Daniel: A Man of Faith

daniel_nebsdream

Daniel 2:14—28

Babylonians were spiritual people by nature, and they put a lot stock in dreams.  Nebuchadnezzar, supreme ruler of the Babylonian Empire, had a disturbing dream, yet when he awoke, that dream faded from his mind.  This drove him crazy!  He just knew this was an important dream, but he just couldn’t remember it.  So he called for his “theologians” to tell him what he dreamed.  But it wasn’t that easy.

The astrologers replied to the king, “There isn’t a man alive who can tell others what they have dreamed! And there isn’t a king in all the world who would ask such a thing!  This is an impossible thing the king requires. No one except the gods can tell you your dream, and they are not here to help.”  (Daniel 2:10, 11  TLB)

Well, this attitude incensed Nebuchadnezzar, and he ordered all the wise men to be put to death.  And this included Daniel and his three friends.

This punishment was not unusual among the Babylonians.

“Therefore, I make this decree, that any person of any nation, language, or religion who speaks a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb and his house knocked into a heap of rubble. For no other God can do what this one does.”  (Daniel 3:29  TLB)

And dismemberment was their favorite form of extreme judgment.  So, things looked bleak for Daniel and his friends, and they weren’t even involved in the incident in the first place!  They were not part of the group that had been summoned by the king to tell him his dream.  They were at home, minding their own business when a knock came at the door:

And Daniel and his companions were rounded up with the others to be killed.  (Daniel 2:13  TLB)

But, Daniel was a man of faith, not fear.  For too many of us, bad news is an opportunity for fear to gain a foothold in our hearts.  Not so Daniel.  Bad news was, for him, an opportunity for God to manifest His power.

1.  Faith exercised

If Daniel was shaken by the arrival of Arioch, the chief executioner, he certainly hid it well.  Instead of protesting his innocence and that of his friends, Daniel engaged Arioch in conversation, much like a counselor would do with a troubled client!

“Why is the king so angry? What is the matter?”  (Daniel 2:14  TLB)

Remaining calm in the face of an impossible situation must be a trait of all believers.  To show fear or anger is to bring disrepute upon God.  Daniel not only remained calm, he did something else very telling:

So Daniel went in to see the king. “Give me a little time,” he said, “and I will tell you the dream and what it means.”  (Daniel 2:16  TLB)

The fact that he had such free access to the king showed the respect Daniel had earned.  And it showed that Daniel had no fear of the king.  In the presence of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel stepped out in faith, and put himself on record:  he alone would do what no other human being alive could do!  Talk about faith!

But Daniel knew beyond the shadow of any doubt that in this deadly crisis there was no one to trust but God Himself.  He knew God could do the impossible:  reconstruct an entire dream and give its interpretation.  Not even the great Joseph had been called upon to do such a thing; all he ever did was interpret dreams.  But Daniel took that step of faith and spoke out in faith because he had faith in God’s abilities.

Paul was like Daniel.  Once, during a storm at sea when it looked like all hope for survival was lost, the great apostle said this to those in the ship with him:

So take courage! For I believe God! It will be just as he said!  (Acts 27:25  TLB)

Are you like that?  Do you encourage others when things look bad?  How is your outlook?  If you trust in Christ, then it should be positive no matter the circumstances.

2.  Prayer answered

Then he went home and told Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions.  They asked the God of heaven to show them his mercy by telling them the secret, so they would not die with the others.  (Daniel 2:17, 18  TLB)

These two verses give us a look inside Daniel’s heart of faith, and shows us why Daniel was such an effective instrument of God in a lost world.  Daniel had faith in God and Daniel prayed in faith.  But not only did Daniel believe in the power of prayer, he believed in the power of believers praying together.  Believers uniting in faith to pray cannot be stopped.  God will honor their collective faith and answer that prayer.  We see it time and again throughout the Bible.  It’s good to pray by yourself—there is nothing wrong with that.  But prayer with other believers, in unity, is an important part of a life of faith.

For where two or three gather together because they are mine, I will be right there among them.   (Matthew 18:20  TLB)

But you must help us too by praying for us. For much thanks and praise will go to God from you who see his wonderful answers to your prayers for our safety!  (2 Corinthians 1:11  TLB)

Jesus and Paul, like Daniel, knew the vital importance of believers uniting in prayer.

Daniel and his friends laid bare their hearts before God, and God honored them:

And that night in a vision God told Daniel what the king had dreamed.  (Daniel 2:19a TLB)

The thing about prayer is not that it brings God down to our thoughts and actions, but it brings our thoughts and actions up to His level; the more time we spend in prayer in God’s presence, the more like God we become.

3.  Time for thanks

Then Daniel praised the God of heaven, saying, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for he alone has all wisdom and all power.  World events are under his control. He removes kings and sets others on their thrones. He gives wise men their wisdom and scholars their intelligence.  He reveals profound mysteries beyond man’s understanding. He knows all hidden things, for he is light, and darkness is no obstacle to him.  I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers, for you have given me wisdom and glowing health, and now even this vision of the king’s dream and the understanding of what it means.”  (Daniel 2:19b—23  TLB)

The response of Daniel and his friends is the proper one for those who have received an answer to prayer.  Take time to be thankful!  Don’t rush off…pause, and give God the credit that is due Him.

But his paragraph tells us something else about the character of Daniel and his friends.  Not only did they have faith, but they were faithful.  From a spiritual standpoint, we see that Babylonian culture had NOT corrupted these young men.  Even after three years of intense training and education in all things Babylonian, they did NOT turn into Babylonians.

A major cause of backsliding and apostasy among Christian young people are the secular, ungodly influences in school and in society in general.  Christian parents would do well to be more concerned about developing a godly character in their children than in their so-called “integration” into American society.  Not that that is a bad thing.  Daniel and his friends were part of Babylonian society, and let’s face it, we can’t—nor should we—isolate ourselves and our children from the world around us.  But they need to be shown and taught how to maintain their Christian values in a society that sometimes is hostile toward those values.

Daniel and his friends took time to be thankful.  If we would pray more, we would praise more.   The secrets of the Lord are revealed to those that spend time with Him.

Do you know the mind and purposes of God? Will long searching make them known to you? Are you qualified to judge the Almighty?  He is as faultless as heaven is high—but who are you? His mind is fathomless—what can you know in comparison?  His Spirit is broader than the earth and wider than the sea.  (Job 11:7—9  TLB)

We need God’s wisdom to survive in our world!  We need to pray and praise Him.

4.  A public witness

Then Daniel went in to see Arioch, who had been ordered to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said, “Don’t kill them. Take me to the king, and I will tell him what he wants to know.”  (Daniel 2:24  TLB)

This sentence might well be the most surprising thing Daniel ever said.  Wouldn’t you think that Daniel, a believer in the One true God, would take advantage to rid the Empire of these pagan, heathen “wise men?”  They were, after all, opposed to the ways of Yahweh.  Joshua, hero of the Hebrews, was known to have destroyed the Canaanites and their priests and Elijah, another prophet of God, killed the prophets of Baal.  So, why did Daniel step in and intercede on behalf of these godless men?

Daniel was not a prophet in the Holy Land of Israel, where God’s standards of life were to be the norm.  Daniel was living and working outside of the Promised Land.  Forcing the Babylonians to abide by the Law of Moses would have accomplished nothing; they would still have been Babylonians.  Someday, when Christ returns, the whole world will worship Him and abide by His Kingdom Laws.  But that will only happen when He returns.  You and I as Christians living in a lost world have no right to compel any unbeliever to live by God’s Word.  This was something Daniel understood.  We ought to share the Gospel of salvation with the lost, that’s our “debt” to them – our obligation to God.    Imposing Kingdom Laws on the world will not speed up Christ’s coming in power and grace.

So, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar what he needed to hear:  the content of his dream and what that dream meant.  But Daniel said something significant and noteworthy:

there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and he has told you in your dream what will happen in the future.  (Daniel 2:28  TLB)

Daniel was careful to give God the credit.  Over a thousand years before the days of Babylon, another man of God wasn’t afraid to testify of God’s greatness:

Pharaoh sent at once for Joseph. He was brought hastily from the dungeon, and after a quick shave and change of clothes, came in before Pharaoh.  “I had a dream last night,” Pharaoh told him, “and none of these men can tell me what it means. But I have heard that you can interpret dreams, and that is why I have called for you.”

“I can’t do it by myself,” Joseph replied, “but God will tell you what it means!”  (Genesis 41:14—16  TLB)

Daniel refused to take credit.  The Holy Spirit gave Daniel the wisdom he needed to not only survive in a dark and lost world, but to live and thrive.  What He did for Daniel, He does for believers today, if we would just let Him.  Many Christians want to live a successful and prosperous Christian life but they aren’t willing to do the work.  What they want are the results of living by faith in obedience to the Word of God without actually doing that.  Take time to look at how Daniel lived.  How he treated his faith resulted in God blessing him mightily.

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