefore, Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. What a beautiful and inspiring story about faithfulness in God during difficult circumstances and how humility, wisdom and courage carried the day.
This should be a poignant and powerful story to many of our young boys and girls in today’s society – no matter what your age, socioeconomic status, or for that matter your living situation – this story illustrates how God is willing to use anyone obedient and courageous enough to bring glory and honor to His name.
So, what would you do if your parents, your friends, your teachers, your employer or your church required you to modify, disobey or even deny the moral truth claims of God in order to reap some material profit? Would you quietly accept the status quo of political correctness or would you exemplify in your daily life when called on with boldness the three-character traits humility, wisdom and courage shared in this four-part series? This is a very difficult question to answer, but YOU must answer it.