Archives for January 2009

Daniel, The Guy Next Door

My weekly men’s small group began the year in a new book, choosing to go through the Book of Daniel as part of our study. Ever since we got started in June 2005 we have stuck with New Testament studies, but this time we felt God leading us to step back in time, to the land of Babylon and the account of Daniel, His servant.

Bible StudyBooks of prophecy — which is what Daniel is all about — usually leave me scratching my head, not so much for what I’ve read but for the varying interpretations from Bible teachers. Over the years, I’ve learned to balance contradicting or confusing interpretations, while dismissing those which aren’t grounded on the full counsel of God.

But, that isn’t why I’m writing about Daniel today. Instead, I’ve been thinking about Daniel the person, more than Daniel the prophet, the leader of God’s people, etc.

From the start, the book reveals that Daniel and three friends — Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah — were quite young when Judah was invaded by Babylon and God’s people taken captive. In the first chapter, verse three, we learn that some of the children of God are brought before the king, youngsters in verse four who are described as:

youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

What we have here are four young men, probably still in their teens when they arrived in Babylon, each of whom were good looking and well educated. Just what the gal next door hopes are the attributes she finds in the guy living nearby.

But, for Daniel and his friends life wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.

Instead, they were uprooted from their homeland and taken captive by a foreign army. Leaving all that was familiar with them — and likely seeing family members and friends killed in the process — the Judah Four were taken to a land that was polar opposite to the one that they knew and loved.

Yet, while there, Daniel and friends stayed faithful to what they were taught in their youth, learning all about Chaldean culture and language, while remaining true (verse eight) to what they had learned. In the process, Daniel managed to convince the king’s servant (verses ten through sixteen) that adhering to their own dietary requirements would leave them with a better appearance than their Babylonian contemporaries, an action God blessed (verse seventeen) by giving them all of the “…knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.”

Wow! God truly does bless obedience, so much so that Daniel and his friends were awarded with a superior countenance, knowledge and skill, and in Daniel’s case prophetic understanding. In verse twenty of the first chapter the king examined the young men and found them to be ten times better than his own magicians and astrologers in matters of wisdom and understanding.

So what can we get out of the first chapter especially as we try to apply it to our lives? Several things including:

  • Your position in life may be completely different from what you wish, but if you remain faithful to God, He will bless you where you are at.
  • God will give you favor before man, so much so, that you’ll be able to demonstrate to them your faithfulness,  becoming a living testimony to God’s goodness.
  • Your humble position in life can quite suddenly be significantly raised up if you hold fast to what He has shown you.

These are my personal observations, you may have found some other ones. Reading forward by several chapters, this was only the beginning of the testings that the Judah Four would experience, with each test giving them an opportunity to remain faithful and reap God’s rewards.

Quite honestly, I cannot imagine myself being ripped away from all that is familiar to me, at least to the extent that Daniel and his friends were. But, I can recall a number of times when I was thrust into circumstances not of my own doing, but where God’s hand was evident in my life.

At the very least, the first chapter of Daniel shows how God can take people who are no longer in their comfort zones and use them mightily. Never once do we read about Daniel complaining and you know he must have longed to return to the land of his birth and be with his people.

From a very young age Daniel knew to do what was right and he followed all of God’s commands. People have speculated how his life ended, something I won’t touch on here, but this one thing we do know: Daniel never returned to the promised land.

To me, Daniel is a testimony to staying the course, no matter how difficult things may be. I may never be taken captive to a foreign land, but I do dwell in a land (or world) that isn’t my home. Whether I witness Jesus’ return in the flesh or end up coming back with him at the end of the age really doesn’t matter. However, my personal faithfulness does matter.

Photo Credit: Cíntia Martins

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